The Investigator: Coincidence and Paranoia


By RW “Pete” Peterson

Coincidence seems prevalent in the world of investigation. Sometimes investigators become paranoid, probably as a byproduct of the work. However, sometimes the watcher becomes the watched. Our firm has experienced instances where the subjects have hired their own investigators and it became spy vs. spy. It can cause you to become very familiar with your rearview mirrors. It can also be very comedic.

We’ve had cases that turned out to involve the same people, same houses (years apart with different occupants), or addresses next door to each other years apart. Subjects of former cases wanting to retain us.

One such coincidence was a case in which I had been contacted by a Denver oilman who was concerned about his estranged son who they believed was in Springfield, Mo.

They hadn’t spoken for several years and he wanted to know if we could locate the son and determine what his situation was. We didn’t hear back from the client for two weeks.

Several days later a woman called us in Denver wanting to know if we could check on her husband who came to Denver several times a month on business. She thought he might be having an affair, she said she would call us back.

Approximately a week later we received a call back from the oil man and he gave us a retainer to go to Springfield to see if we could locate his son. They knew through a friend that he was somewhere in the area, perhaps living on a farm.

I went to Springfield and located the son on the first day. That evening after dinner I went to a local country western night club. I was sitting at the bar and an attractive lady who was at a table with her friends walked by on her way to the restroom. We struck up a conversation and I joined them at the table. While dancing I told her my occupation and she said “that’s interesting because I talked to a Denver investigator a couple of weeks ago about possibly checking on my husband when he went to Denver on business.”

I remembered that call and told her that it was me that she had talked to.

I had been involved in some fairly heavy criminal cases that year, one involving organized crime, and this conversation and chance meeting seemed very coincidental. What was the chance of the “oil man” sending me to Springfield and my encountering her in the night spot? (She had entered the place after me.)

As she told me more about her now legally separated husband, I realized that I had seen him months prior at a restaurant in Idaho Springs (just outside Denver where I had a house) several times when he was up in the mountains with his Polynesian girlfriend. I had noticed him because of his Corvette — I also had a Corvette. We had eaten several tables apart and had exchanged compliments on our cars.

This was becoming more “coincidental.”

I had my office run background on the husband and found that he had been indicted on loan sharking and bookmaking. We also found that he had had business dealings with our “oil man” client.

The lady and I spent the evening together and in the morning she told me that her husband was scheduled to fly to Denver in the afternoon. When she told me the airline and flight I realized that it was the same flight that I was scheduled on.

On the flight I wore a cap and sat in a vacant seat far away from him. I didn’t want him to recognize me from Colorado. I was still trying to digest the whole scenario.

When I related this story to people they said things like “that’s not possibly a coincidence” or “the odds of that coming together that way are out in the ionosphere.”

After further investigation my conclusion is that it was, in fact, a series of coincidences.

RW “Pete” Peterson has operated his investigative firm for 30-plus years. He can be reached at 760-443-0575;