Previously: A Washington businessman eager to assist Hurricane Katrina evacuees offers Jason Ziegler and Brandin Bednar help finding housing, arranging a great deal for them on a cramped, one-bedroom apartment on Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast Washington. To catch up on previous episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
On a recent Sunday morning, Brandin Bednar woke up groggy, rolled out of bed and realized that his wallet was missing. So was his cell phone. The 20-year-old roused his snoring roommate, Jason Ziegler, who discovered that his cell phone was missing, too.
"What happened last night?" Brandin asked.
They'd been out partying in Georgetown and Adams Morgan, eventually getting separated. Jason, 26, says that he stumbled into their apartment in Northeast Washington around 5 a.m. Brandin was already there, asleep.
Brandin couldn't recall when he got home, but he was sure that he hadn't been mugged. "I would remember something like that," he says.
Jason tossed out a theory: What if a burglar had entered their apartment while they were zonked out? The idea was unsettling but not implausible. Just after they'd moved in, Jason was in the bathroom when he heard footsteps in the living room. He assumed it was Brandin, but when he went into the living room, no one was there. Soon after, Brandin walked into the apartment and swore that he had not been home for hours.
"I'm not crazy," Jason insisted when he recounted the mysterious episode right after it happened. "I know that I heard footsteps." He says that he told the manager of the apartment building about the possible intrusion and that she assured him the footsteps probably belonged to a maintenance worker.
Now Brandin's wallet and two cell phones had vanished. The roommates decided not to call the police because they weren't sure if the valuables had been stolen or lost.
Several days after his wallet went missing, Brandin received an overdraft notice from Bank of America. Someone using his checking account number had withdrawn $500. It turned out Brandin's new box of checks was missing, too. The bank quickly tracked down the identity of the thief. The name seemed vaguely familiar, Brandin says, and he and Jason figured out why: They remembered seeing mail addressed to the man; he was the former tenant of their apartment. Evidently, he still had a key.
The lock on the apartment has since been changed. The bank restored the money to Brandin's account and promised to pursue the thief. Brandin called his cell phone carrier, Sprint, and learned that his phone number had been disconnected and that the phone itself was registered under a new name and number. He explained to the operator that the phone had been stolen. But the operator, Brandin says, couldn't seem to find any record of his account. Furious, he hung up.
Jason's stolen phone still works, however, as a reporter discovered when he dialed the number.
"Hello," a male voice answered.
"Who is this? Why do you have Jason's phone?"
"Jason's a friend of mine," the voice replied. "He let me borrow it. He's busy right now. I'm going to have to call you later." Click.
-- Tyler Currie