Toby Neal: Blood Orchids

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Toby Neal Blood Orchids
  • Название:
    Blood Orchids
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  • Жанр:
    Полицейский детектив / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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Lei rubbed the scars on the inside of her arms with a washcloth-thin silvery threads left from days when she’d been desperate to express her pain. She was glad to have those reminders of how far she’d come, and wished she could have shared them with Haunani somehow. Maybe it would have made a difference.

Later, Lei moved through the house, checking the sturdy hasps on the windows. She locked the dog door and rechecked the locks on the both entrances, arming the alarm. Even without her duty belt, she knew she still walked like a cop, energy coiled, arms away from her sides to keep them from catching on her sidearm.

Lei’s bed was a king, with an old-fashioned, curly iron frame and a canopy draped in filmy voile. She dove in, dressed in her usual boxers and tank top, enjoying the silky sheets. She patted the ratty handmade quilt at the foot of her bed, and Keiki leapt up with a graceful lunge, turned in a circle, and stretched herself out with a doggy sigh of content.

But even physically exhausted, with her dog at her feet and the boxy black Glock on the bedstand, Lei didn’t sleep well. Long black tendrils of hair tried to wrap around her and pull her under in dreams of clouded eyes.

Chapter 4

Too early the next morning while brushing her teeth, Lei glanced at the mirror where she’d taped a 3x5 card: Be the change you want to see in the world-Gandhi. Across from the toilet, precariously stuck to the pebbled-glass shower door: God has a plan for every living thing.

The “affirmations” were part of the cognitive behavior therapy she’d done in California while doing her AA degree. They were meant to remind her of positive truths and be replacement thoughts when memories dragged her into a dark place. Still, it was hard to believe God had a plan when she’d spent the day looking for the crime scene where two young girls were drowned.

She’d been so tired last night she’d forgotten to get her mail. She put on her rubber slippers and tripped down the cement steps to the aluminum mailbox, listing on its steel pole. She took out the handful of bills and circulars and flipped through them as she headed back to the porch. An envelope caught her eye, LEI TEXEIRA printed on it.

She ripped it open and pulled out a piece of plain computer paper. Bold capitals spelled out:

YOU LOOK PRETTY WHEN YOU SMILE I’M GOING TO MAKE YOU CRY.

She looked at the envelope again. No address, no postmark, no stamp. Someone had personally delivered it.

The hairs on her neck rose, along with a surge of adrenaline. Her head flew up as she scanned the empty sidewalk, heart kicking into overdrive. The row of modest homes on her street were deserted except for her neighbor at the end of the block. The guy had no life. He was always either working in his immaculate yard or washing his car. This morning it was washing his car.

She bounced down the steps and ran down the street to talk with him, rubber slippers slapping against her heels.

“Hey. I got this weird message,” she said, waving the envelope. “Seen anybody messing with my mailbox?”

The man straightened, the big sponge in his hand dripping. He was younger than she’d assumed, with an angular, handsome Japanese face. The pale early-morning sun caught in glossy black hair.

“No. I haven’t seen anyone but the paperboy.”

“Well, it’s a weird note, and someone hand-delivered it. Can you remember anything unusual?”

He stared at her, and she remembered she was in the thin tank top she slept in and tiny boxers. She crossed her arms over her chest, trying to look casual.

“Aren’t you a police officer?” he asked.

“Yeah-maybe that’s why I’m a target. Can you keep an eye out?”

He seemed to relent, tossing the sponge into the bucket and approaching her with his damp hand outstretched.

“Tom Watanabe,” he said. “Water Department Inspector.”

“Lei Texeira. Police officer,” she said, with an awkward laugh. She shook his hand.

“I’ll certainly keep a look out. When did you check your mail last?”

“Not since day before yesterday. I guess it could have been dropped off any time since then.”

“Well, here’s my number,” he said, opening the car door and reaching inside. It was a new Acura, charcoal with a silver flake. He handed her his card.

“I should be the one giving you my card, but I just rushed over here… I was so hoping you had seen something.”

“Nope, sorry. Drop your number by… I’ll call you,” he said, smiling.

“Sure will.” She backed up, uncomfortable. Was he hitting on her? “See ya.”

She turned and speed-walked back to her house, conscious of his eyes on her ass. She looked back as she went inside, and sure enough he was still staring, the hose pouring unnoticed from his hand. She gave a little wave and he jerked his chin upward in ‘local style’ acknowledgement.

She slammed the door, whistling for the dog. Keiki came skittering in and she re-alarmed the house. She was rattled by the creepy way Watanabe had checked her out and his anal-retentive habits didn’t help. She stood there for a minute and did some relaxation breaths. Her eyes fell on one of her notes, stuck to the bottom of the living room lamp.

Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace. -Amelia Earheart. She felt calm move up and over her. She could handle this, freaky as it was.

She put the stalker letter in a Ziploc bag in her freezer between the stacks of Hot Pockets, and that seemed to neutralize the threat of it.

She called Pono at home. His phone was off so she left a message, changed into shorts and a ratty old Hilo Police Department t-shirt. This time she put on a shoulder holster and loaded her Glock. 40 into it under a thin nylon running jacket, clipped her cell phone onto her shorts. Keiki lunged and bounced ecstatically as they went down the cement steps. Tom Watanabe and his charcoal Acura were gone, she noted with relief.

Her phone rang as they jogged through her neighborhood toward Hilo Bay. She stopped to answer it, stretching her hamstrings.

“Lei, what’s up?” Pono asked.

She told her partner about the note.

“We should check it for prints.”

“I have a feeling he didn’t leave any, but I guess we should anyway when I come in.”

“Keep your gun close until then.”

“How’d you know?” she asked, patting the Glock.

“I know you. Just don’t shoot anybody you don’t have to.”

“Aw, stealing all my fun. You’re such an old lady.” She shut the phone and slipped it in her pocket.

They picked up some real speed after that as Lei worked off the adrenaline the note had brought on. The sidewalk around the Bay was buckling, pushed upward by huge banyan tree roots. Coconut palms stood sentinel around the park, their arching fronds shimmering in the light breeze. Mynah birds hopped and chattered on the mowed grass. Keiki seemed to enjoy the briny scent of Hilo Bay, tossing her head and snorting.

Lei ran all out, the emptiness of total effort blocking out intrusive images of the dead girls brought up by the smell of the water. Keiki’s ears flattened back as they thundered through the park and made their way through the town back to the cottage. She took Keiki into her small fenced backyard and hosed the dog off, then misted her collection of orchids.

A delicate purple blood orchid, a veined variety of phalaenopsis, was blooming. Raising orchids was a pastime she’d shared with Aunty Rosario, her guardian, and working with the plants never failed to comfort and calm her. She took the orchid inside and set it on the table.

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