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THE YOSHINOBU MYSTERIES: Volume 2

Four Novels in One Volume

by

John A. Broussard


 

Table of Contents

 

 

Preface

A Very Personal Death

The firm of Smith, Chu and Yoshinobu has added a new attorney to the firm's roster.  Laura Correa is personable, attractive and rapidly approaching the age of twenty-five.  There's no question about her success as a lawyer, but her personal life leaves her more than a little dissatisfied. But romance is interrupted by murder, and it’s Kay Yoshinobu to the rescue.

The Body from the Third Floor

Elevators at the Nikko Arms are old and not especially fast, but they are reliable.  Today the door opens and the only occupant is Anton Figueroa who, knife in ­his chest, falls down dead at the feet of the waiting crowd.  No one is more surprised than Wayne Harlan who knows the dead man only too well. This becomes one instance when Kay's investigation gets her in serious trouble as she gets closer and closer to discovering the murderer.

Body in Hobart

When Mary Ann Cambra pushed the switch to start the giant dish washer at the Malalani Resort Hotel she’s greeted by the dead body of Masa Ono, the hotel's Japanese owner.  There are plenty of suspects, but the usual one—the owner's wife—is the one Kay is called on to defend. The most profound mystery is the strange personality of her client whose impact on males may be the key to explaining what happened.

Death to Order

Hawaiian Harvest is a macadamia nut business that isn't long for this world.  Its finances are already on shaky ground when a million dollars disappears, along with company officer Morton Dyer.  Added to the mix is the murder of Dyer's wife, followed by the arrest of her lover Leonard O'Hearne.  Kay has little opportunity to do much investigation on O'Hearne's behalf, since he himself is murdered.  When Dyer, is reported killed in an airline disaster, Kay—along with husband Sid Chu—goes off to the Mainland as they follow more clues to the murders and the plane crash.

Preface

No one reads a preface which is more than a page long, but it will take less than a page to tell you about Elima.  It is one of the Neighbor Islands.  That is what the residents of the main island of Oahu call the other islands in Hawaii and, more and more, that is also what the residents of those other islands call them too.

Elima—and the time setting is somewhere in the near future—is much like the other Neighbor Islands.  It is a county in its own right, has its own mayor for the entire island, its own police force, its own tax structure and its own share of corruption.  Once almost entirely rural—with the standard crops of sugarcane, pakalolo and pineapple—it was recently discovered by Mainland and Japanese entrepreneurs.  Along with the other blessings of civilization have now come sprawling resort hotels, a rising crime rate and the twenty-first century con man.  But does Elima actually exist? 

In a sense it is far more real than those other dots of land in the middle of the North Pacific and is a distillation from all of them.  The people—the haoles (white newcomers), the Asians, the Portuguese, the native Hawaiians—in the following pages are also an amalgam of what one can find on any of these islands.  They all exist as you see them, but only in the author's imagination.


A Very Personal Death



Chapter 1

 

The phone rang.  There was no reply to his “hello” except the click of a receiver being replaced on the hook.  He shrugged, dropped his own phone back into its cradle and reached for the glass on the night stand.

Death was ninety seconds away. 

Yet all seemed normal in the hotel room, its lone occupant most normal of all.  He sipped at his drink appreciatively, looked out at the distant surf sliding across the white sand, watched the fading pink of the tropical western sky, and he counted his blessings.

It’s great to be able to charge up to the company a couple of days at a luxury hotel in Hawaii.  Even the IRS can’t argue about this being a business expense.  It’s as business related as you can get.  He laughed quietly. 

Death was fifty seconds away.

He slipped off his shoes, sat down on the edge of the king-size bed, lifted his glass and said softly, “Here’s to ten-million, twenty-million, maybe fifty-million dollars.”  Before he could touch the glass to his lips, he heard a quiet knock at the door.  

A muffled voice: “Room service.”

God!  He shook his head.  For the kind of money this room costs, you’d think there wouldn’t be any screw-ups.  Aw, what the hell, I might as well have him get me another drink, as long as he’s here anyway.

Crossing the thick rug in his stocking feet, he reached for the knob.

Death was ten seconds away.

When he opened the door, the first thing he saw was a long-barreled automatic with a strange looking cylinder on the end and the gloved hand holding the gun.  Then, lifting his eyes to those eyes, he recognized the face.

There was a soft pop.

Death had arrived.

***

“Alive, vital, animated, vivacious, vibrant, sensual, intelligent, beautiful, elegant woman, seeking man of integrity, depth of character, compassion and humor, for a long term, committed relationship.” 

The day’s work at Smith, Chu, Yoshinobu and Correa had ended.  Everyone was gathered around Laura Correa, the most junior of the partners, as she read aloud the personal from a copy of the magazine, New York.  “Now, how could I possibly compete with that?” she asked the others.

Quality Smith, a balding, pleasant-faced attorney, with a nervous habit of adjusting his eyeglasses with both hands, was the senior member of the crew.  Some nine years previously he had come to the city of Napua and established the only firm on the island of Elima devoted entirely to criminal defense.  The practice proved to be so successful that Sidney Chu, a handsome Chinese now in his early thirties, had joined the firm shortly afterwards to be followed in turn within ten months by Kay Yoshinobu, a tall, slender, truly lovely Japanese. 

Leilani Pak, the middle-aged receptionist, still took much of the credit for the marriage between the two young attorneys, claiming she had steered them successfully around the boulders littering the road of their courtship.  The heavy-set, native-Hawaiian woman, who invariably wore a colorful muumuu had, from the day she had first come to work, regarded the personal lives of the attorneys as her special concern.  As she began to see the trend of the conversation, she shook her head with an increasing vigor which threatened to dislodge the large red hibiscus in her hair.

Laura Correa, the most recent addition to the organization, was personable, attractive and, much to Leilani’s chagrin and despite her efforts, still single and rapidly approaching the age of twenty-five.  

The sixth member of the group gathered in the reception room was Craig Thomas, Qual’s housemate.  Since Qual and Craig lived less than a block away from the office, Craig was a frequent visitor and had virtually become an honorary member of the firm. 

Of the group, Leilani was the only one voicing opposition to Laura’s decision for putting a personal advertisement in New York.  “It’s a shame.  You could have had your pick, Laura,” she said.  “How many women are there on Elima who could have married the county’s prosecuting attorney?”

“Don’t be so old fashioned, Leilani,” Qual said.  “Why should Laura settle for a man living on this island or in the state of Hawaii, when she can sample from the whole US–—actually from the whole world, just as easily?”

“Hmph,” Leilani muttered.  “It’s nothing but a lottery.  There’s no way of knowing what you might get.”

“Life, itself, is a lottery,” Craig said, reading some of the personals over Laura’s shoulder and not looking up as he spoke.

Qual made a show of being startled at Craig’s pronouncement.  “We now have an office philosopher in our midst,” he remarked, readjusting his glasses.

Sid, looking over Laura’s other shoulder, said.  “What I can’t figure out are all these abbreviations.  I know what M and F stand for, but what does D mean?  Does DWF mean dwarf white female?”

“D means divorced,” Laura said.  “I figured out D, but I'm not sure about the W.  You're probably right.  It must mean white.” 

“I’ll bet W stands for widowed,” Kay disagreed.

“Doesn’t make sense,” Sid protested.  “It would make this one a divorced, widowed female.”

“There’s no reason why she couldn’t be,” said Craig.  “She could have been married twice.  Besides, if I remember right, New York won’t allow you to say white.”

“Then what’s J?”

“Jewish,” Qual said, unequivocally.

“So you can say Jewish, but you can’t say white?”  Sid sounded skeptical.

“Right,” answered Qual.

“So, can Laura say Portuguese?”

“I had a great-grandmother named Maimonedes,” Laura said.  “Maybe I could claim I’m Jewish.”

“There’s no need to.  Look at the context,” Kay said, after moving into the crowd around the paper.  “I was wrong.  W does stand for white.  It seems you can say you’re white, but you can’t ask for someone who is white.”

“What in the world is G?” Sid asked, half seriously.  “I still think D means dwarf and G means giant.”

“Don’t be silly,” Craig said, “G is for gay.  Where did you see that?”

“Relax, Craig,” Qual said with a laugh.  “This personals business is for Laura.  Remember?”

“This whole personals business is silly, if you ask me,” Leilani said, searching for her handbag under her desk.  “You mark my words, Laura, you’ll get nothing but grief looking for a husband this way.”

“I’m not necessarily looking for a husband, Leilani.  All I’m going to do is to answer some letters –—if I get any.  I’ve no intention of becoming a mail-order bride.  If nothing else, I might find one or two interesting people to write to.”

Leilani looked grim but said nothing in reply.  Instead she called her husband, John Pak, informed him she was on the way home, and told him to put on the rice. 

“I guess you’re right, Craig,” Sid said, with a broad grin and looking up from the paper.  “G must mean Gay, and D must mean divorced.  Otherwise, whoever put this ad in is a giant dwarf male.”

***

Laura propped the personals section of New York up in front of her as she ate dolmas at her favorite restaurant.  Located just a few short blocks away from the law firm, the small restaurant, run by a young refugee Lebanese couple, featured dishes from several Middle Eastern countries.  A few months before, Laura would have never believed she would ever be eating some strange mixture of spice and rice and beef wrapped in grape leaves and dipped in yogurt sauce.  Now I’m not only eating it, but liking it, she remarked to herself.  Maybe I should start thinking the same way when it comes to men.  It’s probably shortsighted to decide beforehand what I’m going to like and what I’m not going to like.

–—Single man, 39, seeks compatible woman interested in bridge, jazz–—

But I’m not the least interested in either bridge or jazz.  I can’t believe either of them would ever turn out to be like dolmas.

–—DWM seeks someone who likes her life and the way she looks.  No smokers, drama majors, boozers, or someone looking for a shoulder to cry on.–—

I guess I’d qualify.  I certainly like my job, and I’ve gotten used to the way I look.  I don’t smoke or drink, and I’m in absolutely no danger of becoming a drama major.  Still!  It would be nice to have a shoulder to cry on once in a while.

–—Distinguished physician seeks wholesome woman for supportive relationship.  Sincere only.–—

I wonder how he sorts out the sincere from the insincere.  Maybe I should write to him and tell him I’m insincere, but would he consider me anyway.

–—East Coast Professor.  Seeks intelligent, attractive woman concerned about the environment.  Marriage and commitment a definite goal.  Must be willing to relocate and be open to passion, permanence and possible progeny.–—

There are some things I’d better start thinking of.  Am I willing to relocate?  How important is age, height, nationality?  Do I really want marriage?  Kids?  I never realized how many decisions I’m going to have to make.  Why is it these people all seem to know what they want, but I don’t?

Laura looked up at the waitress who had come by to ask if she wanted anything else.  Laura looked down in surprise at the plate she had emptied.  She smiled and said, “More dolmas please.”   Folding up the paper, she thought, At least that was an easy decision.



Chapter 2

 

Neither Sid nor Kay was completely adjusted to their new home.  After years of living in a cramped apartment in town, the house seemed enormous, and the acre of land surrounding it even more so.  Located off of Ridge Trail, some ten minutes from Napua, their new residence had at first appeared to be too quiet.  It was so quiet they could hear the surf breaking against and over the shallow cliffs a thousand feet below them and a mile away to the west.  On the other hand, their three cats had found no difficulties in adjusting. 

John Samuel, father of Bluebeard and now a neutered tom, had set about clearing the acre of ground of any and all mice.  Bluebeard had shown much more interest in birds and, to both Sid’s and Kay’s relief, no success at all in capturing any.  Sheena, the recently spayed mother, spent her waking hours in exploring and had, so far, gotten herself closed up into three closets and one file cabinet.

Sid had been born in upstate New York, far from the ocean, and as a result had gone through a period of “rock fever” when he first came to Hawaii to work for the firm.  In addition, the almost complete lack of seasons had at first made him nostalgic for the sharply differentiated ones in the Adirondacks. 

Since law school at Columbia had almost urbanized him, it took a while for the rural setting of the island to convince him Elima was where he belonged.  The first few days in the new house, with its panoramic view of the Pacific, almost shook the conviction he had built up over his years on the island, but he rapidly recovered.   After a week, he wondered how he could have ever felt this was anything but the ideal spot for a home.

Kay, too, came from an urban background–—Honolulu.  For her, Elima was little different in terms of geography and climate, but vastly different in terms of social relations.  When she had first arrived, it seemed to her everyone knew everyone else.  She was also convinced everyone had scores of relatives on the island. 

Even after a spurt of development and the increased influx of tourists and new residents, Elima was a far cry from Oahu in Kay’s mind.  For her, it was not the vast sweep of the ocean she could see from their new home which disturbed her, it was the stillness descending at night.  Only crickets and an occasional gecko broke the silence when the offshore breezes blew, shutting off the sound of the distant waves.  Still, she too began to share Sid’s conviction—their new home was the perfect place to live.  They had both decided to try their hand at landscaping and gardening, something Kay had done little of, and Sid none.

“Where did you ever get this recipe for teriyaki beef?”  Sid asked as he spooned out the last piece of meat from the serving dish.

“Believe it or not, I got it from my mother.  It actually is an old Japanese recipe.  My ancestors came from Aomori province, somewhere way up north, and from what Mom says, they make their foods a lot hotter there than they do anywhere else in Japan.  Maybe that’s because it’s such cold country.”

“It’s delicious,” Sid said.  “Your mother can come over from Honolulu and cook for us, anytime.”

“So?  What’s wrong with my cooking?”

“It’s great, but if the pupil is so good, imagine what the teacher must be like.”

Kay laughed.  “I wonder if Laura will get a smooth talker like you.”

“I wonder if she’ll get any talkers at all.  I think Leilani’s right, even though I’m not about to tell Laura that.  After all, you found the perfect man right in the office you were working in.  Leilani’s absolutely correct.  It’s pretty silly for a woman to go looking thousands of miles away for a husband.”

“Sid, you’re an old fogy.  Laura has nothing to lose by putting in an advertisement but the price of the insertion.  I’ll bet you she gets at least a dozen replies to her personal ad.”

“You’re on.”

“What are we betting?  Oh, oh!  Get the gleam out of your eye.  You don’t have to bet to get that.”

“Where’s our copy of Joy of Sex?  I’m sure we can find a suitable wager.”

***

Craig had just put a bowl of hot Hollandaise sauce on a warming plate on the table.  Qual was dishing up the steamed broccoli.

“Do you think Laura is really serious about putting a personals ad in New York?” Craig asked.  Though Craig had lived most of his life in Los Angeles and San Francisco, he had a considerably narrower view of the world than Qual, who had lived his early years on the windward and, what had then been the sparsely populated area of Oahu.

Qual served himself up a section of the mushroom omelet, saying, “I’m sure she intends to.  The Wagner case was pretty upsetting to her.  I know it’s made her do a lot of soul searching, and I think she’s decided to use her head to find the right partner rather than leaving it all up to her hormones.  As I was telling Leilani, there’s no need for Laura to confine her search to Elima when there’s a world to choose from.  Can you think of anything she might have to lose by doing it?”

Craig’s eyes narrowed in thought as he reached for the omelet.  “I have to admit Leilani has a point.  At least, if Laura is dating someone who lives here, she can find out something about him, but a perfect stranger…”

Craig interrupted his own trend of thought to carefully cut off a sliver of the omelet, place it on a small plate, and slice it into small pieces which he blew on to cool them off.  This was a special treat for Chichi, a young tortoise-shell cat, offspring of John Samuel and Sheena.  Chichi had a soft cushion of her own, on an extra wide chair of her own, and a special serving tray on it to hold the approaching saucer.  Her expression was one of quiet appreciation for the service she was receiving, while recognizing full well it was merely her due. 

Qual smiled at the concern on Craig’s face when Chichi seemed at first to reject the gift of food, and at Craig’s obvious relief and pleasure when she decided to sample it and finally finished it off. 

Craig uncovered the warm buttermilk rolls he had just brought out warm from the oven.  “Laura’s such a nice person–—for a teetotaler, that is–—I’d hate to see her hurt.”

Qual poured each of them a glass of extra dry California chablis.  “I worried about her at first, but she’s really a strong person.  Maybe that’s why she’s attracted a lot of weak ones, so far.  It certainly can’t hurt for her to try branching out.”

“Whatever happens,” Craig said, “I’m sure it will be interesting.”  Then, raising his glass, he added, “To you, Laura.  May you have the best of luck.”

Qual raised his glass, clinked it against Craig's, and said, “I’ll drink to that.”

***

Retired, now, after over forty years of work in the cane fields of Elima, patient John Pak had long ago found the secret to successful conversation with his wife.  An occasional nod sufficed.  Today, holding his rice bowl under his chin and working away with his chopsticks, John needed not even a nod.  Leilani had on a full head of steam and was picking up speed with no call for further encouragement.

“Laura could be the one walking up to the altar with Emil Bautista next week if she’d wanted to.  He may just be the prosecuting attorney now, but he’ll be governor one day.  You mark my words.  Not only that, but she could have married Bill Kuroyama, just like that.”  Leilani put down her fork and snapped her fingers in illustration.

“You can’t ask for a more successful attorney than Bill,” she continued.  “Why Laura wants to get all involved in this personals stuff is beyond me.  She could have had her pick of any of the young attorneys in Napua, or anywhere on Elima for that matter.  And I know at least one doctor at the Center who was mad about her.  Besides, who ever heard of writing to find someone to marry?”

“I heard,” said John Pak, putting down his chopsticks and reaching for the container of steamed rice. 

Leilani paused with a forkful of boiled cabbage and Spam in midair.  “What do you mean, ‘you heard’?”

John Pak nodded as he replenished his bowl.  “My mother met my father that way.”

***

Laura watched anxiously as Kay read the personal which Laura had written up the previous evening.  From the outset of her employment at the firm, Laura had looked upon Kay as an older sister, whose advice she sought and approval she wished for.  At the moment, the two were sitting in Kay’s office after having decided the matter of Laura’s ad was too serious a subject for group discussion and comments.

Kay read the advertisement aloud.  “Single, female, attorney, 24.  5’1”, 105 lbs.  Black hair, brown eyes.  Not sure what she’s looking for.”

In explanation, Laura said, “My head was swimming after I read all those personals, and I’m really not sure just what it is I am looking for.”

“Can’t you at least say you’re attractive?” Kay asked.

“Everyone says they’re attractive.  If some man just wants looks, he can do a lot better elsewhere.  Besides, I’m not so sure I’d want a man who puts so much emphasis on appearance that he has to know I’m attractive before he writes to me.”

“How are you going to narrow down the field?”

“Maybe there won’t be any field to narrow down.”

“C’mon!  Stop being so pessimistic.  Besides, there’d better be some replies to choose from.  I have a bet with Sid you’ll get at least a dozen.”

Laura looked glum.  “You’re going to lose your bet for sure.”

“Well, you should still make plans for answering what letters you do get.”

“There’s no need to waste my energy on that.  I’ll wait until I get a reply–—if I get a reply."

“Did you write any other sample personals?”

“Sure,” Laura said, pulling another sheet off her pad and handing it to Kay.  “This one’s my favorite.  After I reread it, I almost decided to write to her myself.”

Half-way through the ad, Kay began to giggle.  “Dynamic, cultured, beautiful, Portuguese attorney, 24.  Love travel, classical music, reading, working in my profession.  Concerned about what we are doing to our lovely earth.  Politically involved.  Seeking mutually enriching relationship.”

“I made it up from the ones I read,” Laura commented with a smile.  “I was going to throw in ‘focused’ too, but I’m not really sure what focused means.  Come to think of it, there were a lot of other expressions I didn’t understand.  I must be really out of touch.”

“As far as I can see, you’re doing fine.  Any other copy?  Maybe you should become a professional personals writer.”

Laura laughed and handed her another sheet.  “This one concentrates on what I may be looking for.”

“SWF seeks attractive, stable man, who values kindness, good conversation and friendship.  Must be interested in people, like to cook, enjoy travel, but be happy at home, a generous spirit with profound passions and iconoclastic taste–—gentle, hardworking, passionate, with a good sense of humor.”

“Hey!  Better yet,” Kay said.  “Probably ninety percent of the men who read the magazine think they fit that description to a T.  When are you going to send in your ad?  When will it run?”

“I can email it today, and it should go in six weeks from now.”

“Well?”

“I’m going for it!  With ad number one.”

“All I have to say is, you’d better get at least a dozen replies.”

***

Sid was sitting in Kay’s office.  They had just finished writing up an appeal for one of their less fortunate clients, a shoplifter who had insisted on using kleptomania as his defense.  Early on, Sid had pointed out to the unheeding client that, since his entire livelihood consisted of shoplifting, kleptomania was hardly a reasonable defense.  The jury had agreed with Sid’s evaluation of such an approach.  The appeal promised to do little, but once more the client had insisted.

Sid closed his yellow pad, flipped it onto the desk and sat back in the oversize office chair.  Looking at the calm and lovely face across from him, his thoughts switched to other matters.  The shift in direction had little to do with logic, but much to do with emotions.  His questions at first seemed unrelated to his observation of the attractive Kay.  “What ever happened to the ad Laura was going to run?  It seems to me it’s been a long while since she sent it in.  Which reminds me we never put time limits on the bet we made.  How long do we have to wait before we decide you’ve lost?”

“Be patient, Sid.  I’ll win the bet soon enough.  It’s been only a week or so since she sent the ad in.  It will be at least a month before it’s actually printed and circulated.”

“I can’t help but be impatient when I know I have a sure thing.  How about a side bet?  Two months from now she still won’t have had a single reply.  I’ll cook you one of my famous Sidney Chu specials with roast lamb as the centerpiece if I lose.  How’s does all that scrumptious food sound?

“What happens if I lose?”

“When you lose, it will be your super lasagna with the water cress and avocado salad, including all the trimmings.”

“You’re getting pretty cocky, aren’t you?  Well, I’ll give you even better odds, because I feel sorry for you.  I say she’ll get a reply before the publication’s been out a week.”

Sid gave a loud hoot.  “You might as well break out the recipe book.”

They were shaking hands to seal the bet just as Laura came in with a puzzled expression on her face.

“Anything wrong?” Kay asked.

Laura shook her head.  “I don’t think so, except I just got kind of a strange call.  It was from one of the editors of the magazine.  He said he had my ad in front of him and was planning on coming out to Hawaii.  He wanted to know if he could stop by and see me.”

Kay’s face was impassive.  “Let’s not forget to drop by Uchima’s on the way home, Sid.  We’re out of mint jelly.”


 

END OF SAMPLE



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