Magazine article Security Management

Rural Surveillance: It's No Walk in the Woods

Magazine article Security Management

Rural Surveillance: It's No Walk in the Woods

Article excerpt

Rural Mason County, IL, May 7,1991, 7:35 am. The frantic barking of Bonkers, a pit bull terrier, awakened his owner, Cory Mead. Mead, a machinist at Wilcox Manufacturing, had been receiving disability benefits for 18 months. He rolled his 340-pound frame off the sofa and swung his legs over the coffee table, knocking a small fan to the floor. Lighting his first cigarette of the day, he pulled on greasy work boots and crossed to the unscreened window that looked out on the narrow gravel road.

Fifteen minutes earlier the customized gold and white van had slowly cruised this section of Rural Route Three, also known as Muddy Creek Road. The private investigator's irritation level !/as rising because most of the "hayseeds" on the road hadn't put names on their mailboxes. He finally spotted the name "Mead" on a rusty mailbox only after passing the house three times.

The investigator did not like this assignment at all. There were no other houses around and no traffic on the road, and with an 8:1 lens on his hand-held camera he would have to stay close-too close. His boss had told him to park down the road from the claimant and open his hood, feigning engine trouble. "Don't worry so much," his boss had said. "It'll be like shooting ducks in a barrel."

Concealed by pale blue sheer curtains, Mead watched through binoculars as the stranger raised the hood on the flashy new van and climbed back into the driver's seat.

Thirty minutes later, the dog still barking, Mead finished a second can of cold spaghetti and meatballs washed down with a beer. Mead pulled on a camouflage sweatshirt and chambered a round into the Winchester pump-action shotgun. He slipped out the back door and quickly disappeared into the thick, piney woods behind his house.

The investigator was beginning to get the feeling that Cory Mead was not home. If he was, why would he let that mutt continue barking for more than half an hour?

Cory Mead exited from the darkness of the pine trees 15 yards from the van. The front seats were empty, and the hood was still open. He approached the driver's door quietly. Peering into the cab he saw his Wilcox Manufacturing ID picture next to a Styrofoam cup on the center console. He raised his shotgun and aimed it carefully at the man who was looking out the rear window with binoculars. "Who ya lookin' for?" Mead asked softly.

Rural Mason County, IL, July 25, 1991, 4:30 am. A white Chevy Blazer sat concealed in patchy ground fog adjacent to a tree line 350 yards north of Mead's home. The right rear door opened and a camouflage-clad figure carrying a black backpack disappeared into the dripping undergrowth.

The man steathily made his way to a large oak tree, dug his spikes into the massive trunk, and began climbing. Forty-five feet above the ground the investigator stationed himself on a hefty limb. He removed a small two-way radio from the pack, said two words, and watched the Blazer drive slowly down the road toward the brightening eastern sky.

Mead had overslept and was now wolfing down the second of three salami sandwiches for breakfast. Bonkers sat patiently waiting for a morsel as Mead paced back and forth in front of the window looking up and down Muddy Creek Road.

After flushing that private eye back in May, Mead was feeling confident in his ability to spot suspicious vehicles. The worker's compensation checks for $352 continued to arrive weekly, and that money was growing in importance because his new small-engine repair business wasn't doing as well as he had hoped it would.

It was 9:05 when Mead and Bonkers climbed into a red Chevy pickup to begin their work. From Muddy Creek Road the blind in the oak tree was invisible. Mounted on the black, fluid-head tripod was a digital-format industrial video camera I a 500 mm lens. Mead's body filled the viewfinder; ID was unmistakable. As the red pickup drove west on the gravel road, the tree-borne investigator said three words into his radio and switched the video camera to standby. …

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