We were on surveillance yesterday, parked in front of a house for sale located across the street from the real house we were surveilling. Residential neighborhoods are tough places to conduct surveillances because most people know their neighbors and the vehicles they drive, so a PI in a strange vehicle can really stick out. If it’s possible to park farther away (say in a park or on a side street) with a good view of the area under surveillance, great. However, that’s not always possible. When our best “sight line” is within the neighborhood itself, sometimes we’ll try to find a house for sale so we can park there and not be too conspicuous, the assumption being that we’re interested in the house.

Although parking in front of a house for sale is a good idea, it’s not a great idea if you’re parked there for a long time. It’s one thing to be interested in an empty house for sale, quite another to be staked out there for hours.

Yesterday, we needed to serve a subpoena to a man who lives way up in the mountains. Not only was it one heck of a long drive, we also had to gain entrance into a gated community after we got there. How we accomplished the latter I’ll save for another blog post.

Once inside this exclusive gated community, we made our way to the man’s home…and he wasn’t there. Rather than

We parked in front of the house for sale and waited

turn around and drive all the way back, we decided to stay put and wait for him to show up. Lucky for us, there was a million-dollar home, newly built, just a few houses down from his house. We parked in the driveway of this home for sale, with a good view of the subject’s house in our rear-view mirrors, and waited.

My husband fell asleep.

I leaned back in the passenger seat, listening to the birds twittering, keeping my eyes on the mirror…

I saw a group of people were ambling down the street toward our car. Moments later, a face peered at me through the passenger window.

“What are you doing here?” a woman asked. She held a glass of wine in her hand, as did several of the other people accompanying her.

I rolled down my window and looked at her, the group, then back at her. “What are you doing here?”

There was an odd moment of silence. “I’m a realtor and I’m showing this house,” the woman finally answered.

“Oh, thank God,” I said, getting out of the car. “Our realtor was supposed to meet us and he blew us off! Can you believe that?”

My husband woke up, stared blearily at me outside the car with a group of people holding wine glasses. He later told me he knew at that moment that he wasn’t going to utter a single word — he didn’t want to screw up whatever story I was telling these strangers.

By the time he got out of the car, I was friends with the group, who were eagerly sharing tid-bits about the neighborhood, including the comings and goings of our subject. Alas, I learned he typically got home late.

Meanwhile, the realtor felt sorry our realtor was a no-show, and she invited us to join the group on one condition: that I promised to not tell our realtor what she was doing. I promised. She said to be on the safe side, she wasn’t going to tell me her name. I said fine, I wouldn’t tell her our names, either.

Don’t you love secrets?

And then I got a fantastic tour of the million-dollar home. My husband joined us, never uttering a single word.

We have to return to this gated community again over the next few days. Thanks to the impromptu tour with the wine-sipping group, we’re now pals with several of the neighbors. Which will make it so much easier to get past those big iron gates next time…we’ll simply give them a call and they’ll buzz us in.

On the long drive back home, my husband kept laughing. “You didn’t answer her question as to why we were parked there — instead you demanded to know what she was doing there!”

Sometimes when you’re caught, don’t answer the question…instead, ask one.