$10,000 Flute Left in Cab Nine Years Ago Is Finally Returned

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Then, last month, Ms. Slyker, who still works at Howl at the Moon as a musical director and performer, woke up to see a message on her phone from Brannen Brothers, the makers of her lost flute. “Why would they be calling me?” she thought. A company representative had been contacted by a music store in Boston, where a man had recently walked in and asked to have a silver flute appraised. The serial number on the flute matched the one Ms. Slyker had lost nine years earlier. “I almost passed out,” she said.

The employee was Brett Walberg, sales manager and woodwind specialist at Virtuosity Musical Instruments. He said he does about a dozen appraisals a week at the store. When he walked into work on Feb. 12, a colleague asked him to look at a silver flute that a customer had just brought in.

Something struck Mr. Walberg as odd. The customer did not appear to be a flutist. “It was kind of like watching someone who’s never picked up a football before, versus, like, Eli Manning picking up a football,” Mr. Walberg recalled Wednesday. The silver flute was rare, something a professional flutist was more likely to use than a casual hobbyist, according to Mr. Walberg, who also teaches music history at Lasell University.

That combination was “kind of a yellow flag,” he said. Following store protocols in such situations, he took pictures of the instrument, noted the serial number, and wrote down the customer’s name and contact information. Since the flute was not immediately determined to have been stolen, the store could hold on to it for only a limited amount of time. The flute was there for less than two hours, Mr. Walberg said. Then, it left with the man who had brought it in.

Mr. Walberg contacted the flutemaker and gave them the information he had. The flutemaker began tracking down the original bill of sale for the item. When they found it, it had Ms. Slyker’s name. After nine years, her flute had been found.

“Imagine what you hold most dear in your day wasn’t there anymore,” said Mr. Walberg, who also plays the saxophone. Since the instrument is made of precious metals and appreciates in value over time, the $10,000 flute she lost in 2012 now cost $12,960 to replace, the flutemaker told Mr. Walberg.

Mr. Walberg, who is friends with Ms. Slyker’s brother, was unable to get the man to return the flute. Eventually, the store contacted detectives with the Boston Police Department. “We tried our best to have it resolved without any involvement with the police,” Mr. Walberg said.

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