Pele’s Prerogative (Part Six)

Jenny marched up to the young man.

“What’s your name?”

His voice took three tries before it worked.

“Dave James.”

Was it the uniform or the attractive young female factor that was making him nervous?

Both, probably.

“I have some questions for you.”

She knocked on the office door and opened it. Behind his desk Hanson looked up, even less pleased.

“Can we borrow your office, Mr. Hanson?”

He got up and left carrying his laptop. Jenny suppressed a grimace. Too often, a cooperative citizen paid a price in inconvenience. That citizen might talk to other citizens and make them reluctant to help the police. She took his seat behind the desk and let Dave James stand in front of her for a moment like a schoolboy.


He complied, and she stared at him some more.

“So how did you meet her?”


“Too late for that, Dave. I’m talking about the hot older babe.”

He wore a mulish look on his face. She called up a photo of Cindy on her phone.


“Bar,” he said.

It was going to be one of those interviews. She would have to pry his story out of him one word at a time.

“How did it happen?”

“She came on to me. I swear.”

“What was her name?”


Jenny tried not to react. Apparently she had made an impression on Cindy.

“Okay, you met her in the bar.”

“And we’re talking, and I’m thinking she’s going to see somebody she likes better and drop me.”

His tone said it had happened before.

“But then she says, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ I couldn’t believe it.”

“Where do you live?”


As if she wouldn’t know the pidgin term, he pointed uphill.

“With ohana?”

“Yeah. My mom would probably notice if I brought somebody home.”

“But you knew how to get in here after hours.”

He hesitated. Jenny didn’t tell him the boss had already figured it out. Hanson trusted people, but he had a brain.

“I know where the spare key is. Everybody here does.”

“So you brought Jennifer here and got busy.”


“And she sprang it on you that she needed a place to hide out for a while.”


She kept the pressure on with her eyes.

“I told her she had to be out by six every morning. And she was.”

“Sit tight.”

Jenny got up and went to find Coutinho. He was looking up at the shelves where the overnight guest had hidden. She filled him in.

“I can’t see Cindy staying here,” she said. “I think she was stashing Caleb.”

“That’s my take,” he said. “But it’s getting complicated. I just got a call from the lab. The stain is Cindy’s.”

“So who knocked her off the shelf?”

For the next several days the question intruded at odd moments, as she patrolled and took reports of burglaries in condos and hotel rooms. Sometimes she wondered when mainland visitors would decide that these islands weren’t worth the trouble.

Then Dispatch sent her and Patsy down the coast, almost to Kaena, the southern tip of the island. The man they were supposed to find had warrants, and Goldfarb’s CI said he was sleeping rough. They signed out a departmental Ford Escape to handle the off-roading to a known homeless encampment on a remote beach. The vehicle bounced Jenny without mercy, and the sun drilled through her sunglasses.

“Should we split up?” Patsy asked.

“I’m thinking no. We’re our own backup on this.”

Help was hours away at the speeds even four-wheel drive could manage on this terrain.

They went among the tents, calling into each one. There were no doors to knock on, but court decisions had given the residents of the camp an expectation of privacy.

In the end they accomplished nothing except drying their skin out in the relentless sun and wind. Either their man was away, maybe at a job, or the CI had it wrong to begin with.

But on their way back to the Escape they met a different man coming the other way.

“We’ve been looking for you,” said Jenny.

“Guess you found me,” said Caleb Otsaka.

“We have some questions for you.”

He shrugged. Jenny suppressed a sense of anticlimax, as she and Patsy walked him to their vehicle and stowed him in the front passenger seat. As a witness he didn’t get the cuffs, but Patsy sat behind him in case he acted up. He withdrew into his own thoughts and barely reacted to the merciless pummeling that the terrain inflicted on the way back to the highway.

Jenny had seen it before. The stress and exhaustion of trying to live off the grid often made a fugitive want to get caught.

Back in the Kona station Patsy escorted Caleb to an interview room. Goldfarb joined Jenny in watching Caleb on the laptop screen.

“Is Coutinho coming back?” she asked him.

“He says let you take it.”

Jenny found herself wishing Goldfarb would give her a hint what he thought about that, but a detective never let anyone read his mind.


• • •

“Vegas,” said Jenny. “You’re a pretty rare bird.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Lots of kama’aina in Vegas. Most of them dreaming about coming home. You did it.”

“I could have done it better.”

“What are you calling yourself these days?”

“You know about that?”

“That you were in WITSEC? Yeah, We don’t have any details.”

“I’m Caleb Otsaka. Anybody wants me, come and get me.”

That didn’t square with hiding in a homeless encampment, or a warehouse, but there could be other reasons for that.

“Was it harder to get by without your … ?”

Jenny wasn’t sure what to call Cindy. Did Caleb even know she was his mother?

“I don’t know what to call her either. I only have her word for it that she’s my mother.”

“How did you connect with her?”

“She found me in Vegas. Said she’d been looking for me.”

That already contradicted Cindy’s account.

“Why did she want you?”

“She wanted help ripping off my father. What else?”

“And you were okay with that?”

“He was nothing to me. I didn’t even know him.”

“So this woman shows up out of nowhere and says she’s your mother.”

“She had pictures of her and an infant. Definitely her. Me, who knows?”

That didn’t jibe with Cindy’s indifference to her husband and son. Had she saved up blackmail material for decades? That would be cold.

“So she tells you your father has all this money, and you just say, sure, let’s do it?”

“Well, no. She had to convince me the money was real.”

“How did she do that?”

“She said she’d show me.”


“Well, we had to come to the island, obviously.”

“And you just dropped everything and went.”

“Well, I was kind of at loose ends.”

 “That’s an understatement.”

“If you already know, why are you asking me?”

“We always want to get your side of the story.”

“Okay, yeah, I had to get out of Vegas. And witness protection wasn’t for me. They wanted to send me to fucking Alaska. I hate winter.”

“So your mother told you about this money and you went.”


“And she introduced you to your father?”

“No, she didn’t go near him.”

“Why not?”

“She said it would make him suspicious. So I went up and knocked on the door.”

“How did he react to that?”

“It was pathetic. Like I was the prodigal son or something.”

“Weren’t you?”

“I played along. It wasn’t hard, because his mind was going. Sometimes he would call me Caleb and sometimes I was Abel.”

Caleb, Cain. Close enough for a confused mind, and these devout islands marinated in Bible lore.

“So you played along to get the money.”

“Easiest gig I ever had. He couldn’t wait to show it to me. Said it was mine when he was gone.”

“So you decided to speed things up.”

“What? No. I was just going to take it.”

“You were going to?”

“He moved it. One day the safe was there, and the next day it wasn’t.”

The famous safe had been real.

“I guess he wasn’t as pathetic as you thought. Or your mother.”

“Yeah. She was pissed.”

“What was she doing all this time?”

“Just hanging out. With that friend of hers. Mrs. Conyers.”

Jenny blinked. She remembered maternal hands on her ankles as she peered into the earth, and she couldn’t square that with Cindy Otsaka’s murderous plans. Cindy must have been exploiting the woman the way she did everyone else.

Then Jenny recalled something else Mrs. Conyers had said. She filed it away to run it by Coutinho.

“Who killed your father?”

“No idea. I sure didn’t.”

“Did your mother?”

“I told you, I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

“What happened in the warehouse?”

“What warehouse?”

“Where you’ve been hiding out.”

“You know where I’ve been hiding out. You just found me there.”

One grim hideout was probably enough. But Jenny studied him and wondered how to verify his claim.

“Sit tight,” she said.

Goldfarb met her out in the hall.

“You’re supposed to narrow the suspects down, not add more.”

She saw a flash of humor behind his deadpan. At least, she hoped that was what it was.

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.