Friday, July 6, 2012

A Meeting of Minds


 
FBI poster, describing Bernard Welch and his criminal
activities.  Circulated in 1976.

In the summer of 2006, I received a call from Montgomery County Police Headquarters. A guy named Jack Burch was trying to locate me about a case I had investigated in 1980. I called the number he left. He was interested in the story of Bernard Welch, the Ghost Burglar and did I remember it?
Did I remember? Of course I did, I told him, and I still had a cardboard box of notes and photos stacked somewhere in the basement. Mr. Burch was coming to the D.C. area soon. Would it be possible for us to meet and talk? He was thinking of writing a book about the case.
I investigated the Ghost Burglar for five years and I can honestly say that it affected my life in many ways. The case was so intriguing, so unusual, so strange that I had always thought it was worthy of a book. In conversation with other investigators of the Ghost Burglar, I knew they also had similar thoughts. In the twenty-six years since Bernard Welch was arrested, none of us ever had put pen to paper. I assume, like me, everyday life had intervened.
A couple weeks later, Jack Burch and I met and hit it off. I listened to his enthusiasm for the project and learned of his background in TV news and video production. I displayed a few wanted posters of Welch and notes from the investigation. A week later, Jack called me at home. He offered to write the book with me. We would be co-authors, sharing in the research and writing,
I readily agreed. I knew I would never write such a book by myself. Jack, with his enthusiasm, provided the kick in the butt that I needed.  I thought the project would take a year. Six years later, we are still at it. Throughout that time, Jack has been the driving force, doing research, interviewing witnesses, finding unknown facts and following the twists and turns of the story to the end. I believe Jack would have made one crackerjack detective if he had gone into police work.
Without Jack Burch, that box of notes, photos and wanted posters would still be in the basement under the Christmas decorations. The story of Bernard Welch, the Ghost Burglar, would have never been told.
                                                                                                           ―James King         

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