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June 17, 2024

Patterns in Blood 10

By Lydia Manx

Ruthlessly I emptied the contents of the envelope onto the desk and turned up the next picture. It brought pain-filled tears to my eyes. Now facing me was a shot of Brad embracing Sheryle outside the back door to my main office. It wasn't the same as Brad's giving me a casual hug but something deeper. The love they'd shared was radiating in this shot. The next three pictures were of Brad and a few men that looked vaguely familiar. After some thoughts I placed them as associates of Brad's from his company, SFD.

Quickly I flipped through the pictures as my mind blurred with details. There were many more of Brad, Sheryle and me. Not all of them were labeled with our names but enough for me to know Randolph was well aware of who I was long before we 'met'. There seemed to be no other common element. Not in any one picture was there consistently one of us or any specific location. Whoever had taken these pictures had followed each of us separately for a few days or even weeks. Tears tumbled own my face and I wiped them with my sleeve as I saw the time elapse for us all. Soon there weren't any pictures left just a thick report of some kind.

The letterhead on the first page of the report had the same post office number as the outside of the envelope but there were added lines. The first line was "Rocco and Associates" which immediately conjured up images of large, brutish men with guns and brass knuckles. The cute tag line of "Private Investigations" was below Rocco on the letterhead and that still didn't lessen my fears in any way. The report was single-spaced, a multi-paged document. My eyes hurt just seeing the wealth of information laid out to read and angst over. And nothing good ever came from finding such reports I well knew. It wasn't like I'd sought out something like this when I had looked for the book of poetry.

Nervously I looked around the room. Feeling like I was sneaking a peek at a forbidden book and that I was about to be caught, my watch showed me it was only four p.m. and nowhere late enough for Randolph to be home. There were actually many hours before Randolph was due home.

Ignoring the guilt I felt at my invasion of Randolph's privacy, I started reading the report. The style was brief statements of information with a few comments where the facts appeared to be pretty weak. The person who wrote this report was bitter and cynical in their observations and rationalizations presented. Overall the report was accurate, but there was a not-so-subtle level of rancid immorality flavoring the words in the nasty observations. It felt dirty reading about my own personal history.

Tell me that wasn't warped.

The report accurately portrayed my finances, household management and completely exposed my business dealings and related works. The personal information was mostly suppositions lined with limited facts. I smiled, knowing how closely my friends had kept my life. But even the few items typed out by the private investigator were pretty much accurate. Chills were running up and down my spine. My personal likes and dislikes were duly noted and coldly catalogued for Randolph to use against me.

Make no mistake -- even as naïve as I was -- I knew in my soul everything written and photographed was to be used to damage me in the long run. Pictures and 'facts' about my life and my friends coldly set out to give Randolph an edge. There were very few things left out from what I saw. That alone scared me.

Sitting in the darkening room, I felt sickened by memories of Randolph "picking" my favorite wine to accompany our first meal. His use of a favorite men's cologne had obviously come from the list before me. The same information was there on both Brad and Sheryle.

The report was more than just a single page synopsis. Randolph had obviously put a few months of reports together. They were dated well past our wedding. Randolph had quite nicely arranged them in chronological order. Some of the profiles were little more than a page while others went on more extensively. My heart raced and I wanted to hit somebody.

Having known Sheryle for so many years, I was dismayed to read that she'd had a miscarriage a week before her death. I remembered how she had taken a few personal days off during that month. The day that was listed in the reports that she'd gone to the hospital for her medical treatment, I vaguely recalled assuming she'd gone out shopping for her upcoming wedding. Tears flowed down my face at the undisclosed sorrows I was just discovering. I read everything there and sucked in the pain quietly.

Turning on the desk lamp, as the afternoon had faded, I dully stared at the thick sheath of pages still waiting for me to read. A glance at my watch told me it was not nearly seven and my time was quickly disappearing. It was hard to think of what I was going to do. Methodically I started arranging everything back into the envelope as I thought I'd found it. Precisely I put the envelope on the box where it'd been until I'd stumbled onto it. With my shirt I brushed off any possible fingerprints from the lightly dusty envelope and shelf. Paranoid I took a dusting rag from the linen closet and lightly shook out the fine dust embedded inside over the top of the shelf. Now it looked undisturbed to a quick glance.

Flipping off the desk lamp, I picked up the book I'd found for Kerry with a heavy heart. So much had happened while looking for the lighthearted love-filled pages Chris had written so many years ago. Glancing around the room, I saw that nothing seemed to be out of place so I calmly shut the door and went to my office. There were no signs of what I'd found in Randolph's office, and no way he'd know I'd been there. I wanted to jump in the shower and scrub my skin raw. I knew I couldn't erase the damage to my mind but still was stunned by what I'd read.

Guilt had made me automatically wipe my handprint off the doorknob as I'd left his room. As if, in my own home, I would have to worry about such things, but then I wasn't as young as I'd been a dozen years ago and before Randolph had damaged me. I wanted a shower now -- a long hot cleansing shower.

Once at my own desk, I mechanically set about packaging the book for Kerry. Using my computer I found the postal rate for book rate across the states. I addressed the bubble envelope and slapped on a Media Only stamp and placed the poetry book inside. I stuck an extra dollar worth of stamps on the outside to be on the safe side given the postal service.

It probably could have gone first class given the amount of stamps I'd put on the envelope, but I figured better safe than sorry. I wasn't worried about the change, just numbed by my discovery. I used one of my old address labels and grinned, seeing my maiden name in the return address spot. That was the clarification for me -- I knew how angry I was by the simple use of an address label.

The nearest mailbox was over two miles from my house. For no reason, I felt obligated to put the package in the mailbox. I grabbed my coat and keys and headed outside. My mind was spinning out of control. It was just a few moments to my stunned mind when I reached the mailbox. I had no clue what I was going to do. Dropping it in the mail I heard it make a hollow thump. It sounded so final and eerie.

What worried me was the fact that Randolph had me investigated. The pictures were making that frighteningly obvious. For some reason, I wanted to think he'd been just investigating Brad, and the private investigator had included the women he knew as an extra. But this was unlikely seeing how in-depth everything was in the files.

But he should have told me about this investigation. Plus he used the information against me -- that didn't make me feel good. He knew very private facts about me and I was uncomfortable. So much of our relationship had been falsely built on things he'd had taken in secret from me. That's how I felt -- whether it was rational or not. His knowledge hadn't come from observation, or skilled conversations finding out what I'd liked. No, he'd come by all the private bits and pieces of my life from a report.

Another issue for my brain to mull over was the legalities of Brad's company information being so clearly spelled out. A lot of money must have been spent to document such topics and tips. The Securities and Exchange Commission was quite firm in their rules on insider trading. Just witness all the folks actually serving jail time for such transgressions. That was obviously not something Randolph overly worried about given the file.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-01-14
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