One phone call is all it took.
One measly phone call to a former colleague I hadn’t spoken to in months.
He had left the company I was phoning him about a couple of months back.
He had told me previously the benefit of his decision in leaving, “I got my life back”
It should have sounded alarm bells. It did. They just weren’t loud enough.
I started our call with “So I uh, just wanted to gauge your opinion, are there any openings with….”
He told me he funnily enough he was going to be speaking with his friend, the Director of ops for the company that very morning.
An hour later he called back. “He ‘ll be calling you.”
An hour after that it began..
Two days later my wife and I would sit at our kitchen table dazed and confused after our life got stuck on the fast forward button. Calls, interviews, emails, start next week.
That one brief call initiated a sequence of events that meant in less than 48 hours I was once again a surveillance investigator. I was a PI again.
It’s just a pity it wasn’t my idea of being a PI.. getting to wear hibiscus shirts, drive a red Ferrari and talk to a little guy in beige shorts with two dobermans by his side.
I was out. Free and clear.
They pulled me back in.
Courtesy Paramount pictures
All aboard the magical mystery tour
Now an average working week goes like this;
Five cities. Or towns. Or rural crap holes.
Two hotels. Or three. Close to those locations.
Hundreds of kilometres of driving.
Very little sleep.
Colombia’s finest. COFFEE.
Being a surveillance op is part investigator/ part film director.
I watch people. I tail people. I film them. I report on them.
The traffic’s not so bad. Unless your’e in Dublin, Cork or Galway cities.
The majority of drivers in Ireland..let’s just say they have their own style.
Sit behind a driver at a red light. The light goes green..and..we remain there.
A car moves off gently when amber comes back around.
In South Africa you just don’t do that. The slightest milisecond delay in moving forward from red to green will unleash horn honking and abuse of apocalyptic proportions. A firearm may or may not appear.
Working surveillance means you also sometimes see and hear interesting things around your intended subject.
The teenage drug crew working the open air courtyard of a Dublin block of flats.
Over a three hour period all was revealed. Who held the wraps. Who held the money. Where users approached. How they approached. How they dealt to them. The hand signals they used. What happened when two Garda Officers walked through the complex. How often they went around the corner and returned from the local shop with snacks. Their version of the 15 minute tea break.
In the surveillance world it’s professional observation.
In life it’s flat out stalking.
But people will be naughty.
The company has clients galore. The clients are insatiable. They instruct us to dig, delve, find, follow.
It’s mostly personal injury claims that don’t seem consistent with symptoms.
Sometimes it’s income protection claims.
Subjects with exaggerated claims can’t remember to act a certain way all the time.
They forget. It’s usually ends up on film.
Rinse and repeat
It’s lonely being out on the road.
It’s a travelling job.
You’re away from your family.
Driving. Sitting. Waiting. Driving. Off and running. Another town. Another hotel.
Rinse and repeat.
A subject can take you anywhere. At anytime.
It’s often when a shift comes to an end – 8 hours later plus early morning driving hours when the subject leaves their address.
5 minutes before finishing time.
Being lucky is a local trip to the shops. But it could also be a drive across the Country.
Some human behaviour can be predicted.
But peoples lives, motivations, necessities, not so much.
Subjects go to work. Subjects run errands. Subjects go bowling. Subjects go to the airport and catch a flight. Subjects go the airport and park on a back road parallel to the runway to spot planes taking off and landing.
Subjects tow a caravan to a rinky dink caravan park in a crappy seaside setting.
Subjects stay home and paint the outside of their house from a miserable gray to hotdog mustard yellow.
Speaking of yellow… You have to stay hydrated in the job. The surveillance vehicle is your office.
The office sometimes produces mobile apple juice.
It’s a glamorous life.
Surveillance takes centre stage for now as the lead actor.
Creative work stays in the background as the supporting act.
Time to go.
The rest of the country awaits.
Driving and following to be done.
Travelling with the speed of a cheetah, I disappear into the ether…