Monday 29 October 2012

Book Spotlight: Lethal Guardian by Paul J Turner

Lethal Guardian
by Paul J Turner


Nathan Grant is nine years old, his sister, Chloe, is six. They live in a large house in the English Midlands with their parents, Ian and Louise. Their father’s job as a successful lawyer provides an affluent lifestyle and all their emotional needs are met by devoted parents and the extended family. The two children are academically bright and popular at school with both teachers and other pupils and life couldn’t be better.

But all that changes on one terrible night, when Ian and Louise Grant go out to dinner and are killed in a car crash.

Nathan and Chloe go to live with their mother’s twin sister, a loving and caring woman who is determined to give the children the best life possible. Her husband, however, is a social misfit of a man who was raised single-handedly by a religiously-obsessed mother. To please her, he has had to marry a woman, despite being more attracted to men and, tragically for Nathan, young boys.

Read an excerpt from the book after the jump

Lethal Guardian

Copyright 2012 Paul J Turner


Monday 9th May 2005

‘Yeah!!! Charlotte’s coming?’ yelled an excited Chloe as her mother explained that she and her husband were going out for dinner that evening. As Louise and Ian got ready, their son Nathan scolded his sister ‘She’s just a baby sitter!’ Chloe, a pretty little girl with shoulder length blonde hair, knew that her brother was as excited as she was, she secretly thought that Nathan was in love with 16 year old Charlotte from down the road. Charlotte was everything Chloe wanted to be, attractive, funny and clever.

Nathan, a slim fit boy with short dark brown hair, continued playing it cool – 9 year old boys don’t like girls!- while Chloe jumped around her bedroom looking for games that they could play with Charlotte. He loved his sister and looked out for her at school but 6 year olds could be a real pain, getting in the way when your friends came round and messing with your stuff.

As arranged, Charlotte arrived at 7pm and after the usual ‘how’s your mother?’ and ‘There is Coke in the fridge and snacks on the kitchen top’ Louise and Ian kissed the children and left the house.

Ian, as a successful lawyer, made a good living and Louise and the children were accustomed to having a very comfortable life. The house, while not too extravagant was in an affluent area of Pinthorpe in Central England and had sufficient space to hold dinner parties for 20 guests, 6 bedrooms and a garden at least half the size of a football pitch. They had at least two foreign holidays a year, Louise drove a sporty BMW and Ian a Porsche while the car they used for family trips was a new Range Rover. Louise, who had met Ian at Law School, had been happy to leave her job when Nathan was born and had never got around to going back to work, despite many promises to herself that she would.

‘Charlotte, Charlotte, can we play on the PlayStation?!!’ Chloe begged as Nathan rolled his eyes.

‘Yes, okay, let me get in the door!’ Charlotte replied, smiling at Nathan ‘How have you both been? How was Florida?’

As Chloe showed off the holiday snaps on her laptop, Nathan set up the PlayStation and an evening of fun and games began.

Two hours later, just as they were settling down to watch Chloe’s Ice Age DVD, the doorbell rang.

‘Who’s that?’ Charlotte wondered as she got up, ‘Pause the movie while I see.’

The police officer on the doorstep was grim-faced. ‘Is this the home of Ian Grant?’ he asked Charlotte.

‘Yes, it is, is there a problem?’ she responded with concern.

‘Are you a relative of Mr Grant?’ he continued

‘No, I’m the babysitter. Has something happened?’

The sound of squabbling came from the lounge and the officer’s face dropped further ‘I need to talk to you alone, away from the children, can we do that?’

Charlotte led him into the kitchen, calling through the lounge door on the way that she would be back in a few minutes. ‘Who is it?’ enquired Nathan.

‘Just a friend of mine needs to talk to me, I won’t be long,’ lied Charlotte without a clue about what sort of nightmare this actually was.

It turned out to be a terrible nightmare as the officer, who called himself PC Martin, explained that there had been an accident earlier that evening. On the way to the restaurant, a speeding Ford Focus full of teenage lads had hit Ian’s Porsche head-on. Ian was dead, Louise was barely alive and not expected to live and three of the four boys in the Focus were dead, the remaining backseat passenger walking away with cuts and bruises from the mangled wreck.

‘Oh my God, what am I going to tell the kids? I can’t tell them this!’ sobbed Charlotte as the officer felt his own emotions coming to the surface.

‘Are there any close relatives nearby do you know? Anybody we can call to be here with the children when they are told?’ he asked.

‘I don’t know without asking them. Louise is my mom’s friend, maybe my mom will know.’

Thirty minutes later, there was silence as the shock sank in. Nathan looked at the floor, Chloe, with tears running down her cheeks, clutched Charlotte as Charlotte’s mother, PC Martin and the newly arrived WPC Reid struggled to hold back their own tears.

Chapter 1

Tuesday 10th May 2005

I can’t believe that Mom and Dad are dead. We were having such a nice time with Charlotte and then that policeman came to the door and now we are orphans. Chloe can’t stop crying, I cried a little bit but I am trying to be brave. Uncle Steve and Auntie Caroline have been very nice. I don’t know how long we will stay at their house. It isn’t as nice as our house. Why did those stupid boys have to drive like that? Now three of them are dead and my mom and dad too. When I am a man, I will never drive too fast in case I kill somebody.

Auntie Caroline keeps crying, she must feel as bad as Chloe and me, mom was her twin sister. Uncle Steve is quiet but he must be just worried. He played football in the garden with me this morning but their garden is so small and I don’t feel like playing football. Liverpool are in the European Champions League Final and I was so excited but now I don’t care. I don’t know if I will ever be happy again. I have a new life now but I want my old one back.

‘We can’t give them the life they are used to Steve. Look at this house compared to the one they lived in,’ Caroline Purcell said sadly.

Her normally bright and expressive green eyes were red from hours of crying. Louise and she had been non-identical twins and extremely close. Losing Louise was like losing a massive part of herself.

The unexpected visit from the police family support officer, late the night before, had changed her world instantly. It had been agreed that it was most appropriate that the children stayed with Caroline and Steve until a decision was reached about the longer term arrangements but Caroline knew that in Louise and Ian’s will, it was their wish that Caroline and Steve would become the legal guardians in the event of any disaster. She remembered the conversation with Louise, 5 years before, when the matter was discussed and recalled thinking how unlikely such a scenario was.

Caroline and Steve were unable to have their own children due to Caroline’s infertility which had failed to respond to hormone therapies. While Steve was supportive, Caroline wasn’t sure that he was as enthusiastic as her about having their own children. They had considered adopting and she had found herself wondering, over the past few hours, if her destiny had always been to be mother to her twin sister’s children. She had watched Steve earlier with the children considering how parenting would suit him. He always seemed to get on with Nathan and Chloe but, she thought, never seemed totally natural with his affection. He just wasn’t used to kids she reassured herself.

Caroline, on the other hand was a natural and the children had always loved seeing her. She was easily able to get herself on their level, running around chasing them, teasing them and making them squeal with delight at her foolish antics.

Steve moved towards his wife and put his arms around her, holding her close to him as her tears began to flow again.

‘They are young, they will get over it and they will have you. You will make a great mother,’ he assured her.

‘I just hope that we can be good parents Steve. Louise and Ian were perfect parents, how can we live up to that?’ she sniffled.

‘We will be fine once we all get over the shock, it will take time, but kids are very resilient and they will cope, trust me,’ he replied.

‘I don’t know what to do about tonigh,t’ Steve said. ‘You know, I was supposed to have a business meeting in Birmingham and it’s really important. I suppose I should cancel it,’ he went on, looking at Caroline for a clue as to what he should do.

‘No, you go. I will be okay. Can you just clear some of the junk in the little bedroom for Chloe to use? We can’t have them both sleeping in the same room, not a boy and a girl,’ she said.

Steve, a well-groomed man, but not one that most people would consider attractive, went up to the smallest bedroom and looked around at the boxes of things which seemed to go with them every time they moved house, but never got unpacked. He wondered why this apparently unwanted stuff was never thrown out but started moving it down to the garage as Caroline looked for bedding for Chloe, making a mental note to get her some nicer bedding and to get the tatty bedrooms decorated as soon as they could. She mentioned this to Steve as they passed on the stairs.

‘Money is tight,’ he replied ‘I hate to say this now, but we will need some money from the estate as soon as possible to cover the extra costs of having the children,’ he informed her.

Finances had been difficult for Caroline and Steve for years. She had always suspected that they would have struggled to cope with extra mouths to feed even if they had been able to have children. Sometimes, she wondered why they never seemed to have money. She left the money-management to Steve. He didn’t have the income Ian had but he certainly wasn’t badly paid by his job as a sales executive. There just never seemed to be enough money each month, the bills got paid but there were no holidays, nights out were rare and she felt guilty when she saw the worry on Steve’s face when she asked if she could buy new clothes or small items for the house. Steve had his three-year-old Mercedes, which wasn’t cheap but he needed that to impress customers so she couldn’t complain about that.

‘I will find out what will happen with the execution of the will over the next few days, see what we can get to help,’ she told him, feeling guilty about having to even consider this less than 24 hours after her sister’s tragic death. Louise had often said ‘I don’t know how you struggle so much, Steve earns a decent salary.’

The doorbell rang and Caroline went to the door to find a sombre-looking couple in their late 50s standing on the doorstep. Pete and Sarah lived next door and had always been good friends in the 5 years since Caroline and Steve moved in.

‘Caroline, Steve told us what happened, I am so sorry,’ Sarah said as she reached to hug Caroline. ‘How are the children doing?’

‘Very quiet, just sitting watching television at the moment… well looking at the television, not sure they are taking much in,’ replied Caroline as Pete hugged her.

Nathan and Chloe hardly looked up from the television as Pete and Sarah entered the lounge. Caroline shrugged her shoulders and whispered, ‘what the hell can I do to make things easier for them?’

‘Time,’ said Pete, ‘you just have to let grief take its course, for you and them.’

Caroline walked through the door into the kitchen beckoning with her head and sat at the kitchen table.

‘Where’s Steve?’ asked Sarah.

‘Oh he’s just moving some junk from the small bedroom to make space for Chloe to sleep there,’ Caroline explained. ‘He has to go out soon, he has a business meeting this evening in Birmingham.’

‘Couldn’t he have re-arranged that?’ Sarah said, looking at Pete and raising her eyebrows.

‘No, it’s okay, I told him to go. At least one of us should try and maintain some normality,’ she said, partly to herself.

Sarah and Pete were very close to Caroline and treated her as an adopted daughter. Both found Steve a little strange, however. They had never quite taken to him. They couldn’t quite put their finger on what it was about him, but he seemed guarded and even a little suspicious. Caroline had never had anything negative to say about him but Sarah and Pete had spent many occasions discussing whether Caroline was really as happy with him as she would have others believe.

‘Do you want me to come and sit with you tonight Caroline? I have no plans,’ offered Sarah.

‘Yes, that would be nice, you don’t mind do you Pete?’ Caroline asked ‘It will be better if I am not sitting alone thinking too much and I really don’t know what to say to the kids at the moment. God I hope this gets easier soon.’

Late that afternoon, Steve kissed Caroline on the cheek, raised his hand to wave to Nathan and Chloe sitting eating at the kitchen table and left the house.

END of excerpt.

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