Monday, September 26, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

Back Story 

At around 11pm last night, Jim and I were cozily tucked in bed and drifting off amongst snippets of conversation. Then his cell phone goes off right next to our heads. Jim's not one of those guys with a melodic ring tone. Instead, he favours the no-nonsense fire alarm ring, which is practical, because you can hear it ring even if you've left it in your car 15 blocks away. I always figured that if someone calls you late at night, it's because there's something urgent/important. So he answers the phone - wrong number.

Bloody hell.

The phone rings again. And again. We're both starting to get rather frustrated, as is the person on the other end of the line. Then the weirdest question comes over the airwaves: "Are you guys living in suite 1603?" Jim takes a quick peek at the caller ID on his cell and it turns out that the guy was calling from downstairs, waiting to be buzzed in (yes, our buzzer is connected to Jim's cell).

"Yes, we're the new tenants."

"Where's Ray? We're looking for Ray?"

doot doot doot doot doot

Apparently there's a time limit on these buzzer intercom conversations. So he calls back and Jim and I ask to meet him in the lobby. Bleary eyed and not quite sure what we were getting ourselves into we dressed and lumbered downstairs. First impressions were rather scary, we saw a stocky, balding guy with a tall, well-built bald guy.

"OH MY GOD," we thought, "They're going to break our legs..." - Well, at least that's what I was thinking, I didn't ask Jim for his thoughts.

Approaching the door, we saw that they had a woman with them, late forties, neat hair and clothes. Huh. It was a family of three.

"Ah fuck," I thought, "travellers looking up relatives for room and board. Well, they're not staying here, that's for damn sure." They didn't have any bags with them though.

Jim let them into the lobby and we sat down to talk. Prior to this Jim and I agreed that we weren't going to let these people know that my parents were the landlord. We were just going to play the "blur new tenant".

"Sorry to bother you so late, this used to be where our cousin, well, he's not really our cousin anymore, where this guy used to live. You see, we were hoping to get a hold of him because he's not answering our phone calls and well, he owes us $30 000 [the next few words come out in a rush] and he's used our son's credit card, unauthorized, and he's wanted by the police because he owes alot of other people money, and I went into partnership with this guy and we've lost our house, we used to have a very nice house on Granville Street and now we have to move, I mean I went into partnership and bought a vehicle with this guy and he sold it without telling me and I didn't get any money from the sale and..." He trails off, looking as though he thinks he's said too much. His son glowers a little, his wife looks away.

"So you see, we're just trying to find him. The police are on his case, but well, we're trying to help the police find him. Can you guys tell us anything?"

Jim and I tell the standard story of the guy not paying rent for two months, the apartment that was abandoned in June (at this point he interjects with "He left for South Africa in June!"), the bounced cheques, the served eviction notices and how all his stuff has been moved out of the apartment and into the storage locker in the basement.

"So who owns the apartment?"

Jim and I look at each other. After repeated questioning and a few responses of "the landlords" and "it's privately owned", I told them that we were renting from my parents. There goes the brilliant plan of acting dumb. Brilliant Joie. Brilliant.

Their eyes light up.

"Ah!" says the wife, speaking for the first time, "then they should be more than happy to help us because he owes them money too!"

For the second time that night...ahhh fuck.

"Well," comes Jim to the rescue, "they could help you, but we really couldn't. We don't know more about the situation than we have already told you. There's nothing significant in storage - it's really just clothes and shoes."

Quickly catching on I say, "We could take your information and pass it along to my parents and their realtor, they would be able to help you better I'm sure."

Simultaneously, Jim and I remember the folder of photocopied official documents that we found on top of the entertainment unit. My parents must've missed it when they were packing up the place. Jim excuses himself to go retrieve it.

"Can I come see the apartment also?" - Husband.

WTF? Ehm, it's 11:30pm at night. How about no fucking way?

"There's really nothing to see in the apartment. All his belongings have been transferred to the storage locker in the basement and like we said, it's just clothes and shoes. Besides, our apartment is in a mess right now seeing as how we have just moved in. There's boxes everywhere."

The husband persists. Jim uses the cats as a further excuse ("It would really upset the cats.") and leaves quickly.

"So can you see the water? Is the apartment nice?"

"Yeah, you can see the water. I like it, it's a beautiful apartment."

"Can I come see it please? I would really like to know how nice it is."

The wife smacks him and glares, "It's late, and there's nothing to see in the apartment."

With this he seems to realise how odd and intrusive his request is and looks sheepish for a moment. As we wait for Jim to return all three family members regale me with tales of the accomplished con man that he is. They estimate that his debts total about half a million dollars and they seem to know many people who have lost their homes, jobs and businesses to this guy. They even have the requisite scammed single mother tale. Wow. Maybe that's why he had so many nice suits and snappy pairs of shoes. He was a con-artist and that was his costume. Our original conclusion (still bolstered by the fact that he had men's fitness magazines where you would usually find Playboys) that he was a homosexual might have been premature. Also, the family (through sources unknown) have ascertained that he's returned from S. Africa and has been in Vancouver for 3-4 days now.

Jim returns and I can tell how tired he is from the way he carries himself as he approaches us. I take that as a cue to wrap things up promptly. We hand over the documents, exchange numbers and wish them luck. The husband seems to want to stay to continue telling us stories about the previous tenant's villany but his wife pulls him away, reminding him that we have to sleep. Jim and I give her a grateful look.

"Just remember," the husband says as he's parting, "if this guy shows up for his stuff, don't tell him that your parents are the landlord. Just act dumb, then call the police." - Sounds suspiciously like Jim and I's original plan for the night. Thanks for the advice, buddy.

So we crawl back into bed, and I drop an email to my dad letting him know what happened. This morning, my parents called gave the same advice about acting dumb. Look, Jim and I came up with that idea in the first place, ok? It was just hard to adhere to because we were practically thrown out of bed into a strange conversation. *mutter* My mom also revealed in the phone conversation that they've learnt that they're not the first landlords to be cheated by this guy.

All this just makes me really glad that Jim and I insisted on sleeping on our own bed (we moved the bed he was sleeping in out). With all the hijinks this guy was up to, can you imagine what his bedfellows must've been like?

posted by Joie! at 11:13 a.m.


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