This case had Eileen in Chester at two or three in the morning, finding witnesses to verify that the Mafia son and cousin were frequent drug buyers, not first-time shoppers, as the cousin claimed. Back then, she wasn’t driving a Mercedes convertible—it was a mere Chrysler LeBaron that she stopped at an alley, to ask two guys drinking out of a bag for directions:
“You Linda?” one of them wondered.
“Excuse me?” Eileen said.
“Linda Evans. From ‘Dynasty’!”
She assured him that she was not.
Nor was she 5-0, a cop. She was trying to help R, whom these guys knew. Well, freakin’ Linda Evans showing up there, on their corner, to save R’s ass—her path was paved. They gave her an education. Messed-up grill—that means no teeth. Sneakers thrown over an electric wire—that’s a drug corner.
Mid-case, Eileen got an offer from the Mafia: Would she come work for them? Whether the invite was to co-opt her or to scare her, or merely an acknowledgement of her sleuthing chops, Eileen never bothered to find out. R’s conviction ended up getting knocked down to second-degree murder, and to this day, if she drove into Chester, Eileen would get a certain welcome: “Yo, Linda, how ya doin’?”
SHE WOULD BE doing much better if she could find Toni Lee Sharpless.
For at least an hour every morning, Eileen Law digs in. She’s constantly getting tips on Toni. Or maybe the body of a woman Toni’s age was found somewhere in Texas—that means a call to the cops there. She refuses to give up.
There’s a new lead. A dancer in a club in a Midwestern city—Eileen prefers I not reveal which one—says Toni worked there recently. She described Toni down to certain piercings and stretch marks that her mother confirmed. A very promising lead.
But one recent day at Eileen’s house, she and Stephen argue gently over whether she should fly a thousand miles on her own dime to chase down this latest clue. Her Toni obsession, all the time spent and money not earned, is an issue between them.
“Goodbye,” Stephen says, baiting her.
But he’s not really annoyed. He knows she’ll go. That Eileen can’t stop herself.
“I believe I was put on this earth to give people peace of mind,” she says. “That’s what my business sign says: ‘For peace of mind.’ It’s not just a little catchphrase. It’s what I believe.”
Toni’s mother, Donna, says that she wouldn’t be able to function if it weren’t for Eileen. Knowing Eileen will find Toni has allowed “the weight to melt off my shoulders,” Donna says.
By the way, that old woman out in Pomona, California, who left her little girl bound to a chair, on a Fourth of July a long, long time ago—she did give her daughter a call.
After half a century, they talked.