By the time I was asked to find Claude and Marie Dexter* in France, I had pulled a few unclaimed property rabbits out of unclaimed property hats so that I had become the company’s patron saint of hopeless cases. Typically, when they finally got around to assigning me a case like Claude’s, they had exhausted all their own resources yet had not been able to find their man.
My first stop was my favorite website www.numberway.com, with links to telephone directories worldwide. France’s online Pages Blanches were tedious to navigate back then. You had to individually search each of the 96 “départements” (France’s equivalent of US states) and overseas départements and territories. These included island territories in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, and French Guiana on the South American continent. France also has overseas collectivities and minor territories, a handful of uninhabited islands worldwide, as well as a claim in Antarctica – which I decided to leave until later (much later).
You can imagine how long it took me to discover there were only six Claude Dexters in all of France. I tried to call each of them, but managed to speak with only two. Either no one answered at the other numbers, or they were out of service. (Sacré bleu!) In desperation I expanded my search to include Jean Claude Dexters, thinking that maybe Claude might be his nickname.
I eventually noticed that something was wrong with Claude’s last known address. What appeared to be a street number and name, followed by a town and postal code, was actually two towns and two postal codes. This gave me a hint on where to narrow my search for Mr. Dexter.
In one of these two towns, let’s call it Antheor, I discovered a Claude Dexter who was married to a Marie. This turned out to be a coincidence and not the Claude-Marie combination of interest. However, there was a Jean Claude in town who looked promising. I gave him a ring.
“Non,” he said. He wasn’t the right Claude Dexter, but he did recall a Claude who had passed through Antheor some time back. He offered to ask around to see if he could find anyone who remembered him and might be able to give me more information about him. I emailed Jean Claude the address for Claude I had been given by the investment company, advising him about the other Claude-Marie combination I had run into. Then I prepared to wait.
The next day, there was an email in my box from Jean Claude. I was surprised to hear from him so quickly. He explained that after we spoke, his neighbor dropped in for a visit. Of course, Jean Claude told him the news about the woman from America calling him asking for Claude and Marie Dexter. After all, this isn’t something that happens every day.
The neighbor was shocked – Claude Dexter was his cousin. He had only met him once when he was in town several years earlier. Claude had visited Antheor because he was working on the Dexter genealogy and wanted the discuss the cousin’s branch of the family. Sometime after that, the cousin explained, Claude had moved to Morocco. The neighbor added that Claude used to travel a couple of times a year between Paris and and Morocco, but that in recent years Claude had opted to spend more time in Morocco. I discovered that one of the Claude-phone numbers I had tried without getting an answer had been Claude’s apartment in Paris, and one of the Claudes who had failed to answer his phone was Claude Jr., my Claude’s adopted son.
Incroyable! I had initially done a Google search for Claude Dexter, but, without more detailed information, I could not tell if any of the links led to the right person. Looking back I realized that one Claude Dexter who appeared at the top of the Google list had written at least a half dozen books on the Asian philosophy of Zen – and also lived in Morocco. Voila!
Back to Numberway and the “Maroc Annuaire“. There he was, living
in M’Diq, a town on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco. Without the information from his cousin, I don’t know if I would have found him in this obscure corner of the world.
I quickly called Claude to confirm he was the right one. Of course he was. We shared a few fascinating minutes talking author-to-author about the importance of continuing to write and sharing one’s experience, wisdom, and knowledge with others. And that was it.
I turned in his contact information to the investment company. They were impressed -Morocco was the last place they would have looked for Claude Dexter.
Although Claude is probably long gone by now, I hope to visit M’Diq one day. I think I would enjoy it.