IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT: In 1992, just out of college, I was a paralegal. One attorney's wife was an investigator; he said, "You should do that for a year -- it's actually fun." I did, and it was. Now, I'm a manager.
KUCIK, P.I. OR PRIVATE DICK: We're information brokers. We find people -- witnesses that law firms want to track down, scam artists -- for law firms and individuals. We also serve process, including subpoenas. One of our guys served Monica Lewinsky at the Pentagon in the original Paula Jones case.
LYIN' EYES: If you feel like something's wrong, you may be right. Many people who hire us feel it in their gut and have their suspicions confirmed. It can be jading, but it's dangerous to extrapolate about human nature in this job -- you're really dealing with a small slice of life.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: If you're hiring an investigator, you want to know if the firm is licensed and bonded and in what area. If you plan to file the case in Maryland, you'll want a Maryland investigator. The basic locate fee is $150 to $200, but that may snowball.
PAGING JOHN SMITH: Finding people depends on the commonality or originality of their name, to what extent they're hiding, and how lazy they are with record-keeping. There's a lot of public information, such as voter registration and property ownership records. If you don't want to be traced, move in with a friend and don't report your address.
POUNDING THE PAVEMENT: This work is about asking the right questions and piecing together the little things. If I'm trying to locate a club owner, I get a feel for what type of guy he is: Is he a partier? When does he leave the house?
STAKEOUT: A lot of surveillance is extremely boring. It's mostly sitting and watching, and I can't even read because things happen a lot quicker than you think. If you read two sentences, you could miss someone walking out a door.
NO, THANKS: I generally won't work for a guy who wants to find a woman unless he has a good reason. In a marital case, I was hired to follow a Middle Eastern woman. The husband wanted to know where she lived, but when I found her, he asked, "Is she wearing her garb? Is she covering her head?" Maybe there was a legitimate reason for him to wonder this, but I sent his money back because I was concerned for the woman's safety.
OLD SCHOOL: I don't use Google. If an individual is that easy to find, people aren't going to hire us.
As told to Curtis Sittenfeld