Sunday, February 04, 2007

Private Eyes (Clap, Clap) Are Watching You

In a few weeks, I will start doing some part-time work for my uncle who owns his own PI business. To help him with his caseload, I'll be running skip trace searches and such. My duties will not include following people in my car or lying in the bushes somewhere taking photographs. The work will be stuff I can mostly do from home while Little A naps. In order to be able to work for my uncle, I have to complete about a month's worth of weekend classes and be registered with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services as a private investigator.

No shit.

I'll get my own little picture i.d. card and everything.

The classes have been interesting if not a little obvious with the information presented. My classmates are a pretty diverse bunch of folks, and we've been having a good time.

This weekend we embarked on the first of two planned surveillance exercises. Our instructor had asked a friend of his (and fellow PI) to come to Va. Center Commons and let us trail him for an hour around the mall. Our goal was to trail him, observe his actions, but do this without the subject being aware that we were trailing him. (The background story is that his girlfriend suspected he was having an affair and making purchases for his other woman at the mall.) The subject knew he was going to be followed but had no idea who we were. At the end of the hour he would meet back in the food court with the instructor and describe to him the people he thought were watching him.

The instructor and our pseudo-subject met up in the food court where my classmates and I were scattered about. Once we knew who the subject was we all set out in different ways to trail him.

Now I think the last time I went to the mall to just wander around and not shop was in high school. I certainly don't wander the mall alone. So, I put on my iPod, bought a Diet Coke, and proceeded to amble about the mall trying to put on my best dissaffected air.

The first store the subject went into was the bookstore, and I strolled in behind him, going straight to the magazine rack. Two of my classmates had paired up and came in behind me. They were trying too hard to act like a couple shopping together, and later the subject admitted that it was obvious to him that they were pretending and that's how he spotted them.

Our subject was pretty easy to keep track of; he was tall and bald. I could keep a pretty decent distance behind him in a crowd and still be able to follow him. I learned not to follow him into all of the stores, especially the smaller ones, but hang around outside, pretending to window shop or talk on my phone. I could keep an eye on him pretty well that way. He was harder to track in the larger anchor stores, so I found myself waiting outside the entrance to those stores until he came out.

Since there were six other students in my class, it became an easy way to cheat if I thought I had lost him. I'd just look around to see if any of them were around, helping me determine if I was on the right track. Once I trailed him into Sears, walking the opposite path through the store until I found him in with the televisions. After a few minutes, he walked towards the exit. I kept about 100 feet between us. Shortly before reaching the exit, he made a sharp 180 and started walking right towards me. I thought for sure I was burnt and tried to put on my best nonchalant, blank expression.

For the last fifteen minutes, I started really getting bored and tense. It was really hard to both prevent myself from being spotted and to pay attention to the subject's movements and actions. I called Evelyn because I knew of all my friends she could chat with me on the phone about nothing until my hour was up. Making our way back to the food court, the subject nearly collided with me coming out of Victoria's Secret. I was positive then that if he hadn't called me out in Sears, he for sure had spotted me at that moment.

Back at the food court, our instructor signalled for us to approach him and the subject. As we walked up, the subject was calling out each student as having spotted them. He pointed at me and said, "I never saw you." The only other person in the class he didn't spot was a retired cop.

I felt like an f'in super spy in that one moment. Look out Jason Bourne.

Next weekend, we'll be back at the mall only this time we get to pick a stranger out of the crowd and trail them for an hour. Talk about creepy.

Saw Smokin' Aces this weekend. It was a pretty entertaining little movie with a one too many plotlines and a couple of wildly unrealistic scenarios. But it was a healthy dose of Boyfriend Goodness which is what I came for anyway, even though, as P'Nut pointed out, the Boyfriend Goodness was not Shirtless Goodness. Guess I'll just have to just put in Blade Trinity for the ultimate in Boyfriend Goodness. (More good Boyfriend Buzz here. Finally, I can make my move...)

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