From New York to the Smokies
A Collection of Sam Jenkins Mysteries
by Wayne Zurl
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.”
The Boat to Prison
I pointed the twenty-six foot Ulrichsen cabin boat southwest from Jones Inlet on Long Island toward the Acid Waters off the New Jersey coast. Driving the heavy lapstreak sea skiff dead into a light breeze on a smooth sea, an occasional swell rose above the ripples, but I steered to compensate, and the hull rolled over the waves effortlessly.
On the rear deck, ten feet behind the open wheelhouse where I sat, my father and his two friends drank beer and talked union business.
Tony Casale, the president of local something-or-other of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters of America said, “That fuckin’ Joey Franconero thinks he can get my job next election. Yeah? Fuck him. That’s not gonna happen. I know he’s screwin’ Angelo Saldano’s sister. One word from me and Joey’s history. You know what I’m sayin’, Eddy?”
“Joey’s married,” my father said. “He’s crazy to get involved with Angelo’s sister.”
I was only seventeen then, July, 1963. But I used to read Newsday, and I remembered that Saldano was a Teamster’s labor leader with more than the usual rumored connections to organized crime.
“That’s what I’m talkin’ about,” Casale said and tapped his forehead with the heel of his hand.
“You’d drop a dime on Angelo?” my father asked.
“No, Eddy, I’d let Joey screw me with the membership like he’s screwing Rosie Saldano. Yeah, I’d tell Angelo. Whaddaya think? Let Angie catch that prick in the saddle with his little sister, and after that, good-bye Joey.”
My old man didn’t seem used to such drastic or permanent solutions.
I turned for a moment and stared at my father. Worry clouded his usual happy-go-lucky expression. Perhaps he didn’t like where the conversation was headed.
He saw me watching him. “Hey, Sam,” he said, “give it a little more gas. Let’s get there before the fish are all gone.”
I pushed the throttle forward slightly. The tachometer showed an extra 500 RPMs, the engine leveled off and sounded a little louder. My father looked a bit more secure with the extra noise.
Casale didn’t break five-foot-six in his boat shoes, but he acted like the toughest man alive. He compensated for a small body by having a big mouth and acting like he owned the world. His swarthy good looks and expensive wardrobe may have influenced some people, but his act didn’t work on me.
“Timing is everything in an election, Eddy,” Casale said. “Look how you made shop steward. I tell Angelo. Angelo takes care of Joey when the time is right, and there you go—I run unopposed.”
I could still hear their conversation and turned briefly to look toward the rear. My father sat on the engine housing near the stern of the boat, a can of Rheingold beer in his right hand. He shook his head as he listened to Casale’s logic. The boat engine purred steadily, and the exhaust gurgled, but I could hear everything they said. They drank enough beer not to think about keeping their voices low.
“I like my job, and I plan to keep it,” Casale said, as he drained his own can of beer.
I continued eavesdropping and steered the boat toward New Jersey.
We cleared the jetty back at Jones Inlet an hour earlier. Soon we’d be ready to go after the bluefish.
“Hey, kid, whaddaya figger?” Casale called out. “How much longer till we get inta those blues?”
I looked at my watch. “Half hour, forty minutes maybe, Mr. Casale. You’ll start seeing the boats when we get close. We’re a little late, but it won’t matter. The paper said everybody’s killing the blues out here.”
“Okay, kid. Give us a heads-up when we get close, ya hear me? And for chrissakes, call me Tony, will ya?”
I flipped the pint-sized creep a two-fingered salute. “Sure, you bet.”