Murder…They Wrote by Larry K. Collins and Lorna Collins by Larry K. Collins and Lorna Collins - Read Online

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Summary

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 award-winning romance novelist ex-girlfriend, current young girlfriend, ex-wife, recently discovered illegitimate daughter, agent, an action/adventure author, famous psychic, long-time friend, and the mysterious countess.While Agapé enjoys getting a chance to exercise his old skills, his wife, Geraldine, isn't pleased, even though she talked him into volunteering as head of security for the conference.Peopled by a cast of quirky and deliciously amusing characters, Murder...They Wrote will quickly engage the reader. It is filled with accusations, theories, twists, turns and surprises. The authors each have unique personalities and bring them to the creation of the fictional authors.
Published: Whiskey Creek Press on
ISBN: 9781603137072
List price: $3.99
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Murder…They Wrote - Larry K. Collins

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much.

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.

Mmmph.

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.

Jones here.

Agapé, it’s Kimo. I’m at the hotel. Come now.

What happened?

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?

Sure thing.

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 usually for grocery lists, but out of old habit, I pulled it out and jotted some notes.

—Male, 60-something, jogging shorts, tank top, earpiece, 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

(555) 234-5661

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.

My coffee would have to wait.

Chapter 2: Confrontation

The hotel ballroom had been converted to a large auditorium and the doors opened fifteen minutes before each session. Phoebe Skye, best-selling romance author, was scheduled for the morning’s keynote address. A sizeable crowd waited to enter.

I snaked my way through the river of bodies, grateful for the red lanyard holding my ID cards. It identified me as security staff.

Sonia gave me a dirty look as I finally arrived and opened a second door. She was one of the best volunteers on my staff and had been checking credentials by herself for nearly fifteen minutes. I knew I’d get an earful at her first opportunity.

Still, I was glad I’d scheduled her for the morning session. Unlike some of the other volunteers, Sonia always showed up—and ahead of time. She’d been on the security team even before I started and knew what was required. Good thing on days like this.

With the second door open, the rest of the human wave flowed in pretty quickly.

As soon as all but the stragglers were inside, I shut my door. That would make Sonia even madder, but I had to locate Jim Zander to tell him about Robert Dyer. Some sort of