Gone 'til Novemberby Wallace Stroby
It's late at night when Florida sheriff's deputy Sara Cross arrives at the scene of a roadside shooting along a deserted highway. Another deputy, Billy Flynn, her former partner, who also happens to be her former lover, has fatally shot a twenty-two-year-old man during what started out as a routine traffic stop, and she's the first to arrive on the scene. He claims
It's late at night when Florida sheriff's deputy Sara Cross arrives at the scene of a roadside shooting along a deserted highway. Another deputy, Billy Flynn, her former partner, who also happens to be her former lover, has fatally shot a twenty-two-year-old man during what started out as a routine traffic stop, and she's the first to arrive on the scene. He claims that the man pulled a gun, and that when he didn't respond to Billy's commands to drop it, Billy shot him. Billy is clearly upset, shaken up; Sarah sees the gun in the dead man's hand and the bag of illegal weapons in the trunk of his car and believes Billy's actions were justified.
Up north in New Jersey, Mikey-Mike runs a major drug operation and is tightening his hold on the competition, making a deal with a new supplier. Morgan, a middle-aged enforcer for Mikey who's been in the life too long, would like to make one last score, walk away, and retire for good. Mike asks Morgan to head to Florida to find out what's holding up his new deal, and Morgan sees the job as a possibility for his last big payday.
As more details of the roadside shooting emerge with Sara's investigation, and as Morgan follows the trail Mikey lays out for him, the two storylines begin to merge into a much darker, more menacing scenario than either Morgan or Sara imagined. Sara, in order to protect herself and her son, must follow the truth no matter where it leads.
Acclaimed crime writer Wallace Stroby delivers a gripping novel that is part modern noir, part intense character study---and totally compelling from start to finish.
“A tightly written crime novel peopled with believable, memorable characters who face real-life dangers... Stroby tells his tale swiftly and the action scenes move with cinematic brio.” The Star-Ledger (New Jersey)
“[This novel] puts author Wallace Stroby in the company of noir masters like Dashiell Hammett and Elmore Leonard.” The Huffington Post
“In Gone 'til November, Wallace Stroby's mastery of character and dialogue is mated to a hellacious narrative engine. His heroine, Sara Cross, is a wonderful creation.” George Pelecanos
“A strong cast and energetic storytelling. But it's Sara, so human and so beset, who makes this another standout for Stroby.” Kirkus Review (starred review)
“Stroby begins his gritty new series with a bang. Sure to appeal to fans of Edna Buchanan and John Sandford.” Library Journal
“Gone 'til November is rock-solid crime fiction that melds compelling characters, crisp writing, and a finely rendered portrait of Old Florida, the state's thinly populated, less-storied interior. Sara and Morgan, an aging career criminal who has just been diagnosed with cancer, are Stroby's best creations. Morgan is ruthless and resourceful, but he also has a quiet dignity and a streak of humanity that may have readers picturing actor Morgan Freeman.” Booklist
“For those who favor a lean, tautly written police procedural--with an accent on firearms and plenty of them-- then Wallace Stroby's third novel will come as something in which to revel…. It's the action back on the streets of Newark, in the alleys between the boarded-up brownstones, that really grabs the reader's attention.” Yahoo Shine
“Swiftly told but suspenseful, filled with moral choices and a bit of welcome ambiguousness at its end, Gone ‘til November [has] a hell of a kick.” January Magazine
“Stroby has not lost one iota of the magic that made his first two books instant classics ... He truly gets it right.” Bookreporter.com
“Just when you think that you can't be surprised anymore, a writer like Wallace Stroby ups the ante, finds a way to use familiar elements in new and surprising ways. This is a first-rate novel, with characters who live on in the reader's mind long after the book is finished. I always expect great things from Stroby, and Gone Till November is a significant addition to an already impressive body of work.” Laura Lippman, author of What the Dead Know
“In these days of mega formulaic blockbusters, it seems almost impossible to find a novel that not only has depth of characterization, but a compelling plot. Gone Till November achieves both and seamlessly…. This novel sings, darkly and irresistibly.” Ken Bruen, author of London Boulevard
“Stroby begins his gritty new series with a bang. Sure to appeal to fans of Edna Buchanan and John Sandford.” Library Journal on The Heartbreak Lounge
“A cat-and-mouse story that inspires just the tiniest bit of sympathy for the predator... Readers will have a hard time putting down this three-ring circus of a book.” The Star-Ledger (New Jersey) on The Heartbreak Lounge
“A scorching first novel that mixes the melancholic heart of tough-guy fiction with a fierce and violent gangster plot.” The Washington Post Book World on The Barbed-Wire Kiss
“Stroby does wonders with his blue-collar characters.” The New York Times Book Review on The Barbed-Wire Kiss
- St. Martin's Press
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Read an Excerpt
Sara steered the cruiser onto the shoulder, saw what was ahead, thought, Bad news.
Gravel crunched under the tires as the Crown Vic settled at an angle. The radio crackled.
"Eight-seventeen, are you on scene?" Angie, the night dispatcher. "Have you responded?"
Sara lifted the dash mike, keyed it. "Eight-seventeen here. On scene now. Will advise."
In the blaze of her headlights, Billy stood behind his own green-and-white cruiser, looking off into the swamp, hands on his hips. Farther up on the shoulder was a gray late-model Honda Accord, trunk open. Blue, red, and yellow lights bathed the night.
She replaced the mike, tried to memorize the scene, wishing the grants had come through for the dashboard video cameras. She looked at her watch. Two ten.
Billy turned toward her, face blank. She could see his jaws moving. He was chewing gum. After a moment, he looked back at the swamp.
She hadn’t seen him at the Sheriff’s Office, but she’d known he was on duty tonight, had heard him on the scanner. Part of her had hoped they’d cross paths before shift’s end, part of her didn’t. When she’d gotten the call, shots fired, she’d feared the worst. Now here he was, staring out into the swamp, looking lost.
What have you done, Billy Boy? And why did you have to do it on my shift?
She opened the door, took her portable radio from the passenger seat, and stepped out onto gravel. She fit the radio into its holder on her duty belt and plugged in the body mike clipped to her left shoulder. Her thumb slipped the holster loop that held the Glock in place on her right hip.
The air was thick, the heat oppressive after the air-conditioned cruiser. Hot for mid-October. No moon, but a sky full of stars.
The Honda had New Jersey plates. Billy had parked behind it, angled to the left, in the standard motor vehicle stop position, so the cruiser would protect him from oncoming traffic when he got out.
He half-turned. "Hey, Sara."
"Hey, Billy. You all right?"
He looked away from her, back at the swamp.
She had her hair tied up in back, could feel sweat form at the nape of her neck, drip beneath the Kevlar vest under her uniform shirt. She came up to stand beside him, followed his gaze. They were looking down a slight incline to the edge of the swamp. There was a patch of sodden grass, then a deeper dark where the trees started, Spanish moss hanging from them like cotton. In the grass, just short of the trees, a man lay facedown, right leg twisted under left, right arm extended.
"There he is," Billy said.
She looked around. She’d seen no traffic since she’d gotten the call, taken the turnoff for CR-23. Only locals used this route, few at night. To the east, acres and acres of sugarcane, then the distant glow of town. To the west, the gray ghosts of cypress trees, endless miles of wetlands stretching to Punta Gorda and the coast. She could smell the swamp, the rotten egg scent of sulfur.
The cruiser radios crackled in unison, the sound muffled by the closed doors. Off in the dark, as if in answer, bullfrogs sounded. Then another, deeper noise, the low bellowing of a gator. The light from their rollers painted the trees, the swamp, illuminated the body below.
"Is he dead?" she said.
He nodded. "Or close to it. He hasn’t moved at all. EMTs on their way."
She took the heavy aluminum flashlight from the ring on her belt and pushed the button. The bright halogen beam leaped out into darkness. She swept it across the man’s back. His head was turned to the right, and even from here she could see his eyes were open.
Chinos, blue dress shirt, a deep, dark stain between the shoulder blades, shirt soaked with blood. A black man, young, dressed too well to be from around here.
"I’m going to have a look," she said.
"Careful. You step into a chuckhole down there, you’ll break your ankle."
She shifted the light to her left hand, took a step down the incline, her right hand resting on the Glock. She could hear sirens in the distance.
She picked her way down the slope. When she reached the grass, she felt it give spongily under her shoes, water coming up around them.
She shone the light along the wet ground, looking for snakes. Something moved and splashed in the darkness. The noise of the bullfrogs stopped for a moment, then started again.
The gun was about a foot from the man’s right hand. She held the light on it. A blued revolver, .38 maybe, rubber grips. She made a grid with the flashlight beam, looking for another weapon, footprints. Nothing.
"Anyone else in the car?" she called up. The sirens closer now.
"No. Just him. I told him to stop. I told him."
She crouched, not letting her knees touch the ground. Up close, she could see the gold wire-rim glasses twisted beneath his face, one side still looped over his ear. He looked like a teenager, hair close-cropped, a small gold ring in his right earlobe. His eyes were wide.
She played the beam down the body. Left arm folded beneath, right outstretched as if pointing to the gun. The shoes were tan leather, polished, the upturned soles shiny and new. No way he could have run on this grass, gotten away.
She touched the side of his neck. A faint warmth, but no pulse.
From above her, Billy said, "He dead?"
"Yes. He’s dead."
Something moved in the trees, and her hand fell to the Glock. A shadow separated itself from the blackness, took wing silently. She looked up, watched it fly away, etched for an instant against the stars, wondered what it was.
She went back up the incline, careful where she put her feet. When she reached the gravel, Billy was standing beside the Honda’s open trunk.
"Check out this shit," he said.
She went over and shone the light inside. The trunk was empty except for a nylon gearbag, partially unzipped. She saw the glint of metal within.
"You look in there?" she said.
"Yeah. He was acting nervous, so I asked him to open the trunk. When I saw the bag inside, he took off. I told him to stop. When he got down there, he rounded on me, drew down."
His voice was unsteady. She looked at him, saw his eyes were wet.
Sirens rose and fell in the distance.
"Cold out here," he said. "When did it get so cold?"
He paused between words, chest rising and falling rapidly, as if he were hyperventilating. The onset of shock.
"You should sit in the car," she said. She tucked the flashlight under her arm, took the thin Kevlar gloves from her belt and pulled them on, punching the Vs of her fingers together to get the fit tight.
"I’m all right," he said.
"You don’t look it."
She shone the flashlight into the bag, reached down and pulled the zippered edges apart. Inside was a boxy MAC-10 machine gun with a pistol grip and a dull black finish. Under it were two semiautomatic handguns: a chrome Smith and Wesson with rubber grips, a blue-steel Heckler and Koch, both 9 mm. Boxes of ammunition, extra magazines for the MAC-10. No wonder he ran.
She heard a noise, turned to see Billy bent over on the shoulder, hands on his knees. He spit his gum out, gagged, vomited thin and watery onto the gravel.
"I’m okay," he said. He raised a hand to ward her off. "I’m okay."
He spit, straightened, turned away from her, bent and waited, ready to vomit again. She could hear his rapid breathing. He’s going to pass out.
He put his hands on his hips, sucking in air, getting his control back. She watched him for a moment, then walked around the Honda and shone the light through the windows. There was a folded Florida map on the front passenger floor. In back was a child safety seat and a brown leather overnight bag.
"He has a kid," Billy said. "You see that seat? He has a kid."
She looked down the road. Coming over a small crest, she could see emergency lights—two cruisers and an EMT van.
She looked at him.
"Anything you want to tell me before the sheriff gets here?" she said.
He looked at the approaching cruisers, then back at her, shook his head.
"No," he said. "I’m sorry, Sara. I never had a choice."
"You did what you had to do. It’ll be all right."
Sirens all around them, the cruisers pulling up abreast of her own, the EMT truck pulling ahead. She moved closer to Billy, stood beside him.
The sirens rose, fell, and died. Car doors opened and closed around them. They stood together in the nexus of rolling lights.
She looked up, saw the far-off silhouette of a bird against the starfield. An instant later, it was gone. She wondered if it was ever there at all.
"Well," Sheriff Hammond said. "What’s your take on this mess?"
They were in his office, the door shut. Floor-to-ceiling windows looked out on the rest of the station. Through the window behind his desk, she could see the small stretch of lawn lined with whitewashed stone, a bare flagpole lit by flood-lamps.
Four A.M. and he was in jeans and flannel shirt, unshaven. His hair was longish, his nose laced with broken blood vessels. He was from Mississippi, had come east thirty years ago but never lost that soft accent.
Sara had a bottle of water from the break-room vending machine but hadn’t touched it yet. She wished she had an aspirin. It was her first midnight shift in months, and she’d been tired all night. Now she could feel the familiar beginnings of a migraine, the pulsing of a vein in her temple.
"From what I saw," she said, "it looks like it played out the way he told it. I responded as soon as I got the call. There wasn’t a whole lot of time between the stop and when I got there."
He took an unsharpened pencil off the desk and leaned back in his chair. His desktop was cluttered, a bundle of papers held down by a dummy hand grenade he’d brought home from Vietnam, wire IN and OUT baskets, a framed photo of his daughter as a teenager.
On a credenza behind him was a computer, shut down for the night. Beside it, in a plastic liner, was his sheriff’s campaign hat, which he wore only on formal occasions. When he’d taken over the Sheriff’s Office, he’d discontinued the use of their Smokey the Bear hats, opted for black baseball caps instead, and then made those optional as well, a change Sara had always been grateful for.
He scratched his jaw, tapped the pencil on the edge of the desk. She could sense his awkwardness.
"The lawyer from the Fraternal Order of Police is on his way," he said. "Boone from the state attorney’s office in La Belle is still at the scene, but he’ll roll back here soon. He’ll be talking with you as well. That might be a little uncomfortable."
"He’ll have to know about you two."
Doesn’t everybody already?
She cracked the cap on the bottle, drank, replaced it.
"I understand that, Sheriff. But just for the record, that was over two years ago."
"I know. I’m just saying. Small county like this, small town, small department. If we don’t tell him, someone else will. It’s better it come from us."
"I’ll tell him."
"You’re a woman in an otherwise all-male department, Sara. That puts you in a unique position. It’s not fair, and I know it, but sometimes you have to be realistic about what other people might be thinking."
"This your first overnight in what, eight months?"
"Your first shift with him that entire time?"
She nodded, sipped more water, set the bottle on the floor. He pulled a yellow legal pad across the desk toward him.
"They ID the driver yet?" she said. She was feeling 4:00 A.M. fatigue, a slight dislocation from everything around her. The adrenaline was fading, and she wanted sleep.
He tilted the pad to read it.
"Derek Willis," he said. "Twenty-two. Had a current driver’s license on him. A resident of Newark, New Jersey, and only one arrest, a misdemeanor joyriding charge. Ran him through NCIS. No hits."
"That the name on the registration?"
"No. Car’s registered to a Wendell Abernathy, also of Newark. No hits on him either."
"Good," she said.
"That could change, based on what Boone finds. If he feels he needs to bring them in, he will."
"Whatever the situation, this Willis wasn’t a tourist, out there in the middle of the night, weapons in the trunk."
"I expect not."
"And what was he doing on that road in the first place? There’s nothing out there for miles. If you’re just passing through, heading south, interstate’s easier, safer."
"Hopefully, all questions which will be answered."
She drank more water, put the bottle down, rubbed her left temple.
"Who’s watching the little guy?" he said.
"JoBeth. She’s at my house."
"She’s driving now, so it’s easier for her."
"JoBeth’s a good kid. And her father’s a good man. She babysit for you a lot?"
"She’s good with Danny. He likes her."
"How’s he doing?"
"He has good days, bad days. The chemo’s been rough."
"You ever hear from his father?"
She shook her head, looked away.
"I’m sorry," he said. "It’s none of my business."
"It’s okay. There’s just not much to say. We’re getting on with our lives, you know? We have to."
"Don’t we all."
Excerpted from Gone ’Til November by Wallace Stroby.
Copyright © 2009 by Wallace Stroby.
Published in January 2010 by Minotaur Books.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
Meet the Author
WALLACE STROBY is an award-winning journalist and a former editor at the Newark Star-Ledger. Gone 'til November is his third novel, following the acclaimed The Heartbreak Lounge and the Barry Award--finalist The Barbed-Wire Kiss. He lives in New Jersey.
WALLACE STROBY is an award-winning journalist and a former editor at The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey. He is the author of books including Cold Shot to the Heart, Gone 'til November, and The Barbed-Wire Kiss. He lives in New Jersey.
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Sara Cross has problems. She is a single mother and her six-year-old son is battling Leukemia. She is one of the best deputies her small Florida town has ever seen. Sara is the first responder to the scene when a shooting occurs and when she shows up, her ex-a fellow deputy-has shot a young, black man and his story is self defense and it seems that the evidence supports his story. Initially, Sara believes Billy's story, but the more she investigates the more questions she has. Mikey-Mike is a New Jersey drug dealer who is having issues. His product is getting a name for being weak. He doesn't trust his hired man, Morgan and his money has come up missing. He sends Morgan to Florida to find the missing money and what happened to the carrier. True to form, not only does Mikey send Morgan, but also a couple of thugs to make sure the job gets done. Morgan has his own agenda and problems he has to deal with. The other thugs definitely don't blend in to the quiet Florida community well and Sara is caught right in the middle of it all. Fast-paced and exciting, this book will keep you entertained the whole way through. Characters so life-like, you will feel intense emotions toward each one of them! Reviewed by Ashley Wintters for Suspense Magazine
Well written. Hard to put down. Good plot and story. You need to read this one.
i have read it in my bedroom in the dark it only had to have no light-Janelle.L.Bradley-age12
Gone 'Til November, Stroby's third novel, continues his established quick page-turning writing style. Like his previous novels, once you pick it up you won't want to put it down until you hit the final page, and then you'll be left wanting more. Like his previous two novels, Gone 'Til November has roots in the New Jersey underworld, but that's where the comparisons in settings end. Instead of the Jersey Shore, where Stroby's first two novels are almost exclusively set, this novel moves to the urban north of New Jersey, to the gritty streets of Newark (where Stroby once worked as an editor for the Star-Ledger based there). But that's only half the story. Alternating chapters take place in the swampy back roads of Florida, until the two worlds collide. Once again, Stroby develops his characters in a way that you not only feel you know them, but you can picture them. I found myself imagining the actors who will play the characters' roles when this novel is put to film. Especially strong is the character of Morgan, the aging Newark crime soldier-for-hire who has one foot still firmly set in the 70s "Super Fly" era, while trying to make his living in the current day gangsta underworld. The contrasts and conflicts within that character left me hoping that one of Stroby's future novels will return and further explore his psyche. Picture Morgan as a black Soprano. You are drawn to his occasional demonstrations of compasion, only to be shockingly awoken by his business side. Stroby further strengthens the imagery of Morgan's character by sharing his love of the great 70s soul and R&B songs, dismissing the hip-hop/rap that helps to define the bosses for whom he now works. The day this novel is set to film, I'll be first in line to buy the soundtrack. With this third novel, Stroby firmly builds on the strong foundation he established in The Barbed Wire Kiss and the Heartbreak Lounge as not only one of the great crime novelists of our day, but one of the great storytellers. If you haven't read Stroby's first two novels, go back and devour them. If you haven't read Gone 'Til November, what are you waiting for?
It seemed as if I had waited a long time for this third mystery from Stroby to be published, and was not disappointed when it finally arrived. As with his previous two novels, the book features strong characters, a gripping plot, and gritty settings to lend a "noir" tone to the mystery. The central Florida setting was especially appealing to me, living in SW Fla. myself. Good writing, interesting characters, and a strong, gritty plot--what more could a hardboiled mystery reader want? Stroby deserves to be a lot better known to mystery fans!
In St. Charles County, Florida Deputy Sheriff Sara Cross is the first to arrive at the deserted highway where her former lover and current law enforcement partner Deputy Sheriff Billy Flynn killed a twenty-two years old black man from New Jersey. Flynn says he stopped the victim for running a stop sign. However, the badly shaken cop says the man pulled out a gun and refused to put it down so he shot him. The single mother of a child stricken with leukemia, Sara believes him not because she still wants Billy, which she does; but because the dead man had a gun in his hand and a trunk loaded with weapons. Drug dealer Mikey-Mike sends his aging torpedo Morgan to learn why his deal in Florida has not been commenced. Suffering from cancer, Morgan sees this as an opportunity for an easy final payday before he retires. Sara investigates the apparently justified homicide while Morgan makes his own scrutiny of the situation. Soon their separate inquiries will crash. The key to this fast-paced police procedural thriller is real people make real choices; often real bad ones. Sara and Morgan are super leads holding their respective subplot together until they converge into a terrific story line. The support cast in Jersey and Florida enhance the powerful tale as Wallace Stroby makes a profound case that being human means frequently making poor decisions even at times knowing the consequential outcome, but unwisely doing so anyway. Harriet Klausner