Brampton Lodge boarding school for boys was founded in nineteen-twenty-five. It boasts a long and impressive history, but dark and revealing secrets have been buried in the depths of its archives. They’ve been left in peace, undisturbed and undiscovered for almost fifty years, but the strange disappearance of the psychology teacher, who used to be a student at the school, is cause for the AI team to move in, clear the dust, and get to the bottom of where he is and why he’s there. The long departed ex-headmaster and archives manager lead Shady Shane to a pond in a local park, and that’s when the investigation really begins. He finds the teacher’s membership cards to gay underground BDSM sex clubs, and that leads Shane to one suspect. He connects a psychotic man, who’s taken himself of his medication and still grieving his past with the teacher. The man’s son is a shocked and distressed rugby player and his sister is still very handy with a hockey stick. Then there’s her gardener. Five suspects, but which one of them is guilty of dumping the teacher’s dead body at the bottom of the pond?
It was a beautiful sunny day in Hampshire, England, in late May, and if the weather was anything to go by, it offered hope of being a pleasant and normal day. As pleasant and normal as any Monday morning could be at Brampton Lodge boarding school for boys. There was never really a normal day there, because each day was unique and brought new challenges. If there wasn’t an issue or problem with the pupils, there was one with their parents or the professors and staff.
There was never a dull day for the headmaster, Reginald Bishop, and it was an exceptionally busy time for him, given the school term had almost come to an end. Preparations were being made for the parents evening, evaluations of the new students for the following academic year were being completed, and he still had to oversee the day-to-day running of the school that had boasted an untarnished and enviable reputation since it was founded in 1925.
The pressure was on Reginald to uphold standards and strive for continual improvement. Even though it was a boarding school, it was still effectively a private business that had to deliver results and provide a return to its investors. He’d been the headmaster there for over ten years, but he could easily be replaced if the sponsors weren’t satisfied. They’d made that clear on more than one occasion in the past.
Reginald was sat at his desk reviewing the staffing arrangements for the summer holiday period when there was a knock at the door. “Come in.”
A few seconds later his secretary, Cynthia, was standing in the doorway. “I’m sorry to interrupt, Reginald, but I still haven’t heard anything from Jeremy, and I’m getting quite concerned. I’ve called his home number, his mobile number, and asked the other professors if they’ve heard anything from him, but nothing.”
“Come in, Cynthia, and take a seat.”
Cynthia walked toward Reginald’s desk and sat on one of the chairs in front of it. “Okay. Please remind me. How many days has it been since he’s not turned up for work and we haven’t heard anything from him?”
“Well, that’s why I wanted to bring it to your attention again, because this is the fourth day. I don’t know. He’s always been so responsible, and it’s very unlike him to not get in touch. Even when he’s been really ill, he’s always let me know.”
Reginald rubbed his aching head with his hand. “Yes, I agree, it is very strange. Have you called his relatives and friends?”
“I only have the number for his aunt in Shropshire, and when I spoke to her, she told me she hadn’t heard anything from him in a couple of weeks. As for his friends…as far as I can make out, he’s always lived quite a quiet and solitary life. I’m sure he’s got some, but if he has, he hasn’t told me about them or let me have their contact details.”
“Hmm. Yes, well I think our Jeremy lives quite a double life and likes to keep his private life personal, if you get my drift?”
Cynthia blushed and nodded her head gently. “Yes. And that’s why I’ve never really tried to pry. What he gets up to in his free time is his own business, providing it’s legal and doesn’t have a detrimental impact on the school.”
“Exactly, and we owe him that much to respect his privacy. In twenty-two years his private affairs have never interfered with his work or impacted the reputation of this school, so there’s no need for us to question or judge what he gets up to when he’s not here.”
“Oh, absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more.”
“The question is, what do we do about it? We have to try and do something. One or two days might be explainable and excusable, but four…that suggests it’s time for us to take some action.”
“Do you want me to contact the local police and file a missing person report?”
Reginald breathed in air sharply and tutted. “Hmm. The police? I know that’s the most obvious and logical thing to do, but…”
Cynthia nodded. “Don’t worry. You don’t have to tell me. If he’s been up to something that might come back on us, then the press will be all over it like a nasty rash.”
“Exactly. And that’s the last thing we want right now. If the end-of-term results aren’t in our favour, the last thing we need is bad press right now.”
“Understood. Leave it with me, and I’ll do some research to find somebody suitable who can look into it.”
“Yes. Maybe a private investigator who won’t leak anything to the press if they discover Jeremy has been up to something untoward or unsavoury.”
“Perfectly understood. I’ll get onto it right away.”
“Excellent. Is that all for now?”
“Yes. Unless you’d like some more tea, that is?”
“Oh, that would be wonderful. I’m feeling quite parched with all this warm weather. But give it fifteen or twenty minutes. Otherwise, I’ll be running to the bathroom every five minutes.”
Cynthia chuckled and smiled. “No problem. At my age, I have the same problem. Come seven in the evening, I have my last cup of the day. Otherwise, I’m up and down like a yo-yo all night.”
“Yes, well I find a couple of stiff whiskeys is the only thing I can manage of an evening.”
Reginald and Cynthia both chuckled. Cynthia turned around and walked toward the door. Once she’d closed the door behind her, Reginald went back to what he’d been doing.