It turned out that the cops knew her well. She’d call them often, for things like squirrels on her roof, trying to invade her house, trying to get at her.
Eileen had found the woman’s mother.
PRIVATE EYES ARE, by nature, plodders. The romance of cracking cases is just that—romanticized.
Most PIs are ex-cops who sift methodically through clues, dig into files, piece things together. Eileen does all that, certainly. But that’s not her style. She’ll don disguises, create characters to work undercover, and push into places any reasonable person, not to mention a robust blonde, should avoid. Then there’s that preternatural instinct, flashes like “Pomona,” that reveals all kinds of things.
They pop up unpredictably. Not long ago Eileen went out to dinner with her husband, Stephen, but he drove by the entrance to the restaurant. Naturally, he started backing up on the shoulder instead of safely looping around. Eileen had a flash. She didn’t fear what was about to happen; she knew: A car coming out of a driveway nailed them.
After the fact, an uncharacteristically quiet Eileen couldn’t help herself. She mentioned her premonition to Stephen. Imagine being married to that.
I got to know Eileen through the case of Toni Lee Sharpless. Back in August 2009, Toni was a 29-year-old nurse and single mother of an 11-year-old girl. She was last seen pulling away from Philadelphia 76er Willie Green’s house in Gladwyne at five in the morning—after a night of partying—presumably on her way home to Downingtown. She’s been missing for almost two years.
Eileen first learned about Toni’s disappearance on local news; the authorities were dredging the Schuylkill. “No!” Eileen shouted at the TV. “She’s not in the river!” She knew that just as she knew Pomona. And she knew something else: Toni was alive. Eileen has been looking for her since then—for nearly two years—pro bono. She’s obsessed. “It’s because I met her daughter,” Eileen says. “I have a soft spot for children.” She’s never had any kids herself.
I spent a day a year ago combing rough Camden neighborhoods with Eileen; tips had placed Toni there, perhaps looking for drugs—she disappeared shortly after getting out of rehab. Eileen charging around Camden chatting up prostitutes and pounding on doors of possible drug dens was a sight to behold: A shock of white-blond hair frames her perpetually bronzed face. Her green eyes, and very straight, very white teeth, are dazzling. She looks a little like Linda Evans of “Dynasty” fame—though a smaller version, without the shoulder pads and dressed, the day I tailed her, in a denim jacket and jeans. She is not thin.