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Lei, Lady, Lei

 

Lei, Lady, Lei

By JoAnn Bassett

 

 

 

As engagement rings go, it was no Hope Diamond, but it went way beyond simple faith and charity. My name’s Pali Moon. I’m a Maui wedding planner so I’ve seen my fair share of bridal jewelry. I estimated the ring on bride-to-be Stacy Wilmot’s fourth finger to be somewhere in the neighborhood of two-and half-carats, maybe three.

“That’s a gorgeous ring,” I said.

“Thanks,” Stacy smiled as she gazed at the rock. “It was Justin’s grandmother’s.” She turned to her intended groom. “Was she your grandmother on your mom’s side or your dad’s?”

“Uh, my mom’s. She gave it to me when I graduated from Stanford. Right before I moved to the U of O. She told me to hang on to it until the right girl came along.”

“And lucky for you, the right girl certainly did,” I beamed at Stacy. I’ve gotten pretty good at flattery in the four years I’ve owned “Let’s Get Maui’d,” in Pa’ia. It hasn’t been easy. In the early days it seemed I had nearly daily bouts of “foot-in-mouth” disease. Now, I’m down to just the occasional minor faux pas, and I’m usually quick to cover them up.

“Are we almost finished here, babe?” said Justin. “I’d like to make a few calls to the States before it gets too late back there.”

I’d grown weary of explaining to prospective couples who come to Maui for a destination wedding that Hawaii is a state. It’s been one for more than fifty years. The reference to the mainland as “the States” grates on me, but I let it slide. After all, Justin and Stacy had hired me for a simple beachside wedding, not a history lesson. The services I’d render were the matrimonial equivalent of a “Happy Meal”: a quick ten-minute ceremony, a couple of Costco lei, and a few photos with the witnesses. The State of Hawaii will mail the newlyweds their official marriage certificate after they’ve returned home to Oregon.

“You’ve got your marriage license?” I asked.

“Yep, right here.” Justin pulled out a folded paper and slapped it down on my desk.

“How about witnesses?”

“Got those too. Stacy’s sister’s coming on Wednesday, and my best man, Brandon, gets in the next day.”

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to have their cell numbers. Sometimes I have to get in touch with the wedding party members for one reason or another.”

Stacy carefully inked in the cell numbers on the lines for “maid of honor” and “best man.”

“Then we’re all set,” I said. “I’ll see you both next Saturday. I’ve got a permit for Baldwin Beach Park, and the officiant’s all lined up. Let’s meet in the parking lot at, say, five o’clock?”

“That’s it?” Stacy’s troubled look signaled she was disappointed there wasn’t more to fuss over.

“Unless you have a question,” I looked from one to the other.

“We’re good,” said Justin. “Babe, I really need to get to those calls.”

Stacy stood, a shy smile on her face. “Of course, darling. And thank you, Pali, for everything. This was sort of a quick decision on our part. Kind of like eloping. But when it’s right, it’s right. Don’t you think?”

“I do.”

***

The following Thursday, my cell phone went off while I was getting ready for bed. I checked the caller ID. It was Justin. I don’t usually take late night calls, especially from a prospective groom a couple of nights before the wedding. While I may have trained myself to spout “make nice” noises, I still try to avoid anything to do with cold feet, bachelor parties, or prenuptial confessions.

But after three rings, I caved.

“This is Pali Moon.”

“Pali, it’s me, Justin.”

“Yes?”

“Stacy’s missing.”

“What do you mean, ‘missing’?”

“I went to pick up Brandon at the airport, and when I got back Stacy wasn’t here.”

“Could she have gone to visit someone? Maybe her sister? Is she staying nearby?”

“She rented a unit just a few doors down from us, but we haven’t seen her yet. Pali, our place looks like it’s been tossed, and, oh my God, it looks like there’s blood…” He didn’t finish.

“Justin, you need to call the police. It’s 9-1-1, just like in the rest of the United States.” I couldn’t help myself, I had to throw in the jab.

I heard a garbled noise, but couldn’t make out what he was saying.

“Call the police. Right now, Justin.”

The call went dead.

I waited a couple of minutes, then called him back, hoping he’d hung up on me to summon help. He didn’t answer. After leaving three voice messages, I stopped calling.

I tried to sleep, but a parade of grisly images played “peek-a-boo” with my efforts at falling asleep. Since the night was shot anyway, I got up and drove down to my shop. I pulled Justin and Stacy’s wedding planner file and jotted down the name of the condo where they were staying. I didn’t bother with the address and unit number, because I didn’t think I’d need it. Lower Honoapi’ilani Road has dozens of small condos planted cheek-to-jowl along the two-lane road. All I’d have to do was look for the flashing lights on the cop cars that would’ve responded by then.

With no traffic it takes about forty minutes to drive from my house in Hali’imaile to the turn-off from the Honoapi’ilani Highway to the Lower Road. I marveled at how dark and quiet it was, even though it was peak tourist season. The beaches may have been rockin’ at four that afternoon, but at three in the morning, the only things you hear are the faint hush of waves lapping the shoreline and the hum of the sodium streetlights.

I crept along the Lower Road with my windows down, actually going slower than the posted twenty-mile-an-hour speed limit. As I passed property after property, with names like “Maui Shores,” “Maui Sunset,” and “Sands of Maui,” I wondered how tourists managed to find their assigned slot. The uniformity of the properties, low-rise buildings, each with a small roadside parking lot and an obligatory coconut palm or two, made it appear as if the same condominium plan had been replicated over and over again—like an image reflected to infinity in a fun-house mirror.

I drove all the way up to Napili and there was no sign of police activity, so I pulled over and called Justin’s number one more time. Again, no answer.

I left yet another message, trying hard to use my well-trained “suck up” tone instead of the strident “Where the hell are you?” voice I heard in my head.

As I slowly retraced my way down the Lower Road, I wondered if maybe Justin had had too much to drink and had mistakenly wandered into the wrong unit. It was possible, since most of the older condos don’t have air conditioning and visitors leave doors open to allow the breeze to blow through.

Or, maybe Stacy had been mistaken when she’d told me they were staying near Ka’anapali Beach. Maybe the condo in question was, in fact, in Kihei, or even out by Ma’alaea Harbor. There are hundreds of rental places there, too. But I remembered Justin saying it had taken them almost an hour to reach their condo, and Kihei and Ma’alaea were much closer to the airport so it wouldn’t have taken that long.

I got home at nearly four-thirty Friday morning. I wasn’t any closer to finding out what happened, but I felt a whole lot sleepier. I hit the pillow, fully dressed, but woke up two hours later. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t.

I went into work and time dragged. I jumped every time my cell phone pinged, and when the mail carrier came in, she told me I looked “spooked.” I glanced at the clock after what seemed like a full day’s work, but it wasn’t yet ten o’clock. I’d texted, called, and emailed both Stacy and Justin numerous times, but still no response. I considered calling the police, but what would I say? Tourists are notorious for going dark for days on end once they kick into vacation mode.

Besides, I’ve had a few go-arounds with the local police and didn’t need another incident. It’s not like I’ve done any serious crimes. My run-ins with Maui’s finest have mostly been minor slap-downs for sticking my nose where it didn’t belong.

***

When I get stressed, my go-to activity is an hour of martial arts practice at a local kung fu studio. I like to kid myself that it’s the kicking and screaming that calms me down, but in fact I know it’s talking to Doug Kanekoa who’s the sifu, or chief instructor, there.

I trotted down to the appropriately-named, “Palace of Pain” and it cheered me to see his ancient black Jeep Wrangler parked out back. I went in through the back door, savoring the lingering smell of sweaty feet and Pine-Sol that permeates the air like a welcome-back hug.

“Aloha, Sifu,” I said.

Doug leaned against the doorjamb to his office as a smattering of grade-school age keiki packed up from an intermediate class. From the look on Doug’s face, he must’ve overheard some after-class trash talk and he was standing sentinel to make sure no one threw one last punch just for the heck of it.

“Aloha, Pali.”

“Tough class?” I said as I got within earshot.

“They always are. I can’t remember ever being rowdy in front of my sifu when I was a kid.” He slowly shook his head as he watched the last student head out.

“Are we really getting so old we’re waxing poetic about the ‘good old days’?”

He laughed. “Nah, I guess I’m just feeling my age. You know my own boy will be heading off to high school next year. Can’t hardly believe it.”

“I’ll bet he doesn’t give you lip.”

“Damn straight. I got the look down pat. You know what I’m sayin’?” He fixed his Army Ranger stare on me and I felt the urge to take a step back. I couldn’t imagine the look was any less intimidating to the keiki in his classes, but kids these days know corporal punishment is frowned upon, if not outright illegal, so it’s probably not as effective as it used to be when sifus taught classes with a thick bamboo pole resting on their shoulder.

“You got a minute?” I said.

“Sure. I don’t have another class until two. I’ll make us some tea.”

While Doug filled the hot pot and measured out the loose tea, I told him about the strange call I’d gotten from Justin the night before.

“Huh. And you haven’t been able to reach him this morning?”

“No. I’ve left like a dozen messages.”

“You’ve got the address, though, right?”

“Yeah. You think I should run back over there and see what’s going on?”

He shrugged and handed me a small handle-less Japanese teacup. The warmth of the cup contrasted with the chilliness of my hands.

I sipped the scalding tea. “Why is it I always seem to get in the middle of this stuff?”

“Good question. Seems the universe has a lot of faith in you.”

“Well, I’d like the universe to pick on someone else for a while.”

“Maybe if you mess up a time or two, it’ll move on to a more competent person,” he said.

He began chuckling and I joined in. We both knew neither of us was willing to “mess up” on purpose no matter how annoying the circumstances. It’s one of the downsides of having a competitive streak a mile wide.

“I guess I should take off.” I drained my cup and thanked my sifu for his time and the tea. The stuff tastes more medicinal than common green tea should, but it always relaxes me. I can’t help but wonder if Doug laces the concoction with an ingredient he cultivates under grow lamps in a back room of his house, but there’s no way I’d ask.

“You’re not going to stay and work out?”

“Not now, sifu. Maybe I’ll come back later.”

We bowed to each other and I loped back up to my shop. Within minutes I was driving back to the West Side with Justin and Stacy’s full address on a Post-it note stuck to my dash. I figured I had a much better chance of finding the place in daylight, but I was surprised when I pulled up and saw a phalanx of emergency vehicles blocking the entry to the Hale Maui Kai parking lot. Where were they the night before?

I left my car on the street under a sign that read, “No Parking—All times, All days.” Since it looked like every cop on this side of the island was already busy, I figured my chances of getting a ticket were slim.

“What’s happening?” I asked an old guy in a so-new-it-was-stiff aloha shirt.

“Some guy drowned or something.” He shook his head. “Real sad. My wife’s inside our condo crying. We’re here celebrating our thirtieth anniversary, and she says this has wrecked the whole vacation.”

I murmured my condolences for his distraught wife, and bobbed and weaved through cop cruisers, ambulances and knots of worried-looking visitors until I found Stacy and Justin’s condo, number 201. I knocked, but no one answered. It was understandable since it seemed nearly everyone was outside in the parking lot.

I leaned over the railing, searching the crowd for a familiar face, but came up empty. I walked downstairs and found a uniformed cop standing sentry on the sidewalk that led to the ocean side of the property.

“What’s going on?”

“You need to step back.” He held up a hand. “No one allowed past here.”

“Is that Detective Glen Wong?” I pointed to a man in street clothes standing at the edge of the property. I’d had a few dealings with Wong over the past few years—some good, some not-so-good—and I wasn’t sure how he’d view my arrival, but it was worth a shot.

The cop turned and squinted. “Yeah, that’s Wong.”

“I’m here to see him.”

The cop peered at me. “Yeah? Did he call you in on this?”

I nodded. I’ve always been a lousy liar, although I’m getting better all the time.

The cop stepped back, extending his arm as if inviting me to pass. “You better not be messin’ with me on this,” he said. “I don’t need no detective chewin’ my ass.”

I shot him a smile of reassurance. “Don’t worry. He’s expecting me.”

As I crossed the lawn separating the condo building from the oceanfront, it was obvious there was no beach. Waves crashed against a riprap breakwater on the other side of a low stone wall. In the far corner of the property, paramedics had trundled a gurney down to the wall and as I approached they were loading someone up. Water sluiced off the seemingly unconscious victim. The EMTs hastily tucked a black body bag around the form, then zipped it up tight leaving no question as to the person’s condition.

Detective Glen Wong crossed his arms as he watched me approach, but his facial expression remained inscrutable.

“Aloha, Detective,” I said in my most toadying voice. “You’re just the man I was looking for.”

“Let me guess,” he sucked in a breath. “You’re smack dab in the middle of this somehow.”

“Uh, I’m not sure about that, but I’m concerned about two guests who are staying at this condo. I thought you should know about it.”

“What’s the problem?”

“A groom I’m working with called me late last night and said his fiancée had gone missing and their place had been torn up. I told him to call the police, but before he could respond the line went dead. I tried calling him back but he didn’t answer. This morning, I’ve called him and his bride-to-be again and again and still no answer. I came to check if everything was okay.”

“What’s the groom’s name?”

“Justin DeWilde.”

“And the bride’s name?”

“Stacy. Stacy Wilmot.”

“I see. Do you know what unit they’re staying in?”

“Two-oh-one.” I pointed to the corner unit on the second floor.

“Huh. Well, as you can see, I’m kind of busy here.”

“What’s that mean? Don’t you think it’s strange that two people have gone missing from here and now you’re picking up a floater at the same place?”

He came over and stood close. In a low voice he said, “Look, Pali, we’re on it. I appreciate you letting me know about the phone call, but we’ll take it from here.”

“Who’s the vic, Detective Wong? Is it my bride?”

“You know I can’t say anything until the next of kin has been notified.”

“What’s going on? Don’t make me ask the reporters out in the parking lot. You really don’t want me telling them about getting that call last night about the missing bride, do you?”

Wong scowled. He began walking toward the condo building and motioned for me to tag along.

“Against my better judgment I’m going to let you in on a few facts we have so far, but only to assure you we’ve got things under control. Your client, Mr. DeWilde, is the victim we just loaded up. And, from the looks of things, he didn’t drown. It’s looking more like a suicide.”

“Suicide?”

“Yeah,” said Wong. “Snorkelers found him on the rocks this morning. It appears he killed himself with a spear gun, the kind snorkelers and divers use to catch fish. The spear pierced the heart. We found the gun next to him on the rocks, and a suicide note in the condo. Seems he didn’t want to leave a mess, so he came out here to do it.”

My hands got the eerie tingly sensation I feel when I get a scare—like a near-miss on the Pali Highway, or a letter with “Internal Revenue Service” in the return address.

I followed Wong up the stairs to the second floor. At unit 201 he rapped twice on the door.

“Open up, it’s me, Wong.”

A uniformed cop opened the door. Behind him stood Stacy, red-eyed and teary. She looked at Wong and then hung her head as if preparing herself for a body blow.

“I’m sorry,” Wong said. “They weren’t able to save him.”

“Stacy,” I said. “I’m so sorry. Is there anyone I can call for you?”

She shook her head and continued staring at the floor. After a few seconds she turned and slowly walked into the living room.

I followed her, noticing the condo appeared tidy and clean. Nothing out of order, no blood stains—or any other stains, for that matter—on the walls or the tile floor.

“Can you tell me what happened last night?” I said.

Wong shot me a warning look. “We’ll be taking Ms. Wilmot’s statement later on. You’re just here to assist her if she needs anything.”

“Okay, got it. Stacy, what about your sister? Do you want me to call her?”

“She wasn’t able to come for the wedding, after all. She got tied up at work or something.”

“Sorry to hear that. How about Brandon, Justin’s best man? Do you know where he’s staying?”

“I can’t remember if Justin told me. I’ve only met Brandon like once.” She started crying. “This is so horrible. It’s like an awful dream. Tell me your name again. I’m shaking so hard I can’t even think straight.”

“I’m Pali Moon, your wedding planner.”

“Oh, of course. I’m sorry. I just can’t believe this.” Stacy looked me in the eye. Her face was contorted into a mask of grief and confusion. Gone was the bubbly, blushing bride, replaced by a young woman who’d just tumbled into her worst nightmare. Her engagement ring winked in the morning light; a sad reminder of the happy event she and her now-dead fiancé had planned for the very next day.

Wong stepped over and removed a small note pad from his front pocket. “I’ll need to get those names and contact numbers from you, Ms. Wilmot.”

I spoke up. “What names are those?”

“The people who were scheduled to attend the wedding.”

“Why do you want them?”

“Look, Ms. Moon, we’re doing an investigation here. Unless you’ve managed to pass the bar exam since we last met up, you’re not entitled to speak on behalf of Ms. Wilmot. In fact, if there’s nothing more she needs from you, I think this would be a good time for you to leave.”

I looked at Stacy. “If you think of anything I can do to help, call me. Okay?”

She gazed at me with the perplexed expression of a person who’s come out of a coma and doesn’t recognize her surroundings.

“Here’s my card. I’m sure you’ve got another one around here somewhere, but I don’t want you to have to look for it. Call if I can help in any way.”

“Thank you.” She stared at the card. “Right now all I want is to go home.”

“Totally understandable.” I said. “I’ll make some calls and see about getting you on a flight today. I’ll let you know what I find out.”

I gave her a hug. It felt as though her body had already shrunk a size, as if by losing the love of her life she’d already been diminished.

I drove back to my shop in shock. I’d had weddings called off for all sorts of reasons: last minute cold feet, grooms going AWOL, a shrill mother-of-the-bride standing up at “speak now or forever hold your peace.” Once, I even had a bride run off with the best man ten minutes before the ceremony was supposed to start.

But a groom reporting his bride missing and then killing himself? It had a certain “Romeo and Juliet” quality that seemed almost romantic, albeit wretched. Why would Justin do it? I castigated myself for my laziness in not writing down the full address of where they were staying at the Hale Maui Kai before I drove over last night. Maybe if I’d taken Justin’s unresponsiveness more seriously…

But I couldn’t go there. The die was cast, the deed done. Best I could do now was make sure Stacy got back to the mainland quickly where friends and family could help her get through the ordeal. I didn’t want her to travel by herself, though. The last thing the hard-working flight attendants on Hawaiian Airlines needed was a young woman snapping out of her detached state and freaking out three hours from touchdown.

I called Stacy’s sister’s cell phone number but it just rang and rang. I hung up as it flipped over to voicemail because I didn’t want to leave a message. I didn’t know if she’d received official word of Justin’s death, and I didn’t want to say something that might be construed as crass. Even though I’d been working on my personal communication skills, I hadn’t gotten to the big stuff like death notification or humanely counseling someone about their severe halitosis.

Then I called the best man, Brandon. Supposedly, he’d arrived on-island the night before since Justin had said he’d been at the airport picking him up when Stacy went missing. I wished I’d had the chance to ask Stacy where she’d been when Justin got back to the condo, but with Wong there and Stacy appearing nearly catatonic, it’d have to wait.

Brandon answered on the second ring. I told him who I was and asked if he’d gotten word about Justin. Unfortunately, he hadn’t.

“What’s going on? Is he okay?”

“Would you mind coming to my shop in Pa’ia? I’m afraid Justin has had a bit of an accident and I’d like to discuss it with you face-to-face.” See what I mean about my being a lousy liar? I hung up knowing I hadn’t handled the notification well at all, and thinking of ten ways I could’ve phrased it better.

Brandon arrived at the shop thirty minutes later. His face was drawn.

“I heard,” he said, dropping into a chair across from my desk. “I got a call from the cops.”

I chastised myself for the mental fist-pump I did in response to being off the hook for having to give him the sad news.

“They asked me if I’d be willing to ID the body,” he went on.

“Not Stacy?”

“They said she’s mentally incapable, or something. Which is kind of funny, since that’s usually her sister’s MO.”

I must’ve looked confused, because he offered an explanation. “Yeah, Stacy’s sister is the nutcase. Stacy’s always been the steady one.”

“You’ve probably already heard by now the sister didn’t come over. Something about getting tied up at work,” I said. “That’s why I wanted to see you. I was hoping you could accompany Stacy back to the mainland today.”

“Sure, I’ll do whatever I can to help. Did the cops tell you how Justin died? They only told me that he’d died and they didn’t suspect foul play.”

“Well, it’s pretty sad, actually. It seems he shot himself.”

He slammed his hands flat down on my desk. “What? That’s insane. Where’d he get a gun?”

“It wasn’t a regular gun. He used a spear gun. I guess he must’ve rented one for spear-fishing, but then he turned it on himself after Stacy went missing.”

Brandon pulled back, throwing me “stink eye” as if I’d insulted him.

“Total BS,” he said in a soft voice.

We locked eyes.

“Why do you say that?”

“How well did you know Justin?” he said.

“Not well. I only met him once, when he and Stacy came in to finalize their wedding plans.”

“Justin was what we Oregonians call a ‘tree hugger.’ Totally vegan, a sit-in-a-tree-so-loggers-can’t-cut-it-down, kind of guy. No way he’d rent a spear gun. I’d be surprised if he’d even let someone show him one without him giving them a lecture about depleted fish stocks and respecting the ocean ecosystem.”

“So, you don’t think he rented a spear gun?”

“Nope, no way.”

“They found one when they pulled him off the breakwater,” I said. “Apparently he’d used it to spear himself in the heart. They also found a suicide note in his condo. I wasn’t privy to what the note said, but the cops seem pretty sure it was a classic suicide.”

“Well, they’re wrong.”

“I’d like to go with you to ID the body,” I said.

“Okay, then let’s do it.”

***

The morgue at Maui Memorial Hospital is in the basement. Seems logical, since it’s cool and dark, giving it the spooky vibe you’d expect from a place where they store the no-longer-living.

Brandon was the “person of record,” or POR, so he signed the paperwork, but I was allowed to accompany him under the pretext of being his “emotional support liaison,” or ESL. I can’t help but love how bureaucracies have an acronym for everything. I was actually the ASS, or “accompanying sneaky snoop,” but I didn’t let on.

They put us in a small room with a glass partition separating us from the dearly departed. When they brought Justin in, he was laid out under a clean white sheet. When they pulled it back it shocked me to see how close his skin-tone matched that of the sheet. His eyes were closed, and they’d placed a gauze pad over the entry wound, ostensibly to spare us the gory details.

Brandon cleared his throat. “That’s Justin.”

A voice came over a speaker in the corner of the room, and we both jumped. “Please state the deceased’s first and last name, and address, if known.”

“Uh, Justin DeWilde. From Bend, Oregon.”

“Mahalo. Please step outside to complete the paperwork.”

Brandon shot me a quizzical look.

“Mahalo means ‘thank you,’” I said.

“Oh. I guess I’m just kind of nervous.”

“Totally understandable.”

When we got back outside to fresh air and open sky, Brandon sucked in a deep breath. “I hope they pay those guys a lot to work in that morgue. No way I’d do a job like that.”

“Yeah. Speaking of jobs, what did Justin do?”

Brandon laughed. “You didn’t know?”

I shook my head.

“Total trust-fund baby. Justin’s family started one of the biggest breweries in Oregon. They ship beer to just about every state and even to some foreign countries. He’s been in college for at least ten years. I think he has degrees in, like, four different things. But the guy doesn’t have a single cent of student debt.”

I darted my eyes at Brandon, then looked away.

“I mean, he had degrees, and he had no debt. It’s hard for me to think of him as dead.”

“How about Stacy?”

“Her family doesn’t have money. She works as a dental assistant or something. It’s kind of funny how she and Justin got together. Her and her sister essentially share a job. Like one works on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other on Thursdays and Fridays, or something like that. Anyway, Justin met Tracy first, but when he had to go back to the dentist, Stacy was there. They only started going out a few months ago.”

“Stacy and Tracy? Are they twins?”

“Yeah, kind of funny. They’re nothing alike. I don’t even think they look that much alike, but it’s probably because their personalities are so different.”

“How well do you know Stacy?”

“Well enough, I guess. I mean, she was marrying my best friend.”

I dropped Brandon off at my shop so he could pick up his car, then I got to work on the phone. I’d promised Stacy I’d check on flights and it was already four in the afternoon.

I knew I should call Wong and let him know what Brandon had told me about the likelihood of Justin renting a spear gun, but there were a couple of things I wanted to check out first.

Hawaiian Airlines had a nonstop flight to Portland a little after nine that night, but there was only one seat available. I explained about the emergency situation and they offered to wait-list Brandon, but made no promises.

I called Stacy and told her she might have to wait until the next day to fly home since they only had one seat.

“It’s okay, I’ll go tonight. I don’t want Brandon flying with me, anyway.”

“Why? Don’t you think you’d feel better having a friend along?”

“Not him. He probably blames me for what happened.”

“Stacy, I really think you should wait until someone else can go with you on the plane.”

“That’s okay, I’m good. I just need you to email me the airline confirmation number.”

I scrambled to come up with something. “Uh, I printed it out and then deleted the file. I’m kind of busy this afternoon. Would you mind coming up here to Pa’ia to pick up the hard copy?” It wasn’t a very plausible lie. I mentally crossed my fingers, hoping she’d buy it.

“All right, I’ll come now. I want to have everything ready so I can get out of here tonight.”

I made two more calls and then sat back and waited for Stacy to show up.

She arrived a half-hour later looking flushed and irritated. “Why in hell would you delete the file? That’s just stupid. And it’s a bitch trying to find a parking spot around here, you know.”

“How are you doing?” I said.

“I’m doing good, all things considered. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, because I appreciate you getting me on that flight, but I’m kind of in a hurry. Can I have the airline ticket?”

I opened a drawer and fussed through a stack of papers as if I were looking for the print-out of the e-ticket.

Just then, Brandon walked through the shop door. He stopped and took a long look at Stacy. She froze.

“Hi Tracy,” he said.

“What are you talking about? I’m Stacy. Tracy couldn’t come. She had to work. With our job we can’t both take off at the same time.”

She turned to me. “Everybody always gets us mixed up.”

Brandon crossed his arms. “Tell me again where you and Justin bought your engagement ring.”

I’d coached him, and he’d performed beautifully.

“What?” She looked down at the large diamond on her left hand. “Oh, I can’t remember exactly. I think it was Helzberg’s Jewelers. Either that or Jared. What does it matter? I’m not getting married now, anyway.”

I steepled my fingers. “Where is Stacy’s body, Tracy?”

“What?” This time she shrieked. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“It almost worked,” I said. “You killed your sister and then you killed Justin and made it look like a suicide. You fooled the police, passing for Stacy, but the jig’s up. I assume your motive was jealousy. After all, you met him first. All that money, all those family connections. It wasn’t fair, was it?”

She pulled a knife from her purse with such speed it was as if she practiced every night, like a gun slinger whipping his gun in and out of the holster to get good at it.

“Give me that e-ticket right now.” She flashed the knife toward Brandon and me in a menacing way. “I’ve got to get to the airport.”

Wong stepped from behind the beaded curtain of my bridal dressing room, his badge in one hand, his drawn weapon in the other. “Put the knife down, Ms. Wilmot. The only trip you’ll be taking tonight is to the Wailuku Police station with me.”

 

The End

 

JoAnn Bassett is the author of the “Islands of Aloha Mystery Series,” a collection of nine cozy mysteries featuring Maui wedding planner, Pali Moon. She’s also the author of the “Escape to Maui” series: novels of mainland women who move to Maui for a fresh start.

Click on the title to go to that book’s page on Amazon.

Islands of Aloha Mystery Series

[+ “Maui Widow Waltz”+]

[+ “Livin’ Lahaina Loca”+]

[+ “Lana’i of the Tiger”+]

[+ “Kaua’i Me a River”+]

[+ “O’ahu Lonesome Tonight?”+]

[+ “I’m Kona Love You Forever”+]

[+ “Moloka’i Lullaby”+]

[+ “Hilo, Goodbye”+]

[+ “Isle Be Seeing You”+]

 

Escape to Maui Series

[+ “Mai Tai Butterfly”+]

[+ “Lucky Beach”+]

And coming in 2018, “Paradise Punch”

 

 


Lei, Lady, Lei

Maui wedding planner Pali Moon is putting on what she calls a "happy meal" wedding--simple ceremony, two witnesses, and a couple of Costco lei. These little nuptials don't bring in much money, but they also don't take much of her time, so it's a win-win. A late night call, a missing bride, and a groom who's no longer answering his cell phone. Sheesh. She should just chalk it up to cold feet, right? Then they find a body.

  • ISBN: 9781370184835
  • Author: JoAnn Bassett
  • Published: 2017-09-03 20:35:28
  • Words: 5735
Lei, Lady, Lei Lei, Lady, Lei