Graceland On Wheels

Jun 27, 2014 by

Graceland On Wheels

Graceland On Wheels, A Sam Jenkins Mystery by Wayne ZurlSam Jenkins has been fishing all his life, but he’s never caught anything more interesting than the dead body of an Elvis impersonator. While the chief and Deputy Sheriff Jackie Shuman are angling for trout in Crystal Creek, Sam hooks the body of Garland Humphries, a murdered man wearing a white leather jumpsuit. Garland had been a human train wreck just looking for a place to jump the tracks and let his cowcatcher plough into the soft earth of east Tennessee.

Read An Excerpt

Garland Humphries awoke with a bucket of composted cow manure in his mouth—or so he thought.

When he raised his head, bolts of lightning flashed before his eyes and a mule kicked him in the forehead. Using the strength of three men to open his eyelids, Garland saw dried vomit on his white jumpsuit. Fearing what it would cost to clean the sequined leather garment, he began to shake his head, and received another kick from that troublesome mule.

The smell of his breath reminded him of the stench in a cesspool. He needed to wash the putrid taste from his mouth and gingerly attempted to sit up. Swinging his legs off the wide mattress felt like he just cleared a high hurdle. But when he stood, an image of the Milky Way covered his field of vision and caused him to sit quickly.

Garland sucked in a large volume of air attempting to stop the spinning sensation and after a few seconds, he again tried to stand. That time he made it. In a few moments a flicker of confidence radiated from his head, through his body, and down into his legs. He took a step, then another, and felt the all too familiar sensation of his brain being too big for his skull. He decided to look for a bottle of aspirin, but really wanted a glass of Jack Daniels to clear his head.

When Garland reached the doorway of the bedroom in his big RV, he looked down the narrow hallway toward the little kitchen, the dining and sitting areas, and finally the driver’s and passenger’s seats and the door. The hall between him and the wide open spaces looked like a tunnel, with walls no farther apart than the width of his shoulders. The kitchen was no more than fifteen feet away, but it seemed like a hundred yards and he began to feel claustrophobic. The sides of the tunnel started to pulsate. Garland saw stars again. Bile collected in his mouth and nausea overtook him. Garland Humphries needed a toilet or a bucket—fast. He ricocheted off the walls and the first door he found opened into the combination toilet closet and shower. Garland dropped to his knees, hugged the commode, and lost the contents of his stomach in two great heaves.

Unable to move for what seemed like an eternity, Garland mustered the strength to push himself upright, turn, and use the sink as a crutch. He scooped up hands full of water to rinse his mouth and splash on his cheeks. When he stood, Garland couldn’t focus on the pathetic drunk staring back at him from the small mirror and opened the medicine cabinet looking for a bottle of mouthwash. The childproof cap caused major problems, but finally, he took a drink, rinsed, and spat into the sink. That accomplished, he grabbed a bottle of aspirin, cursed the cap, opened it with his teeth, and swallowed half a dozen.

Leaving the toilet and sink as they were, Garland moved toward the door of the RV and opened a portal to fresh air and the outside world. As most drunks would, he exaggerated a careful descent of the two steps and without falling, found himself on solid ground. The noise of the slamming door erupted inside his head.

“Hello, Garland. Y’all don’t look so good.”

Humphries couldn’t see who had spoken, tried to look through the foggy darkness, but only saw a shadow approaching. It was the last thing he ever saw.


By anyone’s standards, Crystal Creek is a proper little river. But it’s not as big as the Little River, into which it empties near the site of the old Cherokee town of Ellejoy, a place now an agricultural research center for the University of Tennessee.

Jackie Shuman and I were fishing a deep pool on an outside bend of Crystal Creek. He with a float and fly attached to an ultra-light spinning rig and me with a rubber bug called a Trout Magnet attached to a small jig head.

“Why don’t you git yerse’f some new fishin’ gear?” he asked.

“This works. Why replace it?”

“Must be fifty years old. Part with some o’ yer New York po-leece pension and git you a new rod and reel.”

“It’s almost sixty and I like this one.”

I retrieved the lure and cast it upstream, watching it move with the current as I cranked the handle on my Orvis reel. Then I snagged something; I assumed a submerged log because it wasn’t fighting, just dead weight.

“Goddamnit.” I felt the drag slip as I turned the reel handle. I raised the tip of my seven-foot rod and something white broke the creek’s rippling surface about twenty yards away in a spot of bright sunlight.

“What in hell you got hooked to?” Jackie said.

“Can’t see with the glare, but it weighs a ton.”

In a few seconds it came closer, the current pushing it toward the bank where we stood.

“Good thing you’re usin’ a rod big enough ta catch a tuna,” Jackie said.

I drew the object closer to the shore.

My eyes popped. “I’ll be damned. Looks like I hooked Elvis Presley.”

read more

Related Posts


Share This

Alvis Is In The Building

Jun 27, 2014 by

Alvis Is In The Building

Alvis Is In The Building, A Sam Jenkins Mystery by Wayne ZurlPool huckster Alvis Seebold didn’t make any friends when he sandbagged his way into a big playoff with resident professional Tommy Crowe at Prospect’s only billiard club. When visiting pool shark Cannonball LaShott is found stabbed to death after losing to Alvis in a major upset, Chief Sam Jenkins investigates a murder seemingly without motive. Lacking an apparent suspect, Sam looks for help from the proprietress of what he calls the best little whorehouse in Tennessee, a place patronized by the hustlers and prominent locals who would prefer to keep their recreational pursuits a secret.

Read An Excerpt

Like most municipalities, Prospect, Tennessee needed money. If the council voted to raise taxes, they feared a general insurrection. So, the Prospect Police Department was asked to bring in revenue through fines.

That’s how Sergeant Stan Rose and I found ourselves standing at a DUI checkpoint on McTeer’s Station Pike one balmy evening in May. PO Jamey Hawkins sat in his vehicle prepared to transport drunk drivers to headquarters or pursue anyone who failed to stop at Stan’s request.

There hadn’t been much traffic, but it was still early and I hoped we’d get some action. Then Stanley drew my attention.

“What the hell is that?” Stanley held up his right hand, making the universal signal to stop for a policeman. A six-cell flashlight dangled from his left hand, illuminating the blacktop in front of him.

I stepped next to Stanley as a candy-apple-red Cadillac with a sparkling white convertible top rolled to a stop a few feet in front of us.

I answered his question. “Looks like a ’59 Caddy with Louisiana plates.”

“Those fins would make the Batmobile jealous, and there’s enough chrome to blind me.”

“Hell of a boat.”

“Let’s see who’s driving.”

Stan moved to the driver’s side, I took the right and shone my flashlight into the car. Two black men sat in the front. The driver cranked down his window. The passenger looked at me and put his hands on the dashboard as if he’d been trained to do so. I spun my finger in the air, indicating I wanted his window down.

The driver, a large man with a shaved head and sport jacket almost matching the color of his car, spoke to Stanley. “Hello, my brother. How y’all this fine evenin’?”

Stan took a moment to reply. “Don’t remember seeing you at the last family reunion, so I guess I’m not your brother.”

“No offense, officer. I jus’ meant … Well, y’all know what I meant. What can I do for ya?”

“I’d like to see your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.”

“I do somethin’ wrong, suh?”

“Not yet. This is a DUI checkpoint. Have you been drinking tonight?” The driver fumbled opening his lap belt and pulled a wallet from his back pocket.“Drinkin’? No, suh, ain’t touched a drop. Swear ta Jesus.” He handed a driver’s license to Stan and turned to the man in the passenger seat.

“Spider, git me that envelope from the glove box wit the regstaration and in-surance card.”

I drew the Smith & Wesson from its holster and pointed my light at the glove compartment. “Do it slowly, Spider. I get jumpy at night.”

Spider stopped cold, waited a moment, and turned to look at me. “Yessuh. Movin’ nice an’ slow, suh. Donchew worry.” Spider handed the driver a tattered white envelope. He gave everything to Stanley. Stan looked over the three documents. “Princeton LaShott?”

“Yes, suh. That’s me. Princeton ‘Cannonball’ LaShott.”

“You’re a long way from New Iberia.”

“Yes, suh. Been a long drive.”

I bent down and scanned the interior with my light. Spotless, white leather seats matched the top. There wasn’t a speck of dust or piece of trash to be seen.

“Nice wheels, Mr. LaShott,” I said. “Own it long?”

“Thank ya, suh. Yes, suh, ’bout ten year now. She’s a honey, ain’t she?”

“She is. Spider, why don’t you dig out some ID so we can get acquainted?”

He wasn’t wearing a seat belt, so fishing out his wallet looked easy. He handed me another Louisiana license. I matched the photo to Spider’s face. He was as thin as a fishing pole and had café au lait skin, short hair with a part razor-cut into the side, and a pencil line mustache.

“Cordell Vinson,” I said. “And you’re also from New Iberia.”

“Uh, yes, suh.” He looked at my jeans and windbreaker. “Or should I call y’all dechecktive?”

“I’m not a detective, Mr. Vinson, I’m the police chief. You don’t have to go beyond ‘sir.’ What are you gentlemen doing in Prospect?”

The driver turned and ducked down to make eye contact with me. “We’s lookin’ for Tommy Crowe’s Smoky Mountain Billiard Club, suh.”

“You’re on the right road. Going there tonight?”

“No, suh. Lookin’ ta stay the night at the Foothills View Mo-tel. Got us a reservation.”

“Easy to find,” I said. “About a half mile from here, on the right. You’ll see the sign.”

“Thank ya, suh.”

“You’re welcome. Now, give us a minute to check if you two gentlemen are wanted by any jurisdiction between here and Louisiana and we’ll wish you good night.”

Spider nodded quickly and Cannonball said, “Yes, suh. Take y’all’s time.”

I met Stanley in front of the Caddy and walked to his police car.

“Princeton “Cannonball” LaShott and Cordell “Spider” Vinson going to Prospect’s own little pool hall. Son of a gun.”

“You know these guys?” Stan asked.

“I know a couple of hustlers when I see them.”

Neither man was wanted for anything in the US or by INTERPOL. We thanked them for their cooperation and they continued down the road to find their motel rooms.

After they left, we spent an otherwise uneventful night looking for drunks.

read more

Related Posts


Share This

The Swan Tattoo

Jun 27, 2014 by

The Swan Tattoo

The Swan Tattoo by Wayne Zurl (cover)Jerome Lee, owner of the Magic Panda, a new Chinese restaurant in Prospect, suspiciously has a finger cut off. Three days later, he’s found hanging from a second floor landing in his home, a suicide note only a few feet away. But Police Chief Sam Jenkins thinks Mr. Lee was the victim of gangster Jimmy Fong, a thug employed by loan shark and triad leader Martin Kee. Sam’s investigation takes him to Atlanta, Malaysia, and back to Tennessee with twists and turns and false leads.

Read An Excerpt

At 12:30 Kate and I waited inside the doorway of the Magic Panda, a new Chinese restaurant in Prospect. Every table was occupied, five people stood in front of the sushi bar, and more than a dozen hungry souls circled the two long buffet islands like buzzards over a dead cow, each holding a large white plate. One heavyweight cracked his head on the glass canopy when he reached to the opposite side of the steam table and grabbed the last egg roll before a young girl could take it.

“I told you to meet me here at 11:30,” I said. “A new restaurant always creates a feeding frenzy.”

“I only finished my program at Prospect Pines a little after noon. I couldn’t get here any earlier.”

Four soumo-size customers sitting at a table looked like they’d finished eating, but continued to shoot the bull, caring nothing for the local police chief and his wife who needed a seat. I hate when people do that and envisioned more steam escaping from my ears than what circulated beneath the buffet trays. If my wife wasn’t so good-looking, I’d have gotten mad at her.

Then a bloodcurdling scream from the kitchen grabbed everyone’s attention. Being the only man of action in the building, I pulled out my badge and trotted toward the noise.

“Call 9-1-1,” I said to Kate who followed me.

We pushed through the double swinging doors and found a middle-aged man holding a bloody apron around his left hand. The color had drained from his face as quickly as his blood soaked the apron.

“Bettye, this is Kate,” she said into her cell phone, “Sam needs a car and an ambulance at the Magic Panda, that new place in the strip mall across from the Foothills View Motel. A man’s bleeding.”

Several cooks, waitresses, and a few unidentified men stood in the kitchen watching the injured man bouncing around and squealing in what I thought sounded like the Foochow or Hokkien dialect I once heard in Singapore, but no one helped him.”

When I got near the victim, I noticed a foot-long kitchen knife and a little finger lying on a wooden cutting board in the middle of a stainless steel table.

“Hold still,” I said. “Let me see your hand.”

I unwrapped a not very hygienic apron from around his hand and saw a short stub where the severed pinkie had once been.”

“Someone hand me a clean towel or apron, quick,” I barked at the onlookers.

Blood drizzled out of the wound and still no one moved. My Chinese is limited to getting around Hong Kong in a taxi, so I tried a little pigeon lingo, pointing at the bloody apron. “Che um che clean? Quick, quick!”

The calmest man in the room, a thin young guy with a pony tail and brightly-colored sport shirt pulled a clean apron from a nearby shelf and handed it to me with as much emotion as a two-toed sloth. I rewrapped the hand, but in only moments the oozing blood soaked the white cloth. Pressing the veins on the underside of the man’s wrist helped, but not much.

“I can’t stop the bleeding,” I told Kate. “Tell Bettye I’ll transport, but have her get clearance to Blount Memorial. Adult male, severed finger. You come with me.”

As Kate and I pushed through the kitchen, I grabbed a plastic bag and stuck his bundled up hand inside.

“I don’t want blood all over my car,” I said. “Sit in the back with him and keep this elevated.”

As we hustled through the dining room, most of the customers gave us their undivided attention, but a resolute segment of the starving masses kept gobbling their pepper steak or gnawing on their chicken sticks.

With Kate and my victim snuggling in the back seat, I fired up the Crown Vic, turned on the flashing grill lights, and flipped a switch for the siren. Once I hit the blacktop and nailed the accelerator, I grabbed the microphone.

“Headquarters, this is Prospect-one. Have the man responding to the Magic Panda get names from everyone in the kitchen who witnessed this, then find someone who speaks good English and bring them to the ER in case we need an interpreter. Also, have medics wrap the severed finger in a clean cloth soaked in a saline solution and put it in a closed container. With luck, a surgeon can sew it back on.”

“10-4, Prospect-one. Five-zero-one is 10-36 now.” Bettye said calmly—she never gets rattled.

“He’ll meet you at BMH as soon as possible.”

“10-4, Headquarters,” I said. “501, switch to channel two.”

I flipped a toggle on my radio console and heard, “501 on.”

“Junior, pick up the big knife on the kitchen table and preserve it for prints.”

“Ya mean this ain’t an accident?”

“Not certain yet. Be sure to get names for the three men in the kitchen wearing sports clothing. . . If they’re still around.”

“10-4,” he said.

I looked in the rearview mirror at the Asian man who was still moaning, mumbling, and gently rocking back and forth as Kate held his crudely bandaged hand.


Kate and I stood in front of the triage area only a few feet from the entrance to the emergency room.

“Sometimes this police work gets in the way,” I said. “I’m starving.”

“You’re always hungry, sweetie, but how often do you get to save a life?”


“We can eat when you’re finished here.”

“If I don’t eat soon, I’ll faint.”

Kate smiled and was about to tell me to shut up when the Chinese woman PO Junior Huskey brought to the hospital walked out of the ER. She looked pale and thin and wore her black hair pinned back with barrettes. I stepped over to meet her.

“I’m Sam Jenkins, police chief in Prospect.”

“I am Agnes Lee. Someone from the restaurant called me at home. It was my husband Jerome who had the accident. We own the Magic Panda.” She spoke with a slight accent and appeared concerned, but not too upset.

“How is he doing?”

She shrugged. “They say he lost much blood and gave him a transfusion. Nurses have taken him to surgery. The doctors think they can attach his finger. He may get feeling back, but maybe not.”

“How did it happen?”

Her eyes flashed between Kate and me. She looked like I had just asked the sixty-four thousand dollar question and she didn’t know the answer.

“It was an accident.”

I thought about that and wondered how a right-handed man using a kitchen knife could slip and cut off his left pinkie. Why not the thumb or index finger? They’re closer.

“I’d like to speak to him about that,” I said. “Will they keep him overnight?”

She frowned. “He will be ready to leave later this evening.”

“Then I’ll come back. I won’t bother you much more, but can I have your husband’s information for the report?”

“What report? It was an accident.” She sounded surprised.

“All accidents get what we call a field report. It just accounts for our time.”

She didn’t look happy with my answer.

“All right.”

I found a scrap of paper in my jacket pocket and wrote down a pedigree on Jerome Lee.

“If you’re going to wait, can I call someone to stay with you?”

“Not necessary, thank you. I have a cell phone.”

Kate toned down her usual dazzling smile to low wattage and said, “We hope Mr. Lee recovers quickly.”

Agnes Lee mumbled something, turned, and walked a few yards to the waiting area. Kate and I left the building.

“Notice anything odd back in the kitchen?” I asked.

“There were two mahjongg sets on the shelf where they kept the clean aprons.”

“That’s odd?”

“Who plays mahjongg in a commercial kitchen?”

“I’ll bet when they close the restaurant, they break out the mahjongg sets and play in the dining room all night. The Chinese are great gamblers.”

“They always play mahjongg for money,” she said.

“They play everything for money. I meant did you see anything odd—about the whole scene?”

“I’m not sure. Things happened pretty fast.”

“There were no vegetables on the cutting board where he lost his finger. That long knife is used to cut carrots and things.”

“Very observant, Inspector Charlie Chan.” Kate spoke with a theatrical Chinese accent.

“Right, number one wife. Also, he would have to reach across hand to cut off pinkie when three other fingers and thumb were closer to blade.” Two can do Asian accents, doll-face.

“Number one wife? Who’s number two?”

“What about my theory on access to the pinkie” I growled.

She thought for a moment. “Sounds about right. I’d hold what I was cutting with my thumb, middle, and index fingers. My pinkie would be too far away.”

I reactivated Charlie Chan. “Exactly, grasshopper. I think we have oriental mystery.”

“You’re so clever . . . and sarcastic. How can anyone stand to work with you?”

“They look at working with me as the ultimate education.”

“Oh, pa-leeze. Go live with number two wife.”

I ignored her juvenile statement.

“Did you look at the thin young guy wearing the loud Indonesian print shirt? The guy with the pony tail.”


“No one in the kitchen would move before he did. When he handed me the clean apron, his arm stretched out of the shirt sleeve and I saw a swan tattoo. I’ve never seen one like it before.”

“Everyone gets tattoos nowadays.”

“But he looked like a gangster and these Asian hoods are very into macho. They usually get dragons or tigers or snake tattoos. A swan seems a little tame.”

“Why is that strange? Maybe the swan has some meaning to him.”

“I think his presence was strange. The waitresses and kitchen help were dressed appropriately for their jobs. Jerome Lee, one of the owners, wore a white shirt and black slacks. Also appropriate for his role. Mr. Ponytail and two other clowns didn’t fit.”

“Maybe they sell things to restaurants. Or maybe they just stopped in to see Mr. Lee.”

“And Lee played with a big knife while he had company?”

“You’ve got a point.”

“Maybe they sell protection to restaurants. Or maybe they make loans or who knows what.”

“You think they’re loan sharks?”

“If Jerome Lee is a big mahjongg loser, maybe he needs extra cash to settle his debts. Maybe he makes bigger wagers on other things, sports betting perhaps. There’s lots of money in that. Maybe he was late with his payments and Ponytail wanted to express his displeasure. All possibilities.”

“Who is Mr. Ponytail?”

“No idea yet, but I’ll ask.”


“The man with the severed finger for starters.”

Kate snapped her seatbelt in place and I switched on the ignition in the big Ford.

“Are we going back to the Magic Panda?” she asked.

“Hard to maintain my mystique as the Charlie Chan of Prospect while I’m nibbling on dim sum dumplings. Let’s go see Mr. Lum.”

read more

Related Posts


Share This

Nothing Fitz

Dec 18, 2013 by

Nothing Fitz

Nothing Fitz cover

An officer is murdered on the air base near Prospect, Tennessee. A sergeant is found standing over the body holding a bloody wrench, but OSI Agent Roxanne Wallace thinks the evidence against the defendant is too sketchy.

She enlists help from Prospect Police Chief Sam Jenkins and this odd couple jump through hoops to learn whether Master Sergeant Michael Fitzgerald really killed his captain.

Base workers are reluctant to cooperate with the special agent and her civilian police colleague, but while obtaining evidence to convict the killer, they uncover a criminal enterprise costing the Air National Guard a fortune.

Read An Excerpt

On a rainy Thursday morning I stood in my office pouring a cup of coffee, knowing I’d have to attack the monthly vehicle report I’d been avoiding. Just as I sat behind my desk, the intercom buzzed and I spoke to Sergeant Bettye Lambert.

“Change your mind and want a second cup of coffee?” I asked.

“No, you have a visitor.”

“To whom will I be speaking?” She laughed at my attempt at grammatical correctness. “Special Agent Wallace from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.”

“What’s so special about him?”

“Darlin’, I’m gonna let y’all see fer yer own se’f.” Bettye’s delightful Smoky Mountain accent took on a decidedly more country sound.

“What does it say on my door?”

She chuckled. “Chief.”

“And I believe the name plate on your desk says sergeant. Is it proper for you to speak to your fearless leader like that in front of a total stranger?”

“And you have a pleasant day, too, sir.” She hung up.

I took a sip of black coffee and moments later looked up at a gorgeous African-American woman wearing a tan suit with a skirt all of three inches above her knees. She held a khaki raincoat draped over her left arm and a five-hundred-dollar leather bag hung from her right shoulder. My visitor stepped up to the edge of my desk and extended a hand.

“Hi, I’m Roxanne Wallace, resident OSI agent at McGhee-Tyson.” I stood and shook her hand.

“Nice to meet you, Ms. Wallace. I’m Sam Jenkins.”

“I know.” Her smile lit up the room. “Call me Roxy.”

I nodded. “Please sit down.”

She did and so did I, after watching her skirt slide up another two inches. Nothing gets past a trained investigator.

“What can I do for you, Roxy?”

She tilted her head and fluttered a pair of the longest eyelashes I’d seen in years. Her almost full lips parted in a perfect smile.

“I want to ask a favor.”

Then she turned up the smile another 500 watts.

“I thought you might.”

“Word is you’re the best homicide investigator in this part of the world.”

I flashed my own dazzling but modest smile. “That’s a statement of fact. You spoke about a favor.”

“Yes it is, and so I did.”

She tilted her head again. This one could give Halle Berry a run for her money in a beauty pageant for girls over thirty.

“Have you heard about the captain who was murdered on the air base?”

“Sure. Beaten to death with a foot-long crescent wrench.”

Flutter, flutter. “I need your assistance.”

“I have no jurisdiction on your air base.”

“I know. I just thought I might enlist your help. You know, from one professional to another, you having so much experience and being so good at your job. That’s all.”

She smiled again, blinked a few times, and waited. I needed to get to the bottom line.

“Roxy, you are a beautiful woman and I love flattery as much as the next guy, but why are you asking me to help with an investigation on the air base when you must have a chain of command that can provide all the assistance you could possibly use?”

Her smile faded a little, but the eyelashes remained in motion. She tapped the long acrylic nails of her right hand on a lovely knee. The candy apple red paint job on her nails looked like something you’d see on a restored, chopped and channeled ’49 Mercury coupe.

“I really need some help,” she said. “I’ve been with OSI for ten years and never handled a murder before. My boss wants results and I hate to admit I’ve got nothing and don’t know where to look next. I just don’t want to look inept.”

“I thought the security police arrested someone at the scene.”

“They did, but he isn’t confessing, they don’t have much of a case on him, and I can’t find any evidence that definitively links him to the murder. Nothing fits.”

“Who processed the crime scene?”

“I did.”

“Are you a technician?”

“I learned in criminal investigation school. We often do our own work.”

“On a homicide?”

She shrugged.

“Where’s your regular forensics team?” I asked.

“Seymour Johnson Air Base.”

“That’s in South Carolina.”

“Yes, and I’ve got another problem.”


“I don’t think the defendant killed him.”

“Why do you think I can find your killer?”

She crossed her left leg over the right and resurrected the smile. “Because you’re Sam Jenkins.”

I flipped my hands in the air. “I give up,” I said. “If I wasn’t an old married man, I’d say I’m in love. But I have a job here. How long do you think this’ll take before you call in your big guns?”

“Why don’t you come to McGhee-Tyson and look at the crime scene. I’m sure you’ll know after you look things over.”

“May I hear your version of the incident first?”

“Of course you can.”

I’ve spent a lifetime getting bamboozled by good-looking women, but this one was a crackerjack—a real pro at interpersonal manipulation.

“The SPs responded to an anonymous call about a dead body in a maintenance hangar,” she said. “They found Captain Norwood Brower dead and a crew chief present. The guy is Master Sergeant Michael Fitzgerald. But I don’t buy him as the killer.”

“Why did the SPs lock him up?”

“He was standing over the body.”


“Holding a bloody wrench.”


“I know.”

“Any info on the phone call?”

“Prepaid cell.”

“Think that’s odd?”

“A little. It was early morning. There are usually some people out and about. Perhaps someone just didn’t want to get more involved.”

“Not great, but sounds possible. I’m not sure I can do more than you.”

“But you’ll help me?” She sounded like a little girl who lost her puppy.

“All I have to do is point you in the right direction for a good arrest and conviction?”

She did the head tilt thing again. “Uh-huh.”

“And if I work this magic for you, you’ll owe me a favor?”

The eyes went into motion. “You bet.” And she flashed a set of priceless pearly whites.

“Your car or mine?” I said.

read more

Related Posts


Share This

Heaven’s Gate

Jul 15, 2013 by

Heaven’s Gate

Heaven's Gate CoverProspect, Tennessee Police Chief Sam Jenkins goes undercover to buy automatic weapons and military munitions from a gun show hustler.

The chief enlists assistance from an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to provide front money for the operation, and by reviving his old skills as a New York detective, Sam pulls off the sting in grand fashion.

But things turn explosive on the “Peaceful side of the Smokies” when members of a neo-fascist militia group believe the crooked gun dealer Jenkins arrested has turned informant.

Read An Excerpt

Most of the police chiefs I know don’t work on weekends. I’m no exception. One warm Saturday in late May, I stood in the driveway washing the pollen off my gorgeous 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 when my equally gorgeous wife, Kate, stuck her head out the door.

“Hey, sweetie, Junior Huskey is on the phone.”

“Be right there.”

Junior is one of the twelve officers who work at Prospect PD. Prospect is a picturesque little city in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.

I rinsed a coating of suds off the Healey, walked through the garage, and answered a wall phone in our kitchen.

“What’s up, kid?” I said.

“Sorry ta bother ya, boss, but me an’ Bobby’s at a gun show in the Jacob Building at Chilhowee Park an’ we need supervision.” Bobby was Officer Bobby John Crockett, another one of Prospect’s finest.

“You want me to help you pick out a gun?” I asked.

“No, sir. We got us a po-leece problem.”

“Chilhowee Park is in Knoxville—not our area.”

“Sam, this looks big,” Junior said. “Y’all might need ta git yer federal friends involved.”

“Aren’t there any local cops at the show?”

“Yes, sir, two old guys from Knox County who don’t look like they can walk and chew t’bacca at the same time.”

“And you want to get involved?”

“If yew was here, yew would, too.”

“What have you got?”

“We had went half-way through the show and I needed ta go in the men’s room. Well, sir, three guys are standin’ there and one opens a briefcase. He showed the other two what looked like a pair o’ rocket propelled grenades and an old-fashioned pineapple hand grenade.”

“It was live ordnance?”

“Yes, sir, I believe so.”

“Why do you think that?”

“While I was takin’ a leak, I heard the guy with the briefcase say, ‘Yew want other stuff from Nam, I kin git ya U.S. or commie—new old stock.’”

“You see any money change hands?”

“The lookers said it was too expensive fer ‘em.”

“This guy still at the show?”

“He’ll be here till five o’clock. Got him a dealer’s table.”

“I’ll be there in half an hour.”

I grabbed the sport shirt I left hanging on the back of a chair and began putting it on when my wife asked a reasonable question.

“Where are you going now?”

“Knoxville gun show. Junior and Bobby have a problem.”

“And only the police chief can help them on a Saturday morning?”

“I’m their fearless leader.”

“You were going to help me make pickled ginger.”

“Soon as I get home.”

The streak of gray that runs through Kate’s dark hair fell over her left eye. I brushed it aside and kissed her.

“Hang in there, Kats. I’m off to fight crime and keep East Tennessee safe for democracy.”

“You’re such a creep.”

“But I’m your creep, love. I’ll be home soon.”

read more

Related Posts


Share This

Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves

May 7, 2013 by

Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves

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.


read more

Related Posts


Share This