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Book reviews Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings FREE Rosie's Book Team Review

#Bookreview ‘Going Against Type’ by Sharon Black (@Authorsharonb) and Chapter 7 of Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

Yes, you’re in the right place and I’m still sharing the prequel to my story, but as I had another post booked for Friday (a great new book) I felt I should share this book I read as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. It’s a completely different read to my own book, but I like to mix it up and I know you do too. And now…

Going Against Type by Sharon Black
Going Against Type by Sharon Black

Going Against Type by Sharon Black. A quirky romance that turns expectations on their heads

I am reviewing this novel as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I thank her and the author for providing me with a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Going Against Type is a romantic comedy that turns many conventions and expectations on their heads. The female protagonist, Charlotte, who goes by Charlie, is a sports journalist who’s always been mad about sport and wanted to be a footballer when she was younger. She still exercises regularly and loves watching and talking about sports more than anything. She’s just out of a traumatic relationship where she sacrificed her sense of self and personality for a man who never appreciated it, and she’s not keen on repeating the same mistake again. Derry, the male protagonist, is also a journalist, but he’s an expert on clothes, fashion, the arts and celebrities in general. They work for rival newspapers and somehow end up writing anonymous features where they take opposing points of views about everything. Their columns and their bickering on the page become popular, but what neither expects is the fact that opposites attract and despite their personal baggage and their different approaches to life they fall for each other, without knowing they are journalistic rivals.

The story is told in the third person, mostly from Charlie’s point of view. She is younger and less confident, still trying to establish herself as a serious sports journalist. Not only her interest in sports, but also her lack of self-awareness, dislike of fashion and shopping, and concentration in her career marks her as different to most female protagonist of what has been called chick-lit. She’s insecure, and her relationship with her friends is strong, but she’s also family-oriented, focused on her work and refuses to drop everything when a handsome man just happens to turn up. Derry is also not your usual eye-candy. Although in appearance he is a Don Juan who goes out with as many models and flashy women as he can, we later discover he’s also had bad experiences, and he’s mostly straight in his dealings with Charlie (apart from keeping from her his writing identity).  Despite his reputation, if anything Derry seems a bit too good to be true (and reminded me of some comments about men in romantic novels written by women being a female fantasy rather than real men. Although that’s part of the appeal).

Not being a big sports fan in general, I was more interested in Derry’s line of work than in Charlie’s (apart from fashion, that is not my thing either), and I empathised with her doubts as to what they had in common. On the surface at least, it seems a case of opposites attract, although we do realise later in the novel that they share similar emotional experiences. Perhaps a more detailed account of their dates and time spent with each other would give the readers a better sense of their relationship and where the attraction between the two comes from. They are both likeable characters, the content of their columns —that is shared in the novel— is funny and witty, and some of their exchanges (on paper more than live) remind one of the good old classic comedies, like Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s films (although to my mind not quite as sharp). They do go to watch one of their movies at some point in the novel, that I thought it was a nice touch.

If you want a very light romantic read, set in gorgeous Dublin, with a background in the world of journalism, quick-witted and fun, with no erotica or daring sex scenes, I recommend you this novel. It’s perfect to pick up anybody’s spirit.

Here I leave you a preview if you want to have a look:

And more links:

http://amzn.to/1SLrdnI

http://amzn.to/1SLrgQk
Just in case you haven’t heard I published the prequel and it’s FREE, hopefully in most places by now . (If not, please report to Amazon adding the link to one of the other sites, as they need to be informed of links in each place it seems)

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés
Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret

How far would a writer go for a killer story? This is the question psychiatrist Mary Miller must answer to solve the first mystery/thriller of her career. You can get to know the main characters of this psychological thriller series for FREE and test your own acumen and intuition in this novella about the price of ambition.

Dr Mary Miller is a young psychiatrist suffering a crisis of vocation. Her friend Phil, a criminalist lawyer working in New York, invites her to visit him and consult on the case of a writer accused of a serious assault. His victim had been harassing him and accusing him of stealing his story, which he’d transformed into a best-selling book. The author denies the allegation and claims it was self-defence. When the victim dies, things get complicated. The threshold between truth and fiction becomes blurred and secrets and lies unfold.

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings is the prequel to Escaping Psychiatry a volume collecting three stories where Mary and her psychiatric expertise are called to help in a variety of cases, from religious and race affairs, to the murder of a policeman, and in the last case she gets closer than ever to a serial killer.

If you enjoy this novella, don’t forget to check Mary’s further adventures. And there are more to come.
Here you can check a preview live:

AMAZON (e-book)    KOBO NOOK APPLE    SCRIBD

PAGE FOUNDRY
But as I promised you to publish the whole of the story in my blog, here is Chapter 7. But don’t forget to download the story, to tell people about it, and if you like it, to review it too if you can. Ah, and next week, THE LAST CHAPTER!

7.     Inside Knowledge

Mary put the phone down, smiling. She was convinced that Phil would be wondering how she knew Lance had left, but she doubted he’d reach the right conclusion. It was true that he didn’t know the content of the conversation she’d had with him at the Hamptons, but that wasn’t all. Sometimes his set ideas and preconceptions blinded him to what should have been evident. But that was for the best. Mary had decided, in advance, to pretend to be surprised when he gave her the news, but in the end she hadn’t managed. It was lucky he hadn’t reached the right conclusion, as Mary didn’t want to risk Phil getting into any trouble over her own decisions and behaviour.

She knew Lance had left because… Yes, because Lance had phoned her. If Phil had phoned her on Tuesday, or early on Wednesday, it would have been a genuine surprise, but Lance had phoned her on Wednesday evening. She’d just come back from a long day at work and her phone had been ringing as she walked into her apartment. She’d grabbed the phone and said, “Hello!” convinced that she was too late.

“Hello, Mary? Do you remember me?”

The voice was familiar and it took her only a few seconds to remember where from. “La… Lance? But how did you get my number?”

“Where there’s a will there’s a way. It wasn’t very difficult but I don’t want to get anybody into trouble. After our conversation on Saturday, I wanted to catch up with you.”

“OK.”

“You might want to take a seat.”

Mary had obeyed, wondering what he was going to tell her.

“Thinking about it, it might not come as such a big surprise to you after our chat. I left Wright’s firm on Monday morning.”

“Wow.”

“Well, when I left on Sunday—and, by the way, sorry for not saying goodbye, but I needed time to think—I kept churning and churning everything that had happened and everything we had talked about in my head. And by the time I got home I had decided I had to do something. I needed to make amends. I had to atone for my actions and for the consequences of such actions.”

“But it wasn’t your—”

“I know, I know. I remember what you told me. Still, I felt guilty. I knew I couldn’t work with Oliver Fenton. I couldn’t defend him. And as I kept thinking about it, I realised I couldn’t carry on working in Wright’s firm, either. Similar ethics and ambition had already resulted in the death of an innocent and tortured man. It scared me to think how much more damage I could do if I carried on with that kind of work. So I went there on Monday and I just told him I was leaving, and that I cared too much about ethics and morality to carry on working there, or something of the sort. And I walked out. I had expected to feel anxious or scared or worried, but no. I just felt free.”

“What are you going to do now?”

“That’s the best of all! As soon as I walked out of the building it hit me. I am a lawyer. I’d caused terrible harm because I only cared about fame and my own reputation, but the law would help me achieve what it should really be about, Justice. So I went to the District Attorney’s Office and offered my services. My only condition was that I wanted to take up the case against Fenton. If not as principal, at least to be a part of the team. They agreed that I could be in charge, even if unofficially, under supervision.”

“Fantastic!”

“And that’s the other reason why I wanted to talk to you. I wanted to give you the news, but I also wanted to talk to you about the case. If you feel you’re in a position to talk about it. I’ll understand if you think you shouldn’t, as I know your standing in the case was quite unclear.”

“I’m not sure I will be of much help, but Fenton refused to be assessed, and other than my opinion about his mental health, there’s no documentation or a contract or a report that I have put my name to. I guess it would all be considered hearsay and would not stand up in court. Personally, I don’t think of him as a client, and although Percy Wright said he wanted to work with me in the future, nothing was formalised. And there was no exchange of money. Talking about such matters, how can you go from one side to the other? Isn’t there the issue of privileged information, et cetera?”

“Well, officially the DA will be the one running the show. And as Wright had insisted that he had overall responsibility, I am not listed in the documentation. It’s Percy Wright and team. Well, as you might have noticed, that’s the way he works. There might be issues later on, but we are hopeful that Fenton might plead guilty and that would save everybody a lot of time and effort.”

“In exchange for a reduced charge?”

“No… Perhaps a slightly reduced sentence.”

They were both quiet for a few seconds. Eventually Mary had to ask, “You said you wanted to talk to me about the case. As I told you, I’m not sure I’ll be of any help but ask and we’ll see.”

“I noticed from your reply to Mrs Roberts on Saturday, and from our later conversation, that you didn’t seem particularly sympathetic to Fenton’s version of events. From the little I know of you, I had the sense that although you might not like the guy personally, there was something else behind it.”

Mary had been wondering why she felt as she did about Fenton, too. “It’s nothing major, but we did have a brief conversation that at the time gave me pause, and later I’ve been replaying in my head.”

“Go on.”

“When he heard about the assessment, he decided that I wanted to know about his childhood, and he gave me a quick version of his biography. OK, it was brief, so it’s possible he decided to leave it out, but considering he’d talked about it in such detail and it was so central to his book, he never mentioned having worked on a phone helpline.”

“Interesting indeed.”

“Then I asked him if he had any hypothesis as to why Miles Green might have thought he’d based the book on him. I suggested that perhaps the details fitted him and he said that wasn’t his fault. And he added, ‘And I didn’t write about him. Or about…’ I had the feeling he stopped himself from saying something else, something incriminating. But I’m not sure what. Although I wonder—”

“What about?”

“I told Phil, when I finished reading the novel, that it didn’t ring true to me. Not sure why, but it doesn’t.”

Lance was quiet for what seemed like a long time.

“I told you I didn’t have anything specific or that could be used in a court of law,” Mary said.

“Oh, I think you’re wrong on that. Anything else?”

“I wasn’t very convinced about the timing. He was talking as if Green had been harassing him non-stop for a long time, but it hadn’t been that long. Ah, and he mentioned an injunction, but I’m sure nobody had talked about it. At least whilst I was present. The first time Percy and the team interrogated him, he mentioned the police and said they had told him to reveal his source, but nothing else. It’s probably nothing. I’m basing all that on impressions, a brief conversation with him that he was reluctant to engage in, and a couple of other interactions with you all.”

“You’re a gold mine. I’m in your debt.”

“I just hope justice is served.”

“I’ll be in touch. If you don’t mind.”

“Of course not. Good luck!”

Just in case you’ve missed any of the previous chapters, here are the links:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

If you’re intrigued and you haven’t caught up with the three others stories I’ve published featuring Mary and Phil, I just wanted to remind you that Escaping Psychiatry is available for only $0.99 only until the end of February. Rather than give you the description, you can have a look a read and preview it directly from here:

And a few links:

AMAZON (e-book) KOBO NOOK APPLE SCRIBD

PAGE FOUNDRY  PAPER

Thanks so much for reading and you know… Like, share, comment and of course CLICK!

Categories
Book launch Escaping Psychiatry launch FREE Writing samples

#Booklaunch. It’s out! FREE chapter 6 of Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings #Tuesdaybookblog

Hi all:

I finally published the prequel in a few places last week and it’s FREE, hopefully in most places by now . If you find it is not, could you do me a big favour and report that you’ve seen it free elsewhere? That will make them change the price. Thanks!

 

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés
Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret

How far would a writer go for a killer story? This is the question psychiatrist Mary Miller must answer to solve the first mystery/thriller of her career. You can get to know the main characters of this psychological thriller series for FREE and test your own acumen and intuition in this novella about the price of ambition.

Dr Mary Miller is a young psychiatrist suffering a crisis of vocation. Her friend Phil, a criminalist lawyer working in New York, invites her to visit him and consult on the case of a writer accused of a serious assault. His victim had been harassing him and accusing him of stealing his story, which he’d transformed into a best-selling book. The author denies the allegation and claims it was self-defence. When the victim dies, things get complicated. The threshold between truth and fiction becomes blurred and secrets and lies unfold.

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings is the prequel to Escaping Psychiatry a volume collecting three stories where Mary and her psychiatric expertise are called to help in a variety of cases, from religious and race affairs, to the murder of a policeman, and in the last case she gets closer than ever to a serial killer.

If you enjoy this novella, don’t forget to check Mary’s further adventures. And there are more to come.
Here you can check a preview live:

AMAZON (e-book) KOBO NOOK APPLE  SCRIBD

PAGE FOUNDRY
But as I promised you to publish the whole of the story in my blog, here is Chapter 6. But don’t forget to download the story, to tell people about it, and if you like it, to review it too if you can.

6.     The Surprise

Phil had always considered himself a keen observer and used to joke with Mary that he was an amateur psychologist. It was true that such skills as he had were very useful in his line of work. He watched Ryan and Mary’s interaction on the drive back to New York. He’d secretly wondered if those two would hit it off, but worried that asking directly would scare Mary off. She didn’t take interference in those kinds of matters too kindly. Still, once they had dropped Ryan off at his apartment, on the way back to his, Phil asked Mary, “So, what do you think?”

“What do I think about what? Your boss’s place is amazing, although I wouldn’t say I necessarily liked his guests or the highly artificial lifestyle. I doubt anybody there has expressed their true feelings even once in the whole weekend. Well, perhaps one person.”

“Are you talking about…”

“Lance. I think you were too far away, but a woman seating opposite us made some pretty  unkind comment about Miles Green and he became quite angry and gave her a piece of his mind.”

“Oh…I thought you were talking about Ryan.”

Mary smiled. “Ryan always speaks his mind, it seems. Even when it would be to his advantage not to. I like him.” Phil wondered what his expression was like, because Mary looked at him and shook her head from side to side. “No, no, don’t you start trying to pair me up with Ryan. It will never work. I think we might get to be good friends but I can’t imagine it going anywhere.”

Phil sighed and looked at Mary before manoeuvring to park the car. “I could try to fix you up with Lance, but I know he’s in very high demand. It might be difficult.”

“Oh, don’t go around trying to fix me up with anybody, please. And, are you insinuating that Lance is too good for me?”

“No, of course not! You’re far too good for him, but you know that certain girls only go after the flashy individuals.”

Mary looked at Phil sideways but eventually smiled. Phew! He’d got a reprieve.

“Well, I’ll finish packing and I should get going. I’m working tomorrow. Thanks so much for having me. It’s been interesting.”

“I’m sure it will carry on being interesting. And I’m sure Percy will want your help in future cases, if not this one.”

“I think Oliver Fenton is a lost cause, at least in regards to a possible assessment. Not to worry. It’s better that way. I wouldn’t have liked to have to go and give evidence about him. I suspect I would have done more harm than good to his cause. Although perhaps that’s not necessarily bad.”

Phil accompanied Mary to the train station and they said goodbye before Mary got on the train.

“Thanks again, Phil. And keep me posted on any news.”

“I will. Of course I will. And don’t forget to give me a call once you get home. Let me know you’re well.”

“Yes, Mom.”

They kissed and Phil watched as Mary walked down the platform and climbed into a carriage. He went back home wondering why Mary was so stubborn about relationships. It was true that perhaps his personal example hadn’t done much to encourage her to try but…

The next few days at work were incredibly bizarre, and Phil hardly had any time to think about anything that wasn’t work related. On Thursday evening he decided to avoid another after-work drink to unwind and went home. He had to stop to do some food shopping on the way, as he had hardly spent any time at his apartment since Mary left, other than a few hours to sleep. He had a shower, ate something, and as he was going to turn the TV on, decided to phone Mary first. He wanted to know what she’d made of the news. She answered quickly.

“Hi, Mary.”

“Hi, Phil.”

“You’re not on call or anything, are you?”

“No, no, don’t worry. I’d been thinking about you. I was reading an interview with Oliver Fenton yesterday, and yes, I couldn’t help but think about you, Fenton…well, the whole firm.”

“Well, there have been a few changes.”

“Really? Are you at liberty to talk about it?” Mary’s voice sounded mocking.

“You’re in Percy’s confidence, so I guess it’s OK. The truth is it will all be common knowledge soon, although I doubt you’d hear about it yourself.”

“OK, OK. You got me intrigued. Tell me the news.”

“Lance… You’ll never guess. Lance went and—”

“Left the firm.”

Phil was flabbergasted. How on earth had she guessed?

“Did you know? You must have known. You’d never in a million years have been able to guess such a thing. It took all of us by surprise! Did Ryan phone you?”

“Ryan? He doesn’t have my phone number. No, of course not.”

“How did you know, then?”

“You should already know I have a crystal ball. That must have been a shock for everybody.”

Phil was intrigued, but suspected that the more he asked, the less likely he’d be to get a straight answer. It might be better to just carry on with the conversation and perhaps it would slip out. He knew he was clutching at straws but he couldn’t think of anything else to say to convince Mary to spill the beans.

“Yes. Absolutely. And the way he did it, too. He just turned up quite early on Monday, walked into Percy’s office unannounced, leaving the door open, and said that he was quitting. That he’d made a mistake and he cared too much for ethics and morality to carry on playing games. That he didn’t want to side with the rich and powerful any longer. And he walked out. Percy was left there, opening and closing his mouth like a fish. It was a sight!”

“I would love to have seen it. And what’s happened with the case? Who has taken the lead?”

“Percy doesn’t seem prepared to let any more surprises come his way and has decided to take charge personally. His name was already on the papers anyway. Of course, that means that the rest of us are running around him, carrying and fetching like headless chickens. But still…”

“Will he have enough time to prepare?”

“There’s a month left until the official date of the trial, but with the change in the team he was talking about asking for an adjournment. A couple of weeks or so.”

“Yes, that would be handy. And how is everybody else?”

Phil was on the phone to Mary for a few more minutes, but she kept him distracted talking about all kinds of things, never referring back to Lance or her mysterious knowledge. Perhaps next time.

Just in case you’ve missed the previous chapters and prefer to read them in my blog, here are the links:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5
If you’re intrigued and you haven’t caught up with the three others stories I’ve published featuring Mary and Phil, I just wanted to remind you that Escaping Psychiatry is available for only $0.99 until the end of February. Rather than give you the description, you can have a look a read and preview it directly from here:

And a few links:

AMAZON (e-book) KOBO NOOK APPLE   SCRIBD

PAGE FOUNDRY OYSTER  GOOGLE PAPER

It’s also available in audio and you can check it here (not at $0.99).

Thanks so much for reading and you know… Like, share, comment and of course CLICK!

Categories
Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings FREE Writing samples

#FREE Chapter 5 of Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:
I hope to share the link to the published novella by next post (and if everything goes well it might be free already by then) but in the meantime, here is chapter 5.

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés
Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés

5.     The Weekend

Mary enjoyed the leisurely week where she completely changed the usual rhythm of her life. She threw herself enthusiastically into the task of exploring the city, visiting exhibitions, looking for the perfect clothes shop and bookshop, and walking for miles. By Thursday afternoon she was exhausted and decided to stay at Phil’s apartment and finish reading The Darkest Night. Phil arrived shortly after eight p.m. and found her cooking pasta.

“Hi, Phil.”

“Hi, Mary. It smells lovely.”

She smiled and looked at him. “Well, you know my culinary skills are limited. I’ve never been truly domesticated. If anything, a househusband could come in handy.”

Phil smiled and pressed her arm. “I’ll go and get out of this suit. Did you have a good day?” he asked her as he walked out.

“I came back early. I was tired and wanted to finish reading the novel,” she replied, talking loud enough for her voice to carry to Phil’s room.

He came back a couple of minutes later. “Which novel?”

The Darkest Night.”

“Fenton’s book? Isn’t it supposed to be a true story, or rather, based on a true story?”

“Yes. It’s supposed to be based on a true story. But there’s something that doesn’t ring true to me.”

“What? Is it a lack of psychological truth? Perhaps it’s due to the changes he made to disguise the identity of the main character.”

“Could be. But if I understood him correctly, he said that he had changed the details to hide his real identity, but the story was still his story. And to me, it doesn’t work. I’ve heard many things, and I’ve read psychiatric reports, and believe me, most of them would never get confused with a Pulitzer Prize winner, but they still ring true. This doesn’t. And there’s something about him…Fenton, I mean. He says he manned a telephone helpline offering advice and counselling. If that’s the case he’d be more understanding and have some empathy, one would hope. He’s too cold… But ignore me. It’s probably a defence mechanism. His behaviour, I mean.”

Phil shrugged. “Oh, you know what my opinion about the man is. I’m happy it’s Lance and not me handling the case, even if that might bring him a lot of attention.”

Mary turned off the hob. “This is ready. Will you set the table?”

“Sure. I’ll get some wine. Yes, and water for you. I know you don’t drink.”

While they were eating, Mary asked, “Shall I check and see if I can find tickets for a play tomorrow?”

“Oh, I nearly forgot. Mr Wright—Percy—has invited us to his house in the Hamptons this weekend. It seems his wife is having some kind of reception, and he’s decided we should be there too. I told Ryan we’d pick him up on the way. Wright has decided that tomorrow we’ll only work in the morning to make sure we get there at a reasonable time. I understand dinner will be a pretty ‘intimate’ affair. That probably means no more than twenty five people.”

Mary looked at Phil, cocking her head. “Are you serious?”

“Oh yes, of course. Wait until you meet Mrs Wright. You’ve probably seen her in posh magazines. I’m not surprised he wants big cases. She’s very high maintenance.”

“What do you mean ‘Wait until you meet Mrs Wright’? And you also said ‘we’ would pick Ryan up? Am I invited too?”

Phil laughed. “Oh yes. Percy insisted I make sure you come. He wanted to show you his hospitality. And I think he’s determined to secure your services for future cases. He must have decided it gives him some advantage over the rest. You must come. Don’t abandon Ryan and me. It will be interesting. Plenty of material for your stories.”

“You’re right on that. But I must be back to work on Monday. I phoned them today.”

“No problem. We’ll leave after breakfast on Sunday. So, have you decided psychiatry is your future, then?”

Mary sighed. “I’m not sure. But at the moment it feels unfinished. I must see it through. Complete the training. Then I’ll decide.”

The ride to Mr Wright’s house, in Phil’s Jeep the next day, was very comfortable.

“I never knew you liked this type of car, Phil. I’ve always known you with more sporty models,” Mary said.

“It seems to be the fashion, at the moment—at least among the elite,” Ryan replied. “And one of our clients has a dealership and always offers a very good discount to the firm’s staff.”

“Ah…”

The house was impressive. A valet came to collect the keys from Phil to park the car. Mary tried to hide her shock. “It’s a mansion. I didn’t expect it to be this huge and posh. I’m sure quite a few European royalty members live much more modestly,” she said.

“Well, this is America. Modesty has never been in fashion here,” Ryan whispered in her ear.

Mrs Wright was younger than Mary had expected, although when Phil introduced her and they shook hands, Mary realised that perhaps nature had had some help.

“My husband told me you had been very helpful with the writer’s case. What a terrible thing, the death of that man, isn’t it? Oh, Wilma, darling—”

Before Mary had a chance to reply or say anything, Mrs Wright had already moved on and was chatting to a woman wearing an elegant black dress.

“Pierre Balmain, methinks,” Ryan said.

Mary looked at him surprised. He smiled. “All this shopping and looking at magazines with my sister has evidently had an effect on me.”

The evening was extravagant. The ‘intimate’ dinner ended up being a formal affair with nearly fifty people in attendance. Thankfully, Mary sat next to Ryan. The woman sitting to her left was a newlywed and seemed only interested in her husband. Mary chatted to Ryan and he entertained her with gossip about the people he recognised.

On Saturday, the ladies had a visit to the Spa organised, and that seemed to take up the whole day, between sauna, exercise classes, yoga, massage, hairdressing, lunch, make-up… Mary quickly became bored and, in the afternoon, she decided to escape and take a bus that left her a couple of miles from the house. She fancied a walk and the afternoon was beautiful. The place was extravagant and properties there were exorbitantly priced, but it wasn’t difficult to see why they’d choose to live there. Or to have a second home there. As she was approaching the house, she heard somebody running behind her. She turned to find Lance, sweating buckets. He was wearing shorts and a very light running top, but judging by his state he must have been running for a long time. He slowed down slightly to say hello.

“I’ll see you later. I don’t dare to stop. I’m not sure I’d manage to get going again.”

“OK.”

He carried on running. If anything, he seemed to speed up after leaving her. Mary had only seen him from a distance the previous evening, as he had been sitting at the other end of the table, on Percy’s right. She remembered Phil had made a sarcastic remark. “He’s seated at the right hand of our version of God, of course.” Mary had told him off for being jealous but had not paid Lance any attention after that, and she hadn’t bumped into him later either.

That evening was much more formal and grand. Mary felt terribly underdressed. She looked at her long black dress and her flat black ballerinas and sighed. She’d never managed high heels, and she hadn’t expected anything like that when she had packed her suitcase to spend a few days with Phil. She grabbed a black mantilla embroidered with flowers and wrapped it around her shoulders. Straightening up, she pushed out of the room, feeling like a gladiator jumping into the arena. The lions awaited her.

She met Phil and Ryan, who seemed to have been waiting for her at the top of the stairs. There were a lot of people in the reception area and wave after wave of rich and elegant people seemed to be streaming through the front door.

“Couldn’t we just escape through the back door? I’m sure nobody would notice we weren’t here,” Mary said.

Ryan smiled. “I think it’s too late, although I’m sympathetic to your idea. Don’t worry. You’re right, nobody will notice us, and we’ll be forgotten in a few seconds. There are too many important people here.”

They were briefly greeted by Mrs Wright and then directed towards a larger room, where people were distributed in small groups, being offered drinks and fed canapes. Percy waved at them from one of the groups, which consisted of men of a certain age, very smartly dressed and looking self-important.

“You don’t want to get on the wrong side of any of those guys,” Ryan warned Mary. She nodded.

A string quartet played by one of the doors to the terrace and after listening to them for a while, Mrs Wright announced that it was time for dinner. She guided her guests to a different room to the one they had dined in the previous night. This one was much larger and she called it the ‘banqueting hall’. Ryan and Phil found their name places very soon after they entered the room. Ryan waved goodbye to Mary with a sad expression. Her place was well past the centre of the table.

She didn’t know the man to her left, a Mr Winston who, after introducing himself, wasted no time before returning to his conversation with a stunning blonde woman sitting next to him. The man opposite her told her he was called Peter Matthews and was an old friend of the family. He seemed mostly interested in his food. The woman sitting next to him, Stella Roberts, lost interest when she discovered that Mary wasn’t married and had no kids. Mary turned to the door and saw Lance come in. He sat on her right. That wasn’t his assigned place, as Mary had noticed that the name written there, Mr Blake, was unfamiliar to her.

“Won’t you get into trouble?” she whispered.

“Oh, nobody will dare to make a fuss. And I know Mr Blake. He definitely won’t say anything.”

He was right. A middle-aged man arrived and walked to the only space left, near the top of the table, not far from the hosts. He looked at the name-card, lifted an eyebrow, looked at Lance, who replied with a smile and a nod, and then shrugged and sat down.

“You were right,” Mary whispered.

Lance only nodded. The meal started and Mrs Roberts seemed to find Lance much more interesting than Mary, trying to engage him in several topics of conversation. He was polite but didn’t expand upon or appreciate her efforts, whilst he chatted amiably with Mary. As they were finishing the main course, the woman tried again. “So, I hear you are working with Percy in the case against that famous writer…Fenton? What a terrible thing, to be harassed just because you’ve become famous. It must be dreadful.”

Mary couldn’t help herself. “Dying is quite terrible too.”

“Greed always gets punished,” Mrs Roberts stated.

“What do you mean?” Mary asked. She had no idea what Mrs Roberts meant.

“Well, surely that man was trying to blackmail the author, insisting that he’d stolen his story to make him pay for it. All these people are so used to getting paid off to avoid a scandal… Good for Fenton for not putting up with it!”

Mary noticed Lance was visibly shaking and remembered his reaction when Percy had told them Miles Green had died. The lawyer’s face was pale but his neck was red and a vein pulsated on his brow.

“How dare you presume to know what happened? What makes you think you have a right to talk ill of the dead? Your arrogance knows no bounds. Shut up before I forget you’re supposed to be a lady,” he blurted out.

Mrs Roberts looked at him, her eyes open wide and her mouth agape too. Lance folded his napkin, mumbled an apology and stood up, leaving the napkin on the chair as he walked out of the room.

“What was that about? I’d heard such nice things about him from Percy,” Mrs Roberts said. Mary knew the question was not addressed at her and avoided her gaze. After the dessert, they were all invited to the terrace to see the firework display. Mary saw Phil and Ryan walking towards her, but felt curious and rushed to get out of the hall before anybody caught up with her. She walked around the building and finally found Lance sitting on a stone bench, at the back of the house, alone. The floor in that area was covered in tiny stones and the noise of her steps made Lance lift his head.

“Sorry. I didn’t want to disturb you but I wondered if you were OK.”

He smiled, with a sad expression in his big blue eyes. He moved to one end of the bench, making room for her.

“Thanks.”

They sat in silence for a while. Finally, Mary said, “I know this is none of my business, and feel free to tell me to get lost if you want, but…I noticed your reaction to the news of Miles Green’s death the other day, at the firm.”

He slowly lifted his gaze and fixed it on hers.

“I don’t work for Mr Wright, and I have nothing to do with the case, as Fenton refused the assessment. I just couldn’t help but notice and wonder. You seemed more worried about the alleged victim than about your defendant. I’m not going to tell you to trust me because I’m a doctor. I’m just a curious bystander, forever intrigued by human nature.”

He visibly let go, as if crumpling in front of Mary’s eyes. “It’s all…a mess, really. And it’s my mess. You see, Mr Wright has this fantasy in his head about me being a sleek type, a fantastic lawyer and a rough diamond. Well, rough is right. I come from a little town in Minnesota. Don’t ask. Only people within a thirty mile radius even know where it is. My parents worked hard all their lives to give my sister and me a good education. My sister is now a primary school teacher, very happy. And I… I studied hard, and I watched every movie, every TV series, and read every novel with lawyers on it. Successful lawyers. Even before I knew the law, I knew how to play the part. I was only interested in flashy cases, in tagging along with the big names when they were working, and in doing things that would give me the reputation I needed to make it to the top. But I had to do pro-bono work too. I tried my hardest to shift it to the other lawyers and to trainees, but I couldn’t avoid it completely.

“And then, a couple of years ago, I had to represent Miles Green. He’d tried to bring a case against his abusers. He was the first one who dared to speak, although he wasn’t the only victim. Once he had the guts to talk, plenty of others followed suit. He was a very shy and insecure man, despite having been in the army, but he felt better for pursuing it. And then, as the hearing approached, I had a chance to assist in a case that was sure to get media attention and left Green’s case to a very junior colleague who had to take it to court. Not only that, but I accidentally misplaced some of the evidence. If I had been there it wouldn’t have mattered, as I would have realised and sorted it, but my colleague didn’t know, and I hadn’t even briefed him properly.

“The judge threw out the case, due to lack of evidence, and Green’s abusers went free. I never owned up to my mistake, and as a result my junior colleague didn’t finish his placement and quit law. And Green…I’m sure that if his abusers had gone to prison and the pressure and harassment had stopped, he wouldn’t have gone after Fenton, and he would still be alive. The news of his death the other day brought it all back. And then Wright makes me defend that man…”

“You can’t blame yourself for Green’s death. You didn’t kill him.”

“But I’m defending his killer! And it was my fault that his abusers went free!”

“Blaming yourself is not going to help him or his family. Perhaps there might be something practical you can do to help…”

His eyes opened wide and his lips curved slightly. “You’re right. And I know just the thing.”

The noise of the fireworks intensified and he stood up, offering her his hand and pulling her up. He took her arm and directed her towards the terrace at the back of the big hall where everybody was watching the fireworks. Phil and Ryan joined them.

Phil had to speak quite loudly to make himself heard with all the noise around them. “Where were you hiding?”

“I just needed a walk and a bit of fresh-air, and I met Lance at the back of the house.”

“Look at that!” Ryan pointed at a big purple cascade of light illuminating the whole sky, and that was the end of the conversation.

The next morning, while they were having breakfast—a much more informal affair:  people ate whenever they got ready and went downstairs, rather than having a set time, and only the overnight guests attended—Ryan said, “I bumped into Lance this morning. I woke up early and decided to go for a walk, and as I was coming back, Lance was putting his suitcase in the trunk of his car. I asked him what he was doing, leaving so early, and he told me he had to go, that there was something very important he had to do. Ah, and he said to say goodbye to you guys.”

“The big case must have gone to his head,” Phil said.

“I think you might be mistaken,” Mary said.

Phil looked at her and tutted. “I’m disappointed in you, Mary. I would never have thought you’d fall for his performance.”

Mary smiled. “He might surprise you yet.”

In case you need to catch up with the previous chapters, you can do it here:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

If you’re intrigued and you haven’t caught up with the three others stories I’ve published featuring Mary and Phil, I just wanted to remind you that Escaping Psychiatry is available for only $0.99. Rather than give you the description, you can have a look a read and preview it directly from here:

And a few links:

AMAZON (e-book) KOBO NOOK APPLE SCRIBD

PAGE FOUNDRY OYSTER PAPER

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Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings Writing samples

#FREE Chapter 4 of Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

We’re getting close to the publication. I’m going through the final corrections of the Spanish version now. Today I bring you chapter 4of Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings. And don’t miss the ending of the post, as I have a surprise if you want to listen to me on the radio this afternoon (26th January).

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés
Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés

Chapter 4. The Assessment

Mary and Phil arrived at Wright and Partners at eight forty five. Phil formally introduced Mary to Maggie and showed her the kitchen cum staffroom, where the coffee-making facilities were.

“There are always some soft drinks and juice in the fridge too. I know you aren’t overly fond of coffee or tea.”

Mary nodded.

“Will you be OK here? You can wait in Maggie’s office, if you prefer.”

“I’ll be fine. I imagine I’ll get to see more people here.”

“True. If you get bored, just come over. We’ll be in the same meeting room where we interviewed Mr Fenton on Saturday. I’m pretty sure Mr Wright wouldn’t mind, but I’d rather if he suggested it himself. We might be discussing other cases too…”

“Don’t worry. I have my book,” Mary shook her copy of Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. She had wondered about taking a different book with her, but she was enjoying the novel, and it seemed fairly appropriate. And she didn’t have long to go. She planned to read The Darkest Night next. She’d count it as research, and she was sure she could add it to the expenses of the case. Of course, that was if they were planning on paying her, which she hadn’t even thought of asking. They didn’t seem to need to make any savings but appearances might be deceptive.

Tania entered the room, wearing a short red dress and even more make-up than on Saturday, or at least that was Mary’s impression. As she didn’t usually wear make-up, she was aware that hers might be a biased opinion.

“Oh, hi! Mary, isn’t it? This must be very weird for you, used to mad people and all that. Although I guess plenty of…what do they call them? Oh, yes, ‘the worried well’ also go and visit psychiatrists, don’t they? If you ask me, they must be a bit nuts if they choose to go and see a psychiatrist. No offence.”

“None taken,” Mary had to bite her lip to not burst out laughing. Phil was right. Tania didn’t strike her as lawyer material.

Tania prepared a tray. “It’s for the morning meeting. Aren’t you coming?”

“No, there’s bound to be confidential stuff discussed that I shouldn’t be party to. I’m here for the assessment.”

“Oh well, as long as nobody tells the clients it should be OK. But, to be honest, these meetings…they can go on and on forever, discussing some silly thing. You’re probably better off here. See you later!”

“Do you need a hand?” Mary went to stand up and help Tania with the heavy tray.

“Oh, no, don’t worry. My mom always says I’m strong as a horse. And my father always corrects her. ‘As a mare, dear, as a mare.’ They’re a funny couple, my parents. Well, I’d better go, before they notice their coffees are missing and start moaning.”

And off she went. Mary chuckled and went back to her book. A few minutes later she felt as if somebody was watching her. When she looked up she found a young man, at least four or five years younger than Phil and her, standing next to the sink, looking at her. He was wearing a beautiful grey suit, a very fine turtleneck jumper of darker grey, and black leather shoes that screamed hand-made. He was tall, seemed very athletic, and had a beautiful face, like a Greek sculpture. Perfect profile and deep blue eyes. Blond wavy hair. He smiled and, as Mary expected, his smile was also perfect. The best money could buy, no doubt.

“You must be Mary,” he said, reaching her in a couple of long strides and extending his arm. He had a firm handshake. “Maggie told me you came on Saturday and were present at the interview with Mr Fenton. I couldn’t be here. Family matters. I’m Lance Mayfield.”

“Yes, I imagined that.”

He nodded. “And I understand you’re going to assess Mr Fenton to rule out any mental health problems. Your insight will be very useful, I’m sure.”

“Thanks. I might not be able to clarify matters much, but considering the circumstances of the case, it should be interesting.”

“No doubt. Unfortunately the victim is in no fit state to be assessed now, but perhaps he should have been a long time ago and this unfortunate incident would have been avoided. It’s a shame that nobody intervened, or at least not in a constructive way, before things got to that point…” Lance went quiet, as if deep in thought. After a few seconds he jolted and smiled, back from wherever his mind had taken him. “So, you like to read… I used to read a lot, both fiction and non-fiction, but these days I don’t have much time. The last book I read was, well, The Darkest Night. For research purposes. It’s not my usual type of book, but it’s quite good. And very realistic and detailed.”

“I was thinking of reading it next. It might help give me a better picture of Mr Fenton.”

“They say all authors write themselves into their books, consciously or unconsciously,” Lance said, nodding.

“I’ve read the same,” Mary added.

“Is Phil being a good host? I’m still discovering the city myself. I’m a newcomer. But if you’d like to see something or go exploring, I’d love to keep you company.” He flashed his winning smile again. And now that he was closer, Mary noticed he had dimples. Of course—he would, wouldn’t he?

“Thanks. You’re very kind. Aren’t you going to miss the meeting?”

“Oh, I had a meeting elsewhere this morning. Don’t tell anybody, but Mr Wright is interested in expanding and sent me to talk to one of my connections, Mr Timmins, who runs his own firm, mostly to do with property and finances. He wants to arrange a meeting and see if he could convince him to bring his firm in, but thought it would be better to test the waters first.”

Mary looked up at him. She didn’t know if all his friendliness and sharing of information was for her benefit, or if this was how he was with everybody. She didn’t know why, but another scene of House of Games came to her mind. The one where Mike (played by Joe Mantegna) is telling Margaret (the psychiatrist, Lindsay Crouse) the basics of the confidence game. He explains that the conman makes it work by taking the victim (or ‘mark’) into his or her confidence. Perhaps she was too cynical about lawyers, but couldn’t help but think that Lance was very smooth, and she understood well why Phil wasn’t terribly fond of the firm’s new acquisition.

Mary smiled. “Did it go well, then?”

“Oh, he was very receptive. I’m sure if the offer is good enough he’ll be more than happy to join Mr Wright’s firm. It must be nice to be your own boss, but having the support of a big firm can be handy if things don’t go according to plan.” He went quiet and seemed to be lost in his own reveries again.

Mary looked at him, wondering. He didn’t look as if anything had ever not gone according to his plans. But perhaps he was a very good actor. “Yes. It’s quite risky to have to shoulder all the responsibility.”

Lance shook his head and smiled again. “I should be getting back to my office. But don’t forget to think about what I told you. I’d love to go exploring with you. I’m sure we’d make a winning team. A psychiatrist and a lawyer!”

He left the room and Mary thought she had enough with one lawyer in her life. And she suspected that Phil was of the same opinion with regards to psychiatrists.

She went back to her book and a while later, when she had just finished reading the last sentence, as if perfectly timed, somebody coughed, trying to get her attention. She looked up. “Mr Fenton.”

“Hi. Mary Miller, isn’t it? Doctor…Mary Miller.” Although Mary wasn’t surprised, Fenton must have thought she was, because he added, “There wasn’t anybody at the desk in reception when I left on Saturday. I just checked the registry.”

Mary found it a bit odd. “Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that was the first time you’d come to the offices of Wright and Partners. I assume the other people must have been introduced to you before we arrived but…”

“You assume wrong. Mr Wright introduced himself and told me it was a preliminary meeting, as there had been no decision made yet as to who would take on my case. He said we were waiting for some more members of the team. And then he went back to check his notes.”

Mary looked at him, expectant.

“You see? I’m an author. And I love the research part of things. I had checked out all the information I could find about the firm and its staff. And you were nowhere to be found. That’s why I had to check. Then I understood why you took such a stance when I made a comment about the actions of people—”

“…suffering from a mental illness,” she finished.

He stared at her for a few seconds and finally dropped his gaze. He sighed and looked up again. “What’s the idea, then? That we go over the details of all the incidents with Mr Green so you can come up with a likely diagnosis of what was wrong with him? How is that going to help?”

Mary couldn’t lie. Even if the firm was the one requesting her services, to her, the ‘client’ was Fenton, and lying to your client is hardly the best way to enter a therapeutic, or at least a diagnostic, relationship. “No. That’s not it at all. They thought it would be a good idea if I assessed you. Of course, you’d need to be in agreement.”

His eyes opened wide, to the point where his eyelids seemed to have retracted into the eye sockets. “Assess me? Why? Do they think I’m mad?” he asked, raising his voice.

She shook her head. “Perhaps we should talk about this somewhere else. It’s not very private.”

He nodded and left the room. He came back a few minutes later and stopped right in front of her. She looked up at him.

“I went to talk to Maggie. She showed me to a small reception area. She assured me it would be empty. We can go there.”

“It might be better to wait until Mr Wright and his team finish the meeting.”

Fenton tried to laugh but it sounded like a bark. “Lawyers are a necessary evil. From that to trusting their explanations… They’re handy for dazzling the other party, but if we’re going to be talking about a psychiatric assessment, I think a psychiatrist is the right interlocutor.”

Mary shrugged, giving up. Either he would agree to the assessment or not, but it would be an interesting exercise in getting to understand how his mind and his emotions worked, although he appeared very calm. She stood up and followed the author to a small room with four easy chairs, a small coffee table and some magazines. Opposite the door, where a window would normally have been, there was a rather large aquarium. The blue light coming off it seemed to hypnotise them for a little while. Eventually Fenton pointed at one of the sofas, and once Mary had sat on it, he took a seat on the sofa opposite. Mary realised the writer liked to be in charge and was trying to manipulate the ‘characters’ and the ‘setting’ as he would in one of his novels.

“So…why assess me?” His tiny grey eyes were piercing hers.

When talking to patients who were unwell or fragile, Mary tried hard not to upset them by being too direct or bringing up subjects likely to disturb them before she’d got to know them well; but there was nothing like that in the writer’s case. Blunt might be the way to go. After all, he was a professional author, and she was unlikely to be more adept with words than he was. “The violence you used seems quite extreme. When your neighbours found you, they had to physically prevent you from carrying on hitting him when he was already unconscious on the floor.”

“He was inside my building! He’d stop at nothing!”

“Mr Fenton—”

“Call me Oliver.” His tone had gone back to normal in a fraction of a second, as if he had an on-off switch. Very peculiar. Mary nodded. “You must understand, Mary… Can I call you Mary?” He looked at her and she nodded again. “This wasn’t an isolated incident. Yes, from the moment my book became a bestseller and it appeared everywhere, all kinds of people have been pestering me. Readers who want some memento, or an autograph, groupies who will follow the latest thing—whatever it might be—others who hope to steal a bit of the limelight by getting close to someone known, paparazzi, reporters… But they normally got tired or stopped when they’d achieved whatever they were looking for. But this man, no. He had neither rhyme nor reason. The others didn’t frighten me. One expects such individuals. But not somebody like him.”

He didn’t appear frightened, but Mary nodded.

“When I got downstairs to leave the building…”

“Sorry. Before we get to that—”

“Don’t tell me you’re going to ask me about my parents and my childhood and all that nonsense? Come on! Well, if you must know, my mother was an elementary school teacher for many years, and now she’s the headmistress. It’s a Catholic school, St Mary’s, but no, I’m not religious, and I wasn’t brought up a Catholic. And my father runs a car dealership. General Motors. I have an older brother, Tom, who customises cars, and a younger sister, Ellie, who’s studying to be a teacher. No abuse in the family, neither sexual nor physical, no substance abuse, no domestic violence, no divorce, no suicide. I enrolled in and dropped out of several degrees: Architecture, Philosophy, Law. I started writing articles for the student newspaper at college, and then carried on writing features for the local newspaper. And the stories got longer and longer. And my sex life is perfectly fine,” he concluded, with a gasp when he finally stopped to breathe.

“Thanks for all that, although it’s not what I was going to ask you. Yes, it would form part of a full assessment, but you haven’t agreed to it yet. No, what I was going to ask you was if you could tell me exactly what Mr Green had done before that worried you so much. How long ago was your book published?”

“Eight…no, nine months. It came out on a Monday but there had been a fair amount of interest already. My agent and the publishing company had managed to get some pretty important writers and reviewers to read the book and publish their reviews within the first week of launch. There was a lot of speculation about how much of a change had been made to the location and the circumstances. You must have heard about the accusations and the allegations about the clergy and the sexual abuse of youths in some places. Yes, people wondered. They asked me for a few interviews… The New York Times, ABC, Sky News. Oprah chose The Darkest Night as the September book for her book club. And that pushed it to the top. Everybody was talking about it. And that’s when it started.”

“So, Mr Green appeared for the first time in September, then.”

“Well, no, not exactly. That’s when my life changed completely. My agent sold the rights to make a movie. It’s all being kept very hush-hush, but big names are interested. And he also sold the rights to the serialisation of the novel to a chain of newspapers, country-wide. My life spiralled out of control. I was about to take my exam to become an accountant, but it no longer seemed necessary.

“I moved to a new apartment and a big book tour was organised. I visited all the big cities, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas, Miami… Universities requested me as a speaker; several charities wanted me as their figurehead… It was mid-January when Mr Green appeared for the first time in my life.”

Mary calculated. That meant it had been around four months ago, but under three months of persecution, if one took into account when the incident had taken place. Not that long a period of time, but it could feel very long if one was the victim of persecution and harassment.

“At first he didn’t seem dangerous. He just started appearing at all the bookshops, libraries, wherever I was going to give a talk. He always sat on the first row but never asked any questions. Mike, my agent, was the first one to notice him. He thought it was peculiar. It didn’t matter how far we travelled, he’d be there. But just there. Sitting and listening. Sometimes he’d take some notes. But I had no idea what for, as reporters always tried to get one on one interviews and would talk to Mike. He simply sat with the public. I joked that perhaps he was a writer trying to learn something. He seemed so intent.”

The author stopped and fixed his eyes on the aquarium. “What a strange existence, don’t you think? Living your whole life inside a box, at the mercy of a puny human being and his or her whims. When they turn on the light it’s day. If they switch it off, it’s night again. For them, it’s probably a whole universe and we’re their god.”

“Probably. What happened next?”

He sighed. “This is tedious. I’ve explained it millions of times. One day, after he’d been coming to the events for several weeks, out of the blue, he came to me with a book for signing. When he was in front of me, he threatened me. And from that moment on, he kept doing the same, everywhere I went. We banned him and warned the security guards not to let him in, but he wouldn’t stop. He wore disguises; he would sneak in through the back door…”

“What exactly was the nature of his threats? Did he threaten violence?”

“I’ve told the same story many times. I’m sure it’s written down somewhere in the file. But, anyway…he told me he knew my ‘secret’ and he would ‘ruin’ me. Mike can bear witness to it. I think he has. He was next to me.”

“What secret? Did you have any idea what he was talking about?”

“At that point, no. Of course not. I have no secrets, at least nothing that could ruin me or be of any interest to anybody else. Later on, he told me that he knew I had used his story without his permission and I had no right to do that. I told him I had no idea who he was but he insisted. He wouldn’t leave. I had to call security and they had to drag him out, kicking and screaming. Actually kicking and screaming. But that didn’t stop him and he kept coming back. We tried the usual, even an injunction, but nothing seemed to deter him. And things escalated. He started shouting, threatening me, telling me he would talk to the media and reveal how I had exploited his life for my benefit. All complete madness. I’d never seen that man before.”

“Did he ever mention how he thought you had got hold of it?”

“He mentioned something about ‘bastards’ selling the story. He’d go into a rant every time he started talking about that. The only words I could make out were ‘therapist’, ‘school’ and ‘police’. My assumption is that he thought somebody he must have told the story to, some professional, must have spoken to me. But I’ve never given any details about how I got hold of the story. He doesn’t even look like the man in question!”

“What makes him think it’s his story then?”

“You’re asking the wrong person. I have no idea. I guess it’s possible that more than one person has gone through similar experiences.”

“And you said you made some changes to ensure that the real person would not be identifiable.”

“Yes. It’s all nonsense. Of course it’s not him. He’s a lunatic. Or mentally disturbed, whatever is the correct way to catalogue him.”

“Perhaps some of the details were the same.”

“Perhaps. But I can’t help that and it’s not my fault. I wasn’t the abuser. And I didn’t write about him. Or about…” He stopped suddenly, as if he had said too much, looked down and then, after a few seconds, fixed his eyes on Mary. “As you can see, this is nothing to do with me. It would be a waste of your time—and mine—to proceed with a full assessment. I sleep well, I eat like a horse, my mood is fine, other than the stress due to the case. I have never heard voices—”

“Not even your characters?” Mary asked.

He chuckled. “I am perfectly capable of distinguishing my imagination and my creativity from somebody or something trying to control my brain or talk to me. No. I have no strange ideas, unless you consider self-defence and wanting to survive and live another day a strange idea.”

Mary seemed to have hit a wall. There were many other things she would have liked to ask, and some things she wasn’t very convinced of in Fenton’s account, but she didn’t believe she could justify pursuing that course of action. The writer was looking at her with a placid expression, convinced that he had won. As Mary opened her mouth to say something, although she wasn’t sure of what, the door opened, giving her a reprieve. Mr Wright’s head peered in. “So here you are. Maggie told me you wanted somewhere private to talk. Could you come with me? I have something I must communicate to everybody involved in the case.”

Fenton stood up, while Mary just looked on. She wasn’t really involved in the case, especially now that the writer had made quite clear what his opinion of the possible psychiatric assessment was. But Mr Wright didn’t know anything about it and gestured for her to follow him, impatient. Mary was convinced that Mr Wright wasn’t accustomed to being kept waiting. Ever. She stood up and followed the two men. She speeded up, managing to get by Mr Wright’s side. “Mr Wright—”

“Call me Percy. After all, you aren’t one of my employees.”

“Thank you. Percy…Mr Fenton isn’t keen on the assessment—”

“That’s of no consequence at the moment. Just go to the meeting room. I’ll go and find Lance.”

Mary stood in the middle of the corridor, wondering what was happening. She saw Phil by the meeting room door and walked towards him. “What’s going on? I was talking to the writer, who, by the way, is less than keen on having an assessment of his mental state, when Percy turned up and said he had something to ‘communicate’. Do you have any idea what all this is about?”

Phil shrugged. “None. We were just going through the cases in the meeting, like every morning, when Maggie knocked at the door, came in and whispered something in his ear. And then he stood up, told us we could leave and should meet him there again in fifteen minutes, and left. It’s the first time something like that has happened since I’ve been here. And from the expression in everyone else’s faces, it’s the first time for them too.

“You see, according to Percy Wright, these morning meetings are the key to the firm’s success and they are sacred. They can’t be disturbed or interrupted. So whatever is going on must be pretty big.”

Mr Wright arrived, followed by Lance Mayfield, who flashed a smile in Mary’s direction before following the boss. Phil and Mary went in too. Steve, Tania, Ryan and the client were already siting inside.

“Shall I go to call Maggie?” Steve asked, half-rising from his chair.

“No, no. That won’t be necessary. She has quite a few things to deal with, and she’s aware of what we’re going to discuss.”

In the silence that followed, they all looked at each other. Mary noted Mr Wright’s use of pause for dramatic effect. Perhaps it was true that being a good actor could be very helpful in a career as a lawyer.

“Sorry for having to interrupt the meeting like that, but I had some very grave news that I had to check… No, don’t worry; it’s not about me or my family. Nothing like that. It’s about the case. That’s why Mr Fenton is here too. In the early hours of the morning, the victim of the case, Miles Green, passed away.”

There was a collective gasp. Mary looked at the writer, but other than opening his tiny eyes slightly, he showed no other outward evidence of any emotion. As she turned to look at Phil, something caught her eye. She noticed Lance’s hand right was shaking uncontrollably as he tried to grab the glass of water in front of him, to the point that he gave up and hid both his hands under the table. She looked at his face. He looked so pale and gaunt that Mary wondered if he was physically ill and worried that he might collapse.

“Do they know what happened?” Steve asked.

“They aren’t a hundred per cent sure but suspect a brain haemorrhage, most likely as a consequence of the…alleged assault,” Mr Wright said.

“And now?” Steve asked.

“Now? Well, I guess they’ll change the charges. Perhaps you should reconsider that assessment, Mr Fenton—Oliver,” Mr Wright said, turning to look at the author.

“I can’t see why the fact that the hospital didn’t know how to look after Mr Green should mean that I have to undergo a psychiatric assessment. Do you think there’s anything wrong with me?” Mr Fenton asked, turning to look at Mary.

She sighed and looked straight at the writer, although she could feel everybody’s eyes on her. Then she looked at Mr Wright. He nodded in the author’s direction. “It’s evident he doesn’t think there’s any point in doing an assessment, and I know that without his cooperation there isn’t much you can do. But honestly, what do you think?”

“I can’t say I’ve had a chance to conduct a detailed interview, and I have had no access to any medical records or anybody else’s corroborative information, but from what Mr Fenton has told me and what I had observed, no, I wouldn’t say there’s any evidence that he is mentally ill or disturbed to the point of not being aware of the consequences of his actions. But my examination isn’t thorough enough to stand up in court—or anywhere else, for that matter. It’s more of an educated opinion than anything else.”

The writer nodded.

Mr Wright said, “It’s good enough for me. I think we have many other things to worry about and quite a different trial to prepare for, now. Mr Fenton, if you are in agreement, I’d like Mr Mayfield—Lance—to be in charge of the case. He’ll have plenty of support from the team, and I’ll personally supervise him, and officially the case will be listed under my name. You shouldn’t let his young age worry you. I trust him implicitly.”

Mary looked at Lance. He had fixed his eyes on the white piece of paper in front of him and his hands remained out of sight. He finally stood up, slowly, and extended his arm towards the writer. The lawyer seemed to have managed to get his emotions under control; other than being slightly pale, he appeared as sleek as usual. Fenton stood up and shook his hand.

“Well, I guess that will be all. Let’s get to work. If you have any ideas on how to formulate the case, do share with Lance or me. And I hope we can count on you all if we need an extra hand.”

Everybody nodded and stood up. As Mary followed Phil towards the door, Mr Wright put his hand on her shoulder. “Sorry about that. I’m sure it would have been helpful to have a full assessment, but there’s nothing we can do at this point.” He looked at the door and, once he saw Fenton was out of hearing, he added, “He’s very stubborn. But I guess that’s not a mental illness. You’ll be compensated anyway. And hopefully we will have occasion to cooperate more fully in the future.”

“Thanks, Percy. And don’t worry. There’s no need for compensation. I didn’t really do anything.” Mary didn’t know why, but she decided she didn’t want to be in Mr Wright’s debt. She followed Phil to his office and closed the door behind her.

“I knew he’d give the case to Lance. Teacher’s pet. Oh well, perhaps it’s better that way. I can’t say I feel very positively disposed towards Oliver Fenton.”

“How is that? I thought everybody deserved a defence.”

Phil sighed, dropping on his chair. “Yes, of course. But it’s always helpful if you believe your client and they are vaguely likeable. And I can say, with hand on heart, that I find him neither believable nor likeable.”

Mary nodded. “Yes. I agree with you on both counts.”

“Did he say anything of interest to you?”

“Nothing I could put my finger on, but there are things that don’t seem to fit. No, it’s officially none of my business. But I still intend to read his book… Mr Green’s death is very sad. And we never got to hear his side of the story, not independently, anyway.”

“That’s true.” We were quiet for a few seconds. Finally, Phil said, “Do you have any plans, or do you want to stay around and we can go for lunch later?”

Mary checked her watch. “No, thanks. It’s too early. I had a long list of things I wanted to do, and places I wanted to visit, and I had put them on the back burner because of this, but now I’ll have time. I have museums to visit, and I want to wander around the park again, take the ferry and go to Long Island… And if you fancy, I’ll try to get half-price tickets and we can go to watch another show later in the week.”

“Sounds perfect.”

“See you later.” Mary left the firm and set off on her adventures in the Big Apple.

If you want to catch up with the three previous chapters, here are the links:

Chapter 1 

Chapter 2 

Chapter 3 
If you’re intrigued and you haven’t caught up with the three others stories I’ve published featuring Mary and Phil, I just wanted to remind you that Escaping Psychiatry is available for only $0.99. Here I leave a few more details and some links:

 

Escaping Psychiatry cover by Ernesto Valdés
Escaping Psychiatry cover by Ernesto Valdés

Escaping Psychiatry

‘Escaping Psychiatry’ is a collection of three stories in the psychological thriller genre with the same protagonist, Mary, a psychiatrist and writer. She is trying to develop her literary career but circumstances and friends conspire to keep dragging her back to psychiatry.

In ‘Cannon Fodder’ Mary has to assess Cain, an African-American man accused of inciting a religious riot when he claimed that he could hear God and God was black. He might not be mad, but Mary is sure he’s hiding something.

‘Teamwork’ sees Mary hoodwinked into offering therapy to Justin, a policeman feeling guilty after his partner and ersatz father was killed on-duty. Before Mary can extricate herself from the case, things get personal.

In ‘Memory’ Mary goes missing after an incident with Phil, who is manic as he hasn’t been taking his medication. When she is found, she has been the victim of a horrific crime, but they soon discover she was luckier than they had realised.

The epilogue revisits Mary at the point of the trial of her abductor and sees what changes have taken place in her life. Will she finally manage to Escape Psychiatry?

AMAZON (e-book) KOBO NOOK APPLE SCRIBD

PAGE FOUNDRY OYSTER PAPER

And if you want to get a taster of the book, you can check here:

Thanks so much for reading and you know… Like, share, comment and of course CLICK! 

Ah, and I wanted to share the post I did for Lit World Interviews yesterday as I explain that I’m doing my own programme in Penistone FM this afternoon (26th January form 5 to 8 pm, GTM) just in case you can join me. All Welcome!

http://wp.me/p4XFVw-1ge

 

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#FREEChapter2 of my psychological thriller ‘Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings’ #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

As I promised last week, here is chapter 2 of the prequel to Escaping Psychiatry. Escaping Psychiatry Beginnings.

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés
Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés

2.     The Firm

“Mary! Here you are!”

Phil hugged her and slapped her on the back. He looked well. Dressed casually, well, what passed for casually in Phil’s books, perfectly ironed chinos, Italian black leather shoes, a polo shirt, and impeccably cut and combed hair, and with a huge smile on his face. He definitely had something planned.

“You look like the personification of a WASP on his day off,” Mary said.

He chuckled. “Now, now. I’m wearing full length trousers. No tweed or golfing attire. And in my heart of hearts I’m a small town boy.”

“If you say so.”

He grabbed Mary’s arm by the elbow and picking up the suitcase she had deposited on the floor, guided her inside. “Come in, come in, have a look. You can drop your things in your room, here, and then we’ll have breakfast.”

“I had a drink on the train.”

“But I haven’t!”

Mary had a quick look at the apartment while Phil set the table. Tall ceilings, huge windows and an air of quiet elegance. A bit old-fashioned, but not pretentious.

“What do you think?”

“It’s a nice building and a quiet street, especially for Manhattan.”

“The rent is high, but I prefer it to one of those slick new apartments with no personality or charm.”

They munched on the toast, quietly. Finally Mary asked, “But how do you find the firm? I know you had misgivings. You thought it would be good for your career, but didn’t necessarily like their ethics.”

“I still don’t, although I keep quiet about it. Don’t ask, don’t tell, kind of situation. But they do have some of the best lawyers and I’ve learned a lot already. And there’s plenty more to come, I’m sure.”

“Are you thinking about effecting change from the inside?” Mary asked.

Phil didn’t look up from his plate, and kept playing with the marmalade and the butter, making patterns with his knife. “I don’t have a master plan as yet. So far I haven’t seen them do anything too questionable, although yes, they have a preference for taking cases that attract plenty of attention and are likely to be on the newspapers and TV. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with free publicity.”

Mary put her right hand on his, and managed to make him stop playing with his food and look up.

“Uh?”

“Don’t tell me you’re thinking of defecting to the dark side?”

He laughed, although his laughter sounded flat and not genuine. “Let’s not get melodramatic. I think the Force is still with me. They are committed to taking up a percentage of pro-bono cases, and I’ve volunteered. Sometimes one has to compromise. Even the devil can be a good ally if the cause is worth it.”

“Be careful. I fear for your soul.”

As he opened his mouth to reply, his mobile phone rang. Mary didn’t have one and didn’t want one. The thought of somebody being able to get hold of her anywhere and in any circumstances made her quite nervous. She hated being on-call, because you could never be completely at peace and you could be summoned at any time, and she felt that having one of those contraptions would be the equivalent of being forever on call. But Phil loved his gadgets, like most men she knew. And she also suspected it was a status thing. Although, thinking about it, it was probably one of his firm’s requirements.

“Yes. Of course I’m interested in being there when we talk to the client.” Phil put his hand on what must have been the microphone and made a gesture with his head, towards the phone. “It’s about that case I was telling you about. The writer,” he whispered.

Mary nodded. So far, she only knew the case involved a writer in some fashion or other but nothing else. He was doing a good job of building up the suspense.

“Yes. Sure. I’ll be there, Mr Wright. Oh, my friend… yes, the psychiatrist.” Silence. “Yes, of course I’ll ask her. I don’t think it’ll be a problem, if you’re sure the client will be OK with it.” He listened again and then laughed. “See you in half an hour. And thanks!”

“Was that your boss?”

“Yes. Percy Wright. Of the Wrights of Virginia. He doesn’t do much in the firm anymore, only picks up some case he’s interested in, occasionally, but he leaves all the groundwork to other lawyers and he just pokes his nose wherever he fancies. For some reason he’s quite intrigued by this case.”

“I guess he said I could go. But what did he say that made you laugh?”

“Oh, when I mentioned that I thought you’d be happy to come, of course if the client was OK with it, he said the client would be OK with whatever we told him. That he knew we were his best chance and he’d have to earn it. And he’d be grateful.”

“Oh.”

“Sorry for assuming you’d want to come…”

“Of course. I wouldn’t miss it. Now, I’m not sure if I’m more interested in the case or in your boss and the firm.”

“Well, Mr Wright always says that there might be some intrinsic quality attached to good and evil, but the justice system is a completely arbitrary set of rules and which side we are in is at best an accident and at worst just pure bad luck. So perhaps there isn’t much difference.”

Mary wondered if her friend believed what he’d just said or it was a philosophical position. The Phil she knew had always been very convinced of what was wrong and what was right. Jokes apart, she was slightly worried.

They left the apartment and hailed a taxi.

The offices of the firm where Phil worked (Wright and Partners, Attorneys at Law) overlooked Central Park. They occupied a whole storey in a slick commercial building, all glass and shiny surfaces. It was slightly cloudy but Mary imagined that on a sunny day it must have glistened and glowed like a diamond.

While they were in the lobby, waiting for the elevator, Mary said, “How peculiar! I would have thought that somebody like your boss would have an office in an old building, full of the weight of history and following tradition. But no. It couldn’t be a more modern and neutral place if he’d designed it intentionally.”

“I think that he wants to make sure everything is impersonal and can be replaced. Apart from himself, of course. And the same goes for the firm’s name.”

“Don’t the partners query the fact that their names are not on top of the door, so to speak?” Mary asked Phil.

He turned to look at her with a lopsided smile. “Like Mr Wright said about the client, they are OK with whatever he says. And they’re grateful. In my opinion it all boils down to his insistence on not leaving the slightest option open for anybody else to make a claim. The partners might come and go, but there’s only one Mr Wright.”

They reached the top floor of the building and stepped out. As soon as they crossed the massive glass doors, a young thin man who had been pacing up and down, rushed towards them. “Oh, you’re here, Phil. Mr Wright didn’t want to make the client wait too long. You know he likes to strike when the iron is hot, as he says.”

“We came as soon as we could. Traffic was quite heavy. This is my friend, Mary Miller. She’s a psychiatrist. We met at college. This is Ryan Spencer. One of the lawyers here. And aspiring partner.”

Ryan wore black thick-rimmed glasses that made him look child-like, and a beautifully cut suit that looked loose on him. Not as if it was the wrong size, but as if he’d lost weight. He didn’t look sickly, though, only anxious.

“Some days I’d be quite happy if I was just left to do my work in peace, but that’s very unlikely. Pleasure to meet you.”

He extended his arm and bowed slightly as he shook her hand. “And now, let’s go in. Mr Wright said that he didn’t want to formally introduce you, Mary, can I call you Mary?, at least not for the time being. He just wants the client, Mr Fenton, to think that you’re part of the team. No details.”

She nodded. She wasn’t expecting any long term involvement and that would make life easier. No need to overcomplicate matters. Also, people’s reactions on being told that she was a psychiatrist had always been a mystery to her. Some people would take the opportunity to try and get an impromptu consultation, right there and then. Others would retreat, as if they feared that she’d discover their most intimate thoughts and secrets only by looking at them. But Mary had no superpowers, and although at times she might have her suspicions and be able to come up with an educated guess as to what people were thinking, especially people she knew, unless the person talked to her, it was an almost impossible task. There were also the people who treated it as if it were a joke, or a funny anecdote, and asked her if she was going to ‘analyse’ them. Surely if someone asked her that, there would be little need for analysis. And she’d never been an expert in psychoanalysis. Or keen on the idea.

The three entered what looked like a meeting room, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. There was a middle aged woman, dressed in a blue suit, sitting with a laptop in front of her, in the farthest corner from the door. There was a very attractive young girl, blonde, with honey-coloured eyes and wearing a polka dot dress, sitting close to the door. She had a small notebook and a pen and seemed poised to not miss a single word. Next to her was a man, older than Phil and Ryan, probably early forties, impeccably dressed in a navy blue suit, whose greying hair was a bit longer than the standard of the business seemed to impose. Perhaps he had a streak of rebellion in him. Sitting at the centre of the oval-shaped table, was Mr Wright. Although Mary had never met him, once she saw the man sitting there, she had no doubt.

Mr Percy Wright’s appearance was rather peculiar. He was dressed as if he was in the country house he surely had, in tweed, wearing a jacket with brown elbow patches, and his face, with a protruding jaw and a broken nose, seemed more appropriate for a price fighter than for a top layer. On closer look, his green eyes were inquisitive and exuded authority, and his hands were perfectly manicured. Mary wasn’t sure if the man was a genuine puzzle or he had put a lot of thought into wrong-footing his opponents and collaborators alike. Phil’s boss turned towards the door when they entered and nodded curtly. Phil, his hand behind his back, gestured for her to follow him.

When they sat, on the same side as Mr Wright, she was finally able to see ‘the client’. He looked younger than she had imagined, mid-thirties, and was the only one dressed casually, in jeans and a black T-shirt, that she wondered if it was his uniform perhaps, like some very successful people were said to do (always wear similar clothes to be more productive and avoid getting bogged down making inconsequential choices). His eyes were small, so much so that Mary couldn’t see them well enough to decide what colour they were. Nothing too striking. He was slim, but his hands looked skeletal, and she hoped they would not be expected to shake hands with him. The thought that she might feel the bones made her cringe.

“Are we all here, then?” asked Mr Wright. They all nodded. He stared around the table, to make sure he had everybody’s attention, and nodded at his secretary. “Good. We can start, then. For those of you who haven’t met him yet, this is Oliver Fenton, the famous author. Steve, give us the main details of the case.”

Steve, the older man of undefinable age, started talking. “Mr Fenton is accused of aggravated assault, although it could become attempted murder —it depends on the DA and how things evolve—, on the person of a Miles Green. Mr Fenton describes what amounts to serious harassment on the part of Mr Green, who had been pestering his agent, and later him personally, sending letters, making phone calls, and in general making a nuisance of himself, for months. On the day of the incident, Friday the 23rd of April, as Mr Fenton was on his way out of his apartment building in 5th Avenue, Mr Green appeared from behind the reception desk, and attacked Mr Fenton, threatening him and trying to choke him. Mr Fenton managed to overcome his attacker and restrain him onto the floor. As he resisted and tried to attack him again, Mr Fenton hit him on the head with a heavy brass lamp. Very shortly after, it seems, a couple who also lived there arrived, stopped Mr Fenton and called an ambulance and the police. Mr Green was already unconscious then. He hasn’t recovered since and remains in hospital in intensive care.”

That had been around six weeks ago.

“What did you mean when you said that the couple ‘stopped’ Mr Fenton?” Phil asked.

“He was still hitting him with the lamp when the neighbours walked in.”

“Do we have any pictures of the victim?” Phil asked, again.

Steve looked at Mr Wright, who nodded, and Steve passed a folder to Phil. He looked at the contents for a few seconds and then passed it to Mary. She thought she shouldn’t look at them, but realised it would seem weird to the client, and quickly looked over the pictures. She doubted she’d ever be able to recognise Mr Green based on those pictures. His face was so swollen and bruised that it was difficult to make out the slits of the eyes. The bridge of his nose was flattened out, and it looked as if both cheekbones were fractured. The next picture showed a ragged hole in the back of the head, a few inches from the nape of the neck. The impact had been so hard that the skull had caved in.

She passed the file to Ryan, who shook his head, indicating that he’d already seen the contents, and stood up, taking the file back to Steve.

“Any word from Mr Green’s doctors?” Mr Wright asked.

Steve cleared his throat and said, “They have no idea if he’ll make it. They had hoped that with steroids the swelling of the brain would go down and things might improve, but so far that’s not the case. His family have asked that they do some further tests. They seem determined to pull the plug if they can find no evidence of brainwaves.”

As Mary was about to say something, Phil grabbed her arm tightly and she kept quiet. He asked, “What family are we talking about?”

Steve sighed.

“He was, is, I mean, married and they have twins, a boy and a girl, 18 months old. They were separated, and had not lived together for six months prior to the incident.”

“He blames me for the separation. The victim, I mean.” Oliver Fenton had spoken. Although the volume was low, there was steel in his voice and his words resonated around the room. No remorse, no sadness.

They were all looking at the client. Rather than being intimidated by having all eyes on him, Mary thought he seemed to puff up and grow taller, as if he enjoyed public attention.

“Yes, he kept following me everywhere, writing, phoning, turning up at events, insisting that I’d taken everything from him and I was a criminal.”

“How?” Phil asked. “Did you know him? Did you have an affair with his wife? Was that the reason for the separation?”

Mr Fenton shook his head. Mary noticed how his neck was reddening. “I’ve never met the woman. Or him before all this. He was mad. Who knows why somebody as crazy as him does anything?”

“Even when people are ‘mad’, they usually do things for a reason, although perhaps it’s a reason that only fits in with their delusional view of the world. Do you have any idea about what he thought you had done to destroy his life?” Mary asked ignoring Phil’s kick under the table.

“He insists that I’ve written about him in my book. He told everybody that he was the person my main character, David Collins, was based on, and he kept insisting that due to that people were pestering him. It seems that the guy who had abused him had turned up, convinced that he had sold the story, and had threatened his family, and Green had been the victim of all kinds of humiliations.”

“Was it true?” Phil asked, looking at me intently, before turning to the client.

“No, of course not! Yes, I’ve based the book on the story of a person I know, but I’d never met that Miles Green guy before. And I’ve changed the details. Nobody would be able to recognise the individual by just reading my novel. I made sure of that.”

Mr Wright cleared his throat, noisily. It seemed his time to talk had come. He leaned forward and looked at the client intently. Mr Fenton’s face grew paler, but he returned the look.

“So, Mr Fenton… You’re telling us that Mr Green was making a nuisance of himself and following you everywhere, accusing you of all kinds of things and threatening you. Didn’t you think of going to the police?”

“Of course I did! You can ask my agent, Mike Spinner. I called them and we even went to the station to make a statement. They agreed to give him a warning but said that unless he actually tried to do something violent, there wasn’t much they could do. They suggested that perhaps the easiest thing to do would be to reveal who the real person behind the character in the novel was. That way he’d leave me alone and move on to something else. Can you imagine?! Reveal my sources!” Two red marks had appeared on his cheeks and seemed to be spreading and his eyes were bulging with anger. Mary saw now that they were grey.

“Well, you’re not a journalist…” Ryan said.

Mr Fenton jumped from his chair, but Mr Wright raised his hand and waved at him, getting him to sit down again.

“Don’t get excited, Mr Fenton. I guess what Mr Spencer, our young friend here, meant, was that you’re not sworn to secrecy and it’s not a professional obligation. Although I understand your wish to protect your sources. But, I wonder if you could enlighten us and give us some background, as I suspect not everybody here will have read your story, no matter how popular. We tend to have our heads buried in other types of books and papers, so you’ll have to forgive us for our ignorance. If you could be so good as to tell us, what your novel is about, when it came out, etc. We don’t need too many details, but just enough to help us understand the circumstances of the affair.”

Mr Fenton kept looking sideways at Ryan while he talked. “My novel, The Darkest Night, is the story of David Collins, a man who is brought up in a Catholic family, subjected to sexual abuse by one of the priests at the religious school where he studies, and later by a male neighbour, who is also a friend of his father. When he tells his family, they do not believe him, and he ends up on the streets when he is only fifteen. His life is very difficult. He lives on the streets for a while, and survives as best he can until he is literally pushed into an Army recruitment office and decides it must be fate and enlists. And life changes completely for him. He fights for this country and becomes an upstanding citizen.”

“I see. And you say it’s based on a true story,” Mr Wright added, opening the file and seemingly checking something.

“Yes.” The writer’s eyes were fixed on the file.

“At this moment in time we’re not going to ask you to give us the name of that person, although let me make it perfectly clear that it might become necessary that we know, later on, and that here we are obliged, by professional code, to keep the secret, so you don’t need to be worried about that. But in the meantime, if you could tell us how you came across the story, unless the protagonist is based on somebody you’ve always known.”

“No, no. Nothing like that. It’s quite simple, really. I volunteered, years back, and manned a telephone helpline for people thinking of committing suicide, or with mental health problems in general. A young guy phoned me and told me his story. This was a few days before he enlisted and he had hit rock bottom. We chatted for quite a while and he agreed to phone me again in a few days. When he phoned me again, he had enlisted and was ready to go into training. He kept in touch when he could and even phoned me when he got posted to Iraq. When he came back, we arranged to meet and by then I had decided his story should be told, although in novel form. When I suggested it, he agreed, on the understanding that he would read it and I’d make changes to protect his privacy and hide his identity. And that’s what we did.” He only raised his eyes to look at Mr Wright when he finished talking. To Mary’s ears it sounded rehearsed, but then he’d probably been asked the same question quite a few times.

Mr Wright looked around, as if inviting further questions. Phil didn’t hesitate, “Are you still in touch?”

“With the original David, you mean? Once the novel came out and it started to attract so much attention we decided it would be best not to be in contact, to prevent anybody from making the connection between him and the book.”

“I’m surprised he didn’t come forward when he heard you were in trouble,” Ryan said.

Judging by the look Mr Fenton shot at him, Ryan would not be on his Christmas-card list.

“He’s not that easy to reach.”

Mary was surprised that nobody asked him why. Either the information was already known, or they’d all assumed that somebody else would ask the question and now the moment had passed. Ryan was on the edge of his seat, but even he must have thought he’d attracted enough hostility from the client for one day and gave up.

“If it’s OK, I have to meet my agent for lunch. We had organised a book signing tour, and with all this we’ll have to reschedule.”

“Yes, of course. Maggie, my PA, will arrange a few appointments, starting on Monday morning. We have plenty of information to work through. And you haven’t met Mr Mayfield, yet. Although he’s the youngest of my partners in the firm, he has plenty of experience in similar cases.”

Mary looked at Phil and he shook his head slightly, as if to indicate that they’d talk about it later.

The author stood up and nodded briefly. The woman who had been typing in the corner accompanied him out of the meeting room. Once the door closed behind them, Mr Wright cleared his throat. “Phil, will you introduce your friend to all of us, please?”

Phil blushed and stood up. Mary couldn’t help thinking about a headmaster telling off a young kid.

“This is Dr Mary Miller. She’s a psychiatrist. She also writes, although she has not published anything yet.”

Everybody nodded in her direction. Then Phil proceeded to introduce everybody. Steve Burman smiled pleasantly. The young girl, Tania, no surname used in the introduction, was there on a placement from college.

“My Dad works in accounts and thought it would make for an interesting project. And Mr Wright kindly agreed.”

“And Maggie, my PA, who’s gone out with Mr Fenton. So, first impressions?”

“It’s a good story,” Steve said.

“Do you really think so?” Ryan asked. “There are lots of holes in it.”

“Nearly as big as the one in the victim’s skull,” Phil added. “I don’t know how big or heavy that lamp was, but to make a hole that size, he must have hit him with something very heavy and many times. Once the attacker was unconscious, why carry on?”

“Perhaps we’ll have to look at his mental state and mental health. Maybe the harassment became a bit too much for him and he lost control,” Steve said.

“Could we convince you, dear Dr, to consult on the matter? You could do an assessment of Mr Fenton’s mental state and see if there’s anything else we need to do. I mean any tests, imaging, or any other expert we could call that might be of use when putting together his defence,” Mr Wright said, looking intently at Mary.

“He didn’t strike me as particularly disturbed, but the current circumstances aren’t the best to make a judgement. As long as I can fit it in during my visit, I’d be happy to be of assistance.”

Mr Wright smiled at Mary and then stood up, nodding at everybody and officially ending the meeting.

 

As I told you last week, to prepare for the launch, Escaping Psychiatry is available for only $0.99. Here I leave you a reminder and some links:

 

Escaping Psychiatry cover by Ernesto Valdés
Escaping Psychiatry cover by Ernesto Valdés

Escaping Psychiatry

‘Escaping Psychiatry’ is a collection of three stories in the psychological thriller genre with the same protagonist, Mary, a psychiatrist and writer. She is trying to develop her literary career but circumstances and friends conspire to keep dragging her back to psychiatry.

In ‘Cannon Fodder’ Mary has to assess Cain, an African-American man accused of inciting a religious riot when he claimed that he could hear God and God was black. He might not be mad, but Mary is sure he’s hiding something.

‘Teamwork’ sees Mary hoodwinked into offering therapy to Justin, a policeman feeling guilty after his partner and ersatz father was killed on-duty. Before Mary can extricate herself from the case, things get personal.

In ‘Memory’ Mary goes missing after an incident with Phil, who is manic as he hasn’t been taking his medication. When she is found, she has been the victim of a horrific crime, but they soon discover she was luckier than they had realised.

The epilogue revisits Mary at the point of the trial of her abductor and sees what changes have taken place in her life. Will she finally manage to Escape Psychiatry?

AMAZON (e-book)    KOBO           NOOK            APPLE           SCRIBD        

PAGE FOUNDRY   OYSTER    PAPER

Thanks so much for reading and you know… Like, share, comment and of course CLICK!

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