One of my colleagues heard about a couple of people who were compiling data on corruption in order to expose it. They were self-funded and looking for "the right" volunteer.
It turns out I was the person they were looking for. I was educated, idealistic and had the skills they needed to take their project to the next level. I was on vacation and I would work for free.
The story they told me was that they had files of cases of "smoking gun" evidence of corruption, and an investigative journalist was working on an expose. They needed my specialist skills (data base development) to inform the expose.
For tight security reasons I was required to fly 1000 miles away to an isolated farm where the files were stored. The farmhouse had 3 bedrooms and the rest of the house had only office furniture. The only activities were working or sleeping. The only way out of the farmhouse was if Lee or Jon drove me.
Jon would give long monologues about his superiority in all areas, his wealth, his abilities, his high standards. I could never meet these standards. Jon's job was to shave off my "rough edges" so I could eventually be good enough to be welcomed into the inner sanctum. Jon would set tests. I would never know what they were, but if I passed them, eventually, IF I WERE GOOD ENOUGH, I would be trusted. Even Lee, who had been working with Jon for 4 years was not "good enough" to be totally trusted.
There were many rules at the farm that I was constantly being found guilty of breaking, mainly because I was only told of the rule AFTER I had broken it. I was not allowed to talk while working (about 16 hours a day). On the first night, I was asked to describe my own situation. I mentioned a name. Instantly Jon and Lee jumped on this said, "you are obsessed with this person. This is very bad. We are concerned you are going to kill him. You might not be mentally stable enough to work on this project".
I was confused, because they had asked me to describe my situation, and then double-binded me. Three weeks later, Lee asked me about the person and I replied just as Jon walked in. Jon became enraged and started yelling that I was not mentally stable enough to work on the project because I was obsessed with this person. I would never be good enough and was at risk of being rejected because I was mentally unstable.
My being mentally unstable and a homicidal maniac became the main stick that Jon and Lee beat me with, whenever I didn't do something well enough or fast enough. It wasn't true, but they kept on and on about it. It all seemed overly dramatic, but I have a big tolerance for people's idiosyncrasies, so I ignored the "why" of what Jon and Lee were jointly ranting about and simply avoided conversation topics that could start them off on another rant.
Jon was paranoid about his files and had many rules. The files could never leave the farmhouse. I was never allowed to be alone at the farmhouse in case I stole the files. Two very trusted friends before me had been left alone, and they had stolen files. I was never allowed into (or even to look into) Jon's or Lee's bedroom. I never did, even though I was working at a table just in front of Jon's open bedroom door. I found out later that this was a test of Jon's that I passed. I presume Jon had a camera to capture if I did break his looking into the bedroom rule.
I thought this was quirky, but not alarming. I was delighted to be "good enough" to be accepted onto this very important project. I was idealistic and it was a delight for me to be working with like minded people who were putting their ideals into action.
In the back of my mind I realized that the isolation, paranoia and guns (it was a working farm) made this project feel like Jonestown, but I was not afraid. Lee was always around and acted very much like an office manager. She would intervene if Jon's rants about me not being good enough became too volatile. I thought Lee was the "normal" one.
I was wrong.
Because I was never allowed to be in the house alone, I had to accompany Lee to get a haircut, go shopping and have a medical appointment. I didn't mind; Lee was friendly, charming and I enjoyed spending time with her. She had the same interests, values and beliefs that I did. She was generous, kind and helpful. I remember thinking that I had never met anyone with so many good qualities and no negative ones. I idly thought to myself that she is too good to be true.
During one outside visit, I was able to observe Lee with other people. Pretty much everything she said was a lie. I didn't understand it. There was no reason to lie about these trivial things (like, I'd paid for groceries, but Lee claimed to have paid for them, or, she said she had specialist qualifications when I knew she didn't).
We got back in the early evening. I woke up the next morning with a single thought that popped into my head: Lee is a pathological liar. I mentally went through the psychopathy checklist: charming, has the exact same interests and values as I do, is too good to be true, controls every aspect of my life, lies about everything even when there is no discernible reason to lie.
Lee is a psychopath.
I got straight online and booked my flight home. I sent Jon an email saying that I could no longer work at the farm with Lee, but would be available to work on the project from my home. My flight was in two days.
The following day, Lee goes to Jon in tears. She had gone into his email and read my email. She was very, very hurt and confused about my not wanting to work with her anymore. She wanted Jon to make me apologize to her. I refused.
On my last day at the farm, Jon came into my bedroom. He was furious. Lee had told him I had stolen his files and put them on a USB drive. I was frightened and very confused. Jon grabbed my suitcases and emptied all my clothes onto the floor. He kicked them around, looking for the stolen USB drive. Lee examined every inch of my suitcases, including the lining. Then, while Jon prevented me from leaving the bedroom, Lee took my handbag out of the room. She went through it, and shouted that she had found proof. She found the USB drive with Jon's documents on it. I had my own USB drives from my work, and now there was an extra one with Jon's files. Lee took my USB drives and copied every document onto her computer so later she could "check to make sure I hadn't stolen anything else." She also kept two of my USB drives with my work documents.
I was then marched off the property, shocked and sobbing, with two empty suitcases and all my clothes, dirty and trampled, in a black rubbish bag.
Back at work I tried to put the past 4 weeks behind me. Then my colleague, the friend of Jon and Lee, emails me that he was concerned about me. Lee had told him I had a "mental health episode" at the farm. Lee and Jon were very shaken by what I had done. I had jeopardized the project and destroyed a wonderful friendship. I should apologize.
I replied that this was not what happened, but that it was not something I wanted to discuss. My colleague emailed back that I was "in denial" and that I should not pretend the mental health episode had not happened then, and also "before".
I had no idea what he was talking about. Lee was a good enough liar and knew enough about me to make up a very convincing lie. She was also exceptionally vindictive. Planting evidence so I could be accused of 'stealing' and manhandled out of the house seemed overkill for me not wanting to work with her at an isolated farmhouse.
I replied with the bare facts. My colleague emailed back that I was a liar. As far as I know this is the end of the matter, but Lee still has all of my work-related files.
To protect myself in case this material surfaces like Hilary Clinton's emails prior to the election, I put in a report to the police that this material was stolen from me. I did not press charges, partly because it is embarrassing to have been caught up in such a bizarre psychodrama.
I was lucky. I knew enough about psychopaths and cults for all the signs to FINALLY percolate into my consciousness. However, it took a lot longer than I wanted. I LOVED being at the farm, doing important work for a good cause with good people. I felt I had found a place where I finally belonged. These things are more seductive and I am more vulnerable to them than I would like to admit. However, I am also delighted that my brain was able to silently process all the signs that I had been ignoring, and present the final assessment in an 'aha moment'.
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