Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Character Interview: Jefferson Chene

The character interview series continues with Jefferson Chene, the protagonist in “Your Turn to Die”.  This is the second book in the contemporary mystery series, set in the Detroit area.

Here’s a little about the story.

It was supposed to be a friendly round of paintball. But blood, not paint, covers Kyle Morrissey’s body. Though admired by the public for his charity, the businessman was no choirboy. Could it be that more than one person want him dead? Sergeant Jefferson Chene and his detective squad catch the case. With two new faces on the team, he finds himself in the unfamiliar role as mentor. He is also cautiously beginning a relationship with Simone Bettencourt, the beautiful woman he met while pursuing a serial murderer. Complicating the case are two retired gangsters, a fortune in jewels, and Detroit’s history of organized crime. But the squad must utilize every resource available to catch a killer.

Tell us a little about yourself:  

I’m not given to talking about myself much. I grew up in Detroit in an orphanage run by the Catholic church. My name comes from the intersection near downtown Detroit where I was found. Turns out the cops accidentally wrote that down on the report instead of ‘Baby Doe’ or something like that. By the time anyone noticed it, the name was part of the official record and it stuck. I was raised by the nuns and a priest who ran the orphanage and an adjacent school. I got into my fair share of mischief, but ended up with a very strict sense of right and wrong.  That’s probably why I became a cop.

How did your background get you involved in this novel? 

I’m a detective sergeant with the Michigan State Police. We handle major cases, usually those that cross jurisdictional lines, like from one suburban city to another.  The Morrissey homicide fits the bill. He had business operations in three counties and was killed in another area. Basically, nobody else wanted to carry the load. 

Who came first, you or the author? 

 (laughs sarcastically) Guess that one’s up for debate, depending on who you ask. Although he is definitely older than dirt. But I’ve always been here. He just recognized my cases would make for a good story. Maybe a movie someday.  I wonder if Will Smith would play me. (more laughter) Or maybe somebody younger.

What’s your greatest strength?   And of course, we want to know the opposite, your greatest weakness. 

Strength would be my intelligence. I’m a student of criminal behavior. After more than ten years as a cop, I’ve seen a lot. Sometimes I can figure out a motive and who stands to gain the most from the crime. That’s helped me solve a number of cases.   

Weakness… well, I’m not exactly a lady’s man. There’s a lot about women that I don’t understand, (chuckles) and probably never will.

What is it about this mystery that sets it apart from the others?   

Kyle Morrissey is killed during a game of paintball. So right away, there were more than a hundred suspects we had to eliminate who were playing the game. To the general public, he was a decent guy, with a couple of successful businesses. He was a bit of a philanthropist, sharing the wealth with some charities. But as the investigation goes, we’re learning this guy was a real ladies’ man. The more we dig, the more dirt we find. 

Tell us something about your background that may or may not be revealed in the book?  

(chuckles again) This is starting to sound like one of those online dating profiles. Okay, here goes. I enjoy cooking. I read fiction, mostly crime stories like Elmore Leonard’s work. After all these years, I’ve never considered trying to find my biological parents. They must have had their reasons for abandoning me. C’est La Vie.  That’s life. 

Are you the type of person who always seeks out the company of others?  

Nah, I’m comfortable on my own.  I’m close with the rest of the squad and have a small circle of good friends and acquaintances. I like people but I’m just not the gregarious type.

What do you do to relax after a day of fighting crime?

A decent meal, a drink or two and maybe read a couple of chapters of a good book. There’s a lot of great stories out there. I’m an insomniac, so sleep is elusive. It’s also vastly overrated.

Who’s your best friend and what influence have they had on your life? 

 (Hesitates) I’d have to say Ted, but don’t let him hear that. He’s sort of a Dutch uncle. I’ve known him since I was 15 when I tried to swipe a meal at his saloon.  He’s a good sounding board for whatever case we’re working on. Ted knows all about my past and doesn’t hold it against me. Too much. 

Which do you prefer, music or television?  

I’ll watch football on television, but that’s about it. Music. Give me some old Motown, blues, rock and roll or jazz and I’m good.

What has been the most romantic thing you’ve ever done or instigated?

(Laughs heartily) You understand I’m not much of a romantic. There isn't a string of broken hearts behind me. (Pauses for a moment). Okay, I don’t know if it’s really romantic, but you can be the judge.  One night after dinner with Simone, the young lady I’ve been seeing, I shaved her legs. A tub filled with warm water, lather and a very slippery woman. It was a long, slow process. That's all I will say about that.

Here’s an excerpt from the story.

Home was a small square house on a dead end street about five miles north of Ted’s saloon. It was on a narrow canal that flowed into Lake St. Clair. The place had three good sized bedrooms, a roomy kitchen and a small living room with a working fireplace. Out back was a three season room that overlooked the canal. I’d found it a couple of years ago when the housing market crashed. It was a foreclosure that needed a lot of work. While I’m comfortable with cleaning and painting, I left the serious projects for professionals. There’s a one car detached garage that backs up to the seawall for the canal. As I swung into the driveway my lights reflected on Simone’s car. There were a couple of lights on low in the kitchen. I locked the car and came through the side door.

“I’m out back.”

“Need anything?”

“No, I’m good now.”

The storm windows were up and a nice breeze was flowing in from the lake. Simone was reclining on the cushions of a rattan sofa, a thick novel in her hands. She marked her place with a length of ribbon and closed the book. I started to walk past her toward one of the matching chairs. She reached up and caught my hand. Dropping the book, Simone swung her feet to the floor and stood. Her arms went around me. I watched as she tipped her head back, offering me a kiss. No one would ever confuse me with Casanova. But I’m not one to pass up a kiss from a beautiful woman. 

“Did you like my message?” she asked timidly.

“Yeah, it was a pleasant surprise.”

Simone was supposed to be gone all day with family obligations. I hadn’t expected to see her. An hour ago she sent me a text, asking if it was okay if she stopped by. Swamped behind the bar with patrons, my response had been an exclamation point. I didn’t have time to elaborate. Simone lives in an apartment out in Berkley, about a forty-minute drive from my place in St. Clair Shores. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I’d given her a key. This was the first time she’d used it.

“Should I ask about your day?” she whispered.

“No. Tell me about yours.”

“It was mother-daughter stuff. A couple of nice meals, some shopping and plenty of conversation. We’re thinking about a week in Paris in September, after the summer tourists are gone.”

“Sounds like fun.”

Simone pressed her cheek against my chest. “You could go with us.”

The idea of a family vacation took me by surprise. I’d met her mother twice. The reception was a little strained both times. I doubted she’d warm up to me during a trip to France. But as Graymaker guessed, I have issues with relationships.

After being in the saloon for eight hours, the summer air felt invigorating. Taking her hand, I guided Simone out the back door and down to the seawall. Leaning against the garage, I pulled off my boots and socks. The water level in the canal was down enough so I could dangle my legs over the edge and only my toes would get wet. She gave me a curious look.

“I am not going skinny dipping.”

“Neither am I. But it’s peaceful out here and the breeze feels good.” I settled on the dock and lowered my legs. The cool water splashed over my feet.

She was wearing a tailored pair of navy shorts and a white silk blouse with short sleeves. The blouse had tiny darts of green and gold throughout. Simone hesitated before stepping out of her sandals. As she sat beside me, she leaned her head on my shoulder. I caught a whiff of perfume. The water splashed up her leg and she gave a little start.

“It’s freezing.”

“Lake Michigan is colder. Lake Superior still has ice cubes in it.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” In the starlight I could see her eyes. They twinkled with their own power.

“Well, I will do my best to keep you warm.”

My arm was around her waist. I was leaning in for a kiss when my phone rang. It had the insistent tone signifying it was work related. Simone recognized it as well. Quickly she darted in and pressed her lips to mine.

“Chene,” I said, answering the line but refusing to let her go.

“Y’all see the news?” Cantrell’s rough country voice scratched my ear.

“The war games bit?”

“Yeah. That un’s ours now.”

“You got a plan, Pappy?”

“Nah. Meetcha all at Lil Nino’s at eight. Y’all can work it out.”

“You call the squad?”


“Later, Pappy.” He was already gone.

I turned and flipped the phone in the general direction of my boots. Simone had a look of curiosity on her face. I could feel a tremor of tension in her body as it rested against me.

“A morning meeting. Seems like we have a new case.”

She relaxed slightly. “I thought you might have to leave right away.”

“No, it will keep.”

“I’m getting cold.” She pulled her feet from the water and pressed them against my jeans.

“Maybe we should go inside.”

“I seem to recall a comment about keeping me warm.” 

“It’s a standing offer.”

Her eyes sparked with laughter but she struggled with what I guessed was a look of disappointment. “Well, I suppose that will have to do. Come along, Jeff.”

Gracefully she swung her legs up onto the seawall and rose.

Images of warming her swept through my mind. 

About the Author:

Mark Love lived for many years in the metropolitan Detroit area, where crime and corruption are always prevalent. A former freelance reporter, Love honed his writing skills covering features and hard news. He is the author of the Jamie Richmond romance mysteries, Devious, Vanishing Act and Fleeing Beauty, and the short story Stealing Haven, which is in the collection Once Upon a Summer.  

His newest mystery series, starring Jefferson Chene includes WHY 319? and the new release Your Turn to Die.  Both Chene novels are also available on Audible. Love resides in west Michigan with his wife, Kim. He enjoys a wide variety of music, books, travel, cooking and the great outdoors.

You can find him on Facebook, Amazon and his blog at the links below.

Buy Links

Since Chene mentioned it, this tune by Chuck Berry says it all.

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