Graceland on Wheels

A Sam Jenkins Mysteries

by Wayne Zurl

A collection of six crime stories that take you on a trip through the more off-beat regions of law enforcement.

Follow Prospect, Tennessee’s police chief Sam Jenkins as he meets Gypsy conmen and a beautiful fortune teller in GYPSIES, TRAMPS & THIEVES, a gun show hustler and his right-wing militia cronies in HEAVEN’S GATE and a collection of pool hustlers competing for enough prize money they’d kill for in ALVIS IS IN THE BUILDING.

A Chinese restaurant owner loses a little finger and feels the grip of vicious thugs from a Malaysian triad in THE SWAN TATTOO. The murder of an Elvis impersonator for a few bits of gold takes you on board GRACELAND ON WHEELS, and in NOTHING FITZ, an unlikely coalition of crooks on a National Guard air base are responsible for a brutal murder.




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. Look at these people...they’re animals.”

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

Four sumo-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 I 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, the 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! Kuai, Kuai!”

The calmest man in the room, a thin, young guy with a ponytail and a 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 at the restaurant 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.”

“Ten-four, Prospect-one. Five-zero-one is ten-three-six now,” Bettye said calmly—she never gets rattled. “He’ll meet you at BMH as soon as possible.”

“Ten-four, Headquarters,” I said. “Five-oh-one, switch to channel two.”

I flipped a toggle on my radio console and heard, “Five-oh-one 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.”

“Ten-four,” 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.
"Graceland on Wheels" by Wayne Zurl


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