Black Jasmine(9)

By: Toby Neal

“What?” Lei felt a grin moving across her sunburned face. He wasn’t going to bring up whatever-it-was—she’d dodged a bullet again. “What’s a shrew? This isn’t a Hawaii thing, is it?”

“It’s a Shakespeare thing.” He’d minored in English lit and liked to show off now and then.

“I know to come when I’m called.”

She sat on his lap, put her arms around his neck, and stroked the hair out of his eyes. He felt so good in her arms, like everything about him fit everything about her.

“I’m gonna be sore tomorrow. Fell out of a bush on the way down the cliff and tweaked my back. Not to mention my ass. Think you can help me with that?”

“I can do something with my hands, yeah.”

He demonstrated, and she forgot to ask more about what it meant to be a shrew.

Chapter 4

The next morning, Lei and Pono sat with the commanding officer of Haiku station. Pono had downloaded their pictures from the crime scene and printed color copies for the lieutenant to review.

Lieutenant Omura was a petite Japanese woman with a poker face and the imposing presence of a much larger person. Lei had heard a rumor that Omura had an IQ of 155, a black belt in judo, and a master’s in criminology. Her flinty dark eyes scanned the hastily written paperwork and photos.

“Homicide or suicide?”

“ME hasn’t said yet. Initial impression is suicide. Our meeting’s at ten a.m. He said he was still working on it.” Pono got along better with the “Steel Butterfly,” so he did the talking.

Lei was still smarting from the dressing-down she’d received for being late. She’d awakened stiff and sore and had tried to fit a run in before the briefing. The run hadn’t helped with the stiffness and it had made her late—something the lieutenant looked upon as a sign of bad character.

The commanding officer was immaculate in a trim navy uniform she must have had altered to hug her perfect figure. She wore a pair of decidedly nonregulation heels on her tiny Asian feet—Imelda Marcos shoe habits had contributed to the nickname she didn’t know she had. Lei felt lumpy and unkempt beside her, and nocturnal activities with Stevens hadn’t done good things for her hair. She wriggled in her plastic seat, feeling like she had to pee. The lieutenant did that to her every time.

“Hear you made a Child Welfare call, Texeira.” Those sharp eyes were on Lei now. Her bladder cramped.

“Yeah, there was a baby out there. Not a good situation. Wanted to have it looked into, just in case.”

Omura clicked her tongue, looked back at the paperwork. “Your complaint isn’t going to go anywhere and you might need the parent as witness, so I wonder at your judgment.” She assembled the materials into the folder and handed it to Pono, giving a tiny flick of dismissal with glossy red nails. “Keep me informed.”

They got up and filed out.

Lei contained herself until they got to their cubicle.

“I hate her. I mean, I really hate that bitch.”

“I get the feeling it’s mutual, and we know who’s on top.” Pono gave her a worried glance, stabbed a thick finger at her. “You don’t want to piss her off, Sweets. She’s made tougher men than you cry. How do you think she edged out the competition in a department that’s never ranked a woman higher than sergeant?”

“Okay, I know. I’ll keep kissing the toes of her shoes. How much do they cost, do you think?”

“More than you make in a week.”

Lei sighed. “So let’s work on the cockfighting thing until the meet at the morgue.” She fumbled in her drawer for a rubber band, but her hair was too short to pull back. She took an MPD ball cap and stuffed it on her head, booting up her computer to review their contacts on the underground gambling and cockfighting case.

Lei and Pono took the stairs to the basement floor of Maui General Hospital, where the only morgue on the island was located. Lei practiced some relaxation breathing—in through the nose, out through the mouth—as she approached beige double doors bisected by a steel push handle. Pono glanced at her, patted her elbow.

He knew how she felt about morgues.

Dr. Gregory was hosing something nasty off one of the long steel tables as they breached the inner sanctum. He looked up, pushing multilensed glasses up onto his egg-shaped head.

“The report’s not done.”

“That’s all right,” Lei said. “We’re just hoping for some preliminary results. The lieutenant’s on us for a homicide ruling—or whatever you think.”

“Okay.” He gestured for Tanaka, who was tying a toe tag onto a body, to come take over his cleanup.

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