Home » NEWS » Arts & Entertainment » PHIL HARDWICK’S THE ALIBI, a serial novel: Chapter 9 The Chase is On

PHIL HARDWICK’S THE ALIBI, a serial novel: Chapter 9 The Chase is On

Alibi-graphic_rgb» Jack Boulder, Mississippi’s premier private investigator, seeks to recover the special Brett Favre MVP exhibit that has been stolen from the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum.

George Turnage spilled his guts to Jack Boulder. The two men were sitting at the dining room table at the Turnage home at Old Waverly. Across the hall was Turnage’s remarkable collection of trophies.

The Icabod Crane-looking, retired utility company engineer wept softly when he told Boulder that he had asked his wife Dee Dee for a trial separation. She would not have it. This was her fourth marriage and she was not going to let this one fail. To show her love for her husband she had managed to present to him three trophies that he coveted. They were the Brett Favre trophies mounted on a base to create a special exhibit at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame where Favre was to be inducted into the Class of 2015. Being an obsessive trophy collector Turnage could not believe that he actually possessed the magnificent pieces of sports history.

“You said that you think her brother had something to do with it?” Boulder said.

“That’s right.”

“And her brother is …”

“Jerrold Jefferson,” said Turnage, completing the sentence.

“Why do you say that?”

“She said that Jerrold would be pleased when he heard the news that I liked them so much,” said Turnage. “Secondly, he’s the only one I know who could get his hands on them. He could buy the whole sports museum if he wanted.”

Or steal them, thought Boulder.

“Where do you think your wife is going now?”

“Probably Clarkco,” said Turnage. “That’s where she always goes when she’s upset. She’s been going there since she was a teenager. She said she found Jesus there at summer camp one time.”

“What’s Clarkco?”

“It’s a state park just south of Meridian,” Turnage said. “Near the Alabama line.”

“Okay, thanks,” Boulder said, getting up from the chair.

“What are you going to do?” Turnage asked.

“Go hunting for trophies,” Boulder said.

Boulder bid farewell, walked out to his car and drove to the parking lot near the front of the Old Waverly Lodge. He called attorney Laura Webster and asked that she set up a three-way conference call with the two of them and Agent Sheila Burgess, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation agent assigned to the case. When all three were on the line he began.

“I just interviewed George Turnage, a sports trophy collector who lives at Old Waverly. His wife gave him the trophy exhibit in an attempt to save their floundering marriage, but he got remorse when he learned it was stolen. That’s when he called the 800-number. I also learned that his brother-in-law is none other than Jerrold Jefferson, owner of Caliber Alarm and a bunch of other security related companies.”

Agent Burris said, “That fits nicely. Caliber Alarm was working on the museum security system at the time of the theft. Sister begs a favor. Good timing.”

“Maybe too good,” said Boulder.

“Our guys will keep working on the Caliber Alarm and Jerrold Jefferson angle,” Burgess said. “Be careful Boulder. Jefferson is the closest thing we have to the Mafia in Mississippi. Our organized crime section has been watching him for years, but they never can get enough on him.”

“There is still one thing I don’t understand,” said Laura Webster. “Why was Alderwoman Ruth Ann Tucker’s car used?”

“I’ve got someone working on that aspect of this case as well,” Burgess replied.

“You guys keep talking to each other,” said Boulder. “I’m going to McDonald’s.

“McDonald’s?” spurted both of the other voices on the line.

“I placed a tracker on Dee Dee Turnage’s car, but I have to be on the Internet to follow it,” Boulder said. “McDonald’s has free wi-fi in most all their restaurants. Talk to y’all later.”

Boulder the investigator drove to the McDonald’s on Highway 45, went inside and ordered coffee. It was now shortly after 2:00 p.m. He picked the most private table and got online. In less than two minutes he had connected to the tracker software. Sure enough, it showed that the white Lexus that he had attached it to was now at Clarkco State Park. He finished his coffee and drove south.

Two hours later he pulled into the park. There was guard house at the park entrance for registration, but it was empty. He drove past it. A sign pointed the way across a scenic one lane dam to the cabins. Boulder drove slowly along a meandering road that led to the cabins. It was early March so the trees were still almost winter bare, providing easy viewing through the woods. He noticed a white SUV at Cabin 2, but drove perhaps a half mile to the end of the road in order to check out all of the cabins. There were no other white SUV’s. He parked across a small cove beside a cabin that had no guests. For an hour he simply observed. At one point a woman came out of the cabin and smoked a cigarette while sitting at a picnic table and staring at the lake. He assumed it was Dee Dee Turnage. Shortly after dark, the woman came out of the cabin and got into the Lexus. She drove back toward the park entrance. Boulder followed a safe distance behind. The Lexus headed west to the small town of Quitman. Five miles later the Lexus parked in front of an Italian restaurant in the downtown area. Boulder observed the woman get out of the Lexus and go inside. He immediately pulled up beside her vehicle, got out and looked at the back seat. There, laying on the floorboard in front of the back seat, he saw the gleam from the silver trophies exhibit. He pulled the door handle on the passenger side, but the door would not open. He walked briskly around to the driver side door and pulled the handle. It opened. As the interior light came on inside the Lexus he reached in without haste and jerked the trophies exhibit up to the front seat. He closed the door as quietly as he could, got back into his own car and headed out of town, checking his rearview mirror every minute or so. Before long, he was past Meridian and headed west on Interstate 20 toward Jackson. He picked up his cell phone and called Laura.

“I have the trophies,” he said as soon as she answered. “Dee Dee Turnage left her car unlocked when she went inside a restaurant. They were inside her vehicle. I helped myself to them.”

“Where are you now?” Laura asked. “Oh wait, I can find you on my smartphone. You gave me permission. Remember?”

“I’ve got to stop for gas,” he said. “I’m almost out. I should be there in about an hour and fifteen minutes.”

“Meet me at my office downtown,” she said. “That will be the safest place to leave the trophies.”

Boulder stopped in Newton for gas and a restroom break. Before getting back in his car he looked around for any sign of being followed. In the cold night air he could see the vapor from people’s breaths and from vehicle exhaust. He laid his cell phone on the passenger seat and then eyed the trophies that he had placed on the front floor board.

By 9:45 p.m. he was approaching downtown Jackson via Pearl Street. Traffic was very light. As he passed by the state fairgrounds he noted that there was only one other car on the road. It was stopped ahead of him, blocking a lane. Its emergency flashers were blinking off and on. As he approached the vehicle he slowed. Suddenly, a white van appeared beside him and forced him off the road and onto the grassy median. His car slid sideways. As soon as it stopped his passenger side window was smashed to pieces. He looked to his right to see a black-gloved hand holding a black canister in the window.

Before he could react, a blast of pepper spray covered his face, blinding him and inflicting burning pain in his eyes. He heard his doors open and then shut. After that, there was the sound of a vehicle driving away.

It took almost fifteen minutes for him to recover enough to see that the trophies exhibit and his cell phone were gone.

» NEXT WEEK: Resolution

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