LifeGames Corporation

By Michael Smorenburg All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Horror

Chapter 32

It was Monday morning and Catherine was back in David’s office.

She removed the same dark sunglasses she’d worn on Friday, but now her eyes were more than puffy from crying, they were punched closed.

“What in God’s name happened to you...!!” he flew out of his seat and around his desk, “...It looks like you’ve been through a windshield..?”

The whites of both eyeballs were a relief of coarse and broken blood vessels. Her right eye closed with thick bags of ugly blue swelling forming its lid.

Catherine was struggling to talk through grossly swollen, torn lips. Jacky shushed her and became spokesperson.

The short distance from her home to David’s office had been a tortured trek for Catherine. Her head still swum with concussion, its nausea constantly threatening in the swirl of lingering impacts.

David was a personal friend of Jacky and Catherine, occasionally socializing with them; Catherine was more than a client and her beating was more than just another case.

“When I arrived...” Jacky was relating to David how she had found Catherine, “...it must have been midnight or twelve thirty. I heard a hell of a commotion upstairs. I could hear it was violent... screaming and smashing...”

Listening to the account, Catherine shuddered, remembering her own version.

“...Before running upstairs I grabbed a fire iron. Unfortunately I had my high heels on... they slowed me down and made such a noise that by the time I reached the bedroom, a man was halfway out of the window,” Jacky reported.

“Do you know him?” David asked urgently.

“No, I only got a glimpse, I’d never met him before... but I... I did recognize him though... I’d seen him in a picture. Catherine had a picture of herself with him at their campaign launch.”

The memory of once having stood so close to Ken made Catherine wince and gasp in pain as the fractured rib bit sharply into her side.

Jacky slipped her arm about Catherine’s hunched shoulders, agony for her condition written into her expression.

Although he spoke to Jacky, David continued to look at Catherine with aching sympathy.

“Okay, good, Jacky... Very good! You reported this to the police?”

“Yes, they were there within minutes.”

“Have you got the case number?”

Jacky consulted her mobile and gave it to David. He immediately phoned the investigating officer; a very short call;

“Unfortunately he’s not in, but I’ll stay on top of it,” David reported.

“Now, Mr. Torrington is sure to have been informed of the case against him, let’s have a little fun shall we? You got his number?”

David keyed in Nancy’s exchange line;

“Mr. Torrington, please...” There was a brief pause, “...Well, I’m afraid it’s a private and confidential matter... I am Miss Catherine Kaplan’s legal representative.”

His connection to Ken was immediate.

After formal introductions and putting forward the charges to Ken, it became clear to both Catherine and Jacky that the conversation was turning ugly.

There was no mistaking Ken’s shrill petulant voice gaining momentum, until it was clear and audible the width of the large desk away. The rapid escalation in volume continued until the tinny treble of the miniature handset distorted; David dabbed the speakerphone option on the base, allowing them all to enjoy every threat, curse and disclaimer that Ken was yelling.

But David hadn’t called to hear Ken’s opinion on the matter, his objective was to get Ken rattled, to force him to make a mistake.

When the string of rasping abuse came to an end, David clicked back to handset and proceeded in a quiet, measured, menacing voice;

“Now listen here you lizard-breath. I don’t give a fuck if you think you’re Lord God Almighty... I don’t like little boys who hurt little girls... understand? Ask around to see if your army of lawyers is keen to tangle with me... ‘Cause if they’re not, call me back. I’ve got a little battalion of asshole attorneys around town you can use. They’re just your type, they also could do with a good whipping. Because, believe me brother, this case is going to provide that whipping for you and anybody who is stupid enough to represent you, that I can assure you. Now, have a nice day.”

He said it cheerfully, with matter of fact sincerity, and replaced the receiver onto its cradle without emotion. As it went down, the little ear speaker was a blizzard of distortion.

“Well, that should spoil his afternoon,” David said to the ladies with a smile. “Now. I’m in the mood to put some fire under the pathologists.”

Ken came storming out of his office to where Nancy was working busily at her desk, pretending not to have heard anything.

She could hardly avoid having heard his explosive rant through the closed door; her mind was furiously guessing every direction other than the one that had actually unfolded.

What she did know was that it was Catherine’s lawyer, and this meant it would most likely have something to do with the patch. She’d braced herself to remain calm and sensible when the storm broke, to not betray any insight or care in the world.

Catherine had insisted that Jacky not contact Nancy with news of her attack over the week-end, leaving her in blissful ignorance about the dreadful beating her friend had taken.

“There’s nothing that she can do for me Jacks, come Monday morning she’ll have all the problems she can cope with, Ken’s going to hit the roof because of the incident at the funeral and Nancy’s associating herself with me.”

LifeGames had closed at lunchtime on Friday for employees to attend Leon’s hastily arranged funeral. During the graveside service, Ken had shot several evil glares at Nancy and she had returned his anger with interest added. She’d held her chin up and had spent the entire duration by Catherine’s side.

After the funeral proceedings, just before Ken had approached Catherine at her car, the women had gone their separate ways.

Because Nancy had parked on the far side of the lot, she’d remained none the wiser for the explosive incident until she had arrived at work on Monday when she’d heard the rumor.

She’d called Catherine’s mobile and tried Jacky too, both went to message. She’d called Catherine’s office, but the message was, “at her lawyer,” they could tell her no more.

YOU!!” Ken hissed at her.

She looked up, to see him pointing accusingly at her.

Get into my office, NOW!”

Turning on his heels Ken stormed back to take up position behind the fortress of his desk; he’d missed her sarcastic grin.

It had been neither a good morning nor a happy weekend, and Ken was as mad as a rattlesnake in a tumble-dryer set to ‘hot’.

There had been Friday’s incident, the Catherine debacle when her statement about drugs in the Time Dilation had blown his lid open. He’d replayed the confrontation through his mind, over and over.

The bitch had definitely said drugs. “How the fuck does she know? And if she knows, who else?” He’d tormented himself unrelentingly with the same question, his mind now sketchy to the details he’d given up on that dinner date when so much the alcohol and the lust for the woman had loosened his tongue.

There had been Nancy’s insolence at the funeral. “That deranged little sow,” he had thought “...to snub me in front of my entire staff by showing her allegiance to Catherine.”

Then, watching Catherine’s recording had brought on another sleepless and dream filled night, and out of sheer frustration at not being able to get any peaceful sleep, he’d harked back to his discussions with Leon and had nearly erased the recording. Then he’d decided not to be rash. “When I’m less emotionally charged I can always view the recording. It’s worth keeping.”

He’d thought long and hard about the possibilities that the recording somehow brought on the astral travel... the Extra Sensory Perception that Leon had told him the Chinese were tinkering with. “What was the mechanism again?” he’d polled his memory banks... somehow Wi-Fi would trigger something to do with quantum entanglement. It had seemed plausible when Leon explained it, but now it all seemed outlandish and too complicated to figure out.

But, he couldn’t get away from it... there certainly seemed to be a connection between watching the recording, dreaming about Catherine, and her persistent bleating about being stalked.

Maybe his film of her was a dream catalyst... that made some form of strange sense; but his dream and her experiences seemed irrationally far apart, and he sneered at the thought.

The strange thing, he’d admitted to himself, was that his head hurt—like he’d been hit; as if the dream he’d had about being clobbered with a fire iron were real.

And then, as if to confirm his worst suspicions, on Saturday morning the police had come knocking at his door. He was to face charges of an assault on Catherine.

Alex, the private investigator he kept on retainer had called him at home with a disjointed request to get into the operations complex. There was something not right about his story, and Ken had refused him entry. For good measure Ken had then called security to tell them to keep a wary eye open. Sure enough, Alex had been duly caught trying to gain access into the complex under the guise of an electricity department technician. He had told the weekend’s skeleton staff that he had come to gauge their draw of current.

Ken would deal with him later.

And now, there was this bullshit. Nancy had deliberately put through Catherine’s self-opinionated lawyer, without first creating a buffer for Ken to prepare himself.

“Where the hell is that girl...!” he shouted at a volume that half the complex could hear. “NANCY!” he boomed again.

She did not appear.

He leapt from his chair and stormed back through their inter-leading door to where Nancy was calmly packing her belongings. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing? I’m waiting for you!”

“I don’t think what the fuck I’m doing,” her voice was clear and calm, an antagonistic lopsided grin like a banner painted across her face, “I know what the fuck I’m doing. I’m fucking... leaving.”

She scooped her belongings under her arm and was gone.

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