BY: BILL A. BRIER
A chilling locked-room mystery! Impossible for the murderer to escape…yet, he did.
Powerful officials conspire against Chief Bucky’s attempt to solve the case, including the KKK, whose members particularly resent Bucky’s friend, Charlotte, a Harvard-educated “Negro” lawyer. When they drag her off to a hanging—her hanging—Bucky reaches the end of his rope.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Killer Who Wasn’t There by Bill A. Brier, Bucky Ontario is now police chief of Defiance, Oklahoma, all because he solved a murder. With no experience, he fears losing his job, unless he can solve a bank robbery and another murder. In addition, he has to deal with corrupt politician, dirty cops, and an elusive killer, who somehow managed to get out of a room locked from the inside. Is he up to the task, or was the murder he solved before just a fluke?
As usual, Brier tells a chilling, intriguing, and fast-paced story, combing mystery, humor, and suspense. If you like a good historical mystery, you’re going to love this one.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Killer Who Wasn’t There by Bill A. Brier reunites us with Bucky Ontario, a farm-boy-turned-used-car-salesman-turned-police-chief. In the first book in the series, Bucky left his home in Louisiana and headed for Defiance, Oklahoma. Once he got there, he wrangled a job as a used car salesman and then solved a murder. Now, in book 2, he is the new police chief, which is a good move forward in his goal to eventually become mayor. But there’s a catch. He’s got an unsolved bank robbery on the books, and the insurance company wants their money back. They give him an ultimatum—get the money back or lose your job. To make matters worse, he has to deal with corrupt politicians, crooked cops, and the KKK, and figure out how a killer got out of a locked room from which he had no escape. Sherlock Holmes, anyone?
Written in Brier’s unique voice, filled with wonderful characters, an intriguing mystery, and lots of heart-stopping action, you’ll be biting your nails all the way through—and loving it.
Defiance, Oklahoma, February 1957:
A Negro in a phone company vest ran onto the road, arms waving. I slammed on the brakes. He rushed over to my window, panting, “A girl—a young’un—in the ditch! Ya gotta come!”
I flew out the door of my Ford Roadster and raced after the man scrambling through knee-high grass and into a ravine.
“I was on a pole, workin’,” he hollered over his shoulder, “spotted an animal circlin’ around somethin’ in the brush. Looked like a kid all rolled into a ball. I ran over, and a coyote ran off, jus’ as I heard your car.”
I gasped. A Negro girl lay on her side, whimpering, welts on her arms and legs. Her blood-splattered gingham dress in shreds. I needed to get her to a doctor as fast—
“Leave her alone!” a harsh voice hollered.
Startled, I glanced up the ridge. Two state troopers. One was small and muscular, the other large and muscular. The small one started toward the girl.
“We’ll take care of it, fella,” the other said, shooting his hand up like a traffic cop.
“Anything I can do to help?” I offered. “I’m the new Defiance Police Chief.”
“That’s nice, but this is a family matter. You run along, she’ll be fine.”
Fine? What was he thinking? “She doesn’t look fine to me.”
“Listen, Chief, this isn’t your jurisdiction. Now take off!”
The small trooper lifted the little girl and started back up the ravine.
The Negro whispered to me, “Ain’t no family matter. Was the Klan.”
Stunned, I stared at the man. The Klan, here?
Ten minutes later, I pulled into the Texaco station, still shaken. The image of the little girl and her bloody dress was stamped on my mind, and my stomach knotted at the thought of the Klan being around. Geesh! Thought I’d left them back in Louisiana two years ago.
“Be with you in a jiffy, Bucky,” Marge, the attendant, yelled over from the next pump. She was cleaning the windshield of an old Dodge pickup while the driver read a newspaper behind the wheel.
“Fill ’er up with regular,” I told her after she finished ringing up the other customer.
“Congratulations on your new job, Bucky. Twenty-one years old and chief of police.” She plucked a piece of sage from my sleeve. “Don’t you look handsome in your pressed blue shirt? And I like the blond curl coming out from under your hat.”
I couldn’t help smiling. “Try to always look my best. Say, what’s with the Klan being around?”
She blew air between her lips. “A rotten bunch if I ever saw one. Every few years they sprout like weeds. If they were any dumber, they’d have to be watered twice a day. Just yesterday, one of them tried to sneak past me into the women’s restroom with an armload of recruiting posters. I told him to hightail it. He’d already stunk up the place by plastering a poster above the men’s urinal.”
“Recruiting posters, huh? Something’s got their feathers ruffled.”
“You watch yourself. They don’t take too kindly to the law, sometimes. They killed one of your predecessors—stabbed him straight through the heart.”
When I opened the door to my new office, I saw a small white box sitting on my desk, next to the nameplate, Chief “Bucky” Ontario. It was the object beside the box that stopped me.
A Colt revolver.
I swallowed, my heart kicking in a little rhythm. I’d gone from a carefree car salesman to police chief, and already I had the Klan to worry about. And the little girl. Something told me that gun was calling my name, though I didn’t know why.
I padded to the window beside the desk. A night rain had left the parking lot glistening with puddles of gasoline rainbows. Sitting down, I opened the box, took out a silver badge, polished it on my sleeve, and pinned it to my shirt. Not bad.
A face with touches of humor near the mouth and eyes appeared from around the doorframe. “Mornin’, Chief, I see you’ve found your gun and badge.”
Hazelwood hobbled inside holding a cane. He stood like a bent nail, hunched over and chuckling. “There’s a dusty old picture down by the evidence locker you oughta see. It’s of Chief Wade ‘Cowboy’ Wallis. He’s sitting where you are, except he’s got a knife in his heart.”
“Kind of you to point that out.” I could only hope Cowboy Wallis was the police chief Marge had told me about. I didn’t care to follow a long tradition of stabbed chiefs. Well, with Parker getting killed by a dog and Harman shot by a killer, there was at least some variety in violent retirements of police chiefs.
“A little humor for your first day, Chief. You’ll need it when I tell you who’s back in town, getting juiced up over at Uncle Lewy’s.”
I tossed my hat over the revolver. “If it’s the ghost of Cowboy Wallis, he can have his gun back.”
“It’s your former cellmate, Tyburn.”
That was a name to rattle people’s bones. “Jail mate, not cellmate. And unfortunately, he was let go.”
Hazelwood rested on his cane and crossed his shiny black boots inlaid with silver. “But I heard you said he did it.”
“He robbed the bank, all right. He told me.”
Mrs. Rheingold chirped over the intercom, “Chief, a Mr. Oswald is here to see you.”
It took a moment to find the correct button. “Who?”
The door burst open, and a short, thick man with bushy white muttonchops and an owlish face strode in and thrust out a business card. “Otto Oswald, National Insurance.”
I stood and took his card as Sergeant Hazelwood excused himself and shuffled off.
“I’m here to inform you,” Oswald said, tugging his blue-and-white plaid vest, “that I’m on the hook for a substantial sum of money.”
“Gee, sorry to hear that. Because of the bank robbery, huh? Have a seat.”
We sat. He took off his big curly cowboy hat, put it in his lap, and brushed back his hair, so white and fluffy it looked like a snowdrift. “Goddamn right. You should know, sir, that the man responsible is in your town.” He jabbed a finger toward the window. “Right this moment.”
“You don’t say.” I tried to sound surprised.
“Tyburn Newgate’s a thieving scoundrel!”
“Lots of folks would agree with you, and if I had my way, he’d still be in jail, but a jury found him innocent.”
He smacked the desk with his palm then sniffed and rubbed his nose. “Only because those nincompoops were bamboozled by his hotshot lawyer. A shyster trained to do things a rat won’t do.”
“It’s a darn shame, all right.” I got the feeling Oswald wasn’t finished, so I leaned back and folded my hands in my lap. “Anything else?”
Retrieving a gold tin from his vest pocket, he opened it and snorted a pinch of snuff into each nostril. He rubbed his nose again, this time with a lace-fringed blue handkerchief. “Damn right there’s something else. I expect you to see that justice is served.”
I raised my palms. “The jury rendered its verdict. In the eyes of the court, justice has—”
Oswald’s owlish pupils got small, and he gave the desk another wallop. “Don’t give me that horseshit. I’ve read the reports. If you had testified about how he’d confessed to you while you two chummed it up in jail, he’d have plea-bargained. The bank would have their silver back, and I wouldn’t be out ten thousand goddamn dollars!”
Heat rushed into my face. “Wait just a minute! First of all, we weren’t in jail chumming it up. I was there under trumped-up charges. And besides that, I didn’t testify because I was in Louisiana helping my sick daddy. The fact is, Mr. Oswald, Tyburn is now a free man, and that’s that.”
“That’s not that. I want the silver back and expect you to get it.”
I clenched and unclenched my hands under the desk. “You can expect all you want, but I have no idea where it is. Tyburn had two accomplices, who slipped across the border into Mexico. For all we know, they have it.”
“They don’t. For two days I watched Tyburn in the courtroom, all smug as a fox savoring my company’s money. He has it.” Oswald lifted his pointed chin. “Twenty-eight years.”
A trickle of sweat itched my right ear, but I ignored it. “What, twenty-eight years?”
“More than a quarter century in this business, that’s what.” Oswald leaned across the desk, smelling like a stale cigar. “And I’ve never been wrong.”
I’d heard enough. I swiped the trickle from my ear, gripped the chair’s armrest, and stood. “Tyburn didn’t tell me where the silver was, so I can’t help you.”
Oswald shot to his feet. His hat slid from his lap onto the floor, and he planted his thick knuckles on the desk. His eyes looked about to jump out and do something dangerous. “What I say next has an or else after it. You can, and you will.”
I didn’t say anything. I was trying to think of what he meant.
Oswald’s eyes got back to normal. “Now look, Chief. I’m aware you got this job because of your fine work uncovering city corruption. God knows, it came at the town’s most crucial time. Nevertheless—” His eyes turned scary again. “—you’ve got until six p.m., day after tomorrow to come up with the silver.”
Two days! He was off his rocker. “And what’s this or else supposed to mean?”
“Or else you’ll be back hawking cars.” He collected his hat from the floor and strutted out.
That was a fine how-de-do. I’d never even heard of the guy, and he’s one to get me fired? I doubted that. On the other hand, if I were to get the boot, I’d have hell to pay from Uncle Rupert. I came from a proud family of shrimpers and public servants. If I was to fulfill my dream of following my uncle’s example by becoming mayor, losing this job was not an option.
I needed a drink.
“Mrs. Rheingold,” I said into the intercom. “Call Sally’s and have them deliver a chocolate malt.”
“Right away, Chief,” she said crisply.
I rocked in my chair. If I got fired, I couldn’t even get my old job back selling cars. My former boss would’ve already replaced me.
I pressed the intercom again. “Make sure they don’t forget the extra malt from the mixer.”
“As you wish, sir. Incidentally, in your drawer are life insurance papers to fill out. The town foots the bill. Your relatives might welcome your having coverage. God knows, those of the last chief—well, those of the last several chiefs appreciated the benefits.”
I paced across the room, hardly listening. Who’d that guy think he was? I stopped and inspected his card. Otto Oswald. Pretty damn cocksure of himself. Better check him out. But first, it wouldn’t hurt to mosey over to Uncle Lewy’s and pay Tyburn a visit. See how far he’d go to keep his secret hidden.
I grabbed my hat. Mrs. Rheingold fluttered in, patting a giant wave of silver hair above her forehead. “Sally’s doesn’t deliver before lunch. Want me to run over?”
I shook my head. “No time. I have to see a man about some silver.”
Mrs. Rheingold tossed a glance at the gun. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”
I didn’t like what those notches in the grip meant. “No need to lug that thing around.”
She picked up the pistol and slid it into a holster from the hat rack. “You’ll get used to it.”
I waved my hand. “Some other time.”
She studied me over her pink-rimmed glasses. “You never shot jackrabbits as a boy?”
“Growing up. You nev—”
“I shot wild boars, not jackrabbits.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“No problem, just don’t need it, that’s all.” Damn, I hated sounding whiny, but I didn’t feel like explaining that, as a boy, I had mistakenly shot and killed my three-legged pet raccoon, Tripod. Finding him cornered by a wild boar, I had run and grabbed Daddy’s pistol. I’d been good at shooting bottles and cans, but the trauma of shooting Tripod had made me vow to never again fire a pistol. Of course, back then, I never imagined being a policeman.
She took my hat and settled it on my head. “I know just what you need,” she said, her eyes sparkling with an idea. “But later. You run along.”
© 2017 by Bill A. Brier
Newly appointed Police Chief Bucky Ontario wields the power to hunt and arrest criminals, or does he? Still learning the ropes of his job, he’s up against the KKK knotting ropes into nooses. A wonderfully mysterious and thrilling Killer Who novel, with the unique ’50s charm we loved in the series debut, The Killer Who Hated Soup. ~ Edith Parzefall, author of the Hangman of Nuremberg historical mystery series
We’ve come to expect a lot from author Bill A. Brier, and he didn’t disappoint in this newest mystery. On a par with Sherlock Holmes, Brier has us—and new Police Chief Bucky Ontario—scratching our heads and trying to figure out how the killer got out of a locked room…locked from the inside. A chilling and thoroughly intriguing mystery, one you won’t be able to put down. ~ Pepper O’Neal, author of the award-winning Black Ops Chronicle series