tagLoving WivesIngrams & Assoc 5: Personality Flaws Ch. 03

Ingrams & Assoc 5: Personality Flaws Ch. 03


Eric left around 3am. April drifted off with a small smile on her face, after setting her phone alarm to get her up in time so she could shower, dress, and be in her little convertible and back up to the Pub ready to be picked up by Rachael for their weekend getaway.

As it was, she barely made it. The traffic out of London was heavier than she imagined, and she got back to the pub just in time to dump her bags, grab a backpack she'd already stuffed with clothes, transfer her toiletries, hit the bath room and be down stairs again ready to be picked up. While she waited, she made her daily phone call and chatted with Dan Boutrous, who indicated there was no news about Lee. He still hadn't woken up from whatever state he was in.

Rachael was right on time, and although April was yawning a lot, she chatted during the whole drive down to Kent. They went via the M25, taking the Dartford Crossing, and then down the A2, which became the M2, taking them all the way to Canterbury.

Rachael kept up her narration the whole way. April had managed to persuade Rachael to get something to eat at the South Mimms services off the M25, and she had a large diet coke, to get herself awake, which worked wonders. She spent the whole time just staring out of the window, and listening to Rachael talk about where they were and her experiences there. It washed over her like a warm blanket, and she counted herself lucky to be there. This was real England, not the tourist trap she'd encountered so far.

Canterbury was a dream. Some cobblestone streets, close to the Cathedral. Rachael took her through it - she mentioned that as a kid, she did tours of it. She saw where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered, where the knights stayed in Palace Street before setting off to kill him, after the king had famously declared without thinking, "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?"

She wandered through the town, with Rachael as her guide, pointing out the places she'd known as a girl. They had lunch and a pint each at the Seven Stars Pub, and a drink later at the pub by the river, The Millers Arms. April discovered a small shop in the shadow of the entrance to the Cathedral that sold handmade pottery, made on the premises, and she actually bought an entire dinner plate and presentation set, and then had the proprietor package it and ship it to her home in Washington. That would be something unique, she noted.

In the afternoon, they drove out to Sturry, where she was shown the old town hall, and the ducking stool there. Rachael explained that they had one in Canterbury too, and it was used to teach nagging wives a lesson. April was aghast at how narrow the roads were around there, barely wide enough for one car, yet bi-directional. She gasped in fear at the speed at which Rachael's driver took them.

She learned about Oast Houses, where the barley and hops for beer making were grown in Kent, and how during the 1930's and 40's, how it was a favorite holiday destination, where the less well-off would come from London for a working holiday, picking the hops and then storing them in the distinctive Oast houses, with the tall cone like roofs.

Then they stopped off in Herne Bay for the evening. This is where Rachael grew up, a small Victorian town, that was built up as a weekend getaway for the folks in London. It used to have a long pier - one of the three longest in the world, where the paddle steamers from London would tie up and discharge passengers. The pier, like the paddle steamers, was now long gone, but evidence of it survived. Herne Bay was next in line on the northern Kentish Coast, next to Whitstable, another town entering a renaissance. Whitstable was famous for the offshore oyster banks, and it was now a popular weekend destination for Londoners, exactly as it had been a hundred years earlier.

They stayed in a new flat, recently built, right on the edge of the sea, at the end of William Street. Rachael mentioned she owned it, and always would, as a way of keeping her ties to the town where she grew up.

They had a surprisingly good meal at an Iranian restaurant on the sea front, and wandered back, talking at length about what a good man actually was. Rachael postulated that a good man would stand by you, and support you, and while April agreed, she also stipulated a good man wouldn't tie you down. As long as you made it clear before you married he should support you in whatever it was you wanted to do. There was more than a little wine consumed, so there was much giggling as the girls walked back to the flat, looking out over the Thames Estuary, the moonlight reflecting off the water.

Right by where the flat was, Rachael stopped dead, next to a small café, called Macari's.

"I had my first job here, you know. I was fifteen. I worked the summer in there," she said, waving a little unsteadily at the café. "I could never work the ice cream machine. I could never stop it. People would come in to get a fifty pence ice cream and walk about with five quids worth because I could never stop the damn thing."

She dissolved into giggles, and then said, "And there used to be a pub 'round the corner. The Dolphin. I had my first grown up job there, as a barmaid, when I was eighteen. I used to watch so many people get pissed as a fart on Friday and Saturday nights. It was quite the education, don't you know."

There was a moment's silence as both women digested the conversation.

"I may have drunk a little bit too much," Rachael finished up, in a very serious and posh voice. And then she giggled some more.

"How can that be possible, Rach?" asked April, equally unstable. "We've only drunk two bottles?"

"Each," replied Rachael, wagging her finger at April.

They somehow made it back to the flat. April woke up in the spare bedroom with light pouring in since she hadn't drawn the curtains.

They spent the morning with Rachael showing April Reculver, explaining that the ruins there used to be a Roman church, and when it was built, it was a mile inland. Now, they had to use concrete to shore up the cliff the ruins stood on, to stop further erosion. She explained how beyond the ruins, where the land flattened, it used to be a sea, and how the ruins played a part in World War II, as practice for the bombers who dropped bombs in the Edersee and Mohne dams in Germany, blowing them out and drowning the munitions factories built underneath them. The events were made famous in the film 'The Dam Busters', with it's amazing bouncing bomb, a canister bomb designed to skip along waves, much like stones thrown by children that skip along wave tops.

It was a charming, if somewhat cold morning. The cold wind was coming in off the north sea, and they held off the chill with some hair of the dog at the local pub, The King Ethelbert. They chatted more - April briefly debated telling Rachael about Lee, but decided this wasn't the time. Rachael needed some time to herself, with the company of a friend. And she was certainly becoming that. April was amazed at herself. Finally, she had a friend who understood all of what she did - someone who was not part of Ingrams, but not only didn't judge her, but actively needed her skill set. She wasn't another therapist, like Maryanne Dubowski - not a professional. Just a friend.

The more April considered it, the more she had begun to realize how much she needed Rachael's friendship - as much as Rachael needed her right now. This weekend had sealed it - April hadn't delighted in the company of another woman who wasn't a target in years. Someone who wasn't a lover, or a lover wannabe. Just a friend, who knew all about her and accepted her anyway. It was sobering to realize how much of a void in her life there was in this area.

They wound up with Lunch at The Grove Ferry, a delightful little pub, where Rachael told April all about how the stone to build the Cathedral had come from France, all brought down on barges, down the river, which had been significantly wider than it was now.

April reveled in it. This was real history, thousands of years old. American History was basically "what happened last night", in comparison.

They drove back after lunch, stopping off at the Bluewater Shopping Centre. April immediately felt at home - this mall could be located in Washington, California, Chicago, any metropolitan American City. It was huge, full of bustling people and pretty much the archetype of an American mall.

Despite that, the two of them still managed to wander and end up with bags of purchases - a couple of new tops, three dresses, one a backless maxi dress, one a work dress and one a pretty sun dress from Dorothy Perkins. April was happy. She hadn't enjoyed a weekend like this in a long time.

April was dropped off at the pub late in the afternoon, where she spent the rest of the day taking a long, languorous shower, and catching up with the Ingrams offices, both in the US and in London.

The following week was a heavy one in term of PA work for April. Rachael was attending a symposium in London from Wednesday til Friday, and there was a lot of organizing for the talk she was giving, plus meeting arrangements and the rest.

Once Rachael was on her way to London on Wednesday, April took off early and headed to London herself, to meet with Mark and George, at the clinic where Lee had been admitted. They had mentioned on the morning call that there was news, and they all needed to be there to talk to the specialist later that day.

She walked into the waiting room at the clinic at four thirty on the dot, to find Mark and George already there. She nodded at George, and said to Mark, "Am I late?"

"Nah, he's just on his way out apparently."

As he said it, the door opened, and the specialist came out. It wasn't the man they'd seen before, this was an older balding man, with a van dyke beard and a set of pince-nez glasses on his face, along with a fierce tan, suggesting a recent trip to the tropics, along with evidence of childhood acne that must have been quite severe at the time to still be in evidence this late in life.

He held a clipboard and looked around the waiting room, asking, "I'm looking for a Mark Scholtz. Is he here?"

Mark got up and waved and they all converged on the doctor.

"All of you for this fella? Popular guy. OK then, let's go to my office. I'm Doctor Searby, by the way"

The Doctor kept up a steady stream of conversation all the way to his office, without actually managing to say anything of importance at all. April and George exchanged a quick glance, trying to suppress a smile.

Once seated his office, Doctor Searby picked up an X-ray slide and stuck it in the back lit display and then turned to the trio and said, "Any of you know what an epileptic fit actually is?"

George and Mark looked blankly at each other, while April responded, "It's an electrical brain storm. Lots of misfiring of neurons, if I remember my basic brain biology class."

"Score one for the colonial," responded Searby, admiringly. "That's exactly right. It's basically a neurological problem. The wiring isn't quite up to snuff, and when certain wires are crossed, well, it shorts out. That's your fit. The way we scan for a fit is generally to wire a subject up to an EKG and then give them various triggers until they start a fit and then record what is going on in the brain, to observe if what we see conforms to a storm in the brain. What you are seeing here is a classic epileptic fit, recorded directly from Mr. Hicks' brain."

Everyone nodded.

"But here's the bit that I don't get, and none of the experts I've consulted with get either. This is the strangest epileptic fit I've ever seen. While the fit itself is entirely consistent with the heavier fits, and the recovery time after is within the upper bounds of what we've seen in the past... the triggers... well."

"Triggers, Doc?" asked George.

"Epileptic fits have triggers. Remember when I said the wires cross, causing a short? Well, something has to cause those wires to cross. The most famous cause is fast flashing lights. You've all seen epileptic fit warnings on movies and video games that have lights that flash past a certain frequency. There are other triggers too though - being too tired, too much alcohol, certain drugs - if you have structural issues in the brain there are usually some combination of stimulants that will cause it to malfunction.

"But our boy here," he said, gesturing at the x-ray, "he doesn't have any of the traditional triggers at all. When he's conscious, he's aware, we can talk to him, he can talk back just fine. We can get his name - actually, he gives us name, rank and serial number all the time - and details of his past history. He remembers his marriage, but the moment he is asked anything more recent, even as simple as 'what happened to you', boom, he fits.

"Now, that would suggest that this is a psychological fit. Psychological fits are a relatively recent thing in mental health. It's the idea you can have a fit from non-epileptic reasons. It's not about the wiring being bad, but you get the same effect from some kind of psychological trigger. But that's not what is going on here. A psychological fit doesn't have the same electrical activity in the brain, that we see on the scan. That's how you determine the difference in fact. What we have here is a classical epileptic fit, but triggered from what looks like a psychological trigger. And we've never seen that before. No one has. We are at a loss to understand what is going on here."

Everyone just sat there, stunned.

"And here's the kicker," announced Searby, dropping into his seat. "I think this is man-made."

"What?? How?" exclaimed Mark.

April just sat still, thinking furiously. She'd already deduced the point the doctor was about to make, and it all fit way too closely with what Rachael had been proposing.

"Look, it only happens when you ask him what happened to him. If you didn't want anyone to reveal what had happened to them recently, this is a surefire way. He never remains conscious enough to reveal anything."

"It's a bit...blatant, isn't it?" asked George. "I mean, not very subtle. It's a week in and here we are, discussing this like it's a real idea. It's not like it's hiding what it's doing?"

"True," replied Searby, picking up a desk toy of some magnets and pulling them apart and pushing them together. "But it's effective, you have to admit."

"What do you think, April?" asked Mark, turning to her.

"I think I'm starting to get a little scared about what is going on here. I think we have forgotten something we should talk about privately."

Mark looked enquiringly, and April just said, "Later."

Then she turned her attention to Searby and said, "So what's the prognosis, Doctor? Is there anything we can do about this? He can't live like this, having a fit every time he's asked what happened?"

"No," replied Searby, slowly, throwing the magnets down, and then giving her his attention. He crossed his fingers and laid his jaw on them, thinking.

"Honestly? I think if we can get into what caused this in the first place, maybe we could block it or remove it? We are starting to get into psychological issues here though, and I'm a neurologist. Don't get me wrong, this is fascinating, and I want to learn all I can about what's happened here, but there is a man suffering, and the entire point of the exercise is to get him healthy. Right now, we are just trying to get him to the point where he lasts more than an hour before he fits. As we extend out that amount of time, I dare say we'll get some insight into what happened, even if he can't answer questions directly. I think he needs to stay here for a bit, see what we can come up with."

April nodded and rolled her lips. "Ok, Mark, is that good? Can we pay for treatment here?"

Mark nodded back. "No problem. I'm sure Rachael will authorize it, given what it is."

Rachael. April winced. That situation was going to have to be addressed, and soon. She deserved to know. Maybe when she got back from her conference?

Mark got up, as did Searby, indicating that the conference was over.

"Thank you Doctor, for all you've done and told us about today. Please don't hesitate to bring in any other specialists you need as soon as you are ready. Keep us posted."

Everyone clasped hands and soon George, Mark and April were on their way out to their respective cars. Mark held up his hand before they split off and said, "April, you mentioned something back there, something we missed. What did you mean?"

"Well," said April, switching her handbag to the other shoulder, "Lee came from somewhere, ready programmed, so to speak. It's not like those two losers he was with did that to him. And it's obvious now that this is not just some repressed submissive desire on his part. Or maybe it is, but there's no way he got like that by himself. They mentioned that they had a visit somewhere before he was 'given to them'. Where was this? Who was it giving him to them? Who did this to him? They'd know - we need to get back out there and start pumping them a bit. Put the scare in them for a change."

"Good call April. George, can you and Dan get out there tomorrow? Pose as the cops or something? Get them to open up?"

"Sure can do, boss. A visit to the West Country would be nice! I'll talk to Dan when we get back to the office."

"Good. Anything else? No? Good. I need a pint. April? Fancy a swift half?"

April laughed and shook her head. "For once, I just want to go home and take another long shower and do nothing. First time in a while."

"OK, well offer is open any time. George... what about you...?"

April walked to her car, thinking hard, and looked up into actual sunshine, and decided to drive with the top down.

The next few days passed slowly. April found some busy work to do at work. She was very much in a 'hurry up and wait' situation. She was waiting for Rachael to get back. She was waiting to hear from George and Dan. She was waiting to hear from Doctor Searby. There was very little for her to do except PA work, and so that's what she did. She made her calls to Ingrams, twice a day, but it was basically just a check in call.

And then, on Friday afternoon, Rachael returned from her conference. She swept into the office like a force of nature. There was a power in her step - she didn't so much enter the office as invaded it.

"April. With me," she commanded, and then proceeded to spend almost an hour giving note after note of things to be done, based on interactions she had had at the conference. April was in awe of her memory, and of the energy she displayed.

Just before they were done for the day, April finally had the time to ask, as innocently as she could, "Good conference?"

Rachael suddenly stopped what she was doing - sorting some papers on her desk - started at April for a second, then gave her a dazzling smile and said, "Oh yes. Thank you for asking."

April stared back, not letting a muscle move, then said, abruptly, "Dinner at the pub. Tonight. My turn to order you around!"

Rachael smiled indulgently, and replied, "OK then. Yes, it that would be nice. Eight o'clock. Have a drink waiting."

And that was that.

At five past eight, the two of them were sitting in the corner of the Northern Star, in a nook where they weren't likely to be overheard. Both had a glass of cider, what had become their regular tipple of choice.

"Go on then. Spill," said April, taking a sip and looking demandingly at Rachael. "You've not been this...animated," she said, looking for the right word, "since I've been here. Something has obviously happened. What happened? You get laid or something?"

Rachael looked shocked. "April," she said sharply, "there are some things ladies never ask each other."

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