Thriller & Suspense

Traumata

By

This book will launch on Dec 4, 2020. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒
Synopsis

Melanie, an Army doctor, is accused of murdering a British major who led an attack on her village in Afghanistan, took her prisoner and raped her. She has the motive, the means and the opportunity, but her father believes in her innocence and is determined to fight for her freedom.

On her return to the UK, Melanie meets mystery-man Rand on the internet and confides in him how she got trapped behind enemy lines, married the warlord's son and gave birth to his child; both were killed in the massacre. Rand urges her to report the crime, but when the police do nothing, he suggests she avenges their deaths. He offers to help, claiming to be a trained assassin.

When the body is discovered, the police question Melanie. Rand disappears, so she asks her father to help. He works with a London solicitor experienced in war-crimes but despite their efforts, she is charged for the murder. While they are confident no jury could find her guilty, the trial at The Old Bailey doesn't go quite as they expected...

It's a story which would delight any Grisham fan - and if you like happy endings, you'll love this one!

North-East Afghanistan, June 2017

 

In Khuh Tabar, a remote Pashtun community high up in the foothills of the Hindu Kush where the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas touch the sky, a baby cries. He has blue eyes, like his mother. She pleads for his life while his father, the son of the headman, lies crumpled nearby; he's still warm.

There are bundles of clothes on the ground – women's clothes: firaqs, partugs, head-scarves, shawls and rags. Ragdolls, rag and bone, flesh and bone. Some shudder in agony, some cry out in anguish, some crawl in hope of reaching safety. Other bundles just lie there, quietly without moving, failing to hide the crimson creeping out from beneath them, staining the hallowed earth of their beloved paradise.

 

Two years later, the once-mother - the widow - returns to England, bereaved and broken, haunted by the memories and still deafened by the screams. The smell of cordite still lingers in her nostrils. Her baby's cry still reverberates around the echo chamber of her skull.

Kind hearts welcome her to the professional care of Beechwood Hall, a psychiatric hospital near London, to begin her recovery. Four months into her treatment, she discovers the identity of the murderer; her polite name for him is Mr Nasty. He's alive and well and just happens to live less than twenty miles away.


***


How can one be happy and sad at the same time? That's how Michael felt when he got Melanie's email. Happy he was needed - and happy his grown-up daughter believed she could come to him for help. But sad she was in trouble and had no-one else to turn to - and terrified he might fail her.

She had no brothers or sisters to give some same-generation sympathy. No mum to offer sensible female advice and a cuddle. And no partner to share life's journey. No Mr Right - yet - despite a string of hopefuls.

He was proud she'd followed in his footsteps and became a doctor, but then she joined the Army. At first, he was pleased; he imagined she would meet some nice young medically qualified officer and settle down. But it did not go according to plan, at least not to his plan. She was posted to Afghanistan, of all places, where it had all gone dreadfully wrong.

 

From: Melanie Green
Subject: I need you
To: Dr Michael Green
07/09/19
>
Hi Dad – Remember Mr Nasty, the slime-ball who led the raid? He's dead. Good news, because I no longer feel angry. But the police have been round asking questions. They didn't tell me how it happened, but I hope it was bad. Obviously, I didn't have anything to do with it – as much as I would've liked to have finished him off.
 

Damn right he remembered Mr Nasty, and what he'd done. He'd heard all about him when she first came home to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. His instinct was to believe her, but at the time she was having memory problems - and trouble distinguishing between real events and dreaming.

Whatever had happened out there, the death of the man was good news as it would reduce her anxiety level. Bad news, though, about the police questioning her; that could have the opposite effect.

 

But it's complicated. A friend had been advising me on the anger issue. His name's Rand. I met him on a Facebook forum some weeks ago, a bereavement support group. He persuaded me to talk about things, and I found this very helpful. After he replied to my post, we just exchanged emails. We got on, but now I can't get hold of him. So I'm feeling a bit alone. Any chance of you popping over for a few days? I could book the guest suite for you, like last time.
Lots of love,
Melly xxxx
P.S. Attached are my email exchanges with Rand - background reading for you. Some of it you know, some you don't. I just can't go over it all again.
 

He was pleased she'd found a new friend who'd been helping her, yet disappointed he'd stopped replying to her emails. It was just the sort of thing which could set her back a few weeks. Would he, her dad, drop everything and fly to the UK to see her? Of course he would.

“Daniela? Could you come in, please?” No sooner had he released the intercom button than his PA-cum-receptionist bounced in with a big smile, eager as ever to please her British boss. His appointment as one of the five GPs who served the resort of La Manga in southern Spain was not well paid, but it came with free membership of the golf club and a modern and well-equipped surgery with air conditioning. However, the greatest perk was his staff: Daniela, a bright-eyed 25-year-old local girl who was only too willing to manage his diary and run errands for him, bring him endless cups of strong coffee and generally mother him, as well as being his gate-keeper and front-of-house manager.

“I need to fly to London - to visit my daughter as soon as possible. Just a one-way flight, as I'm not sure when I'll be back. And car hire at Gatwick, open-ended if that's possible.”

“Certainly, Dr Green. Would you like to fly first class?”

“No. Just EasyJet, but next to a window near the front would be nice, with lots of leg-room if possible.” Folding his six-foot frame into an aircraft seat was becoming more difficult for him, as he approached his sixty-third year. At least he had no trouble sliding into one next to the window, not like some of his patients who were built more for comfort than speed. He had to be careful what he said to them.

“Sure, eet's done!” and with a swirl of her skirt, she trotted away.

He reckoned he'd need legal advice, as his knowledge of the law was limited to what he'd gleaned from being a Grisham fan; UK procedures would be different. He wondered if his old mate from uni days might be able to help, or at least put him in touch with someone who can.

“And Daniela!”

She raced back, still smiling.

“Could you look up a number for me, please? A firm of solicitors, Matthew, Finch and Trowbridge. In London. In fact, could you give them a ring and ask if David Goodman is still there? If so, I'd like to see him. Perhaps I could take him out to lunch, maybe the day after I land. See what you can do.”

“Sure, with pleasure.”

Zoom. She was gone. He knew she'd do an excellent job of running things in his absence. She would share his patients among his fellow GPs in the resort, as they always did when one of them was away. And with the holiday season coming to an end, the pressures would ease.

Now, he thought, I wonder what Melly's file is all about. He had to admit he always found it intriguing to hear about her new friends - especially the male ones. One day, he hoped, Mr Almost-Right would come along. Surely not Rand, not if he's abandoned her. He flicked through the first few pages on his screen.

 

From: Rand@djb9x2103i9.com
Subject:
To: Melanie55@gmail.com
15/08/19
>
Just do it.
Rand
>
>
From: Melanie Green
Subject:
To: Rand
15/08/19
>
Do what? Who are you, by the way? Is that all you've got to say?
Melanie Green
>
>
From: Rand@djb9x2103i9.com
Subject:
To: Melanie55@gmail.com
20/08/19
>
Kill him. If he is still alive and justice has not run its course. If you can be sure of your facts I suggest you avenge him. The anger will then go.
>
>
From: Melanie Green
Subject:
To: Rand
20/08/19
>
He is still alive, and so far he's escaped justice. I can't bear it – but I couldn't kill him. I couldn't kill anyone. I only joined the army as a doctor because I wanted to help soldiers survive the horrors of war; to save those young lives. Is Rand your first name or last? Is it really Rand, or did you make it up?
Melanie
>
>
From: Rand@djb9x2103i9.com
Subject:
To: Melanie55@gmail.com
21/08/19
>
Think of it as divine retribution. An eye for an eye. Or a justifiable homicide. Should you allow this person to live? Perhaps it is your duty to take him out. I assume you have explored and exhausted any possibility of bringing him to justice yourself.
Rand (contraction of Randolph)
>
>
From: Melanie Green
Subject:
To: Rand
21/08/19
>
Dear Contraction of Randolph,
Thank you for your email advising me to kill my partner's murderer. I think this is an excellent idea, and the thought of it made me smile. Probably for the first time in many months.
However, despite my army training, I don't think I'm capable of doing it for two reasons. Mentally, I couldn't bring myself to do such a thing; practically, I can't think of a way to do it and get away with it. But any suggestions of how to 'execute' the deed would be very gratefully received, so I can imagine them in my dreams: the nastier the means, the better.
I want to watch him die slowly, in pain, terrified. But I don't suppose you know anything about bumping people off. It's easy for you to just say 'kill him'. He escaped justice – so far - because he is an evil, lying scumbag, and I'm such an unreliable witness that nobody would ever believe me. I suppose I could report him. I'll give it some thought.
Yours sincerely,
Miss Melanie Green
 

Not Mr Almost-Right. Not nearly. As for his daughter, he remembered she was always inclined to make a joke of everything - but this was no joking matter. He'd have a word with her about it. Then he read Rand's reply. Perhaps he was a sensible sort of fellow, after all.

 

From: Rand@djb9x2103i9.com
Subject:
To: Melanie55@gmail.com
23/08/19
>
The thought of killing anybody should not make you smile. It is a grave matter which does not lend itself to flippancy. I may be able to give you some ideas, but not until I know the circumstances which justify the target being eliminated. You may be mentally unstable, and I would not wish to abet an unjustifiable felony perpetrated by a madwoman.
Just Rand will do fine
>
>
From: Melanie Green
Subject:
To: Rand
23/08/19
>
Hi, Just Rand!
Killing someone is only a grave matter if you actually do it. Get it? No? Thought not. You think I may be mentally unstable? Seriously, you could be right. But I'm making progress. To be frank, you're giving me hope. Perhaps I could kill the bastard if you helped me plan it. I've got a suggestion. You tell me about you and then I'll tell you about me. Agreed?
Melanie
>
>
From: Rand@djb9x2103i9.com
Subject:
To: Melanie55@gmail.com
24/08/19
>
No. Ladies first
>
>
From: Melanie Green
Subject:
To: Rand
24/08/19
>
Just Rand - do you realise how annoying you are? I send you an email in the morning, then I have to wait until the following morning for you to reply. That's bad enough, but when that reply comprises only three flaming words, it ain't half irritating.
So, you want to hear about me. Brought up in South East England, went to a Catholic convent which put me off any kind of religion, then decided to do medicine. My father's a doctor, and Mum was a physio, so it's in the blood.
Cash was tight at Med School, so I joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and got paid. I became a doctor, did my basic army training and got posted to Afghanistan. My parents were kind of pleased, but I think my father worried.
Talk about being busy! We worked eighteen-hour days in six-hour shifts. Satisfying when they pulled through; otherwise, it was not so good. Some joked about dying when they knew they were on their way; difficult not to know when your guts are slithering around you on the stretcher. Soldier humour, I suppose.
Sometimes I'd go out in the helicopter to pick up a casualty. Not in one of those big double-rotor jobs with a full-blown MERT (medical emergency recovery team), but in whatever was available.
Often I'd go with Foxy, or Lance Corporal Foxton to give him his full name. He was a medical orderly and much more experienced than I was in battlefield first aid. I was a captain by then, and in theory his boss. But we were great friends and got on really well.
 

He had to stop. It was too long to go through the whole thing there and then, so he printed off a copy to read on the plane, and with a paper version he would be able to make notes in the margin if necessary. He pressed the button on the intercom. “Next patient, please.”

 

By lunchtime, Daniela had come up with a taxi booking from Michael's villa to the airport picking him up at three, an e-ticket from Murcia-Corvera to Gatwick taking off at 5.15 pm, and an appointment for lunch the following day at noon with Sir David Goodman in London.

“Thank you, Daniela, that's so kind. My daughter's in a bit of trouble.”

“Oh no! Ees there anything I can do to help?”

“Not that I can think of, but it's a kind offer. Thank you. If anyone calls, it's probably better if you don't say I've gone to England.”

He had only two patients that afternoon. He was never abrupt with his clientele, but on that occasion, he kept small-talk to a minimum. When he'd seen them, he replied to his daughter's email with his ETA and went home to pack his hold bag and briefcase.

He included his own file on the shooting. Not that it contained much, just his letter to the MoD reporting the crime, plus the reply he got back saying they would look into it. It was from a Major Birch, a staff officer in the PR department. Michael hoped her email exchange with Rand might contain a first-hand account of the incident which would encourage them to take the matter further.



About the author

I'm a British male, a Cambridge graduate in Engineering and in Economics. For many years I was in Government Service and travelled the world. Now retired, I live in Kent but spend much time in the French Alps. My hobbies include skiing, high mountain walking - and my ten grandchildren. view profile

Published on September 20, 2020

Published by

80000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

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