The Silver Smartphone – A short story

He was at the airport, at the designated gate, waiting for the boarding announcement.

He was a thief, who stole mobile phones and smart phones. His hawk-like eyes scoured malls and markets, as he glided in and out of these places, loaded with all kinds of phones.  He was part of a network of small time thieves, who specialized in technology thieving!

The phones he stole were passed on to a middle-man, who then gave him his cut for every stolen mobile, depending on its brand and model.

Like a predator that can sense its prey from far away, he could sniff out the rich, and their expensive phones, very quickly.

He had recently discovered airports;  and their mobile-charging pods for passengers. He laughed to himself as he saw the number of phones that were being charged. All kinds of smartphones belonging to smart people, one of which he would now steal.

He was very careful to steal from a boarding gate not near his own, sometimes replacing the stolen one with a dummy. He normally did this, just after the boarding announcement  for his flight was made. As people stood up in states of semi-sleep and airport fatigue, he walked to steal, and walked back to his gate; job done.

He knew the risk he was taking in the airport, but some of the best models were readily displayed in the charging pod, as opposed to malls, where he had to really pray for good luck, as people clutched their phones, as if their hearts were resident in them. Here, he could at least look at them, evaluate and then decide.

“No pain, no gain”, he muttered.

Today, he had an hour to look for the next phone. He strolled casually, stretching and yawning, eyeing the charging pods.

Then he saw it, a sleek looking smartphone, metallic silver casing, brand-new from the looks of it. But he did not have a dummy for it. So he had to proceed carefully. He walked around, waiting for his flight to be called.

Once he heard the announcement, he looked around and went quickly to the charging pod. He took out his phone and pretended to tinker with it. He quickly looked around and unplugged the charger from the silver phone, and walked away quickly, to his boarding gate.

He was sweating profusely, waiting for a hand to slap him on his shoulder. Nothing happened. He boarded and the flight took off.

He sighed audibly and asked for some wine to calm his nerves.

When he landed, he took out his new possession and switched it on. He knew better than to type the password and disable the phone. He rather liked this phone, and maybe, would keep it for himself; after he spoke to one of his friends, who could get it to work for him.

He stood in line for a cab. He gave the cabbie his directions. He settled down, more relieved than he cared to admit.

Just as the cab left the airport, a police car intercepted the taxi. The cabbie pulled over.

There were three cops, and his heart almost stopped beating. How had they known? He was bathed in sweat.

“Are you S.Neel?” One of them asked. “We have a warrant for your arrest.”

“No, I am Sid”, he said. They had the wrong man. He was sure he could explain.

“Come with us”, they said.

Two hours later he was interrogated about a bank robbery he knew nothing about. He pleaded and begged them to let him off.

Whom could he call? It was late on Friday afternoon, so bail could be posted only on Monday. Ice-cold fear, and sweat, took turns to taunt him.

Finally, they left him alone. Cops came and went. Two were stationed outside his room.

He  was allowed one call. He thought about his cousin, who was a fledgling lawyer, but decided against it as he imagined the shame, if this were known to his family.

He had to tell his wife that he was delayed on business, and would not be back as planned.

His eyebrows furrowed as he tried to sort  through his thoughts and fears, when he heard voices, presumably of the cops who stood outside.

“Looks like this guy will go in for a long time”, one said.

“Hmmm, $20 Million, wonder where the stash is?” said another voice.

“How did they pick him up?”

“Oh! The control tower was tracking the phone. At one point it seemed like the gang had been tipped off. The phone was lying at the airport unattended for hours. Then this guy picked it up…. and rushed to board his flight.”