Once a cop always a cop. Ex vice squad cop Vince McNulty copes with life outside the force by visiting the Northern X massage parlours he used to police. Until a return to his old stomping ground prompts a change in fortunes. Several girls have gone missing. All young masseuses. All from parlours that McNulty has visited. When one of them turns up dead everything points to a regular customer being involved. And McNulty is top of the list.
From The Book:
“Is she goin’ to be free anytime soon?”
The man turned away from the fire escape as if he couldn’t believe this idiot was even talking to him. The level of his arrogance edged the odds in McNulty’s favour. The glass of orange squash slid across the bar and McNulty picked it up. The drink had become a non-drink. Something so inoffensive it didn’t even register as the man glared at McNulty.
“She isn’t ever going to be free.”
McNulty took a mouthful of cool orange and flapped his free hand.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean free, like gratis.”
The flapping hand indicated apology.
“I know there’s a price.”
It distracted the man’s attention from the glass.
“You do know what gratis means don’t you?”
McNulty gripped the glass tight. His free hand flapped again and the bully’s eyes followed the more obvious threat. He was getting annoyed but his eyes dulled as he tried to think of a witty retort. McNulty didn’t think he did know what gratis meant. There was a slight lull in the tension as the man decided what to do next. And then McNulty lunged at his face with the glass.
The man was quick. He let go of the girl’s arm and brought both hands up to deflect the glass attack and it was only then that he realised the glass wasn’t in McNulty’s hand any more. Ice cold orange splashed in his eyes but the glass dropped harmlessly to the floor. His eyes stung and he blinked them clear. The man was quick but McNulty was quicker. He grabbed the man’s lead hand below the wrist and yanked it towards him and up. He bent the joint down into a gooseneck and the man had no choice but to follow or get a broken wrist. He lost his balance and toppled forward. McNulty slammed the heal of his hand into the exposed throat.
And that was it. Game over. The man hit the ground like a sack of potatoes, both hands gripping his throat. Unable to breath. McNulty dropped to his knees beside him and moved the man’s hands away.
“Slow down. Shallow breaths. You’ll be alright.”
The man did as he was told. Shorter breaths helped but he was still struggling against the fire in his throat. His eyes were watering. All the fight had gone out of him. McNulty used his other get-out-of-trouble technique. He talked to the man.
“You know. If this was a film. I’d be asking what movies you’d been in? Like in Get Shorty. Remember? After Travolta gut punched Gandolfini–before he did the Sopranos–and asked what movies he did? Cos Gandolfini’s character had been a stunt man.”
The man was breathing better now. McNulty looked into his eyes.
“You aren’t a stunt man are you?”
The man shook his head. McNulty stood up and helped the man onto the nearest settee. Asked for another drink. The aftermath of violence always made him thirsty. His hands shook with adrenaline dump. The anger had gone and for a moment he struggled to remember what had set him off. When he did he looked around for the girl to see if she was okay.
She had disappeared.
A waft of cool breeze came in through the fire exit door. It was wide open. He tried to remember which films the hero had rescued the girl from thugs only for her to run away. And couldn’t come up with any.
Praise For NORTHERN EX:
“Campbell’s dark muscular prose suggests the best pulp writers of the 50s.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Very real. And very good.” – Lee Child