Poised over a PC with a can of pepper spray in one hand and a keyboard in the other, Tom Galligan nervously duplicates a hard drive, listening intently for word his cover might be blown. His client, an estranged wife of a soon-to-be-ex-husband, yells, “Here he comes.”

Galligan grabs what he’s got, sprints out a back door, jumps off the porch and dashes down a neighbour’s driveway clutching a Jaz drive full of incriminating evidence. “That was a close call,” he remembers from the safety of his Tiverton, R.I., offices.

Welcome to the world of Tom Galligan, a cybersleuth whose job is to unearth buried secrets inside computer hard drives for cops, attorneys and, sometimes, disgruntled spouses.

“He thought he’d deleted everything,” Galligan says of his client’s husband. But Galligan managed to undelete about a half-dozen X-rated video clips.

The lesson: You can delete it, but you can’t hide it.

Galligan runs Electronic Evidence Recovery, a booming business, he says, thanks to a growing dependence on e-mail and vast amounts of damning information being stashed away on computers.

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