Fiction | Suspense
Henry’s standard “don’t hurt my daughter” speech is often met by laughter from the guys his daughter, Vanessa, brings home. At first, he thought short nervous breaths not laughter escaped them, but he now knows Vanessa boyfriends don’t take his threats seriously.
Henry is a small man, standing five foot five and weighing one hundred and forty pounds. His higher-pitched voice is shaky, and his gaze is often fixed to the ground when he speaks. A cybersecurity engineer with a quiet, kind demeanor, Henry isn’t the stereotypical male figure other men fear, especially the bodybuilding jock types Vanessa dates.
Vanessa’s most recent infatuation, Brad, is a real specimen. Brad arrived at Sunday dinner wearing tall, black socks, Nike slide sandals, gym shorts, and a cut-off muscle shirt. The veins covering his arms look like garden hoses bringing a stream of blood to power his bulging biceps and forearms. Brad is a NCAA Division I collegiate wrestler, who recently qualified for the USA Olympic wrestling team. A half-full protein shaker bottle was glued to his hand as he slid his tongue down Henry’s daughter’s throat when she greeted him.
Brad stood next to Henry while he grilled burgers, and Vanessa and her mom prepared the dinner sides inside.
“You and Vanessa seem to be hanging out quite a bit,” Henry said as he flipped a burger.
“Yea, I guess so,” replied Brad.
“Look, uh,” began Henry. “I just wanted you to know that I love my daughter more than anything. And uh, I’d do anything for her. If you, uh, hurt her, in any way, you’ll be sorry that we ever met.”
“Yea, okay, man,” Brad chuckled, patted Henry on the back, and took a swing of his beer.
Henry filled with white-knuckled rage. His heart pounded in his chest while he gritted his teeth. Laughter was one thing, but the back pat was patronizing, like there was no world where Henry could hurt Brad. He pouted in silence the remainder of the night and drank beer while fantasizing about how he could destroy the muscled-up, scumbag sleeping with his daughter.
Over time, Henry let his hatred for Brad go because Vanessa seemed happy. Brad often surprised her with romantic dates and was encouraging Vanessa to finish her literature degree. According to her mother, Vanessa’s Instagram feed was slowing transforming. Her pictures included more food and landscapes, which replaced the daily shots of her ass posed on her bed. But, her happiness didn’t last long.
Henry arrived home early from a work trip to find Vanessa curled up on their couch, her body jerking lightly from uncontrollable sobs. Throwing his luggage aside, he went to the sofa to console her.
“Honey, what’s wrong? What happened?” He asked, gently rubbing her back. She continued to cry and didn’t answer him for several minutes before sitting up to wrap her arms around his neck.
“He cheated on me,” she wept. “With Claire!”
Claire was Vanessa’s best friend from college. They were roommates in the dorms and sophomore year before Vanessa moved back home.
“Oh, sweetheart. I am so sorry,” Henry consoled her.
“When I asked him why he did it, he told me that he was getting bored. And, and,” Vanessa inhaled, trying to catch her breath between sobs.
“And what?” Pried Henry.
“And that he wasn’t attracted to me anymore. He said I was crazy and obsessed with him,” blubbered Vanessa.
The white-knuckled rage Henry once felt for Brad returned. How could Brad be so cruel to his little girl? “That’s not true, Vanessa. He was just trying to hurt you. He doesn’t deserve for you to cry over him.”
The fantasies returned as Henry held Vanessa in his arms, her tears and snot soaking his shirt. He pictured Brad’s shocked face if he opened the door to his apartment and found Henry standing there, a gun pointed at him. The scream he’d let out before Henry rammed him with his pickup truck brought a smirk to Henry’s face. But thinking about the real way Henry would destroy Brad turned his rage into excitement.
That night after his girls were fast asleep, Henry turned on the lights to his home computer lab. Henry’s lab was his sanctuary. The humming of computer fans put him at ease as he melted into his chair and powered on his dual monitors. Henry created his lab for performing external penetration testing for clients, a form of ethical hacking where he tests the security posture of large corporations. He’s also a prominent security researcher. Henry uses his spare time to find and report security vulnerabilities to corporations who have bug bounty programs. But, sometimes, he uses his equipment to blur ethical lines, like tonight.
Henry may not have the body type other men fear. But he had something far more powerful: cybersecurity skills.
After searching the public domain for several minutes, Henry found Brad’s personal email address and began drafting an email. The title of the email read “Free Wrestling Diet Cookbook,” and the email address was spoofed to impersonate an email coming from Amazon. Henry found and downloaded a wrestling cookbook and embedded a virus into it before attaching it to the email. If Brad opened the PDF, the virus would automatically execute, granting Henry full control of Brad’s computer remotely. Henry sent the email, powered down his computer, and fell asleep with a smile spread across his face.
The following night after dinner, Henry’s heart jumped with excitement when he learned Brad fell for the phishing email. He quickly accessed Brad’s machine, disabled the camera LED light, and turned the camera on to covertly monitor when Brad was away from the computer. Then, he started executing his plan when Brad wouldn’t see him take control of the machine.
He logged into Brad’s email account and deleted the phishing email he sent Brad the night before. Henry changed the email settings to send all incoming emails to a new folder titled Archived1 because if Brad saw incoming the email messages, he might notice something was wrong with his account or computer, which would spoil Henry’s plan.
Over the next several weeks, Henry littered the Internet with distasteful comments on public forums using accounts Henry created for Brad, painting Brad as a person who doesn’t support women’s rights. He created dating app profiles under Brad’s email address and interacted with matches. He sent the girls demoralizing messages, illustrating what he wanted them to do sexually for him, stating they were only there to please him. It saddened Henry when a few of the girls were into this tactic. After two weeks, Henry had enough evidence to paint Brad as an anti-feminist, womanizer.
But Henry didn’t stop there, knowing it would take a lot more to ruin Brad’s reputation. He bought several pre-paid Visa gift cards and loaded them into a PayPal account he created under Brad’s name and email address. He then ordered a variety of anabolic steroids and diuretics and shipped to Brad’s home address. He posted questions on steroid and bodybuilding forums, asking how to hide the drugs from showing up in urinalysis.
Once Henry had all the evidence he needed, he executed the final phase of his plan. First, he removed all evidence Brad could use to prove someone tampered with his email account. The emails were moved back into Brad’s inbox, and Henry removed the email rules. Then, he logged into Brad’s various social media accounts, posted a confession letter, and a link to screenshots of all the evidence.
To All of My Friends, Family, and Fans: I can no longer live a lie and continue to act like I’m a good person. The guilt and the constant fear that someone will discover who I am is eating away at me. This is why I’ve decided to write this letter and tell you who I really am. I’m not the good old boy the media or I try to make you think I am. I treat women like shit, always using their bodies for my own amusement, and trolling them on social media. Don’t believe me? Look at my the comments I’ve left on public forums, and the pictures of conversations with women I’ve posted along with this letter. I don’t know why I act this way. I guess the fame sort of got to my head, and I started thinking every girl wanted me. But the truth is, I don’t deserve my fame. I’m a fraud. I cheat. I’ve been using steroids to get ahead for years, and I can’t stop. The pressure is just too much. I’ve gotten away with it so far, but I know eventually they’ll catch me. I’ll slip up and fail a UA. Don’t believe me? I’ve linked to proof of what I’ve ordered lately and comments on forums asking how to hide them. I don’t deserve to be an Olympian. I don’t deserve my sponsorships. I don’t deserve anything I have. I’m so sorry to disappoint everyone, but I have to share the truth so I can be a better person. Please forgive me.
The letter didn’t sound like Brad, but the Internet doesn’t care. It went viral. Brad’s scandal made headlines at all major news stations. Brad’s wrestling career was in jeopardy with the NCAA and the Olympic World Anti-Doping Agency investigating his alleged steroid use. Sponsors were pulling their endorsements. The Internet was roasting him for his insensitive comments towards women, calling him a predator and misogynist. Brad was receiving all of the pain and suffering Henry had promised him the day they met.
Henry felt a sliver of remorse while watching a video Brad posted on YouTube. Brad blubbered, clearly distraught and exhausted, trying to explain that he was framed, hacked, and didn’t do any of the things the post claimed. Henry’s guilt vanished when he noticed a comment left on the video from user @Vanessa2008 that read: Brad cheated on me with my best friend. Karma’s a bitch.
Joy continuously flowed from Vanessa since Brad’s scandal. Henry often heard her humming tunes in the kitchen or laughing in her bedroom, a pleasant replacement of the faucet of tears.
Several days after Brad’s post went viral, Henry accessed Brad’s machine for the last time. Brad was sitting in front of the screen, red-eyed and dirty like he hadn’t bathed or slept in days, and he was reading and responding to social media comments. Brad needed to know why this was happening to him and understand there are consequences for his actions. Henry executed a script, causing a pop-up banner to appear that said: I WARNED YOU THAT YOU’D BE SORRY WE EVER MET IF YOU HURT MY DAUGHTER. YOU SHOULD HAVE TAKEN ME SERIOUSLY.
Brad’s eye widened, and he straightened in his chair, shocked by the message. Henry smiled, chuckling to himself, then executed a command to wipe Brad’s computer.
© 2020-2021 Alexys Carlton. All Rights Reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.