Hi and welcome to FromBelgiumWithBookLove where it is my absolute pleasure to share with you an excerpt from The Source! My review is here in case you missed it the first time around.
Many thanks to Anne Cater for having me on the tour, and to Orenda Books for the excerpt.
Let’s have a quick look at the blurb first:
A young TV journalist is forced to revisit her harrowing past when she’s thrust into a sex-trafficking investigation in her hometown. A startling, searing debut thriller by award-winning CNN journalist Sarah Sultoon.
1996. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak…
2006. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier…
As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth … and justice.
A riveting, searing and devastatingly dark thriller, The Source is also a story about survival, about hopes and dreams, about power, abuse and resilience … an immense, tense and thought-provoking debut that you will never, ever forget.
Ready? Okay, here we go!
Carly ~ Warchester ~ 1996
Ma’s on the sofa, eyes closed, mouth open. At least a packet’s worth of fags crowd the ashtray rising up and down on her belly, but, as usual, there’s none left for swiping.
Kayleigh’s standing, rattling the bars of her cot, so close it’s almost in Ma’s face. I clatter my keys on top of the telly squawking next to the front door. I know it wasn’t always like this when I got home from school, but these days it feels like I’m walking into the same film every afternoon, the same second when someone pressed pause, the same fog of smoke in every corner. Just like yesterday, the week before, the month before, there go Kayleigh’s screams again, bouncing off the walls, through my head and back again, opening up new cracks in any memory that’s still left. I can’t be cross with her though, how could I be? She doesn’t know how hard I’m trying to remember how it used to be. She just had the bad luck to be born in the first place.
I leave the door open as I wade through the crap on the floor to rouse Ma. She sits up with a start, ashtray flipping over in her lap.
‘She’s hungry, Ma. It’s gone five. How long’s she been in there?’ I straighten up, sniffing. I know without looking that Kayleigh hasn’t been changed all day. ‘Ma! What have you got in?’
But all she can do is blink at me before flopping back down on to the couch, finished before she’s even started. I turn my back as I scoop Kayleigh out of her cot, overflowing nappy instantly soaking my shirt.
‘We’re better off outside,’ I murmur as I strip her, squatting on the front step to turn on the outside tap, drowning her filthy clothes in a puddle, letting the breeze wash through the room behind us. And now she’s cooing instead of crying, fresh air kissing her naked body, cooling down the rash all over her velvet legs.
‘I’m sorry, love.’ Ma sniffs in the background. ‘I just closed my eyes for a moment…’
I don’t turn around. What’s the point? It’s the same speech as yesterday, as every day. At least she’s not slurring. She barely bothers to try then. Instead I pretend I’m wringing Ma’s neck as I squeeze Kayleigh’s tiny leggings out under the tap, kicking her bloated nappy over to the wall. She hoots as I flick water into her face, clapping her hands, tummy wobbling as she laughs. It’s so swollen I can tell myself she’s eating right, even though I know it’s because she’s not. And the tinkle of her giggles and rushing water makes it easier to forget I am washing my angel baby sister, again, from an outside tap on the pavement. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It wasn’t for me, least I don’t think it was. Why should it be for her?
‘I did give her some lunch. Or was it breakfast? I gave her … What did I give her? Now, I know I’ve got some beans in. She loves beans…’
I roll my eyes, tucking Kayleigh inside my jacket as we sit, damp, on the step. I wish the clouds would part for just a moment and let the sun dry her instead of my shitty school blazer. This is a blazer that’s dried a thousand other wet and screaming kids already.
‘Yes, I gave her cereal. That’s it. So she’s had some milk at least … Now, let me see…’
There she goes again, trying and failing to get up. I listen to Kayleigh suck her thumb instead, moving her body into the watery sunshine lighting the puddle around us. Her eyelashes flutter on her cheek as she spreads her toes into the breeze. I rest my chin on her head, wondering if Ma ever did this for me, once upon a time. Before she started doing anything for any scrounger that told her she had a nice smile.
Want to know what happened to Carly and her baby sister? Of course you do! And you can: The Source is out now in paperback and digital formats, and you can get both directly from Orenda Books here!