Read Cruel Minds Online

Authors: Malcolm Richards

Tags: #british crime fiction, #British crime series, #British mystery authors, #british mystery series, #British mystery writers, #murder mystery series, #murder mysteries, #mystery thrillers, #noir crime novels, #psychological crime thrillers, #female detectives, #women's mystery, #women's psychological thrillers, #LGBT mysteries, #gay mysteries

Cruel Minds

BOOK: Cruel Minds
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AN EMILY SWANSON NOVEL

Book #2

CRUEL MINDS

MALCOLM RICHARDS

Copyright © Malcolm Richards, 2016

Storm House Books

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any similarity to real persons, alive or dead, is purely coincidental.

For more information about the author, please visit
www.malcolmrichardsauthor.com

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

CHAPTER THIRTY

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

EPILOGUE

SNEAK PEEK – COLD HEARTS (EMILY SWANSON #3)

THANK YOU

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

About the Author

PROLOGUE

H
e runs through the forest, arms outstretched, tripping over roots like a blind man. It is night and it is raining hard. The wind whips the trees into a frenzy. Low hanging branches whistle past his eyes. He doesn’t know where he’s going except onward into darkness. And the darkness is absolute. The machine gun
rat-a-tat
of rain on leaves fills his ears, alongside the crunch of foliage underfoot and the laboured heaving of his lungs. He can taste blood.

He ploughs forwards, ignoring the pain that grips his body. He risks a glance over his shoulder but it is like staring into a void. His mind fills the emptiness with terrible images. He is back on the ground, fists pummelling his flesh, boots stamping on his bones. The image is ripped away as his shoulder slams against a tree trunk.

He hits the forest floor hard, punching the air from his lungs. Sprawled on his back, he sees white lightning strobe through the canopy. A rumbling peal of thunder rolls across the sky. Catching his breath, he hears footsteps. They are moving towards him.

Adrenaline fires through his limbs. He scrambles to his feet and races on. A second flash of lightning rips across the sky. For a moment, the forest is lit up like day. A clearing lies up ahead. A wooden shed sits at its centre, rain drumming against its corrugated roof.

He shouldn’t go in there. He should keep running. But the door is unlocked. And now that he’s stopped moving, pain is taking control of his body. Wrenching open the door, he stumbles inside. The sound of the rain hitting the roof is like a blacksmith’s hammer on molten metal. He slams the door closed, then staggers against the wall. Lightning flashes through the window. He’s inside a tool shed. Sharp instruments hang from hooks on the wall.

A wave of dizzy nausea threatens to topple him. He gets down on all fours and crawls away from the door. White pain shoots from his hand. His broken fingers splay at unnatural angles. Yelping, he drags his body into the darkest corner he can find. Then pressing his back against the wall, he sits and waits. Seconds pass by. Then a minute. His heart is hammering in time with the rain. He wonders if he is safe here. If he can stay hidden.

But he has already been found.

A shadow passes the window. He hears the rain rush in as the door opens and closes. The world falls away. His heart stops. There is nowhere else to go. Trapped in the corner like a hunted animal, he tries to make himself small. He should fight. Pick up a tool and lash out. But he has no fight left.

The darkness closes in on him like a mother’s arms. He feels someone standing over him, their presence disturbing the air molecules. Lightning flashes. He sees a blade, curved and cruel-looking, held up high.

“Please,” he says. He doesn’t know if he’s begging for mercy or for release.

He holds up his hands, his broken fingers like twisted vines.

The blade cuts through the air and deep into his flesh. It comes down, again and again; tearing, slicing, spilling blood as black as night. His screams are swept away with the rain.

He becomes one with the darkness. He becomes nothing.

CHAPTER ONE

E
mily Swanson sat on the sofa with her knees pressed together and her arms folded across her chest as she stared at empty cream walls. The room needed something more. More character. More things. Perhaps a painting on the wall or a small mirror. A potted plant in the window. She understood the reasoning behind the blandness—no distractions—but still, a little colour never hurt anyone.

Attempting a discreet sigh, her gaze moved from the walls to the coffee table, then to the desk in the corner. It was a very tidy desk, she noted; its contents neatly stacked and its surface recently polished. A vase of flowers would help to brighten it up.

Movement flickered in the corner of Emily’s eye. She turned towards the woman sat in the armchair. Kirsten Dewar looked to be in her mid-thirties. She had a pleasant face with keen eyes that smiled even when her lips didn’t. She was smartly dressed—blouse and cotton trousers, flat shoes—and her dark hair was pulled back into a neat bun. She sat upright and still as she stared at Emily, pen poised over the notepad in her lap. Warm sunlight spilled over her crossed legs.

This was their sixth meeting in as many weeks. Each session began in the same way. After exchanging polite greetings, Kirsten would lead Emily into the room, pour them both a glass of water, and position herself in the armchair. Then she would sit in silence, waiting.

Emily found those first few minutes excruciating. What was she supposed to say? Was there a game plan? Or was she supposed to sit on the couch until the words spoke for themselves? In their first session together, they had sat through twelve minutes of silence, time slowing down with each passing second. Then, Emily had embarrassed herself by crying.

The opening silence had thankfully grown shorter with each session. At some point soon, Emily assumed it might vanish altogether. Now, as the fifth minute ticked by, she drew in a long, steady breath and tried to clear her mind of thoughts. Words began to appear, formulating a sentence.

“I slept a whole four hours last night,” she said. Instantly, the knots in her shoulders began to loosen. Her hands, however, remained tucked against her sides.

Kirsten smiled. “Well, that’s a lot better than three. Do you feel better for it?”

“More like I’ve been run over by a truck. Which is an improvement on being run over by a truck and then the truck reversing.”

Kirsten nodded, jotting on her notepad. “Still, it’s only been a week since you came off the sleeping pills.”

“Ten days to be exact.”

“You know, if you’re not ready, there’s no written rule saying you have to stop taking them just yet.”

Emily heaved her shoulders. There was a water stain on the bottom left corner of the coffee table. It irritated her, had done since her fist visit.

“I know. But one less pill means my bones don’t rattle so much when I walk. Plus, I’m experimenting with valerian root. It makes me feel all white witchy.”

Kirsten smiled. It was a kind smile, Emily thought. Genuine.

“And how is your sleep when you have it?”

“You mean am I still having the same nightmare?”

“Are you?”

“A night wouldn’t be complete without it.”

In the dream, she woke to find herself lying on a gurney at St. Dymphna’s Private Hospital, her wrists and ankles in restraints. Doctors and nurses huddled around her, cold eyes peering over surgical masks. Doctor Chelmsford and Doctor Williams appeared amid the bodies, syringes in hand, needles dripping with neon blue liquid.
Don’t worry,
the same bodiless voice always said.
Soon you’ll sleep forever.
And as the needles pierced her skin, she realised the voice belonged to her mother.

“What you went through, Emily—it was incredibly traumatic.” Kirsten’s expression turned serious. She rested the pen on the notepad. “Your mind needs time to process what happened to you. Dreams can be an outlet, a way for your unconscious to make sense of it all. I know it may not seem much of a comfort, but it does offer an endgame.”

“But I know exactly what happened to me,” Emily replied. “I was abducted from my home, falsely incarcerated at St. Dymphna’s, drugged and experimented upon. I’d say I’ve processed it enough.”

Kirsten watched her for a moment. She picked up her pen and jotted down more notes.

“What happened to you won’t just disappear overnight, Emily. If you break a leg, you can’t just get up and walk again. The bone needs time to heal. For that to happen, the leg needs support in the form of a cast and a pair of crutches. Why should your mind be any different?”

“Tell that to Doctor Chelmsford. Sometimes I wonder if he was right—do we always need to remember all the bad things that happen to us?”

“Doctor Chelmsford’s rather archaic school of thought is the reason he’ll be spending whatever’s left of his life behind bars. Doesn’t that tell you something?”

“It tells me it’s all done with. It’s over. Now, I just want to get on with my life.”

“And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s good to make plans, it’s part of the healing process.” Kirsten paused. “What does getting on with your life look like?”

Emily drummed her fingers on the sofa. She had spent her whole life hiding in the shadows. Moving to London was supposed to have been about starting a new life—an opportunity to wipe the mirror clean, to become a different person. A better person. Someone with confidence and courage. Someone who was not afraid to speak her mind, or to stand up to those who tried to silence her. In a way, she had achieved all of these things, albeit through extreme measures.

Two months had passed since her horrific ordeal at the hands of Doctor Chelmsford and Doctor Williams. How long would the nightmares last? How long before she could set foot in a hospital, or her GP’s office, or even here at the therapy centre, without breaking into a cold sweat?

What did getting on with her life really mean? It meant sleeping through a night unaided. It meant waking up each morning without forgetting that she was safe.

Kirsten was staring at her, waiting for a response.

“I want to have an ordinary day with no bad feelings,” Emily said. “I want people to stop asking me how I’m doing every two minutes as if I’m made of glass and I’m about to break. The fact is I broke a long time ago. If I can be okay with that, why can’t everyone else?”

“People care about each other, Emily. It’s human nature. Don’t you think that’s a good thing—to have people in your life who are concerned about your welfare?”

Emily bit down on her lower lip and stared out of the window. The therapy centre was on the second floor of a converted Edwardian house on the western outskirts of Islington. Like Kirsten’s room, the window offered a bland view. Emily stared at the opposite row of houses. Sunlight glanced off the window panes, making her squint.

“The people in my old life turned against me,” she said.

Kirsten scribbled into her pad, the scratch of pen on paper the only sound in the room.

“Are you worried that’s going to happen again?”

“I worry about a lot of things, as you know.”

“What about the journalists? Are they still calling?”

Emily returned her gaze to the room. “The story is old news for now. Doctor Williams is dead and buried, along with half of his patients. Doctor Chelmsford and the others are awaiting trial. I’m sure the press will come snooping again when that happens.” She paused, the muscles in her shoulders knitting together again. “It’s me that’s the problem. I just wish my brain came with an off switch.”

Kirsten leaned forwards. “Emily, you’ve been through so much this last year, long before what happened with the doctors. Losing your mother, Phillip Gerard’s suicide—those two events alone are enough to send anyone over the edge. But you’re sitting here today as a survivor. You’re strong. Much stronger than you give yourself credit for.”

BOOK: Cruel Minds
2.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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