A Touch of Morning Calm
A Sam Jenkins Mystery
by Wayne Zurl
Sam Jenkins’s experience as a New York detective and Tennessee police chief may be varied, but none is more interesting than his encounter with Korean organized crime.
Two former call girls, hoping to establish a legitimate massage therapy business in Prospect, ask for Sam’s help after a Korean mobster attempts to extort protection money from them. Jenkins agrees to investigate but wonders, is their business really aboveboard?
Sorting out truth from fiction in this complicated investigation becomes only a minor problem for Jenkins after a Korean girl, employed by the ex-hookers, is found murdered. And the trouble doesn’t stop there.
When bodies begin piling up, Sam finds it difficult to link the victims other than by their ethnicity. That’s when he again turns to the women in his life for assistance in his police endeavors. His wife, Kate; desk sergeant, Betty Lambert; and TV news anchor, Rachel Williamson, all contribute significantly to the successful closure of two murders in Prospect and finding who killed a pair of thugs in nearby Knoxville.
As often happens, an old colleague from Sam’s days in New York visits his former boss and the touristy town of Prospect, Tennessee. Retired Detective Fred Mazzio becomes intrigued with the murders and volunteers to team up with Jenkins’s assistant, John Gallagher, another ex-New York cop, and follow the undeveloped leads. The two former partners bicker constantly, but lend their fifty years of police experience to the investigation.
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Long before there was much ado about the division of North and South Korea at the 38th parallel, that land was known to the rest of the world as Koryeo.
In those ancient days, a dynasty existed in Koryeo called Chosun. To those people, the loose English translation of Koryeo meant The Land of Morning Calm.
If you’ve ever been to the Korean countryside, you know the phrase is appropriate. The same could be said for the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee.
But not all the time.
For the last two years, I’ve spent nearly one third of my life with Sergeant Bettye Lambert, my administrative officer and occasional partner. We get along famously—most of the time.
At my age, you’d expect I’d know how to deal with women, but experience shows I’m not as smart as I think. If I inherited the ability to handle the opposite sex efficiently, I would have taken a different job—like a hairdresser. But apparently in that area I’m hopeless. So I remain a cop.
The main telephone rang on Bettye’s desk. If the caller wanted me, she would buzz my phone and forward the call. Nothing happened. Moments later, she stood in my office doorway, looking a little miffed.
I could always tell when things weren’t going her way. She cocked her left hip to the side and rested a hand there. I thought she looked attractive. With her right hand, she leaned on the doorjamb and scowled at me.
At least she isn’t holding a gun.
“It’s your friend—that cheap blonde,” she said.
Bettye shook her head, and her blonde ponytail swung back and forth. “You know who.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t. Who are you talking about?”
“Well, you seemed to get along with her just fine. It was me she didn’t like.”
“Huh?” I remained in the dark.
“You damn well know who I’m talkin’ about, Sam Jenkins. That blonde we met on the Cecil Lovejoy case—that one from Chicago.”
“Ah-ha.” A light in my brain switched on.
“Yes, ah-ha. Now pick up your damn phone.”
Bettye gets away with saying things like that because we both know how important she is to my little police department. And hearing a note of jealousy in her voice boosts my ego.
“You’re beautiful when you’re angry,” I said. “Just why are you angry?”
“Lord have mercy, you’re pathetic.”
I tried a smile. “That may be true, but you’re still hopelessly in love with me.”
“Not after today, darlin’. I said answer the phone. That one’s waitin’ for ya.” She turned and walked away.
Sergeant Lambert made reference to a woman named Veronica Keeble. Two years ago, after a local man, one Cecil Lovejoy, was murdered in Prospect, Bettye and I interviewed Mrs. Keeble. Sort of a suspect at the time, Veronica was thirty-five-years-old, blonde and absolutely gorgeous. Did I mention she was an ex-hooker?
Jack Slade: Night of the Hunter
by Richard Dawes
Jack Slade, Demon Hunter, special operative for the Diamond Group, travels to San Francisco to help the police solve a series of vicious murders. Once there, he finds out that behind the murders is a powerful vampyre whose goal is world control. He fights the monster’s assassins, battles his half-demonic minions and finally faces the vampyre himself in an epic battle for dominance. In the process, Slade discovers secrets about himself that will change his life forever.
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Jack Slade paused in his climb up the face of the mountain and looked around at the Romanian countryside. It was a little before midnight, and like an unblinking eye, the full moon shimmered in the crystalline sky. It cast a silvery sheen over the densely wooded mountain range that dropped precipitously to the valley far below. In the distance, farmlands dotting the valley floor resembled a huge quilted coverlet stretched out in the misty darkness. Slade clung like a lizard to a rock-faced promontory six hundred feet above the valley, with still another hundred feet to go before he reached the top. Leaning out, he gazed upward and sighted the crumbling ruins of an ancient castle perched like an eagle’s aerie upon the crest.
Shaking the sweat from his eyes, he continued climbing.
Half an hour later, he reached the summit, climbed over the edge and flopped onto his back to catch his breath. He glanced at the moon again; at this height, it seemed close enough to touch. Perhaps it was fatigue, or maybe anxiety over what he knew was awaiting him beneath the castle, but he would swear the moon had become sinister, even menacing.
Grinning to keep his vivid imagination in check, Slade got to his feet and brushed the dust from his black leather jacket and dark trousers. He made sure the Colt .38 automatic was in its holster to the left of his belt buckle, angled for a cross-draw, and extra clips lined the back of his belt beneath the jacket.
Then he looked around.
The castle had been constructed in the fourteenth century, but hadn’t been occupied since the seventeenth. Now, it was only a ruin, with broken walls, collapsed ceilings, stone blocks and rotting timbers scattered everywhere. As he moved cautiously through the rubble, searching for an entrance, he thought back to the old gypsy woman who gave him the information about the castle. Slade found her in a village in the valley, and when he told her what he was looking for, she took him into her trailer and demanded to see his palm.
After scrutinizing his hand for some time, the wrinkles on her face deepened, and she gazed at him sadly. “You walk a dark path, young man,” she said in a voice thin with age. “You have one foot in this world and one foot in the other. It is your dark destiny to be a hunter—a hunter of demons.” She shook her head. “Your life is war, but this war will not end until the earth itself fades away.”
It was then she told him that what he searched for was at the top of the mountain beneath the castle ruins. And she told him about the entrance.
He saw it just where the old woman said it would be.
At the foot of a collapsed wall, almost hidden by fallen, rotten timbers, was a black hole leading down into the ground. Slade lifted an oaken beam, pushed it out of the way, then bent and peered inside. Only blackness met his gaze. A foul, rancid odor, like the stench of rotting flesh, struck him forcibly in the face. He pulled a flashlight from his pocket, flipped it on and aimed the beam into the hole. The entrance to a tunnel angled downward beyond the range of the light.
Taking a deep breath, Slade shifted the flashlight to his left hand, pulled the automatic, bent his six-foot frame almost in half and entered the cavern. The incline was gradual, and after about twenty feet, the tunnel opened up and widened so he could straighten and walk normally. The cave was cut from solid rock and continued downward into the bowels of the mountain. Slade directed his flash to the walls and ceiling, but he stopped when his foot struck a solid object. Shining the light downward, he saw that he just kicked a human skull. Casting the torch around, he discovered to his horror that half-buried skulls and bones littered the floor of the tunnel.
Suddenly he heard howls, like ravening beasts, sweeping up from the blackness beyond the light. The very darkness became malevolent—it clawed at the feeble light of the torch like some alien entity, seeking to devour it.
A drop of sweat cut a long icy furrow down Slade’s spine.