Colleen Collins is a P.I. and award-winning author who has written several dozen novels in the mystery and romance genres, as well as three nonfiction books on private investigations. She and her attorney-husband write the blog Guns, Gams and Gumshoes, selected by Booklist Online as a “Web Crush of the Week” during its 2014 Mystery Month. Learn more about Colleen and her books at her website.
Colleen has generously offered a free Kindle copy of A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms to one of our readers who leaves a comment. No Kindle, no problem. Amazon offers free apps for reading on your computer as well as on a variety of mobile devices.
The Felonious Fashionista
My husband and I ran a private investigations agency for a decade, which has since morphed into his criminal law practice where I’m his part-time P.I. Or as I call myself, his “live-in P.I.”
Occasionally, we’ve had clients give us thank-you gifts for handling their cases, from Starbucks cards to homemade tamales. But the most surprising gift offer was from a client who committed crimes in the high style she also liked to wear. For this article, I’ll call her the felonious fashionista.
How We Met the Felonious Fashionista
A case came into our office a few years ago, where a man said his sister had been arrested on drug charges, and could our law firm handle her case? We get similar calls every month or so, usually for someone who’s been busted for recreational amounts of illicit drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, Oxycontin. When we asked the particulars of his sister’s charges, he said, “She had ten pounds of heroin packed in the air cleaner of the Mercedes she was driving, and fifty pounds of marijuana in the luggage carrier on top of the car.”
Our jaws dropped.
“Walk like you have three men walking behind you.”
- Oscar de la Renta
Because we were hired quickly after the fashionista had fired another lawyer, we didn’t meet her until her second appearance in court. Imagine our surprise when a Sofia Vergara clone sashayed into the courthouse as if she were prowling a catwalk. She wore insanely high heels, a silk blouse and a front-split skirt that flashed glimpses of her tan, toned thighs. Later we learned she had been a fashion model in a European country.
Other lawyers in the hallway looked like a tableau, frozen as they stared in awe at this beautiful woman, their looks turning to surprise and curiosity as she greeted us warmly. As the three of us walked into the courtroom, she glanced at my husband’s green nylon briefcase decorated with several ink smudges, then at my purse, which is more like an oversized messenger bag as I cram everything into it, from books to my computer.
After the hearing, she took us aside and said she wanted to gift us both with designer luggage briefcases as ours were in serious need of an “upgrade.” Did we like Saint Laurent? Gucci?
“We like REI,” my husband quipped.
That evening, I found him looking up Gucci briefcases on the internet.
Let’s pause a moment and discuss what this drug smuggler gained from her fashionista ways.
“Always dress like you’re going to see your worst enemy.”
- Kimora Lee
She used her beauty and fashion sense to create a smokescreen behind which she conducted high-level smuggling activities. Although we didn’t know how many other smuggling activities she may have previously conducted or was currently involved in, we do know she drove a new Mercedes, always wore designer labels, wore expensive jewelry and spoke of vacations at pricey resorts.
In our legal case, she must have impressed the judge with her fashion sense because he gave her probation, which she viewed as if it were a charm on a Harry Winston bracelet. In other words, she believed her fashionistaism to be invincible.
“Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.”
- Alexander McQueen
Our felonious fashionista soon became an escape artist. After her flashy second court appearance, she failed to show up for her next several court-ordered hearings. In fact, she was failing to show up anywhere in life, which led us to believe the fashionista was on the run.
“I don’t think she ever intended to buy us Gucci anything,” I told my husband one day. “She just said it to make us feel good.”
Which is the unspoken promise of fashion, I suppose.
A Surprise Call About the Fashionista
Almost two years later, we were contacted by a lawyer from the Midwest. “This beautiful woman was stopped by the police who ran an ID on her, but she denies being the individual who had been sentenced to a probationary term in one of your state courthouses. I looked up her court records, and saw that you once represented her. What’s going on?”
My husband explained the whole story, including her being a fugitive from justice in our state as well as an accomplished drug smuggler who used her beauty and fashion sense to derail law enforcement and judges.
The lawyer laughed. “So I shouldn’t believe that she wants to buy me a designer leather briefcase?”
I’ll leave that for you to answer, dear reader.
A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms
by Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins (June 2014)
Topics include a history of trials, players in the courtroom, types of lawyers, trial preparation, the steps of criminal and civil trials, articles on crimes and much more.
"This intelligently organized handbook for practicing writers will make you sound like a practicing lawyer. ~Warwick Downing, former DA in Colorado and author of The Widow of Dartmoor, a sequel to Hound of the Baskervilles