Excerpt: Hawaiian Holiday: A Jesse Ashworth Mystery by Stephen E Stanley

Sometimes you need to step outside, get some air, and remind yourself who you are, and who you want to be.
-Anonymous

Chapter 1

It was another day in Paradise. I stepped out onto the lanai with my morning cup of coffee and took in the view. Between the buildings I could see sections of Waikiki Beach and to my left I could see Diamond Head. The calendar said it was February, but to me it seemed like an endless summer. Sitting at the small table and sipping my coffee, I remembered why I was here.

It had taken me almost a week to get here. I could have done the flight all in one day. I also could have jumped off a twenty story building, but that didn’t appeal to me either. To break up the trip I had stopped in Las Vegas for a few days and then on to San Francisco to see the sights before hopping on a jet to Honolulu.

This wasn’t my first time in Hawaii. I had been here three times before when I was much younger. I loved how it seemed a different world and how far away it was from daily life. It had been a rough year. On my birthday no less the doctor had called me to say, “Mr. Ashworth, there seems to be a problem with your blood work, and I’d like to see you in my office as soon as possible.”

I knew that wasn’t good, and when he informed me that I had a form of chronic leukemia he told me not to panic. In most cases it never develops to the stage where it needs to be treated and other than a checkup every six months I should be fine.

I was fine and then I wasn’t, so a six month ride on the chemo therapy rollercoaster had just ended. I love my hometown of Bath, Maine, and all my friends there, but I needed to get away by myself and recover both physically and spiritually. The fact that I hate winter with a passion helped the decision along.

My partner Tim Mallory and I run a small security agency back home. It’s called the Bigg-Boyce Security Agency because we bought it from Mr. Bigg and Mr. Boyce, but the locals call us the Big Boys Detective Agency. Tim and my two friends Hugh Cartier and Jason Goulet are finishing up a case back home, and then I expect everyone will head here and leave the agency in the hands of my son Jay and Tim’s daughter Jessica and her husband.
I planned to be here for the winter, so I rented a condo rather than a hotel room, and I had a kitchen to cook for myself if I didn’t feel like running off to a restaurant, but so far I’ve enjoyed eating out and not cooking, except for breakfast. My typical breakfast is cereal, fresh fruit, and yogurt. And coffee of course, good local Kona coffee.

I’ve heard that people after chemo sometimes have an identity issue, and I believe it. I feel like I left myself back home, and here I’m someone else, but I don’t know who. But the one thing I know is that I don’t feel whole.
It was time to start my day, which will be pretty much like every day: eat, swim, walk, nap, read, and repeat. Aloha!

Last night as I was having an umbrella drink in a nice open-air bar news stories were playing on the bar’s television. There was a three day blizzard in the Northeast from Washington to Nova Scotia. I thought Washington needed a good blizzard or two, but I felt bad thinking that back home the snowplows, generators, and snow blowers would be working overtime. So bad in fact that I ordered another drink and then went for a walk along the beach.

The one thing I love about Hawaii is the diversity of the people. Nobody cares much about what you are or what you look like, and it’s a great place for people watching. I had left my inhibitions back home, too. I never wear shorts in public back home, but here I would feel overdressed in long pants. You wouldn’t catch me dead in a Hawaiian shirt back home, but this was, after all, Hawaii. One of the first things I did was head over to Hilo Hattie’s and buy some shirts, but I bought muted designs and colors so I wouldn’t look like a tourist, and then I packed away all my New England clothing. I draw the line at flip-flops. I bought a pair of sandals. In an emergency, how could I ever run in flip-flops?

Finishing my coffee, I showered, got dressed, and headed out the door. Something told me to vary my morning routine. I should point out that that “something” is a little voice in my head that tells me to pay attention to my surroundings. I’ve learned over the years to listen to my sixth sense and that to ignore it doesn’t end well for me.

I should explain that my cousin Monica and I had been taught by our grandparents to listen to our inner voices. We come from a long line of Spiritualists, and though we don’t practice Spiritualism and are basically skeptics, we are more sensitive to our surroundings then other people.

So instead of heading to the beach I walked down Paki Avenue to Kapiolani Park. It was early and the place wasn’t busy. Later in the day many locals would be picnicking in the park, and tourists would be wandering around looking for that authentic Hawaii of their imagination.

There were parked cars along the way and I wondered where their drivers were because the automobiles were unoccupied. Walking along I spotted a red Volkswagen camper from the 1970s. There was something about the van that made me pause. I hadn’t seen one for a long time and I noticed that the windows were open and the curtains closed. I love cars and as I walked along I was able to recognize different automobile makes and models.

I had a sudden craving for coffee, so I headed out of the park and up Kalakaua Avenue until I found a small coffee shop and had a cup of coffee and a tasty pastry, and watched the people as they passed by on the sidewalk.

My phone went off and I looked at the caller ID and sighed. The ID read Clyde Ashworth, so it was either my father or my mother. “Jesse,” said my mother on the other end of the line, “is it true you ran away from home?”

“No, Mother, I didn’t run, I took an jet plane.”

“I called your office and Jay said you went to Hawaii? Are you looking for hula girls? There are plenty of girls here in Florida. You should have come down here.”

“Mother, we’ve been over this. I’m not looking for hula girls or any girls. And I think we now call them women by the way.”

“Did you get tired of your detective hobby? I remember you playing detective with that tin badge when you were a kid. Maybe you should go back to teaching.”

“I’m retired from teaching these last twelve years, and Tim and I aren’t indulging in a hobby. The agency is a real thing.”

“Who’s this Tim?”

“Tim Mallory. Remember, we grew up together. He’s my partner.”

“Has he found a woman yet?”

“Put dad on the phone, please,” I needed to touch reality again.

“CLYDE!” she yelled into the phone. “Jesse wants to talk to you.”

“Hello son. You’re mother is crazy as a loon.”

“I’m not crazy!” she yelled in the background. My father ignored her.

“How are you son?”

“My blood count is normal, so it looks like the chemo worked.”

“That’s good news. I’m glad you were able to get away for a while. You must be worn out.”

“He needs to get a real job,” yelled my mother from somewhere in the house.

“Yes, I admit I feel beat up. Thankfully everyone understands I need some rest. How is mother by the way?”

“Good days and bad days. The doctors are confident that her problem is plaque buildup in the arteries to the brain. They are going to operate and open them up, and hopefully that will help.”

“Keep me updated,” I said. “Love you both,” and I ended the call.

Blurb

It’s winter and retired teacher turned investigator Jesse Ashworth heads to Honolulu to recover from chemotherapy treatments. Jesse is pulled into a murder investigation when the sister of the murder victim hires Jesse to find the truth behind her brother’s death. The investigation leads him to cross paths with Honolulu Homicide Detective Travis Chan. As Jesse slowly recovers, his intuitive detective skills begin to return to help unravel the intricate case. Despite the distance, Jesse manages to keep in contact with those back in his home town.As spring approaches, Jesse heads back home to Bath, Maine and his partner former chief of police Tim Mallory. Two of the most unusual missing persons cases present themselves as the two try to solve the mysteries.

More about author Stephen E Stanley

Stephen E. Stanley has been an educator for over thirty years, first as a high school English instructor and then as a full-time teacher mentor for secondary education in a large New Hampshire school district. He grew up in Bath, Maine the setting of his Jesse Ashworth mysteries. He studied at the University of Southern Maine, Lesley University, the University of New Hampshire and currently resides in New Hampshire.

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