The latest gripping police procedural featuring Detective Chief Superintendent Henry Christie
When Charlie Wilder is released from prison he’s desperate to resume his life of crime. But when he discovers he’s been betrayed by his closest friends, Charlie’s rage turns to cold-blooded murder and an orgy of violence ensues …
As a gruesome turn of fate spins Henry Christie unwillingly into a collision course with Charlie, he finds himself pitted against one of the most brutal and dangerous individuals he has encountered in over thirty years as a cop.
Fleeing for his life through an unforgiving, harsh, man-made landscape, Henry has to draw on reserves of strength he never knew he had as he discovers there is only one way to beat Charlie Wilder and that is to deliver justice in the only way he understands – by meeting him head-on and taking him right to the very edge …
About the Author
Nick Oldham was born in Belthorn, Lancashire, in 1956. He was a police officer from the age of nineteen, spending the majority of his service in operational roles, before retiring in 2005. He lives with his partner, Belinda, on the outskirts of Preston.
Read an Excerpt
By Nick Oldham
Severn House Publishers LimitedCopyright © 2014 Nick Oldham
All rights reserved.
Charlie Wilder was dreaming about a sawn-off shotgun. It was one of those slow motion, technicolour dreams in which he could see the fingers of his left hand supporting and encircling the side-by-side double barrels, and the forefinger of his right hand curling around the double triggers that had been specially modified and aligned so he could put the tip of his finger across both of them in order to fire both barrels at once.
Next in the dream, he saw himself bringing the weapon up and shoving it into someone's face. The features of the face were indistinguishable, pixelated out, because it did not matter who the gun was pointed at. Whoever it was, they were just nobody to Charlie Wilder.
In the dream he felt his lips curve into a genuine smile and the tip of his finger apply only light pressure on the triggers, which he pulled at the same moment he heard that bastard of a prison officer start to walk along the cell block landing at exactly seven a.m., clattering his baton on every cell door, bawling insults at each of the inmates.
Charlie jerked awake, physically experiencing the recoil of the weapon in his dream, and opened his eyes. Now he smiled grimly as he listened to the screw called Dawson hurl his abuse. His words were not general, but specific to each and every prisoner, based on the intimate, personal knowledge he had accrued of each man, gleaned from his interactions with them and his continual poring over personal files.
Charlie waited on his bunk until Prison Officer Dawson reached his cell door and whacked the tip of the baton against it. Charlie blinked as he listened to the tirade of insults aimed at himself and the other prisoner in the cell, an old thief and drunk called Victor, a guy who had done more harm to himself than to others in his miserable life.
Charlie occupied the lower bunk. He could have had the upper one, but didn't care where he slept. He had gladly given the privilege to Victor, who rewarded him with a continuous supply of chocolate and tobacco.
'And as for you, you dim-witted hillbilly,' Dawson yelled, dropping the inspection hatch and angling his face into the gap, keeping up his nasty tirade against Charlie with gusto.
Charlie let it all ride over him, unaffected, but seething with anger for other people who had really suffered from Dawson's abusive tactics that often carried on beyond the cells and sometimes became physical. He was an old-fashioned screw, but his bullying and aggression and overbearing personality ensured that his inappropriate behaviour was never tackled by his colleagues or bosses, many of whom secretly liked to see him getting away with it.
Charlie had witnessed one weak boy, nothing more than a kid, a stupid lad in for burglary, being browbeaten and battered into submission by Dawson's unremitting, horrible name calling, until he eventually went over the edge.
The lad had been found one morning, dead, hanging by the neck from a shoelace tied to the end of his bed.
The smirk of victory on Dawson's face had been fixed there for days afterwards as he revelled in the power he had to drive others to suicide.
'No response, you chicken-shit?' Dawson demanded of Charlie.
This time the smile of victory was on Charlie's face as he tilted it to the door and said, 'Last time you say that to me, sir.'
'Yeah, I know. That's why it was a good one, numpty-head.'
The two locked eyes for a moment, then Dawson slammed the hatch shut, was gone, moving along to the next cell.
'Bastard,' Victor the drunk whispered hoarsely from the top bunk. He had also been subjected to a lot of Dawson's cruel antics.
'Mm,' Charlie agreed, adding, 'but he won't be doing it for much longer.'
He sat up, allowed his eyes to roam the cell, taking it all in for the very last time. Today was going to be a special day and Charlie Wilder was going to make it all happen.
At 9.05 a.m., the prison doors still hadn't opened.
Luke Wilder, Charlie's brother, was pacing anxiously along Ribbleton Avenue at the point where it joined Church Street on the outer rim of Preston city centre. The rain, so far, had not started to fall, but glancing up into the dark, low, angry clouds above, Luke knew it wouldn't be long before the storm began. It had been forecasted to last for a long, long time.
Which was good.
Luke knew Charlie liked bad weather.
It drained people, made them weary, put them off their guard and made them slow- witted and miserable; all helpful traits for the second part of the day's events that Charlie had planned and Luke had set up.
'C'mon,' Luke muttered irritably. He stopped sharply just as the huge front gates of Preston Prison opened. A GuardSec prison van crept out on to Church Street, turned left towards the main set of traffic lights on Ring Way, the dual carriageway that half- encircled Preston, one of England's newest cities. Luke saw the face of a man crushed grotesquely up against the window of one of the inner cells in the vehicle and their eyes met momentarily, but without meaning. 'Remand prisoners,' Luke said to himself as the prison gates closed and the establishment behind became secure once more.
Luke spun three-sixty degrees on his heels so the bricks of the high and intimidating prison walls were on his right. He walked back up to the small annexe through which prisoners were now released back into society. In the not too distant past, inmates were let out through the Judas gate set within the main gate, which was how leaving a prison should be. A statement. A moment. Like something from the beginning of a movie.
Now it was boring, lacking drama.
They were all now released through an internal door that opened into a dull, tiled foyer within the annexe. It was more like leaving an office than exiting to liberty after a period of incarceration.
Luke stood at the foot of the ramp leading up to the foyer door behind a queue of other people, all sullenly waiting for the appearance of loved ones. Two stereotypical council estate girls with babes in prams (one also with a babe in her stomach) waited in the queue, chain-smoking, the cigarettes held between nicotine-stained fingers. They constantly swept back their bleached blonde hair, the black roots showing, both dressed in gruesomely coloured velour tracksuits.
One of them, the un-pregnant one, kept slyly appraising Luke, who knew he was a decent enough looking young man.
He eyed her back confidently, liking the look of her neck tattoos and multi-pierced ears, nose and lower lip. But he didn't like the look of the kid in the pram, which was of mixed race. Kids were not on Luke's agenda. He hated the little bastards.
She pushed out her generous breasts with little subtlety. They wobbled whitely, exposed by the low cut of her T-shirt and undersized bra, which accentuated their fullness. Luke gave her a grin and shook his head.
He took a thin cigarette from his tin of self-prepared roll-ups and lit it, inhaling the bitter smoke, getting bits of tobacco caught between his teeth which he picked out and flicked away.
'C'mon,' he muttered again.
There was a lot to get through today.
Then the door opened and the first of the day's released came out.
The man went straight to the girl who had been eyeing Luke, the one with the slinky neck tattoos. They greeted each other with lustful greed whilst Luke wondered who the kid in the pushchair belonged to. It certainly wasn't the man's. Luke chuckled mirthlessly to himself. Some people lead such complicated lives, he thought.
A dribble of other prisoners followed but not the one Luke was here to greet, making him fret that he had turned up on the wrong day, which would have been a bit of a disaster bearing in mind what lay ahead. Even though he knew he was right, he pulled out the official paper from his jacket pocket and did a quick double-check.
He was correct. Today was the day his big brother Charlie Wilder was going to be released.
As he stuffed the letter back into his pocket, the door opened again and Charlie stepped out a free man. Almost.
Luke grinned and watched Charlie saunter cockily down the slope towards him.
Charlie was the older brother by a year, better looking in a harsh sort of way, taller, leaner than Luke, but two years of being banged up, though having taken a lot of excess weight off him, had replaced it by building muscles in his arms and legs. That said, his face looked hollowed now, to Luke, in the true light of day. And he seemed more haunted, his eyes deep in their sockets. In fact, Luke thought, Charlie looked even scarier than he had before he was sent down. His hair was quite long and unkempt – purposely – and he wore jeans, a short jacket and trainers, and carried a rolled-up plastic bag under his arm in which all his belongings had been placed. Still, the brothers did look broadly similar and in bad light they could easily have been mistaken for each other.
Luke was a little alarmed by the sight of Charlie. He had only seen him at visiting times over the last couple of years and though he had noticed changes in his brother, it was only seeing him in the flesh, full length, face to face, that he completely realized what the changes were.
The weight loss, yes. The muscle, sure.
But there was more to it than those things. His aura was different. Even scarier. He looked like a wild animal and Luke swallowed drily ... as today will no doubt demonstrate, he thought.
Charlie stood a few feet from him, a grin spreading. He reached out and took the roll- up from Luke's lips and put it between his own, drawing in the last remaining smoke from it, then flicking it away into the road.
Not much of a gesture but one which clearly defined the pecking order in this relationship: Charlie boss, Luke underling.
'Hi, bro,' Charlie said.
Luke nodded awkwardly.
Then neither of them could hold back their brotherly emotions any longer. It had been a very long time since they'd been so close without any sort of barrier between them – a table, a screen, a cop or a screw. They embraced clumsily – showing feelings wasn't something they were familiar with, as much as they loved each other – but they back-slapped and were on the edge of tears.
'Two years, two damn years,' Charlie almost sobbed.
'Yeah, but you're out now.' Luke held him at arm's-length and scrutinized him.
'Yuh, yuh – and a busy day ahead – if you've done what I asked you to do?'
'I have, mate, I have,' Luke said, reacting to the slight hint of threat in Charlie's voice.
'Good, then it'll be an effin' great day, right back in the saddle is what I want. Now then, business to do,' he concluded seriously.
'But a bit of pleasure first.'
Luke led Charlie up past the prison to a side street outside an electrical warehouse where he had parked up some transport for them, an old but clean Vauxhall Chevette.
'Hell's this?' Charlie sneered, surveying the rust bucket.
'Just get in, bro. If anybody's watching us I want 'em to see us getting into a straight motor, yeah?'
'Got it,' Charlie said, clicking on to his brother's train of thought. Even though he had only just stepped out of prison, he would not have been surprised to have the law on his trail already, and you could not be careful enough. Being sloppy was what had landed him in the dock last time. Charlie ripped open the ill-fitting passenger door and dropped heavily on to the battered seat.
Luke climbed in after checking for a moment they hadn't been followed or watched. He couldn't spot anything obvious, but it was hard to say for certain.
As Luke slid in behind the wheel, Charlie raised his right leg and tugged up his jeans, pointing to the tracking device fitted around his ankle. It was like the 1960s idea of how a space-age wristwatch might have looked. Charlie was out of prison on licence, having only completed half of his sentence, and one of the conditions of his release was that he had to wear an electronic tag and was therefore subject to constant surveillance and curfew.
Luke nodded. 'I know – sorted.'
Luke fired up the car which coughed out a cloud of dirty, blue-grey exhaust smoke.
'Are all the cars fixed up, like I wanted?' Charlie asked.
'Yeah – Johnny's been busy on that score, so they're sorted, too.'
Luke drove the short distance to the city centre, parking on a back street in the Avenham area behind Church Street, leaving the car keys underneath the driver's seat. The car would not be here when they returned. He and Charlie then walked up to and along Church Street and Luke steered his brother into a hairdressing salon at the top of Fishergate, Preston's main shopping street.
Charlie hesitated at the door.
'First job,' Luke said, 'a bit of pampering. Get a good haircut, which is why I told you to let it grow for a few weeks.'
Charlie relented and was treated to a nice trim from a heavily made-up hairdresser with large boobs which constantly brushed against the back of his head, causing a surge of blood within him. It was all he could do not to slice his hand up between the young girl's legs. He fought the urge and sat back to enjoy the session, feeling he was being eased back into the civilized world – or at least the world he inhabited. The prison barbers he had encountered over the last two years had been butchers.
Luke also had a similar haircut.
Next up was a set of new clothes. Jeans, trainers, a Metallica T-shirt and a zip-up top, and they felt good. Charlie left Next bouncing on his toes, wearing his new gear and binning the old.
'Now let's grab a coffee,' Luke suggested.
They strolled down to Costa Coffee on Fishergate and had an Americano and an all- day breakfast panini each. Charlie scoffed his as if he had not eaten for a week.
'Feel good to be out?' Luke asked.
'Oh yeah – ain't going back there in a hurry.'
'Good, good.' Luke nodded. 'I fixed up the other thing like you asked, yeah?' He sounded a little unsure.
'Good – let's do it.'
They left the café and walked down one of the side streets that ran at right angles off Fishergate to a nondescript door adjacent to a florist's shop. Nothing on the sturdy door indicated what lay beyond, but Charlie did not hesitate, rang the bell and stepped back so he and Luke could be seen by the discreet lens of the CCTV camera fitted in the brickwork a few feet above the door. Their wait lasted a minute, then the door was opened by a dark-skinned middle-aged woman, quite stunning, with jet black hair pulled tightly back and large brown eyes. She stood aside and indicated that the brothers should step inside the vestibule. They were expected.
She closed and bolted the door and led them upstairs, both brothers mesmerized by her Lycra-clad legs and shapely bottom that swayed provocatively in front of their eyes. They could see the line of the thong looped through her buttocks and Charlie's mouth twitched. She showed them into a plushly furnished waiting area: two sofas, a coffee table and several potted plants that could have been plastic. The window blinds were drawn, the lighting subdued.
'I got another guy coming before anything else,' Charlie told the woman. She nodded – she knew this – and disappeared behind a door marked private.
Charlie and Luke sat on one of the sofas and the woman emerged a short time later with a wireless credit card machine; after entering a figure, she held out the machine. Luke took it, swiped a credit card and entered a PIN number after a slight hesitation on seeing the amount: £600. Not that he was too concerned. The card wasn't his and by lunchtime it would be destroyed.
'What are we getting for that?' he asked, handing the machine back.
The woman tore off the printed receipt and gave it to Luke together with the stolen card. 'I'll show you,' she said.
She went back into the private office, came back out, then went through another door beyond which the brothers managed to see a long corridor, with doors either side.
'What did this place used to be?' Luke asked.
'A club of some sort, I think.' Charlie stuck out his right leg and again showed Luke the electronic tag around his ankle. 'This comes off before anything else.'
'I know – all arranged.'
Excerpted from Edge by Nick Oldham. Copyright © 2014 Nick Oldham. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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