In this series, we invite our Crime Cymru authors to showcase an excerpt from one of their books. This week, R G Adams introduces us to tenacious social worker Kit Goddard in the first in a new series optioned for TV.
Allegation is the first novel in a series featuring intrepid and intuitive social worker Kit Goddard and set in the fictional south Wales seaside town of Sandbeach. Kit knows all about the system; as a care leaver herself, she has seen the best and the worst of it and she is determined to do the right thing by the children she is responsible for.
Kit is still in the early days of her job when she is given the case of the Coopers, a successful, well-connected local family. The family react furiously when their lives are thrown into disarray by historical sexual abuse allegations against the father, Matt Cooper. Kit’s job is to enter the resulting maelstrom so as to assess the risk that Matt may present to his own three children, Cameron, Chloe and especially Lucy, who is severely disabled and the same age as Cooper’s alleged victims. In order to carry out her job, Kit must find a way to work with the wife and mother of the family, the redoubtable Annie.
In this excerpt, Kit sits outside the Coopers’ house, waiting for the police to join her at the first visit. When Matt and Annie will be told of the allegations and asked to co-operate with Kit’s intrusion into their lives. Acutely conscious that her level experience does not match up to the complexity of the case, she reflects on the bomb she is about to explode into the family’s life.
Kit took in the Welsh-slate house numbers, the decorative lamp posts, the hanging baskets, the wooden blinds at the windows. From the vantage point of an outsider, she recognised it as a scene of affluent suburban normality. She was suddenly overwhelmed by the sheer impossibility of the idea that a sexual predator might live like this, might come home from the office to a list of dad jobs – power-washing the decking, reinflating the sinking paddling pool, tending to the Moroccan chicken on the gas barbecue, bottle of beer in hand. As soon as she thought it, she felt a pulse of irritation with herself. She knew full well that this was exactly what a determined paedophile might do – taking years, perhaps a whole lifetime, to carve out that perfect niche of respectability, which in turn encouraged trust and therefore easy access.
Her attention turned to the Coopers’ house. She examined it carefully, but it told her nothing much. It was mostly similar to the others on the estate. The house was one of the larger, detached ones, with a big ground-floor extension to the side that had taken a lot of what would have been the garden, but otherwise it fitted the mould. The only other visible difference was the red Fiat Doblo parked on the drive. It was adapted to take a wheelchair and it stood out a mile, a lump of a thing compared to the sleek Audis and Mercs sitting outside the other houses.
At that moment, a black BMW swept past her and drew up on the Coopers’ drive next to the Fiat. Kit put the car window up and slid down a bit in her seat. She watched, curious to get a look at Matt Cooper, the details of the referral running through her mind once more. She caught a glimpse of a tall, well-dressed man as he got out of the car and went to the front door. She didn’t know what she had expected. But he looked ordinary enough. No, more than that, he looked pleasant, maybe even attractive. Kit was cross with herself as soon as she thought that, because it was the type of thing that Jean Collins would say, and she would have despised Jean for it. But somehow, with sexual offences, it was quite hard to resist the thought. Though she would sooner have died than admit it to Jean.
The door opened before Matt Cooper got to it. A slim woman with blonde hair stood there waiting for him, smiling. They hugged on the doorstep and went in together, his arm around her shoulder. Kit saw herself from outside now, sitting in her car, watching the daily routine of the family, her mind full of suspicion. How could she just walk in there and smash it all to pieces? Whatever happened afterwards, they would never recover from what was going to take place in the next hour or so. And did she even have the right, based on something that two women claimed had happened all those years ago? Jean Collins’ warning rang in her ears; she started to feel afraid. Was what she was about to do going to end her career before it had even started? She tried to imagine how Mr Cooper was going to react. At least he wasn’t likely to turn violent. He had too much to lose for that.
Another car pulled in behind Kit’s and Dai Davies emerged, along with a woman, probably in her forties, of average height and build. The woman had cropped hair and acne-scarred skin. Dai came across and leant down to Kit’s car window, giving her a reassuring smile. He was perspiring heavily, whether from the heat or his nerves she could not tell. Her own heart was racing now, and she would have done anything, anything at all, to avoid going into that house. But Dai raised his eyebrows to indicate that they needed to get on with it. Kit gathered her courage and got out of the car to join the others on the
‘This is Kit Goddard,’ Dai said. ‘Kit, this is D.S. Beth Mackay from CID. I suggest we let her handle the first part, get Mr Cooper out of the way, and then we can go through things with Mrs Cooper. OK with you, Beth?’
‘Sure.’ Beth Mackay smiled at Kit. ‘Don’t look so worried, love. I won’t stand for any nonsense from him, and I don’t care who his father is either. I’ve had every senior officer from the Chief Constable downwards bending my ear about this Len Cooper today. I’m sick of the sound of his name already.’
Kit was extremely relieved to hear Beth’s bullish tone. She’d had a couple of bad visits with officers who were so young and inexperienced that they’d had even less of a clue about what to do than she had. This had resulted in some nasty incidents, especially when Maisie was in the lead. But Beth clearly wasn’t that type. Someone must have decided to send the big guns this time. Though, come to think of it, she didn’t know whether that made her feel better or worse.
As the three of them made their way up the Coopers’ drive, Kit saw a movement at one of the downstairs windows and a face appeared. Kit met Matthew Cooper’s eyes and she registered his expression. It was fleeting but she saw no hint of surprise. Was it nonchalance, or a touch of arrogance?
You can order your copy of Allegation on Amazon.
Read more about R G Adams on her Crime Cymru page.