Just to let you know, my sixth novel ‘For the Sake of a Child’ was published yesterday. It’s a thriller/suspense story, and I’ve added the synopsis and first chapter for you below:
FOR THE SAKE OF A CHILD
A NOVEL BY
COPYRIGHT STEVIE TURNER 2014
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Dedicated to my friend Sandra, taken from us too soon.
All names and characters are fictitious. Any similarity to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental.
My thanks go to Ferdi Nazim of the NSPCC for help and advice given in the writing of this book.
Also thanks again to Libbie Grant for the cover.
Ginny Ford is pleased to win the coveted job of housekeeper to the directors of PhizzFace Inc. However, her joy becomes tarnished by an accidental find whilst cleaning, leading her to suspect that all is not as it should be on the managerial corridor. Delving deeper, she is shocked to uncover a secret paedophile network that has remained hidden for years, involving the very people she has come to know and trust. Unable to live with her conscience, she decides that she cannot keep quiet and that she must find a way of helping all the children involved.
Nervously smoothing down her regulation blue PhizzFace overall with one hand and clutching her coat and bag with the other, Ginny Ford took a deep breath, checked for stray strands of dark hair that might have escaped from her bushy ponytail, and knocked on the office door:
“Hi Bob. You wanted to see me?” Ginny forced a grin and decided not to let on how terrified she felt.
“I expect you’re wondering what this is all about.” Bob Fenton waved an arm in the direction of an empty chair.
Ginny nodded and sat down carefully on the edge of the seat, arms and legs crossed, in a psychological effort to ward off any barbed words that might be cloaked in her supervisor’s usual banal banter:
“Emma’s decided not to come back after her annual leave. The Misters tell me they’re more than pleased with the job you’ve been doing in the factory; you’re reliable and one of our longest serving housekeepers. If you want the directors’ corridor, then the job’s yours. There’ll be the usual pay rise for the top floor, as you know, and you’ll be able to earn more for the extra hours spent clearing up after the conferences.”
Ginny wondered if she had heard him right. For a moment she was too shell-shocked to speak:
“Emma’s left? But why would she want to leave?” Ginny thought of her friend struggling to bring up her boys alone. “She’s got two kids depending on her.”
“She’s obviously found something better, so good luck to her. What do you say? Do you want the job or not?”
Ginny felt an unusual impatience in Bob’s voice. Relaxing back into her seat, she shot him one of her full-on smiles:
“Of course I do! What do you take me for? Who wouldn’t want the top corridor?” She felt a growing happiness at the thought of it.
“That’s settled then. I’ll let Mister Randolph know. You’ll be handing your job over to Sue tomorrow, so start on Monday morning, six o’clock sharp as usual. There’ll be some extra hours in the kitchen on quite a few Mondays after you drop Trudi off at school due to the Misters sometimes having Friday afternoon conferences, so just fill in this timesheet and I’ll make sure you get paid for them.” He handed over a piece of A4 paper.
“Great. Thanks Bob.” She took the single page from him and gazed briefly at the unfamiliar timesheet before popping it into her bag. “I hope I can get my head around this.”
“You’ll be fine. There’s a brain inside that curly head of yours. See you tomorrow.
The polished granite and marble foyer of PhizzFace Incorporated was just beginning to buzz with early-morning activity as Ginny made her way up the stairs from her supervisor’s office in the basement to the ground floor. The decorative fountain in the middle of the foyer was trickling, and the sound of water bouncing off the smooth pebbles around the base always made her want to pee. She hated going out through the revolving doors, and as usual opened the disabled entrance door which was slightly off to the right:
“See you in the morning, Ginny.”
“’Bye, Will.” She waved to the smiling concierge as she passed him by.
The extra ten minutes spent with Bob had made her late; she knew Larry would be champing at the bit to get to the office. At the zebra crossing she willed the traffic to stop; hopping impatiently from foot to foot. By the time she had run down Frobisher Street and zoomed left into Grove Gardens she could see her husband and daughter waiting; both were looking expectantly in her direction. One of the pair was wearing a thunderous expression, and the other one was swinging rather nonchalantly on the garden gate:
“Where have you been? I’ve got to go!”
“Sorry, but I’ve got some good news to tell you later on.” She gave him a quick peck on the cheek as he ran past her towards the car. “Come on Missy, school time.” She took her daughter’s hand and exhaled a loud sigh of joy, coupled with some relief.
“What good news, Mummy?”
Seven year old Trudi was as sharp as a tack; arty and creative just like herself. Ginny smiled fondly at her daughter as she squeezed her fingers:
“Mummy’s got a pay rise and the cushiest job of all.” She glanced down at her daughter to make sure she was holding a lunch box in her other hand, as they began the short walk to school.
“Cleaning the offices of the five PhizzFace directors.”
“Why is it good?”
“Because they don’t make a lot of mess.”
“Why can’t you just stay at home and write more books?”
“I told you; because I can’t find an agent to sell them for me, and I need to earn some money but still look after you while I’m doing it.”
“Why can’t you sell them yourself then?”
“I try to, but not many people want to buy them.”
“Because there’s thousands and millions of other writers out there all trying to sell their books at the same time.”
“Why can’t you sell them at a different time then?”
Her daughter’s constant questions began to grate on her nerves. Ginny steered Trudi around the end of Grove Gardens and into Arcadia Road:
“I can see Tom Osborne! He’s my boyfriend now!”
Trudi unclasped her hand from her mother’s and raced ahead, while Ginny slowed her pace, smiled at her daughter’s retreating back, and relished the sudden peace and quiet. At the entrance to the playground she waited slightly apart from the other chattering parents letting Bob’s news sink in a bit further until the bell for lessons rang, returning the farewell wave from her daughter with a wave of her own. When the playground was empty Ginny quickly retraced her steps, looking forward to getting home to a cup of strong coffee and a hot shower.
After a refreshing wash she took advantage of the empty house and settled down in front of the computer to do some writing and networking, only rising when her stomach told her it was lunchtime. After a quick sandwich she worked through on a troublesome chapter until 2:45, when glancing at her watch, she reluctantly pulled her mind from her cyber world and walked briskly to the school playground. She again stood apart from the other mothers while searching briefly for her best friend Emma, but came to the conclusion that one or both of her children must be off sick:
“Has Robert been to school today?” Ginny kissed her daughter as she ran up to her in the playground.
“No; I haven’t seen him.” Trudi handed over her empty lunchbox and reading folder and skipped alongside her mother.
“He must have the chickenpox bug.” Ginny smiled at Trudi. “Thank goodness you’ve already had it.”
“Ryan’s not at school either.” Trudi waved to a classmate walking off in the opposite direction.
“He’s probably got it as well.”
Ginny always hated the first half an hour after Trudi had come home from school. There would always be the usual sighs and reluctance to read and complete homework, with Ginny always wanting to get the workbook signed and get it over with before her daughter became too tired:
“Any homework tonight?” Ginny crossed her fingers.
“Just reading.” Trudi sighed.
“Let’s do a couple of chapters, and then I can sign your homework book. Soon after that Daddy will be home and we’ll be able to have dinner.”
“What’s for dinner? I can’t smell anything cooking.” Trudi wrinkled her nose.
“We’ll see what’s in the cupboard.” Ginny stayed tactfully silent on the subject.
By the time she had overseen the reading and signed in the book, Trudi was complaining of being hungrier than the whole world. Ginny switched on the oven and took a large tray covered in silver foil from the fridge:
“What’s in there?” Trudi began to lift up one corner.
“Fingers out; go and change your clothes, and dinner won’t be long.”
When she heard Larry’s key turning in the lock, the table was set, the lasagne was bubbling, colourful vegetables were al dente in the steamer, and the wine was cooling in the fridge. Ginny kissed her husband and enjoyed the brief sensation of feeling safe with his arms around her:
“I never got to hear your good news this morning.”
“I’ll tell you over dinner. Just let me dish up first.
“In her room; give her a shout and tell her dinner’s ready.”
Ginny switched off the oven and steamer, and took three plates out from the warming tray under the grill:
“Bob’s given me the directors’ corridor, and I can earn more when there’s been a conference.” Ginny ladled lasagne and vegetables onto the plates.
“Trudi doesn’t like lasagne.” Larry returned to the kitchen and eyed the plates. “It’s going to be another set-to to get her to eat anything.”
“Are you listening?”
“Yeah; something about directors. What did you say?”
“Come and sit down and I’ll tell you again.”
Larry finished the last of his lasagne and put down his knife and fork:
“Good news about the job, but what if you have to work later on a Monday or in the school holidays?” He looked at her questioningly.
“I’m going round to see Emma after dinner; she’s always home after seven o’clock. I’m going to ask her if she’d mind taking Trudi to school for me, or having her for a while any time I need to work extra hours. I’ll obviously phone you if I need to stay after half past eight on Monday mornings, and you’ll have to drop Trudi round there on your way to work. Emma won’t mind though; I’ve looked after her two often enough.” Ginny poured herself some more wine and prepared herself for the upcoming battle of wills as she looked at her daughter’s stony expression:
“Come on Trudi, eat a little bit more for Mummy please.”
“I don’t like lasagne.”
“I’ll give you a bit to eat and then you can have some pudding.” Ginny made a small pile of food with her fork on one side of her daughter’s plate.
“I don’t want the meat thing. I only like the pasta.”
“Okay; just eat the pasta then.” Ginny was happy if her skinny daughter ate anything at all. “Would you like some yoghurt afterwards?”
“I don’t like yoghurt.”
“What do you like then?” Larry sat back in his chair and sighed.
“Chocolate.” Trudi smiled at her father.
“You can’t eat any chocolate if you don’t eat some dinner.” Larry sipped his wine and sighed.
“Oh Daddy, pl-ee-a-se…..my foot hurts!” Trudi inspected her ankle and took off her shoe.
“What’s your sore foot got to do with not eating your dinner?” Larry put his glass down slightly too forcibly on the table, causing Ginny to wince.
“It’s too painful to eat!”
Ginny sighed as she watched her daughter going through the same tried and tested routine:
“I’m definitely going to book an appointment for you to see the doctor tomorrow. There’s obviously something terribly wrong with your foot. Perhaps it needs amputating.” Larry rolled his eyes to the heavens. “This is enough to drive me to drink.”
“What’s amp-i-tating?” Trudi inched a sliver of pasta into her mouth and grimaced.
“Chopping it off; that’ll stop it hurting.” Larry shot Trudi a mean glance.
With the sudden realisation that her father was reaching the end of his shorter-than-average fuse, Trudi relented and tucked into some pasta:
“It feels a bit better now.”
“Thank Christ for that.” Larry sighed.
Opening the front door after dinner, Ginny let herself out; pleased that she was managing to dodge yet another April shower. She hurried along Grove Gardens towards the Merchant Estate, pressing the button for the lift to take her up to the sixth floor of Emma’s tower block. The lift was slow in coming; in fact it was obvious after five minutes of waiting that the lift was not going to arrive at all. Trudging up the steep flights of steps, Ginny wrinkled her nose at the overpowering stench of urine on the stairwell. Panting, she opened the landing fire door leading to the four flats on the sixth floor, but was surprised and dismayed to see a padlock on the outside of number 25. At the sight of the padlock she felt rather silly ringing the bell, but felt that she ought to do it just to make sure Emma really was gone:
“Hello!” Ginny bent down and shouted through the letterbox. “Emma!”
She could see into the passageway; it was empty of any floor covering and furniture. The kitchen at the end of the passageway was also vacant. All she could see was one of the children’s toys lying forlornly on the floor outside the kitchen.
“It’s no use shouting; Emma and the kids moved out a week ago.”
Perplexed, Ginny stood up and turned around at the sound of a voice emanating from the flat next door. She recognised Emma’s friend Rita, who also had a child in Trudi’s class:
“Where’s she gone? She never said anything to me!” Ginny wanted to cry at the unwelcome news that her best friend had seemingly disappeared without a trace.
“All she said was that she had the chance of a better life for her kids, and that she was going to take it.” Rita shrugged her shoulders.
“Did she win the lottery or something?” Ginny stared back at Emma’s front door, stunned and disbelieving.
“Don’t know. Don’t know anything really. Removal men came to take all her stuff away, and she got in the van with the kids and they drove off.”
Still in a disbelieving trance-like state, Ginny trudged back down the stairs and walked slowly home. On the way back she tried to ring her friend’s mobile phone, but a robotic voice answered at the other end to say that the number was no longer available:
“What’ll I do? I can’t ask Mum and Dad; they live too far away, and are too old now anyway. I still can’t believe that Emma’s disappeared off the face of the earth. She was my best friend at work.” Ginny cuddled up to Larry’s warm chest later that evenning in bed, and tried to stem the tears forming at the back of her eyes.
Larry kissed the top of her head:
“I thought I was your best friend?” He chuckled as he held her close. “She must have won the lottery; that’s all I can think of.”
“She hardly ever had enough money to play the lottery. It just doesn’t make sense.”
She gave in to the tears that could not be stopped no matter how hard she tried.
“Don’t worry; I’m able to stay longer at work to make up for getting in late if you have to stay on. We’ll work it out. Don’t cry.” He kissed her again and gave her a reassuring squeeze.
“Love you, Larry. Of course you’re my best friend; it’s just that Emma…”
“I know; she was your mate; someone you could have a moan about men with.”
“Something like that.” Ginny sniffed and sighed.
“Give us a kiss. I’d slave away in the office over a hot computer ‘til midnight every day if it’d make you happy.”
“Silly sod. I’d never see you.” She gave a rueful laugh through her tears as she kissed him.
“That’s better. Give us another one.”
“Do you still love me?” She kissed him and closed her eyes.
“Don’t ask such bloody stupid questions.” He sat up, turned off the bedside lamp, drew her towards him in the darkness, and with his hands and his tongue made her sorrows momentarily slip away.