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5 Surprising Things You Learn as a Real Life Private Eye

#2. The Job Isn't What You Think

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I have had a depressing number of people hire me to catch their spouse cheating while holding the hand of their own boyfriend or girlfriend. What most people don't realize is that even if a couple is separated, until the divorce is final, having a boyfriend or girlfriend is still adultery. So you wind up in this weird situation where both people have moved on, but no one can be honest about it because then they'll lose the divorce game. It's like an unusually dark episode of Frasier.

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"Yahtzee! You get Christmas and Hanukkah!"

To hire my firm, it costs the customer $75 an hour plus expenses. We have many cases that include hours of surveillance a day for months. You know who can drop hundreds if not thousands of dollars a day to catch their husband or wife cheating? Very fucking rich people. There are a lot of couples who are getting divorced, already separated, and happily dating someone new who realize "I don't wanna lose half my shit." And then they come to me. I'm a ticket in the marriage lottery.

This ate at me for a while, until I realized that it's what's keeping me employed. You know what's delicious? Fresh lobster delivered to your hotel room at 2 a.m. because the client's wife is in the room across the hall with her new boyfriend. That $60 lobster is even more buttery and delicious knowing that it's going to be filed as a business expense and billed to the multimillionaire who hired me. THAT was a great job: I lived like a king for two weeks, and it turned out the woman was there with her sister, not some cabana boy.

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It was a lost opportunity for everyone.

#1. Everything Cool from the Movies Is Illegal

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"The best part of being a private investigator is breaking into houses or finding unlocked windows in the middle of the night and snooping through people's stuff."

... said no PI ever in history. You want to snoop through houses or offices? Your desired career field is "burglar." It's illegal to bug houses, and it's extra double illegal to break into somebody's home and plant that bug.

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"Illegal" here is a synonym for "fun."

I had a case go bad once: An abusive husband shook his tail, got back home, and confronted his wife about the surveillance. He put holes in his walls and screamed threats while I sat in my car -- armed -- trying to decide what to do. If I broke into that house and he wasn't pummeling her senseless, I'd go to prison.

My fear of prison lost out against my desire to sleep that night, and I entered the house, Glock drawn. Something funny happens when you make your way through a strange house with a gun in your hands -- you realize just how many weapons lie around the average house. Whiskey bottle? One of those upside the head could kill me. Huge black dildo? Traumatic brain injury waiting to happen.

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We call these "chicken knives," and they've killed many of my friends.

I found her in the bedroom, beaten up but alive. Her husband got away -- not that I could have done much besides shout "citizen's arrest!" if I'd caught him. The whole "not a cop" thing is frustrating -- just having that badge makes criminal trespass way less risky. I got lucky that night. Her husband wasn't about to press charges. If he had, it might have landed me with a burglary conviction and anywhere from two to 30 years behind bars. For trying to be a good guy.

Aaaand that's pretty much this gig: break the law and solve the case fast, or spend 200 hours pooping in jars in the back of your Cadillac DeVille and solve the case legally.

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