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"I was suspicious of the way she was conducting her business," Myles, a former police officer, said in the affidavit. "I did not like the fact that she had not been honest and given me her true name from the beginning. This is not the usual practice of private investigators when dealing with each other."

According to Myles's affidavit, when he demanded money up front before proceeding, Jaeckel told him she'd have to check with Peterson first. When Myles heard back from her several days later, he said in the affidavit, she'd already left the island. Jaeckel claims that she fled after receiving veiled threats from thugs wearing gold chains and piloting a cigarette boat. She says they warned her about asking too many questions about the wrong people.

The trial in Masek's suit against Peterson concluded in mid-December 1993. It would be almost fifteen months before Hufnagel would render her judgment in the case.

While Peterson waited to learn his fate, he took on a job for Denver's financially struggling Yellow Cab Company. Initially, Peter-son simply swept the company's office for bugs. Then, Peterson says, Clark Trammel--the company's court-appointed receiver--asked him to help the company in a civil suit it had filed against Karen Mathis, an attorney who had been the receiver prior to his tenure. As it turned out, Hufnagel was the judge who'd appointed Mathis receiver after earlier infighting at the taxi firm. His investigation, Peterson says, included making visits to the Mayan Theater on Broadway in an attempt to track down rumors that Hufnagel and Mathis were secretly meeting there to discuss the case. Peterson says he handed out his business cards to theater employees, asking them to call if they spotted the judge and Mathis together.

Peterson says he realized that investigating a judge who was about to rule in one of his own court cases was unusual. He says he told his attorney in the Masek case that he had come across Hufnagel on another investigation and was concerned that his work for Yellow Cab might pose a conflict of interest for the judge or for himself (even though Hufnagel presumably had no way of knowing he was looking for her at the Mayan). But he says his attorney told him "he didn't want to piss off the judge," who had yet to rule on Masek's claims, by raising the issue. Peterson went ahead with his snooping operation.

Peterson's S&L work continued to serve as his bread and butter well into the 1990s and was his most consistent source of favorable publicity right up until August of last year. That's when Peterson took the national media by storm with his claim that he'd been hired by a group calling itself "Friends of Nicole." His job, he announced at a Los Angeles press conference he'd called himself, would be to do everything possible to bolster the State of California's case against O.J. Simpson.

Peterson told Newsweek he was looking for evidence of spousal abuse and "eighteen other angles." He told USA Today he was attempting to nail down suspicions that O.J. Simpson had been stalking his estranged wife for weeks prior to her murder. And he told the Denver Post he planned to provide the prosecution with information that would discount allegations of racism leveled against Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman.

That Nicole Simpson's friends would hire Peterson puzzled many people in the private-investigation community, particularly because Los Angeles is chock-full of P.I.s, many of them former police detectives with solid backgrounds in homicide investigation and crime-scene work. Peterson, however, says it made perfect sense for Nicole Simpson's friends to turn to his firm. "We're good and trustworthy and dependable," he says. "And they were looking for someone who wouldn't sell the story to the tabloids"--ironic reasoning, perhaps, given that up to that point Peterson's only real claim to fame had been tracking down Roseanne's daughter for the National Enquirer.

When pressed to name who hired him, Peterson says that the Friends of Nicole have requested anonymity. "Larry King begged me to have them on his show," he adds.

One well-known Los Angeles private investigator tells Westword that numerous private eyes, some of them working for national media outlets, have attempted to determine who hired Peterson. They got nowhere. "No one who knows her had ever heard of [Peterson] before his press conference," says the investigator. "All her friends say they didn't hire him and don't know who did. It's hard to refute a negative."

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Karen Bowers