Don't Be A Richard

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A cautionary tale of letting sleeping tablets lie.

Submitted: April 13, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 13, 2012



"BardShark is an odd name for someone to call their tablet," Richard said to no one in particular.

He sat at his kitchen table congratulating himself on his wonderful luck. Yes, it had been traumatic on the plane to be next to the man who had the heart attack. Yes, his day became worse because the delay caused by his fellow passenger's inconsiderate timing of his passing made him miss his connecting flight in Houston. Yes, he arrived at his Brooklyn home too late to catch the Knicks game on TV. Since he missed his favorite cagers play against the Heat, he felt no twinge of conscience for taking the dead man's computer tablet.

Just karma paying me back for my inconvenience, Richard thought. It's not like the corpse is going to need it anymore.

In the first hour with his new prize Richard had downloaded all of the top ten gaming apps from the tablet's on-line market. He was mildly amused to see that the previous owner had quite a large amount of store credits left. Richard thought it would be a mighty shame to let all that money go to waste since not only do dead men tell no tales, they don't launch red birds at green pigs either.

Moving into the books section, Richard began to purchase the entire collection, all forty-four books, of his favorite author who specialized in tales of the Old West. He had only read the first fifteen books - all taken out from the library and only some of them returned - so he was truly excited to have the whole set in electronic form.

Richard began to shop on-line using the wi-fi from his neighbor's apartment because he realized he was going to need an adapter and charging cord for his tablet. When Richard's plane had to make an emergency landing in Santa Fe due to the medical emergency of his expiring seatmate, all of the passengers were forced to deplane while the paramedics attempted to revive the man. It was only when he was waiting in the terminal in New Mexico's capital that he noticed the extra weight in his backpack. He had opened up his carry-on item that had he had placed under the seat in front of him and found the tablet. The tablet was by itself and was not in its carrying case. Richard knew the tablet belonged to the man next to him, the deceased, because he had seen his row-mate in the center seat typing away furiously at the electronic device before he slumped over. It was the gentleman in the window seat who knew what was happening to the stricken man and summoned the flight attendant.

That surprise find of the tablet, along with the fact that he had a whole row to himself on the flight to Houston once a new plane (a plane that did not have a dead body on it) arrived, also brightened his mood in missing the Knicks game.

What else does BardShark have to offer me?, Richard gleefully thought.

A folder icon with the unassuming label "Settings" caught Richard's eyes. He tapped on the icon twice to activate it. Instead of the folder's contents, he was confronted with an image of a numeric keypad and the request to "Enter Passcode".

Richard cracked his knuckles like a B-movie safecracker as he relished the challenge of hacking into another person's tablet.

Maybe this guy had no imagination, Richard thought as he entered in 1-2-3-4.

"Invalid Passcode. 2 Tries Remaining."

Maybe he liked a predictable pattern, Richard surmised as he entered 2-4-6-8.

"Invalid Passcode. 1 Tries Remaining."

Richard assumed that the device would lock him out for a minute or two if he guessed wrong one more time and he wasn't about to let a stupid hunk of plastic and wiring thwart him. He clicked at digits randomly and the device displayed text of "Invalid Passcode. Unauthorized Entry".

The numeric keypad disappeared and the entire screen of the tablet morphed into a swirling pattern of black and white lines.

Wow...such...a...pretty...display...How...hypn... Richard thoughts trailed off as he stared into the display and the rest of his apartment melted away.


Richard woke up with a start blinking furiously into the bright fluorescent lights that he was staring up into. He looked around and save two blank blindingly white walls and a mirrored wall facing him, he found himself staring into the face of a middle-aged man wearing thick glasses, a loud floral Hawaiian shirt, and khaki pants. He was seated in front of Richard and there was a table off to the man's right with a black satchel on it.

"Good evening, Mr. Sachsung. I'll start off my questioning politely and ask who do you work for."

"Where the hell am I?" Richard asked groggily. He tried to rise up from the chair he found himself in, but his legs refused to answer his brain's commands. He looked to his right and saw four IV bottles on a rack with their tubes all feeding into a main tube that was inserted into this right arm.

"I don't believe you have answered my question correctly. Please bear in mind that a good friend of mine and a valued colleague to our firm is dead so I am not in a good mood. This is the last time I will ask you in a courteous manner, Mr. Sachsung, so please consider your next words wisely. Who hired you to kill the man you knew as Trevor Carlton?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Richard said.

The man in the loud shirt leaned over to Richard's right and turned a valve clockwise on one of the feeder tubes.

Richard's body exploded in pain three seconds later. His screams filled the room until the man turned the valve counter-clockwise.

Richard barely comprehended what the man said next. "Now, Mr. Sachsung, you were in the throes of a drug-induced pain event. This is probably why you didn't notice your body did not jerk or spasm despite the fact that you were undergoing an 8 on the Wong-Bakes FACES Pain Scale. This is because this first IV tube we're feeding you contains a drug that has paralyzed you from the neck down."

Ragged breathing was the only response Richard could muster.

"Don't get up," the man continued as he stood up and paced around the room. "Let me be the proper gentleman and answer your question since you don't seem in the answer mine."

"Where you are is of little importance to you in your current situation, but you are currently located at roughly forty-one degrees north and seventy-three degrees west somewhere between the fourth and seventh floors of a non-descript commercial building in an average industrial park. You are facing east. You are here because you were found to be in the possession of the electronic tablet of my friend. Its homing beacon and debilitating counter-measures were activated by your crude and rather unprofessional attempts to hack into it."

"The...tablet...," Richard said in between gasps. "It's not mine."

"Yes, I'm sure that's the story you would like us to believe."

The man reached into the satchel and brought out the tablet.

"Interesting to note that the last message my colleague tapped into this tablet before his unfortunate demise was this..."

The man turned the tablet around and brought it right up to Richard's face so that he could see clearly the words, "mAN NXT 2 MEE POISNED Me"

"But there was another man next to him in the window seat," Richard explained.

"No, sorry, that is incorrect. The passenger list on your flight stated that the person in 10A was one Selena Monterrey and that name is definitely of the female variety. As you know, with the current post-9/11 security procedures, it would be quite difficult for a man to board a plane with a boarding pass with a female name."

The man walked over to Richard's right and placed his hand on the pain valve and said, "And there is the unmistakable fact that you were the one in possession of the tablet. So, I will ask you again..."

"WAIT!" Richard screamed as his mind tried to comes to grips with his situation. "What if the other person passed through security as a woman but then disguised herself as a man?"

"Interesting theory. How would that have happened?" The man took his hand away from the valve.

"Well," Richard's mind raced to create something plausible, "after going through the metal detectors, she could have ducked into a bathroom and donned her man's disguise."

"Don't you think a man coming out of the woman's bathroom would attract suspicion?"

"Not if it was the other way around. Men wouldn't be too upset if a woman entered their bathroom. Besides, men's johns are usually less crowded so she could have that fact to make her switch."

"Curious," the man said taking his place back in the chair facing Richard. "Go on."

"Come to think of it," Richard continued, "the guy in the window seat did seem a bit effeminate and smelled kind of perfumey when he passed by the few times coming in and out of his seat."

"How many times did he make you move?"

Richard closed his eyes to focus his memory. "Once was right before we took off because I arrived at my seat first and he had to squeeze by both me and your friend. There was a second and third time when he left and came right back after they turned off the seat belt sign. The fourth time was a few minutes before your friend had his heart attack."

"My late friend did not die of a natural heart attack. He suffered a fatal neurological reaction to a compound administered directly to his skin."

Richard tried to think back to the moments right before the man next to him collapsed.

"When the guy got up for the fourth time to use the bathroom, right as he was squeezing by your friend, he sort of tripped and fell on him a little bit. He blamed the turbulence, but there didn't seem to be any. The man left and then your friend starting complaining of dizziness. I didn't pay him much heed. I just thought he didn't like flying. But then he starting convulsing and doubling over. Maybe that's when he dropped his tablet under my seat. I'm not sure, because that's when the guy...the woman...the person in the window seat came over and starting hollering for the flight attendant."

"Interesting," the man said. "Did the man...or woman...get back on the plane with you and everyone else in Santa Fe?"

"I don't know," Richard answered. "After we landed and after the paramedics carted your friend away from the plane, someone from the cockpit made an announcement that we all had to deplane and that another flight would be made available to us. Now that I think about it, the guy in the window seat left with the paramedics. I thought that was odd, but then he, or she, also gathered up his, or her, carry-on luggage before catching up to the gurney."

"Wait..." Richard's mind now stumbled to put the pieces together. "The guy in the window seat didn't bring on any carry-on luggage. I remembered thinking how bizarre it was that someone flying today, with all the luggage fees, would be able to fly without carry-on and how glad I was that he didn't spend the first five minutes of our time together trying to cram a trunk into the overhead bin."

The giddiness of perhaps cracking this case for the man in the loud shirt pushed aside the knot of fear that had been squirming in Richard's stomach since he awoke.

"So, our mystery female assassin dressed as a man, poisons my colleague on a cross-country flight, then walks off the plane with his bag thinking it has the tablet, but unknown to her, he has managed to stash the device with my firm's valuable information in your bag." The man stared intently at Richard. "Did I get that about right?"

Richard nodded eagerly. "That's how it could it happened."

The man looked up and said to the ceiling, "How's that sound to you, Carl?" 

Richard heard a click as the intercom system in the room came on and a tinny voice said, "Occam's Razor, sir."

"Thanks, Carl, that's what I thought, too," the man said as he stood up and positioned himself behind the rack with the IV bottles.

Richard struggled to overcome his growing panic as he asked, "What's a razor got to do with anything?"

"Mr. Sachsung," the man started, "Occam's Razor is the principle that states that when faced with competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions offers the simplest, and most often the correct, explanation."

The man's hand hovered over the valve of the third IV bottle.

"You, Mr. Sachsung, are asking us to believe that there exists in the world a killer with two X chromosomes who can pass convincingly enough for a man in disguise to fool airport security. In addition, this lethal female has the intelligence and ability to administer a lethal toxin simply by touching her victim, but this femme fatale did not have the smarts to ascertain that her quarry, the electronic tablet containing the data she was hired to acquire, was no longer with my friend, but instead had been squirreled away in your bag. That, my dear Mr. Sachsung, is a great many assumptions to make."

The man's hand now gripped the handle controlling the flow of the third tube.

"But that's what happened!" Richard screamed.

"Yet when faced with the experience of discovering a tablet that was not yours in your bag, you kept it. I would say that anyone else in your shoes would have done something to return the tablet to its owner or turn it in to the airline or to the Lost and Found department at the airport or to do something other than to rack up a hefty bill buying games and books."

The man began to slowly turn the handle clockwise.

"Mr. Sachsung, the unmistakable facts are you were sitting next to the dead man. You were found in possession of the tablet. You could have let a sleeping tablet lie, but you didn't which leads me to believe you meant to keep the tablet for whatever purpose you were paid to acquire it."

The man leaned in towards Mr. Sachsung and hissed into his ear, "This third vial is particularly nasty. Before its contents hit your system, I will ask you again who you work for."

Richard's head slumped. "I don't work for anyone."

"Wrong answer. I guess we get to do this the fun way." The man turned the handle all the way.

Richard's head began to swim. The floor seemed to come alive with thousands of maggots all crawling towards and up his feet. He looked up and tried to scream, but the walls had began to sprout orange and purple flowers with sharp gnashing teeth. He looked over to the man, but all he saw was a tower of bright red flame with a set of blue lips.

Right before the ragged edges of insanity overtook Richard, the tower spoke, "You're just like one of those books starring Jane and Spot, Mr. Sachsung."

"See Dick steal," the tower of flame morphed into a blue cactus.

"See Dick disappear," the cactus said changing into a giant lemur with an eye patch.

"Scream, Dick, scream," the lemur exploded into thousands of pink and green fingernails.

As no scream at all came out of his stretched mouth, the last thing he heard was a disembodied voice say, "It should be obvious here, sir, that the moral of this story is, 'Don't be a Richard'."

© Copyright 2018 Sinpolaris. All rights reserved.

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