Ever suspected your best friend might be a spy? Prettyboy Must Die author Kimberly Reid, fresh off writing the story of undercover CIA hacking prodigy Jake Morrow, is happy to fill you in on the signs and symptoms of being besties with a secret agent.
I had a neighbor who I thought might be a spy. I’m a writer—we like to make up stuff and often read too much into completely benign situations—but I did wonder about him. He traveled all the time, sometimes to Russia. He was great at getting people to talk and knew everything about everyone on the block, but didn’t share much about himself, including what he actually did for a living. If you’ve ever had similar suspicions about your new guy or that cute girl in third period chemistry, here are some signs they may not be who they claim.
- They are handy like MacGyver. You see a bobby pin. They see a Swiss Army knife.
- They have a very particular set of skills (props to Bryan Mills). When encountering a mugger in a dark alley, you run like you stole something, but she gets into a fighter’s stance because she’s not only a black belt in Karate and Krav Maga, she’s studying capoeira. (Also, stay out of dark alleys.)
- They’re a little paranoid. Okay, a lot paranoid. Like me about my perfectly innocent neighbor.
- They are fluent in at least three languages. Or they’re European, which is still a problem because they told you they were born and raised in Seattle.
- They own the oddest tech gadgets. You’re happy to have the newest iPhone. He gets excited about bug detectors, frequency scramblers, and his box of burner phones.
- They notice every detail about EVERYTHING. They can tell if someone’s been in their room because a picture frame has been moved half an inch.
- They have a “go bag.” Or three. He says it’s because he was a boy scout and likes to be prepared, but he keeps one at home, in his car, and in his locker. He’s clearly expecting he’ll have to make a run for it, 24/7.
- They’re first-aid savvy. You go to the hospital for a medical emergency, or at least the nurse’s office. Thanks to that go bag, she’ll have a sewing kit for stiches, antivenin for snake bites, and can make a tourniquet from an ink pen and a shoestring.
- They receive lots of phone calls from the 202 area code. Y’all live in Illinois.
- They’re nimble. When you’re locked out of your apartment, he’ll get in using the fire escape ladder that’s rusted stuck nine feet from the ground. While you watch in amazement, he’ll explain his hobby is parkour.
- They don’t plan on ever being a crime statistic. During a sleepover, she’ll lament you don’t have a security system or a dog, while laying sheets of bubble wrap on the floor inside every entrance. Yes, she brought her own bubble wrap.
- She also takes dating safety seriously. When you tell her you’re going to finally meet that guy you’ve been talking to online, she doesn’t just Google your new crush. She launches a full-scale investigation.
- They’re into accessorizing. Her closet is full of wigs, hats, and non-prescription eyeglasses. Except you’ve never seen her wear any of them. Hmmm.
- They’re not into natural sunlight. Even if he keeps the blinds open by day (not likely), you better believe they’ll be closed before the sun goes down. He’s reeeally worried about being watched.
- Speaking of privacy. . . In the digital age, you’ve pretty much given up on yours, but he guards his like a winning Powerball ticket. When you binge-watch British police procedurals, he groans at every mention of “CCTV.”
- She likes to travel. Sure, many people do. But when you discover she has four passports, she says it’s because she’s always losing one, has to apply for another, and later finds the old one. That’s plausible. But when you ask why she looks so different in every picture, or why her name is spelled differently in each one, or why she keeps them inside a Häagen-Dazs container in the freezer, she changes the subject.
- They don’t have much back story. They rarely talk about their lives before they met you, and whenever you ask questions, they change the subject.
- They can be very precise. They’ll never say, “Let’s meet around nine-ish.” It will be 9 PM sharp. Actually, they’ll probably say twenty-one hundred hours because they like to speak in military time.
- They can be very vague, especially when giving excuses for bailing on you at the last minute. But they can’t exactly tell you they were just called up on a mission because then they’d have to kill you.
- When you’re watching any spy movie (except Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy—spies usually like that one) he will annoy you with a running commentary on how a spy would never do this or that. When you ask how he knows what a spy would do, he’ll say, “It’s just a guess.” Don’t believe it.
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