Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves

May 7, 2013

Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves coverGypsy con artists roll through Prospect, Tennessee and inveigle an expensive boat and trailer from Chief Sam Jenkins’ friend. Three days later, one of the thieves is found beaten to death in the boatyard where the crime occurred.

Did Horace Colwell or his brother Dwight, owners of Prospect Marine, take the law into their own hands?

There weren’t many Gypsies in Tennessee to begin with, and when they all disappeared, Sam had no witnesses and no one to question.

With the help of a beautiful but shady fortune teller, Jenkins solves the larceny, uncovers a large scale identity theft ring, and finds the killer.

Read An Excerpt

On the way to work one Monday morning, my cell phone sounded off. I didn’t expect to hear Horace Colwell on the other end. Not many police chiefs give out their personal phone numbers, but Horace was an old friend and . . . I really should reassess my practices.

“Sam, we’ve got a problem.”

“Whattaya mean ‘we,’ big man?”

“I mean me and Dwight.”

Dwight was Horace’s brother and manager of Prospect Marine, a business they owned jointly.

“How can I help?” I asked.

“You kin git yer butt down here and look at the body we got behind the boat yard.” He sounded exasperated.

There are two things I hate in my professional life—catching a major case first thing on a Monday morning and not having a second cup of coffee before starting work. After one phone call, I was two for two.

“Have you called 9-1-1 yet?” I asked.

“Called you first.” Horace spoke with a classic east Tennessee accent and a deep voice that would make Sam Elliot jealous.

I sighed. “I’ll be right there.”

For a day job, Horace Colwell worked as a building contractor. But he had lots of spare cash and invested in the side business because he loved boats and his younger brother needed a job.

It only took me five minutes before I pulled my unmarked Ford into the parking lot in front of a small showroom building. A mechanic named Butch Sexton met me and pointed toward the repair shop at the back of a large and orderly boat yard where Horace and Dwight stood.

The weather couldn’t have been better: clear sky, perfect temperature, birds singing—a day to sell real-estate or fall in love.

“What’s up, gentlemen?” I said. “You’ve got a body?”

“Back here,” Horace said. “Look fer yerself.”

He began walking and I followed, Dwight at my heels. Behind the cement block building, Horace pointed to a male body lying face down on the ground. Blood covered the back of his head, dried and caked in the matted dark hair. In front of the corpse, a section of tall chain link fence had been snipped, leaving a four-foot opening.

“One of you two catch him breaking in here?”

“We did not.” Horace sounded vehement, probably thinking I’d be accusing them of murder.

Several flies buzzed around the blood, but I checked for life signs anyway. Finding none, I looked from Horace to Dwight for a reaction when I shook my head.

“We’re not supposed to have dead bodies in Prospect,” I said. “This is not some sleazy urban crime center.”

Neither man commented, but shot looks at each other.

“I think I know this guy,” Dwight said.

“Think?”

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