Wednesday, Nov. 8
No news from Nevada. Clagett says hes waiting for his bosss decision on the warrant.
In Renton, Awai is working on a homicide a higher priority than this minor matter. He says he spoke to a friend with the Bothell cops, though he doesnt give a name.
Im gonna send it to him, Awai says. He sounds like theyre gonna do something about it. I think theyre gonna leave David out of it.
I give Dave this piece of news a mixture of good and bad. Hes getting nervous.
Debutts is working late again, which Dave says is unusual. Things are tense at his place. The rent is due, and Dave is hoping he can squeeze it out of Debutts, who keeps hedging about when hell pay.
Dave says he talked to John Awai. A very nice man, he says but he cant believe its so hard for the cops to hook Debutts.
Its like I have to have a picture of the guy in a Reagan mask, carrying a gun, writing bad checks, he says.
One card left to play. In the evening, I talk to a source who knows people at Cingular Wireless. A few tidbits of information float to Bothell, with my name and number attached.
Friday, Nov. 10
Thursday was dead, and Friday doesnt look much better.
Via e-mail, Michael Dorley shares a note he's just sent to the Renton cops. It's addressed to John Awai, and it asks for help:
Dorley underlines the point. He wants his stolen name returned.
All the players are connected, but there's a new problem: Awai is going on vacation and wont be back for a couple of weeks.
No news on extending the Nevada warrant, according to Clagett he expects a final decision one way or the other by Monday.
Dorley hears this news and sends me one more frustrated message:
He's not alone. Fearing more and more that Debutts will run, Dave is pushing for the rent hes meeting his roommate at the Cingular office in Bothell to collect.
Around 3 p.m., the quiet message I sent to Cingular pays off. Company spokesman Michael Broom calls, wondering what Id like to know.
He hears a story of an employee working under a false name, with possible access to sensitive customer information. Broom says hell talk to the human resources department and legal advisers, and get back to me.
I call Dave. He says hes collected the rent from Debutts, who paid while extracting a promise from Dave to give some of it back tomorrow for Christmas shopping money. I don't say what I'm thinking -what a weird arrangement- but I tell him Cingular Wireless now knows what we know.
Dave's mood improves. He wonders if he should buy new locks for the apartment. Guessing at what may happen, his thoughts turn gloomy again.
If they just hand him a box and his walking papers, I could come home to a bees nest, he says.
Around 5 p.m., Michael Broom, the Cingular spokesman, says hes still talking to company officials. Hell know more later. He adds that hes unaware of any contacts between Bothell police and the company.
Broom asks for names and numbers. I send him an e-mail with contact information for Clagett, John Awai in Renton and the real Michael Dorley in Las Vegas.
When Dave gets off work, he calls again, full of grim jokes.
OK, Im home, he says. Revenge shall be mine is written in blood on the walls, and the cats are decapitated.
Debutts is going out with friends tonight, Dave says not expected home until tomorrow.
The strain of keeping the secret is wearing Dave down to a nub. Debutts is paranoid, always asking Dave where hes going, what hes doing.
I want to know when this charade will be over, he says. I want it to be soon. Im really about to the point where I just change the locks on the door.
Hes cracking. Hes been playing dumb for more than two weeks. He knows he cant last, that a confrontation is coming.
I know its just gonna be ugly, no matter how it goes down, he says. I just want to tell him to his face. I want to say, I know stop working me. I know. I dont want to play b.s. any more. I dont want to deal with it any more. But I dont want to blow it.
I tell him to be patient. Nevada will have a final decision on the warrant Monday, though the outlook isnt good. And now Cingular knows maybe theyll take action.
I hope on Monday somebody will grow a pair and do something, he says. Its too up close and personal. I thought this was gonna be over a week and a half ago.
Saturday, Nov. 11
Dave calls. Hes afraid to go home.
Debutts is waiting there, expecting Dave to keep the promise to return some of the rent money. Hell be mad and suspicious if he doesnt get it, and lately, hes been tossing Daves beloved cats around the room, casually threatening to kill them. Its a joke, Dave knows but it stings.
I just dont feel safe, he says.
Hes staying away, trying to think of excuses.
Two police agencies, possibly three, know about this situation. So does Debutts employer. Hes got an active arrest warrant, yet no one sees enough to move.
Dave is pondering ways to get his roommate off his back. Pay him with a check, then stop the payment?
I say Debutts could run to the nearest check-cashing dive. Hell know instantly that the money isnt there.
Ultimately, Dave decides on another ploy: the suddenly sick relative. Hell pretend a family emergency kept him away, then go home late and dive into bed. Debutts works in the morning. Thatll buy some time.
Ill try to leave a trail of breadcrumbs to my unmarked grave, Dave says.
Sunday, Nov. 12
Dave calls at 10 a.m. Debutts has gone to work. While hes gone, Dave will change the locks.
At 12:30, Dave calls again, whispering.
Guess who came home because hes been fired? he asks.
He has walked outside on the pretext of getting something from his car. Debutts explained the firing by saying his bosses found a felony on his record from when he was 19 or something.
"This is totally..." Dave says, and the last word is harsh.
He says his roommate is making new promises: " 'Gee Dave, itll only take me a couple or three weeks to get another job.
Hell be there all the time now.
Dave is beside himself, cursing in despair, wondering why he couldnt get a warning, why Cingular just sent the guy home.
You know, all they had to do was give us a clue, a heads-up of any kind, he says.
I call Michael Broom, the spokesman for Cingular. He is on message.
Weve taken steps to ensure our customers information remains confidential, Broom says. Thats all I can say.
I ask if the company plans any additional action.
Weve taken steps to ensure our customers information remains confidential, Broom says again.
He adds that he hasnt heard from the Bothell cops.
The Nevada cops, the Renton cops and possibly the Bothell cops know where to find Debutts. Theyve got the information to show hes profiting from a stolen identity. They have the means to confirm an active warrant for his arrest in Nevada. They know the victims name, the suspects alias, and the suspects real name. The corporation where Debutts worked until just a little while ago knows,too.
Its not enough, and now Debutts is home to stay. Its just what Dave feared.
If they just hand him a box and his walking papers, I could come home to a bees nest.
It looks like Nevada won't extend the warrant. Theres no crime in Bothell Debutts doesnt work there anymore. In Renton, the case is hopeless.
So now Debutts stays home with Dave.
Hell be there every day until he can find a new job. Dave will have to keep pretending, 24/7.
No rest. Live a lie. Wear a mask. Never stop.
Theres nothing left to do. I tell Dave I can come to Renton, and he agrees. Time to kick Debutts out.
This calls for backup. Too many stories of Debutts getting loud, slamming doors, blustering, yelling and threatening things could get ugly. We need an extra body.
On my way out, I call another old friend: the Punisher.
The Punisher weighs about 350 and grows hair between his shoulder blades. He is harmless but imposing a geek with muscles. Hes known Dave even longer than I have, and he knows about this situation.
I pick him up in Spanaway. Hes wearing his Punisher shirt: black, short sleeves, big white skull on the chest.
While we drive north, I call the real Michael Dorley in Las Vegas, and give him the news: Nevada hasnt extended the warrant, the cops up here dont see enough to act and Debutts has been fired. We have to get him out of the apartment. We wont know where he is after that.
I say Im sorry.
Do it, Dorley says. Youve got to take care of your friend now. Gotta get that guy out of there. The longer he stays, the more problems hell cause.
Im sorry, I say again.
Dorley sounds down. He says hes been living check to check since Debutts cleaned him out.
It doesnt seem like its big enough for the law to do anything, Dorley says. I understand.
In Renton, we walk up two flights of stairs to Daves condo and go inside. Dave sits in an armchair. No sign of Debutts.
Hes in his room, Dave says, gesturing down the hall.
I sit on the couch. The Punisher stands nearby.
I quietly suggest to Dave that we call 911. With a look, he tells me no. We wait.
A burly man walks in from the hall, taking in the room.
I watch, seeing Debutts in person for the first time, mentally comparing him to the pictures.
Big guy. Sharp nose, dark hair, cropped very short. Alert.
He greets the Punisher hes met him before then looks at me with curiosity. Dave introduces us.
Hey, Sean, Debutts says.
Hey, I say, trying and failing to sound casual.
Whats going on? Debutts says.
The room goes silent.
Finally, Dave talks.
Ive just gotten some disturbing information, he says haltingly. That youre not who you say you are. That your names not Michael.
Yes I am, Debutts says immediately, forcefully. Im Mike. Let me show you my ID.
He strides down the hall, returns with his wallet, unfolds it and shows something to Dave, who looks briefly, and turns away.
I thought you said you lost that, Dave says.
I found it, Debutts says.
Well, I mean, Michael, Kenneth I dont even know what your real name is, Dave says.
Debutts looks around the room.
What have people been saying about me? he says.
No waiting now. I cut in.
You want me to give you the phone number for the real Michael Dorley in Las Vegas?
If Debutts is jolted, he doesnt show it.
Yeah, he replies.
Knowing the number by heart, I rattle it off.
OK, Debutts says, looking at us. The room goes silent again.
I could tell him everything now, but something tells me to refrain, keep it simple, avoid debate.
You need to go, I tell him.
What does that mean? Debutts says.
You need to go, I say again.
The Punisher steps forward.
Now, he says.
Debutts looks at us again, searching our faces. Something in him clicks.
Okay, he says. Ill pack up my stuff.
He walks down the hall, into his room and closes the door.
Dave picks up his phone and dials 911. He says hed like a unit to come and assist with an evacuation. I hide a smile.
To the Renton dispatcher, Dave quietly says no, theres been no violence, but he wants to make sure this process remains peaceful. He listens, then closes the phone.
Debutts appears from the hall, dressed in a light-colored windbreaker, carrying a black bag. He goes to the door and opens it.
Ill be back in a second to load up the rest of my stuff, he says, and walks out.
We wait. The minutes crawl. We talk nervously, waiting for the cops.
Too much time passes. No sign of Debutts.
We walk outside and look for his car. The parking space is empty.
Sean Robinson 253-597-8486