Pele’s Prerogative (Part Five)

Did Morrison tell us everything he knows?” Jenny asked.

“Morrison never tells anybody everything,” said Coutinho.

“Maybe I should ask him.”

Damn. Jenny hadn’t seen that coming. Coutinho fixed her with his detective look, the one he aimed at suspects when warmth and understanding failed to get results. This time there was nobody around to absorb it but her.

“Sure you want to do that?”

“Not at all. But I’ll try it if it might get us something.”

“It’s awkward,” said Coutinho. “We’ll have to clear it with the drug guys. They might be sitting on Morrison.”

Who would then want to know why Coutinho had chosen a uniformed officer, little more than a rookie, to send into the devil’s den. And the drug guys knew Morrison’s weakness for young women.

Jenny wasn’t sure it was a weakness. He held the upper hand with her if he ever chose to use it.

“That’s if I go to his house for a sit down,” she said. “But suppose I ran into him someplace. Like Luquin’s?”

Now she was really pushing it. The bar of the Mexican restaurant at the heart of Pahoa’s nightlife was where her near-downfall with Morrison had started.

“We know he hangs there,” said Coutinho, “and I’d be able to keep an eye.”

She took his comment to mean that his confidential informant on the restaurant staff would be watching. She still didn’t know the informant’s identity.

Coutinho made her meet his eyes once more before he said, “Okay, let’s do it.”

That night Jenny dressed the way she remembered going to Luquin’s on the night she met the silver fox whose name hadn’t seemed to matter at the time.

Tonight he occupied the same stool.

“Officer,” he said without turning his head.

Jenny wasn’t the only woman on the island who wore khaki shorts, sandals and a blue chambray shirt. She could see a couple of similar outfits right here in the bar. But Morrison hadn’t survived more than thirty years in his illegal business without learning to anticipate the cops.

“Mr. Morrison.”

Immediately she felt down a point. She had never settled on what to call him, and the honorific sounded a little weird applied to a man she had seen naked.

“Just Morrison is fine,” he said. “What can I do for the Hawaii County Police?”

“I’m here to pick your brain.”

“Just my brain?”

She let him get away with that one.

“We’re having trouble filling in Caleb Otsaka’s resume.”

“It’s interesting, isn’t it?”

“I don’t suppose he ever wrote you a thank you note? You may have saved his life.”

“I doubt Valerie ever told him my part.”

“Valerie who?”

“Spencer at the time.”

“And now?”

“She married a guy named Calatrava. Do the math.”

“Italian plus Vegas,” said Jenny.

“I assume they’re still together. It’s hard to divorce the mob.”

That was interesting, although Jenny wasn’t sure why. But none of this was information that Coutinho couldn’t have obtained from Morrison. She needed to do better.

“I’m impressed with how you handle your exes.”

“Some of them would object to the concept of being handled. And I would expect you to be one of them.”

Jenny decided two digs were enough. Three, and she would dig back. But right now business called.

“Sounds as if Mr. Calatrava didn’t adopt Valerie’s son.”

“He didn’t need to. She gave him two sons of his own.”

Morrison drank from his bottle of Negro Modelo.

“Ever seen The Godfather?” he asked.

“I read the book.”

For the first time he looked at her.

“No kidding. I didn’t think your generation read anything but Twitter.”

There was that third dig.

“Maybe you’re losing touch. It might be time to move up to someone more age appropriate.”

“Ouch,” he said without heat. “So you know about Tom, right? The adopted son who accepted his role as a loyal consigliere. Maybe Caleb went that route. Or maybe being adopted gave him major attitude.”

“Like he had something to prove.”

“And he thought coming back to Vegas with a big score would do it.”

“Maybe you can help me find out.”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Old times?”

“One night hardly qualifies.”

“Then I’ve got nothing.”

He gave her a steady look, and the effort it took to return it impressed her. In another lifetime he might make a good detective.

Morrison broke off the contest and took out a cell phone. When he selected a number from his contacts, he impressed her again. She kept things pleasant with her exes when she encountered them, but she didn’t go as far as storing their numbers.

Jack Holloway came to mind, which struck her as a little strange. As exes went, the EMT had less seniority than some other young men on the island.

Morrison didn’t need to identify himself. Valerie must have kept his number as well. They got right down to business. Morrison asked about Caleb, which led to several minutes of listening. He thanked her and disconnected.

“You’re going to find this interesting. Valerie hasn’t seen him in over a year. And Caleb might not be Caleb anymore.”

Jenny’s mind skipped several steps.


“For a while. She heard he bailed out of the program, though.”

“What did he do to get admitted in the first place?”

“Testified against his stepfather. Who then beat the charges.”

To Jenny it sounded as if Caleb had turned against his whole life in Nevada, which might have given him the idea of reconnecting with his roots. But that hadn’t gone well either.

“You know what else I read about?” she said. “Lee Harvey Oswald. Bouncing back and forth between America and Russia, falling in and out of love and never settling on either one.”

“I won’t underestimate you again,” said Morrison.

Which told her he was following her line of thought. Coming home to Hawaii wasn’t working out any better for Caleb than the life WITSEC had given him. Anything could happen now, and cops hated unpredictability.

“Thanks,” she said as she slid off her stool.

“I’d say anytime, but it wouldn’t be true.”

She decided to let him have that one. It would cover her escape.

Coutinho grasped the problem too.

“So now we have to keep our eyes open for wise guys on our territory. And they won’t be here for a vacation.”

“I don’t suppose they’d just let it go,” said Jenny.

Instead of replying, he took his cell phone out and made a call, which was all listening on his end. He disconnected.

“I asked Kona Division to keep an eye. They just went around to Island Lava Java. Cindy didn’t show up for work.”

He looked around the bullpen.

“Any guesses about where she went?”

He was fair about it. He didn’t fix his eyes on Jenny, but he was asking her. She was the one who supposedly had the rapport with their suspect.

But she didn’t have an answer, and neither did anyone else.

“Better get back to Kona,” said Coutinho, and this time he did address her. “I’ll tell your sergeant you’re coming.”

So he would know when to expect her. No nap for Jenny.

By Monday morning Jenny had caught up a little on her sleep. She was an hour into the morning shift, when dispatch sent her to coffee country south of Kona. The address turned out to be a bean distributor’s warehouse near the hamlet of Captain Cook.

“Mr. Hanson?”

Longtime residents of European descent got to looking as if someone had left them out in the sun for fifty years. They lost every ounce of body fat and took on the color of a high-end leather attaché case.

“Thanks for coming out, Officer. I opened up after the weekend, and I found something you should see.”

He started walking her deeper into the warehouse, and Jenny got a feeling about what he wanted to show her. The feeling came from the height of the warehouse. Life on this island was a ground floor affair. There were few basements and even fewer second stories.

But this case had started with a deadly fall, and the warehouse had the vertical room for another one.

The feeling got worse when Hanson showed her a stain on the floor. Fluorescent lights high overhead gave everything an unnatural tinge, but Jenny knew blood when she saw it. The amount might or not be survivable. Someone had done some ineffectual mopping up, but the outline remained. She looked around. Heavy-duty shelves along the rear wall reached to the ceiling.

“I got my ladder and looked. Somebody’s been camping out up there. Sleeping bag, beef jerky, packs of raisins and stuff. I just left it.”

“How’d they get in?”

“Well, nobody broke in, and I always look around before I lock up.”

To Jenny that sounded like an inside job She got her cell phone out.


Goldfarb was the first detective on the scene. The crime scene people from Kona Divison arrived right behind him.

“This might bear on the Otsaka case,” said Jenny.

That was stretching it. She had nothing but a feeling, but a detective like Goldfarb knew about hunches.

“Call him.”

 Coutinho showed up around noon and checked with Goldfarb. Parts of the discussion drifted to Jenny as she guarded the scene, in case the workers strayed too close. Goldfarb had told Hanson he could go about his business in the front part of the warehouse.

“She’s lucky,” said Coutinho. “Stuff happens when she’s around.”

“Luck beats smarts,” said Goldfarb.

“Which she also has.”

Jenny tried to keep her professional poker face, but a smile broke through. She turned away so they wouldn’t catch her. When she turned back, Coutinho was standing right in front of her.

“No proof it’s Caleb hiding out here,” he said.

“There’s the man cave aspect of it,” she said. “It’s definitely a young guy.”

“No shortage of those.”

Without a body, the crime scene work went faster than Jenny had expected. She still had a lot to learn about this stuff. Goldfarb sent her back on patrol with an hour left on her shift.

At least she didn’t have to be Hanson. She left the man frowning over the bloodstain and wondering how to make it disappear.


“Found her,” said Coutinho.

“Cindy? What’s she saying?”

“Not much. She’s dead.”

Not what Jenny had been expecting to hear.

“Where did she turn up?”

“Pu’u O’o. Laid out for the taking, but nothing doing.”

Jenny followed his train of thought. Pu’u O’o was ground zero for the thirty-year eruption, but sometimes the lava slowed to inches an hour for no reason that mortal humans could discern. Whoever had given Cindy to Pele must have forgotten that the goddess sometimes spurned offerings.

Which suggested someone who had been off the island a long time

“A couple of hikers found her. What would we do without them?”

Visitors who explored the island beyond the beaches often served as the eyes and ears of the overextended police department.

“What’s Dr. Ramesh say?”

“Nothing yet. Get back here for the autopsy.”

By now she knew not to ask if he had cleared it.


“Injuries all in one plane,” said Dr. Ramesh. “Except.”

He leaned over the body to examine a depressed fracture in the back of the head.

“Where have we seen that before?”

Jenny didn’t bother to reply. Everyone remembered Langston Otsaka’s autopsy.

“Does getting hit on the head run in this family?”

Coutinho didn’t encourage levity at the expense of victims of violence, but this was Dr. Ramesh’s territory, and he tended toward grim M.E. humor. Coutinho ignored the question and offered one of his own.

“So is this the body that goes with the blood in the warehouse? I guess we’ll have to wait on the lab results.”

Coutinho started toward the door. Jenny followed him down the hall until the odors of death petered out. He stopped and turned toward her.

“How do you see it?”

“It still looks like a man cave on that shelf.”

Coutinho grinned.

“You’ve seen a few of those?”

“My fadda has one. And I have been known to go out on the occasional date.”

She refrained from asking him whether he maintained a man cave of his own, but Lucy Coutinho was smart enough to allow one such room on her premises.

“I think Caleb’s been hiding out there, and Cindy knew it. Maybe she even found the place for him and set it up.”

Coutinho nodded at that.

“I’ve been wondering how they got in without breaking anything. You’re thinking …”

“Cindy knows how to manipulate young guys. I think we should look at the workers at that place.”

 “Okay,” he said. “Get back to Kona. I’ll find you there.”

Which he did before eight the next morning. He must have been on the road well before dawn. Hanson didn’t look pleased to see them.

“We need to talk to your workers,” said Coutinho. “We’ll try to keep the disruption to a minimum, but this is a murder case now.”

“I get it,” said the boss.

He retreated to his office.

Jenny looked around. A half dozen men were lifting and hauling burlap bags. Three were middle-aged men who could have traded places with Hanson with hardly anyone noticing—maybe not even their wives.

The other three were closer to her age. One would resemble the older men in twenty years, but that was then. Now his blond surfer looks were the kind that turned her head.

Off duty, of course. He challenged her with a look, and a cop couldn’t back down, could she?

Honor satisfied, she evaluated the other two. Neither quickened her pulse. One was pudgy and pale enough to have arrived in Kona yesterday. The other was so scrawny that he didn’t look equal to hefting fifty pound bags of coffee beans, but breaking up bar fights had taught Jenny that men with his type of build could surprise her with their strength.

“So,” said Coutinho “Who looks like he’s been getting some recently?”

Jenny caught herself before she gave him a look of surprise. That was tame for the average cop, but almost crude coming from Coutinho.

“And can’t believe his luck,” she said.

She evaluated the surfer again. He was likely to have experience with cougars from the mainland. Jenny decided that Cindy have passed over him in favor of someone easier to manipulate.

She nodded at the pale young man. He looked away and seemed about to panic and run.


“Go get him,” said Coutinho.

Albert Tucher is the creator of sex worker Diana Andrews, who has appeared in more than one hundred stories in venues including SHOTGUN HONEY and the anthology THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2010. Her first longer case, the novella THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE, was published in 2013. In 2017 Albert Tucher launched a second series set on the Big Island of Hawaii, in which BLOOD LIKE RAIN is the most recent entry. He lives in New Jersey, and he loves NJ Turnpike jokes.