What if a retired NYPD officer is asked to investigate a mysterious death at the National Authors Conference where various attendees offer their theories and suspicions?
Murder …They Wrote answers this question as Agapé Jones, retired NYPD detective, tries to determine the truth surrounding the death of Robert Dyer, noted poet and critic. Confusing and confounding him are Robert’s ex-girlfriend, award-winning romance novelist Phoebe Skye, current young girlfriend Summer Winters, ex-wife Sheila “Cookie” McGuire, recently discovered illegitimate daughter Sarah Jane Streshinksy (AKA Tinker Belle), action/adventure author Steve Bold, famous psychic Clara Casper, long-time friend Sylvia Sanchez, agent Dennis Purcell and the mysterious Countess Elektra Rozanska.
While Agapé enjoys getting a chance to exercise his old skills, his wife of over forty years, Geraldine, isn’t pleased. Peopled by a cast of quirky and deliciously amusing characters, Murder …They Wrote will engage and delight, all the way to the final plot twist.
Chapter 1: The Call
“Who was that?” Actually, it sounded more like, “Murpph uss uat?” since her face was half buried in a pillow. ‘Her’ being my wife, Geraldine Jones, the love of my life. The mother of my children. The woman I’d dodge a bullet for—and have.
“Kimo, from the hotel.” I snapped the phone shut, set it on the table and shuffled my way back to her side of the bed. Then I leaned over and found the corner of her warm lips in the dim light for a little smooch. “He says I have to come now.”
I knew she was already asleep. She has the most maddening ability to nod off any time, anywhere. Once I’m awake, there’s no goin’ back.
I glanced at the clock. Its mocking red numbers glared back: 6:03. The lighted dot was next to ‘AM.’ Since my retirement three years ago, that’s the middle of the night. I don’t get up in the middle of the night. I don’t have to. Especially on a Saturday.
After my morning kiss, and in over forty years I hadn’t missed many, I grabbed my favorite shorts and a clean Hawaiian shirt.
Maybe it was best I woke up anyway, since I was in the middle of the same old nightmare—the one of the shooting that ended my long career with the NYPD.
It was no mystery why I’d been called. As the volunteer head of security for the annual National Authors Conference held each September over Labor Day weekend, if something was up, I needed to be there.
And everyone knew my record as a cop. I’d never lost a collar—including the last one. The SOB got off one shot before I could subdue him. The flak jacket took most of the hit, but it glanced off the bottom, skidded downward and embedded itself in my upper thigh. I still carry the souvenir of that incident. It’s also the reason I was put on permanent disability just short of full retirement.
When Gerry marched into the hospital, she announced, “Your days on the streets are over.” This time she meant it. So did the force. They offered to let me ride a desk, but that’s not my style. I was Detective grade at the time and a good investigator, but knew I’d be a liability at any crime scene, even as CSI.
Gerry knew it, too, so she accepted a job teaching English at Maui Community College. It took me a while to convert from blue uniforms to Hawaiian shirts, short pants and flip-flops. Now, I’d never go back.
* * * *
It was only about a five-minute drive from our condo in Kihei to the hotel. On the way, I thought back to how the day had started.
It had taken just a New York minute for me to realize I’d heard my cell and a couple more to triangulate its position across the bedroom. The high-pitched rendition of the “Theme from Beverly Hills Cop,” programmed into my phone at the request of my lovely bride, had jerked me into consciousness.
I’d heaved myself out of bed. Getting the bum leg started in the morning usually requires some time. I didn’t have it, so I limped over to the chair where I’d hung my khaki cargo shorts the night before. It took three choruses of the damned song before I located the phone deep in a pocket and flipped it open.
“Agapé, it’s Kimo. I’m at the hotel. Come now.”
“Just come! We need you!”
“Okay, calm down. I’m on my way.”
Kimo sounded freaked. He’s the convention manager for the resort. For a laid-back Hawaiian, the panic in his voice meant something serious had gone down.
* * * *
When I entered the hotel driveway, I saw Danny, Kimo’s youngest brother, on valet duty. He raised his phone as he headed my way and started talking. By the time I stopped the car, he’d come around to my side and was finishing his call. “…yeah, Lilikoi. I’ll tell him. See ya, Braddah.”
He opened my door. I eased myself out of the seat and tried to put weight on my bad leg. It would hold, but would bother me all day. I hadn’t taken time to do my PT. I’d pay for it.
Gerry was probably still in bed. She’d get a ride from her friend Maggie since both of them volunteered in the bookstore. Normally, Gerry and I drive together, park at the mall, and enjoy a quiet morning stroll to the lobby. Not today.
I was grateful for my wife’s best friend. They’d met on Gerry’s first trip to interview at the college and instantly bonded. You’d think they’d known each other all their lives from the way they finish each other’s sentences and laugh at the same dumb jokes.
It was Maggie who’d told us about the condo for sale in her complex and encouraged us to volunteer for the conference. Her husband, Chuck, is also a professor, and the three of them often carpool to work.
That morning, I was glad we could count on her.
“Kimo’s on the stairs at Lilikoi,” Danny said.
“Damn.” Lilikoi was the building farthest from the lobby, but closest to the convention facilities: ballroom, meeting rooms, and group areas. It was where most of the presenters were housed. And it would be about a three-minute walk on a good day, four or five today.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Don’t know for sure, but Kimo needs ya. Park your car?”
“In the mall lot?”
I’d barely cleared the front bumper when he zoomed off. It was an old car, used when we bought it. New didn’t make much sense here. Between the salt and sand, paint jobs didn’t last long.
I walked as fast as I could and decided to enjoy the morning sights, smells, and sounds on the way. I crossed the lanai with the manmade waterfall to the left, the songs of the birds in the trees all around and the soft “whoosh, whoosh” of the surf to the right in the background. That’s the best music in the islands.
I took a deep breath and enjoyed the flower-and-fruit-scented air. Before we moved here, I read something that said, “In Hawaii, even the air smells sexy.” Whoever had said it was right.
As I reached the end of the lanai, I paid attention to the colors. The sky is bluer, the grass is greener, the plants are lusher, and everything is more vivid here than anywhere else I’ve been.
The sight took me back to a school field trip when I was about ten. Museums didn’t interest me. Art even less. I’d rounded a corner and stopped short.
Right there on the walls were paintings of men and women—mostly women—who could have been members of my family. Until then, I’d always thought artists weren’t interested in colored people as their subjects. But in addition to vivid flowers, leaves, and trees, this one’s world was peopled with dark-skinned folks like me.
I don’t know how long I stood there staring before Miss Young, my teacher, came up behind me.
“Gauguin,” she whispered. I knew she meant the artist. After another minute, she added, “That’s Tahiti.”
Gauguin. Tahiti. That’s where I want to live.
When compared to the dirt and noise of New York City and even the concrete and wall-to-wall houses of the suburb where I grew up, this Paradise on earth seemed like heaven.
She let me look a little while longer before we had to find the rest of the class. But I never forgot those pictures. I even took Art Appreciation in college to try to understand the painter. And I never stopped wanting to live in the islands.
Gerry knew taking the job on Maui meant moving here, a dream-come-true for me.
I passed the open air ’Ohana Café and caught a whiff of fresh coffee. A cup would sure taste good right now.
Checking my watch, I noted it was six forty-eight. I was scheduled for duty in the Liliokolani Ballroom at eight. I knew because I’d made the schedule. Maybe there would be time for a cup before that.
I like the word ’Ohana. In Hawaiian it means ‘family.’ The people are the best thing about this place. When you’re here, you’re ’Ohana.
I sure miss our own kids, though. They’re still on the Mainland. Email and phone calls aren’t the same as being face-to-face, especially with grandkids.
But the whole gang is coming for the holidays.
I can hardly wait.
I continued past the main buildings and across the wide lawn toward the end of the hotel with the convention facilities. The Palekaiko Maui is really a resort complex with all the amenities. Situated near Makena State Park, it’s one of the best places for visitors to the island.
From the lawn, I could see the green fencing around the tennis courts, one of the three pools and, of course, the turquoise water and shimmering pale golden sand of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The two golf courses are across the highway, and in one of the buildings in the main part of the complex, are a complete gym and spa.
Walking paths crisscross the whole resort, dotted with benches, lounges, small tables, and chairs. Even though it was harder on my leg than taking a path, walking straight across the grass was the shortest distance. I knew I’d pay the price later, but at that moment, expediency won out.
I limped to the stairs, hoping Kimo was on these and not the ones at the far end of the building. I heard voices above me. Damn, a climb after the long walk.
I grabbed the handrail and pulled myself up, trying not to put too much weight on my throbbing leg. Reaching the second floor, I spotted Kimo at the top of the first landing leading to the third.
"About time you got here."
Kimo pointed to the small puddle of blood beyond his feet. He stood behind yellow crime scene tape stretched across the landing. As I reached the top and ducked under, I saw a man’s body.
Instinct kicked in. I still carry two things with me from the old days: my NYPD commemorative shield, and the detective’s notebook from the force. Since retirement, it’s usu-ally for grocery lists, but out of old habit, I pulled it out and jotted some notes.
• Male, 60-something, jogging shorts, tank top, ear-piece, iPod, Nikes—the most expensive ones, no socks
I saw his face as I moved further around. His chiseled features, salt-and-pepper hair and perfect tan left no doubt about who it was. I made another entry in the notebook:
• Robert Dyer, critic, poet, conference lecturer, head trauma—source of small pool of blood
I knew the guy. Didn’t much care for him. Arrogant SOB. Always with a different young woman.
Geez, he had two sessions scheduled for today, I thought. Those are out.
His iPod was still on, and I could hear noise from his white earbuds. I approached the body, careful not to step on anything important. Taking the pencil, I hooked the earphone jack cord and tugged. The noise stopped. I was thankful for my fourteen-year-old grandson who’d showed me that trick last Christmas.
Two local cops, who’d apparently just arrived, were busy processing the scene when there was a commotion downstairs. Two more officers and a detective headed up.
“Uncle Duke.” Kimo greeted the one in the suit. The big guy. He looked like a former linebacker. I knew the type: no neck, head directly attached to his shoulders. He was about six-four and towered over everyone else.
“This is Agapé Jones, Conference Security.”
He took my hand in his big paw. I figured he could crush it if he wanted. But his grip was firm and businesslike.
“Just call me Detective Duke. Everyone does. What happened here?”
Kimo answered quickly. “Dyer’s girlfriend, Summer Winters, found him this morning about five forty-five. He usually went jogging on the beach. She called me, and I called you and Agapé. She’s pretty shaken.”
“Where is she now?”
“One of the local guys took her to the Duke Kahanamoku room. We’re using it as the bookstore for the conference, but they don’t open ’til nine.”
The photographers and forensics people showed up and went to work. It felt familiar to be back at a crime scene. Didn’t matter that it was in Hawaii, crime is crime, police are police, and the routine is pretty much the same everywhere in the country.
“Find anything unusual?” Duke asked the group. He was answered with a chorus of “No,” “Nothing,” and a few mumbles.
From time to time, I could hear the officer on the landing above directing people to use the other stairway or the elevator. She was polite but firm.
I spotted something that looked shiny on the handrail, about halfway up.
“Check that out.” I pointed.
The nearest CSI guy grabbed his kit and took a couple of swabs. “Looks like blood to me,” he reported.
“Might have hit his head on the way down,” was Duke’s speculation.
The coroner arrived and bagged the body. Everyone else packed to go.
Detective Duke turned to me. “Looks like he probably tripped and fell on the stairs. Unless the evidence shows otherwise, I’d guess it was an accident.” He ran a hand through his crew cut. “We’re really swamped right now and could use some help. Kimo’s told me about you. Would you keep an eye out for anything suspicious?” It was a statement, not a question.
He handed me his card. It read:
George “Duke” Wimakinukalulani
Chief Investigator, Investigative Services
Maui County Police Department
“Phone me if there’s anything you think I should know. I’ll interview the girlfriend. And on the way, there’s a cup of hot Kona with my name on it.”
I guess they don’t have too much serious crime here on Maui, I thought. My years with NYPD had taught me to always be suspicious unless there was positive proof otherwise. Duke seems to think this was an accident. But then he did ask, or rather tell, me to follow up.
I glanced at my watch. Seven-fifty-two. Damn, I’ll just make it to Liliokolani in time for my shift.
A fun read for anyone who has ever attended or wondered what goes on at a writers conference. Join Agape Jones as he tries to make order out of the conference chaos when one of the attendees is found dead on the stairs.
His investigation into the poet's death brings out the man's relationships with several women attending the conference and they are eyed with suspicion with their involvement with a possible murder. A retired policeman who missed active police work, Agape is pleased to take on some of the investigative work on this case.
The motive of the poet's death is elusive as there are several. Yet there is also a question of whether he was actually murdered.
I'm pleased to recommend Murder,,, They Wrote by the talented writing team of Larry K. and Lorna Collins as a read well worth the time. It is a pleasant read set in Hawaii. The writers have caught the flavor of a conference and given it a sense of reality.
You'll like Agape Jones as a non-stereotypical investigator with a down to earth sense of responsibility. The characters are fun to meet and each offers a unique perspective on the victim and sometimes life.
I'm pleased to recommend this tale as a read any mystery fan will enjoy. I sure did.
Anne K. Edwards, Mysteryfiction.net
Excellent Cozy Mystery
Agape Jones, NYPD detective retired from the job after a shooting injury ended his long time career. Moving to Hawaii , where his wife took a job teaching English at the college. So it was only natural for him to head security for the National Authors Conference that is held every Labor Day Weekend. With the authors and would be writers converging at the hotel getting ready for the big day ahead , Robert Dyer who was a noted poet and critic is found dead on the stairway. When Agape arrives on the scene instinct kicks in and he starts taking notes. He may be retired but old habits are hard to break. When he is asked to help out on the investigation he jumps at the chance even though his wife is less than pleased. This looks like an accidental death, but is it? It's a well known fact that he was an arrogant man and was disliked by many of the authors there that weekend. As he starts to investigate what a mess he runs into. Girlfriends, ex girlfriends, a wife, a daughter, publisher and many more all who may have had a reason to get rid of him. When each one starts accusing each other the list grows of suspects. Pulling out his old skills, there is something that he can quite put his finger on.
This is a very well written cozy mystery that keeps one reading right through to the surprise ending. The twist and turns and accusations is written so well that one may think they know who the murderer is only to change their mind after the next couple of pages. As I read this book the one think that came to my mind was, there has to be a sequel. I can picture Agape coming out of retirement against the better wishes of his wife, or I hope there is. I love a good cozy mystery and this one fit the bill perfect. For all Cozy Mystery Lovers out there I recommend grabbing a copy of Murder... They Wrote. I know you won't be disappointed.
already like the way the Collinses write cuz I read their memoir 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park.
Now, this husband & wife have turned their talents to cozy mysteries based in Hawaii, & they've done well!
They've brought you a bouquet of sunshine, sea & Agape Jones, medically retired NYPD detective called in to work on a case concerning the corpse of a rather unpleasant author found in a stairwell at a writers' conference.
The bouquet also contains morsels of drama, a touch of suspense, a good dose of vengeance & a little bit of marital humor.