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Tropical Trade Winds to a Honolulu Homicide
Tropical Trade Winds to a Honolulu Homicide

Tropical Trade Winds to a Honolulu Homicide


Somewhere in Honolulu, 1980

It wasn't black ink on the skin of the deceased; it was gunpowder burns on the side of his head, revealing that the instantly fatal bullet had been fired at very close range. The small hole on one side of the head and the large mess on the opposite side that created the room's décor of dried blood, skin and brains on the wall that looked exactly like modern art indicated a hollow point bullet was used. As no one had heard what would have been a very large noise in a very small room made Phil Danté think that a sound suppressor accomplished the twin feats of depopulation and interior decoration of the apartment; there was no weapon present at the scene.

A small group of flies buzzed back and forth between the wall and the exit wound of the victim's head like trendies chattering with each other to justify their self-importance and have their fill of the free wine and cheese at an art gallery party. Phil had no use for flies, but preferred them to trendies because the flies were honest and performed their annoyances for nourishment, not for social intercourse.

The weapon would have to have been placed right on the victim's head; there didn't seem to be any sign of a struggle. Either he had known his killer, or he was taken by surprise. Reaching for a large weapon from beneath the killer's clothing, especially if the killer had already placed the sound suppressor, or 'silencer', on the pistol wouldn't seem to surprise anyone...

Photographers were recording the art work and the dead artist who had supplied the mural. Instead of fellow modern art lovers, he was being interviewed by a pair of Honolulu Police Detectives.

'What do you think, Mr. Danté?'

'I was thinking, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste".'

'Anything else?'

'It's better to give than receive, but I didn't give him anything.'

'Was he a friend of yours?'

'Obviously not...with friends like that...'

'How long have you known the deceased?'

'I didn't.'

'Then why are you here?'

He had the choice, or was it a dilemma, of being chief suspect in what looked like a professional assassination, or admitting that he was an illegal alien violating the conditions of his visa. His mind escaped his predicament with a not too distant memory...

* * *

Phil Danté had finally made it to the Hawaiian Islands.

Beneath a palm tree between the tourist's Mecca of Waikiki and the green extinct volcano called Diamond Head, he contentedly lay on his beach towel looking out to sea with his head supported by his packed to the brim musette bag whilst he dried off after his swim. Next to him was his old army slouch hat.

Far beyond the beach windsurfers were using the tropical trade winds that cooled him for riding over the waves in the opposite of regular surfers. It looked like looked like freedom; though there was a vast distance between them he could sense their joy as he felt their same sweet breeze.

He had always been attracted to Hawaii. It couldn't have been only the blue skies and waters of the ocean, the sandy beaches or the palm trees, as his native Australia had those things in abundance. Yet, when Aussies travelled, they invariably ended up on a coast; every beach in the world seemed like Kangaroo Valley.

His family in Sydney holidayed on the South Coast of New South Wales and across the Coral Sea to New Caledonia. His most unforgettable holiday was when he was in high school. His favourite Aunt, perhaps sensing his feeling of being left out as his parents constantly travelled to view his older sister's interstate tennis matches, decided to take him with her on an 'overseas' trip on the Islander, a Short Sandringham flying boat travelling from Rose Bay to Lord Howe Island. It was the perfect economical holiday for those without lots of money, loads of time or a passport. Though the Island was a part of his own state of New South Wales, the locals played along with their visitor's dreams of exotica; the men at their guesthouse dressed in garish Hawaiian shirts with the ladies attired in cheongsams or muumuus depending on their age and figures. Young Philip thought he was somewhere...His current view of Diamond Head took him back to being with his Auntie looking across Lord Howe Lagoon to Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower where the pair of them were having a pique-nique on a blanket. She shared her champagne with him, then quoted who she believed was Mark Twain as a toast,

'“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”''

He had escaped the tourist hordes of Waikiki to find himself a predesignated quiet spot where he could feel the enjoyment of being on a tropical holiday. He thought that Yanks went troppo in Hawaii, like Poms did when they went to Italy. It was amazing what a bit of sunshine, great weather, clean blue skies and waters and easy going fun loving people could do to someone who existed somewhere without those things. It seemed Australians instinctively had to atone for their good fortune by going to live in Dreary Olde England...

His favourite television programme in his school days was Hawaiian Eye. Though it lacked the wide screen brilliant colour of Blue Hawaii, Gidget Goes Hawaiian, Donovan's Reef and South Pacific, it was the laid back laughter and camaraderie of the characters that made him want to visit the Islands. The show featured what became Phil's dream friends of the perpetually smiling beautiful ingénue songbird Connie Stevens and the hilarious laid back taxi-driver Poncie Ponce who seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of fun loving eccentric cousins. As opposed to the rest of his immediate family, fun loving and eccentric was what Phil had always wanted to be, and now he actually was a Hawaiian Eye, just like Anthony Eisley.

Before his departure from the Orient, his Hong Kong employer gave him a letter of introduction to an affiliated Honolulu private detective agency, though his visa didn't allow him to work. Regardless of formalities, he had completed a surveillance operation and he had been granted a couple days off until a new assignment was ready for him; it would be a real Honolulu lulu.

'Would you like your palm read?'

The female voice broke Phil's reverie.

He looked up to see a beautiful Japanese woman holding a large umbrella wearing a blue dress with white hibiscus floral pattern, an attractive straw hat tilted to perfection with white handbag and shoes. On her dress was a brooch consisting of a single pearl on a faux gold background.

He sprang to his feet as if an officer had come into his barracks room.

She was startled at his quick movement, then her voice became more enchanting. Her smile and false eyelashes set his memory back the one who replaced Muffin the Mule as his favourite puppet that he watched on television in the early 1960s...

'G'day, Lamb Chop!'

She giggled in delight as she reached down and put his slouch hat on his head, proving that she also well knew The Shari Lewis Show.

'Aloha, Charlie Horse!'

'You're not going to pour tomato sauce on my hand are you?'

She laughed with an infectious sense of humour that radiated that he was going to be in for a fun time.

'You're English.'


'You don't sound it, and you don't look it. Your accent isn't very broad, and you don't have the usual pale skin with moles that most Aussies have.'

'Most Aussies play a role when they're on holiday. I'm not "most Aussies" and I'm not really on a holiday.'

'That's good, because most Aussies don't like Japanese people.'

'The Japs didn't like our boys that they captured and tortured on the Burma Railway.'

'That was war.'

'"War" was in the jungles of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville. They were like sadistic kids who pulled the wings off of flies.'

'You've seen The Bridge on the River Kwai ...'

'On Sundays my Dad would take us to lunch at his British Ex-Serviceman's Club in Sydney. After a few beers the ones who were captured at Singapore let loose with their stories that were scarier than a dozen horror films.'

'I'm Nikkei, not Japanese, and I don't like them either...You look like a man who knows a lot about jungles.'

'I'm glad you don't call them "rainforests".'

'Aren't they the same thing?'

'A rainforest is someplace you pay to get into, a jungle is someplace you pray to get out of.'

Her laugh was infectious and he found himself laughing along with her.

'In Australia, most people come up to you to sell you ice creams or cold drinks, not tell your future.'

'Like you, I'm not "most people".

'What do you charge for your work?'

He wondered if she was a prostitute, as he heard they cruised the tourist beaches, telling their client that as prostitution was illegal in the Islands they had best not be seen together with her. He would give her his room key and return to his room 20 minutes later where she'd be supposedly waiting for him with open arms...and legs; the Dear John would find their room had been ransacked and robbed. Only the Japanese tourists complained to the police.

'In your case...lunch.'

He prepared his beach towel for her to sit on, she used her umbrella to lower herself down to the ground.

'That's a very useful item.'

'No girl should be without one...I don't like the sun...'

Her complexion revealed that she was telling the truth. Phil recalled a girlfriend he had in Thailand who always carried an umbrella; she explained to him that a suntanned complexion like his was the mark of a rice paddy coolie. Lamb Chop's complexion was not quite as white as a Kabuki artiste, but it showed she was careful about the ultra-violet rays; he now noticed that her makeup was caked on.

Phil found himself giving her his palm as he sang the second verse of the Hawaiian Eye theme song to her. Though he wouldn't admit to believe in fortune telling, he secretly had the fear that like Orson Welles in Touch of Evil, someone would tell him that he had no future, as his schoolteachers and headmaster had frequently done without the bother of looking at his palm.

'You come from far away and you're going far away, geographically as well as morally. Your life may not be a long one, but it is an interesting one. You're a tiger in a jungle but you're between jungles now. You carry death in your eyes and in your heart.'

'Only if your money's good', he replied.

She was the person that he was waiting for...

'We'll discuss it over lunch', she smiled, 'more better we talk in your room.'

'Oh dear, my maid had the day off and hasn't tidied up. What would you think of me?'

'I've acquired a room for you in Waikiki so I can contact you when I need you, Donald.'

'Too easy! What did you call me?'

'Your room is in the name of Donald Clarke. Is that pack enough for a stay of three nights that you were asked to bring?'

'I travel light. What do I call you?'

She glanced at her brooch.

'Call me Pearl.'

'Pearl of the South Pacific?', he smiled, with the memory of one of those films he was brought up on. He was living his childhood dreams...

'Pearl of the South Pacific', she replied with satisfaction.

He helped her to her feet then picked up her umbrella and handed it to her. It was heavier than he expected; her good mood vanished as she snatched it out of his hands.

'I'm very touchy about my umbrella.'

'Like Mary Poppins?', Phil smiled.

Her smile returned, the umbrella came in useful as it suddenly began to rain.

'We call it "Liquid Sunshine"; just another shitty day in paradise', she laughed.

There was enough room beneath it for the both of them as she allowed Phil to put his arm around her as they walked together.

* * *

The small refrigerator in his new room was stocked with a variety of items to drink; he gave her a questioning look.

'We'll have a drink afterwards.'

With a smile on her face, and with no doubt a song in her heart she related the details of a man she wanted him to kill. He never bothered to ask her why; what was important was only how much money she was willing to spend and the details of the target. She wasn't concerned of whether his death should look like an accident, and she sounded as if she was choosing new furniture.

She was on a roll with the details. Phil reflected that he always had found himself strange and unusual ways to earn his income...

He told her that he didn't have a pistol, could she provide one to him? She seemed incredulous that he didn't have a weapon, and like they said in the Army, she told him,

'You'd better shit one. I don't provide tradesmen with their tools.'

She went on and on in a highly professional manner, with a total lack of vitriol. Most women went on and on about nothing except their emotions; she was the opposite, and opposites were dangerous. Pearl sounded like she was dealing with a mortician preparing the final resting place of her unwanted ex-husband.

They discussed the matter of money; she insisted that he would be paid half the amount after he did his investigation of his target's habits. She would notify him of his target's name and address when the time came that his target was away and he could check out his target's apartment. Phil pressed for a bit of cash in the hand at the moment; she gave him a thousand dollars.

'Now, about that lunch...'

Pearl removed her dress and let it drop to the floor...

* * *

Prior to her leaving, she told him not to leave his hotel from 6 p.m. onwards. She kissed and embraced him, then she pressed his nose to his and inhaled.

'We call it the Honi', she sensually whispered.

'Thanks, honey.'

I call it the 'kiss of death', Phil thought.

She gave him the Hawaiian shaka 'hang loose' hand sign.

'Aloha. Imua!'

'Does "Aloha" mean "hello" or "goodbye"?'

'If someone's coming up to you, it means "hello". If someone's leaving you...'

He exhausted his total knowledge of Hawaiian and returned the end fingers out, middle fingers in hand sign.

'Aloha. Mahalo for the Wahine Kokua.'

Once she turned her back, he converted his hand gesture to the Italian mano cornuto sign to ward off evil and bad luck.

* * *

As the hotel had a swimming pool, he lounged about like a genuine tourist; swimming, napping, reading a potboiler paperback, but avoiding his usual lager and chatting people up. To remind you that you had finally made it to Hawaii, pleasing Les Baxter type arrangements of well known Hawaiian tunes like Aloha Oe, Pearly Shells and Follow Me from Brando's Mutiny on the Bounty were piped in the Tiki culture decorated hotel.

'Call me. "Trader Phil"', he laughed to himself.

He ecstatically absorbed the feelings of total joy of his fellow guests who had finally made it to the Hawaiian Islands like he would the fragrant aroma of frangipani flowers. As he watched and felt their happiness he reflected that he could never understand those who put down tourists. Were they jealous or were they merely the type who gained their own happiness by pissing on the joy of others? He was happy to feel as if he was one of them as he enjoyed his soda water with lime juice in a comfortable banana chair by the hotel pool.

He was in his room when her call came through. His target was going to be at a party that evening, and she would ensure he would not return back to his room before 10 p.m.. The next day they would meet for morning tea and she would provide him with half payment after he gave a successful description of the inside of his target's room.

* * *

Phil easily entered the so called security doors of his target's apartment complex without being seen, and crept up the stairwell.

He noticed that the door of his target's apartment was slightly ajar.

Phil looked in to see that someone had completed the job he had been hired for before he could earn his wages.

Phil left by the stairwell and was met by the Honolulu Police...

* * *

A procession came into the crime scene.

'Hi, Lamb Chop!'

A uniformed HPD policewoman brought Pearl in wearing handcuffs that held her hands behind her. Her current appearance was like chalk and cheese. She wore a large floppy casual hat, her Lamb Chop makeup was gone, she was dressed in a large shapeless T-shirt and blue jeans with running shoes, but incredibly, she wore the same pearl brooch the day that he met her. The warm laugher and smiles were gone, in its place was an inscrutable poker face.

She apparently didn't know that the Honolulu Police Department had a large amount of ex-criminal barflies and bargirls who acted as their eyes and ears, for crims were unable to stop their boasting, especially when free alcohol and women feigning interest were involved. The informants couldn't wait to proverbially spill their guts, and on some occasions, when the subject of their gossip caught up with them they literally made them spill their guts by performing exploratory surgery with a dirty knife.

When someone would inquire on whether a bargain basement hitman was available, formerly undercover policemen would act the role. As Honolulu had a limited number of experienced plainclothesmen, and actual police officers posing as hired assassins would have the case thrown out of court for entrapment, the police would engage the services of one or two private investigation agencies. One of them had a prime candidate for the role, a travelling Australian mercenary...

Phil was briefed by both the 'Number One' of his agency and Captain 'Call me Charlie' Chan, a senior HPD detective. A meeting would be arranged on a certain beach; how would she know Phil? Phil suggested to let on he was Australian; he'd have his lucky slouch hat next to him as an identifier.

Captain Chan followed the restrained Pearl carrying a sound suppressed M1911A1 pistol. He was followed by a uniformed policeman carrying Pearl's umbrella.

'We followed her up here, then when she did her business, she went back to your hotel room.'

'I'm glad I wasn't there, Charlie.'

'That wasn't the idea. She left this in your room', he held up the .45 automatic, 'then she gave an anonymous concerned citizen telephone call to the HPD.'

'I'd never have guessed that was a ladies' weapon', Phil admitted, 'She'd have to have had a pretty large handbag.'

'That's the beauty of it. It isn't her weapon, it's the one she'd plant on you.'

Captain Chan displayed his familiarity of the M1911A1 by field stripping the weapon that had appeared to have the suppressor permanently attached to the barrel assembly and putting the pieces on a table as Pearl watched in unsmiling silence.

Phil spoke the memory in his mind,

'Back in Vietnam my CSM was former SAS and he had a folding stock De Lisle Commando Carbine that was built around a sound suppressed .45 calibre barrel. The only sound you heard was the firing pin and the sound of the round breaking bamboo in its path.'

'Men!', sneered Pearl. The policewoman holding her laughed.

Captain Chan then took Pearl's umbrella and displayed how the umbrella's shaft opened, and the silenced barrel assembly fitted inside it, then removed it to show the workings of the weapon.

'She'd put a bullet in the breech of the barrel, remove the rubber tip, fire into his head by twisting the handle...', he did so and a firing pin shot forward that would have fired the bullet, 'depart, put the barrel assembly back into the .45's frame and leave it in your room under your pillow like the tooth fairy. Surveillance recorded her coming into the building of the deceased, and her leaving with her umbrella.'

'Mary Poppins, never would thought of that one, Pearl!'

She stared blankly.

'If at first you don't succeed...', Phil smiled.

He recalled the bittersweet bliss of the pair of them climaxing to their love making as Marlene Sai sang I Am Hawaii in his hotel room...Did she make love to him because she genuinely liked him as he genuinely liked her, or was she one of those women who treated men like carpets; lay them right and you can walk all over them.

Pearl reached down with her mouth to her brooch and bit off the pearl. She was dead before she hit the floor, for her 'pearl' held fast acting poison.

Phil broke the silence after she was pronounced dead.

'Wasn't it Robert Heinlein who said that "Suicide is the most sincere form of self-criticism”?'

Captain Chan remarked, 'Now we won't know who hired her like she hired you to be her patsy. You've got some interesting girlfriends, Phil.'

'If I didn't have people trying to kill me, I wouldn't have any friends at all, Charlie.'


Author Notes: I am the author of three Extra Dimensional/Ultraterrestial military science fiction novels MERCENARY EXOTIQUE, OPERATION CHUPACABRA and WORK IN OTHER WORLDS FROM YOUR OWN HOME! as well as two travel books THE MAN FROM WAUKEGAN and TWO AUSTRALIANS IN SCOTLAND (all from I live happily ever after with my wife in paradise (coastal Kiama, NSW Australia).

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3 Jan, 2022
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