Ingrams & Assoc 5: Personality Flaws Ch. 03


April looked over her pint at Rachael and drawled, 'Riiiiiiiggggghht. Sure. Uh huh. Cause you prim and proper English roses never have sex, do you? Close your eyes and think of England, right?"

Rachael couldn't keep the face going any longer and dissolved into a fit of giggles.

"Well, if you must know," she said, emphasizing the 'must' word, "yes. Actually. I did. Rather...magnificently in fact."

"Ohhhh rreeeeeeaaaaallly?" intoned April, putting her drink down and leaning forward, a gleam in her eye. "Her Royalness actually got down and dirty did she? Details woman, I want to know everything."

"Well, it was last night in fact. This nice guy and I got chatting at a mixer. Somehow we ended up having a quick meal and then...well, I hesitate to even mention. Let's just say I had a workout. He was really very good. He knew what he was doing, that's for sure. I hardly had to do anything and he had me bouncing off the ceiling."

"Well," said April, leaning back and taking another large sip of her cider. "That all sounds...therapeutic. Are you going to see this guy again?"

She tossed the last comment in, just to see if her instructions were being followed.

"Oh god no. This was a one-time thing. I made that quite clear to him. I can't be seen to be slobbing around with some common real estate salesman."

"Tell me more. How did you meet a real estate salesman?" asked April,.

"This fellow was at the hotel where the conference was. His name was Eric something or other. He was pleasant enough, but an indulgence. I don't think there will be any more of those experiences. I mean, I can take this for what it was, ships in the night, sort of thing. I only really went for it because of what we were talking about the other day - taking some chances on life and not missing out. But...I still need some resolution over Lee," she ended, sadly.

Rachael got up and excused herself to go the bathroom and April sat back realized she had to let Rachael in on the whole Lee situation - she could prevaricate not longer.

As Rachael returned and sat down, April opened up with, "So Rach. We need to talk about some stuff. I know this is late coming to you, but I've been waiting for the right moment. I found Lee."

Rachael was raising the glass to her face and she stopped, staring unblinkingly at April.

Lowering the pint glass, she said, "I know where he's been. You didn't need to find him."

"No, I mean, I went to see him."

"You went...there?"

"Yes. I needed to talk to him. You indicated you wanted answers. The only way to get them was to talk to him."

"And did to him? What about those people he was living with?"

"Well, no, I didn't get to talk to him. Not as such. He had an attack. Like an epileptic fit. I had him hospitalized. The two people he was with had...abused him. Quite badly."

Rachael's eyes went wide. "How? Is he ok? Where is he? I want to see him."

April took a deep breath. She put her hand over Rachael's and said, "Calm down Rach... I'll tell you everything I know so far. Firstly, the physical injuries were relatively minor - scratches, some burns. One bruise broken the surface and was infected. He was also malnourished, dehydrated, and there were some muscle issues because he was made to sleep in a cage where he couldn't stretch out. All of those have been treated - his body is healthy now. We've had massage people at the clinic every day. He is in a clinic in West London. I'll be happy to take you to him.

"But, Racheal, he's non responsive. He wakes up, is fine until someone asks him a question that relates to the recent past in anyway, has a spasm and a fit, and then lapses into unconsciousness for about two days. We've had him checked over and over and it certainly looks like an epileptic fit - it fits all the symptoms - but we can't find a trigger. It's a puzzler.

"Also, when I got to him - and the two who had him paid a price, let me tell you. I was not friendly with them - right before he had his first fit, he said 'help me' to me. His reactions to the two that had him were off the charts, but when I first saw him, the misery and depression on his face was also striking. Then he looked at the two idiots, and it was suddenly all lovey dovey.

"There's something quite wrong in this picture, Rachael. Something is not right here. I've been doing this a long time and I've seen some strange things, but nothing like this. I'm starting to come around to your position that something else is going on here. It's almost like this condition he's in has been intentionally induced, somehow. We can't ask him questions about what happened, because if we do, he has this fit. It's like someone doesn't want us to know."

She paused, watching Rachael to see how she was taking it. So far, she was calm.

"We are still looking into what is going on, but I'm you can go see him if you want."

"Now?" There was a distinct note of authority in Rachael's question.

"I guess...yes, why not? Yes. It will probably be good for both of you."

April expected to at least get to finish her pint, but Rachael stood immediately, radiating impatience.

"Alrighty then," murmured April sadly, looking at the remains of her drink but gathering her purse and getting up.

The two of them drove down to West London, with April using her phone in hands free mode to ensure that they would be able to get in and see Lee when they got there; it was a Friday evening after all.

Rachael didn't speak much, other than asking a few pointed questions about how long April had known Lee was there, what the people who had him were like. April told her what she knew, and on finding out how long April had been holding out on her, Rachael lapsed into a very telling silence. April knew she'd have to address that at a later time, but not now.

It was very evident that Rachael was still in love with Lee. Desperately so in fact. April was at a loss about what to do about that. If they could get Lee well, what would happen if he decided to go back to that lifestyle after he was released? Rachael would be heading for a second heartbreak, and it concerned April greatly that this was a very possible outcome. On the other hand, they needed a break with Lee, and maybe him seeing Rachael would be it. They had to try.

They were met at the entrance by a staff nurse, and ferried through to where Lee was ensconced. He was, by luck, awake. April stayed outside the room, watching as Rachael went in. Rushed in was a better way to put it. As they went closer, her stride increased in distance and speed - she was almost running by the time they got to Lee's room.

There was a glass window between the room and the hall, and April lurked outside as Rachael ran inside.

She stopped short, taking in Lee, who was lying on the bed, sitting up, watching something mindless on the television.

He looked over and saw Rachael, and immediately a huge smile broke out on his face. April could quite see why Rachael would fall in love with him - he was a handsome man, and now she could see him without the wounds, without the damage, and with slightly less gaunt face, she could see the attraction. The smile he had for her was full faced and full of totally unself-conscious delight - the kind of smile every woman wants to see on her mans face when he see's her.

She couldn't see Rachael's face, but she could guess what the expression on it was. Rachael rushed to the bedside and just grabbed Lee, bodily, wrapping herself around him. April could hear sobs from where she was.

Lee had one arm around her, and the other reached up to her head, slowly running his hands through her blond hair; something he had obviously done before.

The hug went on for almost a minute, and then Rachael drew back, stared at Lee, and then she impulsively kissed him. April could see Lee's face from her perspective. One minute, he had a smile that encompassed his full face, eyes and all, and then as Rachael's lips touched his, she saw his eyes widen, and then go glassy and roll, as his body started to jerk. It was a fit.

April rushed in, pressing the button on the wall to summon nursing help. Rachael released Lee and screamed as she saw what was happening. She looked up into Aprils face, her face contorted with pain and fear, tears everywhere.

"What's happening? Help me. Stop this, please," she pleaded with April.

Nurses ran into the room, and pushed Rachael out of the way, unceremoniously. They quickly and efficiently intubated Lee, and injected him with something that relaxed his body in a fast manner. He crushed back on the bed, they could see his chest rise and fall, but he was out.

Rachael clutched at April, staring at the scene wordlessly, tears silently falling down her face.

After a minute, April pulled her out of the room, and into the corridor.

"Now you see what has been happening," murmured April. "I am sorry you had to see that in that way. We need to get to the bottom of this. I need you to work with us so we can work out what happened, so we can know how to help him."

Rachael, still staring back into the room through the window, nodded. She turned to look at April, the expression on her face fierce and tense to behold.

"We are going to find the people who did this, aren't we April?" It was a calm voice. Disturbingly so. And it wasn't a question, it was a command.

Right then, April would have cheerfully shot anyone that was involved, such was her involvement in the moment. She felt desperately for Rachael, and for Lee. She was angry and sad and frustrated all at the same time. She was also aware she was probably getting emotionally compromised in this mission, but she needed to stick it out - she was in too deep at this point.

"We will find out, Rachael, we most definitely will. And they will pay."

Two days later, on Sunday afternoon, April was sitting again with Rachael. A more somber and controlled Rachael. They were again in the snug of the Northern Star, only this time, April had a recorder and was taking Rachael through all the events of the past few months, prior to the divorce, to figure out what had happened.

On Saturday, she'd spent the day at the Ingrams' London offices, talking to Dan and George - Mark was with his family that day. Dan and George report their efforts looking for Jodi and Kevin Dinty. They were looking for them, because they had left. Dan and George had gone out to the West Country and found the house the Dintys lived in had been apparently deserted. They'd gained entry - April didn't ask how - and reported that while lots of stuff was still there - furniture, kitchen appliances and so on, there was a lot of evidence that they 'done a runner', in Dan's colorful parlance. There were no clothes in the house, no cosmetics. None of the dominatrix equipment remained, no DVD's, electronics you'd expect to find in home like phone charges, laptops and Ipads were not in evidence. It was obvious they'd cleared out.

This was confirmed when Dan and George canvassed the neighbors, several of whom reported seeing Jodi and Dan loading up an SUV and driving away several days before. The final nail in the coffin was when they contacted Kevin's work and was told he had quit, not even taking his final pay check.

George explained to April that he had 'several matey's on the force, like' and had, very quietly, asked about these two. Within a day, a report of their passport usage at Ashford had been returned - they'd driven onto the Eurostar, been taken via the tunnel to France, and there the trail ended.

The Dintys had vanished, and with it, the most obvious method of tracking back what had happened to Lee Hicks.

Given the way this investigation was shaping up, April wasn't surprised. She just shrugged, commended Dan and George on their exemplary investigative abilities, and asked them to keep thinking of new avenues of inquiry.

And then they'd gone for a pint, and George had spent the evening making fun of her accent and eventually she put him down in a rather sharp fashion, as she was just not in the mood. He'd looked downcast, apologized, and then she'd apologized back and the evening ended.

The next day, April went out for breakfast, after making her call to the offices and then called Rachael and asked her to meet for lunch in the pub, and to be prepared to spend all afternoon there, going over everything she could think of.

Something big had happened to Lee Hicks, and it was likely that Rachael had the key to what it was, even if she didn't know she did. It was up to April to see if she could spot it.

So the two of them sat and went through everything, this time drinking soft drinks, much to Bernie's chagrin. Rachael had brought her physical diary with her, her laptop, Lee's laptop with his email on it, and even all the bills and financial records - she wanted to have everything at her fingertips in case it was required. They had spread it out over two tables - it wasn't a problem since at the time they were the only two in the pub, besides an old man who habitually inhabited the stool at the end of the bar.

"So... this was his schedule in London then?" asked April, looking at the diary, checking out days that had blue highlighter on them.

"Yeah. Usually two or three days in the city. Sometimes four. But he was always home on the weekends. Well, apart from a couple. But nothing regular."

"What project was he was working on in London?" asked April, pursing her lips and making notes in a notebook.

"Well, he said it was a merger he was working on. Between two companies, one British and one French."

"Which companies?" pursued April.

"I honestly don't remember. It might be there in the diary. At the time I was just glad he had something to occupy him. I was busy most of the time. Most of our time together was spent watching the last season of 'Doc Martin', to be honest," replied Rachael, with a little embarrassment present.

April looked at her inquiringly. "Doc Martin?"

"It's a television show. We do...did... that a lot. It was one of the things we did. We'd find something that had a few seasons and watch them together, and talk about the episodes. We did it for a lot of things - Lost, The Tunnel, Sense8, even... Star Trek." She was now quite embarrassed. April could not have cared less.

"It was good; we were both tired. We'd make tea and take it up to bed and watch episodes in bed. It was an 'end of day' thing we did."

"Was he unusual at that time? Jumpy? Any subject he avoided? You may not even have noticed at the time - think back."

"Nothing I can think of, no. I wish I could help more," said Rachael, frustrated.

"There's got to be something," said April, equally frustrated.

"It looks like you generate the same response in him that asking him about the past does. I mean, he's so stressed. Is there anything we can do about that?" she asked, twirling a pen around her fingers.

"Can't we...I don't know... put some nicotine patches on him or something?" April said, thinking out loud.

"Why?" asked Rachael, surprised.

"Well, he smoked didn't he? Bernie there," she said, gesturing at the barman who was engaged in that most common of all barman tasks, cleaning glasses with a rag, "he said Lee used to go smoke outside? That he smoked a pipe or something?"

"Well yes, but he gave up. Was quite a stressful time actually," replied Rachael, picking up the diary and flicking through pages. She wasn't paying any attention to April, being more concerned on looking at the book.

"Really? Wow. Good for him. Shows an integrated personality. Giving up smoking is a hard thing for anyone to do. It shows discipline," replied April.

Rachael snorted and then said, "Oh, he didn't do it without help. He went to some consultant who had some kind of hypnotismy thing to help him give it up. It took about four or five visits before it took."

April's spine stiffened straight up, and she went perfectly still. After a moment, she said, very slowly and clearly. "Rachael. Are you telling me that Lee went to hypno-therapy before all of this happened?"

Rachael looked up at April, who was staring at her intently, surprised.

"Well, yes, I suppose so. He only went a few times, and it was months before he left me. At least six months. Does it matter?"

"Do you know where did he found this consultant, or who it was?" April asked, urgently.

"Oh, I think he found him from someone here, as a matter of fact. He came back in from being outside, smoking, with a card. He said something about talking to someone outside who had quit, and this is how they did it." Rachael waved at the doorway to the pub.

"Do you know who?" asked April, doggedly running it down.

"No. Maybe Bernie does." April made a note to talk to Bernie later.

"Can you find where he paid for this therapy Rachael? In the bank records."

"Oh yes. I actually paid for it, at least he used my card. He paid up front for four sessions. You had to pay for at least four, and then in increments of two after that."

Rachael started going through her documents, then turned to her laptop and brought up the banking records in her web browser, it allowing her to search faster.

"Yes, here it is. 'Auctoritas Group'. I knew it was some weird company group. I remember thinking what a strange name for a company at the time."

"Ok," said April, thinking hard. "Can you see if there are another charges to that group?"

Rachael looked at April, then looked at the laptop, her fingers flying across the keyboard.

"No, nothing here."

"Right. Can you check his credit card? See if there were more charges."

Rachael's expression was dubious, but she nodded and carried on attacking the laptop. After a few minutes of clicking, she looked up and shook her head.

"No nothing here."

"What about the Amex?" asked April.

"What Amex?" Rachael came back, puzzled.

"You know, the American Express card in his name?"

Rachael was clearly mystified. "We don't have American express cards. Never have."

April sighed. They were getting somewhere, but it would just open more wounds in Rachael.

"Well, he did. We found it when we were doing background reviews on him."

Rachael's face looked like it was about to crumple.

"Rachael...pull yourself together. We are likely to find a lot more things that were hidden from you. We need you to be strong to help guide us,' said April, as kindly but firmly as she could. She leaned forward and put her hand on Rachael's arm.

"It's going to be ok. We are undoubtedly going to find some things you didn't know, and you need to roll with the punches. We can only find a way to counteract what has been done to Lee by bringing it all out into the light, warts and all."

She spoke reassuringly, and Rachael's trembling face started to relax. She nodded at the end of the little speech and her expression hardened into something more determined.

April rummaged in her purse and pulled out her phone and then called the Ingrams Office.

"Hey April," answered Dan.

"Hey Dan. You at the office?"

"For my sins, yes. Someone has to be here. What do you need, April?"

"A couple of things. Firstly, do you know where Mark is?"

"Err, yeah, hold on."

There was a moment of indiscriminate noises, plus some typing.

"Well, that's interesting. According to the tracker, it looks like he's on his way to you. He's on the great north road. I think George is with him?"

"Oh, that's great. I was going to ask you to send him my way anyway. OK, second thing. You guys still have access to Lee Hicks' credit card records?"

"Yeah. We have limited access, but we can see transaction records."

"How the hell do you do that?" asked April, genuinely curious.

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