CHAPTER 8 – Phone Hackers and Serial Killers

There was something eternally satisfying about a glass of full bodied red wine. There was a bonus to red too, she didn’t have to wait an hour for it to be chilled enough to enjoy like whites and beers. Bottle in hand and perched at the breakfast bar, she poured a rather too-large-for-a-school-night glass and switched on the radio. It was a typical chart show but the DJs were entertaining, the music easy to listen to.

Her phone buzzed ‘image received’. It was Insomina77!, AKA ‘Jay’ on other media networks. The image was of a mouth-watering steak with golden coated vegetables, dr7izzled in something that looked like it might be gravy. Cat immediately had food envy.

They often swapped photos of meals: Jay sharing the delights of life on the road, Cat replying with pictures of the chicken nuggets her kids preferred. Her finger hastily typed away:

Cat: OMG looks amazing, who’s the lucky lady you’re spoiling tonight? 😋

Insomnia77!: Lol… what makes you think I’m with lady, I could be with a man, or with the crew or on my own!!!

Cat: WHATEVER, you’d never take one of the boys out for a meal like that, haha… who is she, spill??

Insomnia77!: Very true, some girl I met online last night, switched my profile to nearby’s and she popped up. She’s up at the bar now!

Cat: Sat at the bar, stalking girls and sending me food porn… lol, tart!

Insomnia77!: Yep! 😊 

Insomnia77!: She’s off grabbing a bottle of bubbles, she said she was going to the ladies but looks like she hit the bar for something sparkly.

Cat: So you’ve literally just messaged me to brag about food and your most recent pick up… You’re such a dick… 😂

Insomnia77!: I am indeed but I’m a gorgeous talented dick, who’s been very bored and needed to get out of the bloody hotel room… shit she’s coming back, don’t want her to think I’m on the phone to my GF…haha Catch ya soon x

Cat: X

Insomina77! often amused Cat with his stories of adventures as a musician, originally believing his tales of travel and hotel-room life to be merely bullshit stories to pick up women. But once they exchanged numbers, and Cat knew his real name, the shameless Google stalking commenced. His Facebook profile was limited but she was delighted his tales of wonder turned out to be true; he was in fact, according to his LinkedIn account, a very talented and fairly high profile musician. Guitar seemed his weapon of choice, though it would appear he was multi-skilled and could handle a various number of instruments.

Jay was good fun with a passion for life. The problem was, essentially, the constant travelling made for complicated relationships with little chance of longevity. So he settled for living in the moment, enjoying the casual company of casual ladies when the opportunities arose. She enjoyed his updates, hearing about the good fucks and date-deserters; he had a knack for unintentionally screwing things up. He also had a knack for agreeing to go out with women who were completely batshit from the offset. He was a constant source of amusement and she loved his ‘honest frank’ attitude.

Cat slipped into her ‘comfies’ then busied herself with the mindless task of scrolling through her friends’ Facebook statuses. Everyone’s life looked so glossy. An old photo popped up in the newsfeed; a reminder of ‘10 years ago today’: a big smiley happy family photo of her old life when the kids were younger and things with their dad hadn’t been so completely awful.  There was an update from a happy looking couple, with raised glasses: she had a posed, shocked look on her face while he playfully stuck out his long, enormous tongue. Cat hated herself for noting the impressive girth of his mighty mouthpiece as the picture was from Beth, Tony’s wife. Unsurprisingly, Cat couldn’t be bothered to read the message and promptly remembered why she hated Facebook.

She killed the better part of an hour at the breakfast bar, flicking through her phone, when ‘message received’ popped up from her dating app. Immediately, she logged in, hoping it was Nick, remembering she hadn’t messaged him back.

Nick: It’s been a long day so finally putting my feet up with dinner and a cold beer

The following message was a photo. Cat was fairly confident it wasn’t going to be scantily clad body shot but, with excited curiosity, she opened it: a perfect, manly-manicured hand was holding a stemmed pint glass, filled with what Cat assumed was beer. The accompanying message read:

Nick: What you up to??? 🤔

Cat wanted to reciprocate with an appropriate shot of her glass of claret, recognising however, that it was hugely oversized and filled to the brim. She took a massive, rapid gulp. Then another. Then another and another until she could rest assured that the glass would pass as a responsible-enough-for-mid-week drink. She snapped a picture, carefully hiding her own unpolished, un-manicured hands.

Nick: A fish bowl wine glass, I like your work 👏 are you sure you can’t just fit the entire bottle in there???

Cat: Probably, but it’s too early in the week to be polishing off a bottle of wine

Nick: I think you should give it a go… 🙌  perhaps a nice… Chianti 😨

The reference wasn’t lost on Cat. She giggled, wondering if he was testing her drinking skills or just checking in with her inner geek. Her inner geek took the phone.

Cat: ooh… Chianti would go really well with the liver and fava beans I’m cooking tonight

Nick: 😂 

Nick: I feel a little better about drinking alone tonight, knowing that my good friend the serial killer is just as bored and desperate for alcohol as I am… Cheers! 🍻

And with that, Nick sent another image: a rather stunning close-up of his face, half hidden behind the beer glass. Cat admired the clarity of his sharp, bright eyes, his full lips. God he was a perfect specimen. The large gulps earlier had gone to her head. Her alcohol-sapped mind started to wander. Her tongue was wet and desperate to know how his lips tasted. She wanted to ask him. The thought made her chuckle, cheekily. Maybe I should slow down on the wine, she told herself and ignoring herself at the same time.

Cat: Ha, Don’t encourage me… I’ll be thinking you’re trying to get me drunk already? 

Nick: Is that such a bad thing? 😈

Cat: What, me being drunk or you goading me into a mid-week piss-up?

Nick: I reckon you’ll be floored after your one large glass. I hope so anyway. I love a cheap date lol. Besides, tonight I only want you tipsy enough to give me your phone number so we can get away from this app, God I hate this thing! 😬

As easily as that, Nick had taken the plunge and made a request to exchange actual numbers. Needless to say, Cat was hesitant. There was a kind of security using the app. For one thing, any unsolicited photos could be reported, contacts could be blocked if you no longer wished to talk to them—or if they turned out to be Hannibal Lecter for real. Once you exchange numbers though, it’s not as clearcut. 

Fortunately, Cat had learnt the basics in online security from Lee: as soon as someone has your number you become a potential target for something bad. Like identity theft, money theft. Hell, even phone theft. They can use your phone to scour your personal information, raid your Paypal, or just wipe the whole damn thing. An over zealous admirer might take it upon themselves to find out where you live or work. Unless your profiles are hidden or locked, it’s far too easy for Russian hackers to find out everything they want to know about your life and utterly destroy it. Extremely sensible and tech-savvy Cat felt she had locked her security down. And it must’ve been working; she hadn’t had any stalker problems at all.

And experience told her that frequently the dynamics of conversation changes the moment you move away from the apps. Cat was enjoying the banter. Would that vanish with face to face engagement? It was a dilemma, a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment. Assessing her minimal risk level, and motivated by the chance to meet a seemingly amusing and extremely hot man, Cat decided maybe it was time to ease herself into dangerous territory and brave the exchange. Next time he hinted at a date she just might say yes.

Cat: What? you hate the app or online dating in general?

Nick: Both, it’s never as easy to chat on this thing and my phone’s constantly buzzing from all the crazies perving at my profile.

Cat: Oh is it now? bet they’re lining up 🤣

Nick: There are hundreds, believe me. Most of them look like they can handle more wine than you! Sounds wayyy too expensive. You seem the safer option… 😉😂

Cat: Lol… and by safer you mean cheaper. Your flattery is faultless, sir.

Nick: Exactly… 😂 

Nick: Honestly I nearly stopped using this thing the other day. Then you messaged me. Your pictures were bloody cute and you seemed like the first not-crazy girl I’d spoken to in weeks. The rest are basically just time-wasters…

Cat read his message and noticed he was still typing; this gave her an opportunity to consider what he’d said. There was a plethora of truth in it, people frequently use online dating to manage boredom. In all honesty, Cat was as guilty as the next messager for chatting to someone for weeks and never moving past first base.

Nick: So what do you say, fancy giving me your number and heading over to WhatsApp?

Spurred on by the wine or the prospect of real-life interaction with a nicker-droppingly gorgeous man, Cat pinged him her digits.

Nick: Wow! you must be feeling brave. Or drunk. Either way I’m impressed. See you on the flip side 😘

Cat never had a chance to reply. Nick’s icon flashed to ‘offline’. Suddenly paranoid she’d be heading toward inevitable doom, she clung onto the slither of hope that this one might turn out to be something a bit special.

If you would like to catch up with Cat and join the adventures as she bumbles her way through single life, then here’s the story so far…

Adventures with Cat

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