Honeymoons Can Be Murder
A Lee Alvarez Mystery Novella
by Heather Haven
“Gurn, darling, wasn’t that woman lying in exactly the same position when we left for breakfast?”
Shading my eyes, I looked in the direction of a chaise lounge about seventy yards away sitting half in the lapping waves of the Pacific and half on the warm sands of Hanalei Bay. Dragged into position by sunbathers looking to have the best of both worlds, it seemed to be a common practice on the island. Ten or fifteen others dotted the Hanalei Bay coastline near their respective beachfront rooms.
I’d noticed the woman around seven o’clock in the morning when I stepped outside with my coffee and the morning’s newspaper. I would have liked to take a run along the beach before breakfast, but was recuperating from a sprained ankle, so instead I read “USA Today” while slurping my latte. A poor substitute.
Our honeymoon bungalow was set off in a corner of the Royal Kauai Hotel’s expansive beachfront property. Other than the mandatory public access, which allowed for occasional wanderings by guests along the beach, it was private, quiet, and heaven.
The slender woman was lying on her back in a rather racy red bikini. Legs outstretched, arms by her side, large floppy black hat covering her face, neck and hair, she hadn’t moved in over three hours. I unwrapped myself from my own lounge chair and stood.
“She was, wasn’t she? In exactly the same position.”
My husband of less than a week remained seated in one of the two turquoise and white beach chairs on our lanai. But he leaned forward, removed his sunglasses, his grey-green eyes focusing on her.
“You could be right, but I wasn’t paying attention to her, not really.” He reached up and grabbed me around the waist, pulling me on his lap. “I only have eyes for you, sweetheart.” He then proceeded to kiss my neck with loud, smacking noises, intentionally more comical than romantic.
“Yes, darling,” I said, wiggling within his embrace. “But seriously, I don’t think she’s moved in hours.”
Gurn glanced in her direction in earnest. “She could be sleeping one off.”
“She could.” My tone was doubtful.
“You think she might be sick or something? Why don’t you walk down there and have a chat with her? But if you wake her up and she gets a mad on, remember I told you so.”
“Why don’t we go together?”
I flashed him what I hoped was a winning smile. It must have been along the winning lines because he let out a sigh of resignation and released me. I removed myself from his lap and got to my feet. Gurn looked at me, the lopsided smile springing to his face.
“You’re lucky you’re so gorgeous I’ll do anything you want. You and your twilight colored eyes,” he added.
“Aw, I’m not so gorgeous,” I said modestly, batting said eyes at him.
“If you say so.” He shrugged.
I feigned shock at his words, gave him a playful smack on the arm, and we both laughed. Gurn stood, and with a groan stretched his now tanned six foot one frame. We’d been married right after he returned from a covert mission a little on the banged up side. It was just a few scrapes, bruises, and a black eye, nothing serious, but he’d made one weird looking groom.
To civilians, he was known as Mr. Hanson, CPA extraordinaire and owner of Hanson Accounting Firm. To the U.S. Navy, he was known as Lt. Commander Hanson, ex-navy SEAL, often called away on highly classified and secretive missions. To me, he was Gurn, the man I loved.
In fairness, I was a little on the banged up side, too, having just completed a case where the villain was unwilling to see my side of things i.e. going to jail for murder. I was for; villain against. After a few rounds, I had my way but not without sustaining a sprained ankle and a black and blue hand. The ankle was currently embraced by a support boot. The hand was on its own. Everything hurt, so I was either icing various parts, taking Advil, or downing the occasional Mai Tai. Rum can be very medicinal.
I studied the lone woman lying on the chaise. So did Gurn. Without saying a word, we walked hand in hand in her direction. Actually, Gurn walked. I hobbled in the cumbersome boot I was relegated to wearing for the next four to six weeks.
Once there, we unlocked hands, Gurn going around to the far side of the lounge. I looked at him and he looked at me. Raising his forefinger, he tapped the air in the woman’s direction, indicating it was time for me to do something.
I cleared my throat.
“Excuse me,” I said louder then waited.
“Miss?” This time I jostled the chaise lounge with my knee. The movement caused the sandal to drop off her left foot and land in the water. It bobbed on gentle waves.
Gurn looked at me, grabbed the black hat by the crown, and lifted it up. Long hair, a lighter shade of brunette than mine, fluttered in the soft breezes of Kauai. Vacant brown eyes stared unseeing into the late morning’s sky. A trace of dried saliva ran down one corner of bluish lips.
“Dios mio, look at her arms.” For the first time I noticed how they lay unnaturally stiff by her side, ending in balled up fists. “Gurn, she’s dead!”
Wordless, he placed the hat back where it had been. After a moment’s silence in which he tried to steady himself, he looked at me. “Do you want to stay with the body while I go for the police or do you want to go?”
I gulped, unhappy either way. As the lead PI for the Silicon Valley based family business, Discretionary Inquires, maybe I should have been more used to this sort of thing.
In defense, finding dead bodies was on the unusual side, as ninety-nine percent of the time we dealt with miscreants who stole software, hardware, and intellectual property. But it did happen, especially when I wasn’t looking.
Gurn turned and broke into a run, heading for our room and a phone. Putting on my mental PI hat, I pivoted slowly, trying to keep the silly boot on my left foot from sinking further into the sand. I studied my surroundings.
The morning’s sun was still climbing in a cloudless sky, its reflection dancing across the surface of the ocean. Out to sea, small boats and elegant yachts either glided by or were tethered to anchors in the bay, bobbing languorously on soft currents. Further down the beach, a group of young people began a rambunctious game of volleyball. Their taunts, laughter, and teasing filled the air. It was macabre.
Turning back to the corpse, I scrutinized the body from head to toe. Considering how she was dressed—or wasn’t—I didn’t miss much. She looked to be about my age, thirty-four, maybe a year or two older. She was or had been in great shape, not an ounce of fat anywhere. Even I, a wannabe ballerina with a black belt in Karate, couldn’t make that statement. Possibly she was an athlete of some sort. Or a workout nut. There was that.
A thin, rose gold chain encircled the ankle of the foot still wearing a sandal. With a sound similar to that of a stopped up sink being unclogged, I managed to pull my sinking boot out of the wet sand, struggling to stay upright. I had been told to steer clear of any type of water or beach activity by the nurse practitioner while wearing this support boot. Now I knew why. It was filling up fast with sand, salt water, and a small seashell or two. Nonetheless, I chugged into the water toward the bottom end of the chaise, and closer to the victim’s feet.
The name ‘Janet’ was written in gold cursive, individualizing the anklet. Sparkling diamonds dotted the links here and there. The gold and diamonds were real; the piece expensive. I can tell the difference at sixty paces between real and imitation, having been trained by the world’s foremost fashionista, my mother, Lila Hamilton Alvarez. Speaking of my mother, she would have a cow if she found out I was involved in someone’s demise on my honeymoon. I couldn’t wait to tell her.
I lifted the black sunhat again from the woman’s body; I didn’t think she’d mind. Flipping it over, I read the designer label. If one was to believe Vogue Magazine—and I certainly did—her topper cost a snappy five hundred and fifty dollars.
For most women, that’s a lot to pay for something to plop on your head at the beach. My sunhats usually end up crushed under sandy feet, bleached by the sun, and soaked by salt water. After being totally misshapen by the elements, I’m often relieved when they’re blown away by a rogue gust of air. Of course, then one must start the process all over again. That’s why I try to keep the cost of summer hats under thirty bucks each.
So here lay a woman who spent serious money on at least one or two of life’s accessories. Or life’s frivolities, if I wasn’t being too judgmental. I reined in the urge to do a search of the bathing suit for its label. Putting aside it was tampering with evidence, pilfering through a dead body’s garments might be considered gauche, especially if I got caught.
Seeing nothing else unusual—other than the woman being deceased—I replaced the hat and zoned out for a while, thinking. Had I seen anyone or anything else when I’d spotted the red bikinied woman the first time? Nada.
In truth, she could have been there most of the night, possibly pushed around by the incoming and outgoing tide, gentle though it’s purported to be. Only with the rising of the sun would I have seen her. Except for the hotel’s nightclub, lights are dimmed, if not off after nine pm, the beachfront sleepy and quiet. People tend to come to Kauai for nature, so it’s usually early to bed, early to rise. Basically, if you want nightlife, go to Waikiki.
I looked up and saw Gurn and the hotel manager thudding toward me. I couldn’t hear them, as the sand muffled any sound, but a young man in a security guard’s uniform followed. The officialdom of death was about to begin.