Several weeks ago, a very random assortment of acquaintances in my hometown in Florida started telling me that they'd been approached by a private investigator asking questions about me. The PI's—a man and a woman—had told these people that they were doing a background investigation on me for a job I'd applied for. This was news to me, since I haven't applied for any jobs. So who hired a pair of Keystone Cops to go blundering around my hometown? Funny you should ask! It's not the Feds. And the "job background check" line was a fraud. Furthermore, these PI's were hardly stealthy. They've been randomly knocking on the doors of people like my parents' neighbors, asking what they knew about me. In a small, tight-knit place like my hometown, this was guaranteed to immediately be passed on to my family and to me. Which means that this investigation is either amateurish, or that whoever hired these PI's wanted me to know about it. I think a bit of both. I was back in my hometown last week, and got hold of the business card of the female PI. The next day, she appeared on my mom's street, knocking on the neighbor's doors, in search of...what? Info about my old Halloween costumes? It's hard to tell. I became convinced this wasn't a top-notch operation when this happened: she knocked on the door of my mom's house. My stepfather answered, and she asked if he knew me, and how. "Yes, I'm married to his mother," he replied. This caused the PI to thank him and rapidly shut her notebook and start hustling off. My mom ran out and confronted her, as she was moving away at top speed. The PI allowed that she had a "client in New York" who was interested in me, but said little else. I unfortunately missed this episode, because a video clip would have been priceless. Now: my own personal redemption story is sadly unoriginal. It's a little like David Carr's, but shorter, with fewer drugs, and not nearly as entertaining. It's also not a secret to anyone who knows me, making it pretty poor blackmail material. The practice of turning up at the houses of random tangential acquaintances could really not accomplish anything in an "investigative" sense. So let's call the whole endeavor what it really is: an attempt at intimidation. So who hired these people? I can't say for sure, although the lies they used as their opening lines, along with their weird tactics, have given me some very strong suspicions. The only logical candidate, as far as I can tell, would be someone pissed off at something I wrote for Gawker, and looking to strike back in the sleaziest way possible. (Or maybe I'm wrong and I'm soon to get an awesome job offer!) I'm just a blogger. I don't cover national security or break news of secret business mergers. But the idea that it's okay to hire private eyes as retaliation for people covering you didn't work out too well for HP, for (a much more consequential) example, where it turned into a huge scandal. It's fine to ask questions. But it's a dirty move to go around telling lies in order to ask questions, and hiring a PI is a pretty standard attempt to impose a chilling effect on reporting. Late last week I got the PI, Steven Brown, on the phone. He didn't seem particularly happy to hear from me, despite his innate curiosity in me. When I first asked him why he was using a lie to ask around about me, he said "I don't really know." That made me laugh. Then he said, "Well, it's not something malicious." That made me laugh too. Then he hemmed and hawed and politely declined to tell me who his client is, and eventually got off the phone. But hey, maybe there really is a fantastic job offer out there that I know nothing about? They wouldn't tell me, but maybe they'll tell you. If you'd like to ask the PI's about their work, you surely can: Names: Steven Brown (THE BOSSMAN) and Rachael Singleton (THE RANDOM DOOR-KNOCKER) Website: StevenKBrown.com Email them!: Steve@stevenkbrown.com Rachael@stevenkbrown.com You can call their office!: 904-819-9700 Or call toll free!: 888-299-7574 Or fax them!: 904-826-1071 You can even call Rachael Singleton's cell phone (From her business card): 904-814-4074 If you're in the area, stop by their office (or write them a letter!) at 10604 Quail Ridge Dr., Ponte Vedra, FL, 32081. Here's a map. Rachael Singleton stopped by my town's Historical Society a few weeks ago to look me up, for the "job," of course. She listed her home address on the sign-in sheet as 1069 Ardmore St., St. Augustine, FL 32084. That matches up with this listing for Mary R(achael) Singleton, at the phone number 904-940-1492. She was last seen rapidly fleeing my mom. Steven Brown's claim to fame? He's the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Private Investigating. I suppose I should be proud to have such a worthy follower. Here are some photos of him:
Hey, mystery PI-hiring sleazo: why not save yourself some money and some embarrassing slinking around and just email me directly? I'm a pretty friendly guy.