Black Jasmine(7)

By: Toby Neal

When Kimo picks him up, my sheets are messy so I have the maid come change them while I take the SIM card out of the phone, stick it in a chunk of apple, and grind it up in the disposal. I toss the plastic phone body into the recycle bin.

I go back into the bedroom. It’s white and pristine once again, creamy drapes hiding the door to my bondage room, toys cleaned off and put away. I pay that maid well to not be seen and not be heard.

I take a shower, but now my shoulders are sore from the workout. I use my regular cell to call the masseuse to come work the knots out, which he does rather nicely. Finally, oiled, perfumed, and pleasantly tired, I turn off the crystal bedside lamp and gaze out the sliders to the night sky reflecting off the black sea.

It’s taken all that to get me to the state of relaxation I was in before I heard the name Lei Texeira.

She owes me for that.

Chapter 3

Lei pulled up into the wide driveway of her and Stevens’s rental cottage in `Iao Valley. A six-foot chain-link fence held back her Rottweiler, Keiki, who’d heard the truck drive up and had her paws up on the fence in ecstatic greeting, muscular hindquarters waggling with joy.

“Hey, baby.” Lei gave the dog a head rub, then snapped her fingers as she unlatched the gate. Keiki sat obediently. She gave the Rottweiler another pat in reward and went up the slightly sagging wooden steps onto the porch, the dog glued to her side.

Lei loved the house’s location, only ten minutes from the Maui Police Department station in Kahului. Set slightly off the two-lane, winding road that dead-ended at a state park at the back of the valley, the cottage was isolated enough to feel a world away from work. They could afford something newer, but she and Stevens enjoyed the feeling of vintage Hawaii embodied in its older plantation-style cottages. This one had a wide, extended tin roof painted a red that was fading to terra-cotta. The roof contrasted with traditional dark green paint trimmed in white around windows and doors.

They’d replaced the elderly screen door with a new iron security door that still allowed airflow, and he’d left it unlocked for her. The door opened straight into the wooden-floored living room, and the modest kitchen at the back looked out onto a hillside covered in green jungle.

A delicious smell of teriyaki chicken filled the air. She looked at Stevens as he stirred something on the stove, dark head bent. The height and breadth of him set loose a flight of bubbles under her sternum, an unfamiliar feeling she’d finally figured out was happiness. She went across the room on quick, light steps and encircled his whipcord back from behind, laying her cheek against his shoulder blades.

“Honey, I’m home.”

“So you are.” He set a hand on the crossed wrists around his waist, gave them a pat and a squeeze as he sniffed audibly. “You stink.”

“Thanks. Nothing like a little rappelling and body retrieval followed by a long day canvassing homeless to get the heart rate up. Do I have time for a shower?”

“I think that would be best,” he said, and handed her a Corona he’d opened and placed beside the stove. “When you get out, it’ll all be ready.”

“I think I could get used to this.”

Lei showered the grime of the day off her lean frame, using a loofah sponge to scrub her arms and legs. She had an athletic build, slender-hipped and round-breasted, and she particularly liked the smooth dip of her waist and the fact that nothing jiggled that shouldn’t.

Lei looked at her scarred arms, letting herself really see them. She rubbed the thin silver lines of past self-injury gently with body soap. She no longer needed to resort to that hollow form of coping—she’d come a long way in therapy on the Big Island. Lei rubbed the bite mark on her collarbone, feeling the throb her wrist sometimes still gave from being broken two years ago in a battle for her life. Scars marked you, but they didn’t have to hurt anymore.

There was just one human scar she still needed to take care of.

Charlie Kwon, her childhood molester, was in Lompoc doing time for sexual abuse of a minor, and knowing she’d been only one in a string of victims didn’t make her feel better. She had an acquaintance who worked at Lompoc keeping an eye on him. Charlie aside, she was grateful for all the people who’d come into her life, one after the other, to heal her.

Chief among them was Michael Stevens. They’d met working a case on the Big Island, fallen in love. She’d accepted his marriage proposal only to panic, dump him, and run away to Kaua`i. Stevens had followed her over to help with the big serial case she’d uncovered, and they’d eventually reconnected. It hadn’t been easy. It had never been simple. But the poor guy couldn’t seem to stay away. He even had a purple heart tattoo on his forearm with her name in it.

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