A stranger has kidnapped Sue’s daughter, Veda. But he doesn’t want her money, only her suffering–and he will kill Veda if Sue doesn’t follow his every command. With detailed instructions, the faceless abductor leads Sue into a blinding snowstorm on the longest night of the year, to a place she has not traveled to since childhood. The voice on the other end of the line somehow knows Sue’s deepest, most chilling secret–an ominous incident from her past, buried long ago...
Across the loneliest back roads of Massachusetts, in the black expanse of a New England winter, Sue is forced to confront her most awful fears as she is met at each step by ever increasing horrors created by a monster who is surely something less than human. In the hope of saving her daughter from a kidnapper whose origin seems darker than anything she could ever have imagined, Sue will discover just how much trauma and fright the human body is capable of absorbing.
Set over the course of a single night, Chasing the Dead is a fast-paced, ferociously tense supernatural thriller. With the skill of masters like Dean Koontz and David Morrell, Joe Schreiber has created a tableau of shock and horror, death and destruction, that will draw you in and never let you go.
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Stuck in week-before-Christmas traffic north of Boston, Sue Young is scanning the radio dial, searching for a weather report, when a song comes on from the summer of 1983, Duran Duran doing “Rio,” and oh boy, does it take her back. Without wanting to, she thinks of Phillip, something he’d said to her once: The past is never done with us in any substantial way. The most cursory exami-nation reveals its bloody fingerprints on every surface of our lives.
It’s Phillip in a nutshell, an appetizer of eloquent wisdom with a nice fluffy side salad of pomposity. In the beginning, back when they were kids, she’d only heard the wisdom. Later, after they got married, only the pomposity. Now that he’s gone Sue hears a dollop of both but mainly she just hears him, his voice in her head, and despite everything he’s done to her, she even misses it from time to time.
The song on the radio keeps playing. Sue realizes she’s stiffened instinctively against the nice leather upholstery that Phillip paid extra to have installed in the Expedition, not enjoying the crawling prickle of nostalgia, at the same time peripherally aware that traffic is beginning to slide forward in front of her. She starts punching presets on the radio dial as she gooses the gas pedal, picking up speed in little doses, and realizes that the Saturn in front of her has stopped suddenly. She slams on the brakes, the Expedition jerking to a halt just six inches from the Saturn’s back bumper, close enough to see the driver’s aggrieved expression in the sideview mirror. Sue exhales, thinking that she just used up all her luck for the rest of the night.
It is six twenty and almost totally dark.
Boston is still right there in her rearview, its stumpy conglomera-tion of mid-rises too close to even be called a skyline. Around her three lanes of commuter traffic slink forward promisingly and then congeal again. To her right, the fax machine that Phillip installed in the Expedition gives two cheerful chirps and starts spitting out a flurry of pages. Sue flips on the dome light and glances at the cover sheet. It’s a draft of the loan agreement for her to look over for tomorrow morning’s meeting with BayState, the final phase of the Flaherty deal.
Sean Flaherty is an orthodontist, a friend of Phillip’s from back in Phillip’s bachelor days, when Sean and Phillip chased cocktail waitresses from here to Cape Cod and jetted off to Club Med together to drive Jet Skis and spend their money. Sue actually doesn’t mind Sean all that much—he can be a bit overbearing at times, but ever since Phillip left her, Sean’s become more subdued, almost shy, around her, as if embarrassed by his old friend’s behavior.
Sean has always wanted to open a little bar downtown, in a narrow old space on 151 Exeter Street that he’s been lusting after for at least a decade. For years Phillip promised Sean he’d get him 151 Exe-ter, which has been tied up in probate for ages since the previous owner died intestate and the offspring squabbled over the inheritance. But in the end, the promise to get Sean his bar turned out to be just another broken vow Phillip left in his wake when he abandoned Sue eighteen months ago.
In the end it was Sue herself that closed the deal for Sean, just today. Upon hearing the news Sean dropped by the office, ecstatic, with two freshly steamed lobsters and a gift-wrapped case of liquor that he insisted Sue take home with her. Sue was happy to accept the lobsters, but she hasn’t had anything stronger than club soda in five years. She hadn’t even bothered unwrapping it to see what it was. And right now, as the traffic shifts forward and the bottles in the back of the Expedition clink softly together, she wonders what on earth she’s going to do with an entire case of hard liquor. It’s too late to give it out for Christmas. Does Goodwill accept alcohol?
She reaches over and pulls out her cell phone from her coat pocket. It would be easier to pick up the car phone mounted in the Expedition, just twelve inches away from the steering wheel. But she’s so in the habit of using her cell—sometimes it feels grafted between her shoulder and her jaw—that she’ll often catch herself using it even when she’s home sitting right in front of the land line.
Sue hits the programmed number for the house and waits, but there’s no answer. No messages from Marilyn on her voicemail or the machine. No text messages except Brad at work reminding her about the bank meeting with Sean tomorrow morning to close on his bar. She dials the number in the Jeep and after three rings Marilyn picks up with a disorganized-sounding “hello.”
“Hey,” Sue says, “it’s me.”
“Oh, hey, hi.”
Sue checks the clock again even though she just did it twenty seconds earlier. It’s a habit with her. Time is a rival. “You headed out for dinner?”
“Actually just getting back,” Marilyn says, and in the background Sue can hear Veda doing a running commentary in the blithe, hyper-inflective nonsense of toddler argot. “Her Creative Movements class ran a little late and we ended up grabbing an early dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. Should be home in twenty minutes or so.”
“So you already ate?”
Sue looks at the Legal Seafood box on the floor next to her, the one that Sean had produced with such pleasure that she couldn’t help getting caught up in his excitement. “Too bad for you. Somebody gave me a couple of lobsters.” It’s the sort of remark that invites questions—somebody gave you lobsters?—but she only hears Marilyn grunt on the other end, uncharacteristically quiet, distracted. A red light goes on in Sue’s mind. “Is everything all right?”
“Yeah,” Marilyn says, “this loser in a van is just riding my tail. Sorry.”
“I’ll let you go.”
“We’ll see you back at the house,” Marilyn says, and clicks off. Sue drops the phone on top of her coat, folded on the passenger seat, and concentrates on her driving. It isn’t snowing, not yet, but it still takes her the better part of an hour to get back to Concord and by the time she pulls up to the house she’s hungry and frustrated enough that she forgets the lobsters and the liquor in the car.
Inside, it takes her a moment before she realizes that Marilyn and Veda aren’t home yet. She kicks off her shoes and calls the Jeep’s phone again but this time nobody answers.
Odd, she thinks, heading into the kitchen. Not alarming, nec- essarily, but definitely out of character for Marilyn, who wouldn’t normally deviate from the plan without letting Sue know. Marilyn’s been Sue’s nanny for over a year now and they work well together because they think alike. Veda loves Marilyn, and that’s terrific, that’s a real plus. But at the end of the day what matters is that Marilyn and Sue share the same peculiarities, the same worries, the same little neuroses about raising a child in a world where handguns cost less than a pair of sneakers and nobody washes their hands. When the agency first sent her over for an interview, Sue took Marilyn out to lunch and watched her use her hip to bump open the ladies’ room door so that she could keep her hands clean. Sue made her an offer before their salads arrived.
The phone rings as she’s pouring herself a cranberry juice and tonic with a wedge of lime.
A man’s voice, one she doesn’t know. “Susan Young?”
“Speaking,” she says, already thinking: telemarketer. She hasn’t been Susan to anybody but distant relatives since eighth grade. There’s still half a chicken Caesar in the fridge from last night at the Capital Grille and she opens the Styrofoam box with the phone tucked under her jaw, picking off slightly soggy croutons and cherry tomatoes.
“Is this Susan?” the man asks again with irritating slowness.
“Yes, this is she. Who’s calling?”
“You have a very lovely little girl, Susan.”
And Sue freezes, feeling the tiles of the kitchen floor vanish beneath her feet. “Who is this?”
“She’s beautiful. Gorgeous green eyes, precious blond hair, those little dimples on the backs of her hands when she uncurls her fingers. And that smile, Susan. She certainly favors you.” The voice pauses. “Susan? Are you there?”
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"Taut, scary...tension-filled.... [Listeners] will anxiously await his next outing." -Publishers Weekly Starred Review