A washed up reporter, an escaped convict, a sociopathic gangster. All are hunting The Nudge Man…
“There’s only one of me. I’m not a hitman. I’m unique, one of a kind. I’m The Nudge Man.”
Wheelchair bound, born again, ex-gangster, Eric Hennessey offers down on his luck reporter, Harrison Vaughan, a job. Find The Nudge Man, a mysterious vigilante who’s stolen most of Hennessey’s money, ill-gotten gains which now Hennessey wants to use to do God’s work. Trouble is, Harry has no desire to work for a sociopathic murderer, even if he is an apparently changed man.
Harry is estranged from his family, he hasn’t seen or heard from them in over five years, since a fabricated scandal destroyed his career. Harry believes his wife walked out on him and took the children. However, Hennessey tells Vaughan it was The Nudge Man who set him up for the fall. Find The Nudge Man and Harry has the chance for redemption and maybe even his family back.
However, Hennessey has another objective in mind. Unknown to Harry his family were taken into witness protection and had to cut ties with everyone after Harry’s son saw a murder – carried out by Eric Hennessey. But the witness protection programme was compromised and the Vaughans had to go off the grid, they couldn’t contact anybody. Hennessey has been looking for them ever since and now may have a way in – Harry himself.
Harry’s search begins in prison, visiting violent criminal Pomfrey Lavender – apparently Lavender has information which will help. But Lavender is suffering various medical problems, including a psychological condition whereby he believes he’s already dead. Harry’s mention of The Nudge Man sends Lavender into a rage and he threatens to kill Harry should he pursue his objective. Harry is relieved Lavender is behind bars. Trouble is, two days later Lavender breaks out.
And others are on the trail of The Nudge Man, including the British government and an American secret service agent. Then there’s the lawyer who offers Harry £1m. All Harry has to do is stay away from The Nudge Man…
With more questions than answers and hapless guard dog, Bonzo at his side who’s bark is definitely worse than his bite, Harry begins his search.
Can Harry find The Nudge Man and save his family? Or will Hennessey exact his revenge?
The Escape Clause
Five Years Ago
Battersea, South London
That’s all they had. Half an hour. For Elizabeth Vaughan and her children to collect whatever possessions they could from their house before leaving for who knows where for who knows how long. A week? A month? Perhaps permanently.
One of the three cops guarding them, Detective Sergeant Noah Maddox, had woken Elizabeth. She’d fallen into a restless doze in front of the television, a three-quarters-finished bottle of wine and an empty glass at her elbow.
“Shaw’s just called,” said Maddox.
Chief Inspector Andrew Shaw was Maddox’s boss, and running the operation. They’d assigned a name to it too – Mandrake.
Elizabeth blinked, checked her watch. It was gone 1am. “Why?” She felt shabby, her clothes wrinkled, pungent with body odour. Alcohol on her breath that she was certain Maddox could smell. She felt a tinge of shame because Maddox was tee-total and non-judgemental. She’d been drinking a lot lately. Because of the stress.
Maddox delivered the sucker punch. “Hennessey knows you’re here.”
Elizabeth sagged, a buzzing in her ears.
“Are you listening?” Maddox had hold of her arm – was staring intently at her.
“Shaw wants you all out of the city immediately.”
“I don’t know specifics. But it’ll be a safe house. And a new name. We need to wake the children. There isn’t much time.”
“What about my mother?” asked Elizabeth. “Our friends?” She tugged at her sleeve. She stopped when Maddox noticed the nervous tic. “What do we say?”
“You can’t tell them anything. It’s too dangerous.”
“Nobody, Elizabeth. Not a soul. Remember, the more people who know, the greater the risk to them – to you. And, most importantly, to Jack.”
“Once this is all over, maybe then you can get back in touch with everybody,” said Maddox as a salve.
“When will that be?”
“Hopefully, after the trial.”
“Hopefully? That’s the best you can do?”
“The law has to take its course. Until then, Shaw wants you in the witness protection programme. The system will look after you.”
The system. It sounded impersonal at best.
“I can’t do this to the children.”
“These are very bad men who’ll stop at nothing. Hennessey would happily stand over all our dead bodies if it meant he stayed free. What would you rather have, Elizabeth?”
She wasn’t going to be pushed into another bad decision, be used by the police again. “I need to think.” Elizabeth headed into the living room, the space lit by the flickering TV screen, a repeat of Top Gear. She poured some of the wine, drained the glass. Vinegar on her tongue.
Maddox had been with them throughout. At first, she hadn’t liked him at all; it was the hard eyes, the flat mouth. In fact, Elizabeth complained to Shaw and asked for somebody else. He refused. It was Shaw’s way, always. However, over the weeks, Maddox softened and Elizabeth began to appreciate and even value his quiet strength. She needed that right now.
“Do you believe Shaw?” she asked. “That Hennessey’s coming for us?”
“It’s a distinct possibility. This is the closest we’ve ever been to putting him away. But most importantly, he’s a killer. If we don’t take this seriously the outcome could be catastrophic.”
Three dead bodies. Two disgraced cops. One grieving ex-husband and father.
Maddox was right. Shaw was right.
“Will you be with us?” asked Elizabeth. Maddox was the only one of them she trusted.
“All the way.”
Which made Elizabeth’s decision final. “I’ll get the children.”
Energised, she ran upstairs, roused fourteen-year-old Maddie and twelve-year-old Jack. Avoided the inevitable questions, told them to get sorted.
So here Elizabeth stood. In the master bedroom, trying to figure out what the hell to pack while Maddie and Jack did the same. Thirteen years in one place meant an accumulation of possessions. Now it was up to her to choose what was important. Enough to fit into one suitcase. Elizabeth opened the wardrobe doors. In the scheme of things, it was just stuff. Pieces of coloured material.
She grabbed an armful of clothes and tossed them into the case. Snatched underwear, a couple of pairs of shoes. The resultant outfits would be mismatched, but the urgency had gripped her, a cold fear was squeezing her heart and she just wanted to be gone. Hennessey was on his way.
Finally, she picked up a framed photo that stood on the bedside cabinet. It was of her and Harry on their wedding day. They’d never been happier. She placed it carefully into the case – she needed something to root her in the past – flipped the top down and zipped up.
Maddie and Jack waited on the landing, Maddox at the top step. Maddie was trying to be tough, but Jack appeared about to burst into tears.
“It’s not your fault, Jack,” said Elizabeth. Just a case of wrong time, wrong place.
In fact, Elizabeth blamed herself for all of this. She should have said no to the police at the outset. Let somebody else take the weight. But it was too late for recrimination. They couldn’t go back.
“Are you ready?” asked Elizabeth. She received two nods in response. “Come on then.”
“Let me help,” said Maddox.
“We can manage.” Elizabeth allowed the children to go first, then hefted her own case down the stairs. Maddox followed. Once outside Maddox closed the door behind her, the click of the Yale lock loud on the quiet street. There was a faint buzz of traffic from a nearby main road, people moving around, even at this hour. She felt eyes on her. A silver-haired guy with a Labrador walked with a stick on the other pavement. He stared at them. Was he one of Hennessey’s men? Her heart skipped. Two unmarked cars waited, parked on double yellows, engines running.
The cases went into the boot of the front car. Maddox slid behind the steering wheel. The Vaughans took the rear. Elizabeth in the middle, Jack and Maddie either side of her.
Car doors closed and then they were moving. As they pulled away, Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder; watched the house recede. She hoped to be back soon. Able to take up where they were leaving off.
Then she returned her gaze to the windscreen, looked forwards, to whatever faced her family. She placed an arm around both her children, drew them tight towards her. With Maddox at her side she had to believe Hennessey would never, ever reach them.
Elizabeth was wrong.
Thank you, Keith Nixon and Book On The Bright Side Publicity & Promo
About the author
Keith Nixon is a British born writer of crime and historical fiction novels. Originally, he trained as a chemist, but Keith is now in a senior sales role for a high-tech business. Keith currently lives with his family in the North West of England.
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