I didn’t win the contest but I’m happy I entered it. Here’s the story if you didn’t get a chance to read it and thank you to anyone that voted for it, very much appreciated. Enjoy the read!
MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Short Story by SM CADMAN
Monthly Prompt: Obsession
Genre: YA, Techno-Thriller
PDF Version here.
‘First thing we do is detox you from any Social Media’, Frank said as he pried my cell phone away from me.
‘Do you have any more devices too, laptop? The issue with cyberstalkers is they often offload apps like mSpy or AndroRAT into innocuous file folders on your devices and they continue to stalk you in real time also. They are stealthy, cold-hearted Sociopaths or as I call them, Cyberpaths. Some are very technically adept and dangerous. I’ve witnessed lives fall apart from their abuse.’
I watched as he turned on my device and thumbed through its contents. He stopped when he got to the settings.
‘Here is one of the issues, Android.sys, he’s got Stealth Genie hidden on your phone. He’s tracking you. Watching your every move offline too…’
I was shocked. I stared at the ceramic tiles on the wall behind Frank. The FBI interrogation room felt suddenly insecure. I felt frightened and lost even within the inner sanctum of their security.
‘It’s not like that mom, we just talk online. It’s no biggie. Just chill,’ I reassured her over the phone. I lied but I didn’t want to go into great detail about Leandro and I. We said our goodbyes and I clicked on, ‘End Call’. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Just her last words stung me like a bee, Kellie you never know who or what is on the other end, please be careful.
Two weeks since I had met him at Speed Dating at the college pub. We exchanged numbers and email addresses then we connected via Twitter and Facebook the following evening.
I found you! he sent me after I accepted his friendship request. He then followed me on Twitter, I followed back. We started chatting by Direct Messages back and forth. His attention was intoxicating but I was wary.
The previous few months online were a mess for me. I had several strange messages and tweets sent to me that were nothing less than offensive and abusive. Some contained death and rape threats with violent images and also disgusting porn images, all unrequested, sent out by a user called, ManInTheMiddle. I was broken down by that point. I had even gone to Rutgers campus security to ask what to do about it and how to track down the anonymous sender of these messages. They were clueless. And so was I. So I asked one of my roommates about it, he was studying Internet security and computer programming.
‘Lemme have a look, ‘ Shawn said as he switched on my device. ‘Wow. It’s revenge porn,’ he said and laughed.
‘Shawn, be serious. This stuff along with like really brutal imagery has been flooding my Timeline on Twitter. I report the accounts and the tweets, sometimes the accounts are closed or they just stop altogether. But honestly it scares the shit out of me when it’s happening.’
‘It’s nothing. Just ignore it. Suck it up buttercup,’ he said as he patted my head. ‘You’re a chick online so you’re bound to get flooded with these shitty types of messages,’ annoyed I grabbed the phone from his hands. Shawn was kind of creepy in a way I couldn’t explain. He turned back to his center monitor and continued giggling while posting on 4chan. He had moved into the house I shared only in late September, it was now mid October. He hung out mostly in his room, on the computer, online. But something was oddly familiar about him. I couldn’t quite understand why.
Hey, whassup? I heard a chirp from my mobile, an incoming text arrived from Leandro. I looked at Shawn, ‘Yeah so Leandro just texted me. Later. Thanks for your help…’ I said as I walked out of his room. He laughed again.
Whatcha doin? the text from Leandro read.
Nothing. Wanna grab drinks at the campus pub tonight or come over? I asked.
Tonight? I can’t. LOL my parents are in town! he responded.
Are we ever going to connect again IRL or just keep sending msgs back & forth? I typed.
It’s not like that. I’m just busy tonight LMAO! Just relax. I’ll text U later when they’re gone, he texted back.
Disappointed I shut off my cell phone and decided to call it an early night. I tossed and turned, worrying about what would arrive next on my mobile.
‘I just don’t get it. I thought we hit it off but she keeps sending me threatening messages,’ I said to Shawn.
‘Leandro, who knows man, women are mysterious and psycho!’ Shawn said laughing.
‘I lent you my mobile last week, did you get some of these type of texts from her then too?’ I asked him, ‘It’s so weird. I can’t figure it out. Take it with you to your next class, ask your TA what the fuck this is. Seriously man. I’m so disappointed. I really liked Kellie,’ I said to Shawn.
‘Okay but no guarantees on what he’ll say. Keep in mind, it’s just the fucking Internet she sounds like a complete cunt by the way,’ he laughed. I cringed when I heard that word. I stared off into space trying to figure out why someone that seemed so normal before would suddenly act so strange.
‘Bruce, can you take a look at this woman’s equipment for me? So far I’ve found Stealth Genie on her cell and on her tablet, both Android, OS is KitKat on both. I can’t seem to find any evidence of a Keylogger on her laptop. I need you to track this down, whoever has offloaded these apps to stalk her they’ve broken federal laws here. We had a crackdown on this issue a few months ago. This stuff is still floating around on the open market. I want to know who is dispensing it. I believe she may also have an RAT on her machine,’ I said over the phone.
‘Sure, I’ll drop by and pick it up. Have you tried disconnecting the wireless adapter first? Often with RAT’s it’s the only way to disinfect it and track it down. If it’s on, it’s still connecting. WAIT! If it is that, don’t touch it! Leave it as it is. Frank gimme ten minutes, I’ll meet you in the clean room on the 4th floor, bring her stuff with you,’ Bruce said and hung up the phone.
My alarm went off at 7:00AM. I sat up and stared at my where mobile would have been on my nightstand. I still hadn’t got it back from the FBI. I was instructed not to tell anyone about this, so I hadn’t. I went downstairs and grabbed a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, Shawn was already sitting there with his tablet, giggling away while eating his Coco Puffs. I ignored him. I heard the phone ring and answered, it was Frank.
‘Who is it? Tell them it’s too damn early!’ Shawn laughed.
‘Kellie, I need you to listen carefully to me, after you get off the phone with me I want you to walk to the front door. Say you’re going to pick up the mail to Shawn,’ Frank said.
‘But how did you know …?’ I asked confused.
‘Just do what I say and do it as calmly as possible,’ Frank quickly interrupted me before I could finish asking him how he knew Shawn’s name.
‘The FBI is outside and we’re about to raid your residence. Your roommate is running a computer fraud ring out of this house. He’s been the one sending you the offensive messages, he’s the user handle ManInTheMiddle. Just say: Okay, see you soon, hang up and come outside, we want to keep you as safe as possible,’ Frank instructed me.
‘Okay, see you soon!’ Nervously I turned off the cordless phone.
‘Uh, Shawn just going to grab the mail be right back,’ I said as I put the phone back in the cradle. I didn’t know whether to cry or scream, perhaps both.
I moved quickly towards the front door and took a deep breath and opened it. On the lawn there was twenty officers with four unmarked white van’s parked in the driveway and on the road, he motioned for me to come to him. I hurried down the steps and moved behind the van parked further down the road. Officers quickly ran up the steps and entered the house. they were screaming, ‘Muthafucka, down on your knees! DROP THE BOWL OF CEREAL! Get the fuck down! Got any weapons?’ Twenty minutes later Shawn was being dragged out in zip-tie handcuffs and officers were carrying his computer equipment out the door.
‘It wasn’t him sending you those texts, Leandro I mean, it was Shawn intercepting those communications, we’ve spoken to Leandro too. He’s a decent guy…’ Frank said.