LifeGames Corporation

By Michael Smorenburg All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Horror

Chapter 6

Mid-day saw the review break for lunch. The afternoon session had been scheduled for analysis and comments.

Catherine pulled Ken to one side, by now she felt familiar enough to be direct, “What’s up, Ken? You’re really not looking well.”

“Nothing Cath, Just pressures,” he’d recovered almost fully from the morning’s emotional roller coaster ride and had mostly shut the repetitive voice out.

Ken had slipped out of the review before the break to phone Alex King.

Alex was a private investigator to whom Ken paid a retainer that ensured his services would always be at his beck and call. In addition, Ken had always made a point of including Alex into the spoils of his questionable deals. He believed that by mutually linking their fates, Alex was married into vested interest if and when trouble brewed.

“Alex... It’s Ken,” he’d hit voicemail, so kept the brief vague. “There’s an issue in Colombia, scouting that needs doing. You can collect details from Jo, I scribbled a note detailing what I need done. Sorry it’s such short notice, but it’s mighty urgent,”

Jo oversaw the security team at LifeGames HQ, her office was at the main entrance. Ken always utilized her whenever he needed confidentiality. She was ex military with high clearance and low curiosity.

The brief to Alex was simple; establish contact with the laboratory but maintain anonymity—pose as a businessman, review their capabilities for reverse engineering and duplicating patented pharmaceuticals, and gauge their willingness and price to work anonymously. Left unstated was that they’d be re-engineering the Time Dilation drug.

Catherine was still chitchatting with Ken when Anton breezed over bearing a smirk and good news. “The code seems good,” He flashed a toothy grin, “I’m burning with curiosity so I’ll pull an all-nighter to check it out. Care to sit in and see if it works?”

“No, but thanks anyway Anton, I can only get in the way.”

With Anton’s news Catherine noticed a dramatic recovery of Ken’s mood. In her mind, she mulled the possibilities “Code? They’re like little boys with a secret.”

“What’s that about?” she asked as Anton moved on.

Ken’s eyes twinkled, “You’ll see, sunshine.”

“Even more interesting,” she was eaten up with curiosity.

Ken just grinned.

“At least it’s cheered you up...”

At that moment Nancy entered the room, scanning about; she spotted Ken amongst the crowd and briskly made her way over. Stopping out of earshot of others she beckoned him over;

“The hospital called... The General... Roger Daly... he’s stabilized, but there are... complications. Leon said it could be serious... psychiatric anomalies, he said.”

“Any details?”

Ken was polling Leon’s degree of discretion in the matter—whether he was disclosing privileged information; but Nancy was wise to it. Even if he had, she wouldn’t betray him.

“Not really, all I do know is that he’s under observation and has extreme symptoms of schizophrenia. He thinks that he’s some kind of priest,” Nancy shrugged, “They’ve just appointed a new specialist, a psychiatrist, to look into it. I took down the doctor’s name and put it on your desk, not sure if you want me to involve Leon?”

“Thanks, Nance, not to worry—I’ll gauge it and brief Leon. I’ll be up in a second.” Ken returned to where Catherine was standing, “Just the ups and downs of business," he sighed, not wanting to kindle any more curiosity in her than was already evident by her expression.

Catherine checked her watch, “Time to get on with it.”

“Don’t wait for me Cath, I’ve gotta make a quick call, then I’ll be right back.”

Back at his desk, Ken had the phone to his ear, “Doctor Rupert, please.”

A moment later… “Rupert speaking,” the doctor’s voice bore a beautifully modulated and cultured Etonian accent.

“Doctor Rupert, Ken Torrington; LifeGames Corporation.”

“Ahh yes, Mr. Torrington, I’m honored... What can I do for you, Sir?”

“Please... call me Ken,” Ken was not fond of titles; particularly once he’d been out-ranked by academia.

“Thank you, do call me Andrew. The Daly case, no doubt?”

“That’s right. My PA mentioned that he’s surfaced, but suffering a trauma? Schizophrenia, I believe?”

“Schizophrenic-like... yes. That’s not a diagnosis, just the closest bead we have on it for the moment... General Daly is having rather a problem adjusting to reality...”

The doctor’s tone brimmed with the British penchant for understatement.

“...I confess, it’s perhaps the worst cases that I’ve ever seen. The damnedest thing is that his file presents a perfect psychological profile. We don’t understand how this could have occurred. The man’s seen action in every corner of the globe and been through some real hellholes... a seasoned veteran.”

“I believe he thinks he’s a priest of some kind?” Ken queried, the dark ruminations from the sound room and flashbacks to cold corridors once more threatening from the shadows of his mind.

“Convinced of it, sir... The man has no inkling of reality and doesn’t respond to his own name. Suddenly, and this is most vexing, ranting and raving, speaking fluent Latin… there is nothing about fluency in Latin recorded on his file.”

“Very peculiar! Would you mind if I come down and see the situation for myself?”

“Of course.... that won’t be a problem, they’ll track me down if you ask for me by name at reception. I’m here until eight tonight.”

They said their good-byes and signed off.

A plethora of motives urged Ken to get down to the hospital as soon as possible; his eagerness to read the military’s mood for investigating the cause of the incident, and the strange new coincidence of Latin and priests popping up yet again; it was of course a coincidence, he thought... a strangely unsettling one. These things begged him to investigate.

The shifting terrain of his day meant that Ken had lost all interest in sifting through the details of Catherine’s review. It was a good opportunity missed, but there would be others.

Instead, he spent the following hour sorting through various dilemmas that needed his urgent attention. Only then did he return to the Board Room to see how the review was progressing.

The review was winding up and Henry, who had quit sulking about the earlier affront down in the sound room, summarized the findings for Ken in a whisper behind his hand.

The executive staff came to pretty much the same conclusion as Ken had.

“I led a good team,” Ken praised them and himself to Henry in one succinct opinion.

After the adjournment, Ken made his way over to Leon Goldstein, Head of Psychology and chief officer in charge of the hypnotism sequences;

“What did you think of the review, Leon?”

“Excellent, excellent! We’ve got a winning team in Kaplan. Brilliant work, Ken’o, just bbbbbrrilliant!”

During the creation phase of the campaign, Leon had been invaluable as an in-house consultant. His background in psychology had provided a vast depth and clarity into the machinery of a consumer’s mind.

“There’s an interesting situation that’s developed with General Daly, our wayward subject in the hospital.”

Leon’s eyes popped wide open with interest. It was usual for him to appear nutty, but even the slightest surprise could make him look utterly insane, “Ooh,” his mouth formed a perfect circle.

“I’m going down to see for myself, care to join me?” Ken invited.

“Sure... sure. It’s my department all right. Must do, must do,” he always tended to repeat himself when his mind was running too fast. Indeed, with age, he’d allowed creeping idiosyncrasies to have their way with him.

“I have to go over a few things here and I don’t know how long I’ll be,” Ken explained, “We’d better go separately. I’ll see you there around five, is that all right?”

“Sure. Definitely,” Leon bumbled away.

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