To catch a thief, crowdsourced

On May 29 or 30 of last year, my Burton snowboarding jacket got taken out of my car, which was parked (unlocked) in front of my house. It was a distinctive coat, with a purple argyle pattern that had endeared it to me when I discovered it on clearance in Seattle back in 2007. It was on the kid’s rack, and was the only size XL available, which meant that it was (for a Burton snowboarding jacket) affordable.

So when it disappeared, I wondered, given how small Sandpoint is, if I would see it again. Maybe on the ski hill, or maybe around town somewhere. And I kept my eyes peeled for it. Because I really liked it, and because I couldn’t really afford to replace it with a new coat. Instead, my friend Melissa gave me one she had, which was incredibly nice of her.

But it wasn’t my sweet purple argyle coat, which I had taken all over the world with me. So I watched, and I waited.

And then, on Saturday night, as I relaxed downtown in a trendy little wine bar listening to some music, in strolled what looked like my coat, worn by a thin, just-out-of-adolescence-blondish girl with sharp features. I sat bolt upright and stared. Louis looked at me with concern. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

I told him, and asked him to go ask her where she’d got it. So he did. “That’s a nice coat,” he said “Where did you get it?”

I overheard her tell him that some friend of hers had given it to her. Which really didn’t resolve anything. “What should I do?” I whispered, feeling my hands go numb with the strain. “I want to say something to her.”

I got up, went over, trying to look polite, and said I’d had a coat just like that stolen. She showed me on her smart phone that she’d just been texting her friend (unnamed) to ask where her friend had gotten it. Slightly weird, since Louis had been so nice, but OK. An older lady in this group stepped in at this point and asked if the coat I’d had had been distinctively marked in some way.

“Well,” I said “I’m guessing that coat is a size extra-large, which you wouldn’t know by looking at it. But it’s a kid’s coat. It’s a Burton.”

The girl took the coat off and looked at the size. It said: Burton, XL. “Weird,” said the girl, as if she’d never realized that.

At this point, the older woman, who was between 40 and 50, sleek, dark-haired and shorter than the college-age(ish) girl, started to get irritated and said I was accusing the girl, who was her stepdaughter, of stealing. “I’m not saying that,” I said “Maybe her friend stole it. But that’s a very unusual coat. I bought it in Seattle years ago. I’ve never seen anyone else wearing one, have you?”

“Actually, I have,” said the woman “In fact, I bought two in Seattle. I gave one to my cousin, and one to —” she said the girl’s name, pointing. It sounded like Darshna.

“Um,” I said “She just said her friend gave her the coat.” By this point, I was starting to suspect the girl had stolen it or was otherwise known to shoplift; why else would the stepmother insist on something that was so obviously untrue? I doubted this woman’s cousin was the type to be wearing a children’s snowboarding jacket, either.

But the woman insisted that thinking the jacket had once belonged to me was “illogical.”

“No, you’re being illogical,” I retorted, getting mad. “Your stories don’t match up.”

“But they would if you just let me explain!” the woman protested. So I listened. The woman proceed to tell me that in fact, she’d given the jacket to her stepdaughter’s friend.

“And then the friend gave her the jacket?” I finished.

“Yes,” the woman mumbled.

I’m not sure how the stepdaughter hadn’t known that, and had seen fit to preemptively text her friend to ask where she’d gotten it. But, you know, these things happen.

The father, a tall man with a gray goatee, leaned on Louis and slurred in his ear: “Come on, man.” Louis looked up at him and said “Come on, what?”

The older woman went to get the bartender because I was ruining their nice evening out. The bartender ushered us away, but was quite understanding after we’d told him the details of the conversation. He said he’d try to get these people’s contact information. I said Ok, and went out the back door to get some fresh air, and then returned to sit back down. I didn’t know what else to do. I wasn’t going to call the cops and disturb the whole place. I knew our server; I knew the band; and I didn’t think I had any real proof other than their ridiculous lack of cohesiveness and entitled-yuppie attitude. Louis got the details the girl had provided the bartender. She’d said her name was Kim and had scrawled a Wisconsin number that went to a Kim’s voicemail. We left. I didn’t think her name was Kim, but what was I going to do?

Later, I left a message on Kim’s answering machine saying I’d met a girl who had claimed the name and number as her own in Sandpoint, Idaho, and that if I didn’t hear from her I would assume this was not the case. So far, I haven’t heard back from her.

I remembered that I still had the liner from that jacket, and wished I’d asked if the girl had the liner to hers. She hadn’t been wearing it, anyway. I dug around and found some of the tags to the coat in my warranty files. I found an e-mail from June 2 about missing the coat. I then called the police, explained the situation, and asked if they could get these people’s contact information from the wine bar’s records. I was certain the bartender would remember them. The police said they’d file a report and see what they could do, but that “they didn’t have a lot of information to go on.” I said thanks, gave them Kim’s number just in case, and hung up.

So, now I’m looking for any other information and would like help in the endeavor. It’s a long shot. And I know, it’s just a coat. But these people’s attitudes really chaffed me.

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