I hadn’t done a new book in the Sand and Sea series in over a year and wasn’t sure that I would but my Sand and Sea fans seemed to have organized an email campaign to get me to reconsider so I carved out some time and wrote one. I actually enjoyed writing this one so much that I’ve planned another one for 2020.
Here is a preview of the book which publishes on July 23rd. https://amzn.to/2M34eXq
Tuesday, June 25
I should have been surprised to find the tall man with the dark skin and dark hair dead just inside the front door when I arrived at Pope Investigations, the detective agency where I work with my father, Keanu Pope, but he wasn’t the first gunshot victim I’d stumbled upon this month. He was, in fact, the third. The remains of the first gunshot victim had been found on the beach behind the oceanfront condo where I live with my cousin, Kekoa. My brother, Jason, a detective for the Honolulu Police Department, figured the murder was a random act that I’d just happened to have stumbled upon. When the second body was found propped up on the lifeguard tower at the Dolphin Bay Resort, where I’d been working just one day a week since taking a full-time position at the detective agency, my brother considered that I might be connected to both men in some way. Jason learned that the first victim was a retired Air Force Master Sergeant who was vacationing on Oahu, and the second was a nightclub owner living in Honolulu. As hard as he’d tried, he hadn’t been able to find a connection between the two men, or between the two men and me. After several days, he’d moved onto other theories. But now that a third victim had been found at the location where I spent the majority of my time, in my mind there was no denying that someone was leaving me bodies.
After checking for a pulse to confirm that the man was actually dead, I called Jason, who promised to come right over. I was about to walk around to the beach in order to get away from the gruesome sight when a dark four-door sedan pulled into the drive. I realized this was my first client of the day, so I took a deep breath and headed toward the car, intent on heading the woman off before she noticed the murder victim just inside the front door.
“Hokulani Palakiko?” I asked, greeting the dark-haired woman who was wearing a colorful dress in a Hawaiian print.
“Yes.” The woman leaned out through her open driver’s door window. “You can call me Hoku.”
“My name is Lani. Lani Pope. I’m afraid we have a bit of a situation this morning, and I’m going to need to reschedule.”
“Situation?” The woman looked toward the front of the building for the first time.
“We’ve had a breakin,” I decided not to mention the dead body. “I’m so sorry for the inconvenience, but if you leave a number where you can be reached, I’ll call you with a new time to meet.”
The woman furrowed her brow. “You do understand that my husband is missing?”
I nodded. “Yes. My father filled me in.”
“I understand that a breakin is inconvenient, but I would think that a missing person would be a bit more of a priority.”
“Yes, I see your point. It is just that the HPD officer I spoke to told me to wait for him and not to touch anything. Perhaps we can meet later today. I’m not sure if it will work to meet here at the office, but I would be willing to meet you at your home.” I glanced at my watch. It was just ten o’clock now. “I should be done here by noon.”
The woman frowned. She huffed out a breath, drummed her fingers on the steering wheel in front of her, and, it seemed, generally did everything she could to convey her annoyance. “Okay.” She adjusted her sunglasses and turned to look directly at me. “I guess two hours won’t make all that much difference, but I expect you to be prompt.”
“I’ll do my best.”
The woman gave me her address, which luckily wasn’t far from the office. I hoped she’d be long gone before Jason arrived, so I entered her phone number and home address in my phone and promised to text her with a confirmation that I would be free by twelve once I spoke to the police. She hemmed and hawed a bit more, I was sure in an effort to make certain that I understood exactly how unhappy she was with the situation, but eventually, she pulled out of the drive and headed down the highway. Minutes after she pulled away, Jason pulled into the lot in front of Pope Investigations.
I ran over to the car to greet my second oldest of five brothers. “Thank you for coming so quickly.”
Jason looked toward the house. “Is Dad here?”
“He is on the South Shore this morning. I left him a message, but haven’t heard back from him. I’m not exactly sure who he is meeting, but he mentioned something about a new client.”
“And the victim?”
“Tall, male. Young looking, maybe mid-twenties. I’m pretty sure I don’t know the man, but he does look a little familiar. I’ve tried to remember where I might have seen him, but I came up empty.”
Jason turned as another HPD cruiser showed up. “Okay. I think it is best that you wait out here. Colin and I will have a look.”
“I have to leave for another appointment at eleven-thirty. I can come back after I’m done if need be. I’m sure Dad will head over once he gets my message.”
Jason nodded. “Okay. I’ll come back out and talk to you once I have a chance to assess the situation. Maybe you can just wait on the lanai.
“Okay. I’ll be there. If you need me, holler.”
After Jason went inside, I sat down on a patio chair and checked my messages. There was one from my dentist reminding me that it was time for a checkup and cleaning; a text from my boss at the Dolphin Bay Resort where I still worked on Saturdays as a water safety officer, letting me know he had made up the schedule for the Fourth of July and that I was going to be needed for a ten hour shift; and a missed call from Dad. I opened my phone app and called him back. He picked up on the first ring.
“Hi, Dad. Did you get my message?”
“I did. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Jason and Colin are here. I’m waiting outside.”
Dad blew out a breath loud enough for me to hear, although, without corresponding facial cues, I was unable to tell if it was a breath of relief, anxiety, or irritation.
“Three murder victims in three weeks all placed so as to make it likely that they’d be found by you is not a coincidence. I’m not liking this one bit. I think we should talk to Jason about protective custody for you.”
“No, thanks,” I responded immediately. “I can take care of myself.”
Dad didn’t argue but I had a feeling this conversation was not over.
“Is Kekoa there with you?” He asked.
Kekoa worked full-time for the Dolphin Bay Resort and part-time for us answering phones and taking care of the filing and bookkeeping.
“No. She planned to be in this afternoon. I’ll call her and let her know not to bother to come in today.”
“I just finished up here and am on my way back. I should be there in an hour.”
“Just so you know,” I added, “the new client with the missing husband you told me about showed up after I arrived but before Jason pulled in. I met her at her car and told her we’d had a breakin. I didn’t mention the murder. She agreed to meet with me at her home later today since the office was unavailable. I am meeting her at noon.”
“I guess that will be okay. Generally speaking, I am not a fan of you meeting clients at their homes unless I am along, but Hokulani Palakiko seems harmless enough, and I know she is concerned about her husband. I should be back by the time you return from the interview so we can discuss a strategy later this afternoon.”
“And Lani. Be careful. I know that you are a capable young woman, but it seems as if you have somehow garnered the attention of a very dangerous person who has already killed three people and most likely won’t hesitate to kill again.”
“I know. I’ll be careful.” After I hung up with Dad, I got up from the patio chair and walked out onto the beach. I let the warm water roll over my bare feet and then called Kekoa to fill her in. I explained about the breakin and the body inside the entry and suggested she hold off coming in to take care of the bookkeeping until tomorrow. Like everyone else, she was concerned that this serial killer seemed to be focused in on me, but I assured her I would be fine and we would talk later.
Jason walked out the back door and onto the beach just as I was finishing my conversation with Kekoa. “So?” I asked.
“The victim was shot at close range with what looks to have been a small caliber handgun. We’ll know more when we get the ballistics report back. It appears, based on lack of blood spatter, that the man was shot elsewhere and then dumped the same as the other two. With this third victim, I am more convinced than ever that you are somehow at the center of whatever is going on. We might want to consider protective custody. Did you get ahold of Dad?”
I nodded. “He is on his way from the South Shore, and there is no way I am going to sit around in a safe house when there is some wacko running around killing people and then leaving the remains for me like some sort of a sick gift. I need to meet with our new client, but I will come back when I’m done, and we can talk about this some more. I’m not sure what I can tell you that would help you to figure out who is doing this, but I am certain that we need to find the guy before he kills again.”
“I agree. And we’ll talk some more about protective custody when I am done here as well.”
I was never going to agree to protective custody. I knew it, and he knew it, so I didn’t bother to argue. I simply said my goodbyes and headed toward my car. Having a missing person to look for seemed like a distraction at this point, but Hoku was our client, and she was paying us good money to find her husband, who I was fairly sure she was more than just a little worried about.
I followed the directions provided by the Maps app on my phone to a large two-story house located in a nice neighborhood just a few blocks from the sea. Hoku’s car was in the drive, so I pulled up on the street. One of these days, I was going to trade in my old Jeep for something that wasn’t older than I was, but I never seemed to have enough income to deal with car payments, so a new car would need to wait.
I walked up the shrub-lined walkway toward the covered porch. I rang the bell and then waited.
“Oh good, you came,” the woman said, stepping aside. “Is your father with you?”
“He couldn’t make it, but he does plan to consult with me about a strategy once I get the basic information we will need to begin our search.”
The woman frowned. “I see. How old are you?”
“Old enough,” I assured her. Being a small woman, barely five feet in height, often led people to believe I was younger than I actually am. I pulled out a notepad and pen. “Is there somewhere you would like to sit while we chat?”
“How about out on the lanai? It is a beautiful day today. Not at all as hot as it has been.”
I had to agree with that. It was a beautiful day. “So I have your husband’s name, age, and occupation, but I’d like to go over everything again to make sure there are no errors.”
I read my notes which told me that Kinsley Palakiko was a sixty-eight-year-old retired airline pilot who was last seen on Saturday around lunchtime when he left his home to do errands. He never came home. Hoku called and spoke to my father yesterday when her husband still had not called or shown up. He’d completed a basic questionnaire over the phone. He’d traced the man’s phone, tracked his credit cards, and conducted a GPS search for his car. It was determined that the phone had been turned off, the GPS on the car was disabled, and the credit cards had not been used. We did live on an island, and the man was a retired airline pilot, so Dad checked with the airlines that served the island, but none reported activity from Kinsley in over a month. Hoku verified that the two of them had gone to the mainland for a week just about a month ago and that neither of them had traveled from the island since.
“If your husband felt the need to get away and didn’t want to be found for whatever reason, where would he go?” I asked.
“You think my husband is off having some sort of a fling?”
“Not necessarily,” I answered. “However, statistically speaking, more missing persons turn out not to have been the victim of foul play than turn out to have been. It is smart to look at all options.”
“So you think Kinsley is just fine. You think he has put me through what is by far the worst few days of my life for nothing.”
“Again, I’m not necessarily saying that.” I paused and looked at the woman who seemed to be more angry than scared and I found myself wondering if she wasn’t being overly dramatic for my benefit. “When your husband didn’t come home after two days, why did you call Pope Investigations? Why didn’t you call the police?”
The woman lowered her gaze but didn’t respond right away.
“You don’t think he has met with foul play either. You think he simply took off and you want him found. You may even believe that he is missing because he is engaged in some sort of illegal activity and you didn’t want to get the authorities involved.”
“That’s a lot of speculation,” the woman accused.
“Perhaps. But I’m not wrong, am I?”
“Kinsley likes to gamble. He isn’t very good at it and has lost most of our retirement savings over the past couple of years. He’d been out late on Friday, and we didn’t speak, but when he came to bed, I could smell the smoke and alcohol that accompany a backroom poker game, so I knew. He left around lunchtime on Saturday, simply saying that he had errands he needed to do. He didn’t elaborate or say when he’d be home, but I assumed he’d be home in a few hours. When he didn’t come home at all that day, I assumed his errands had led to a Saturday night poker game. I tried calling him about a million times, but the calls went straight to voicemail. I waited until Monday, hoping he would show up, but when he didn’t, I decided to call your father. Kinsley has gone off on gambling binges in the past, but this time feels different.
“For one thing, he has been away longer than usual.”
I made a few notes and then looked up at the woman. “So if your husband is just off gambling somewhere, which it sounds like he very well may be, why did you think we would be able to find him when you couldn’t?”
“Finding people is your job. I figured you’d have a few tricks that I didn’t know to try.”
I supposed we did have a few tricks that the missing man’s wife didn’t know to try, but now that I suspected he had taken off on his own free will, I wasn’t sure I wanted to get in the middle of a marital spat. Still, there was a slim possibility that the man really had met with foul play. And I asked the woman several more questions, mostly relating to her husband’s friends, lodging preferences, and financial situation. I promised to do what I could and to call her with an update by the following morning. I also took down the information relating to his car. It wouldn’t hurt to ask my brothers and friends with HPD to keep an eye out for it. As I drove back to Pope Investigations, I made a mental list of people to talk to. If the man was a gambler, I was sure my friend, Emmy Jean Thornton, would know the guy. On the surface, Emmy Jean was a sassy southern sex kitten, but beneath the Dolly Parton exterior, was a shrewd woman who could out drink and out gamble most of the men on the island.