I’m delighted to be sharing an extract from One Punch by Keith Dixon with you today.
One Punch is the second in Keith’s Paul Storey series after Storey and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.
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…
An Extract from One Punch
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.
‘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.’
‘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.’
About Keith Dixon
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.
During his career he’s been a proofreader for Rolls-Royce, an accounts clerk, a stock-control manager, a lecturer in American literature, an advertising copywriter, a creator of elearning courses and a business psychologist. He’s still waiting to find out what the real destination is.