**ONLY 99 CENTS FOR A LIMITED TIME**
Author: K.S. Thomas
Tritonia ‘Salty’ Casavant has spent her entire life out at sea on her parents’ sailboat. Raised by a marine biologist and her mother’s extended family of modern day pirates, her perception of the world isn’t exactly normal.
Now a single mother herself and living alone on the boat her parents left her, she enjoys her private paradise as she cruises back and forth between the Islands of Hawaii.
Everything changes when a local gang begins using her strip of ocean as a dumping ground for smuggled drugs and firearms. Soon Salty is in the middle of an all-out turf war she inadvertently started and the only way out is through Detective Finn Murphy.
As the challenger approached, it became apparent that Chick was bringing visitors. Salty frowned as she spotted two haoles standing at the helm. Even from where she was positioned she could tell that they were cops. Given her life experience, she knew the type inside and out. Then, having written those characters a hundred times over in her stories as the antagonists and the nature of the heroine in her novels, it was hard for Salty to muster any warm fuzzy feelings at the sight of the two police men as they pulled up beside her sailboat.
From the look on Chick’s face, she could tell that he wasn’t thrilled either, although those feelings were probably partially directed at her now that he had likely discovered Amaui’s identity. Regardless of the reason, the strangers’ presence seemed to be a necessary evil for the time being, so Salty made her way to the stern and waited for Hani to toss her a rope. Once the speedboat had been securely rafted off the Salty Kisses, all four of the men aboard the A’ole Aina found themselves standing on Salty’s front step.
“Salty, this is Lieutenant Pierce and Detective Murphy. They’re colleagues of Detective Mahelona’s.” Chick made a face as he said Amaui’s name.
“That’s nice. Why the hell did you bring them here?” Salty replied, completely ignoring the two men wearing badges.
“Because we asked him to,” Lieutenant Pierce interjected. “Ms. Casavant, you were witness to a crime. We were hoping you could recount the events that took place the night you met Detective Mahelona for us.”
Salty eyed the man from top to bottom. He was almost as tall as Chick, but considerably leaner. His hazel eyes had a youthfulness about them, but the flecks of grey he had spread throughout his hair and goatee had Salty gauge him to be at least in his early forties, forty-five at the most. Even though he was a white guy, he had the distinct look of someone who had lived on the islands for a very long time. With his loosely fit grey cargo pants and navy blue polo shirt it was about as lax a uniform as you could find. Not uncommon for Hawaii though. Pierce’s partner, on the other hand was as much of an outsider as the tourists who trampled the beaches year after year, season after season.
Murphy was shorter than Pierce with dirty blond hair and blue eyes that matched the surrounding waters. He was stocky and muscular and wore his black pants and fitted blue button up shirt nicely. The sleeves had been rolled up, but that was the only indication Murphy gave that he was aware of the summer climate and its accompanying 83 degrees.
Salty glanced back and forth between the two one last time, trying to decide whom she would rather deal with, when she heard Murphy mutter, “This is a complete waste of time.”
“Whose time is that exactly, Detective?” Salty demanded.
“Ours. We should be out following real leads, not wasting our time taking boat rides out to see some modern day pirate princess who’s probably been out at sea for so long she no longer has a real grasp on reality!” Detective Murphy ranted at her.
While Salty had been sizing up the two officers, Murphy had apparently done the same with her. Judging from his little speech, he hadn’t been too impressed with what he’d seen. Maybe it had been the fact that she was barefoot and wearing nothing more than her standard shorts and bikini top. Or perhaps it had been the sight of her tattoos which spanned the greater part of her body. Salty had to take a mental account of what her hair might look like at that very moment. She had washed and brushed it just that morning, but the ocean air and constant breeze wreaked havoc on her long brown locks, and most days Salty found herself staring at a wild woman anytime she came face to face with her reflection. She never bothered with make-up, but her permanent golden tan, sparkling green eyes and wind burned red lips had made it unnecessary anyway.
“What are you doing, Finn? You can’t just insult these people!” Pierce sounded appalled as he scolded his partner. He turned to Chick and Salty, looking mortified. “I am so sorry. Please, let me apologize for Detective Murphy.”
Salty was starring daggers at Finn Murphy and he was locked onto her returning fire.
“No, I agree with your partner. This was a complete waste of your time. You should go.” She turned on her heel and began to walk away. “For what it’s worth, this wasn’t the first drop the Kakumei have made. I’ve counted at least seven, always between the hours of midnight and 2am. By sunrise some local fishing boat comes tugging along to retrieve the shipment. It’s never the same boat, but twice I noticed they had the same colors. I was never close enough to make out any lettering, but I could still give a pretty good description if I needed to.” Salty didn’t know what had possessed her to divulge all of that. Probably the part where that idiot Murphy had implied that she was crazy and incompetent. It’s not like he could have known that it would strike a chord with her, but it had…and not in a good way.
So much for not getting involved, she thought. She could already feel Chick’s glare burning through the bare skin of her back and she reached up absentmindedly to rub the spot.
“How do you know it was the Kakumei?” Murphy asked.
“For starters, I’m not an idiot. Just because I don’t spend my time on land doesn’t mean I don’t know what happens there. It’s all about perspective, haole. When you’re standing directly in front of a tree, all you can see is that tree’s bark. But, if you back away a bit, you start to see the entire forest…or, as it is in my case, the entire island.” Salty was slowly meandering back over to where the men stood. “Look, if you don’t believe me, send a dive team out. Last week they made a drop. Three times I heard something hit the water, but the next day the crew only pulled out two shipments. I’m guessing whatever else they dumped is still sitting at the bed of the ocean in hopes of never being found.”
The officers exchanged a glance. Both Chick and Salty noticed.
“What?” Salty asked. “You already know what it is, don’t you?”
“Eric Choy’s father went missing ten days ago. He’s been a prominent player in the business world for many years, not just on the island but internationally. We think his shipping company may have been compromised somewhere along the way…and we think the Kakumei had something to do with it,” Pierce expounded stepping forward.
“That explains what they were doing with Eric. How did Detective Mahelona end up in the mix?” Salty wasn’t even sure why she wanted to know. If nothing else it was potential material for her next novel.
“Amaui’s his girlfriend. It was just an unlucky coincidence that she was there when they grabbed him,” said Murphy. Pierce shot him a look suggesting he zip it, but Murphy just shrugged and said, “What? Now we’re not disclosing important information regarding our highly sensitive, open investigation? My mistake. I was just following your lead, buddy.” For the first time since meeting Finn Murphy, Salty had to fight back a smile.
“Anyway,” Pierce continued, “any information you can give us regarding that night, or any others involving these ‘drops’ would be greatly appreciated.”
Salty twisted her mouth from side to side as she mulled it over, purposely avoiding eye contact with Chick as she did so. Finally she said, “I’ll tell you whatever I can, but honestly I don’t see how any of it will help. I mean, sure, I can identify boats, but not people. I doubt any of my information will trump what Amaui already knows.”
“That might be less than you think,” Murphy said, shaking his head and turning away. Neither he nor Pierce elaborated on it any further.
So, Salty began to recount everything that had happened, starting with the first night she had heard the plane down to the night she pulled Amaui and Eric from the water. She was sure not to leave out even the tiniest of details, not because she wanted to be thorough, but because she simply couldn’t help herself. Details in descriptions had become a hazard of the job a long time ago. Even Finn Murphy seemed pleased with everything she was able to give them.
“That was incredibly meticulous. Are you sure you don’t have a background in law enforcement?” he joked.
Salty snorted. “Not exactly. I write about a lot of cops in my books though.”
“Why’s that funny?” Murphy asked.
“Because the cops I write about aren’t exactly the most observant. They can’t be. I mean, it wouldn’t work very well for my heroine if they were stellar members of the force,” Salty explained. She knew she wasn’t coming off well, but then Murphy and Pierce had to have known when they were coming on board that they wouldn’t be held in the highest regard. Cops and pirates just didn’t mix.