Criminal Mischief: Episode #37: Who The Heck Is Jake Longly?
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Who the Heck is Jake Longly?
Jake Longly is the protagonist of my series of comedic thrillers (DEEP SIX, A-LIST, SUNSHINE STATE, RIGGED). He’s an ex-professional baseball player. Pitcher for the Texas Rangers with an overpowering fastball. Until his rotator cuff injury ended his career. Then he purchased Captain Rocky’s, a bar/restaurant on the sand in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
His major life goals now are running his bar and chasing bikinis. Worthy goals for Jake. His father Ray feels otherwise. Ray has some murky background in the US military world of black ops and now runs a P.I. firm in Gulf Shores. He can’t understand why Jake won’t work for him and is constantly trying to drag Jake into his world. Jake’s refusal creates tension, to say the least.
From SUNSHINE STATE:
Here’s the deal. Ray thinks I’m a wimp. Has for years. The best I can remember it began around the time I left major league baseball. For several years, I pitched for the Texas Rangers. Could really bring the heat. A hundred miles an hour. Zip, pop. Loved that sound. Loved that the catcher would often shake his hand out after snagging one of my fastballs. That was me. Jake Longly, baseball stud. Everybody said so. Even the ESPN folks.
Not so Ray. He never actually used the word wimp. Pussy. That’s the one he preferred. Four weeks ago being his most recent assessment.
Jake has an ex-wife. who he affectionately calls Tammy The Insane.
From DEEP SIX:
It was precisely 12:12 a.m. when the window shattered. A crack-crunch, an eardrum concussing pop, and a spray of glass shards. It didn’t explode by itself, mind you, but rather courtesy of a cavity-backed, perimeter-weighted two-hundred-dollar five iron. A Callaway. I recognized it because it was mine. Or at least it had been.
I knew the exact time because the flying glass yanked me from sleep, my forward-slumped head aligned squarely with the dashboard clock. Took a couple of seconds to gain any sort of perspective on what had happened.
Of course, sleep wasn’t part of the job. Watching the house two doors down and across the street was. In my defense, nothing had moved in the house, or even along the street that snaked through the high-dollar neighborhood, for at least a couple of hours. But sitting in the dark, behind the wheel of my car, boredom did what boredom does. Knocking back the better portion of the bottle of Knob Creek hadn’t helped either. Stakeouts were mind numbing and a little more numbing of the mind couldn’t be all bad. Right?
“Jake, what the hell are you doing?” the reason for the glass explosion screeched through the jagged hole.
This wasn’t just any window. It was vintage, the reason it shattered rather than simply spider-webbing. The original passenger window of my otherwise spotless 1965 Mustang. Burgundy with black pony interior, now littered with glass shards. Going to be a bitch to find a replacement.
Speaking of bitches, I recognized the grating voice even before I looked up into the face of my ex. Tammy’s the name; crazy’s the game. I’d lost four good years listening to it. Mostly whining and complaining, sometimes, like now, in a full-on rage. She had a knack for anger. Seemed to need it to get through the day.
She gripped the five iron with both hands, knuckles paled, cocked up above her shoulder, ready to smash something else. If history offered any lesson it was that she might graduate from the side window to the windshield and so on until she got to me. Tammy didn’t have brakes. Or a reverse gear.
Cute according to everyone, except maybe me, she was a beach-blond with bright blue eyes, a magic smile, and a perfect nose. Some plastic surgeons were gifted. Expensive, but gifted. I knew. I’d paid for the nose.
But cute Tammy had a short fuse. She could go from zero to C4 in a nanosecond.
Jake has a girlfriend. Nicole Jamison. Insanely beautiful, but no bubble-headed bleach blonde. Not even close. Smart, clever, tough, and she doesn’t suffer fools well. They met the same night Tammy The Insane shattered Jake’s Mustang window.
From DEEP SIX:
After the ever-pleasant Tammy and the all-business Officer Blake Cooper vacated the premises, I surveyed the damage to my car. The shattered windows were essentially irreplaceable. Seems Ford doesn’t make windows for fifty-year-old cars. The nerve of them. I began knocking away the toothy window remnants from the frames and picking up the larger pieces from the seats, dropping them on the floorboard. The floor mats were expendable, the Pony interior not.
As if to prove that any situation could go from bad to worse, the wind kicked up, dragging with it the smell of rain. Out over the Gulf a bank of dark clouds, tops silvered by the moonlight, innards flashing bright white with lightning, marched toward shore.
Just great. Twenty miles from home, no right-side windows. Didn’t bode well for my Pony interior.
Headlights washed over me, and I looked up the street. Now what? Did Cooper have more to say? Maybe he called it in and his boss gave him the green light to haul my ass down town. To tweak Ray if nothing else.
I raised one hand to shield my eyes from the headlamp glare. The car, a shiny new red SL Mercedes, rolled to a stop. The deeply-tinted window slid down, revealing a young woman. Her straight blond hair hung like silk curtains to her shoulders and framed a face that could grace the cover of Vogue. Definitely not what I expected.
“That was interesting,” she said.
“You saw that, huh?”
She laughed. Soft, almost musical. “Hard to miss a woman beating the hell out of a classic Mustang with a golf club.”
I looked back up the street, from where she had come. “You live around here I take it?”
She brushed a wayward strand of her from her face. “Just back around the bend.”
“You on a beer run or something?”
Another soft laugh. “Heading out to see a friend.”
“A little late, isn’t it?”
“He’s a bartender. Doesn’t close up until one. But he’s not nearly as interesting as this.”
“Bet he’d be happy to hear that.”
She shrugged. “He’d get over it.”
I reeled in my first response—that a woman as beautiful as her probably didn’t have to worry too much about pissing him off. No one would put her on the road for being late. Instead, I smiled.
“So what was that about?” she asked.
“My ex. She’s insane.”
She extended a hand out the window, and I shook it. Soft skin, firm grip. The first drops of rain peppered my face.
“You better get that beauty under cover.”
“My thoughts exactly. Problem is, cover is about twenty miles away.”
She hesitated, examining me as if trying to decide something. “Or just up the road. My place. You can stick it in the garage until this blows over.”
“What about your friend?”
“Sean the bartender? Like I said, this is much more interesting.”
She smiled. Perfect teeth. Perfect smile. Just perfect. Down boy.
“Glad I could brighten your evening,” I said,
“A girl’s got to find fun where she can.”
“You have an odd definition of fun.”
“I hear that a lot.”
Jake has a best friend—-Tommy “Pancake” Jeffers. Big doesn’t cover it. His hair is red and his ability to take in massive amounts of food legendary. Most people think he got his nickname from his ability to demolish a stack of pancakes, which of course he could, but as a star offensive lineman in his youth, he was famous for pancake blocks—-those that flatten the opponent. Pancake works for Ray. He possesses crazy computer skills but also knows how to handle almost any confrontation.
Jimmy Walker, aka Rag Man, was a piece of work. A piece of something anyway. The alley he did business from, as Doucet had said, was wedged between the fire station and an industrial-looking building that had seen better days. The sidewalk was veined with cracks and the alley narrow and littered with refuse. As we reached the alley entrance, we saw him. Thin, black, baggy pants, a New Orleans Saints jersey, three-sizes too large, almost reaching his knees, cigarette hanging from his lips, slouching against the building. He looked up from the phone he was working with his thumbs and came off the wall, moving toward us. He didn’t seem alarmed. Probably thought we were customers.
“Good day gentlemen,” he said, smiling. A true salesman. Probably would do well with aluminum siding. Or as a midway barker.
We introduced ourselves, Ray saying we were P.I.s and needed to ask a few questions to which Rag Man said, ““I don’t got to talk to you.” His head swiveled up and down the street. Like he didn’t want to be seen talking to us.
“No, you don’t,” I said. “But we’d appreciate it.”
“Go appreciate something else,” he said.
“It’s about your business,” Ray said.
“I ain’t got no business.” Another glance up the street. “I suggest you move along. Get out of my face. Might not be healthy for you white boys to hang around here. Know what I’m saying?”
I love watching Pancake work. It’s a true work of art. Mostly he’s a gentle giant, wouldn’t hurt anyone. Even go out of his way to avoid trouble. Then there were times he did stuff that made you stare in disbelief. Even if you’d seen it before.
This time, he simply grabbed Rag Man’s arm and tossed him into the alley. Just like that. Like a kid having a tantrum and tossing a doll across the room. Rag Man rolled and bounced a couple of times but to his credit quickly scrambled to his feet. Pancake was on him. He poked his chest with a finger. “No, I don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Hey dude, you can’t do that.”
“I’m just getting started.” Pancake palmed his chest, pressing him against the wall.
Despite Jake’s resolve, he is repeatedly dragged into Ray’s world. Mostly by Nicole, who, like Pancake, works for Ray. Jake was never sure exactly how that happened but she even has a laminated card to prove it.
Jump on board and enter Jake’s world. Lot’s of crime, craziness, and fun.
Originally published in the Mystery Fanfare, Mystery Readers Journal