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"Dial-a-prayer?" Butler bursts out laughing. Then he turns to me, all business again: "Now, if our guy ends up choosing you, what are you going to do?"
Time: Just past seven. Location: Pool hall parking lot. There, parked right in front, is the target's car. Butler pulls his Camry into a space just out of sight of the entrance and hops out. "Stay here," he says. "I'm gonna go in there first and see if I can't find the guy."
The decoys are calm, but I'm undeniably anxious. Andrea had earlier said she never gets nervous. "To me, you take it on as if you're doing a role, and that's it," she says. "If you've been onstage long enough, you know that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Sitting down next to someone and seeing if they'll ask for my phone number is not a problem." Lisa, too, is collected. "They aren't looking for a video camera," she explains. "Usually they're gonna be more looking at your boobs than anything else."
A few minutes later Butler returns with a report: The target is with a friend. "Come with me," he tells me. "You two, stay here." I follow Butler behind the row of parked cars directly in front of the bar's floor-to-ceiling windows. "See them? There in the middle?"
The target looks like Vin Diesel's country cousin, while his pal is a dead ringer for George Clooney's kid brother. They're in jeans and black T-shirts, maybe in their early forties. Suddenly I feel as though we're in a spotlight. "Are you sure they can't see us?" I whisper.
"Relax," Butler says. "They can't see us from in there. See that empty pool table next to them? Go in there, play a game at that table, get some drinks." He then explains that because Andrea and Lisa will both be occupied, I'll have to be the control girl. As soon as our target makes his choice, I'm to phone my "boyfriend" and Butler will bring in the hidden-camera purse that I've oops! accidentally left at his house.
"Are you cool with that? Holding my hand, acting like we're together?" he asks. Not really, but I nod anyway.
When Andrea, Lisa, and I walk into the place, every pair of eyes seems to follow us as we cover the fifteen feet to our designated table. Everyone, that is, but the target and his pal. We ignore them, rack up, fetch drinks, and dive into what must be the worst game of pool in history. Some junior-high girls a few tables over gawk at us, giggling.
A server soon brings over three small glasses filled with a pink concoction. Shots. Courtesy of the bartender, she says. "He was hot," Lisa says aloud, a twinkle in her eye. She and Andrea turn toward the bar and raise their glasses. I see the target and his friend eyeing us. Still, a half-hour later, nothing. Maybe it won't happen. Lisa whispers that that would be a good thing: What client wouldn't want to hear that her husband didn't take the bait? That maybe she'd been wrong?
In some stage-one stings, the client authorizes a decoy to approach the husband, but usually the target has to make the first move. Butler's decoys also are careful to match the target's level of flirtation, but never to exceed it. Unless provoked, Andrea won't ask his name, reach for his hand, or offer a phone number. But almost as soon as the words leave Lisa's mouth, our man makes his play.
It's subtle: a smooth "Excuse me" and a coy smirk as he brushes by Andrea. Then, a few minutes later: Mind if I borrow your bridge for a tricky shot? It almost seems scripted, some bad Hollywood cliché. But Butler has said that his clients' suspicions are usually correct. Hiring a PI, after all, isn't cheap. Tonight's sting will likely cost her $500, not counting the GPS installation and the surveillance Butler already has conducted.
Then a short exchange, and would she like a drink? Would we all? Andrea politely declines. By then, she's removed the flashy yellow jacket, and as she leans over to make a shot, her thin gold-link necklace clicks on the edge of the table.
Lisa and I, playing against Andrea, have yet to sink a shot. As we nurse our drinks, Lisa discreetly shows me a cell-phone photo of her eight-year-old daughter and reveals that every guy she's ever dated, save one, has cheated on her. In fact, soon after she started working for Butler, she learned that the guy she'd been casually dating for more than two years was married with a kid. The information wasn't hard to come by it turned out the young family had a MySpace page.
After an hour, the target and his friend motion toward us while ordering drinks. The waitress heads our way. "They want to buy you a round," she says. We finally relent, and when the drinks arrive, so do the guys. We introduce ourselves, and Andrea is immediately spirited away to their pool table, leaving me and Lisa with the friend.
Within the first few minutes I finger my wedding band and work the fact that I'm married into our conversation might as well make it clear right off the bat. He says he's freshly divorced. We all chat for a few minutes, then Lisa groans. "I just realized I left my purse at my boyfriend's house," she announces. "He lives right near here so I'm going to call him and see if he can come bring it by."
I'm caught off guard by the sudden role-reversal. Lisa has concluded that the friend prefers me, ring and all, and now I'm stuck with him. Lisa goes out to fetch Butler, and they stroll in moments later, hand in hand. She's carrying her so-called purse. A pager case clipped to the top disguises the tiny camera. "Thanks for ruining our girls' night!" I say, greeting Butler with mock annoyance.
"Well, if my girlfriend wouldn't do things like forget her purse ..." he replies. He shakes hands with the guys, who promptly forget he's there.
Lisa sets the handbag on a high bar table next to the guys' pool table, where we've all migrated, and Butler shifts it into position. He couldn't have asked for a better tripod. "Let's go get another drink," I suggest after the friend plants himself right in front of the camera. He orders Red Bull and vodka for himself and his buddy. I request Diet Coke.
Lisa pulls me aside for a restroom break around 9 p.m. and links her arm through mine as we amble off. "Are you okay?" she asks.
Seven Days - December 4, 8:35 AM
Seven Days - December 3, 7:55 PM
Seven Days - December 3, 6:01 PM
Seven Days - December 3, 1:27 PM
Seven Days - December 3, 11:02 AM