Principle Characters

Vaughn Ellis: Protagonist. A former NYPD beat cop, husband, and father of two young boys finds himself trying to disappear in the Florida Keys. Six months back on patrol in Brooklyn, Vaughan encounters a deadly, tragic situation that he feels he could have prevented. [Note: Specifics blurred on public website.] His wife and his therapist tell him he had done his job, but Ellis can only see blood on his hands. His life devolves quickly to darkness until he can’t take it anymore. He turns in his badge and takes a Greyhound bus as far south as he can go, forming a new identity on the fly.

Photo by jcarillet/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by jcarillet/iStock / Getty Images

In the Keys, Ellis takes on the identity of a small-time hustler in a dive bar, The Skull and Bones Whiskey Bar (“the Skull”) but he is quickly pulled into a dark undercurrent of drugs and revenge. Someone knows his true identity as a former police officer. Someone is going to make him pay.

“Uppercrust”: Antagonist. The online moniker of the killer hunting and tormenting Vaughn Ellis, both online and through a series of kills leading to Ellis. Through the first-person structure, the reader learns Uppercrust is not a perfectly planned-out cold-blooded, clichéd, super villain who happens to make perfect moves every time. We see Uppercrust making mistakes along the way and reacting to Ellis’s sometimes surprising actions. In the novel, Uppercrust, in a sense, grows as a calculated killer. The reader is privy to this growth.

Abby Ellis: Vaughn Ellis’s resilient wife who is left in New York to keep her family together when Vaughn absconds. When Vaughn returns to New York in Part II of the novel, Abby must decide if she will meet with him and listen to his explanation for leaving. She knows she’s not ready to give him another chance, if ever. How far in to Uppercrust's and Vaughn's clash will Abby and her two boys be pulled?

Brody Dufrense: Vaughn Ellis’s Keys friend and fellow card con who runs a struggling fishing charter company out of the Skull’s small marina. Brody does more drinking than working. He and Ellis team up to run poker and billiards cons on tourists at the Skull.

Terry “Dalt” Dalton: The Skull’s owner and bartender who trades information to the highest bidder. He sees Ellis as an outsider who’s drawing unnecessary attention to the bar.

Lourdes Mendez: Shadowy Latina who Ellis believes is trying to help him track this Uppercrust. Or is she setting him up? Can Lourdes ultimately be trusted?

Nicolai: Female Chechen drug lord in New York City who crosses paths with Vaughn Ellis on a botched drug sale in the Keys. Ellis negotiates with her to save his life. In return, he pledges to  find money that was stolen from her. Ellis thinks the money is linked with Uppercrust. Will it lead to Ellis’s tormentor?

Various dive bar grifters (Ellis realizes quickly any of them could be Uppercrust):

     Melissa: Tough waitress and barback who helps Ellis and Brody run cons at the Skull;

     Daisy: Waitress working on her Nursing degree at the local community college;

     Jack: Ageing hippy who moves more drugs than some cartels, docking his ramshackle fishing boat in the Skull’s marina; his Aussie accent is as fake as his friendship with the Skull's other grifters;

     Lachlan: Two-bit insurance con man preying on retirees;

     Casey Wertheim: Twenty-something hacker and wanna-be surfer.