The Stolen Phone

Life is made of stories, and with both my Sun and Mercury in Gemini, I can’t pry myself away from telling (or listening) to what I think is a good one. It’s a long read, but I hope you find some entertainment in the following tale.

Around the end of September, while my parent’s were fast asleep in their beds, someone broke into their house.

It was an odd robbery. Despite there being passports, prescription medication, and full bottles of alcohol on the counter, what they ended up taking was my mother’s purse (filled with ID, glasses, car keys, and credit cards), half of a pumpkin pie from the fridge, a pack of halls, and the star of this story, my dad’s cell phone.

From my parent’s house they went to a nearby convenience store, and used my mother’s credit card. Then, they hit up a gas station for some snacks, and followed that up with a trip to McDonald’s.

I guess the pumpkin pie wasn’t quite filling enough.

Seven of Swords
The Seven of Swords from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Being deceitful, getting away with something, betrayal, strategic. The only way I mentally picture the thief now.

My grandmother’s bank card was in my mom’s purse as she does a lot of her banking. They ended up not only spending ridiculous amounts of money at a local, trendy clothing shop (and my Grammy is 94, so we’re pretty sure it wasn’t her), but were able to guess her PIN and take money out from an ATM.

While the thief was going on a shopping spree, my mom was scrambling to cancel the accounts, contact the banks, and get new ID. We ended up getting the fraudulent charges erased, and my grandmother got her money back.

The police came (four and a half hours after they were called) and took down a statement. Apparently, there was a photo that went out of the thief at the convenience store (they matched the timestamp on the security camera with the charge on my mom’s credit card), but no one could recognize them. We tried Find My Phone for my dad’s device, but came up empty handed.

After that, nothing really happened. There was no followup. No leads.

We had more or less given up hope. My dad tried to contact them, but to no avail. Every time he tried, he was told the officer they had been working with was ‘unavailable’, and we just kind of let things die down.

One morning in mid-November I was at work doing what I do. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my phone light up with a notification that a new photo had been shared to our family album.

Now, that family album hadn’t been used for nearly a year. We had originally created it for my Grammy who no longer had a device. However, my cousin had recently been on a trip, so I assumed the addition was from him.

It was not.

Opening the album I was met with a closeup face selfie of a middle-aged woman. She was half smiling, trying to be flirty or sexy.

According to the notification, the photo was shared by my dad.

My father’s technological skills aren’t quite up to the level of sharing photos in a family album. He’s gotten how to attach photos to emails down, for the most part. There was also the fact that he no longer had his phone, and therefore had no access to the album as he never replaced the device.

Being the snoop that I am, I decided to try to login to my dad’s iCloud account to see if Find My Phone would work.

He’s never added a profile photo to anything, but when I logged in I was greeted by the same face I had seen minutes before in my family album. The account still said, “Hi, [Dad’s Name]!”.

I was curious who this woman was, so the first place I looked was the photo album. My dad usually only takes photos of vacations and bathroom fixtures, but his iCloud account was now filled with pictures of this random woman. At first glance the photos were pretty normal – family events, and countless mirror selfies showcasing different outfits. She even had a handful of selfies where you could clearly see the phone – still in the case I had passed down to my dad: silver sparkles. As I kept scrolling I fell into nudes territory – extreme closeups included.

My face went white, and I have never in my life clicked ‘x’ so quickly.

My co-worker was standing behind me and saw the whole thing, and we couldn’t help but burst out into awkward laughter. This of course drew more attention from our peers, who after our brief description decided they weren’t interested in the nudes after all.

I cautiously went back in, and scrolled quickly past the nudes. I then find a handful of photos of this woman’s papers and notebooks containing years of usernames, passwords, cell phone numbers, and even a SIN card number. We have some guy’s cell number and his mother’s cell number, too.

I found her Facebook page. I learned she had been an escort under a pseudonym, and even had some (what can I only assume are) client’s names (including “Black D guy from falls” and “Asian guy named Pat”.

Looking at her contacts (she had erased all of the ones my dad had in there, so she definitely knew the phone had been stolen) she had her siblings, the welfare office, a whole slew of taxi companies, some guy with the last name Bacon, and the PIN number for her MasterCard.

I used Find My Phone again, and this time a location came back. I also turned on notifications to be emailed when the phone moved.

My dad was ecstatic.

It wasn’t so much that we now knew who had his phone, it was the fact that there was a potential lead on who broke into their house.

I brought what I had found to my parent’s house that evening. My dad went through the photos scouring the background for anything recognizable – a place or my mother’s purse. He didn’t find anything, but we did get a very dry, “Oh, there’s her vagina” as he scrolled past the nude pictures.

The next day, he called the police, which only lead to him eventually going down to the station. The officer we had been working with on the break-in was still unavailable.

He spoke to the lady at the desk, and while I’m not quite sure what went down, she did say, “I can see we’re not going to get along“, and went to fetch someone else.

My dad asked for the photo that they had been passing around (from the security camera footage) and was told they couldn’t give that to him, and he’d have to go to the store and ask for it. He explained he wanted a follow up and was told he had to phone in the information.

“But I’m right here.”

“Yes, you need to phone the information in, though.”

“So you’re telling me that even though I’m right here now, I have to go home, and phone you?”

“Well, there’s a phone just over there.”

He left before he exploded on the spot.

A couple of weeks passed, and no one got in contact with us. Notifications came to my dad’s email every time the phone moved, so we now had multiple pings at the same address. I kept using Find My Phone to see what was going on, and the woman kept uploading new photos (clothed, thankfully).

We were frustrated. We had this woman’s first and last name, phone number, e-mail address, home address, and even her Facebook profile, but the police weren’t doing a single thing.

It’s a story that is hard not to share, and we soon found out we knew someone who knew who the lady was. Due to the nature of their relationship, our mutual acquaintance was unable to divulge information, but mentioned they would try to talk to her.

Looking for insight, I turned to my tarot cards. I figured that maybe they could give me some advice on how what to do. So, I pulled a card asking what I could do to help Justice along. I shuffled, looked for the Justice card, and read the next card for advice – the Queen of Swords reversed.

Justice and the Queen of Wands from the Lumina Tarot © 2015 Inner Hue

That wasn’t quite the answer I wanted; control wasn’t in my hands, and there wasn’t much more I could do. So, I did what any Queen of Swords who was angry, not thinking logically, and backed into a corner would do – I got a little petty.

I realized you can send messages (and the sender is unidentifiable unless you want to put a contact number) to the lock screen from Find My Phone. I sent a polite message addressed to the woman informing her the phone was stolen, and asking her to do the right thing and turn it in.

A few minutes after the message was delivered, the phone shut off.

When I checked back in about half an hour later, it was back on. I hit the “Play Sound” button which makes the phone ring and vibrate. To be honest, I probably hit it about ten times in a row.

The phone shut off again.

The next time I tried to login to my dad’s iCloud account, there was a 2-step verification process turned on – I guess my antics weren’t appreciated. Luckily, as long as the password to the account hasn’t been changed recently, and you know the answers to the security questions, that’s easy to override.

Now that I was back in, I let her know that uploading her nudes to someone else’s iCloud account probably wasn’t the wisest idea.

The mutual acquaintance confronted the woman about the phone. She claimed she bought it used online seven months ago. She was that the police were looking into the matter and if the phone was stolen, she should return it. Apparently after a slew of incriminating sentences, she said she would return it the next day, but wanted to delete some photos.

With this newfound information, I took the opportunity to send a reminder – time to do right.

She did not return the phone. I let her know I was disappointed.

Over the next couple of days we received updates that the phone was travelling; it was out and about the city, mostly. I watched a video she had uploaded made for her mother, talking about how she hasn’t always been the best daughter, and how she doesn’t always dress trashy.

That evening she uploaded a scantily clad photo to Facebook.

I reminded her to “Stay classy, not trashy“. I feel like that was helpful life advice. I would occasionally send reminders that the phone needed to be plugged in. Just in case she didn’t realize the battery was low.

My dad decided to try his luck at the police station yet again. He was told that the officer we had been working with was “not allowed to use the phone for six weeks” which constantly prompts jokes about him losing his phone privileges. However, my dad found someone who was willing to listen – and even better was that they seemed interested (and somewhat impressed) with what he had to say.

In the next day or two I received a phone call from an officer asking for the information I had. Finally.

I explained what had happened, and was met with the response that he “wasn’t good with technology“. Which, fair enough. I explained how SIM cards work, and why she had a new number, but was still logged in as my father on the phone itself. I gave him her name, phone number, and address. When we were done talking, I sent him the same information along with a variety of photos. My selection of photos included (by request of the police officer) pictures of her boyfriend, who they were thinking had something to do with the crime. I did not pass along the nudes.

The officer asked me for proof of purchase for the phone – apparently it being linked to my father’s iCloud account, and having photographic evidence of the woman holding the phone in its sparkly case in the mirror wasn’t enough.

I bought the phone back in 2015, and surprisingly enough I actually still had the receipt. The only problem was I had taken the phone in to be serviced in August of 2015, and had gotten a replacement, so the serial number and IMEI number on the receipt didn’t match the one on the phone.

I called Apple, who had amazing customer support, and after two hours we amazingly got what was needed. I sent that off, highlighting the appropriate numbers because at this point, I had zero faith in the police’s ability to do their job.

Not long after I had spoken to the officer did the phone go silent: no new photos, no location updates. The phone was offline.

Find My Phone Screen

About a week later, the officer emailed me asking if there had been any updates. I had none.

Somehow we found out they weren’t satisfied that the photos I sent were a match to the security camera photos. Fair enough – maybe it wasn’t the same man. I’ve never seen the security camera footage to know.

The police made a visit to the local branch of where my mom works to talk to the co-worker that had spoken to the woman about the phone. A few days later, and oddly enough just a day before we were going to pull the trigger on buying my dad a new phone, the phone was dropped off to her.

It was still in pretty good condition. The case had been removed, but the screen wasn’t damaged. It still had a passcode on it, a final screw you from the woman, I’m assuming. Fortunately, we already had the passcode as she had uploaded a photo of it along with all her passwords.

I took it home to wipe it off and set it up for my dad to use again. While she had taken the SIM card out, she hadn’t logged out of a single thing. Her email was still connected, as was her Facebook account.

It took every ounce of willpower to leave things be, and to not send snarky messages to her friends and family or post ridiculous Facebook updates. Instead I just snooped through messages to see if there was anything incriminating or at the very least, interesting. There wasn’t.

In one final move to try to get some information, I decided to text her. I found a website that allows you to send texts to phones as if you were sending from a phone number. I chose a number based in the United States, and sent her a text, thanking her for finally returning the phone.

I also suggested she log out of everything and delete her photos next time.

She apologized for having it, claiming again that she bought it on online. I asked her the username of the person who sold it to her, but she said she didn’t do it herself; someone bought it for her, and they used the computer at the local library.

I’m pretty sure that’s all bullshit, but figured arguing with her about it wasn’t going to get me anything.

I asked her to see if she could find out. She said she would (she won’t). She said she was glad she did the right thing in the end, and maybe she really is. She asked me to delete her photos and the “messages with her man” since she had been honest. I don’t have access to her texts, but I wasn’t going to tell her that.

The conversation actually ended on a nice note. We wished each other well.

I’ve erased everything from the phone, but the information is still in the cloud. My dad has a new account, as I figured maybe it’s best to not get rid of the proof just yet.

We called the police to let them know, and they said it was “great that the phone has been returned!”. My dad said that was not a satisfactory ending as we still have no idea who broke in, but as far as the police are concerned, it’s over and done with.

And that’s it.

That’s the wholly unsatisfying end.

As frustrating as the entire situation was, it’s a clear demonstration of the Seven of Swords (getting away with something) and of the Queen of Swords reversed (not being able to do anything to control a situation).

What stories in your life have encompassed these two cards?

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