It’s a dark and stormy night alright, just what I need for this assignment. Ms. Ella Corbin came to the office Tuesday, said she believes her husband is having an affair but she doesn’t know with whom. She laid it all out for me that afternoon. “He is involved in a start-up tech business. Not exactly high tech like Silicon Valley start-ups, it’s more low tech, a lot of analog electronics the young engineers weren’t taught and can’t handle. He also teaches two classes each semester at the local junior college in technical writing. Truth of the matter is that he spends five nights a week either working or teaching. And sometimes he goes Atlanta on business to see the two clients. I’ve got a financial consulting business of my own. We both make very good money so there will be no worry about expenses.”
I interrupted, “I knew there wouldn’t be a money problem, we like to check on our clients before accepting their business. So what makes you think he is having an affair? Lipstick on his collar, other women’s perfume on his clothes or in his hair?”
“Our laundry is done by the maid and she has said nothing about any hints of infidelity. We also sleep in separate rooms, he snores, very loud.” Ms. Corbin leaned back in the chair in front of my desk. I’m an old fashion private investigator, I don’t play games with my clients by trying to be their friend. The desk says strictly business. She continued her story, her eyes were looking beyond me. “Darren and I met ten years ago. He was in a messy divorce and I had just broken off an engagement. Let’s just say that the timing wasn’t good for a long relationship and leave it at that. Two years later I found out the reason for his divorce, he had been unfaithful. Considering all the money it cost him I thought at the time that he had learned his lesson. Two months ago I heard rumors from some a couple of my clients that Darren was seen dining in a few upscale restaurants with a woman and did I know her? Just last week I received an envelop from his ex, she has always hated my guts, saying that I would get my just deserts. she inferred he was cheating on me.”
“So why not start proceedings? You have a couple of witnesses, should be easy enough to break it off nice and clean.”
“That’s just the problem. I need real proof, evidence that will stand up in court. We signed a prenup agreement that if one of us was ever caught having an affair, the guilty party would forfeit all rights to the property. That means the condo, the vacation house in Lacuna Beach, and in Darren’s case, he would forfeit his position in his company. See, I lent the start up capital for the business. If I can’t prove infidelity then he keeps my capital until he sells the business or dies. Frankly, I’m not angry enough to kill him right now.”
“So why come to me? There are larger agencies who specialize in just this sort of thing.”
“Because word has it that you always get results. Besides, I talked to a couple of those large agencies and their operating expenses are, shall we say, over priced? Not that you are cheap by any means. But I do know a couple of your clients and they were more than satisfied.”
“I must remember to thank my previous clients and add them to my Christmas card list. Let me put it to your straight. Your husband has been caught before and I would think a lot more easily than it will be this time. It may take as long as six months. I had one case that took almost a year. Usually the longer it takes the more likely he will notice that he is being watched, tailed, and so on. Of course the longer it takes the more it will cost you. But you deal in numbers and money so I need not tell you anything more. Knowing what it may cost, will it be worth it? Do you still want to continue?”
“I’m not worried about the money. Once I have sufficient proof my lawyers will lock up his bank accounts, both personal and corporate. He’ll be the one to pay for your services.”
So we went through the details of Darren’s life. The cars he drove, their license plates, his driver’s license, I mean Ms Corbin had already done a great deal of the footwork for me. Seems to me that Darren was a might too regular in his habits, but I take that with a grain of salt. Cheaters always like to maintain an air of regular habits because it fools their spouses. Some of these guys get real inventive, like first rate fiction writers. They like to think they’re Raymond Chandler. Fat chance that really works well.
As I’ve said, it’s a dark and stormy night, the Pacific coast rains are coming in and the weather forecasters are talking about higher than normal rainfall. Makes all this shadowing bad for the health. On the other hand it serves to cloak my observations of Mr. Darren Corbin. It usually takes a couple of weeks to establish his patterns and to corroborate what his wife has told me. Wives are not always very accurate in knowing their husband’s routines, especially cheaters. So tonight I’m in an older sedan, a rather nondescript vehicle, staking out Mr Corbin. Sure enough he is coming out or the office and ready to drive to the junior college. I follow at a discrete distance keeping a map handy so I can appear to refer to it as if I might be lost. It’s a game, change lanes every so often, look at a map every so often, the object disregards you as a threat. He thinks you don’t know where you are going, not that you are following him. In another week or two I’ll make sure he believes he is being watched. The beauty of that is that he has to break his routine. In trying to outsmart me he becomes careless and that is when I catch him. Works every time. But tonight he is teaching a class. So far I have not observed him talking to any of his female students after class for any length of time. I am dismissing the coed angle. and I have not seen any evidence of his amorous adventures with a coworker. No, the woman is neither work nor school related which makes this a more interesting case. The connections are different, out of the ordinary. I begin to wonder if there is a client relationship here. It is not unusual but it is not common either.
Another night, more rain, a bit of fog drifting in, another stake out. I’m looking for an outsider, someone who doesn’t fit the pattern. So I wait and observe. Then I notice a Mercedes sports car, one of those little two seaters pull into the parking lot next to Corbin’s car. Half an hour later he comes out and spots the vehicle next to his. He appears a little agitated as I watch him through my binoculars. A woman steps out of the Mercedes, she is wearing a leopard skin cost, not a fake either. The action seems rather animated for a tryst so I’m not sure what’s going on. But I take care to photograph the action using the telephoto lens. I recognize the woman. What happens next stuns me. She has taken a pistol out of her pocket and fires three rounds into Corbin. So far I have recorded the license plate of her vehicle and the rear of her silhouette. But now, as if confessing to the crime, she turns to face me as I snap her photograph. It’s Ella Corbin.