Archive for the ‘Early Bird’ Category




By Ruth Minshull


My friend, Horace, calls occasionally from Washington for a chat.

 He’s getting quite old now and has developed certain peculiarities.  He repeats himself a lot, but he also asserts that his phone is tapped, his apartment is bugged and he is followed on the street.  When I queried him about who might be doing this spying, he hinted darkly that it was probably the CIA.

Horace’s phone conversations often contain cryptic comments followed by, “You get my drift?”  He obviously doesn’t want spying ears to know the content of our conversation.  (Quite often I don’t know it either.)  We’re usually talking about something in the news, my kids, or a mutual acquaintance (hardly the stuff of international intrigue).

          Now, you might presume from this that I’m talking about a person whose past is full of shady, nefarious activities, but this is not the case.  He has lived a bland, uneventful life. 

          Now, some people think the CIA is a bunch of bumbling nincompoops—and perhaps that’s true.  I have no data and no opinion on the subject.  But I do know that no matter how inept they might be, they could hardly have an interest in this man.  They certainly could never justify monitoring all of his activities.  I’ve concluded that he has probably been kidding me.  Anyway, I hope so.

          One night I was getting ready to retire and, on my way to the bedroom, I closed the blinds in the second-floor hallway window.  As I did so, I thought, This is probably a wasted effort.  People couldn’t see into this window unless they were sitting up in the sand dunes with binoculars.  Of course, I mused, (thinking of Horace) the CIA might be doing just that…

          My mind drifted to my friend and his frequent references to being watched and monitored.  Living as he does in the heart of a big city, it would be easy to conduct a surveillance of his apartment from a vehicle or a nearby room.

          It would be much more difficult to keep a watch on me, however.  I live on one of the Great Lakes, so that probably rules out surveillance from the water side.  (It’s too shallow close in, generally too turbulent farther out).  The road is a private one, so a person in a parked car would be quickly noticed and reported to the sheriff by one of my neighbors.

That leaves the huge (350-foot) sand dune across the road.  To conduct a stakeout there, the agent would need to hike in from the opposite side to avoid drawing attention from other residents.  He/she would need to be dropped off, since there is no place to park a car inconspicuously.  He would then have to tramp through thick forest, foothills, and then up the final steep slope to the top of the dune.  From this roost, there would be an unobstructed view of my windows on one side as well as my backyard, garage and driveway.  People would appear about the size of ants from this lofty perch, so the agent would need binoculars.

Certain other gear would also be necessary.  Having no convenient McDonalds nearby, food, drink, and any other required conveniences would have to be lugged in along with warm clothes, a flashlight, a cell phone (which probably wouldn’t work in the dunes), a walkie-talkie or two-way radio, a camera and perhaps other gadgetry.

Once the hapless soul is installed on his sandy post, what would he see? 

Agent four-five reporting.  It is 10:00 p.m.  Subject appears to be retiring.  Lights are going out.”

 “Agent four-five.  Now 2:00 a.m.  All is quiet, except for a rustling in the nearby bushes.  It could be a deer, coyote or maybe a bobcat.”

“Agent four-five at 2:05 a.m.  Do they have bears up here?”

In the morning, it would get more exciting.  “Four-five reporting at 5:00 a.m.Lights are going on.  Subject (“Early Bird?”) is apparently rising. 

“Signing off now.  My replacement is coming up.”

“Agent five-two  here.  It is 11:00 a.m.  Subject is on the move.  She just drove out.  Should be on the main road in two minutes.  Repeat.  Main road, in two minutes.  Agent five-two, over and out.”

Surveillance would now have to be picked up by another agent in a vehicle somewhere on the main road

“Agent seven-four reporting in.  I took over surveillance of  subject as she stopped, apparently to get the morning paper.  It could be a drop, of course, so I have checked it for messages.  None found.”

 “Agent seven-four.  12:30 p.m.  Subject followed to town where she picked up unidentified male and proceeded to post office where she, apparently, obtained a packet of mail.  They then proceeded to local restaurant where they ate a lunch of tomato soup and salad.  Conversation seemed mundane–although it could have been coded.  Will turn in recording for analysis.

“Central, this subject’s file must be getting pretty thick–what with phone taps, surveillance reports, video tapes and all.” 

“That’s affirmative seven-four, but we still don’t know what she’s up to.”

“Agent four-five checking in again at 2:00 a.m.  All is dark and quiet.  Wait.  I hear a loud rustling nearby.  Oh, my God!  It’s a BEAR! 



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© 2009 by Ruth Minshull

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