Black Jasmine is my third novel in the Hawaiian mystery series featuring Leilani Texeira, my intrepid multicultural detective. One of the cool ideas I had for the series was for her to travel to the different islands solving crimes. In this latest one set on Maui, I became intrigued by creepy Pauwela Lighthouse as a crime scene. Several people have disappeared and been killed out there. It's a party zone and a homeless encampment. When I was cooking the book up a few months ago in my mind I made The Hubby take me out there to get atmosphere and take reference shots. That's how I came up with the idea for the main murder- on a bluff high above the sea, a car could so easily plunge down….
I'm writing from an outline this time, and it's challenging to stay on track, Lei, her boyfriend Stevens and partner Pono really want to wander off in their own directions, so I keep adapting the outline to keep up with them!
Anyway Pauwela looks pretty in these photos, and in sunshine it is. But there's a darkness there that isn't my imagination. Check these out:
The wind-bent brush is filled with tents of homeless, concealed like hobbit-holes.
So, I'm doing National Write a Novel in a Month and getting up my word count on Black Jasmine. It's hard to have anything else to say when I'm trying to do 2,000 words a day.
So without further ado, the beginning.
Dust particles whirled back and stung my eyes as the car plummeted off the cliff. I found myself squatting low to the edge, hands outstretched as if to pull it back. But I’d sent it over with one hard push, and now the impact as it hit the jutting lava rocks at the base of the cliff shuddered up through earth and smote my ears with the scream of tearing metal. Then, silence.
Surely that would shut the bitch up.
I stepped forward to the edge, grasped a nearby guava branch to make sure I didn’t follow the car over, and looked down. This wasn’t Hollywood and alas, the car hadn’t exploded into a fireball to obliterate any evidence I might have missed. It had landed square on its front bumper and accordioned nicely before flipping upside down on the black lava, and as I watched, a huge wave crashed against the rocks and engulfed it in surging foam.
If she somehow made it through the crash, the ocean would finish her off.
Adrenaline and a visceral high I’d only felt one other time surged through me and I felt like I could fly off the edge, soaring like an owl over the moonless nightscape. Instead I stepped back, dusted down my black long-sleeved shirt and pants, turning to make sure I was unobserved.
Humped shapes of wind-twisted brush where the homeless had carved space for tents remained dark and motionless, but I got out my Sig just in case, silencer already on. Usually the denizens here knew better than to come investigate any disturbances. I set off a brisk walk, flicking on a penlight to light me over any obstacles.
Once away from the bluff head-high pili grass swayed in the warm breeze, dim silver starlight reflecting off the blades like a hula dancer’s skirt. I broke into a jog on the dirt road, aiming for my hidden vehicle.
That high. God it was something. Maybe that was it, I felt like God, granting life, taking it away. It reminded me of that other time, so long ago, when I’d pushed a different car over a cliff with another teenage girl behind the wheel, tanked to the gills on vodka I’d poured down her throat. I couldn’t help smiling, savoring the memory. Thank you—you gave me your life, literally.
I can hardly remember that other name I used to have. Jasmine, I think it was—stupid name for stupid trailer trash, which no one would ever imagine I’d been.
Maybe it wasn’t so bad I’d had to come out here and get my hands dirty. Sometimes you just had to do things yourself or they wouldn’t get done right.
Lei Texeira tested the rope running through the cleat, giving it a yank, and gave the fireman lowering her a nod. He started the winch, and she bounced out off the cliff, keeping her knees bent and staying in proper form as she began a slow descent, blasts of wind off the ocean blendering her short curly brown hair. The cliff was marbled with pockets of underbrush, and she tangled in a clump of strawberry guava.
“Stop the winch!”
Unfortunately the sound of the winch and the crash of waves masked her voice and the rope kept paying out, and suddenly all her weight rested on the bush. She spread her arms involuntarily, resting horizontal and horrified thirty feet above the rocks. She gave a yelp that was more like a scream and flailed as it dumped her out of scratching branches. She hit the end of the rope like a plumb bob, torquing her neck and back, the harness digging into her crotch and hips.
“Goddamn it,” she said, dropping gracelessly as a load of laundry the last ten feet onto the lava ledge beside the upside-down sedan.
Her burly partner, Pono Kaihale, hurried forward to help her unfasten the harness.
“Shit, you okay?” He pushed his Oakleys up onto his buzz-cut head, a worried crease on his wide brow, unclipping the cable. She groaned, fumbling at the clip in the front of the harness and prying it out of her ass.
“Gonna have whiplash tomorrow. You sure there’s a body in there?”
The fireman who’d made the discovery came forward, hand extended. “Ouch, sorry about that descent. I couldn’t call Ben fast enough on the walkie. Randy Vierra.” Lei shook his hand: hard calloused grip, big local guy who wore his firegear like a proud second skin.
“Eh Ron. What we get?” She slid into pidgin, liquid dialect of the Islands, when speaking to locals and establishing rapport. In Hawaii, it was important to be from here, and that was established within minutes.
“We get one call from the public phone, late last night. Wouldn’t leave a name. Said one car went crash off the cliff, they thought it was just pushed off, no one inside. So as soon as it got light we came out. Ben and I rappelled down, and that’s when we saw her.”
He gestured to the wrecked car.
Lei and Pono followed him over to the vehicle. Cubes of glass glittered all over the rocks, adding sparkle to the turquoise sea which had retreated with low tide but whose work was evident on the wreck. Lei squatted down beside the blown-out driver’s window and peered in.
The hood of the car had hit the rocks first. As it compressed backward it jammed the steering wheel into the girl’s torso, almost bisecting it. She was upside down, belt still in place, long red hair trailing in pinkish water collected on the roof of the aged sedan. Her neck was broken at such an extreme angle that her face, intact and wide-eyed, looked up in surprise at her pulverized body folded around the steering wheel. A regular rinse of seawater all night had washed most of the blood away, leaving the body soggy and bleached-looking.
Lei hated it when the eyes were open. They were blue, glassy as marbles. She resisted the urge to close them, tucking her hand in her pocket where she rubbed a small round black stone.
She looked at Pono. “Medical Examiner on the way?”
“Yeah.” He folded his Cupid’s bow lips, hidden by a bristling mustache, into a thin line and rubbed them with a forefinger as he looked at the girl. “Looks like a teenager. Suicide?”
“Probably.” Lei straightened up after rifling the girl’s empty pockets. No purse on the seat either, and nothing but a sodden island map in the glove box. “If there was any evidence of anything else, all night with the ocean doing the washing machine isn’t going to leave much.”
I am open to posting more if people are interested? Let me know with a comment. Otherwise, talk to you in a month!