Wayne Dancer had the uncanny ability to know what people were thinking.
This gift (or curse, depending on how you look at it) became apparent when Wayne was in second grade and asked his teacher why she was always thinking about someone named Dennis? This was an awkward question, because her husband’s name was Bob. She tried to cover up his accuracy at reading her thoughts by laughing at him, and complimenting him on his imagination. She never realized he saw straight through her feeble efforts.
One of the strange things, and there were many, was that he didn’t always have the ability to hear people’s thoughts. It usually came unexpectedly, and went away after a short period of time. Another bizarre aspect to his mind-reading ability was it only happened when he was in school. He was never able to read his parents, or other family members, minds.
The one thing he did learn was not to talk about his strange ability. At first, out of fear people would think he was crazy. But as he got older it dawned on him there were advantages to reading people’s random thoughts. Especially during tests. It helped him get a passing grade more than once.
When he became a freshman his interest in girls was a driving force, powered by raging hormones, and a healthy imagination. He wasn’t a very social person and only had a few friends, that like him, were on the fringes of the high school social set. They existed in a gray area between the popular kids and the outcasts. They could be seen at school events like football games, but never participated in sports.
The new school janitor, Paul Kettles, put a sign out in front of the girl’s bathroom warning people he was inside cleaning. He performed this duty while most kids were in class to avoid embarrassing incidents.
On this day however, he was installing a hidden camera with split views of stalls and the sink area. He done this before at all three of his prior janitorial jobs, in three different states. He never stayed too long, always disappearing before any kind of investigation was launched. His collection of teen girl porn was his pride and joy. He often traded videos with other perverts online, who always praised the quality of his work.
He was finished before the bell rang. Students poured out of their classes into the hallways on campus. Wayne was walking with two friends, a boy and a girl, as they passed the janitor who picked up the sign outside of the girls bathroom, and was wheeling his mop bucket to the storage room, when he heard something in his head that troubled him.
“I wonder what she’ll look like without her pants? I can’t wait to check the camera tomorrow.”
Those words rolled around Wayne’s head like rocks, slamming from one side to the other with jarring implications. He looked back at the janitor who was now at the end of the hallway and unlocking a door. It was harder than usual to stay focused in his English class as his thoughts kept turning back to what he heard.
“What are the names of the two families in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Wayne?” his teacher, Mr. Beltramo, asked.
He struggled with the answer and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “The Hamiltons and the Turners,” he answered hopefully.
“Half right. the Hamiltons and the Trasks. You better pay closer attention young man, there will be a test on this,” his teacher warned.
It was the last class of the day for Wayne, who walked home with his buddy Dewey. He thought about telling Dewey what he suspected, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. The last thing he wanted was for his friend to think he was crazy or something.
The next day at school Wayne saw the janitor pushing a cleaning cart of supplies in the hallway and he slowed down, hoping to hear what he was thinking. He only made out one word in passing, camera.
Logical deduction told Wayne that the janitor had planted a hidden camera in the girl’s bathroom. His problem was how could he expose what he did without an explanation of how he knew about it? It was a thorny issue, but he knew he had to take some action. He couldn’t just stand by and let the pervert peek at his classmates.
Later that day at lunch he approached a girl he knew since grade school. They were good friends. Not lovers. She was an honor student, involved in student government, and who sometimes worked in the front office as part of a work experience program. Her name was Linda Goleta.
“Working in the office today?” Wayne asked conversationally, as they ate their lunch in the freshman quad.
“I am. Right after lunch actually,” she replied.
“Would you do me a favor?
“Sure. What is it?”
“I know this is going to sound odd, but could you check the new janitor’s personnel file and see where he worked before coming here?”
“What on earth for?”
“I can’t tell you why right now, but I’ll explain everything later. Please. Trust me. You don’t have to take anything. Just write down the names of his prior employers.”
“If anyone else asked me to do that, I’d tell them to take a hike. But since it’s you…I’ll see what I can do,” she said with a smile.
The next day Wayne saw Linda in their math class. She passed him a piece of folded up paper without a word, as they took their seats. The class seemed like it went on forever for Wayne, who was eager to carry out the next part of his plan.
During study hour at the school library he went through the section with maps and phone books for all 50 states. He used the information Linda provided to track down the high schools the janitor worked at. Instead of calling the first high school he looked up, he got the phone number of the local sheriff’s office. He had to call back twice before he got to talk with someone, a bored information officer.
Wayne told her that he was a reporter for his towns local newspaper, The Altooni Monitor, and he wanted to know if she had any peeping tom scandals that might have happened in the local high school in the last five years? He was put on hold for nearly ten minutes before the officer called back and said there were no cases like that in the high school, or anywhere else in town.
It took the third, and final call before he hit paydirt. A detective took his call and said he had a cold case involving a peeping tom at their high school. Wayne asked the detective not to reveal him as a tipster because he thought he knew a man that was doing that right now in his high school. He gave the detective the information – Paul Kettles employment record – with a request that he wouldn’t have to be involved in the bust. The detective was eager to solve his cold case and catch the perp, agreeing to Wayne’s conditions.
It took a week before anything happened. Wayne was in his Science class when students heard a loud popping sound. The teacher told them to get on the ground under their desks. They waited for a long time until someone came into the classroom and said everything was all right. Class was dismissed.
Like the other students, Wayne stopped to stare at the yellow tape stretched out around a small perimeter in front of the storage room. There were still cops and plain clothes detectives milling around. The word was a peeping tom had a camera in the girl’s bathroom and got caught by authorities.
As Wayne stood there staring, Linda came up alongside of him.
“I don’t even want to know how you knew about this,” she whispered in his ear.
As It Stands, silent heroes are still heroes, even if no one knows who they are.