Let’s start large, with a story. Since everything about Eileen Law is large, and there are plenty of stories.
She’s been a private eye for a quarter of a century, working out of a home office in Kennett Square, next to Longwood Gardens. In the beginning, back in the mid-’80s, she got a call from a woman in Delaware who was looking for her mother.
The woman was about 60, and she had quite a tale. When she was five years old, her mother tied her to a chair, taped her mouth shut and then disappeared. It was the Fourth of July, and her father was away in the service. The woman could still remember the holiday parade going by on the street, just past the blinds. She was discovered later that day by a neighbor.
Now the woman wanted to find her mother. But Eileen had almost nothing to go on—only the mother’s maiden name, her married name and a picture of her on her wedding day. Twenty-five years ago, there was no Internet, of course; Eileen Law’s office was lined with phone books from all over the country. She combed them. Nothing.
Then Eileen was awakened early one morning by a vision: the image of a green sign, marking a town. It said, “Welcome to Pomona.” That was all, but she knew, in her gut, two things: that Pomona was in California, and that in this town, she would find the woman’s mother.
Eileen flew to California and checked in with the Pomona police, showing the wedding picture of the mother. Nothing. She checked local real-estate records. Nothing. So she got in her rental car and just started driving. She had no idea where to go. But she passed a street and—boom—felt a strong urge to turn around. The street was lined with Spanish-style bungalows.
She stopped at one of the houses. A Hispanic woman answered the door, and in her pigeon Spanish, Eileen told her she was looking for a woman; she showed her the wedding picture. The Hispanic woman shook her head no, but then Eileen asked her to look again, and this time, she covered the picture so that only the newlywed’s face—with a nose that was Jimmy Durante large—showed. Suddenly the Hispanic woman shrieked and pointed across the street: “There! She live there!”
Eileen knocked on the woman’s door.
“Yeah,” the woman called.
“Can I talk to you for a moment?”
“Do I know you?” the woman called.
“No, I just want to talk for a moment.”
The woman came to the door. She was old, perhaps 80. But her face—the nose especially—was unmistakable.
“I’m here on behalf of your daughter,” Eileen told her.
The woman’s eyes got big. “I don’t have a daughter.”
“Oh yes, you do.”
“You have the wrong house. You have to leave.” She threatened to call the police.