CHASED BY THUNDER
“We think our father murdered our mother,” a woman tells police.
Twenty-eight years earlier, young housewife Donna Burgard was stabbed to death. No killer was captured, although her husband was the prime suspect. Now, as the victim’s grown children request a fresh investigation, Detective Mark Bennett is plunged into murky shadows of the past. Can the truth still be uncovered?
The Bennett family is dealing with its own challenges. While Mark navigates a new marriage, his mother is lost in dementia. Memories swirl as she talks knowingly about unfamiliar names and events. Younger brother Bobby — a Buffalo patrolman — feels the job and his wife pulling him in separate directions. Within these chasms, secrets stretch back for decades...
Deftly weaving between 1984 and 1956, Chased By Thunder is a fast-paced story that may be read as a stand-alone novel. It is the final book in a four-story arc that includes Broken and Profane, Boneshaker, and Faces and Fingertips.
The final installment of the Buffalo Crime Fiction Quartet!
No Frills Buffalo
$12.95/ e-reader $6.99
“Fans of hardboiled police crime will not be disappointed with Jeff Schober’s latest police procedural Chased by Thunder. An intense, unflinching and gritty crime drama, Schober delivers a late-night page turner. Not to be missed by anyone who loves Noir, the city of Buffalo, or cold case fiction.”
—Lissa Marie Redmond, retired Buffalo detective; author of A Cold Day in Hell
November 16, 1956
A lazy snow tumbled when Rooster Sawyer opened the door of Curly’s bar and stepped into the night. It was one of those rare November snows carried in by warm wind. A thin dusting of white settled onto patches of lawn, but sidewalks and blacktop were still bare, heated from the day. Flakes that landed on concrete quickly dissolved, darkening into a slick trail. Thunder skittered through the sky.
Winter would be here soon. Already the sun set before dinner. Despite the snow, the air carried a fading scent of leaves and waning autumn. Rooster needed to accept the cold months ahead — their arrival would mark the signal to hunker down. He struggled to get his mind around the season. How could another year pass so quickly? Soon Christmas lights would be strung along the gutters of neighborhood houses. Soon department stores would promote their holiday displays.
It was four blocks from Curly’s to his front porch, and in those short minutes snowflakes turned thicker, landing with aggression. By the time Rooster trudged up his driveway, slush pooled in low dimples on the lawn. Stepping onto the porch balcony, he fumbled through his pocket for keys before unlocking the front door. After midnight, the wife ought to be in bed. She had babysat their niece, but by now the kid should be gone. If he was lucky, Marilyn would have polished off a bottle of something and would be passed out.
The more she drank, the sooner she slept; and when she slept, Rooster was granted a reprieve from the doghouse.
The right thing to do, the good husband thing to do, would have been to stay in tonight. But there was no way he was going to stick around, not with Marilyn giving him the big freeze. He had checked his sandwiches at work every day this week to be sure she hadn’t laid a surprise gob of spit between the ham and cheese. It was best, he figured, to get away and let her cool down. The last time something like this had happened, things had smoothed over, but it had been the better part of three weeks before she stopped squeezing him through the wringer each day. This was worse, though. He had been caught with his pants down, literally. There had been no chance to wriggle out of this one.
Inside, the scent of stale cigarettes clung to the walls. He slid arms from his jacket, shook away the puffy layer of snow, and tossed it toward the wooden rack. The overcoat missed the hook and fell to the floor. Hell with it, he thought. Let the polyester lay in a wet lump. She could pick up the coat in the morning. Rooster moved toward the back of the house. All was quiet, but light angled from their bedroom into the hallway. He wide-stepped deliberately
over the squeaky floor plank, tiptoeing to the bathroom, easing the door shut. Please let Marilyn be asleep, he thought. I’m not up for dealing with her tonight.
Rooster glanced at himself in the mirror. Beads of melting snow clung to his thinning hair and narrow brows. His eyes were fairly clear, belying the bourbon and beers he had downed for six hours. I’m getting old, he thought. Broads don’t ogle me like they used to. It was amazing that Donna would crawl into the backseat with him. She was the neighborhood hottie, and her husband was handsome and strong. Rooster used a palm to wipe away wetness, undid his fly, and lifted the toilet seat.
This had been one strange night, he thought. Yes, he was drunk and his mind was fuzzy, but it really had happened. There he was, sitting at Curly’s, scanning a headline about Eisenhower from that day’s wrinkled newspaper. Background noise, railroad guys chattering about unloading freight, when someone slid onto the stool next to him. Rooster didn’t turn, but noticed Whitey’s reflection in the mirror. His shoulders tensed. Had Whitey spotted him? Was he about to get slugged?
“What’s up, Rooster?” Whitey wondered in a dull tone.
“Whitey,” he replied evenly, bobbing his chin.
A long beat of space was filled with brassy big band music from the corner jukebox. Why did Whitey approach him? What could the two of them possibly speak about? Last week, Whitey had pulled Rooster out of the car by his neck, unconcerned with the waistband bunched around his ankles. Donna squiggled in the backseat, trying to locate her underwear. Rooster’s blood was pounding; he was scared and confused, too overwhelmed to remember the shouted words. He was pretty sure that Whitey threatened to kill him then. Whitey could be an angry dude. For years, Rooster had heard their fights next door.
“Buy you a beer?” Whitey asked.
Goddamn, was this guy serious? Rooster expected to get his nose smashed. It’s not often you’re caught banging a guy’s wife and then share drinks with him a few days later. But he wasn’t about to get Whitey pissed off again.
The two of them sat quietly for the next forty-five minutes. There was chitchat about a recent boxing match they had each attended at Memorial Auditorium. Whitey thought that the little guy needed to protect his left, like that tough Dago with the anvil fists. That dude wasn’t afraid of anybody.
Rooster swallowed. Whitey sure knew a lot about fighting. Was this the undercard to what might happen on the sidewalk?