Breaking Free – Gainfully Employed

It was with a great surge of relief that Sarah followed the two security guards back to the car.

“Umm. Do you mind if I sit in the back Sarah?” said Dave. “I’m used to driving and Al’s driving makes me feel sick.”

“Not a problem.” said Sarah, “I prefer to sit in the front if I’m not driving anyway.”

Dave made himself comfortable and Sarah got in next to Al. He smiled, a little shyly for such a large and imposing man. He did drive a bit fast but she didn’t mind that, and it was nice to sit back and relax after all the rushing around.

“Do you think that she’ll come back?” asked Al.

“I’m afraid so.” said Sarah. “She as good as told me that she would. I have a bad feeling about that woman; she seems to have little remorse for what she’s done, and although she expresses concern for her son, she is the only person in her life that she cares about.”

“Airport security said that they would confirm once she was on board the plane.”

“Oh, I’m sure she’ll go home today but I think she’ll come back again. She’s looking for another source of easy money, and now that she can’t blackmail Peter, she may target someone from the show.”

“We’ve been careful. There have been at least two people with her all the time except for between eleven last night and eight this morning. There was a CCTV camera outside her room though, and she didn’t know where Peter and his friends were staying.”

Sarah grinned. “Hopefully she’ll content herself with suing Security at the airport for manhandling her and disregarding her human rights.”

“Phew, I got between her and Oz at one stage, but never put a finger on her – and it was all on camera anyway.”

“I think she may try and blackmail the producer by alleging that we have told lies about her, and the final edit has made her look bad. That’s not going to happen until she gets to see the episode though. Do they have it in Holland?”

“Probably, but we do send out a DVD of their episode sometimes.  Depends on their contract. Talking of which, are the rumours true that you’re coming to work with us?”

Al was smiling as he drove and cast a sidelong glance at her, she smiled back taking in a deep breath.

“I think I might accept the offer – if the terms are agreeable. I need to find somewhere to live as well. I can’t keep crashing at Millie’s on a permanent basis.”

“You don’t live up here then?”

“No, I’m about 17 miles away, but my partner and I broke up about seven weeks ago and the house is being sold, so it makes sense to move to the city if I’m going to be working here. I love Millie’s flat. It has incredible views. That’s what I’d like because it is so different to what I’ve been looking at for the past ten years. I saw some lovely old mill buildings that have been converted to flats.”

“I’m sorry about – you know – you and your partner.” Al looked a little embarrassed.

“Don’t be. We’ve been drifting along aimlessly for years. The past seven weeks have been the most exciting since I graduated from Uni with Millie.”

There was a comfortable silence whilst Al negotiated the busy city streets and drove into the underground car park at the rear of the studios.  Sarah couldn’t help but cast a few sidelong glances at her companion.  Very tall, dark hair kept short, clean shaven, and she had a feeling that his eyes were blue. Very blue.  She must remember to look more closely when she had the chance.

“Wake up Dave, we’re home.” said Al.

“What! Has she come back? Where are we?”

A very drowsy Dave came back to the world of the wide awake. “Oh, we’re back. Do you think Oz needs both of us to go to the mop up session? I’m liable to fall asleep again and I could do with something to eat.”

“I have to take Sarah along anyway, so I’ll go. You owe me one though.”

“Cheers, mate. Welcome aboard Sarah.”

Dave headed off to the cafeteria, and Al led Sarah upstairs to another meeting room. He knocked first then opened the door for her. The room was smaller than the meeting room she had been in that morning. All heads turned to the door as she and Al walked in. Oliver grinned.

“Tell me that she’s no longer our problem? Please?”

Al and Sarah looked at each other and grimaced. With a nod of her head, Sarah indicated that she felt Al should report back first.

“We saw her go through to security and the guards there picked her up. They said they would phone in once she was safely on the plane. The plane is due to depart in about an hour’s time.”

“Do you think she’ll get on the plane, or will she escape security?”

“I told them that although she wasn’t a terrorist, they should use her to practice their high security techniques on. Sarah has a theory about what she might try to do next.”

“Come on Sarah, I have a contract ready and waiting for you to read and sign.” said Oliver with a wink to Millie.

“Thank you. I think she will go back to Holland on the plane. They’ve reserved a nice seat with plenty of legroom for her, and she knows she’ll get free food and drink on the trip. At the moment she has more to gain by returning home than she does by absconding. “

Oliver beamed. “Excellent!’

Sarah shook her head. “I’m not so sure. She hugged me goodbye, and said that she would be back, that she never gave in. I need to check it out but I’ve a feeling that she may be a borderline psychopath.”

“Flippin’ heck!” said one of the runners who had spent most of the day with Marta having met her at the airport when she flew in the day before.

“Tell me more, Sarah?” said Oliver.

“I’d need the Hare twenty-point check list to be sure. I don’t carry it with me.”

Without needing to be asked, one of the researchers was already checking for the list on the Internet.

“Got it!” he cried triumphantly and passed the tablet over to Sarah. She read through the list a couple of times before saying anything.

“Bear in mind that all of us may have two or three of these tendencies but a true psychopath will have them all. A couple of them are linked to a past history of offending and I can’t check that out, but looking at some of the others ……”

“Come on Sarah!” said Oliver, craning over to see what was on the list.

“Right, if I read out the tendencies that I’ve spotted from the research notes, and from meeting her, let me know at the end if you agree? She appears charming, has a very good opinion of herself, gets bored easily, and is attention-seeking. She tells lies and believes that they are the truth, is cunning and manipulative, shows no remorse for her actions, doesn’t appear to have a typical reaction to usual emotions, has a complete lack of empathy with others, is parasitic, has no control over her behaviour, and can be promiscuous with a variety of different partners, is impulsive, irresponsible, can’t accept responsibility for her own actions, and lives in a fantasy land.”

“You said there were twenty.” said the researcher.

“I did, but the others relate to early behaviour difficulties, juvenile delinquency, and any prison history.  Hey, seventeen out of twenty is scary enough. We could contact Peter and check if she ever told him about her childhood, but given her ability to fabricate and believe her own lies, I wouldn’t think she would have told him the truth anyway. If it’s any consolation, I don’t think she is liable to kill anyone, but she is fully able to wreck lives and careers. I think there will be repercussions once the show goes out. In her fantasy, she is attractive, intelligent, charming, and totally in the right. From what I saw this morning, that is not the image that the public is going to get of her.”

Jenny leaned forward. “Should we scrap the show? It would be a shame to. It really was good.”

“You have a moral obligation to Peter to let him clear his name but I really won’t be surprised if you get bombarded with threats – does she have anyone’s email address?”

Several of the researchers nodded and began to look very worried. Sarah tried to be reassuring.

“Check the content of any correspondence you’ve had with her. Al tells me that no one was left alone with her, so there is no chance of allegations about anything untoward happening. Believe me though, if there is a chink in the armour, she’ll find it.”

“How come you know so much about psychopaths Sarah?” asked Oliver. “I thought you were a social worker?”

“I am, but I spent six months attached to the forensic social work department and got to know quite a few clients with psychopathic tendencies. No one with quite as many as Marta though.”

“I think we need to get legal to go through everything connected to this woman.” said Jenny. “All correspondence is to be brought to me, no matter how trivial, and if anyone remembers any incidents that might be vaguely troublesome, let me know. Thank you, Sarah, your input has been invaluable. If you can stay behind when the meeting ends, I’d like to discuss the possibility of you joining our team permanently.”

Sarah blushed as a rousing cheer went round the table. The cynic in her wondered if the accolade was more for the end of the meeting than for her employment. The other staff filed out of the room, some of the younger runners were already checking out the psychopath tendencies to see how many of their mates would also fit the profile; Millie stayed behind and moved up the table to sit beside Sarah.

“Was she totally horrendous when you left?” asked Millie.

“Not really. I gave her some advice on the way to the airport – pointed out the possible repercussions of refusing to go, the impact on her son and the rest of the family. You know the stuff. I thought she had accepted it until she hugged me goodbye. I really felt chills when she looked me in the eye and said that she would be back.”

“Oh well,” said Jenny “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Now for more pressing matters. We’d like to offer you a job on the show in the aftercare team with Millie. I have to say that we were very impressed with your CV. Miles handed it over very reluctantly; said he could have found employment for you a dozen times over – but those would have been temporary whereas this is a permanent contract – subject to performance of course – but that is put in everyone’s contract. You’ll find that the pay scale is quite generous, certainly above par with your previous post and there are various perks, but I’ll let Millie explain those to you. “

Sarah sat in a daze. Things were happening so fast. She looked at Millie with an expression of barely disguised terror.

“Jenny, would you mind if Sarah and out went out to have a coffee and look through the contract – just to give her a bit of time out.”

“Of course, Millie, take all the time you need but I’d be grateful if you could get back to me before the end of the day.”

Jenny left the room, and Sarah felt her hand shaking as she sat there trying to focus on the contract.

“Come on mate, we’ll go and hit the coffee shop where I first spotted you. You look like you need some sustenance, and our cafeteria will be full of researchers and runners trying to work out whether they are psychopaths or not.”

Sarah allowed herself to be led back to Millie’s office, where she picked up her coat and handbag. The wind was quite bitter as they walked across the concourse to the half-empty coffee shop. A very sweet and strong latte restored Sarah’s equilibrium but Millie was careful not to start in too quickly.

“First things first – what is worrying you.” she said.

“Umm – can I do the job? Where will I live? When will I start? Can I cope with Abigail’s glee when she finds out that I’m moving out? That sort of thing really.”

“Number one – of course you can do the job. There will be things that you need to learn about working in media, but you’ll soon pick those up. Number two – you can stay with me as long as you like. I can clear out the boxroom, put Tom’s stuff in there for now, and you can make his room your own for as long as you need it. Number three – they were asking if you could start next week, but that has to be negotiable considering that you have things to wrap up with Andy’s house. Number four – leave telling Abigail until the last minute. You can rely on Roseanne not to tell her. If you have too much stuff to bring here, I can come over at the weekend and we can put your non-essentials into storage. There! Have I banished your problems?”

“Looks like it.”

“Come on then, drink up your coffee, and we’ll go and put Jenny out of her misery. You did so well today Sarah. You may not realise it but you’ve probably saved the company a huge amount of hassle, not to mention the money. Fancy coming home with me again tonight – we can finish off the takeaway?”

“Deal!”

Walking back to the studios, Sarah felt very proud of her accomplishment, terrified but proud.

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