A short story of a PI to hold you over until Season 2.
People are idiots.
So much for the cynical private eye trope. But it’s true. Whether it is people hiring me to identify things they already know, not realizing there are things they can do themselves, or even a couple that has no idea I have followed them for three days and took pictures of them point blank in an elevator. Idiots.
Normally I would tell these people the errors of their ways, but I need to get paid. And this is a great job niche since there are a lot of idiots out there. -OK, not everybody is an idiot, but enough to pay my bills. Another idiot? The private eye who is too complacent when on the third day of surveillance.
It was three long days of surveillance for a wife and not-the-husband. They were one of the poshest hotels in Seattle. Small, upscale, and had some of the worst entrances/exits to keep eyes on. The wife was on a business trip from overseas and meeting her lover in the city. Of course, the husband was all too familiar with her phone and found out about the leisure plans.
The first evening I was able to catch them right as they entered the lobby. I was sitting in the foyer out front, trying to look like I was the typical American glued to my cell phone. Cell phones, the greatest tool for a private eye: Handheld internet, a great cover for people to ignore me, and a still/video camera to capture all I need for a case. I was unable to get more than just side and back photos of the couple as they entered the elevator, but it was better than nothing.
The next morning I began by walking around Pike Place Market and grabbed a coffee and croissant from the French bakery. It was beautiful seeing the sun touch the Puget Sound and watching the stalls starting to fill up with vibrant colors of fruit and vegetables. I watched the fish being brought in and placed delicately and just right on the ice for display. I marveled that within an hour the place would be packed with tourists everything serene would be destroyed.
I had the rough itinerary from the husband for his wife, who was visiting from overseas on business. I got back to the lobby just in time to catch them coming in and getting into the elevator to go back to their room. This time I was able to run in to the elevator and take a picture of them and verify they were staying on the 6th floor. He was reading a newspaper and she was glued to her cell phone, so it was easy to take a cell pic point blank without them even noticing.
I got off on the fifth floor instead of getting out on sixth with them. I ran up the stairs from the viewing deck so I wouldn’t be too obvious. By the time I got up there, I heard only one hotel room door close. I walked the small floor and identified 610 as the only door with a Do Not Disturb sign on it. Walking back to the stairwell I came from, I tried to email the client to see if he could verify what room she was in.
Right then I saw a very tall man walking torward me and I knew it wasn’t good. His jacket and demeanor told me he was the manager before he even opened his mouth. I told him I was an investigator and respected his very luxurious hotel, that I had all I needed, and was leaving. I knew managers in that position would have friends in the local police department, and knew to make myself scarce.
The rest of the day was mostly uneventful. Thankfully I still get paid for the hours and not based on if a target does anything.
On the third day the wife was free to be a tourist before her plane out. I started early like usual to get a good seat to watch the hotel. I didn’t dare go back to the foyer to spook the hotel staff. I thought how much it was a shame I wouldn’t feel right being a guest there -even as a local- knowing all eyes would be on me. Thankfully there are a couple other hotels I would rather stay at. Still, I hope it didn’t become habit to burn places I like while in this profession.
At about 9:00 AM, the couple walked out of the hotel and started walking north. I figured it was their breakfast run, so I kept a good distance. Having been trained in military law enforcement and federal law enforcement I feel I’m pretty good at tailing someone. They slowly walked past cafes, looking at them and moving on. I started getting complacent, which is the worst thing for a PI. I saw them as they walked into a French cafe and I waited a few minutes. I assumed it was a breakfast trip and wanted to get a closer picture of them and walked in.
They were at the bar. I had no other real option other than to sit at the bar as well. So here I am, trying to be inconspicuous, and sitting three seats from them at the bar. And it’s just us. I order a drip coffee. I look over and see that they haven’t ordered anything. He has a coffee to-go cup. Shit. They leave, and I start thinking I blew it. I quickly ask for the check once they leave and get my coffee in a to-go cup. Thankfully they are at a leisurely stroll so I can catch up to them. I stay on the other side of the street, half a block to a black behind.
They’ve seen me twice. Thankfully it was two different days and close in distance from the hotel. I don’t think they have made me at this point and don’t want to be that reckless again to chance it.
Then they walked. And walked. And by the time we got to Belltown I had an idea of where we were going. It’s the foreigner on one leisure day in Seattle. Of course they are going to the Space Needle. Of course this means I’m walking two miles to deal with the most touristy thing anyone could do.
But wait! They passed it! And went to EMP! Science Fiction or music fans headed to the museum that holds both? Or maybe a Hello Kitty affianado to see the current exhibit that is horrific in its land of garish cats everywhere? It doesn’t matter, because I am just happy they aren’t going to the Space Needle. There isn’t anywhere to hide in the elevator or viewing deck at the Space Needle without looking suspicious. And with the museum, it’s easy to take photos with a cell phone and not look suspicious. So after waiting 4 minutes after they walked in I followed.
The building has a few entrances and exits. And at this time of day, the lines for the tickets are all but non-existent. But with my luck it’s just us in the small lobby area with them at the counter. I tried my best to hide behind the pillar and bring my cell up to my head. Just then the wife gets on her cell phone and walks out the door to stand outside, trapping me between the two of them.
I’m screwed. I know it. I’m anticipating him walking up to confront me. I play all the responses I could give like some kind of terminator trying to blend in. I round the pillar to look and see if he is coming toward me and there’s no one there. I assume he has gone in ahead of her, and I make the decision to go to the restroom to my right before buying a ticket.
And ran right into the not-husband.
I didn’t even look him in the eye. At this point I am pretty sure I’m done. No words said thankfully. I look at myself in the sink mirror and curse myself for being off on my game. Too brazen. I know better. I’m trained better.
I’m an idiot. Just like them.
I wait a minute and walk out to buy my ticket and go in. I look out to the entrance and see her still sitting outside on the phone. He is standing over her, not saying anything. I buy a ticket and walk into the gift shop to keep an eye on them. The not-husband eventually walks in and goes past me into the music portion of the museum. Five minutes go by, and she’s still on the phone. I get antsy and decide to find the guy. I have his phone number and will *67 him to get even more evidence that the individual is the suspected target the husband told me about.
He’s gone. I do a thorough sweep of the museum. Gone.
I walk back toward the entrance and can see she is already gone too.
I go back through the museum one more time. I already know my luck. Just as I get to the other side of the museum with the main entrance, a new song comes over the speakers:
“Call me morbid, call me pale
I’ve spent six years on your trail
Six full years of my life on your trail
And if you have five seconds to spare
Then I’ll tell you the story of my life :
Sixteen, clumsy and shy
I went to London and I…”
Oh, and by the way, the wife is from London. Of course she is.