I’m thrilled to take part in the blog blitz for The Righteous Spy by Merle Nygate. Not only is it a great book, it’s also the first book to be published by Verve Books, a new digital imprint from No Exit Press. Check out my fellow bloggers for today – Maired at swirlandthread and Jen at jenmedsbookreviews . I have an extract for you but first the blurb.
Innocent lives are at risk. But who is the real enemy…?
Eli Amiram is Mossad’s star spy runner and the man responsible for bringing unparalleled intelligence to the Israeli agency. Now he’s leading an audacious operation in the UK that feeds his ambition but threatens his conscience.
The British and the Americans have intel Mossad desperately need. To force MI6 and CIA into sharing their priceless information, Eli and his maverick colleague Rafi undertake a risky mission to trick their allies: faking a terrorist plot on British soil.
But in the world of espionage, the game is treacherous, opaque and deadly…
Tel Aviv, Israel – The Same Day
Seventy kilometres away – as the drone flies – Eli Amiram made his way to the bus stop for his morning commute. Even though he’d strolled only a short distance, from apartment to bus stop, by the time Eli arrived at the shelter he was sweating. His shirt grazed his damp neck and he could smell shower soap, deodorant and his own perspiration. The middle of May and at 7am, the temperature was already hitting 28 degrees. But the heat in isolation was nothing. Humidity was the killer; the wet, dense air that trapped him in its steaming strait-jacket. Eli leaned against the side of the metal bus shelter and narrowed his eyes. He tried to imagine grey London streets underfoot, grey clouds above and what it might feel like to inhale, if only for a second, cool air that hadn’t been artificially refrigerated. It was too bad Gal had driven north to see her mother. Otherwise, he’d have been in the car looking out, not on the street, sweating like an animal.
Half a metre away a woman was shrieking into her cell phone. Eli closed his eyes. He stroked the top of his shaved head and felt the new growth on his skull. He supposed it could have been worse; at least the Khamsim was over. As far as Eli was concerned, a hard blue sky and 90 per cent humidity was a distinct improvement.
After a few more seconds of being bombarded by the woman’s conversation Eli opened his eyes to assess the source of the voice. What he saw was a fleshy face with faded blonde hair brushed back into a bun. He knew the type. The pitch of the woman’s voice was bad enough, but her heavily accented Hebrew set Eli’s teeth on edge. It was like listening to Stockhausen’s Helicopter String Quartet.
The bus screeched to a halt and Eli peeled his back away from the bus shelter and let the grandmother lumber ahead of him. Hauling herself aboard she found a seat halfway down the aisle. Eli made his way to an empty seat at the back of the bus; it was well away from the grandmother but next to a dati. Sliding down, Eli glanced over at the grey side burns, wispy beard and pallid skin. The bus jolted forward and Eli’s head jerked back against the headrest. He felt a finger nudging his ribs. Turning, Eli caught a blast of a gastric disorder from the man’s mouth.
‘You speak English?’ the old man said with an American accent. ‘Or Yiddish?’ His tone was peremptory and he didn’t wait for an answer. ‘Is this Rosh Pinna Street? Is this the corner of Rosh Pinna and Ariel?’
‘Next stop,’ Eli said.
‘You’ll tell me when we get there?’
‘Of course, it’ll be a pleasure.’ Aware that he’d used the right idiom Eli was still irritated with himself because he always struggled with the precision and physical placement of an English accent. The focus wasn’t around the lips and vestibule of the mouth like French, neither was it located near the hard palate and throat like Arabic. It sat somewhere around the middle, just before the soft palate and it bugged him that he hadn’t got it. Even after years of study.
Five minutes later, when Eli was still trying to select an appropriate expression to practise on the American, they were at Rosh Pinna Street. Eli stood to let the man out.
‘Take your time, sir,’ Eli said. ‘There’s no rush, no rush at all.’ Shit. He’d done it again. Rolled the ‘r’. As he sat down, Eli grimaced trying to achieve the oral position for a non-rolling ‘r’.
That was when he noticed a new passenger, a woman, step into the body of the bus. Eli stared. In dark blue jeans and flowing green top, skeletal shoulders sat atop a lumpy waist and an ugly hat shaded her face. But it wasn’t the absence of any aesthetic that made the base of Eli’s neck prick as if an elastic band had flicked against his flesh; it was her expression – she was terrified.
Eli glanced across the aisle at a soldier to see if his combat receptors had kicked in but the kid was more interested in the horse-faced girl by his side. No back-up there.
Up ahead, the woman was hauling a black and white shopping trolley down the aisle. Judging by her strained expression the load was heavy. Eli stood up to get a better look at her. Was she ill?
Beneath heavy make-up the woman was pouring sweat. She was drenched. A slick of moisture dewed her upper lip and the armpits of the blouse were almost black. Okay, it was hot outside and okay, she’d dragged a loaded shopping trolley to the bus stop, but there was something wrong with her. Between thick eyebrows there was a deep frown crease and her eyes flicked around the bus, not settling, not making contact.
Eli reached into his pocket for his cell phone. He glanced down and fingered the button to call the emergency services. Was he overreacting? Up ahead he saw the woman’s lips were moving and her hand was clenched around the handle of the shopper. She’d found a seat. Right in the middle of the bus. Right where a device would cause the maximum damage. She sat down and Eli got a good view of her back and the narrow profile of her shoulders atop the billowing green top. Her waist was out of proportion to the rest of her body and she was holding on to that damn shopper as if her future depended on it.
‘Slicha, excuse me,’ Eli slid out from his seat and shoved aside a kid standing in the aisle reading his phone.
Ahead, the woman was still clutching the shopper and positioning it with both hands. Not one. Struggling to keep it upright. Eli was two metres away from her and closing in when a man, an office worker in a white shirt, stepped into the aisle and blocked Eli’s way. In one hand he had a paper cup of coffee and he was reaching to take a linen jacket off the seat hook with the other. Using the flat of his hand against the man’s chest, Eli pushed him back into his seat. The coffee went flying as the office worker lost his balance and fell on top of another man reading a newspaper.
‘What the fuck!’
Eli didn’t look back.
The bus grunted to a halt and the brakes squealed. The doors hissed open. Eli reached the woman and wrenched the shopper from her grip. He glimpsed the fear in her eyes. Behind him people stood about to get off. Eli blocked them. He ripped open the Velcro cover of the shopper and dove inside. He pulled out a nightdress and a toilet bag and tossed them across the floor of the bus where they skittered under the seats.
‘What’s going on? What’s happening, why can’t we get off?’ Sharp and anxious voices. Voices close to panic. Meanwhile, Eli plunged his hand deeper into the shopper again and again but found only softness; no wire, no block, no bomb. In his peripheral vision Eli saw the soldier boy holding back the passengers.
‘What’s happening? Is there something wrong?’ Eli heard from the crowd of commuters.
‘Bitachon, security,’ Eli said. ‘Everything’s under control.’
Now on his feet Eli dragged off the woman’s hat. Tear tracks striated the make-up on her face.
‘Are you out of your mind? What do you think you’re doing?’
That voice, that awful accent, it was the grandmother sitting right next to the girl Eli had just assaulted.
‘I had reason to believe –’ Eli tried to make his voice sound authoritative hoping that a firm tone would camouflage his cock-up.
Her face was red and one of her dockworker’s arms was around the girl’s skinny shoulders.
‘Didn’t the good Lord give you eyes in your stupid big head? The girl’s sick, she’s going to the hospital and she’s frightened to death.’
‘Lady, we all have to be vigilant and aware of security at all times. D’you understand? Okay, I made a mistake, I apologise, but I was acting in the best interest of everybody.’
There were rumblings from the other passengers. They were divided. Eli saw the man with a coffee stain across his white shirt; he nodded at Eli. He got it. He understood. But the grandmother didn’t.
‘What kind of idiot are you?’
He hissed, ‘The kind of idiot who is trying to protect you from being blown to pieces. Do you have a problem with that?’
‘Maspeek, enough, please,’ whispered the girl through tears. ‘It’s okay, I’m okay.’
‘Lady, I’m sorry, I made a bad mistake,’ Eli grabbed a handful of clothes from the floor and dumped them on the girl’s lap. Then, since the soldier boy was still holding back the rest of the passengers, Eli scrambled down the steps on to the street.
He walked the rest of the way to the Office.
Wow! That’s from chapter two and it’s already tense! You can buy this as an e-book from Amazon by clicking here
Or from Kobo by clicking here
Merle Nygate is a screenwriter, script editor, screenwriting lecturer and novelist; she’s worked on BAFTA winning TV, New York Festival audio drama and written original sitcoms; previously she worked for BBC Comedy Commissioning as well as writing and script editing across multiple genres. Most recently, Merle completed her first espionage novel which won the Little Brown/UEA Crime Fiction Award. It was described by the judge as ‘outstanding’.