You tried to save a life. Now you’re fighting to save your own.
It’s the perfect Sunday. Summer sunshine, a barbecue with the kids.
But a knock on the garden gate and two words, ‘HELP ME’, changes everything.
When loving parents Rob and Wendy Turner let a dying man into their home, and do their best to help him, they think pure chance led him to their house. But soon their lives are threatened in ways they could never have imagined … and then the first anonymous letter arrives, forcing them to question all they know.
Someone is watching.
Someone is waiting.
They will stop at nothing.
Rob and Wendy will do anything to keep their family safe, but their children Georgia, Josh and Evan are teenagers now, with their own hidden lives.
Everyone has secrets, but how can you save your family, if you don’t really know them?
It began with a sound like someone knocking. Rob couldn’t place it at first: he’d had a fair bit to drink and was in a mellow, reflective mood. With his family growing up and moving on, days like these had to be savoured.
There were a couple of different conversations in progress, and music playing on Evan’s portable speaker. The barbecue was fizzing and spitting with the last of the burgers, destined never to be eaten. Rob, sitting on the left-hand side of the terrace, looked over his right shoulder. Was it someone at the front door, or the gate at the side of the house?
The next knock was harder, with the flabby echo of timber yielding beneath the blows: a fence panel. But the neighbours on one side were out, and the others weren’t the sort who’d object to a Sunday afternoon barbecue. So where…?
Rob gestured to his son. Evan and his girlfriend Livvy were intertwined on the swing seat; a quick tap on his phone and the music stopped. There was a moment of frozen silence before something thudded into the rear fence.
Wendy Turner frowned at her husband. ‘What was that?’
Rob stood up and moved to the edge of the terrace. He was a tall man, nearly six two, but even he couldn’t see much beyond the fence. The house backed on to a large wild meadow, some of it privately owned and enclosed for horses. The rest was common land with access to a network of trails that criss-crossed the fields south of Petersfield; as a consequence most of the residents along here had opted for high fences for privacy as well as security.
‘Has one of the horses got out?’ Evan began to extricate himself from the swing seat, but Rob waved him back down.
Later he would try to remember if there had been a note of caution in his voice. He jogged down the steps and was crossing the lawn, curious to see what sort of animal it was, when he heard a loud groan that could only have come from a human being.
Rob was close enough to locate the sound now: the third panel of seven. Someone – a man – was breathing in short, desperate gasps, bumping and knocking against the fence. Rob tracked him moving left to right, towards the gate.
And it was unbolted. Evan and Livvy had been on the common not half an hour before, tossing a Frisbee back and forth.
‘Rob?’ His wife’s voice was uncertain, maybe even fearful.
‘It’s okay.’ He had no idea if that was true, but he strode forward as the handle juddered against the latch. Rob quickly pressed his shoulder to the gate, holding it shut. He could feel the man’s weight against it, heavy and insistent.
There was a moment when Rob could have thrown the bolts home and kept the intruder at bay, but instead he did the opposite. . . his decision swayed by a simple whispered plea.