Authors: Victor Methos
The home was decorated in native Hawaiian décor, a lot of religious and ocean stuff, and
it smelled like cooking pork, though nothing was on the stove. Richard Miller sat awkwardly at the table. Across from him, Hiapo Makani sat eyeing him.
couldn’t really follow along with a decent conversation. He needed help, so he’d called his friend Tate Reynolds to come over. He and Hiapo were simply waiting.
But they’d been waiting
for twenty minutes without speaking a word to each other. Richard finally cleared his throat and said, “So, you like sports?”
didn’t move or change his expression. His eyes were fixed on Richard as though he were a piece of meat and dinnertime just had to come around before he could dig in. Richard cleared his throat again and looked around the house once more.
Another twenty-five minutes later,
there was a knock at the door. Tate Reynolds was shorter and thinner than Hiapo, but he looked more mischievous, maybe because of the black butterfly tattoos on his face. He was white, but every space available on his skin had been taken up with dark tattoos, as though he were trying to cover up his skin color.
Tate sat at the table and lit a cigarette. He took a few puffs before he said, “So what do you want
, little man?” Tate’s enunciation was clear. No hint of an accent or street slang. He sounded educated.
Hiapo didn’t tell you?”
“He did. But I want to hear it from you.”
Richard swallowed, unable to look the men in the eyes. “I want you to kill my wife.”
at Hiapo, who looked at him only by moving his eyes. Neither man said anything as the smoke whirled between them. Richard coughed and waved away the acrid smoke. It smelled closer to burnt rubber than tobacco.
“Why do you want to kill her?” Tate asked.
“That’s personal. You guys just need to know that it needs to get done.”
“Personal, huh? Why not just divorce her?”
“Again, that’s personal. So do you think you can do it?”
Tate took a puff of his cigarette. “No, I think I’ve spent enough time
in Halawa. Hiapo here just got out. We’re not looking to go back. Now I think you need to leave, little man.”
“Well, please, I mean… listen if you can do this—”
Tate shot to his feet, grabbed Richard by the collar, and began dragging him out of the house.
“No,” Richard said, “please.
Listen, listen! I’ll pay you a hundred thousand dollars.”
Tate stopped, seemingly frozen in place. He looked back
at Hiapo then at Richard. “Where are you gonna get a hundred K?”
“I can get it. Our family’s wealthy. Well, her family. I can get
“Fine, payment up front.”
Richard laughed. Tate let go of his collar, and Richard straightened himself. “I wasn’t born yesterday. We’ll have to figure something else out.”
“I’ll put the money in an escrow account under your name with a provision that says the funds will be released to you on a certain date. If the deed is done by then, the funds get released. If it’s not, I can cancel the release. But the money will be in your name.”
Tate blew out a puff of smoke into Richard’s face, causing him to cough again.
“A hundred K, just for her?”
He looked to Hiapo, who didn’t move or speak.
“All right, little man. You got yourself a deal.”
Driving home, Richard thought he should have felt some sort of elation, maybe relief that things were in motion. But nothing came to him—nothing but a gray heaviness in his gut, as if he’d just eaten a large meal that didn’t agree with him.
He thought back to their wedding. Sharon looked so beautiful in her backless dress
that he’d kept asking himself how a guy like him could land a girl like her. The first few years had been great. Lots of conversations and trips. Their first and only child. Eliza had been born on a Friday. He remembered that because he’d missed his favorite show at the time,
, to be at the hospital.
When he arrived home, he ambled through the door
No one responded. Eliza should have been home
, but she’d probably left with her friends. Richard didn’t blame her. He would probably want to be somewhere else if he were a teenage girl.
aking the stairs two at a time, he found Sharon sitting at the mirror in their bedroom. She was applying makeup, and her hair was still wet from a shower. He stood by the door, watching her. His heart hurt. When he saw her, he saw the woman in the wedding dress. But when she saw him, she saw something else. And he didn’t know what.
“Do you want me to pick something up for dinner?” he asked.
“No, I’m going out.”
“With the girls. I won’t be back tonight.”
He hesitated. “To another swinger
is such an antiquated word, Richard. Can you not be such a dork for even a second?”
He looked down
at the floor. For a long time, neither of them spoke. “There was a time when you loved me. I remember it. I remember your face would light up when I walked into a room. What happened to that girl, Shar?”
She stopped applying her makeup for a moment.
A temporary hesitation. “She grew up.”
“Do you not care how much it hurts me?”
“So get a divorce. Oh, wait. You won’t do that, will you? Because you’ll lose all of this. All the money and the cars and the houses. That’s all you married me for anyway.”
“That’s not true
, and you know it, damn it. I loved you.”
“Get over yourself, Richard.”
“Can you just… I mean, our daughter lives here. Can you not bring those men here like that?”
“It’s my house. I’ll do whatever I damn well please.”
She rose, and her robe flapped open. She was wearing nothing underneath. She saw him look at her breasts, and she closed it again.
“Really?” he said. “You flash your tits to any stranger that gives you a smile
, but you close your robe to your husband? Why don’t you just divorce me?”
“Because for some fucking reason Daddy thinks we need to be a family for his granddaughter. That’s all he ever talks about. His granddaughter. And what Daddy says goes. At least until the old fucker dies.”
The massive walk-in closet was full of clothing from top to bottom. Richard watched Sharon get dressed. She wore tight leather pants and knee-high boots. Her top accentuated her breasts and exposed her muscular arms.
Richard sighed. “Do you love us at all anymore? Does your husband or daughter mean anything to you, Sharon?”
“Make sure she doesn’t miss school tomorrow. She’s going to get kicked out if she gets any more absences.” She brushed past him. And with that, she was gone.
Richard’s heavy gray feeling
was replaced by something else: certainty. And it felt good. For once, in as long as he could remember, he felt certain about something.
Stanton finished his paperwork early so that he could make his appointment. As he was heading out of the bullpen, Kai ambled out and stopped him.
“Want you to meet someone,” he said.
Stanton had met Kai when they both started as uniforms with the San Diego Police Department. A former Chargers linebacker who’d blown out his knee, Kai had been huge even back then. Stanton had felt an instant kinship with him, and Kai was the one who had convinced him to move to Hawaii.
Stanton tried to show him the formality and respect due his captain, but
that was difficult since he and Stanton had come up and learned the streets together. He saw Kai as an equal, and Stanton wondered if he would be in a higher position right now if he’d played the political game better.
skinny woman was sitting in front of Kai’s desk. She was native, brown with black, silky hair that came down to her shoulders. Her sleeveless shirt revealed arms covered with tattoos from wrists to shoulders, depicting intricate dragons and native warriors in fierce poses.
She smiled at Stanton
, rose, and shook his hand.
Laka Alemea. She’s gonna be your new partner.”
at Kai then back at Laka. “Nice to meet you,” he said.
“You, too. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Stanton grinned. “All good, I hope. Can I talk to you for a sec, Kai?”
Kai followed him out of the office
, leaving Laka staring at the certificates on his walls.
“You know I don’t work with a partner,” Stanton said.
“I know. Lone wolf and all. But you need a partner, man. You all alone out there. And I think she’ll be good for you.” Kai glanced at her then turned back to Stanton. “And she’s cute, ain’t she? She’s also my niece.”
“That’s your niece?”
“What? She too good-lookin’ to be related to me?”
Kai shook his head. “That’s what I get for doin’ somethin’ nice for you. She’s your partner. I see you here late every night. No one to go home to. You need this, bra. And she needs a good man and to stop dating those assholes she’s been dating.”
Stanton watched the young woman. She
wore almost no makeup. She was quite attractive. “Fine, a partner. Just probationary.”
Stanton turned and headed out of the building. He looked back at Kai, who was grinning as he walked back to his office. Though Stanton couldn’t quite figure out why, Kai had always had a soft spot in his heart for him. He’d come up with twenty other officers and didn’t have any contact with them. He’d never asked any of them to move to Hawaii or offered them a job under him.
The sun was hot as Stanton left the precinct and strolled to his
Jeep. When he got in, he blared George Michael on his iPhone connected to the stereo and pulled onto the streets of Honolulu. The island felt completely different from San Diego. But it had an underbelly, like anywhere else. At night, the prostitutes came out to the tourist locations and downtown. Prostitution had existed in such a degree for so long because of the proximity of the naval bases that the police largely ignored it. When he drove the streets at night, he saw the girls, some as young as ten, selling themselves to men who came to the islands just for the prostitutes.
, of course, were sold on about every corner and hotel bar, day or night. And again, the police largely ignored it when tourists were involved.
Serial murder, though not as prominent
in Oahu as in California, occurred more frequently than it should have, given Oahu’s smaller population. The island was sunshine and smiles during the day, but at night, it became a playground for indulging in darker desires.
He drove to the medical center and parked
in patient parking with a few minutes to spare. He finished the song he was listening to then went inside the building.
Stanton sat in the
third-floor waiting room for Dr. Natalia Vaquer, the third psychiatrist he had been to in his life. She had helped him through his failed engagement with Emma and both his sons moving away from him to live with their mother in Boston. Stanton had gone from having his family with him in paradise to being completely alone.
The double doors leading back to her office opened
, and Dr. Vaquer smiled at him.
“Jon, good to see you. Come back, please.”
Stanton followed her in and sat on the couch in the center of the room as she took a seat in a recliner. She pulled down her skirt and got out an iPad and a stylus to take notes.
“They’re giving me a partner,” Stanton said
, skipping the chit-chat.
“Really? It was my understanding
that you preferred to work alone.”
“I did. I do. But my captain thinks it’ll be good for me to have a partner. He thinks I spend too much time alone.”
“We’ve spoken often about your inclination toward solitude. Now that your sons have moved, do you still feel that inclination?”
“I don’t know. Mathew, my oldest, is supposed to move out here. But he said tha
t last year, too. I think he has a girlfriend he doesn’t want to leave. But sometimes, I really wish he would come out. Other times, I don’t.”
“The line of work I’m in. That’s why they moved in the first place. That’s what ruined my marriage and then my engagement. Always the work.”
“I’ve heard you use a term before that I wanted to speak about, Jon. Blood work. I heard you say that.”
“Just a term homicide detectives use to describe murder.”
“Does it ever affect you? Seeing all that blood and gore?”
Stanton leaned back into the couch, a bit more at ease. “I didn’t think it did, but sometimes, I see parents let their teenagers go to the mall by themselves, and I wonder how they can possibly do it. It’s a perfectly normal thing, but the only thing I can think about when I see that is their body in a ditch or tied up in some basement.”
“That can’t be very calming, to see only images of violence like that.”
“I don’t know.” He paused. “I can’t really remember a time I didn’t think this way.”
“Because of your sister?”
Just the word
brought up memories Stanton wanted buried. He’d seen victims bury everything from rape to the death of a loved one. But he couldn’t do it. His fifteen-year-old sister had disappeared from a movie theater in Seattle, where he grew up. No leads, no body—nothing. It had nearly destroyed his parents. For a long time, he’d thought his sister’s disappearance hadn’t affected him. But looking back on his life, his inability to form close relationships, his line of work… everything seemed to point to that single event.
“Probably,” he said. “My father was distant
, and my mother was passive. I didn’t interact much with them. My sister was who basically raised me. When she disappeared, I had no one. I’d see her places for years afterward. At a grocery store or the airport… I thought I was going crazy. It wasn’t until I turned eighteen that it stopped.”
“What happened at eighteen?”
“I don’t know. I guess you’d call it a walkabout or something. I was reading a lot of Conrad and Hemingway at the time. That idea of finding yourself and becoming a man. I left my parents and lived in a shack on the beach with twenty other lost kids. I bummed around Mexico for a while, parts of Central America. I thought about going to war, but it was one of the rare times in American history where we happened not to be at war.”
She grinned. “I don’t see you in combat.”
“No, I don’t think taking orders would have sat well with me. Neither would killing someone just because I was told to do it. In Vietnam, only about thirty percent of the soldiers actually fired their weapons with the intent to kill the enemy. Most were missing on purpose or closing their eyes. They didn’t want to be there and didn’t believe in the cause.”
“Jon, I have never really mentioned anything about your doctorate in psychology, but one thing I have seen is a keen insight into everything and everyone, except yourself. You look at a mur
der scene and see things other people don’t. Events in history, which we’ve spoken about before, are the same way. I learn something just listening to you speak about them. But when it comes to you, Jon Stanton, and your own life, that perception seems to shut down. Why is that?”
Stanton rubbed the edge of his finger. A bit of eczema,
which he’d never had in his life, had appeared there. The dermatologist told him that either an irritant or stress had caused the inflammation.
“Do you see a psychiatrist, Dr.
“This isn’t about me.”
“I know, but my point is that I bet you do. Almost all mental health professionals do. Have you ever asked why that is?”
She nodded. “We all lack perception into ourselves.”
“And that’s why we go into the mental health professions. To see if we can find that perception.”
She shifted in her seat and wrote something on her
iPad. “Have you thought any more about our conversation about leaving police work?”
He shook his head. “I can’t do anything else. I was a mediocre professor
, and I’d be an even worse therapist. Police work is the only thing I’m good at.”
“Police work or blood work?”
He didn’t say anything. Instead, he laid his head back on the couch and stared at the ceiling.
When the session was over
, Stanton was exhausted. He always was, even though he did nothing more than sit on a couch and answer questions. Stanton believed in different forms of energy, and mental energy was certainly one of the most powerful. The mental energy he expended every time he sat in Dr. Vaquer’s office was enormous. But it came with a reward. After most sessions, he hit the ocean.
Oahu had some of the best surfing in the world, one of the main selling points for Stanton. Not half an hour from his house was the North Shore, one of the best surfing spots on the island.
Stanton suited up. Rather than running home to grab his board, he decided to rent one, maybe something other his standard shortboard. The waves were so-so, and he thought a hybrid board would be better suited to catch a decent wave.
, still damp from the day before, chilled his skin. He zipped it up and lay on the sand, keeping his eyes closed and absorbing the sunlight’s dull-red glow. The sun rejuvenated him, strengthened him. Whenever he felt like collapsing from exhaustion, whether mental or physical, the sunlight and the ocean kept him going. Wherever he was or whatever he was doing, he made time for the ocean.
As he paddled out, he felt the
coolness of the sea. The water tasted salty as it splashed up into his face. He let his fingers dangle a long time before each stroke, absorbing the calmness of the moment.
When he was far e
nough out, he turned back to the shore and lightly rode the waves before unleashing a fury of paddling. Right at the cusp of letting the momentum tip him over, he flipped up with both feet then felt the stretch in his legs as he crouched. He cut to the left then spun the board into a vertical position. The wave was forgiving, guiding him through his movements. That was the key to surfing that took some people decades to learn: the surfer isn’t in charge. The ocean is. The surfer has to give in and work in harmony or be swallowed up like a speck of dust.
Stanton surfed a solid hour before
taking a break to get a drink. Tucked underneath his towel on the beach, his cell phone vibrated as he sat in the sand and sipped from a water bottle.
He had a
single text message from dispatch letting him know he’d caught a new homicide. As he rose to shower and dress, he remembered his new partner. Somehow, the burden of catching a new case seemed lighter. Someone else would be there, taking in the horror of the scene and splitting the work. He thought that maybe Kai understood him better than he understood himself.