Spy Tips on Spotting a Tail, Blood Loss, Movement, and more…
The Native American practice of counting coup involved touching enemies on the battlefield. The object wasn’t to do damage but to establish your superiority as a warrior. Infiltrating someone’s security can serve a similar function. It’s a not-so-subtle way of saying, “Hi. I’m not here to hurt you”. “But I could hurt you very badly if I chose to.”
One simple but effective trick for identifying a tail is known in the spy trade as “running errands.” You drive to different locations and stop, going about ordinary business in areas with open parking lots while your team follows, keeping track of the cars at each stop. It doesn’t matter how good your tail is. At a certain point, they’re going to pop up more than once.
You can learn a lot from patterns of movement. Much like a hunter follows animal footprints to find where the animal sleeps, feeds, and mates, a spy can examine vehicle trails to find out where a target lives, does business, and hides the things he doesn’t want found.
Defending a position is about allocating resources, figuring out the most likely source of an attack and putting the most firepower there. Which means that less likely avenues of attack won’t be as well guarded. It worked for Hannibal coming over the Alps to Italy and for Lawrence of Arabia coming over the Nefud Desert to Aqaba. It’s a technique that depends on surprise, which means the only way it can go wrong is if the bad guys somehow know you’re coming.
Contracting requirements mean specs for most government vehicles are easily available. If you want to build a prison transport van, for example, you can get most of what you need from public websites. Add the paint scheme and logos of your local municipal government, and you’re in business.
Fire Engines and Ambulances use traffic-control devices to make traffic flow their way. They’re fairly simple, strobing at a particular frequency that can be picked up by the traffic light. It’s very illegal to use if you’re a private citizen, but remarkably useful if you need to turn a red light green or, with a little rewiring, turn a green light red.
Spies and magicians use many of the same techniques. They both know people trust their eyes more than they should. If they think they know what they’re looking at, they don’t look too closely. A group can help sell the illusion. A few flashily dressed assistants can draw the audience’s eye where you want it to go. And, of course, a well-timed cloud of fire and smoke doesn’t hurt.
Whether it’s with imprisoned spies, captured soldiers, or kidnapping victims, a hostage exchange is always a touchy time. Tempers run hot, and people are nervous about being tricked or ripped off. If you happen to be planning on tricking someone, you have all the more reason to be careful.
Any plan to grab a person has to strike a balance between resources and secrecy. The more resources you bring people, weapons, vehicles the easier the extraction will be. At the same time, the more resources you have in the field, the higher your risk of exposure. You can only bring as much manpower and equipment as you can conceal.
If the circumstances don’t allow for much cover, an extraction can get very risky and very, very lonely.
Shooting through a friendly to hit a target is a tricky thing to pull off. There are only a few places on the human body that can take a gunshot without severing a major artery or destroying a vital organ. Getting shot on the inside of the shoulder won’t kill you quickly, but almost any gunshot will kill you if you give it enough time.
There’s a cold math to blood loss. The more you lose, the weaker you get. And when you’re on a clock like that, it pays to act, no matter how desperate your plan might be. Because if you wait, you may not have the chance.