CHICAGO -- It's the season of love, and the spy-on-your-lover business is hopping.
While card shops net secret admirers and restaurants serve cuddling couples, detective agencies are busy looking out for suspicious sweethearts.
Valentine's Day and the days before and after it, according to some Chicago-area investigators, keep detectives busy tracking illicit lovers and videotaping them in compromising positions.
Many clients consider the season prime time for catching mates and spouses in the arms of secret paramours, detectives said. Typically, clients are certain they will trap cheaters during a holiday that dictates that lovers must show their affection.
"It's a special time for someone the person feels they are closest to," said Scot Richmond, an investigator with the Chicago agency of Sank Griffin P.D. Inc. "It's special, and they figure because they're not with them, they're going to be with someone else."
Mr. Richmond said the Valentine's and New Year's seasons are the busiest for domestic cases, which can run from about $500 to more than $5,000.
Though often hurt and angered over the affairs, many of the clients still manage to show their sense of humor when spying on their mates.
Take the case of the corporate lawyer's loyal wife:
The wife was convinced her husband was having an affair with a fellow attorney. At the last minute, the lawyer said he had to go out of town for a seminar in Colorado. Just before Valentine's Day, of course.
She hired Larry Mayer, president of Lawrence Investigations in Wilmette, Ill., to track her husband, and after several days of close watching, he found them "out that night, holding hands, dancing and talking very intimately." He called his client, who flew out on Valentine's Day.
"When she was checking into the hotel, she was carrying a small package," Mr. Mayer said. "She said it was a gift for her husband."
About 11:30 that night, Mr. Mayer and his client waited outside the room until it was quiet and the lights were off. Then he knocked and said he was from room service.
When the husband opened the door -- wearing heart-adorned undies from his inamorata -- his wife walked in with a flourish. The girlfriend, Mr. Mayer said, watching wide-eyed, pulled the bedsheets up to her shoulders.
"She goes up to him, kisses him full smack and says, 'Happy Valentine's Day,' " Mr. Mayer said. Then, he said, the wife handed him the red package, which the husband opened to reveal "one giant, dirty rat."
"It was really an oddball case," Mr. Mayer said. "Later, of course, they got divorced."
Detectives said not all cases were so dramatic.
"The norm generally is, 'I'm sure my husband or wife is cheating, and I think, on Valentine's Day, they would want to see each other,' " said Sandy Martin, vice president of Lawrence Investigations, which handles about 20 domestic cases in February, most around Valentine's Day.
"People want to know," Martin said. "They want peace of mind."
To the surprise of some spouses, however, attractive opposites are not always what an investigation flushes out.
Two years ago, Mr. Martin worked on a case for a woman who suspected her husband was cheating.
The woman told her husband she was going out of town around Valentine's Day. Instead, she stayed in town and accompanied Mr. Martin on a Valentine's Day surveillance.
"Sure enough, he arrived home with another person," Mr. Martin said.
The woman entered her house, carrying a boxed red teddy from Frederick's of Hollywood for her rival. When she found the sweethearts, she couldn't quite deliver the gift.
"She walked up the stairs and into the room, and there was her husband with another guy," he said.
Though Mr. Martin and other detectives said they occasionally permit clients, about 60 percent of whom are female, to accompany them, usually they decline the request. If they let clients come along, they make sure the clients have no weapons. Domestic investigations, they said, are usually very emotional, and nobody wants another Valentine's Day Massacre.