over, Farrah. Todays female private eyes are packing
guts, glamour and Ivy League degrees.
little while ago, an NBA team rented out an entire floor
of a major New York hotel. The scene might have looked
familiar to anyone whos heard about the rituals
of post-game partying: Inside the locked suites, players
entertained their friends and girlfriends; champagne
and beer flowed; Jacuzzis bubbled. And down in the lobby,
hundreds of young women, all of them basketball groupies,
hitched up their skirts, reapplied their lipstick and
stood around waiting to be asked to the party. One of
these young women was Virginia Valdez.
Valdez, it turns out, had a hidden motive. Shed
been hired to follow the wife of one of the players,
whom he suspected of carrying on an affair amid the
concealing chaos of the party circuit.
alliterative name, along with her sideline as a personal
trainer, may bring to mind the golden age of Seventies
detective dramas, in which lady crime solvers from Pam
Grier to Kate Jackson packed cunning instincts and hot
bods to boot. But in this case, the day job is real,
and so is the name. A few years ago, Valdez, who was
born and raised in the Bronx and gradated from college
with a degree in criminal justice, went to work as a
legal assistant at the Carpenters Union. When
the union engaged the services of a private investigation
firm, she got poached. They needed women,
a profession with a vast surplus of men, lady PIs are
in great demand these days. But unlike their celluloid
counterparts, theyre not strapping daggers to
their thighs or concealing tiny silver pistols in their
purses; informationnot kung fuis the preferred
Silbert shopped her services around last year after
graduating from Harvard and ended up at Investigative
Group International, one of the citys biggest
firms. I loved the sound of their splashy cases,
she explains, citing the Marcoses plundering of
the Philippine treasury, the heist at the Isabella Stewart
Gardner Museum in Bostonwhere looters made off
with a Vermeer and the only known Rembrandt seascapeand
the suspected murder of Doris Duke.
school, Silbert recalls, I was obsessed
with the connection between information and power throughout
history, and I was especially interested in the idea
of curiosity and forbidden knowledge in the Renaissance.
Plus, I love espionage.
the day we meet, shes getting ready to interview
the former head of an Asian narcotics bureau to investigate
rumors surrounding a prominent Chinese businessmans
involvement in laundering heroin money for Burmese drug
thats absolutely all I can say, she says.
Theres a lot at stake, you know.
is, of course, the sine qua non of the trade, especially
when scandal is rampant and cases often involve adultery
and murder, scheming socialites, suicide and drugs.
Amy Gray, a corporate investigator at BackTrack Reports
in New York, has recently been pursuing a powerful hip-hop
music personality to determine the nature of his relationships
with well-known gangsta rappers. But beyond that, her
lips are sealed.
is an outrageous business, says Gray, who went
to Brown and decided to forgo what she calls the liberal
arts/book publishing track. But its serious,
particularly with the stock market doing as well as
it is. A lot of money is changing hands, and not all
of the hands are clean.
its thrilling to chase people down, she
adds. The fun part is figuring out where people
have lied. Were looking for inconsistencies and
what people are trying to conceal behind the inconsistencies.
however, thats all too easy. Valdez has had her
share of Park Avenue divorce cases, and recently she
tailed a woman who stood to gain many millions in a
settlement unless her husband had proof of her dalliances.
So Valdez grabbed an evening dress (because you
never know if youll need one), jumped into
her car and waited, video camera in hand. It didnt
take more than five minutes for Valdez to film her subject
as she left her house, walked up the block and greeted
her lover with a lingering kiss.
Valdez readily acknowledges, These women have
a lot to lose, and believe me, people kill for a lot
less. I mean, whats she going to do, get a nine-to-five?
me, the danger of getting caught is the fun part,
she continues, but so is seeing how stupid people
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