Thank you for your interview, Sam Jenkins. Can you tell us your story?
Sure, I love to talk about myself. Shortly after World War Two I was born in Brooklyn, New York. Although I never wanted to leave a community with such an efficient trolley system, I had little to say in my parents’ decision to pick up and move east to Long Island where I grew up.
Like most American males of the baby-boomer generation, I spent my adolescence wanting to be a cowboy, soldier, or policeman. Those aspirations were based on perceptions fostered by movies and later television. The Vietnam War accounted for my time as a soldier, as did sixteen more years in the Army Reserves. After separating from active duty and returning to the US, the New York State Employment Service told me I possessed no marketable civilian skills. So, I became a cop. That was as close to military life as I could find. When I retired from my first police job, I left the land of the Big Apple, to live in the picturesque foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee with my wife, Kate.
I still like the cowboy idea, but have interrupted that aspiration by taking on the position of police chief in the sleepy little city of Prospect, Tennessee. If you believe what my biographer writes, you’ll think Prospect has a higher per capita homicide rate than Detroit.
Can you tell us about one of your most distinguishable features?
A woman once told me I have the darkest eyes she’s ever seen. She said that if I fixed her with a scowl and a stare, she’d confess to anything I accused her of. That’s not a bad thing to have in a cop’s arsenal.
What would I love the most about you?
My wife says that under my tough-guy exterior, I often appear like nothing more than a six-foot, hundred and eighty pound little boy.
What would I hate the most about you?
If you were a criminal or fugitive, my tenacity. I’d spare no expense or energy to pursue you to the end s of the earth. I don’t mind losing in a casual contest, but I hate seeing justice go un-served. If you’re a normal human being, how I try to be perfect, that I’m usually always right, and my inherent modesty.
Where do you go when you are angry?
The basement. I have a workshop down there, my fishing gear, lots of memorabilia hanging on the walls, and old books. It’s orderly and squared away. And there is that refrigerator with cold beer.
What makes you laugh out loud?
Cleverly written, intelligent humor—a thinking person’s slapstick.
What is in your refrigerator right now?
I’m not a typical American meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. I just looked and found: ricotta cheese, crab meat, fresh basil, a couple jars of different chutneys, eggs, pepperoni, lots of vegetables, fruit, and a half full bottle of tonic water.
What is your most treasured possession?
Peace of mind. An intangible state that allows me to mentally relax. Tranquility. Although there is an engraved gold pen that I’m glad to own.
What is your greatest fear?
Getting caught with my pants down and not having a clever line to get me out of the embarrassing situation.
What is the trait you most not like about yourself?
At times, the impatience I inherited from my grandfather.
Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?
Absolutely. Wayne has known me since we were kids. We share lots of similar experiences. It seems that for years, every time I turned around he was there, too.
What is your idea of a perfect day?
Partly cloudy, sixty-five degrees, five mile-an-hour breeze, no annoying jobs pending, my wife along for the ride, autumn colors in the trees, the faint smell of fallen leaves in the air.
What are three must haves when shopping at the grocery store?
Only three? Too restrictive. Good olive oil, seafood, fresh produce….now let’s get real and add: crusty bread, cheese, and wine.
I’m opening up your cabinet. What foods do I see?
Lots of pasta, all different shapes. And yes, the shape does make a difference. A couple bags of different rice, spices, flavored mustards, Indian relishes, out of the ordinary jams and preserves, different cooking oils and vinegars.
If you could change one physical thing about yourself, what would that be?
From an old Army injury, I have a bad left leg that hurts like hell in damp, cold weather. Springtime is the worst. I could do without that.
Are you a loner or do you prefer to surround yourself with friends?
More of a loner, but having a good partner (personal or professional) is essential. I don’t like crowds of more than six people. I hate weddings and bar mitzvahs.
Who is your best friend?
In addition to my wife, there’s this guy Pauly from back in the old neighborhood. He appears in that story about us as kids trying to save my old man from getting jammed up and doing hard time. Pauly’s not formally educated, but he’s terribly street smart and with his native intelligence and sense of humor, he can be very funny when he puts on his act.
Do you have children?
No human children. We’ve had a miniature poodle, a Scottish terrier who stayed with us for seventeen years, and a hateful cat who we rescued from the brink of death. She lived to be fifteen and demonstrated how cats really have nine lives. I spent so much on vet bills, I could have bought a new Ferrari with that money.
What is your favorite weather?
Cool and clear, but not too much sun (see that question above about the perfect day.) Autumn is best, but spring is a close second.
What’s your idea of a perfect meal?
Any kind of seafood, but let’s start with a bucket of steamers and melted butter. Then a main course of freshly caught fish filets stuffed with crabmeat and topped with a light wine and cheese sauce, steamed and seasoned vegetables, a rice pilaf, and a few hush puppies on the side. That sounds like it would go well with a very cold bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.
Someone is secretly in love with you. Who is it and how do you feel about that?
That’s nice. Everybody likes to be loved. But since I’m married, her identity shall remain as secret as her affections.
Do you like to cook? If so, what is your favorite thing to cook?
I do…a lot, because I love to eat. I guess Italian things are my specialty, but I can do fairly well with other dishes from the Mediterranean. Even people who tend to eat bland things would like one of my simple mixes of sautéed vegetables over pasta and topped with marinated shrimp and Romano cheese. My wife makes great salads. I wouldn’t even try to compete with her. As a joint effort we make some good grub.
If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?
Eat and drink all the fattening things I’ve tried to avoid after I turned fifty, and call a few friends and tell them what to do after I’m gone.
About The Anthology Collection
Title: From New York To The Smokies
Author: Wayne Zurl
Series: 5 Book Anthology Collection from the Sam Jenkins Mystery Series
Publisher: Melange Books, LLC
Publication Date: April 16, 2015
Format: Paperback - 163 pages / eBook / PDF
Genre: Mystery / Police Procedural
Buy The Anthology Collection:
Author Wayne Zurl is back with his popular Sam Jenkins Mysteries Series. From New York To The Smokies is a 5 book anthology collection from the Sam Jenkins Mysteries Series!
THE BOAT TO PRISON
Seventeen-year-old Sam Jenkins is busy fishing and falling in love with a girl named Kate. But with a father involved with the union and a divorced mother, Sam often finds himself acting like the adult of the family. During a fishing trip off Long Island, Sam overhears a conversation involving dangerous plans that can land his dad in jail. To keep his father out of prison, Sam teams up with detectives from the county’s rackets bureau and enlists the help of two friends to pull off an operation far beyond their usual high school curriculum.
Police community Service Aide Liz Lopez should be in fine spirits—she’s in line for a promotion to police officer and a raise. But her sullen demeanor tells her boss, Lieutenant Sam Jenkins, that Liz is anything but happy. Jenkins begins an unofficial investigation to find out what’s going on. The detective learns of a bizarre home life and a dark secret Liz keeps under wraps. FAVORS is a story of how the police take care of their own—in an honest and compassionate way.
ANGEL OF THE LORD
A killer is on the loose in Prospect, Tennessee. He strikes repeatedly, each time leaving a cryptic message for the police to find. By the time a fifth body turns up, Police Chief Sam Jenkins is under pressure—either solve the murders or bring in outside help. But the chief’s ego won’t allow others to work his cases. And at the eleventh hour he tracks down a prime suspect, but death is only seconds away for the next victim.
MASSACRE AT BIG BEAR CREEK
A misunderstanding between hunters rapidly escalates into a battle not seen in Southern Appalachia since the Hatfield and McCoy feud. As bodies pile up faster than evidence, Sam Jenkins and the officers of Prospect PD scour the remote hills and valleys of East Tennessee and North Carolina to solve a case that reads more like an old west adventure than a modern police drama.
ODE TO WILLIE JOE
Prospect, Tennessee Police Chief Sam Jenkins receives two reports of UFO sightings in three days. The gritty ex-New York detective doesn’t believe in coincidence…or space aliens, but he can’t find anything to explain a glowing spaceship and little green men—until he sends Sergeant Stan Rose and Officer Junior Huskey to Campbell’s Woods. They call in a startling discovery, and the investigation begins.
From ANGEL OF THE LORD
The rain never stopped. From early June through late August, it poured or drizzled almost every day. I thought if I stood still too long I might begin to mold. It reminded me of the monsoons in Southeast Asia.
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.”
“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.
“How’d ya find these two?” Jackie asked of no one in particular.
“I’s checkin’ the neighborhood for a missin’ child,” Joey said. “Got no answer here, but there was two cars in the driveway and the garage was closed. Figgered someone’s home, so I walked ‘round back and seen them layin’ here on the floor.”
“Nice wheels out there,” David said.
“Audi S7 and an F-Type Jag,” I said. “Pushing a hundred grand apiece.”
“And they’re relatively new, right?” Morris asked.
“The Jag’s new, and the Audi’s not far behind.”
“With these two sporty drivers, why do you suppose there’s an oil spot on the concrete driveway?”
“Good question, Mo,” I said. “Something for our ace evidence technicians to explore.”
“We’ll git’er done,” Jackie said.
“And take pictures of this table top. Someone ruined a nice antique.”
Jackie looked closer at the numbers someone crudely scratched into the mellow wood finish.
“Thirteen thirteen,” he said. “Wonder what that means?”
“Two unlucky numbers,” Morris said.
“Two unlucky guys,” I said. “Has to mean something. Finding out will keep me from playing in the traffic.”
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About The Author
Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.
Twenty (20) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been published as eBooks and many produced as audio books. Zurl has won Eric Hoffer and Indie Book Awards, and was named a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award.
His full-length novels are: A NEW PROSPECT, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT, HEROES & LOVERS, and PIGEON RIVER BLUES.
His full-length novels are: A NEW PROSPECT, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT, HEROES & LOVERS, and PIGEON RIVER BLUES.
The all new FROM NEW YORK TO THE SMOKIES, an anthology of five Sam Jenkins mysteries is available in print and eBook, published by Melange Books, LLC.
For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see www.waynezurlbooks.net. You may read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place.
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