From New York to the Smokies
Five mysteries spanning more than four decades in the life of career police officer, Sam Jenkins.
THE BOAT TO PRISON – set in 1963 when a teenaged Jenkins and his friends attempt to foil a plot to kill a Long Island union leader and keep Sam’s shop steward father from doing hard time.
FAVORS drops readers into a New York of 1985 when Lieutenant Sam Jenkins mounts an unofficial investigation to learn why one of his civilian employees isn’t overjoyed about her promotion to police officer and uncovers a history of unreported and unspeakable crimes.
ODE TO WILLIE JOE, ANGEL OF THE LORD, and MASSACRE AT BIG BEAR CREEK brings the reader up to date with three adventures of Chief Jenkins and the officers of Prospect PD, a police department serving a small town in the Great Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee. UFO sightings, a serial killer on the loose, and the most brutal murders and feud between mountain folk since the Hatfields and McCoys pushes Sam to use every trick he’s learned in a lifetime of detective work to resolve these incidents on his “peaceful side of the Smokies.”
Read An Excerpt
Drops of rain falling from the brim of my cap were exceeded only by the young woman’s tears.
“When did you see the boy last?” I asked.
“Right after breakfast. He went into the living room to watch TV, and I started doing laundry in the basement.”
“And when you came upstairs he was gone?”
More tears rolled over her cheeks as she stood there, wringing her hands. “Yes.”
“Was your door locked?”
“Lord have mercy, no.”
“Is your son’s rain jacket here?”
She shrugged and cried a little more.
“Let’s look,” I suggested.
We walked to the mud room off the kitchen. A small hooded jacket hung on one of the five pegs over an antique wooden chair not six feet from the back door. A small pair of bright blue rubber Wellingtons sat on the floor.
“You call for him outside?”
“Of course. I ran all around.”
Without the puffy eyes and fear scarring her face, Emily Suttles would have been an attractive brunette.
“And then you called 9-1-1?”
“What was he watching?”
“I don’t know. He knows how to work the TV.”
“You turn it off?”
“One of the policemen did.”
“Let’s take a look.”
She stared at me as if I had two heads. “Why?”
Back in the living room, Emily picked up the remote control and turned on a flat screen about the size of a stretch van. The American Movie Classics channel came on playing a scene from Halloween 4.
“Did you or the cops look through the house?” I asked.
“Yes, of course, me.”
“Slowly or quick?”
“Quick. I was frantic.”
“Let’s try again. Where’s Elijah’s room?”
“Upstairs.” Emily began to look impatient. “I know he’s not there.”
We walked upstairs anyway. I looked under the bed. Nothing. The boy’s mother called his name. More nothing. I opened the closet. Huddled in the left corner, leaning against the wall, four-year-old Elijah Suttles slept peacefully, a small flashlight in his right hand. I shook his knee.
“Hey, partner, you doing okay in here?”
He opened his eyes, blinked rapidly, and looked frightened.
“Take it easy, son. I’m a policeman. Your mom couldn’t find you and asked for some help.”
“Jesus have mercy, Elijah,” his mother said, “you ‘bout scared me half ta death. You come out here right now, young man.”
“Go slow, Mrs. Suttles. He probably had a good reason to hide in here. Didn’t you, son?”
The little boy nodded, but still looked scared.
“Something happen on the TV?”
“Ready to come out now?”
The boy stuck out a hand, and I pulled. Once on his feet, he scrambled to his mother and locked onto her leg, mumbling an apology.
“Some of these slasher movies scare me, too,” I said. “He just ran from the killer on the screen. Wasn’t a bad idea.”
Emily Suttles hugged her son, looked at me, and said, “Thank you.”
“I’ll call the three officers and let them know your son’s safe.”
I switched on the ignition in my unmarked Crown Victoria and keyed the microphone. “Prospect-one to headquarters and all units. The missing child has been found. Resume patrol. Five-twelve, close out the call at 1015 hours.”
PO Johnny Rutledge acknowledged. “10-4, Prospect-one.”
“Five-oh-nine, I copy that,” Billy Puckett said.
After a long moment of silence, Sergeant Bettye Lambert, our desk officer, broke in. “Unit 513, five-one-three, do you copy?”
“Anyone know 513’s 10-35?” I asked.
“Joey was goin’ house ta house, east end o’ the street,” Puckett said.
“I’m probably the closest,” I said. “I’ll check.”
Just as I shifted into reverse, PO Joey Gillespie spoke on the radio.
“513 ta Prospect-one. Boss, ya gonna need ta see this. 1175 Benny Stillwell Road, obvious 10-5.”
10-5 is our brevity code for a homicide.
* * * *
Two men lay face down on the kitchen floor. One with a shaved head made it easy to see the small caliber bullet hole at the base of his skull—a .25 perhaps or more likely a .22. Blood trickled from the wound down past his right ear, over a thick neck, and onto the Mexican tile floor. The other victim’s blood oozed to his left. Funny, the little details you notice at the scene of a murder.
“You call crime scene and the ME?” I asked.
“Yessir, had Miss Bettye do it right after I called ya.”
I nodded and looked around the kitchen of a relatively new and expensive home. “Big house.”
Joey Gillespie nodded.
“At least 4,000 square feet,” I guessed. “And quality. These guys had bucks.”
He nodded again and looked a little queasy.
“The air hasn’t come on recently. In this humidity blood tends to stink quicker. Smell bother you?”
“Yessir, I ain’t used ta this.”
“Nobody gets used to it, kid. You just learn to ignore it.”
“You search the rest of the house?”
“Jest looked on the first floor ta see if there was anybody here.”
“Nosir. On a slab.”
“Let’s go upstairs.”
I drew my old Smith & Wesson from the holster on my right hip, and Joey pulled out his .40 caliber Glock.
“Look around, and pay attention. Don’t watch me. There’s probably no one here, but we’ll do this by the numbers.”
“Yessir. I’m right behind ya.”
We made a quick sweep of the first floor, opening all the closets before ascending the stairs. The landing above left us in a hallway with what looked like four bedrooms, two baths and two closet doors. We found nothing in the guest johns or closets. A lack of personal property in three of the bedrooms led me to believe they were set also aside for guests. We looked further in the master suite and discovered two closets holding clothing for two different people.
“I guess the two guys slept t’gether,” Joey said.
“Not strange, just a minority.”
Two car doors slammed out front.
“Let’s see who’s here,” I suggested.
Jackie Shuman and David Sparks, crime scene investigators from the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, had arrived and stood in the foyer holding cameras and forensic kits. Moments later, Deputy Medical Examiner Morris Rappaport and his assistant Earl Ogle pulled up in the morgue wagon.