Normally investigations don’t involve an excess of adrenaline in the blood system. Or if they do, one has messed up big time. But every now and then, the only way to get a produce requires that an investigator walk where angels fear to tread, which in turn can cause an elevated heart rate.

A recent file of mine is an example of the above.

The file came in from a defense attorney. The subject was a mechanic who had filed both a Workers Comp claim and a civil suit after catching a car tire thrown from the back of a truck with his head. Couldn’t move his arms above his shoulders, so he said. The fact that the subject’s wife was also out on Disability persuaded the defense to assign the file out to us.

The first interesting point that turned up was that the subject was back at work as a mechanic. I traced him to where he was working – a huge complex of garages servicing virtually every kind of vehicle you can think of. Wearing a work shirt, motorcycle boots and carrying a tool box, I had no trouble getting into the compound and locating the subject. He was working on motorcycles up on a rack. The good news was that this was an activity that requires extensive use of the arms in a position above the shoulder. The bad news was that his work station was directly in the center of a huge garage, about 100 feet from the bay doors at either end. No way to get film from outside the garage.

While walking around to locate the subject, I had realized that I fit in perfectly and no one gave any thought to my presence amongst the hundreds of mechanics in the compound. All I needed was a way to get close and film. Inspiration struck. My tool box would hold the video camera easily. All it required was a few modifications – a hole drilled for the lens, a sheet of dark plastic to cover the hole and a specialized device to adjust the height of the camera (I am considering patenting this development – a towel scrunched under the camera).

I had arrived the next day, only to find I had missed him (morning shift only). But in looking around, I found vending machines about 20 feet from his work station, and right next to these – a table of the perfect height for film.

The next day, I got there early. There was our subject, his arms stretched above his head. My tool box and I made our way over to the vending machines and I set my secret weapon on the table. I got coffee. I opened my tool box, turned on the camera, got it aimed directly at his work station, set it on night film and adjusted the focus. As I was doing this, our subject
walked a few feet away to the machine used to separate tires from rims, an activity that would rip the arms out of the sockets of a normal person. I couldn’t resist and shifted my tool box so it recorded the exertions of our subject, while I inspected the pastry and candy offerings. Our subject returned to his station. I got a tool out of the box while adjusting it back to cover him. I had it! Camera height was perfect, focus was perfect, light was perfect, and fortunately my heart could stand the pounding. I had been hanging around the vending machines for close to 20 minutes getting film in plain sight of the subject.

left the tool box with camera running and got out of there, returning to my vehicle in the parking lot and taking a well earned rest while the camera did the work. My pulse returned to normal. But not for long – an hour passed and I had to return to retrieve the tools of my trade, providing they were still there and had not been discovered. I entered the bay, my eyes peeled for mechanics with tire irons waiting in ambush. No problems. I retrieved my tool box, glanced at our subject at work on yet another motorcycle with his arms above his head.

The film was gorgeous. The attorney was ecstatic. Our subject’s claim was denied, his lawsuit soon to be dismissed and used in evidence against him for fraud. I was in one piece, a most desirable configuration. Overcoming obstacles to get a great product is good for the morale, but I don’t mind in the least that my subsequent surveillance assignments have not required me to get out of the van.

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