Sunday, 5 September 2010
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, HAWAIIAN STYLE By James C. Clar
Happy Anniversary, Hawaiian Style!
From where HPD detectives Jake Higa and Ray Kanahele sat on padded folding chairs, the spacious lawn sloped in front of them until it met the ocean two hundred yards or so below. Out over the water and beyond the reach of the light generated by the tiki torches that had served to illuminate the once festive scene around them, the moon etched the breakers a phosphorescent silver and white as it played celestial tag with a patch of wispy clouds.
“This is some truly upscale real estate here, my friend,” Kanahele had remarked earlier as the two men drove past Fort Ruger and continued on toward the little park where Kahala Avenue met Diamond Head Road. Barely visible, the looming mass of Koko Head on the other side of Maunalua Bay receded beyond them. Had it still been daylight, both men would have looked instinctively over their shoulders for the distant outline of Molokai on the horizon a few degrees further to the south.
It was early September and most of the lawns they passed sported campaign signs.
“The mayor wants to be governor and every councilman and assemblyman in the in the county wants to be mayor,” Higa remarked offhandedly. “They’re like monkeys climbing trees, each one trying to get to the next highest branch. What do they do when they get to the top?”
“Throw shit on the rest of the troop,” Kanahele responded. “Just like monkeys do out on the savannah or in the jungle or wherever the hell it is monkeys live.”
Higa nodded as he guided the car to the right and up the makai flank of Diamond Head, Hawaii’s most iconic landmark. In a moment, he turned left onto a short driveway that led to an estate situated just above Black Point.
A wrought iron gate which was decorated with the images of palm trees, waves and leaping dolphins stood open. The grounds were already swarming with uniformed officers, scene-of-crime technicians and emergency personnel. There was nowhere to park so he simply stopped the car and left it with its ass-end sticking out into Diamond Head Road.
“This guy was my dentist,” Kanahele announced as the two men slammed their doors and regarded one another over the roof of their vehicle.
“No shit. Remember that root canal and crown I had done last February?”
“I do remember that, now that you mention it,” Higa had agreed with a wry smile. “The only reason is because you were moaning and groaning for days. Maile threatened to leave you unless you got it taken care of.”
“Yeah well, Maile’s always threatening to leave me. Besides, what really hurt was paying for it. The department’s plan only covered a third of the cost or something. It was still a bundle. It would have been cheaper to have the friggin’ tooth pulled. But that might have ruined my movie star looks.”
Unconsciously, the stocky detective rubbed his cheek in the vicinity of a molar on the upper left. “Anyhow, this is the guy who fixed me up.” Motioning with his beefy hands he indicated the almost palatial aspect of the home toward which they were walking. “At least the bruddah put my money to good use, huh?”
Now, an hour later, they sat opposite a silver haired woman in her early sixties. Like the home in which she lived, she could best be described as stately, well-tended.
Kanahele, for his part, had eyes only for the large, edible arrangements of tropical fruit that adorned the linen covered tables that dotted the lawn all around him. Some were sculpted to look like palm trees, others surfboards and even members of Hawaiian royalty. A fair number of the bananas and mangoes that made up the figure on his right were missing but, even so, its identity as King Kamehameha – feather cape and kāhili included – was unmistakable.
“So, Mrs. Brillande,” Higa began as he glanced quickly at his notebook. “This was a celebration in honor of your thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. Is that correct?”
Helen Brillande paused for a moment before answering. She seemed to be doing nothing so much as taking in the beautiful evening around her. The lingering smell of kiawe wood smoke mingled with the headier scents of plumeria, tiare and night-blooming cereus. Just discernible on the light breeze was the more acrid tang of iodine from the warm, primordial waters of the Pacific.
“Yes, that’s right detective.” Nearby, uniformed officers were taking statements from the guests and the catering staff. No one, of course, had been allowed to leave. “I chose a luau theme, as you can see,” the woman elaborated. “I checked with Robert of course but he was completely indifferent to the idea and left it entirely up to me.”
“’Indifferent’, how?” Higa pressed gently.
“Well, if you must know, our wedding anniversary was a matter of very little consequence to Robert.”
“Because he was so caught up in his work?” Kanahele suggested while running his tongue surreptitiously over his porcelain-capped molar.
Helen Brillande laughed. It was a cold, humorless laugh that, unaccountably, sent chills down the Hawaiian detective’s powerful frame.
“Good Lord, no.” Brillande produced a cigarette from somewhere and lit it with a silver lighter that looked like it cost more than Kanahele made in a week. “Our marriage was simply a matter of convenience to Robert, a means of climbing up the social pecking order when you get right down to it. And, of course, there was the money that my father left me some years ago. He was in the shipping business.”
At first, Higa was tempted to re-direct the line of questioning that his partner had initiated. Something, however, an instinct bred from years on the job, maybe, prompted him to plow ahead.
“But surely your husband made good money in his practice?” The slender Japanese-American’s eyes met Kanahele’s briefly. “I mean, I’ve been told that Dr. Brillande did quite well for himself. And, too, divorce was certainly an option. There’s very little by way of social stigma attached to that these days. Even in the, um, circles you and your husband travelled in.”
“You’re quite competent at what you do, aren’t you officer?” Helene Brillande asked rhetorically. “You come right to the point yet you do so with great tact, even diplomacy.” Mrs. Brillande stubbed out her cigarette.
“In any case, to answer your questions, let’s just say that my husband was a man of enormous appetites. As far as he was concerned, there was no such thing as ‘too much’ money.” Involuntarily, Kanahele let out a brief humph and gave his partner an “I told you so” look.
“As far as divorce is concerned, it was out of the question for both of us. To Robert, I was something that he earned; I might even say ‘won’ but that sounds egotistical. What I mean to say is that once my husband acquired something which he considered to be of value, no power on earth could take it away from him … even after he’d lost all use for it.”
“What about you, though?” Higa urged.
“I won’t presume to guess your age, detective, but I’m confident you’re not quite there yet. Soon enough, though, you’ll reach a point in your life when inertia takes over. There’s also the fact that, for better or worse, memory and association become ties that bind … to places, to things and even to people.”
The moon had passed behind the clouds and the tiki torches that were just beginning to sputter cast surreal shadows over the remnants of the traditional luau that had come to such an abrupt halt earlier. On the table to Helen Brillande’s left was a multi-tiered anniversary cake that, judging by the manner in which its shape had been morphed and transformed, had clearly succumbed to the heat and humidity of the evening.
Kanahele adjusted his considerable bulk, leaned forward, and spoke.
“Listen, Mrs. Brillande. I have to ask. Earlier, you said that your husband held onto things even after he, like, lost interest in them or something. Obviously, you were talking about your relationship with him, or his relationship with you. So, what I need to know is this. Were you implying that he was seeing someone else, that he was cheating on you?”
“I can see why you two make such a formidable team.” Helen Brillande lit another cigarette and blew smoke up into the soft, tropical night. Overhead the palms sang a dry, rustling chorus in rhythm with the wind. “It’s not ‘good cop-bad cop’, exactly, but it’s close. I’m an avid reader of mysteries, you see.”
“Anyhow, detectives, my husband was a hopeless philanderer. It was a game. It might not be too much of a stretch to suggest that he kept score somewhere. If anyone ever found his ‘little black book’, or ‘books’ more likely, it’d make for some interesting reading I’m sure. Since we’re speaking so frankly, let me just tell you that more than a few of his conquests bitterly resented the way they were treated afterwards.” Brillande chuckled mirthlessly again. “Imagine the wife of a cheating husband having sympathy for the ‘other women’!”
“Were any of those women in attendance here tonight?” Higa inquired.
“Of course they were. Everyone I knew or strongly suspected him of having a dalliance with was invited. That’s what gave me the idea for a luau in the first place.”
Higa tilted his notebook so that he could read it in the flickering torch light. Almost at the same time, it became clear to him that he and Ray had been missing something essential. He also now understood why Helen Brillande seemed so unfazed by the events of the evening. He looked up.
“Mrs. Brillande,” he spoke without emotion or inflection. “This is the second time you’ve mentioned the fact that having a luau was your idea. No one else was involved with the planning or preparations?”
“Absolutely not. I saw to everything myself. I must say, it all went just according to plan too.”
Higa and Kanahele exchanged glances. The lights had come on for Ray now as well. He stood quietly and caught the attention of two HPD uniforms who were finishing up nearby. He motioned for them to come closer.
“You know, detectives, it’s not all that easy to plan a luau in Hawaii. I mean, for heaven’s sake, you’d think it would be a very simple matter. It was especially difficult to find a caterer who’d allow me to prepare the main course myself. This firm agreed but they refused to give me a discount on their set price. Oh well. It was the best I could do.”
“There’s still something I’m not getting, Mrs. Brillande” Higa stated as he, too, stood and directed HPD’s finest to take up positions on both sides of Helen Brillande. “I mean, didn’t anyone wonder where your husband was all evening?”
“Not at all. My husband was noted for being ‘fashionably late’. Besides, everyone was having such a wonderful time, I don’t think they even noticed.”
“I’ll bet they noticed when it came time to eat,” Kanahele interjected unable to restrain himself.
“Of course they did, detective. That was the point after all, wasn’t it? Even so, I can’t understand it. When the time came to remove the banana leaves and uncover the imu, a number of the guests screamed. A few even fainted. As far as I’m concerned, Robert never looked so good! True, the apple in the mouth may have been a bit much. But, then, as I said, he was a man of enormous appetites.” Helen Brillande emitted her characteristic chuckle. “Some might even have gone so far as to call him a pig.”
“Who’s gonna work on my teeth now?” Kanahele asked as the two detectives drove down Diamond Head Road past Kuilei Cliffs and the lighthouse.
“Don’t sweat that, Ray. Plenty of good dentists in Honolulu. Besides, you’ve got bigger things to worry about.”
Kanahele glanced at his partner with incomprehension and concern. “What are you talkin’ about, Jake?”
The normally reserved Higa was determined, for once, to have the last word in a conversation with the loquacious Hawaiian.
“When Maile reads about this in the Star-Advertiser, you know she’ll want to have a luau for your next anniversary. It’s your tenth, right?”
“Our eighth.” Kanahele arched his eyebrows and smiled impishly. “Hey, that’s actually good news. Now I won’t have to worry about where to take her for dinner.”
James C. Clar's short fiction has been published in places like Flashshot, The Taj Mahal Review, Golden Visions Magazine, Apollo's Lyre, Word Catalyst Magazine, Everyday Fiction, Long Story, Short and Antipodean SF. Stories featuring HPD Detectives Jake Higa and Ray Kanahele have appeared previously here on Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers as well as on A Twist of Noir and Powder Burn Flash.