Tuesday, 20 June 2017

One Punch by Keith Dixon ~ A Paul Storey Crime Thriller - #BlogTour #Excerpt



TITLE - One Punch

AUTHOR - Keith Dixon 

PUBLISHER - Semiologic Ltd

PRINT LENGTH - 304 Pages 

SYNOPSIS 
Paul Storey is an ex-cop looking for a job. Bran Doyle was a boxer but he’s now looking for a driver. And perhaps a little more.

Storey takes the job but soon finds himself involved in more than driving. There’s a murder. And conspiracy. And another murder.

And then the real trouble starts.

One Punch continues the series begun by Storey, described by one reviewer as a “highly intelligent, witty and well-plotted thriller”, and by others as “very entertaining”, “a great read” and “an unusual thriller”.

If you like thrillers with surprising characters, intricate plots, lots of humour and exciting action, then One Punch should fit the bill.


EXCERPT

CHAPTER ONE

When Norton saw Storey walk into the bar he knew straight away the type of man he was dealing with: alert, cagey, possibly dangerous.
He was maybe six feet tall, had black hair curling on his collar and seemed restless. Norton noticed a couple of women turn their heads to take him in, as though he’d brought a different kind of energy into the place.
But Norton knew all that from the clippings he’d read about Storey before contacting him. He’d been plastered over the newspapers a few weeks ago—hero ex-cop, saving lives, foiling smugglers. Norton’s boss, Bran Doyle, liked that. Said Storey would be a good man to have on board now they’d got rid of Monks.
Norton wasn’t so sure, thought Doyle was buying into the hype. Look at the way Storey stood at the bar, smiling at the barmaid, struggling to get his wallet from his jacket pocket. Playing the fool, getting a laugh from the girl. He could have done with a shave and his jeans were faded, though he seemed fit: slim and broad in the shoulders, moved well, probably not yet forty.
He wore a brown leather jacket over an open-neck blue shirt, with a name on the pocket Norton couldn’t read, and his shoes were scuffed at the front, as though he’d been kicking stones.
He didn’t look at ease in this place—maybe it was too high class.
Which is why Norton had chosen it, give Storey a glimpse of what was coming if he took the job. Let him taste the atmosphere, the possibilities. Norton didn’t mind if Doyle wanted to hire Storey, but that didn’t mean he got an easy pass.

Now Storey had seen Norton staring at him and was walking over, pint of beer in his hand, looking down at the shiny table-top, glancing at the other people in the bar before speaking.
‘Norton?’
‘Yes, take a seat.’
Storey sat in the chair on the far side of the table, still wary. He said, ‘Posh place, this. Your local?’
‘You think it’s posh?’
‘Fancy weddings and so on, isn’t it? Horse-drawn carriage taking the bride and groom away to a fortnight in Bermuda.’
‘We’re not here to talk about weddings,’ he said. Noticing Storey registered the rebuke but didn’t react. ‘We’ve got a proposition for you.’
‘So you said. You and your mysterious boss. I’ll drink this beer and listen to your pitch but I’m not guaranteeing anything.’
‘Understood. You should know this is completely legit, nothing dodgy. You’ll be on salary and some benefits.’
Storey was still staring at him. Then he said, ‘Were you in the services?’
Norton feeling himself drawing back, surprised. ‘Irrelevant.’
Storey shrugged, looking away, taking in the high windows of the bar, the well-toned young couples possibly discussing wedding plans. The talk was low, the surroundings refined. Norton could see the disapproval in his eyes.
Turning back to him, Storey said, ‘There’s something in your skin-tone, your hair-cut. The way you sit. You’re controlled. It was just a guess.’
Norton felt unnerved but before he could speak Storey was talking again.
‘You said it was something to do with security. What kind of security?’
Norton took a sip from his whisky and counted to five, steadying himself. He said, ‘My boss is a businessman, quite well-known in the city. He has a high profile, you might say. He needs someone to take him from place to place—’
‘Like a chauffeur?’
‘Well, more than that. There’d be some driving but other general duties.’
‘Standing around pretending to be alert but actually bored as shit.’
Norton felt himself growing frustrated, the other man seeming to enjoy being contradictory, pushing him. He said, ‘It’s not like that. It’s interesting work, lots of variety, working for a good family.’
‘Why me? You can pick up drivers at the Job Centre.’
‘Coventry isn’t teeming with people with your qualifications.’
Now Storey was grinning, as though Norton was suddenly comical.
‘You read my CV in the papers, didn’t you, and thought you’d get a thug for cheap. You’d be amazed the offers I had after that little event. TV interviews, book offers. A couple of women wanted to marry me, show their gratitude for my service to the city. I don’t know, you shoot someone and people either want to bury you under a ton of shit or make you the new pope.’
Norton shook his head. ‘I look at you and I don’t see anything special. Admittedly it took some balls doing what you did. But I suppose you’d done it before, shooting someone. I read you were a specialist when you were in the police. Firearms. Must have known what you were doing but still a risk. My job, I never took risks. Anything went wrong, you got a bollocking and maybe half a dozen men dead in the street, dogs licking their ears. Know what I mean?’
Storey looking at him again, his eyes still, like he was thinking something through.
He said, ‘When I went down to London I went for the excitement. Coventry was dead. Didn’t have all these students, this buzz it’s got now. I come back and the place is changed, like it’s had a transplant, something new in the bloodstream. I don’t know what it is and I don’t know whether I like it. You like it, don’t you? Makes you think you’re still back in Iraq or wherever the hell you were.’
‘It was—’
‘Well I don’t need that buzz any more. I had enough of it in London and now I’m back here I want to be still. I don’t want to wake up every morning with my head already pounding because of the noise I can hear in the background, a noise I don’t know whether it’s really there or not, or whether it’s just my imagination gearing me up to deal with the day.’
‘I think you’ve got the wrong idea of what we’re asking you to do.’
‘I don’t think I have. I know exactly what you want me to do. Drive a car, open doors, keep a straight face, say Yes, sir, No, sir.’
‘This place needs people like Bran Doyle—people with energy and vision, people who can get things done.’
‘I’ve never heard of him.’
‘He wants to meet you.’
‘So why didn’t he come in person?’
‘He wanted me to meet you first. Sound you out.’
‘First interview. See if I’ll spit on the carpet. So what do you think?’
‘I think you won’t last forty-eight hours.’
‘I’d better meet him then, hadn’t I, while I’ve still got the chance?’

Outside, Storey watched Norton drive out of the hotel’s car park, then followed. Norton had said it was only a few minutes’ drive but be sure to keep up or he’d miss the entrance.
By now he was interested to meet the guy, Doyle, see what he was like and whether he could work for him. He didn’t want to work for anyone, but he couldn’t afford to live without some income and at least this sounded interesting, so far as it went. After the business with the Syrian he’d laid low for a while, let things settle down. His former boss in London would still take him back but he thought he was past that now—he’d been his own boss for a while, in a manner of speaking, and he found he liked it. So he wanted to keep his freedom but he needed money and he didn’t want to prostitute himself for it. Besides, Norton had said it would only be for a couple of months so maybe he could stomach it for that long.
The hotel had been on the edge of town but now the route Norton was taking him had become more countrified. Without city lighting the road suddenly grew darker, so Storey turned on the Volvo’s main beams. He didn’t know this part of Coventry and was surprised to see the dim outlines of flat fields to his left, while on his right a succession of expensive-looking executive houses with their own driveways slipped by, their living-room lamps just flickering on, the executives well insulated from whatever was happening outside.
Storey wondered what he was going to find. Who was Bran Doyle and what impact was he going to have on his life?


Five minutes later Norton’s brake lights glowed and he turned and disappeared behind a stand of trees that edged the road. When Storey arrived he saw a wide metal gate was still swinging open, Norton waiting for it to complete its arc before driving through. Storey followed.
Jesus, he thought, looking ahead. How the other half lives.
They’d entered a compound, the drive paved in grey slabs, and at the end of its arc, beyond a raised circular decking area, he could see the main house, looming grandly against the night sky. The house seemed in fact to be two identical structures, perhaps barns in a previous life, that were now connected by an entrance foyer made entirely of glass and lower in height than the buildings either side. This entrance and the building on its left were lit up while the other was dark.
As he followed Norton to the parking spaces in front of the house he passed three self-contained cottages, perhaps stables at one time, and looking further, beyond the house, he could see a tennis court, lit-up by lights on tall poles, and what looked like a covered swimming pool next to it. He could tell the house was set in several acres of its own grounds, though in the growing dark he couldn’t see the property’s furthest limits.


He pulled in next to Norton’s car.
Norton was already out and was waiting by the glass door of the entrance.
He seemed to know what Storey would have been thinking, because he said, ‘Valued at one and a half million last year. Not that I think he’ll ever sell it. Put too much work into getting it right.’
The door opened and a woman somewhere in her fifties stood there, looking first at Norton and then at Storey. He saw she was still shapely and was attractive in a natural way, slim and with a single loop of gold around her neck, her dark hair cut to reach her shoulders and showing traces of highlight here and there.
She said, ‘Bran’s upstairs. Can this wait?’
‘I told him I’d bring Mr Storey tonight, if he’d come,’ Norton said. ‘Mission accomplished.’
The woman gave him a look then turned a smile on Storey and stepped back.
‘I’m Charlotte Doyle, the missus,’ she said. ‘Please come in.’
Her voice was well-modulated and had the kind of accent Storey usually associated with blue-rinsed stockbrokers’ wives from Kent. He’d begun to form some ideas about Bran Doyle but was already having to change them.

He followed Charlotte Doyle across a tiled foyer and through a door into the largest sitting-room he’d ever seen. The walls and ceilings were white, the floor pale wood and the leather chairs a chocolate brown. A huge television was showing a natural history programme but she flicked it off and threw the remote control clattering onto a low glass table.
Now she was turning to him again with her bright smile, saying, ‘You boys sit here while I fetch him. He’ll be asleep by now, mouth open in front of his television. Norton, try not to get your shoe-polish on the rugs.’
She clipped out of the room and Storey walked further into it, passing the two huge sofas and rounding a table set with six upright chairs, then approaching a dozen or more black and white photos ranged in a display on the far wall.
Norton had followed him and began to explain. ‘Doyle in his pomp. That’s Sean Connery, without his wig. That one’s the man from Eastenders. The one sitting there is Felicity Kendall. I don’t know the others.’
The photos were all taken in clubs or restaurants, people grinning in the background, faces pale in the photographic flash. Storey noticed the man who appeared in all the photos was tall and solidly-built, as tall as Connery but broader across the shoulders. He didn’t recognise the man’s face but saw that it had a definite character. In the photos he was perhaps in his thirties but his features were large, raw, as though they’d been pushed out of shape and then re-formed. It was an eager face, the face of a man who enjoyed life and looked like he wanted to swallow it whole.
He said over his shoulder, ‘You haven’t told me what he does yet. An actor or something?’
‘In a manner of speaking. He’ll tell you himself. Try and stop him.’
Storey was about to reply when someone else came into the room at the far end, a girl in her twenties, he guessed, by the lithe way she moved.
Norton saw Storey looking past him and turned around.
‘Felicity. We’re just waiting for your dad.’
The girl came forward and now Storey could see her better. She had her mother’s clear features and direct eyes but there was a colour to her skin that her mother lacked. She wore tight black jeans and a white Fruit of the Loom tee-shirt and her red hair was tied back in a short pony-tail.
Without holding out her hand, she said, ‘I’m Fliss. Are you the new man?’
Storey said, ‘That depends on whether your dad passes the interview. Too soon to say but it’s not looking good so far.’
A smile flitted over her face but she didn’t give in to it completely, turning to Norton instead to say, ‘Tell Dad I’m out with Darren, will you? I’ll be back later.’
‘Your wish, etc.’
She looked at them both again, one after the other, as if checking they’d understood their instructions, then turned and left.
Storey said, ‘She still lives with mum and dad?’
‘You’ve seen the place. Why would you move out? She’s practically got a wing to herself.’
‘A bird’s got to fly the coop eventually. Otherwise the coop gets torn apart.’
‘You do Chinese wisdom?’
‘Only in my spare time. When I’m not practising my levitation.’

Storey heard voices outside the room, Felicity talking to someone, then an older version of the man from the photos walked in. Bran Doyle. He wore a black shirt with a wide collar and green cargo pants with big pockets. He was as large as Storey expected, having seen the photos, but moved swiftly with a contained energy. Storey thought he was probably in his early sixties but appeared ten years younger. He had a broad, firm chest and hands like a bricklayer.
He was standing now with those hands on his hips, about ten feet from Storey, looking him up and down.
He said, ‘I’m Bran Doyle and this is my patch. Nice of you to come. I read about you in the paper and told Norton I wanted to meet you. Been banned from driving for twelve months, bloody stupid. Said I’d get myself a driver. I did my research and read up on you but on second thoughts I reckon you ain’t up to it. Ran away from your job with the cops then got yourself caught up in something tasty. Ratted out your gang and shot a bloke in the ‘ead. What use is that to me? I could just as soon get one of our own up here. There’s a lad in Brixton wants to come up and work for me. Why should I go outside, especially as you was one of them rotten bastards what worked in the police? Hey, come back ‘ere. I ain’t fuckin’ finished talking to you yet.’
Storey was nearly out of the room. Stopping, he turned back and said, ‘I’m loving your interview technique but I’ve got another engagement.’
Doyle grinning. ‘Good. What else?’
‘I don’t like rich people who are full of themselves and I won’t work for you if I’m like one of those lucky charms you hang around your neck.’
‘I’m not rich.’
Storey laughed. ‘You’re not poor.’
‘Nothing wrong with being poor.’
‘I never said there was. But if you live in a place like this and say you’re not rich you’ve got a weird view of the world.’
Doyle paused, glanced at Norton, who looked as though he’d been enjoying the conversation.
‘Fetch us a couple of whiskeys, Craig, there’s a good ‘un.’

Norton left and Doyle watched him, then sat on one of the brown sofas. Storey noticed he still had all his hair but his face was lined, with scars showing around the eyes.
Doyle said, ‘You give as good as you get, don’t you? I like that in a lackey. Sick to death of people who tell you what you want to hear. Norton’s a good man but he’s still scared of me. You’re not, are you? No use to me if you are. But I expect you knew that.’
‘I don’t play games.’
‘Sit down. Take the weight off your principles.’
‘I might not be stopping.’
‘Were you looking at my photos? A bit old now. I should get new ones, though I don’t meet the same people up here as I did in London. You haven’t asked what I want you to do—or did Norton lay it out?’
Storey sat facing him, enjoying the man’s ability to dance around the subject as if it were all part of the same conversation, the subject being himself. Doyle sat on his sofa like a ton weight, not just owning it but laying claim to everything in the room through it—the coffee table, the magazines scattered on its shiny surface, the unlit logs in the marble fireplace, the patterned stretcher that lay lengthwise on the dining table … Everything he looked at, he owned, and Storey wondered what it must be like to have that power. Or at least to think you had it.
Doyle said, ‘You met the missus, didn’t you? She liked you. Said you’d do. Tonight must be like one big interview, from your perspective.’
‘I don’t think I want the job.’
‘The fuck do you know? You haven’t talked to me about it yet. I haven’t had chance to exercise the full extent of my fucking charms on you. Incidentally, you don’t mind bad language, do you? Can’t help meself. What you get being brought up in a London armpit. Eloquence comes second to a punch in the gob.’

Norton came in with two glasses, handed one to each man then moved away.
Doyle said, ‘What’s your opinion, Craig? You’ve had a chance to see Mr Storey here at close quarters.’
Norton glanced at Storey, then said to Doyle. ‘He can drive, so he’s qualified. Thinks a lot of himself, but so do you, so you’re square.’
‘He says he doesn’t want the job. Do you think we could persuade him?’
‘All the press articles said he was a man of principle. Perhaps he’s making a point.’
Doyle said nothing, swirling the liquid in his glass, and Storey took this as a cue and tasted his drink—he knew nothing about whiskey but it was smooth and burned the back of his throat in a way that suggested it was a good brand.
Doyle said, ‘You’ve gone quiet.’
‘You two are doing all the talking. I’m just enjoying the view.’
‘So do you want to play with us or not? Nice big car to drive, you can live in one of the cottages for a couple of months, we’ll feed you and a woman will come in and do your laundry and cleaning. All you have to do is smile at me and make sure the petrol tank’s full.’
‘What happened to your previous driver?’
Doyle glanced at Norton, saying, ‘Difference of opinion. We had to let him go. Now you’re looking at me as if I left him face down in a fuckin’ ditch. Don’t worry—I can give you his phone number if you want to talk to him.’
‘What did you do? I mean, for a living? Why all those photos with famous people?’
Doyle looked away for the first time. Storey thought maybe he was embarrassed.
‘People wanted to be near me,’ Doyle said. ‘I was famous in some circles because I was a fighter. A boxer.’
‘I’ve never heard of you.’
‘You wouldn’t have. I wasn’t on telly. Started out, I’d show up at a fair where people were selling cars. There’d be a challenge and I’d knock down a couple of people and walk off with five hundred quid in my pocket. Then it escalated. By the time I finished I was fighting in working-men’s clubs and the back rooms of pubs. Five grand a time, or more. These famous people would roll up at the door, watch me fight for a couple of minutes—that’s how long it usually took—then they’d want to rub the top of my head for luck.’
‘Looking at this place you had a lot of fights at five grand a piece.’
‘You’ve got the wrong end of the stick, my man. I didn’t make money from boxing. I made it from property. Investments. Done well in London then moved up here, bought this place when it was a shithole and done it up. And I’m still ducking and diving.’
Storey said, ‘Well, thanks for the whiskey and the biography, but I don’t think I’ll fit in here.’
‘Sorry to hear that.’
Storey put his glass down and stood up. He said, ‘Were you a good boxer?’
Doyle was also standing now. ‘Terrible boxer. Good fighter. Do you know what they called me?’
‘No idea.’
‘I’d knock ‘em down so quick they called me One Punch Doyle. Bear that in mind.’

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Keith Dixon was born in Yorkshire and grew up in the Midlands. He’s been writing since he was thirteen years old in a number of different genres: thriller, espionage, science fiction, literary. He’s the author of seven novels in the Sam Dyke Investigations series and two other non-crime works, as well as two collections of blog posts on the craft of writing. When he’s not writing he enjoys reading, learning the guitar, watching movies and binge-inhaling great TV series. He’s currently spending more time in France than is probably good for him.

Learn more about Keith by following him on Twitter , by reading his blog at  or connect with him on Facebook  On his website you can download a couple of free books and find out more about the others: www.keithdixonnovels.com.