Friday Night Story

Off Grid

It wasn’t supposed to go off, you understand. The detonator was supposed to go, yeah, detonated by mobile phone like the Madrid bombs, right. But the fuel was supposed to be inert. It was supposed to be a scare, like the 21 July London bombings. It was supposed to keep the people interested, right?

But something was wrong. I should have twinged it sooner. My handler was twitchier, excitable; more scared of being in the car with me than on previous occasions. It was because he knew if I ever saw him again I’d kill him.

Well, he was wrong, actually. Worse things in London than death, aren’t there. You see, I bump-passed him the detonation handset in a crowd, after making a confession call on it to the Met. He’ll spend at least the next 28 days in custody without charge- 42 if that horrible little travesty of a law passes muster. Those four weeks will be incredibly long, you understand, as well-meaning constables do… interesting things to his unmentionables to solicit information that they reasonably believe would further secure their loved ones. If he’s as stupid as I suspect, he’ll have damning evidence left in his flat, and while it’s unlikely his masters will allow him to rot, it would be amusing for them to explain their business to Box. By contrast, I’m a deniable asset, without the political linkages to keep my security (and discretion) paramount.

Mobiles have proved out the dual-edged sword of terrorism: the Italians caught Hussain Osman by tracing his mobile activity. Everyone knows SIM cards use unique IMSI numbers that are recognized by their providers, and he was careful to switch his out. But what most people still don’t twinge to is that the phones themselves have their own IMEI, also unique. Switching out the SIM doesn’t change the IMEI. Of course, anyone who’s seen The Wire knows you drop your phone after a high-profile incident, especially something as big as the London debacle. If terrorists can’t seem to be as smart as half-arsed drug-dealers on HBO serials- well, then they deserved to be caught out.

Of course, that’s why I left the SIM card off my personal line in a new phone on a bench near a homeless man in a suburb outside of Naples a day ago; I left the phone off until ten minutes ago, when I made a final call for Chinese take-away from my favorite restaurant in London, and gave my phone to a vaguely Middle-Eastern looking child, here on the streets of Prague. I’ll be in Athens by evening, and Cyprus after that.

Oxford scientists described chatting about on a mobile as equivalent to social grooming. I smile as the train pulls me closer to the sun, knowing I’ll never answer a mobile again for the rest of my days. Describes a happy retirement to me. Perhaps I’ll have the time to find someone to run her fingers through my hair.

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