The Abused is a psychological thriller about nine addicts who go to rehab only to have one of them start murdering the others. The novel is set to release in Fall 2016.
Reader discretion is advised. Some of this content may be profane and not appropriate for readers under the age if 18.
Merry was standing quietly looking out her office window at Kevin who was running the track. A lot of addicts started doing heavy exercise to not only detoxify their bodies, but also enjoy the endorphins that felt much like a good high. Merry smiled to herself and let her mind entertain how Kevin used to get his “rush” from fucking her. Then she quickly pulled her thoughts back to the moment as she watched her ex-husband round the second turn. He looked good, she thought. A knock on the door distracted her.
In walked Stanley Lintwood. He looked serious and uptight like he always did. “We have a problem.”
He pulled out a baggy of meth crystals they had dug out of Darian’s mattress.
“Which one? Oh, wait. Let me guess. The teenage prostitute.”
Merry walked back to her desk and took a seat. “How’d she get it?”
“Hmm… what is your recommendation?”
“Get her back to detox and give her one more chance.”
Merry nodded and considered it for a moment. “She’s very young. If we toss her back to the penal system she won’t stand a chance.”
“Fine then Mr. Lintwood. Detox number two it is and then make sure she gets back to group and therapy.”
Suddenly, their conversation was interrupted by a loud scream and a crash coming from out in the hallway.
“What the …”
Merry and Stanley ran out into the hallway. Sandra stood at the elevator screaming with both of her hands covering her mouth. Stuck between the two metal doors was a bloody mess of a body. Merry ran over with Stanley right behind her.
“I—I went … oh my god …” Sandra just kept crying in shock.
Merry flipped the body over to see the face of Assemblyman Derek Pendergrass. The flesh on his face hung by shreds of skin as someone had slashed him. Blood dripped like a leaky faucet onto the ground and puddled up quickly. Merry went to find a pulse to see if he was alive. No pulse. And it wasn’t surprising. It looked like the stabbing had drained his entire blood supply onto the floor of the elevator. Blood was smeared across the back wall, which made it appear he was stabbed up against the wall first.
“Call the police,” said Stanley to Sandra.
She just kept sobbing. Now Craig had heard the commotion from his office and joined the group. He touched Sandra’s arm.
“I’ll do it,” he assured her and turned away with his cell phone in hand to call 911.
Stanley wrapped his arm around Sandra’s shoulders to comfort her. She was bawling and could hardly speak. Merry stood back and observed the crime scene. It looked like a violent crime and not random. Someone had torn up the assemblyman pretty good. Slashing his face was the clue that said it was personal. Of course, Merry knew that any kind of stabbing was a very personal way to kill someone. You had to get in very close to that person to do the deed. A gun shot isn’t nearly as intimate as feel that person’s flesh pierced by a blade. Feeling their warm skin and gushing blood. Closely observing the life leave their bodies. Watching the light in their eyes go out. Any good therapist would know within an instant that whoever did this murder had motive and intent. The smeared blood and the slashes to the face made it clear this killer probably knew the assemblyman in some personal way.
The patients were all in lockdown. Merry and her team were sitting in various chairs in the lobby of the center. Everyone looked concerned and nervous. Police were all over the building searching for evidence and clues. A Detective Marcus Patrick and his partner Detective Vincent Cassavetti had asked them to stay downstairs and they would interview them soon.
Merry got up and went to the picture window that was in front of the rose garden. She was deep in thought when Marcus came over to talk to her. Marcus was light-skinned African-American with light green eyes and a broad, welcoming smile. He was muscular and very handsome. Merry’s eyes flickered a bit at his well-proportioned physique. She felt a twinge of desire as she stared at his buff biceps. He looked like one of those guys who was health-conscious and stayed in shape.
“You Merry Fenmore?”
“Yes,” she replied softly.
“You run this establishment?”
“Yes, but the Muldoon family owns it. I report to their board of directors.”
“You got any thoughts on what may have happened?”
Merry considered the question for a few seconds. “Not really, no. Well … hmm … do you want my professional reaction?”
“Sure why not,” he replied and locked eyes with her. “May I say this … your eyes … they remind me of a beautiful algae bloom.”
Merry was flattered that the handsome detective noticed her as more than just an executive. “Thank you,” she replied.
“Oh, yes. A stabbing of this nature is unlikely to be a random murder. When an attacker chooses a knife say over a gun, the choice is a much more, um, personal device. To stab one must enter the personal space of another. One must want to enter that space. It would serve to ensure, say, your victim looks you right in the eyes. Maybe you want them to actually feel your body, your breath, your heat. And the fact that the assemblyman’s face was shredded like that. It too is meaningful.”
“Perhaps you should become a detective Ms. Fenmore,” said Marcus nodding with a smile on his face. “Can you tell me something … what is the most common addiction problem you see the most?”
“A variety really,” she said. “It most often depends upon what is the most popular substance of the day. Lately we’ve seen a resurgence of heroine and cocaine. But next year it could be something entirely unexpected. One never knows.”
“Which of the drugs would you assess as most likely to create a psychotic break perhaps?”
Merry half-smiled, “Detective, almost any of them can have, how shall we say detrimental effects on the mind. Our brain is a finely tuned chemical balance. Each person’s chemistry is their own much like DNA. You can never tell how one person’s mind can react to a foreign substance not meant to be there while another person could have absolutely no effect.”
Mr. Lintwood walked over and nodded. “Merry is right. But she can also tell you we run a very tight ship here, what Detective …” Mr. Lintwood squinted as his badge’s name. “Patrick. Whoever did this was angry with the assemblyman.”
“You think someone here had a grudge?” asked Detective Vincent Cassavetti who had come over to listen to the discussion and take notes.
“No, idea,” said Merry who cut off Stanley Lintwood to make him maintain his place in their delicate pecking order. It had taken Merry months to get Stanley to accept her leadership. He was arrogant and pompous. He wouldn’t admit it, but she felt sure he would rather have seen her wearing a nurse’s uniform than acting as his senior. He had made sure Merry knew his credentials and medical degree from Boston University made her UC Davis doctorate look like a kindergarten blue-ribbon special.
“Ms. Fenmore, don’t you think you should give the detectives free access to the center?” said Stanley down his nose at his boss.
Merry wanted to punch him, but now was no time to have a power play when one of the patient’s lay dead on the 5th floor of multiple stab wounds.
“Yes, the detectives are free to search the facilities. We only ask that you request Ms. Fisher to help you sort detox. Patients in detox are usually very sick. We want to be considerate of their discomfort.”
Everyone agreed. Once the two detectives were out of earshot, Merry turned on Stanley. He started to walk away when she got right up in his face.
“Mr. Lintwood! I will remind you that the board passed over your promotion for a very specific reason. You may think you were entitled to the position, but they thought not. So, I would appreciate it if you let me do my job.”
Stanley glared at her. “Feeling threatened Ms. Fenmore? A secure woman with a healthy self-esteem wouldn’t be up in my face about her insecurities and lack of confidence in her own leadership skills.”
Merry was unmoved, “Save your psychobabble for the patients. And don’t fuck with me if you know any better!”
“Fuck you … Stanley!” She said in a low growling voice as she turned and headed for the stairwell. “Who the hell still says ‘tut-tut’?” she muttered under her breath and she began the trek up the five floors of stairs. The elevator was still out of commission.
“Well, at least I’ll get some exercise,” she muttered in-between labored breathing as she climbed.