Let’s head to Hawaii to solve a mystery from Harlequin. R. Barri Flowers brings us Danger on Maui where a writer and detective get together to solve a murder. Get your flip flops and sunscreen on as we head into this week’s mystery.
Daphne was up early in the Kiki Shores luxury oceanfront villa on Kai Malina Parkway in Kaanapali. The beautiful and popular resort was on the west shore of Maui. As much as she would have liked to have slept in for another hour or so in the comfortable king-sized bed in the large primary bedroom, with a second bedroom serving as her temporary office, that would have to wait for another day. There were things to do and people to see, one in particular. Having done her research, Daphne had found out that the lead investigator in the murder-suicide case she was working on was a homicide detective named Kenneth Kealoha. From experience, she had learned that interviewing detectives working the investigations provided just the right context needed to ensure the true crime book balanced in its factual basis and verisimilitude while keeping the readers engaged throughout. Hopefully, Detective Kealoha will be cooperative and not just blow me off, she thought while tying her hair up.
After putting on a blue T-shirt and gray shorts, Daphne stepped into a new pair of white running shoes, ready to break them in. She spotted a small gecko on the cream-colored wall as she passed beneath the swirling fern-leaf ceiling fan and across the villa’s ceramic tile flooring. Moving past the vintage furnishings with a modern feel, she headed out for a quick morning run on Kaanapali Beach. It included three miles of pristine golden white sand and an endless view of the clear waters of the deep blue ocean. Then there was Black Rock, the hot spot on the nearshore for cliff diving. She wondered if she could muster up the courage to give it a try during her stay. Beyond that, she could see the Hawaiian islands of Lanai and Molokai. There were a few other runners out, but well spaced from one another. One tall and tanned male runner acknowledged her before picking up speed, as if to show off his powerful legs. She chuckled within. At least I can be myself here and not be bothered by anyone, Daphne mused, knowing full well that being somewhat of a celebrity—at least in Tuscaloosa—was not all it was cracked up to be. Attracting the wrong attention could become a nightmare as thoughts of her stalker, Marissa Sheffield, filled Daphne’s head.
She shut this down, determined not to give in to an ordeal that was now over. Once back in the villa, she took a shower, dressed and grabbed a bite to eat at the Kiki Shores restaurant. Then Daphne got in her rented Chevy Malibu, equipped with a GPS navigation system, and used the voice directions to make her way to the Maui Police Department on Mahalani Street in Wailuku.
At the front desk, Daphne was told by the thirtysomething burly male desk officer where to find Detective Kenneth Kealoha. When she reached his cubicle, there was a tall and dark-haired man standing by a wooden desk with his back to her. Clearing her throat to get his attention, Daphne uttered, “I’m looking for Detective Kealoha…”
The man turned around and locked solid brown-gray eyes with her, looking just as shocked as she was. “You found him,” he said equably.
“Ken.” The word blurted out of Daphne’s mouth even before she began to put the pieces together in sizing up the man she’d met yesterday at her book signing.
“Daphne Dockery, the true crime writer,” he said in return, an amused grin playing on his full mouth. “Ken is short for Detective Kenneth Kealoha, which I’m sure you’ve probably already figured out.”
She blushed. “I gathered that much.”
“Feel free to stick with Ken, if you like.” Kenneth stared at her and stuck out his hand. “Have to say, I didn’t think we’d see each other again. At least not so soon.” He laughed wryly as they shook hands.
“Neither did I,” she had to admit, having no idea of who he was the first time around, while feeling the sensations of their skin contact.
“You’re not stalking me, are you?” he asked playfully.
“Not funny.” Daphne made a face. She considered stalking serious business, having been a victim of it.
Kenneth seemed to pick up on her uneasiness with the subject matter. “Poor choice of words,” he said contritely. “Sorry about that.” He paused. “So, what can I do for you?”
Daphne smoothed a thin eyebrow. “I need your help,” she said tentatively, commanding his contemplation. “Or to get some information from you.”
“Go on,” he prodded gently.
She took a breath. “I’m writing a book about the murder-suicide involving the Takahashi family that took place on the island last summer. Since you were the lead detective on the case, I was hoping to talk to you about it to help fill in some of the blanks.”
“I see.” Kenneth shifted his weight to one leg. “As much as I’d love to help you, Ms. Dockery, right now I’m in the middle of a major investigation.”
“Please call me Daphne,” she told him, sensing that it had suddenly seemed to become more formal between them. But she didn’t come there simply to be turned away. Not without giving it her all. “I understand that you’re busy, Ken,” she allowed in a friendly voice, “but I just need a little bit of your time. I can pay you…”
He frowned. “I don’t want your money.”
Did I just insult him unintentionally, or what? Daphne asked herself. “Perhaps this was a bad idea,” she said. “I’ll just have to work my way around this part. Maybe you could direct me to one of the other detectives who was involved in the investigation?”
Kenneth met her eyes and she could tell he was having second thoughts. “I’m probably your best bet to get what you need,” he spoke evenly. “And while we’re at it, I have a few questions of my own for you.”
“Oh…?” She cocked a brow curiously, wondering if his questions were professional. Or more of a personal nature?
He didn’t follow up on that, instead asking, “Can we get together this afternoon, maybe for lunch?”
“That works for me,” Daphne agreed, perhaps too eagerly. “Lunch is a good time to talk.” Especially if they could do so at a relatively quiet place.
Kenneth concurred. “Where are you staying?” She told him, knowing it was asked for the right reasons, coming from the handsome detective, who then said, “I can meet you at the Seas Grill in Whalers Village at one.”
“I’ll see you there,” she said, knowing of the swanky outdoor shopping center on Kaanapali Beach, having already acquainted herself with it during a walkthrough.
He grinned crookedly. “Look forward to it.”
“Me, too.” Daphne smiled back, wishing she wasn’t so attracted to him, if only to keep her focus on the mission at hand. But then again, she saw no harm in admiring the detective, who seemed to be just as taken with her, even while remaining somewhat aloof.
R. Barri Flowers is the award-winning author of romantic suspense, mystery, thriller and fast-paced crime fiction with more than one hundred books published to date. Chemistry and conflict between the hero and heroine, attention to detail, and incorporating the very latest advances in criminal investigations and modern techno-thrillers, are the cornerstones of his crime novels.
As a literary criminologist, R. Barri Flowers has appeared on the Biography Channel, Investigation Discovery, Oxygen, Peacock, and Tubi true crime documentary series. Barri enjoys traveling around the country and abroad to scope out intriguing settings and dynamics for future storylines, books, and miniseries. He is a graduate of Michigan State University’s renowned School of Criminal Justice and a recipient of its esteemed Wall of Fame Award.
Upcoming titles by the author include Till She Was Done (A Psychological Thriller) from Level Best Books (June 2023), Special Agent Witness (The Lynleys of Law Enforcement Book 1) from Harlequin Intrigue (October 2023), and Christmas Lights Killer (The Lynleys of Law Enforcement Book 2) from Harlequin Intrigue (November 2023).