Chief Sam Jenkins learns of an illegal card game and the sale of moonshine at the Iron Skillet restaurant and decides to raid the premises. That looked straight forward until a firearms examiner links a confiscated handgun to an unsolved homicide. Jenkins encounters political corruption, domestic abuse, and a cover-up in his pursuit to solve the murder.
I don’t think she really hates me, but she does cringe every time I walk into her office. Maybe it’s the lawyer jokes I tell, or maybe it’s how I show my lack of respect for the local politicians. I guess I’m comfortable with our relationship. Someday Moira may learn the Jenkins method of compromise: We talk about it and then do it my way.
“You expect me to go before a judge and ask for a warrant so you can search a restaurant for the proceeds of illegal gambling?”
“Yes, ma’am, that’s why I’m here,” I said.
“Lord have mercy, Sam, it’s only a card game.”
“In the last seven days my cops have made two DUI arrests of men leaving that place after hours. Both people said they were playing cards and the owner was chopping the pot.”
“If you held a card game at your home, wouldn’t you accept some reimbursement for the food and drink you offered the players?”
“This guy is taking fifteen percent from each pot. They’re playing dollar–five poker. That’s more than the goombahs get back where I used to work. He’s also operating a cash bar serving untaxed moonshine; his restaurant only has a beer license.”
“I hear what you’re sayin’, Sam. I understand. Do you understand that Audie Blevins has operated that restaurant for almost forty years? His daddy owned it for Lord knows how many years before that. Audie’s brother is the chairman of the county commission and Audie’s a very—and I emphasize very—big supporter of and contributor to the local Republican party.”
“Well, three cheers for Audie! He sounds like a real good ol’ boy. Do I have to tell you I don’t give a rat’s ass to whom he’s related or to what he contributes?” I asked Moira Menzies, the chief assistant district attorney general in Blount County, Tennessee.
“You’re not goin’ away are you?”
I smiled at her. My lady-killer smile has been known to melt the coldest heart.
“Don’t try that smile on me, Jenkins; more cops have tried that act than I can count.”
“Yeah, but I’m the only ex-New York cop you know, and I’ll bet I’m the best lookin’ police chief in the county.”
“You sure ain’t the most modest. Did they ask you to retire from that police department in New York?”
“Hey, that was uncalled for. If I had feelings, they’d be hurt.”
She laughed. “Come on, I’ll walk you up to the judge’s chambers.”
Twenty minutes later I had my no-knock search warrant for the Iron Skillet restaurant.
“You think the judge will drop a dime on Audie and give him a heads-up about the warrant?” I asked Moira.
“Judge Myers is a pretty straight shooter, but anything’s possible. Audie is well connected.”
“Let’s hope Judge Myers believes in truth, justice, and the American way.”
“Let’s hope he believes in the first two,” she said.
At 11:30 Saturday night, six of the twelve cops employed by Prospect PD and I waited outside the Iron Skillet on Sevierville Road. Five of us had driven our personally- owned pick-up trucks to haul away the furniture, file cabinets, and other accouterments used by the owner to promote gambling and sell untaxed alcoholic beverages.
“Twelve cars plus Audie’s; must be a couple of games goin’ on,” Sergeant Stan Rose observed.
“I guess. No one new has shown up for thirty minutes. Time to kick the door in,” I said.
“Sounds like a plan.”
“I wish we had a paddy wagon. It looks unprofessional using our own pick-up trucks.”
“A paddy wagon? Sometimes we look like the Keystone Cops, but there’s no reason we need a paddy wagon.”
“Each precinct had a paddy wagon in New York.”
“You own a pick-up in New York?”
“Of course not.”
“You sayin’ I’m getting like the locals?” I asked.
Stanley grew up in Los Angeles and worked there as a cop before coming to Tennessee. Both he and I think we’re a little different.
“I’ve got no theory; just presenting the evidence.”
“Don’t you feel stereotypical driving a Cadillac?”
“I do not. A brother’s got to look good when he’s on the road; clean car, pretty woman, you unnerstand what I’m sayin’?” He occasionally lapses into Ebonics for my benefit.
“Uh-huh. My man, right on, what it is!” I can do that, too, I thought.
“We ready to go?” he asked.
“I was ready before you started all this ethnic crap.”
“Well then, great white leader?”
“My wife doesn’t give me as much trouble as you.”
Stanley gave me a big grin. It was showtime.
I keyed the portable radio I held, “Prospect One to all units, do it.”
Officers Bobby John Crockett and Vernon Hobbs slammed on the front door. Harlan Flatt, Leonard Alcock, and Junior Huskey covered the back door and the windows at the rear of the restaurant. Stanley and I moseyed up to the front.
A man looking like a bartender answered the door. The two cops pushed their way in. Stan and I followed.
“Police department, we have a search warrant. Nobody move!” Bobby called out. No one moved.
“Where’s Audie Blevins?” I asked, waving a copy of the warrant in my left hand.
“That would be me,” said a short, well-dressed man of about sixty. I handed him the paper.
“This is a warrant to search your premises for evidence of illegal gambling and untaxed liquor,” I said. “I see two card games, care to explain anything?”
“Jest some friendly games, officer. We get t’gether ever once’t in a while t’ play cards; nothin’ more.”
“Have a seat, Mr. Blevins, and don’t touch anything.” Turning to the bartender I said, “What’s your name?”
“James Begley, sir. Most ever’ one calls me Jammer.”
“Okay, Jammer, you have a seat, too.”
I told Bobby Crockett to open the back door and let the three other cops in. While Stan and I took names and capped the drinks on the tables with Glad-Wrap, the boys searched the restaurant, the adjacent office, and the storerooms.
Copyright© Wayne Zurl. All rights reserved.