What You Didn't Know I Saw

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Featured Review on this writing by RexMundi555'.-

Never turn your back on a man with a mop.

I’m just the guy who fixes clogged toilets.  And replaces burned out light bulbs.  And empties garbage cans.  I do the dirty work.

You folks sitting in those cubicles, typing on your keyboard, talking on your phone.  You don’t even know I speak English.  My dark skin and the funny name on my badge fooled you.  I have a college degree and am fluent in four languages.

But here in America, the land of opportunity, I am a janitor.  That is okay with me, for now.  It is honorable work.  My children are being educated in American schools and will only unclog toilets in their own home.  As will I, soon enough.  I have a plan.

Because I do more than just the dirty work.  I watch and listen.

When I make my way around the office building, I see and hear everything.  I know who is cheating on their spouse.  I know who goofs off all day.  I know who isn’t paying their child support.  The gossip never ends.  And I know about the illegal business practices that Jack McKenzie, my employer and owner of McKenzie Enterprises, engages in.  I will use that knowledge to my advantage.

Mr. McKenzie is a smart, hardworking man.  You don’t start out as an independent contractor and build a Fortune 500 company in 15 years by being stupid or lazy.  Sometimes people get arrogant and greedy when they make it to the top.  Just because you are smart, it doesn’t mean you are smarter than the next guy.  You may not be smarter than your janitor.

English is a difficult language to learn.  Western languages use different sounds than my native tongue.  When I took English classes in school, I watched the instructor’s mouth as she enunciated the words.  She would exaggerate the sounds we were not used to making.  Combining what I saw with what I heard, I grasped the subtle differences.  In public, I intentionally speak with an accent.  On the telephone, I can fool anyone into thinking I was born in America.

More importantly, while I was learning other languages, I also learned how to read people’s facial expressions.  Their movements and hand gestures.  Their non-verbal communication.  That was easy.  All humans speak the same language non-verbally.

My first day on the job, I figured out Mr. McKenzie was doing something fishy.  As he made his way around the office, talking to the employees, I noticed a distinction.  With most of his people, he was relaxed and spoke in very technical terms.  It was obvious, he knows a lot about aerospace technology, so do his employees.

With others, his voice lowered, his facial expressions changed, and the language contained so many generalities I couldn’t tell what they were talking about.  Like how a man and a woman would talk, when in a restaurant, about how much money she wants for sex.  I could tell, something was up.

Many people do not know that cell phones broadcast a radio signal.  In a conversation, your phone sends and receives radio waves to and from the nearest tower.  With a device colloquially known as a “stingray”, that signal can be intercepted.  The stingray mimics a tower.  Once connected, the device can load rogue software on the phone, the equivalent of a computer virus.  This allows the stingray to passively listen to subsequent calls, undetected. 

It also allows for more serious tampering, such as jamming the phone, sending fake calls and text messages, even draining the battery.  Various law enforcement agencies are starting to use stingrays to investigate suspected criminals.  To stay within the law, they must get approval from a judge before they use it.

I built my own stingray for $2000 from parts I obtained on the internet and at Radio Shack.  I do not require the services of a judge.

There is a shopping center across the street from our office building.  I sat in my car after work several afternoons and waited for Mr. McKenzie to leave for the day.  On day three, he made a call after he got in his car.  Bingo.  All he noticed was a call that did not connect.  By the time he redialed, the stingray had done its job.  I was a third set of ears, unknown to the participants in the conversation.

From there the sordid details fell into place.  Mr. McKenzie had quite an operation going.  He was overbilling for the hours worked on his government contracts.  Not so much that they will notice.  But over time, enough to put millions in his pocket that he didn’t earn. 

He bribed the inspectors that are supposed to ensure his manufacturing facilities obey environmental and safety regulations.  One hundred thousand dollars is a lot of cash when it is in bundles of twenties.  I watched Mr. McKenzie walk in to a restaurant carrying a black briefcase.  It was in the inspector’s hand when they walked out.  A hundred thousand to buy someone off, as opposed to tens of millions to do the job by the book.

He used every trick in the book to avoid paying both corporate and personal income taxes.  I am not sure how much of what he did was illegal.  But I guarantee he would break into a cold sweat if he got audited and the IRS had a thumb drive filled with useful information, provided by me.

Last but certainly not least, he was cheating on his wife.  Every man likes a blonde.  Mr. McKenzie probably thought having a second cell phone, leased by his secretary, would allow him to communicate with his lover without his wife finding out.  He was careful to leave that phone at the office when he wasn’t on one of his trysts.  For me, that just meant I used the stinger a second time.

Then a third time, when he accessed the OnStar system in his Cadillac to get directions.  It uses cell phone technology.  A number of interesting things can be done via OnStar.  Such as turning the engine on or off, locking and unlocking the doors, flashing the lights, and honking the horn.  Jack McKenzie’s janitor had become his invisible Siamese twin.

It did not take long to gather enough material for a good blackmailing.

I figured a smart man like Jack McKenzie would quickly realize out his phones and the OnStar were compromised, once I started blackmailing him.  So I decided to make full use of the OnStar during first contact, for the maximum psychological impact.  The idea was to hit him hard, knock him off balance, and get him hooked in before he had time to consider calling the police or hiring private investigators.

If I have learned anything about Americans since I have been here, it is that they are impressed by spectacle.  So I didn’t deliver my blackmail letter via postal service or the internet.  I delivered it by hand.  I would be an electronic ninja.

The house Jack bought for his mistress is a few miles out of town, in a secluded area.  As the road winds over a hill, it makes a 180 degree turn.  I parked on the side of the road just above the turn, and walked down through the trees.  The webcams I had mounted above and below me showed an otherwise empty road as the Caddy approached. 

When the vehicle was about a hundred yards from the turn, I pushed the button on another of my homemade devices.  The OnStar connected to the Bose sound system and spoke in a Siri-like voice:  “Jack, in five seconds, I am going to turn off the engine.  Please begin braking now.”

Too bad he didn’t react faster.  He hadn’t slowed enough when the engine stopped.  Without power brakes and steering, no way he was making it through the turn.  The right front panel of the El Dorado brought the vehicle to a stop by grinding against the guardrail. 

The next command unlocked the doors.  I heard the beeps as I ran toward the vehicle.  I was dressed head to toe in black.  A narrow slit for my eyes.  I doubt Jack saw much of me anyway. 

The car had barely come to a stop when I opened the door and tossed in a flashbang grenade.  I knew what was about to happen, so I turned my head and closed my eyes.  That, and the earplugs, gave me an edge Jack did not have.  He was in shock after the loud bang and the blinding flash.  Not sure how much he felt when I slapped the thick envelope into his chest.  The one that contained a large sample of blackmail material, plus a letter with instructions.

As a final precaution, I punctured one of his tires with a jackknife.  Even if he did manage to come to his senses, he would not be able to follow me.  I was at home, in bed, in thirty minutes.

The next morning I was at work at the usual time, 5:30am.  I got there early so I could do the vacuuming before everyone else showed up.  That gave me plenty of time to snoop around.

I can always tell when a deadline is near.  That is the only time any of the engineers will be at the office when I arrive.  I’d never seen Mr. McKenzie there that early, until that day.  Judging by his appearance, he’d been there all night.  He didn’t look like a man who’d slept.

He wasn’t even in his office.  He was in the chair at the copy station, feet propped up on the table.  Slumped over.  The way someone looks when they are in the throes of a hangover.  Hands still dirty from changing the tire.  I decided vacuuming could wait.

“Mr. McKenzie, may I do something for you?  Would you like some coffee?”

I couldn’t make out most of what he mumbled, but I heard “mug” and “office”.  He pulled his keys out of his pocket and tossed them in my direction without looking up.  I’d never been in his office.  He kept it locked when he wasn’t in.  His secretary did all of the cleaning.

I’d seen her make his coffee before.  Two packets of sugar, one French vanilla creamer mini-cup.  One ice cube, leave the spoon in.  I handed him the mug.  He stirred with the spoon, slowly, until the ice cube melted.  Then drank every drop in one long gulp.

He stood and looked at my badge.  “Sameer, are you a drinking man?  Doesn’t matter, you are now.  Please join me in my office.  You mind if I call you Sam?”

I presume blackmailers are a dime a dozen.  It is one of the oldest professions.  But how many get drunk with their victims before the deal is twelve hours old?

The hair of the dog did wonders for my boss’s attitude.  He told me the entire story.  He had no idea how thick the irony was.  “I am going to strangle that guy with my bare hands”.  Which he could have done, right then, in his office, had he known.  He is a big man.

I played dumb.  “But Mr. McKenzie, surely you must notify the authorities.  They will apprehend this criminal.”

“No, no, Sam.  You do not understand.  They will ask questions.  They will want to know why I am being blackmailed.  I cannot afford to answer those questions.”

I paused.  “Then you will have no choice but to go along with what this person asks.”

When I said that, I saw a calm come over his eyes.  He’d reached a decision.  He practically jumped up out of his chair. 

“Yes, that is exactly what I am going to do.  That loser doesn’t know how much money I have.  What he is asking for is chump change.”

In fact, I knew almost to the dollar what his cash assets amounted to.  That was a part of the calculation.  Most blackmailers want a very large sum of cash.  That creates a number of problems.  Victims are often reluctant to pay, knowing that the blackmailer can come back time after time.  I made it easy for Jack.  What I wanted was $10,000 a week, every week, for life.  I knew about his Swiss bank account.  I had created one myself.  It would be a simple matter for him to set up an automatic transfer.  At the rate he made money, he would barely notice the difference.

I hadn’t planned on becoming Jack’s new best friend.  I had no idea I would get a promotion and a raise as well.  By the time the Cadillac dealership opened, we were quite inebriated.  The secretary drove and we were sipping martinis in the owner’s office.  Jack made arrangements to have the El Dorado towed.  He said it was wrecked, had a flat, smelled like stale gunpowder, and he didn’t want to see it again.

The shock he received the night before put him in a new frame of mind.  Fuck the blackmailer.  It was time to live life to the fullest.  Jack ordered a custom stretch limousine, one with a bar and a media center in the back.  I was now Jack’s driver.  He tripled my salary.

My original plan was to work another six months, then write a nice resignation letter.  As it turns out, driving Jack McKenzie around to tend to his business and personal needs is much more pleasant than cleaning bathrooms.  I quickly became more than a driver.  He started taking me to meetings.  In the limo, we would discuss strategy.  He trusted my judgement.  Knowing when another man is lying to you is a useful skill, regardless of your profession.

Things were looking up for me.  I had won the “blackmail Jack McKenzie for life” lottery and tripled my salary at the same time.  And I was hobnobbing with the big boys.  A few months later, Jack gave me another raise, a fancy title, an office, and a set of crisp white business cards that said, “Sam Chetry, Vice President of Transportation, McKenzie Enterprises”.

That made it easy for me to join the country club.  I learned how to play tennis and golf.

Things weren’t going as well for Jack.  His wife found out about the mistress, and it didn’t have anything to do with me.  He accidently took the second phone home with him.  She found it, put two and two together, filed for divorce.  After the expensive attorney picked apart the prenuptial in court, she began a vicious social media attack on both Jack and his lover. 

That was enough to convince the mistress it was time to head to greener pastures.  Word on the street was that she pawned the jewelry and toys Jack had given her, sold the car, and took off with her real boyfriend.  Jack was crushed.

I kept telling him to take a vacation, get a hobby, find a new girlfriend.  Instead, he practically lived at the office.  He had been run out of his house by his ex-wife.  He didn’t want to go anywhere near the house where the mistress had lived, it was for sale.  He slept on the couch in his office.  He ate out of the vending machine, and had a decent meal only when I could talk him into it.  He was aging before my eyes.  But it was still quite a shock when he had the stroke.

He couldn’t speak.  But he could write, crudely.  He had written sam!!! on the notepad the nurse gave him.  And was emphatically tapping the pen on the pad.  He started showing some improvement within a week, but the doctor was not optimistic about the likelihood of a full recovery.  After a month in the hospital and three in a rehabilitation facility, I moved Jack in with me and my family, into the house I had just purchased and renovated.  The first floor was set up for handicap access.  I hired a full time, live in nurse.  That was after Jack had made me his power of attorney.

A year later, Jack could walk and talk again.  But he was never the same.  He spends his days watching television and swimming in the backyard pool with the nurse, my wife and the kids.  By then, I was running McKenzie Enterprises and managing all of Jack’s personal affairs.  I had moved into his office. 

One day I realized I had not withdrawn any of the blackmail money.  I had been so busy I forgot about it.  I stopped the automatic withdrawals, transferred all the money back to Jack, and closed my account.

On pleasant evenings, I get a fire going in the pit and Jack and I sit and drink beer. That night, after he went to bed, I rekindled the blaze and fed it a thick stack of papers, photographs, and a couple of thumb drives.

I still show up at the office every morning at 5:30.  Sometimes I vacuum the carpet.  It calms my nerves.  Plus, I like to keep an eye on the new janitor.

Submitted: September 01, 2015

© Copyright 2021 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


AJ Edwards

A really good story really well told!

Thu, September 3rd, 2015 9:39am


Thanks, I appreciate the feedback.

Thu, September 3rd, 2015 8:13am

Criss Sole

Never underestimate a janitor! I was really not expecting that ending. Very ironic. In the end they pretty much became friends and lived together. Poor Jack. Life can sure change in a split second. I loved this story.

Mon, January 18th, 2016 12:33pm


You never know what will happen next.

Tue, January 19th, 2016 8:00am

Oleg Roschin

Well-written, smart, and pretty scary! A cautionary tale for many of us, I'm sure!

Tue, June 21st, 2016 12:20pm


Thanks. I always keep an eye on people at work. You never know...

Wed, June 22nd, 2016 2:43am


Holy! This is amazing, way better than I am. You should keep writing and email me sometime (yagamiikokan@gmail.com)

Sat, September 23rd, 2017 11:16pm


Thanks a lot. The way to get better is to keep writing. And honestly compare yourself to other writers. Writing is easy, writing well takes focused practice. And never be afraid of what other people will think.

Sun, September 24th, 2017 9:18am


HA HA HA HA HAAAA! Sooo, Sam despises a cheater and uses his Techno Whiz Kid Know How to scoop Mr. McKenzie's ordinary, generic, milquetoast sins - and blackmail the poor boss, who gave Sam a job pushing a mop. Sam does this because Mr. McKenzie is a man with the usual dull consequences. Sam, however, spends beaucoup cash building a Stingray (neat! I did not know they existed!) and planning a blackmail scheme which also involves devious tech. Do they still make OnStar? I have not watched TV in 30 years! Anyway - Sam winds up being FAR more unethical and cold-hearted, sinister and callous. Afterall, McKenzie only has a Ride on the Side and he cheats on his taxes! Sam is an exhortionist and a blackmailer! Yet he winds up with all the goodies! Score! Whatta guy! Love It, Serge 'cos . . . real life, yanno?

Tue, October 15th, 2019 2:33am


I don't watch much TV either, just golf and car shows. Yup, crime does pay if you're careful and know when to fold'em. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Tue, October 15th, 2019 4:18am

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