The case of Richard Watterson

By NarrRolo 
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• Latest update: 21 September. Next update: 5 October. (Submissions welcome.)

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Prologue

For the fifth time tonight Lowell Morgan checked his rear view and sighed in relief when all that reflected back was empty winding road.

He used to hate this drive home because of that.

The 45-minute stretch between work and the I-70 freeway was a lonely isolated one. Once a railway line, the pavement wove side to side along a deep river to the left and high rocky cliffs to the right.

It was rare to see many cars during the day, peak rush hour in the morning was ten cars coming or going. At night, he might as well be the last man on earth.

Maybe he’d be following a fellow coworker or vice versa, but for the most part he was alone after work.

Such was the pains and rigors of the position of head scientist at Blackhawk Laboratory.

Considering the pay, state of the art equipment to work with, the funding, and the prestige that came with signing with one of the best pharmaceutical companies in the world, working on cures to cancer and diabetes and so much world changing stuff. Lowell would’ve sworn up and down to drive this road a million times for the job, no matter how much he disliked it.

Until two weeks ago.

Until he saw that data.

Now the road was a soothing comfort to the growing paranoia that had followed ever since. At least, if a car was tailing him he would notice it here. We wasn’t sure about in the city proper or I-70 but at least this bit of road offered a sense of certainty.

Certainty… He drummed his fingers on the wheel, rolling that word over and over in his head. That was a term that had longs since flown ever since that night.

It had been an evening like any other. Another tail end of a long work day that had left him no more tired than usual. Looking back, he still didn’t know what compelled him to let his assistant and other staff go for the night while he finished up compiling the numbers from the latest experiments. It was a job that usually went well past midnight and no one would’ve blamed him if he’d pulled rank and left.

It was an act of kindness that led to him seeing something he knew he shouldn’t.

Still, what caused the glitch in the servers? He didn’t know. The running theory, when he gave the tiny issue any serious thought, was the calculation software the lab used suffered a catastrophic error that managed to bypass an unholy number of security clearances.

The horror that lanced through his mind when he thought an entire day’s worth of work was gone seemed so…small now. Especially comparted with what he felt afterward.

No matter how it happened, it did and he was shown, document by damning document and minute after minute of footage what exactly his research and the entire Blackhawk facility was going towards.

The insanity of it…

Now, here he was. A day or two away from blowing the whistle on something no one would believe. Hell, he wouldn’t have believed it without evidence.

Which was why he got as much of it as he could in the time he had and prepared his escape. Today was his last day at Blackhawk. It was sent ahead yesterday and his plane ticket to Alaska was in the glovebox. Roundtrip of course, just in case. He’d even disguised the parcel so it wouldn’t be noticed.

Lowell put his foot down and his Audi jumped up the pace, he doubted he’d ever see this road again. The last pattern of normalcy in his life would be gone. When he got home, he planned to pack lightly and leave through the backdoor. He’d call for a taxi at Mrs. Robinson’s house, the old woman was kindly, didn’t ask too many questions and would be happy to let him use her phone. He couldn’t use his cell or the landline. From there it would be a ride to DIA then a flight to Alaska. After that, he’d use the money he’d withdrawn from his savings little by little over the last two weeks to by a ship or yacht of some kind, stock it up with previsions and sail to international waters. Russia was a good option but maybe he could instead make his way to Mexico, somewhere were extradition would be difficult because when those behind Blackhawk found out he was gone, something that wouldn’t take long considering his absence would be noted, and once they figured out what he’d stolen away with him, they would smear his name with something criminal.

Something, anything that would certainly be made out of whole cloth and pinned on the name of Lowell Morgan like a brace of medals on his chest. He could almost picture it, hear the FOX News and MSNBC anchors speaking in that mock shocked outrage that was always always is gone by the time the next segment is up.

‘Confirmed evidence has come in that missing scientist, Lowell Morgan, was embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Blackhawk’s cancer research division.’

Cue the pause that every anchor seemed to know how to do in order to let that sink in to the viewer, before going to the opinions of a panel of handpicked experts and Pharm reps, none of whom would take the moment to ask the question of how a head scientist with no direct access to lab funds and no accounting skills to speak of managed to do it.

Thus the United States of America, God bless it, would have probably cause to demand his arrest from any allied nations with an extradition treaty. And Blackhawk would certainly pull some strings to get him in a room alone.

His mind inevitably began to wander to his brother then to his wife and their kids…they’d be left wondering what happened to him. Hounded by reporters and maybe Blackhawk PR reps and lawyers, they might think whatever he was accused of was true. That good ol’ uncle Morgan was a criminal on the run and he wouldn’t be able to defend himself. Any phone call, text or letter, could be tracked.

If he didn’t know his circumstances were so dire, that the consequences for his family would be dire if they even had an idea he was leaving, he might have felt much more depressed by the fact he wouldn’t be saying good bye.

He turned the wheel, the curve of the road banking slightly.

But so much more was at risk than just himself and his ‘good’ name. So much more. He sped the car up even more. The sooner he got home, the sooner he’d be gone, the sooner Blackhawk could be taken down. A quick glance as the clock on the dash, in fifteen more minutes he’d be merging to the I-70 then he’d be—

Lowell never saw what hit him nor did he get the chance to find out. The boulder that fell from the cliff, a chunk of rock roughly the size of a Transit van, smashed into the right front panel and the driver’s side door with enough energy between the rock and the speed of the opposing car to snap the 47-year old’s neck like a twig. Though, even if he hadn’t been killed on impact, the mass of the boulder caved in the vehicle like cardboard.

In a shower of sparks and chorus of screeching metal and squealing tires, the car spun off the road like a kicked toy and sending a cloud of dirt into the air. The momentum carried both objects through the aged and rusted guardrail, barely slowing as it tumbled into the river with a splash.

Landing rear first, the halogen headlights burned bright blue in the night, the beam swaying like a searching spotlight as the current rocked it. Soon though the car sank, the lights flickering out like a guttering candle caught in the wind as the water reached the battery.

The car would be found the next day by a road maintenance crew, stopping to examine the crushed guardrail and the scattered bits of plastic and metal, the tell-tale front hood of an Audi would be noticed sticking above the rushing water like a tiny manmade island. The police would be called and after nearly a month of investigation, it would be ruled as an accident.

No one else thought otherwise. No one would’ve considered the improbable idea the rock that Lowell Morgan’s life had been precisely aimed for that point of impact. Even it had been considered possible, any reasonable detective would’ve immediately balked at the claim it had been pushed, not by any equipment that could’ve been tracked but by bare hands.

The only one who certainly would’ve believed without a shadow of doubt in his mind was already buried in Fairmount Cemetery by his extended family, the Wattersons.


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