You Can't Handle the Truth!


That’s what we call it in our little tree house. Pretexting. In elementary school when I told the teacher the dog ate my homework, they called it lying. When a candidate for the Presidency of the United States looked at the camera and said he didn’t inhale, they called it lying. When the son of the Nigerian Treasury Minister sends you an e-mail promising to deposit money in your account but first he needs your account number and a good faith deposit, it’s lying.

But in my job, it’s pretexting. And let’s face it; it’s part of what private investigators do. We obtain information that someone wants, but cannot get through conventional channels. Usually because the other party does not want our client to know said information. So how do we get it? By lyin…uh, pretexting.

An old PI buddy of mine has a saying: “Never resort to the truth if a good lie will get it.”

Now, believe it or not, there are rules to pretexting. There are things you can and cannot say to obtain information. For example, you can’t represent yourself as an agent of a real company. So if you are trying to locate Mr. So-and-So, you can’t call his Mother’s house and say you’re a UPS driver trying to deliver him a package. Another no-no is representing yourself as a law enforcement officer of agent of the state. That should go without saying, but so should “Clorox is not meant for human consumption”. Some people need the rules spelled out in painstaking detail.

And of course there are assorted other rules, but other than that PI’s are limited only by their imaginations as to how they develop information. There are a few “standard” or “classic” pretexts, but most investigator’s come up with their own spiel that they know and are comfortable using. It’s also important to come up with a pretext name. This is your fake name you use while spouting out your fake spiel. I can’t stress enough the importance of using the same name every time. Otherwise, you get into situations like this hypothetical phone locate:

PI: “Hi, this is Jimmy Dale McGillicutty. Is Steve in?”

Clueless: “No, Steve doesn’t live here anymore.”

PI: “Oh really? Well I run a temp agency and someone referred him to me about taking a possible work assignment from us.”

Clueless: “Oh! Well I’ll take a message and have him call you when I see him. What was your name again?”

PI: “Uhhhhh…Stevie Ray Mcgregor.”

(Not So) Clueless: “Didn’t you just say Jimmy Dale Something-or-other?”

PI: “(Panicked) Uhhhhh…Jimmy Dale McMahon?”

(Not So) Clueless: “No, I wrote it down. I just wanted to make sure I spelled it right. You can’t remember your own name?”

PI: “Uhhhhh…(Panic)….I, uhhhhhh….(Megapanic)…That is, I, uhhh…(‘Click’)

There you have it. Pretext blown. Practice using the same pretext name until you learn to answer to it like the one your Momma gave you. It’ll save your skin in the long run.

There you have it, troops. Now get out there and start lying…I mean…pretexting…


Magnum P.I., You Lied to Me

Ohh, Thomas Magnum...Why did you lie to me? Don’t you know I worshipped the Hawaiian ground your sockless penny loafers walked on? As a young boy, I could aspire to no greater heights than to lead the life you led. So cocky, and yet down to earth, you made me believe that being a PI was the coolest job on earth.

Cooler than astronaut…

Cooler than rock star…

Cooler than third string middle linebacker making league minimum for my beloved Houston Oilers, who’s day in the sun would certainly come. If not this season, then surely the next….

You lived in an opulent Hawaiian mansion. For free, I might add. No, scratch that. You got paid to live there! Perks? You had a few. I’m not sure what HMO or dental plan your boss Higgins provided you, but I am sure he gave you a megasweet Ferrari to tool around in. And tool around you did. Hither and thither, coming and going, investigating various crimes and personal dramas in the greater Honolulu metro area. But wait, what if the case was on another island? What if special guest star Farrah Fawcett was being held hostage by an evil gun-runner in his highly fortified complex on Maui?

“No prob”, you’d say. “My man T.C. has got a helicopter, for chrissakes! We can be over there in a jiffy. Hey, I’ll probably solve this entire case in 44 minutes, allowing for commercial interruptions. I’m Tom Magnum, Baby! Who wears short shorts? I wear short shorts!”

Ohh, but you lied to me, Tommy Boy. I’m not the bright-eyed kid who trusted your every word that I once was. Where’s my Ferrari, Magnum? You know what kind of vehicle my employer provides? A MINIVAN. That’s right, a nondescript Dodge Caravan with blackout tinting and a tripod set up in the back. You know why, Magnum? Because you can’t do surveillance in a Ferrari!

Oh sure, you did every week and now every day in syndication. Ohh, but you lied to me, Magnum. Because, you know what? There are certain behaviors in the human animal that are predictable. By that I mean that most people will react in basically the same way to a particular stimuli. One such stimulus in this crazy world of ours…IS A FERRARI!

People the world over tend to notice Ferraris. They’ll say things like, “Hey, look. A Ferrari.” Or, “Wow, sweet Ferrari”. Or possibly, “Hey, is that Ferrari following me?”

That’s why there are no Ferraris in this industry, Mr. So-Called P.I. And if you think a Ferrari will catch their attention, imagine what a freakin’ HELICOPTER will do. So you lied to me, Magnum. You took a young boy’s hopes and dreams and smashed them like a coconut against the jagged Hawaiian lava rocks.

How do you sleep at night in that lavish mansion of yours?


If Loving You is Wrong, I Don’t Wanna Get Caught

PI’s separate their case types into several categories. Today I’m on a domestic case. As opposed to a claims (insurance) case or a legal case. A domestic case is what most people envision when they think of PI work. It’s tailing a cheaty wifey or hubby around to see what kind of trouble they get into. Fun, fun.

So here I sit in the parking lot of a major chain store whose name you would doubtless recognize, but whose lawyers I don’t wish to receive Cease and Desist paperwork from, so they shall heretofore remain nameless. But let me tell you this. Their parking lots are like fertile breeding grounds for low rent rendezvous. They tend to be huge, with lots of recessed corner areas where conspirators and like-minded co-conspirators can meet, steal a quick kiss and get down to the business of flagrant adultery.

Now, listen. Nobody puts much thought into an affair. They aren’t the most well executed crimes ever devised by the criminal mind. They tend to be planned on the fly and in the heat of passion, which is why the injured party usually catches wind of the whole debacle. Because the affair-or and affair-ee suddenly turn into mindless, hormone driven teenagers again.

Suddenly there are abrupt hang-up calls at all hours of the night.

Suddenly the significant other has an insanely busy work or travel schedule.

Suddenly your mate either starts picking fights at random or can’t enough of your love, baby (Sing it, Barry). Both of these behaviors stem from the guilt associated with rampant naughtiness.

Suddenly, something just feels

That’s when I go to work. Now, back to that parking lot. I followed my subject from work to here on her lunch break. She was completely clueless as to who was behind her. She was too preoccupied as to who was waiting in front of her. Let that be a lesson to the chaste and unchaste alike out there; always maintain 360-degree awareness of your surroundings. The person tailing you might not be as charming and harmless as me. But I digress…

So into the parking lot we go, and I immediately knew the drill. Heck, I knew where she was going before she did. I found a nice surveillance position nestled amongst several inconspicuous cars and watched my subject act out a drama as old as time itself.

Act 1, Scene 1:

She sits alone in her car, waiting with anxious anticipation. Checks her makeup in the rearview and looks around for the vehicle she’s expecting. Where is he?!? Doesn’t he know she only gets an hour lunch break? Oooohhhh, she could kill him! No, she couldn’t…she luuuuuuuuuuuuvs him! And he’s going to leave his wife and family to be with her and they’ll live happily ever after in La La Land because she honestly and sincerely believes he would never cheat on HER...You know, like he’s doing to his current wife...

Didn’t you hear that they were in luuuuuuuuv? Luuuuuuuv means never having to be sorry, or something like that. What movie was that from? You know, that one where she died at the end…


Cut to the scene of his late model luxury sedan casing the parking lot. My subject looks down and answers her cell phone (thanks for leaving that paper trail on the cell bill, by the way). Even from this distance I can make out her words. “Where ARE you?” I can imagine his slick, Fonzie-esque response…

“Look beside you, baby.”

To his credit, the paramour actually scans the parking lot before getting out. He’s smart enough to look for someone like me…he’s just not smart enough to actually find me. This ain’t my first rodeo, Cowboy. Let’s see if it’s yours.

Yep, it’s his first. He bebops out with a swagger worthy of Saturday Night Fever era Travolta. Oh man, if my video camera could talk. She’d tell you some stories from over the years. My subject pops out and rushes over like its prom night. She wants a From Here to Eternity rolling on the beach kiss, but cooler heads prevail. A quick hug and a smooch and off they go in his love wagon. Even a casual observer could tell that wasn’t her husband. She was just flat out too happy to see him. At this point, I could attach my van to his bumper and let them tow me to where they’re going, that’s how clueless and preoccupied they are with one another now. Doesn’t matter, though. I know where they’re going.

I’ve seen this movie a hundred times.

There’s a no-tell motel two blocks up. The kind where you can park in the back and not be seen going in from the street. What they don’t know is you can park at the strip center next door and see everything that happens in the back. Good thing I know that, huh? ‘Cause I’m set up and waiting there when they pull up. My tape is rolling as she gets out of his car and follows him into the room.

“Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my close-up”.

He apparently paid for the room ahead of time, which probably makes him think he’s smart. I’d tell you what it makes me think, but we’re amongst such polite company and all. By my watch they have about 38 minutes left on her lunch break, which is about 37.5 more than they’re going to need in their excited states.

Time passes…empires rise and fall…the tides ebb and flow…you get the point.

She makes it back to the office with three minutes to spare. I make it over to her husband’s office shortly thereafter.

Another day, another dollar…


Have you been injured on the job?

You’ve seen ‘em. The ads on daytime TV for clinics that treat work related injuries. They’ll do your paperwork for you, give you a nice a Chiro back pop and maybe even refer you to Cousin’ Henry, who’s a lawyer when he ain’t bartending.

God love, ‘em, these people pay Daddy’s mortgage.

You have a lot of time to think on surveillance. Now thinking was never my strong suit, but I do a little here and there. So as I sat in the back of the Stealth-150 with the blackout curtains and assorted forms of gadgetry scattered hither and fro, I started thinking about the insanity of it all. Now granted, people do get hurt at work and need help. I neither doubt nor debate that fact. But when, pray tell, did medical professionals start specializing in WHERE you received your injury.

Re-read that last line, I’ll wait.

Not WHAT kind of injury you have, but WHERE you received it. “Were you injured on the job? Were you in an auto accident? Did your mama drop you on the head? We can help!” So if I’m getting this, these guys should be able to handle pretty much any malady you present, as long as you got it at work or in a low speed fender bender. So if a missionary in Papa New Guinea comes down with work related leprosy, you can help…right Doc? How ‘bout Liver Flukes? What about auto accident related gingivitis?

Someday, in a fit of boredom (work related, naturally), I’m gonna hit the door at one of these joints and test a theory. Consider it my Master’s Thesis in Racketology. I imagine the conversation will go something like this:

Me: “Yep Doc, I really throwed my back out but good this time.”

Quack: (Hearing a faint but distinct sound of ‘Cha-Ching’) “Really, where did you hurt your back at?”

Me: “Shower.”

Quack: “You have showers at work?”

Me: “Naw.”

Quack: (Growing Desperate) “Soooooo…You have a shower in your car where you had a wreck and hurt your back?”

Me: “No. My shower. You see, I was singing along to my shower radio when ‘Country Boy Can Survive’ came on. I dove for the volume knob to crank up the part where ‘Ol Hank spits the Beechnut in that dude’s eyes…and well…there was a slick new bar of Irish Spring on the floor. Well, the luck o’ the Irish wasn’t with me that day, Doc, ‘cause I took a tumble like Cooter Brown on a rickety bar step. And now my back is ‘a hurtin’ like tarnation!”

Quack: “Get out.”

Me: “Say again, Doc?”

Quack: “Get out, I say! How dare you defile this sanctuary with your non work or auto related injury! A pox on thee and thy house!!! Now get thee behind me, Satan!”

Yep, I’ll bet that’s what they’ll say…


"Today (, I feel (eel...eel), like the luckiest...

I got burned today.

Let me hip you to a little PI shop talk. "Got burned" means the subject caught wind of my state sanctioned stalking activities. He got wise. The jig was up, the news was out, they finally found me...

Now getting burned is fairly commonplace in this industry. Happens to the best of them (not that that has anything to do with me). Hey, it's HARD to follow someone around all day and not let them be upwind of your scent. Usually the subject will do a few quick U-turns, maybe pull over to the side of the road and watch you pass, yadda yadda.

Not this clown.

Nooooo, he wants to play Roscoe to my Bo Duke and run me 'plum outta Hazzard County. So off I go...Eastbound and down...with a highly agitated insurance claimant on my bumper. These things happen, but they're rare. Don't let The Rockford Files fool ya', there ain't all that much burned rubber in my job.

But there we were...face to face...a couple of Silver Spoons...

So anywho, I see a DPS unit under the next overpass in Full Lurk mode. I punched the Stealth 150 up to 85 in a 70, figuring my gentleman caller would either back down or nut up in front of Smokey. We blew by Los Federales like Burt Reynolds circa 1977, and the Christmas lights flared up in the rearview. I watched with more than my share of the giggles as my boy prepared himself for a Come to Jesus meeting with The Man...

Works every time...

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