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By M.R. Leenysman
Copyright 2018, M.R. Leenysman
“Henfield Investigations, this is Jack Henfield, how may I help you?” It was 6:15 on Friday and my receptionist Carla had neglected to switch the phones over to the answering service when she had left at 5:30. I’d have to yell at her for it on Monday because it was the second time in three weeks that she had forgotten.
“Jack? It’s Jan.” Why was my little sister calling the office number, instead of my cell phone? “I’m glad you’re still at your office. Is it okay if I stop by? I’m just five minutes away.”
“Sure, sis. I’ve got a little more work to finish up. The door will be locked, since I’m officially closed, so knock three times so I know it’s you, okay?”
“Sure thing.” She hung up.
I switched the phones over to the service and wrapped up the invoice from my last case, before Jan showed up.
About six minutes later, I heard three knocks, walked over to the door and opened it.
Jan gave me a hug and a kiss to the cheek, before moving toward my office, settling into my guest chair.
I moved around my desk to my own chair and said, “Tell me what’s up. There’s got to be a reason you didn’t call my cell.”
Jan blew out an exasperated sigh and said, “I’m pretty sure Dave is cheating on me. In our own bedroom, during my trips out of town. I need your help to catch him. Not to hire you to follow him, but do you maybe have a hidden camera I can install in our bedroom myself? Preferably something that I can monitor from a laptop when I’m traveling?”
I asked, “In the bedroom? That’s kind of a gray area, legally. What’s your purpose in recording him? Is it just to get evidence for a divorce? Or is it anything more?”
“Why does it matter?” Jan asked. “It’s my house. Can’t I put a camera wherever I damn well please?”
I answered, “Tennessee has a privacy law saying that you can’t photograph or video someone without their permission in a place where they have an expectation of privacy if it would embarrass them and is for the purpose of either your sexual gratification or someone else’s. It doesn’t matter that he’s your husband and you’ve seen him naked before or that it’s your bedroom. Recording him for your own pleasure is a misdemeanor, sharing it is a felony. Although, the camera I have in mind is designed to keep you from putting video on the Internet. I’ll still need your signature on a statement that your purpose is only to gather evidence, to cover my ass with the state, sorry.” I reached over to my computer, to pull up an agreement I had used before, entered her name in the template and printed it off.
As she signed it, Jan said, “At this point, I just want confirmation. I’ll decide whether to throw him out once I know who he’s been with. I promise not to use the video footage for my own gratification, okay?”
I went over to my equipment locker, unlocked it and looked for one of the spy cameras I had used a number of times in the two years since I’d left the Nashville police force and become a private investigator. Mostly, they had been used for surveillance in businesses, but I had provided them for home surveillance a few times. One case turned out to be a man who claimed he was trying to prove that his nanny was stealing, but I had reported him for violating that law when a review of the video showed that he had placed it in the bathroom she used several times, to catch her showering. So, I was sensitive to the legal implications of lending Jan this camera.
I closed the locker and showed it to Jan, pointing out where the lens was hidden. “This is just the camera for you. It looks like a phone charger, right? If you use the Micro-USB cable for your phone, it will actually charge your phone, which helps the disguise. The video is encrypted before it is streamed via your home WiFi to a cloud service, where it is stored. You can set up viewer software on your laptop or I have software on my computer with the decryption key, if you want me to do the monitoring.”
“No, I’m not asking for you to turn down other work just for this,” Jan said. “It could be nothing.”
“Okay. I’ll set up your WiFi credentials before you leave. Once you’re home, connect it to your laptop…”
“I’ve got it down in my car,” she interrupted. “Can we set it up here, so there’s no way for Dave to see me do it?”
“Sure. Give me your WiFi info, then get your laptop,” I said.
She wrote down the info, then hurried down to her car and returned with her laptop bag, while I configured the camera’s WiFi setting so it would work at her house. We connected the camera to her laptop and it launched the installer for the software.
“Can I see what the video looks like?” she asked.
I showed her a few samples on my desktop that weren’t connected to any of my cases, as I said, “The laptop can’t display any video until you actually record some and it will only do that within range of your WiFi now. The software on the laptop itself isn’t hard to use, just give it a date and time and it will start displaying the closest video to that time, even live video. But, the software for your laptop won’t let you save the video.”
“And if I do catch him? How can that video get admitted into a divorce case, if only the laptop can view it?”
“I have a different software package on my computer here, to manage several of these cameras. I can view the video and also permanently decrypt the parts of the video that need to be used as evidence. All the video gets deleted from the cloud when a case is over. I then reset the encryption and decryption keys on the camera so I can use it for another case, which prevents you being able to see it any more.”
Jan took the charger/camera from my hand and turned it over. “Pretty slick. So, I can just plug this into any outlet?”
“So long as it’s in range of your WiFi. A red light will blink for ten seconds if that connection fails. They make it pretty simple. So long as Dave doesn’t unplug it, you’re fine. So, do you want to tell me what makes you suspect my double-brother-in-law of an affair?” Dave was also my wife Abby’s brother, having met my sister at my wedding to Abby. They married a year after us.
Jan fidgeted a little before answering, “Usually when I travel for my job, I’m gone from Monday to Friday. But this week, the customer only needed me onsite from Monday to Thursday and Dave forgot I was coming home early. When I got home, the bedroom smelled like sex and one set of sheets was in the washer, so they had clearly just been changed. I didn’t accuse him because then he’d be on guard, making it harder to actually catch him, with your help. Rather than wait for my next business trip, I plan to fake one the week after next, stay at a hotel here in Nashville using loyalty points and hope I catch him in the act.”
I asked, “Am I correct in assuming that you don’t want me sharing any of this with Abby, to keep her from giving him a warning? That’s why you tried the office number, to avoid having my cell phone ring if I was in her presence?”
“Pretty smart, big brother. You better get home before she starts thinking you’re the one having an affair. Good night and I’ll keep you informed.”
As she started to leave, I said, “Oh, Jan? Keep in mind that if you’re naked in front of that camera, I’ll be able to see that video, too.”