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Brand Protection Services

P.I work is a hustle. 

Make sure you know which side of the bustle you're on.

Brand Protection Services by Gabriel Land

The way I got into PI work was through brand protection services. The more I learned about the industry, the more languages and skills I picked up, the less of that I did. I couldn't move on fast enough, because frankly I didn't give a damn about enforcing IP laws.

Along the way I shut down all kinds of operations. Knockoff everything, be it hand-made or 3D printed. I shut down hackers distributing schematics for pharmaceuticals on the dark web. I shut down warehouses full of Rolex watches that a Swiss algorithm would have struggled to discern from the real deal.

What I parlayed brand protection experience into was skip tracing I wanted to redeem myself by helping missing people get found. Most of us go through a phase when we think we can change the world for the better. Along the way we tend to learn that making a profit is rarely synonymous with making a difference. Usually, they're polar opposites.

The old lady that came to my office off Thanon Surawong had eyes red from crying. She had lost her granddaughter into the labyrinth of Indochina. The granddaughter had a drug problem when she left home. A habit that could have only gotten worse when she flew over, to a place where exotic bazaars made products more accessible than delivery by drone.

I took the job on a per-diem, asking for a reward only if I found the missing individual, dead or alive. The granddaughter's embassy and our embassy, were not helping. They could only contact their Thai counterparts and report that the woman had last crossed the border from Laos back into Siam a month before, and also that she had by then overstayed her thirty-day visa-free entry.

I set a sifter program to task looking for a trail on the web. Within a day, it pinged back that she had hailed a ride with a sharing app right there in Bangkok only a week before, using her social media profile to log in. Knowing that, I hoofed out for leg work, canvassing Silom Road and the clubs on Soi Eleven off of Sukhumvit.  The old lady said her granddaughter's preferred poison was hyperice. Silom was ground zero for a tourist seeking that, on account of the nightlife and the subculture.

With a printed picture of the woman in hand, I canvassed, asking all the peddlers of glass pipes and vaporizers if they recognized her face. None did, so I migrated to the clubs once they opened up, clubs where anything could be had under cover of darkness, for a price. How anyone remembered her face amid the strobes and shadows and toxic atmosphere is beyond me. But one peddler did. He said she was there a week before, offering to trade anything for a gram.

He said he took her to his friend's apartment after the club closed and they partied there until the morning. He left before she did and he gave up the address to me for only a small bribe. Fueled by another breadcrumb, I left the club and headed over to Thong Lor, where the high rise was located. It was a short trip by tuk-tuk, one of the few still piloted by a real human being, or at least a heck of a copy.

At the high rise, I charmed the hostess in the lobby with a wink and a smile. My fluent Thai helped, along with a bashful explanation that I forgot everything, my passport, my phone, everything, up in my friend's condo on the fourteenth floor the night before. She broke protocol to help me. I exploited her desire to make the world a better place, one person at a time.

Once upstairs, I knocked on the door before kicking it down. Inside, I found the granddaughter and what must have been the dealer's friend jacked in by wire, a faster web connection by leaps and bounds than any 5G or WI-FI network could offer. In their other arms were IV tubes that dripped gradual streams of research chemicals into their veins. Nothing, besides maybe a locomotive, hits the CNS harder than a combination of virtual reality and psychopharmacology.

I pulled the lines out of her, against my better judgment. Circumstances would have called for a slow taper, but I didn't have time for circumstances seeing as how by then my visage was caught on CCTV kicking in a door that didn't belong to me. She was moaning in stupor as I carried her out. In the hall, I aimed my pistol at the hostess but the threat made no difference. She'd already triggered the silent alarm.

The pistol came in handy outside, where a police drone hovered above, daring me to try and escape. As soon as I aimed up, it emitted soundwaves that would have burst my eardrums had my bullet flown any slower. The components shattered and cascaded down onto me as I scurried out onto Thong Lor again as fast as I could go with an extra fifty limp kilos slung across my shoulders.

Without any other options, I hopped another tuk-tuk to my embassy, lost in the traffic under cover of the vehicle's canopy, drones scanning above without success. The embassy guards took in the granddaughter but rejected me, so I got arrested by Thai police right there in front of the institution that was supposed to have my back. 

After a week in jail on rice and pork broth, I was released on some sort of bail. The grandmother was there to thank me and when I asked her where her granddaughter was she said her organs had been recycled. She said I had done a good job, and offered me a brand protection contract. The grandmother worked for a corporation that made top notch clones, a company that was prepared to invest generous resources into finding and eliminating knockoffs.

Gabriel Land is a fiction and screenplay writer based out of Bangkok, Thailand. His work usually falls within the genres of science fiction and mystery. In all of his work, Gabriel likes to address futuristic trends and the effects of rapid technological progress on society.