State of Mind, page 1
© 2019 by Ronni Meyrick
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance of actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission
To Mrs. M and my mum. You’re always there for me. I love you both to the moon and back. Thank you for everything you do for me, and for always loving and supporting me.
Syd, Debs, Ratna, and my gorgeous wife Mrs. M, you push me to be a better person and writer. Like any author, I’d be lost without my beta readers, and you all rock!
Kristen Webber, you’re an awesome friend, and I have missed your words of wisdom and hindsight on this project. I can’t wait for us to be able to work together on the next.
My mentors, bosses, and friends, Shiralyn Lee and Dawn Carter, what an amazing couple of years we’ve had! I can’t express how grateful I am for all your guidance and your friendship. Thank you for everything!
To everyone who reads this book, thank you for support.
Also, where would a girl be without her kick arse editor?
Jess Bennett, your rock!
Can a state of mind force the truth to stay hidden?
When Madison Faraday fell foul to unrequited love, she did the one thing she thought would ease the heartache… She ran.
The years of living in London have been good to her, but the slower pace of life has called her back to Oxford, and to Tori, the woman she left behind.
Her feelings for her old psychology professor haven’t changed, and with the solemn promise to her son to set things right, and be truthful with Tori, she hopes to re-connect with her and her family.
But there’s just one obstacle in the way—Tori’s husband!
“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”
Michael Cunningham.Chapter One
Tori Parker ducked as another vase sailed past her head. Blood already trickled from her nose, over her cupid’s bow, and into her mouth. The metallic taste hit the back of her throat and caused her to gag. She coughed, and some of the crimson liquid landed on the two-toned brown parquet floor, seeping into the cracks.
She glanced around and saw her tall, leather wingback chair had moved away from her desk in the scuffle and left the space where her legs would go vacant.
If I could get under there it might buy me some time until he calms down.
Things continued to hit the wall as she slid behind her large, wide oak desk and tucked her long legs underneath her. The gap offered her some protection.
Why is he doing this? Okay, we’ve had our arguments over the years and he’s thrown a few things, but he’s never hit me before.
From the second he’d walked through the door, the atmosphere in the house had been ominous. For any other loving couple, a two-month absence of either partner would find them back in each other’s arms within moments. But not them… Instead of bringing her perfume home from the duty-free at the airport, Michael had brought his temper.
They’d both been occupied with their careers. Tori was the head of the psychology department at Queens College, Oxford, and Michael was one of the lead investigators working for the Institute of Archaeology. His recent absence was due to a dig in Egypt that needed his attention, but something had obviously happened over there.
She screamed as their large Chinese jardinière hit the wall next to her hiding spot. Splinters of white, red, and green ceramic speckled the floor around her. She flinched when a piece pierced her shin. Her thigh bumped against the wide board of wood that made up the front panel of the desk, and she felt hard plastic press into her side. She patted her trouser pocket and realised her mobile phone was there. I can’t put up with this shit anymore! There’s no telling what he’s going to do.
She pulled the phone out and pressed nine three times.
A male operator answered the call. His voice was smooth—almost calming. “Hello, Emergency. What service do you require?”
More noises of things being thrown and smashed filled the air. “Police, please hurry.” Another person came on the line a second later, this time a woman. “You have to help me! My husband is going crazy. He’s smashing the house up. He’s hit me, and I’m currently hiding under my desk.” She gave them her address and then hung up.
“Come on, Tori. It’s time to come out and face me. Don’t make me search for you. If I have to do that, it’ll be a hell of a lot worse for you.” She heard his voice from behind her, which meant he was close.
As she pocketed her phone, she saw that lines of red streaked her hand, running from the tips of her fingers down into her palm and across her wrist. She studied her hands—they were clear of cuts. So where’s the blood coming from? She got her answer when she reached up to feel the right side of her face and touched a sticky substance. Apparently I wasn’t quick enough to duck. Her fingers moved to her scalp. They ran through the front of her once-silken brown locks, which were now clogged with drying blood.
The room went quiet as Michael stopped shouting and throwing things. There was no way she was going to poke her head out and see what was happening. The violence would only start again.
More silence followed. Her shoulders relaxed, but her head ached and she was lightheaded. The small space under the desk spun around her. She heard no sounds at all from the rest of the room. She took a deep breath then let it out. It was more explosive than she intended—that was her mistake.
Michael’s shoes appeared just in front of her, and then his ham-sized hand reached down and fumbled about.
“Oh, darling, such desperation… How pathetic!”
Her shoes scuffed the floor as she scrambled backwards to avoid his grasp. She managed to dodge him and edged farther backwards.
Then the inevitable happened: her back hit the oak panelling.
His face appeared at the opening of the desk. “Gotcha!” He reached in and tried to grab her wrist, but she pulled it out of his way. With a growl that would rival a rabid dog, he seized a handful of her hair, dragged her out, and put his face directly to hers, so they were almost nose-to-nose. “I told you last time, there’s no point in trying to hide or run away. The argument would still be waiting for you when you returned.”
“I don’t even understand what we’re fighting about.” She gripped his hand to try and stop him from pulling harder. Her fingernails bit into the skin. “You came in and blustered about a lot of inane things, and I was lucky if I even caught the tail end of some of it. You’ve just got home, so how could I possibly know what the problem is?”
“I’ll tell you what the problem is.” He pulled her around the room by her hair, and then raised his hand and slapped her hard. “My problem is you!” Spit flew from his mouth and landed on her cheek. “I had several women fawning over me while I was away, and I couldn’t touch a single one of them. Do you know why that was? It’s because I’m married to a stupid—” Another slap followed, “—snooty bitch—” a third slap echoed around the room, “—like you!”
Tori’s head flew back with each slap, her knees wobbled, and her eyes slipped closed. The tightness in her cheek was spreading to her left eye, and she could tell it was already swelling.
He grasped the front of her shirt with his free hand, and she felt her feet leave the floor. The smell of whiskey assaulted her nose as he leaned closer.
“You don’t do anything for me. And you certainly haven’t pleased me in the bedroom in more years
Tori took a deep breath as she saw his fist coming towards her. When it connected with the left side of her face she screamed, and he struck her harder. With each squeal, cry, yelp, or whimper that left her lips, he continued to hit her. She learned to silence her cries after a few more strikes. It only seemed to anger him more.
Thank God Abbey doesn’t live at home anymore and is not here to witness this. But then again, if she was here, he wouldn’t be behaving like this. He can do no wrong in her eyes; he hung the moon, sun, and stars for that girl. There’s no doubt she loves me, but their bond seems unbreakable.
“You see, Tori, I have a problem.”
His breath brushed across her rapidly-swelling face, and she gagged as the smell of alcohol intensified. “If you weren’t in my life, I could’ve had my pick of the all the women in Egypt. Then I wouldn’t have to put up with your shit!”
The blows came again. She was helpless to defend herself against him; he was too strong. She tried to pry herself free. She raked her fingernails across his face and felt them sink deep into the skin near the corner of his eye. She hoped it would be painful enough for him to release her, but it only made him worse.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way I can be rid of you is to make you take an overdose. I’ll force feed you the tablets, and once you’ve succumbed I’ll call the police and tell them I came home from work and found you that way. With you dead and out of the way, I’ll be able to get back to the carefree life I had twenty-four years ago.”
She listened to his plan and glanced up. Through the thin slither of eyelid that she could open, she saw pure evil in his green eyes and knew he meant every word. Her throat was hoarse and the scream she released was raspy, but still loud, louder than she’d ever screamed before in her life.
Of course the punches rained down again. She lost count after the fourth, and her head lolled forwards. She felt her muscles relax.
I can’t fight him…he’s going to kill me if I can’t—
Her head was fuzzy as her world faded with each blow. The last sound she heard was someone banging on the front door.
Before her eyes slipped closed, she saw four police officers hurry into the room.
Michael’s hold on her loosened and she fell limply to the floor, landing with a resounding thud as her head cracked loudly on the parquet wood. She couldn’t seem to move or open her eyes. People were talking around her, but she couldn’t acknowledge them. Then she felt a soft touch on her face, and someone rolled her onto her side.
“We need an ambulance here now!” A female voice laced with concern shouted.
Sergeant Romany Burrows bit her lip as she stared down at the unconscious woman in front of her. After putting her into the recovery position, she laid a hand on her shoulder and noticed the muscles had gone slack.
“Where the fuck is that ambulance?”
When she received no response, she let her gaze roam around the room and saw the other officers restraining the man on the floor. One of her colleagues sat on his back, doing a great impression of someone trying to ride a mechanical bull. All the while, their prisoner shouted profanities at them. A couple of the others had red marks on their faces, and their hats sat askew on their heads.
“Get some leg cuffs on him and put him in the back of the van!”
Two paramedics ran into the room with their bags on their shoulders. When they reached her, Romany stood and stretched her six foot frame before she walked over and jumped into the fray. Finally, between the six of them, they had him restrained, and five of her colleagues carried him outside to the large riot van waiting to take him to Abingdon police station for processing.
She spotted a bag on the floor next to the desk and picked her way over piles of smashed crockery, ornaments, vases, and a couple of jardinières toward it.
“Daniels, come here and look through this with me. I need to find out the lady’s name and her next of kin.” When the other officer joined her, she opened the bag and found the woman’s purse.
With a look at the driving license, she learned that her victim was Victoria Parker. Inside a diary, she discovered from the personal information sheet that besides her husband, who was rocking the hell out of their riot van and screaming and shouting at the top of his lungs, her parents were listed as her next of kin.
Paramedics wheeled the stretcher Mrs. Parker was secured to past Romany. It was obvious they were not about to take any risks: they had her fastened to a backboard. A neck collar was in place, and her head was held down by two straps that also secured two blocks in place to fortify the structure that safeguarded her neck and spine and made sure she couldn’t move. Her mouth and nose were covered by a face mask. A long tube attached to the mask snaked down her body and attached to an oxygen tank that lay between her legs.
“I’ll follow you to the hospital once I have Mr. Parker booked in and I’ve informed her next of kin.”
Thank God I was passing when I heard the screaming.
Romany had been on her way to meet a friend to watch a movie at the Corn Exchange in Wallingford when she heard the commotion from the pavement. Along with a few other members of the public, she’d stopped. When she heard the man threatening to murder his wife, she knew she had to act. Two patrol cars turned up as she was attempting to kick the door down.
Hopefully I’ll be assigned as the liaison officer to this case. I can’t walk away without knowing what happens to her.
Black and white squares blurred on the page in front of her as Brenda Vaughan felt her eyes slip closed. The television in the corner of the room blared as her husband Paul sat and watched another of his pre-recorded programmes from the History channel. Her head jerked up at the sound of the ringing telephone.
“Who the hell could that be?” Paul grabbed the remote from the arm of the chair and muted the television.
She hurried into the hallway to answer the call. “Hello.” It was the only word she could get out before a deep female voice on the end of the line reeled off the reason for the call. Two words resonated with her. Victoria. Hospital. “What do you mean she’s in the hospital?” Brenda’s hand shook as she held the receiver to her ear. “Sorry, could you repeat that?” Her back hit the wall as all the air was taken out of her lungs. Her vision clouded, and she slid down and took a seat on the floor. “There must be some mistake!”
The phone was taken out of her grasp and she felt her husband’s hand on her shoulder. He knelt next to her as tears poured from her eyes.
“Hello, this is Paul Vaughan. May I ask who’s calling?” He moved the phone from his ear and hit the speakerphone button.
Brenda sat in a dejected heap in the carpeted hallway, her head in her hands. She jumped when she heard the woman’s voice again.
“Good evening, my name is Sergeant Romany Burrows from Thames Valley Police. I’m calling from your daughter’s address in Wallingford. I’m sorry, sir, but we need both you and your wife to make your way to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. Mrs. Parker has been assaulted at home. She’s being transported there by ambulance as we speak.”
From her position on the floor, she saw his brow wrinkle.
“What do you mean assaulted?” He rubbed a weathered hand over his face. “Michael was due home today. She should’ve been safe with him there.”
“I’m afraid I can’t disclose any more information at the moment, sir. We’re currently interviewing people and taking witness statements. Once we have all the facts together, I’ll be able to tell you more.”
Feeling stronger, Brenda got to her feet and reached out to lay a hand on his back. “We’ll be there as quickly as we can.” She took a step toward the living room, but stopped when the police officer cleared her throat.
“As he was taken from the house, Mr. Parker asked that we call Abbey. Do you
“Abbey is our granddaughter. I’ll call her on the way to the hospital.”
Her husband’s head turned so fast that Brenda heard it crick from where she stood. “Wait! What do you mean, he was taken?”
A loud sigh came from the hub.
“I’m sorry to bear two lots of bad news: your son-in-law has been arrested for the assault on your daughter. There’s no suspicion—he was in the process of beating her when I and a couple of colleagues broke down their front door.”
“That bastard!” A film of sweat formed on Paul’s upper lip just above his grey goatee. He swiped at it angrily and bared his teeth. He flexed his fingers and cracked his knuckles. “Wait until I get my hands on him! He’ll wish he’d never been born.”
“Please, Mr. Vaughan. I can understand your anger. But your daughter needs you. Can you please get to the hospital as quickly as you can? She may require surgery, and the forms can only be signed by you or Mrs. Vaughan. I’ll meet you there as soon as I can.”
“Of course. Thank you for calling us, Sergeant Burrows.” Brenda disconnected the call and ran into the living room to collect her handbag and their mobile phones. Paul’s imposing form stood waiting for her at the door, his coat on and hers clasped in his giant hand. She grabbed it from him as she passed.
They hurried outside to the car. She climbed into the passenger seat and threw her coat into the back. Her blood boiled in her veins, warming her whole body.
Paul drove out of the driveway at break-neck speeds. His hands wrung the steering wheel. She heard the muscles in his fingers crack, and the material under his hands squeaked with the amount of pressure he was applying. He glanced at her. “Can you call Abbey, love?”
With a quick rummage in her bag, she found her mobile. “Sure.”
His foot must have been made of lead. Their speed increased, and she flinched back into the seat. What the hell am I going to tell her? She found the number and pressed the green button to connect their call.