HOUSTON--Down one of those long roads around Spring where people live on big lots out in the country, Diane Falbe likes to talk about her peaceful life.
"It’s quiet, peaceful, calm," she says, as she waters her garden full of everything from blueberries to gourds. "It’s just real nice. It’s like a little slice of paradise."
Sure, she occasionally hears the rumbling of a train rolling down the nearby railroad tracks or the roaring engines of a jet approaching Bush Intercontinental Airport. Sometimes, her dog barks. But more than anything else, she hears the sounds of her birds, from the crowing of her roosters to the clucking of her rump less chickens.
But none of the excitable animals on her small farm protected her from the thieves who stole some of her peacocks.
"Right out in front of my nose!" she says. "I mean, I’m here! And it’s made me so suspicious of everybody."
Falbe has been selling peacocks for years now, using eBay and Craigslist to market eggs, chicks and grown birds. So she wasn’t surprised one day in June when she was contacted via Craigslist and visited by a couple of women supposedly interested in buying some birds.
They drove up to her house in a Cadillac Escalade with what she described as "dope windows," dark glass that made looking into the vehicle impossible.
Two women accompanied her to the back of her property. Then, a few minutes later, they were joined by another woman who Falbe hadn’t seen before. That woman, whose skin showed evidence of minor cuts, claimed she had stumbled walking around the house.
They left without buying anything. Only the next day, Falbe says, did she realize what happened.
"Then I noticed the young birds were gone and the green (peacock) was gone," she says.
The women turned out to be thieves, she says, taking three chicks and a prized Java green male peacock. She estimates the stolen birds were worth about $900 to $1,000.
They apparently knew which birds were most valuable, she says, because they specifically targeted the Java green.
"They had to sell it," she says. "I’m sure they sold it."
She passed along to sheriff’s investigators the cell phone number of the women who dropped by her house, she says, but nobody has been arrested. She also posted an alert on Craigslist, warning other bird dealers.
Another peacock dealer from Brazoria County contacted her describing a similar crime, Falbe says. In that case, she says, the home was burglarized and one of the women distracted the owner by offering to have sex with him. She couldn’t provide contact information to confirm the information.
Now the stolen bird’s mate has moved along to other suitors among her flock of peacocks. And Falbe takes some consolation in her theory about what happened.
She suspects her green java peacock, an especially aggressive breed, flailed at the thief who took him out of his cage.
"They want to scratch your eyes out with their spurs…" she says. "And I know what happened was, when she got in the pen with the bird, the bird attacked her. The bird attacked her and knocked her down."
Still, she’s bothered that she’s now suspicious of the bird buyers she once welcomed onto her property. And she keeps a closer eye on the noisy flock around her quiet country home.