“The Wayward Path” is the third novel in the Jefferson Chene mystery series, releasing August 3, 2022. These books are set in the Detroit, Michigan area, which is where I’m originally from. Detroit has a long history of crime and misbehavior, which always appealed to my story-telling mind.
I’m a fan of distinctive names. The backstory for Chene (pronounced Shane) is that he was abandoned at birth and found at the intersection of Jefferson and Chene in Detroit. A mix up on the paperwork led to that becoming his name. The character was raised in a Catholic orphanage. Never adopted, Chene has a little difficulty building relationships outside of the people he works with. He can be a little rough around the edges, but he’s good at what he does. A borderline insomniac, Chene believes his mind is too busy for sleep and his body adapts to that strategy. Chene became a cop and worked his way through the ranks of the Michigan State Police.
Metropolitan Detroit has a population of over 3 million people, and it covers almost 6,000 square miles, making it one of the largest metro areas in the United States. With so many smaller cities in this region, I wanted to have a squad of detectives who would cross those territorial boundaries and go wherever their investigation took them. This team would also be focused on getting results.
After creating the Chene character and others in the first book “Why 319?” I kept coming up with new story ideas. The feedback I got from readers was encouraging. I realized these characters had much more to tell. That’s what led to the latest book.
Charity Gray was an intelligent, inquisitive teen who disappeared fifteen years earlier. When her body is discovered, it should be a typical cold case. Before the Detroit police can get started, the FBI commandeers the investigation, with a prime suspect in mind: retired mobster Leo Agonasti.
When Agonasti slips through their grasp, he reaches out to Sergeant Jefferson Chene. Their unusual friendship draws Chene into the thick of the case. Burdened with two reluctant FBI agents, Chene is working against the clock and the feds to find the real killer.
Chene senses they are getting close to the answers. Will he be able to solve the murder and clear the old mobster of this heinous crime before time runs out?
MacGregor escorted us to the conference room, knocked twice and opened the door. Standing at the end of the rectangular table was a tall, blonde woman. She was pacing by the window. Seated at the table was another agent in a dark suit. He had a stack of files before him. His dark hair needed a trim.
He shot a disgusted look at the interruption. “What?”
MacGregor hooked a thumb in my direction. “State cops have arrived. This is Sergeant Chene and Captain Cantrell. They are…familiar with Leo Agonasti.”
Pappy pushed MacGregor aside as he entered the room and dropped into a chair. “Y’all need us.”
Sedlak threw his pen down on the table in disgust. It skittered across the surface and was headed for the edge when Pappy stopped it with a fingertip.
“Y’all know where Agonasti is?”
Sedlak went rigid. “We’ll find him, Captain Cornpone. We don’t require any assistance from the locals.”
“So, you do need us.” I slid into the seat beside Cantrell.
The blonde had been watching this exchange with interest. She cleared her throat and took a step in our direction. “Your name is Chene?”
“That’s me. And you are?”
“Diana Trevino.” She sat beside me. “I represent Mr. Agonasti. He’s mentioned you occasionally in the past.”
Sedlak’s gaze was flicking across the three of us. He settled it briefly on Pappy. I thought there was a glimmer of recognition, but it may have been my imagination. Cantrell is definitely memorable.
“Why don’tcha take Miz Trevino outside and lemme have a minute with Mr. Sedlak. Mebbe we can speed things along.”
MacGregor was still standing in the doorway. He looked at his boss but got no signal that I could see. I stood and extended a hand to the lady. She took it lightly and grabbed her purse off the table as we exited the room. MacGregor followed and closed the door behind us. He waved at the group clustered around the desks. Banks came forward and escorted Diana Trevino to the restrooms.
“What the hell was that about?” he asked quietly.
“Looks like old home week. Give them a few minutes.”
“You think they know each other?”
I leaned against the wall. “How long has Sedlak been the assistant special agent in charge in Detroit?”
“Three years, maybe four. Why?”
“You think he and Pappy haven’t crossed paths before, between meetings, conferences and task forces?”
Mac shrugged. “Hadn’t really thought about it.”
“If Pappy didn’t know him, he would have shot him for that cornpone wisecrack. They were just playing for the audience. Chances are Pappy reached out to him while we were driving downtown.”
That brought a grin from MacGregor. “Well, that’s a twist.”
I watched Banks bring Diana Trevino back into the office area. She guided her over to the coffee urn.
“How soon can you give me a copy of the case file you have on this homicide investigation?”
Mac scoffed. “Seriously? What makes you think we’re going to share?”
“Pappy isn’t trading recipes for chicken fried steak. You don’t know where Agonasti is. His attorney wouldn’t share that information anyway, even if she knew. So I’d expect this to become a joint investigation within the next ten minutes. Might as well get me a copy. And don’t bother redacting it. I want the whole thing.”
“Damn, you’re cocky.”
I grinned. “There’s a difference between confidence and cocky. You should learn how to tell them apart.”
“Fuck you, Chene,” he said with disgust.
“That’s not very original. You need someone to write some fresh material.”
The conference room door opened and Sedlak waved us in. Pappy was rolling a cigarette slowly between his first two fingers. It wasn’t lit, which I took to be a courtesy on his part. If we were at the post, it would already be trailing smoke toward the ceiling.
“Agent MacGregor will provide you with a copy of our files on this investigation,” Sedlak said. “Probably easiest to give them a flash drive.”
“Make it two,” Pappy said. “May as well git started tonight.”
“You will keep us informed of any discoveries you make,” Sedlak said.
Pappy gave him a curt nod. “Course.”
“And if you learn the whereabouts of Leo Agonasti?”
“Y’all be second to know.”
MacGregor trotted off to make the copies. Pappy and Sedlak continued to stare at each other. I waited in the silence. Five minutes later, Mac returned and handed me a pair of flash drives. I passed one to Cantrell. He tucked it in his shirt pocket and pushed out of his chair.
“Chene, give Miz Trevino a ride home. Ah believe she be done here.”
Sedlak adjusted the knot in his tie. “Yeah, we’re done. For now.”
“Copy that,” I said.
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