May 12, 2017

Darren Fix, P.I.

Right after I got out of the Navy, I moved back to Texas and worked for one of the top Private Investigation firms in Houston. Because of my electronics background, I'd usually go along on the jobs where were were checking for bugs and hidden surveillance devices. I was actually surprised by the quality of the gear that we had - it was able to sweep a large range of radio frequenies and silently notify us when it detected a feedback loop. Pretty cool stuff.

We got a call from a client who was sure that his office was bugged. Every time that he submitted a bid, the would get pushback that his margins were too high. He was tired of getting beat on every negotiaion before they even started negotiating. He was a subcontractor for a big oilfield construction company, and he ran his company from a mobile trailer that was parked on his client's site.

We did a full electronic sweep and found nothing (this was back in the early nineties, so we didn't have to worry about burst transmissions, etc.) The first thing that we checked were the phones themselves, but there were no transmitters installed. We did an electronic sweep of the trailer and again, came up with nothing. He insisted on a full physical sweep of the trailer, inside and out. So in the sticky swamp heat that is only found during July in Houston, we crawled under the mobile trailer and searched every inch. Well, maybe every foot. It was frickin hot!

When we finished, I was so sweaty and dirty and miserable that I was tempted to stop at a truck stop on the way back to the office for a quick shower. I'm starting to wonder if we're up against some kind of super-spy or something, capable of hiding surveillance equipment that we were incapable of detecting. As we're getting ready to leave, he looks at us with imploring eyes and says: "Look, I'm not crazy. Pick up the phone, press 9 to get an outside line, and you'll start hearing all sorts of clicky sounds." Ohhhh crap.

Turns our his office phones were routed through the corporate PBX (the corporate telephone system) of his client. They didn't have to bug his office, they could just pick up an extension inside the main building and listen to whatever conversations they wanted. We weren't even sure if it was illegal. We advised him to install a private phone line that he would pay himself if he wanted private conversations.

After mileage, billing a two man team, and the special fees for our special equipment, we ended up billing him almost a grand for that visit. I felt really bad for him, but that kind of thing happened a lot more often that you'd think.

From then on, the first thing I always did was to make a phone call from the suspect phones.

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