I decided this would be a good post for today… since I’m late posting it. I just realized that today was my ‘blog day’! Panic set in because I didn’t have anything prepared. Then I decided to revisit the past. My novel, Sleeping With Skeletons, is a novel of intrigue and espionage, so I wrote some articles on the art of spycraft a few months ago to introduce my novel. This is one of those articles. I hope you enjoy it.
You’re running late, and in your panic you take the wrong exit off the highway. Now you’re lost. The road is narrow, and there are no easy places to turn around. You’re trapped on a strange road and going the wrong direction — traveling at night into unfamiliar territory. The minutes are stacking up, and there is still no exit in sight. You glance repeatedly at your wrist watch and fumble for your cell phone, but it’s not where you normally keep it. You check your pockets. It’s not there either! Now you’re really frantic. Did you leave it on the kitchen counter in your mad rush to be out the door?
The road narrows even more and drops abruptly. Now you’re driving over loose gravel, surrounded by abandoned cornfields, and storm clouds are moving in. This is not someplace you want to break down, and it’s definitely not someplace you want to get stuck either. The first fat splashes of rain hit your windshield and lightning streaks the sky. A sudden thuderous crash nearly sends your head through the roof as you jump, and the storm lets loose with a torrential downpour. Your heart is hammering in your chest like the work of a deranged blacksmith.
You round a sharp bend and two green eyes peer at you from the side of the road. You brake abruptly, fearing the worst, but there is no cat in sight.
There never was a cat. You just stumbled upon a pickup location.
A reflection of cat’s eyes is commonplace at night. I’m sure your headlights have illuminated them at some point in your life. Two glowing eyes in the dark. But sometimes, they’re not quite what they appear to be. Cat’s Eyes are a device used in spycraft. They make for a great ‘pick up’ or ‘drop off’ signal.
Let’s say an operative wants to be picked up at an undisclosed location for security purposes, but she is deep in the country, and there are no local pubs or restaurants available. She has told her desk operator that she will be somewhere between spot code orange 7 and blue 13, but that stretch of road is long and lonely. This is where the Cat’s Eyes come in. The operator takes a simple sheet of plywood, paints it black, and uses glass beads backed with silver foil for the Cat’s Eyes. She plants it next to the road, hides out of sight, and waits for her pickup. Her pickup will know what those two glowing eyes mean, but anyone else will merely pass them by without a second glance.
Next time you’re traveling along a deserted highway at night, and you see two glowing eyes on the side of the road, don’t assume it’s a cat.
… especially if you see a shadowy figure waiting in the dark.
And don’t try to dig up that sheet of plywood. It’s not only extremely dangerous, but it’s against the law as well.
If you’d like to spend more time in the company of spies, let me recommend my novel, Sleeping With Skeletons. You can find out more informtaion on that at my website. Thanks!