The Great Smoky Mountain Bank Job

Jan 28, 2018

Six novelettes where Sam Jenkins gets to show off his skills learned as a former New York detective.

When your high school classmate shows up on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, can your police career get any more interesting? As a favor to a beautiful treasury agent, Prospect, Tennessee’s police chief Sam Jenkins handles a cold case robbery-homicide and clears the forty-three year old mystery of THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN BANK JOB.

In MURDER IN A WISH-BOOK HOUSE, Sam investigates the most grisly murder of his career. Then, in V IS FOR…VITAMIN?, he works with an eighty-four year old partner to solve a suspicious death in a nursing home where all the suspects are well beyond their prime.

Hollywood meets the Smokies in FATE OF A FLOOZY when an academy award winner is murdered during her love affair with a much younger man. HURRICANE BLOW UP and THE BUTLERS DID IT pits Jenkins against some very lethal characters when he tackles eastern European hoods who intend on causing mayhem in Prospect, and bank robbers who flee to the far corners of southern Appalachia to escape capture.

For more in-depth summaries of each novelette, visit the anthologies sections of this site.

For more in-depth summaries please go to the novelettes section of this site.

Read An Excerpt

From FATE OF A FLOOZY

On a cloudy Thursday morning in late May, I stood in Helene Redpath’s bedroom looking down at her naked body lying next to a man more than twenty years her junior. They were dead, of course. Killed by two blasts from a horribly expensive double-barreled shotgun.

A pair of tall double-hung windows in the second floor bedroom over?looked an Italianate garden at the back of the house. An alabaster statue of Mercury stood at the intersection of six narrow brick walks. Short and neatly trimmed boxwoods bordered pie-shaped beds of topsoil that held hundreds of colorful annuals planted no more than two weeks ago. Beyond the floral garden, stone steps led to an expansive lawn sloping to the south, terminating at the banks of the Little River.

I knew the homeowner. Not intimately, but I’d seen her around for years. Helene Redpath had spent more than four decades portraying a floozy. She appeared in major motion pictures, TV movies, cable features and even on British television where they’ve never been squeamish about primetime sex or showing lots of skin. As a young actress, everyone remembered her face, but I’d be surprised if many people knew her name.

Helene worked steadily for years, but spent most of that time on the “B” list. Whenever a studio needed a beautiful girl with a figure to make Miss Universe jealous, they cast Helene as a cheating housewife, an oversexed career woman, a hooker with a heart of gold or a scrumptious drunk. Then, as she aged and the world watched her career declining, Ms. Redpath landed a part in the film Cover-up, playing the alcoholic mother of a soldier killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. Suddenly the critics realized Helene could act, and she won an Oscar for best supporting role.

Jackie Shuman and David Sparks, crime scene investigators from the county Sheriff’s office, worked the bedroom with the efficiency of well trained automatons. The deputy medical examiner, Dr. Morris Rappaport, and his assistant, Earl W. Ogle, conducted field tests on the bodies and prepared them for their trip to the University of Tennessee’s forensics lab.

“Got a time of death, Mo?” I asked the pathologist.

“For once, Sam, I can give you a definite answer. This young man likes to make love wearing a watch. A shotgun pellet stopped his Tag Huerer at exactly 10:28 last night.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Hard to controvert that.”

“By this afternoon, I’ll be able to tell you if there are any factors beyond the obvious.”

“Thank you, Morris. You’re my favorite M.E.”

He shrugged. “Such an honor.”

I next spoke to the evidence technicians. “Talk to me, Jackie. What do you know so far?”

“Well, as y’all kin see fer yer own self, there weren’t no break. Either the door was open, or the shooter had him a key. The shotgun, it’s layin’ over yonder.” He pointed just beyond the foot of the bed. “It’s one sweet weapon. Musta cost more’n I make in a month. I believe it came from the cabinet downstairs in the den. Check it out. You’ll find the door open an’ only seven of the eight slots filled.”

“Dust it yet?”

“David did. Wiped clean. Cabinet, too.”

“Okay. When you finish and write all this up, stop at the PD.”

“You got it, Chief.”

The bedroom looked like a featured display from a museum of Early American furniture. Not the kind of things you’d buy in an antique mall, but rather what you’d acquire from a dealer who wore a double-breasted blazer and silk bow tie and paid fifty bucks for a short haircut every three weeks. A lot of thought went into decorating the room, but Helene would never enjoy it again.

Prospect, Tennessee had always been one of the vacation spots favored by some of the nine million people who visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park annually. Those who desired a more tranquil atmosphere, a place without music halls, outlet malls or bumper car rides, visited my town. The travel brochures called us “the Peaceful side of the Smokies.” It is peaceful…if we’re not investigating double homicides.

When a small resort named Blackberry Farm, a place not far from where I lived, was named the number one holiday destination in North America by a famous travel magazine, the rich and famous began invading the hotel in force, totally oblivious to the nightly rates that topped off at $3,500.00. As Blackberry Farm gained popularity with people whose faces appeared regularly on shows like Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood, these celebrities decided they’d like a chunk of the Smokies for themselves and started purchasing their own private getaways.

Soon, the demand outweighed the supply, and farmers owning land with spectacular mountain views put the family homesteads on the market. Realtors began making commissions that allowed them to replace their four-door Chevys with top-of-the-line Range Rovers. Upper-crust subdivisions called Yorkshire Dales, Worthington Cove and The Cedars at Whispering Mountain overshadowed little communities within the Prospect postal district with traditional names like Gamble’s Woods, Cutter’s Gap or Keeble’s Chapel.

Helene Redpath, herself a country girl originally from North Carolina, was one of the glamorous west coast celebrities who had discovered our corner of east Tennessee. In the years following her Oscar Award, she landed several more parts that made her a multi-millionaire. Two years ago, I she and her husband paid a premium for the property I found myself now visiting, a 200-year-old farmhouse surrounded by 100 acres of choice land. Once she saw the house in which she eventually died, Helene became determined to buy it out from under a horde of hungry developers bent on carving up the land and creating another up-scale neighborhood in beautiful Prospect.

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