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Smile for the Camera (Short Story)

[book cover]
Author:
Nicola L. C. Talbot
Genre:
Crime Fiction (Short story cybercrime)
Format:
Ebook
Word Count:
2,500 (approximate)
ISBN:
978-1-909440-13-5.
RRP:
$0.99 (USD)
Publication date:
2024-04-12
Available from:
SmashWords and other ebook retailers, such as Kobo, Apple Books, and Barnes & Noble.

Description

A cybercrime short story about Eve, a CCTV operator monitoring a store’s self-service tills, who sees too much information.

Extract

Evelyn watched the array of rectangles arranged on the screen in front of her. The desk was covered in detritus: crumbs, fluff, stray hairs, and the desiccated corpses of insects. The computer hummed as its fan expelled hot air from the processors into the poky room, turning dusty cobwebs into miniature windsocks. The overhead fluorescent tube light flickered, and the swivel chair creaked at her every little fidget.

Each rectangle on the screen showed footage from a security camera installed in a self-service checkout. Six rectangles for six tills. How many hours of her life had she spent staring at this screen? Alert for any customer who tried to slip by an unscanned item or where the barcode scanned didn’t match the product in the customer’s hand.

Old customers, young customers, confused customers, irate customers. Turning the products this way and that before the series of thick and thin parallel lines could finally be detected by the beady red light. The harassed employee — under instructions to direct all but cash-only customers to the self-service tills — appeared first in one and then another rectangle to deal with items that wouldn’t scan or to inspect sturdy reusable bags that were heavier than the machine’s maximum tare weight. At least Eve was able to sit back, with her feet up on the desk, munching crisps. There were definitely perks to this job.

An elderly customer came over to a till and slowly scanned her items, pausing after each product to double-check the screen. Finally, her age-worn face, lined with worry, scrutinized the screen one last time before she reached out a wrinkled arthritic finger to touch the payment option — not that there was much option for a card-only till. She glanced over one shoulder and then the other, her movements slow and stiff, before unzipping a handbag that hung satchel-style across her body. She bent her head, revealing a thinning parting in wiry grey hair.

Another zip inside her bag also needed to be undone before she eased out a black rectangular card holder. Eve recognised it as one of the RFID-blocking type. The customer glanced over her shoulder again before removing a credit card. Eve reached for the mouse and enlarged the window. A cautious, paranoid customer, but more concerned with shoulder surfers and skimmers than the camera which was aimed at her.

The customer’s card had the type of design where all the information is on one side to make it easier to be scanned by mobile devices because no one likes to tap in sixteen digits on tiny keyboards. Eve paused the video feed and zoomed in. The customer had oriented the card so that the blank side faced any potential eagle eye behind her, but this meant that the details were caught on camera as she moved it over to the payment terminal. Credit card number, name (Mrs A Smith), expiry date, card security code and signature (Alice Smith) were all visible in the still image on the screen.

Eve had two mobile phones: a regular one with a contract for normal use and a cheap device with a pay as you go SIM. She wiped the crisp grease from her fingers onto her jeans, took a photo of the screen with her burner phone, and saved it as a secure note.

Continue reading sample on SmashWords.