Chapter One

I don’t appreciate Madam Pele’s e komo mai—welcome home—present to me.

She and I have always had an adversarial relationship.

Detective Kalani Rogers and I are looking at a cordoned off section in a fresh lava flow area. The park rangers look green around the gills, and it’s creeping me out too. There are some things you never get used to.

Stuck in the lava flow is what’s left of a body with a grim expression on his face.

Despite what they say—death doesn’t always take us peacefully. People often look startled or surprised, not relaxed, when they cut the cord and depart this earth.

The lava is still cooling and will be for days. But it has cooled enough to embed the body from the waist down, like he’s just sitting there, enjoying the view of the turquoise waters beyond the lava beds. Poor bastard.

One of the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park rangers, Alex Melelina found him this morning as sunrise touched the East Coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i. We took this one because the Pahoa cops have their hands full with a local situation that needs all hands-on deck.

Did he fall in and couldn’t get up? Drunk? High? Incapacitated in some way? I shut my mind down to cope with the grisly scenario it’s playing out, and until we have more facts it’s anyone’s guess.

The lava cooling around him is not very deep and it’s pahoehoe, the ropey slower kind that meanders and looks like pulled taffy or congealing black blood—depending on your point of view. The sharp, fast moving flows and the stuff that exploded from volcanoes with discontinuous layers of clinkers tended to be a’a. So named by Hawaiians because when you walk over it barefoot, you go ah, ah. It’s sharp, crunchy-looking, and unpleasant.

“Something doesn’t feel right,” I say to Kalani.

“Agreed,” he says, his face grimly set. He looks like he’s just keeping it together.

“Let’s treat this like a crime scene, just in case.”

“I’m with you there,” says Kalani, running a hand through his black curls.

“How fast was she moving last night?” I ask Alex Melelina.

“A team was working down here until 11:45 p.m. taking samples because she was moving in a channel and at a reasonably fast clip. Covering at least 600 feet an hour.”

“Okay. At least that might give us a time frame.”

Another vehicle pulls up and a man and woman who look like tourists jump out, both carrying backpacks. Or they could be reporters. I inwardly sigh. She strides up the gravel trail wearing a long aloha wear dress, covered in large green and hot pink hibiscus, pink slippahs, and a fresh, neon-pink plumeria pinned behind her ear. The tall, thin part-Japanese man sports a hefty, professional-looking camera. How the hell did they get through?

Her curves catch my eye, and long, fiery red hair blows in the wind coming off the ocean. Although I appreciate the change of view, they shouldn’t be down here.

I go down to ward them off.

Holding up my shiny, new gold badge, I say, “You can’t come up here. Police business.”

She high fives my badge like she’s toasting me with a drink. “Cheers! Hib O’Neil, acting ME.” And steps around me.

Kalani snorts with suppressed laughter beside me.

“Hibby, Kyle, good to see you. It’s been a while. How are you?” He hugs her tightly and shakes her assistant’s hand.

“Kalani! Great to see you. Yeah, getting there. I haven’t seen much of you? How have you been?” she asks warmly.

“Working my ass off in vice, but I thought I’d show our new boy the ropes. You been all right, yeah?” He asks her seriously, giving her a good hard look.

The genuine caring in Kalani’s voice tells me he knows her personally and something happened to her for that concern? I shelve the thought to ask him later.

“My apologies, ma’am,” I say.

“Don’t ma’am me. I’m not that old—yet.” She snorts. “Although it’s practically the middle of the night, I certainly feel it. This is not an hour any sane person should be awake.” She groans.

Kalani shoots me a look over his Ray-bans and grins.

“Give me some warning before I make a dick of myself first day back on the job, will you?” I mutter under my breath.

“You’ll get used to her. Don’t let appearances fool you. We’re lucky to have her as backup when Ben Mendip’s away.”

Hibby slowly pulls her hair back into a thick braid but the plumeria stays in place. She probably has it speared on a toothpick so it will sit behind her ear.

Watching her take her time doing her hair, I realize she’s actually standing back and observing the scene. Keen, intelligent eyes take it all in and my respect for her goes up a few notches. When she laces up pink combat boots and steps into her protective gear, a smile splits my face. She’s around my age, possibly a little older. For a redhead, she has remarkably smooth skin but she doesn’t strike me as a woman who would do plastic surgery.

“Right. How are we going to get out there?” she asks. “Can we walk on it yet?”

“It’s probably still a bit soft but Aolani is bringing down some metal ramps we can use. She should be here soon,” says Alex.

While we’re waiting for the ramps, I stand with my hands on my hips and look around.

“What’s this guy doing here?” I ask, more to myself than anyone else.

“Drunk or high maybe. Lay down and woke up dead.” Kalani startles me. I’m used to working by myself. I’ll have to get used to working with a partner again.

“Bad way to start the day,” I murmur.

“The worst,” agrees Kalani grimly.

“How did he get here? It’s a good ninety-minutes’ walk from the northern end of Kalapana if you’re fit. And in the dark, it would have possibly taken longer.”

“It is a long walk. But not if you’re under the influence,” says Kalani. “I had a bit of a misspent youth. Many a night…” He trails off and grins again. I’d like to take this guy as a bit of an island cruiser but there’s a sharp, intelligence in his eyes and I’m glad John paired me with him.

There isn’t a discarded bicycle anywhere, so he probably hadn’t cycled out here. I wonder if there’s a vehicle at the Kalapana parking lot end. No sign of a flashlight or empty drink container anywhere but Pele could have swallowed that up as she started her fiery descent down the slope. I couldn’t see him approaching from the Chain of Craters Road end either.

“Is Chain of Craters still closed?”

“Yeah. There’s a buildup of sulfur dioxide in the area, and the park service has cordoned it off. There’s also the ocean entry.”

We trek down to the water’s edge. The scraggly young coconuts planted by local people to regreen this part of the Puna coast are laid over with the stiff off-shore breeze, already making itself known. It’s blowing vog—a mixture of volcanic dust and fallout, plus fog—around to the Kona side. They won’t appreciate that much. It makes the coastline hazy but at least we all know when Pele isn’t happy. You don’t have to guess.

We crunch our way over the black sand beach this side of the island is known for. The ocean’s a dark turquoise, and the surf pounding on the shore is the only sound out here, other than the muted, somber voices of the waiting personnel. The steam and ash plume from Pele rises in a tall column from the shoreline. Hot, molten lava, like giant globs in a lava lamp, hit the sea as it rushes through a lava tube and explodes into tiny fragments of black glass that make up the black sand beaches. On the sunny Kona side, they’re all creamy and pristine-looking—what you’d expect from the tropics.

This wet, dark, wild side of the island has an untamed energy to it that either repels or invites people. Pele’s energy and power is felt everywhere.

She throws up black sand and even green olivine in her temper tantrums. Although everyone has to let off steam somehow, and she is a commanding woman. You don’t grow up here in the islands, especially this one, without profound respect for the spirit and power of Pele—our fire goddess who lives in the Kilauea caldera at Volcano.

The ocean is rough with the surge of waves and hot lava being dumped into the cool water but there’s no sign of any water craft. If it wasn’t secured properly, it could have easily drifted by now or caught fire and sunk.

“I’ll get the coast guard to do a search for any water craft on the loose,” Kalani says.

I nod in agreement. 

The most likely way he’d gotten out here was by the gravel track from Kalapana. Too many people have trekked over it by now, and there would have been hundreds of footprints from the previous days viewing of the lava flow. But not many vehicles if we were lucky.

Kalani’s obviously having the same thought processes as me because he says, “It’s a shame about the tire tracks here, but we can at least take casts and eliminate the vehicles here now and anyone who came down last night like the park rangers.”

“Sounds good.” I run my hand over my long hair whipping around in the wind, feeling the pressure already building. So many things to think about but this could turn out to be a simple death by misadventure. My gut tells me it’s not, though.

I try to recall if I saw any vehicles as we came in. Then radio patrol at the parking lot end and ask them to run a check on any vehicles in the vicinity. Maybe we’ll find his car sitting down there.

Alex, the tall, trim Hawaiian ranger, still crisp in his park uniform is talking to someone on the shortwave, no cell service out here. When he finishes, he says, “The geologists confirm they were down here from about 10:10 p.m. last night until 11:32 p.m.”

“That’s pretty precise.”

“They were recording the flow, so the measurements and recordings were all noted minutely.”

“Okay, makes sense. So at least we know he was probably here after that.”

“They also took a lot of photographs, so we should be able to get an accurate picture up until that time where Pele had reached. Maybe with their help, we can pin down their timing on the lava flow,” says Alex.

“Right. After we get done here, we’ll go up to Volcano and start having a look. There won’t be much more we can do down here.”

The metal ramps and a geologist arrive. We heave the car repair type ramps into place and watch as they sink into the still soft, warm lava. But they stop short of disappearing. Suited up, Hibby and Kyle walk out on each one and go to work. They’ve obviously worked together for a while, they’re a well-oiled unit—making it look seamless in a tough environment to work in.

“Anything you can tell us at this stage?” I ask Hibby.

“You know the drill, Detective… Sergeant?” She takes a guess at my rank, raising her eyebrows.

“Sorry, Reef Kahili.”

“Your parents either hated you or you’re Scott Kahili’s son?”


I forget how small this island really is, even though- the Big Island is aptly named as the biggest in the Hawaiian chain. There are so many interconnecting paths here between people’s lives. Karinthy’s “Six Degrees of Separation” might not hold up in Hawai’i. It was probably more like two or three. I wonder how she knows Dad. Although as a long time pro surfer, he’s involved in a lot of community events.

“Yep, Scott’s my dad.”

“He’s a good man. We’ve done some Moana projects with his team. You look like him.” She pauses. “But you’ve had a harder life, been involved in too much crap.”

Her frank assessment startles me but she’s nailed it.

“How do you know?” I ask without thinking.

“It’s in your eyes. They tell us the talk story of the soul when words are not enough.”

We lock gazes, and I nod as a frisson of understanding passes between us.

Damn. She’s interesting, and I’d surprised myself by surreptitiously checking for a wedding band before she’d slipped on her latex gloves. Although not everyone wears one. But she probably would. Her hands are covered in various gold and silver rings. Thin gold bands of Hawaiian plumeria on both little fingers and her right-hand ring finger with a thicker plumeria ring, but nothing on her wedding band finger.

She has a soft island accent but no Polynesian coloring. That doesn’t mean she isn’t a local, or kama’aina—an off islander that’s lived here a long time and is considered part of the island now.

Hibby goes back to her grisly task, and I try to tamp the adrenaline surge rolling through my system.

If this wasn’t an accident, he’d probably been placed in Pele’s path with the hope she’d do her thing and roll right over him. But the heat had contracted the muscles and jerked his body into its macabre upright position.

The smell of roasted flesh is surprisingly sweet but I might not be too keen to attend a family luau for a while. His tank top is charred and shriveled. The ink on his body—what’s left of it—will at least help with identification I hope.

The lack of gear around him suggests this isn’t just some unlucky tourist who ignored the yellow markers the park rangers put down for the safe trails on the lava flows still cooling. They and the geologists test out here every day when there’s a fresh flow.

You can’t always tell when you’re standing on top of an active lava flow tube, although the convection heat radiating off it will give you a good idea. As the hot magma flows, it slowly cools on the outside and forms a crust or tube over the still flowing river of molten rock. But stand in the wrong spot and put your foot through it—you’re toast. Literally. The sides are still malleable and brittle, it’s easy enough to fall through one.

Most people who come to see the lava—even the ignorant ones—have at least a water bottle and a flashlight with them. But they could be buried under everything.

There’s a chance he’d fallen and been engulfed by the lava but somehow, I don’t get that feeling. At 1200 degrees with basalt lava, it would have been instant death, not this half-ass attempt at annihilation. Pele looks like she changed her mind here. I wonder if she was on a different course originally? The lava flow peters out into a thinner layer and stops, not reaching all the way to the sea.

This guy looks like a local too, so he should have been well aware of what and what not to do around an active flow.

* * * *

Driving back to the entry at Kalapana, as always, I wonder why people choose to live here. Punatics. A fairly accurate name for the folks who like to live down here in this godforsaken part of the Big Island or the BI as we locals call it. The land is cheap and isolated in the ever-increasing lava fields of the Puna coast.

I like my own space and isolation too, but this is too unforgiving for me.

A few houses stand intact, with no means to access them. Pele spared them but didn’t do the homeowners any real favors. The insurance companies don’t pay out for that type of thing. The house is still technically livable. Just because you can’t access it, wasn’t their concern. People had learned to get out what they could and let their houses burn.

Kalani and I head back through the small town of Pahoa with its false front western-style buildings and up onto the main highway to Volcano.

“What’s the story with Hibby?” I ask as casually as I can.

He laughs. “I thought she might have caught your eye. Local girl, she was married to one of our own, Ray Kyoto. He was a vice detective, got himself shot in a drug bust that went wrong.”

“Shit.” I flick a glance at him.

“Yeah. It got ugly after he died, and she was caught in the middle of it. My sister and her are friends, so we got all the goss. She stayed with my sis for a bit and then my mom. But he was playing around on her, and there were rumors he was on the take. Between you and me, well…” He trails off, leaving me to make my own conclusions.

“Like that, is it?”

“Aha. But you know, Hibby, she’s a lovely lady. She hasn’t been out with anyone since Ray died, though. She got burned in that whole thing really badly. And even without all the other crap, Ray just rubbed me up the wrong way too many times. He was a piece of work.”

“In what way?”

“You know some people the moment you meet them, you think, I’ve got your number.”

I nod, eyeing him up.

“Ray was one of those. You never really felt like you got to know him. Just the pieces he wanted you to see. I didn’t like him. My sis Halina thought the initial attraction for Hibby to him was his intelligence and complexities. She used to work as a psychologist, so maybe that makes sense.”



“Yeah, she had her own practice but when Ray died, she couldn’t cope and closed it down. She knows Ben Mendip and when he was looking for an assistant ME, he thought of her. It got her back on her feet but it was touch and go there for a while.”

Kalani answers an incoming call on his cell phone, and I get to think about the intelligent, interesting woman I met this morning.

It’s an easy thirty-minute drive once we’re on the main highway down to Volcano. Most of the BI is countryside. We only have two big towns, and lots of smaller ones dotted all over the island. And while Pele has added a lot of lava over the years on this wet side of the island, it’s lush and green. Wild, white orchids grow by the roadside, flowering ginger of every variety spread across the landscape, verdant ferns, dense tropical trees, and not a lot of traffic.

I thought I’d miss some of the hustle and bustle of LA but from the moment I stepped off the plane at Hilo, I’d sunk back into my island roots.

We drive past one of my favorite places to spend money—the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, then make the turn into Volcano Village off the highway.

“I’m just going to stop at Kilauea General and see what the bakery has, okay?”

“Sure,” says Kalani, rubbing his hands together and looking happy.

Tucked in on top of an active volcano, this village is like a fairyland. Rustic, wooden houses that blend in, with high ceilings and lots of glass are nestled into the wet, intimate, cozy, and jungle-like village. Things grow faster than you can chop them back—if you can be bothered. The whole area looks like the wild untamed West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Giant hapu’u tree ferns, sacred 'ōhi'a trees with their red spiky lehua blossoms, similar to the pohutakawa, wild ginger, and anthuriums cover every inch of ground.

This village always pulls my imagination. Every store here has a little bit of old Hawai’i nostalgia for me. I love the Volcano “upper store” with its wide veranda and buckets of locally grown, freshly cut, pure green, red, or white anthuriums with their solid yellow stamen, and orchids to take home. The old, wooden, double screen doors clang shut behind you and it’s like stepping back in time.

“Is it Wednesday?” I ask him.

“Yeah…” he says slowly, giving me his over the top Ray-bans look again and grinning.

“Good. I hope they still do baking today.”

“That they do,” says Kalani, looking happy.

And I pull into the “lower store” of Kilauea with its huge mural of the verdant Volcano landscape and Madam Pele letting her hair down the mountainside. I make a beeline for the bakery section. If I remember rightly, these guys always used to make the best mac bars and ginger cookies.

“You want a coffee or a cookie?” I say as we walk in.

“Coffee, and a couple of mac nut bars, thanks.”

“You want a shot or anything in it?”

“Just a regular is fine.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.” He looks at me like I’m being weird.

I finally decide what I want. “I’ll have a pure Kona cappuccino, dry, with a shot of mac nut syrup, please. And um...half a dozen mac bars, and a dozen ginger cookies.”

“Gourmet man, yeah?” says Kalani.

Now I give him a weird look. “We grow some of the best coffee in the world on the island. Are you really giving me a hard time about drinking it?” I ask him incredulously.

“Pure Kona for me, please,” he says with a cheeky grin on his face.

I roll my eyes but have to laugh. Despite my less than stellar start to the day with him, I’m liking this man more and more as the morning goes on.

I grab my things to go and get back in the truck. Then we head up the road to the park entrance. The Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park’s impressive stone gateway and sign welcomes us. But the surly ranger manning the fee station is lacking in aloha to say the least.

I buzz down the window, and Kalani leans over me, “Clifford.”

“Heard you were coming up,” says the stony-faced ranger.

I flick a glance at Kalani, and he gives me a tight smile.

“Cliff, this is Detective Reef Kahili. Just started with us today, local boy.”

He nods, shaking my hand briskly. “Go on down to the observatory headquarters.” He indicates with his chin. “It’s all set up for you.”

I give him an equally brisk “fuck you” shaka and we drive on.

“Last name of Kyoto. Any relation to Ray?” I ask.

“Yep. His brother. There’s another one too, Terence. The three musketeers.” Kalani grimaces, shaking his head.

“Fantastic.” I sigh. “Okay, point me in the right direction. It’s round to the right, yeah.”

He nods, and we head past the Visitor’s Center, and Volcano House perched on the rim of the caldera. Continuing along the Crater Rim Road, steam vents puff out warm thermal air from rainwater that’s seeped into the ground, heated by Kilauea, and is now escaping with excited tourists taking it all in.

We park outside the Hawai’i Volcano Observatory which houses the USGS—United States Geological Survey. Angela de Mello, a senior geologist greets us and leads us into a workroom with all the gear set up.

“Nasty way to start the day,” she comments.

“Yep. And first day back on the job at home too,” I say.

“A nice aloha welcome home gift from Pele.”

“My thoughts exactly when I saw it. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it. But this was one gift that could have stayed in the box.”

“You know, Pele. A mind of her own.”

“She surely does, and a temper to match,” I say, rolling my eyes.

“You and Pele have issues?” She grins.

“Let’s just say, we don’t always see eye to eye on things. Our personalities are probably too similar.”

She laughs. “Come in, and we’ll show you what we’ve got.”

Gary Hoys, a rotund, bearded man with glasses and the distracted air of an academic has set up a series of photos they took. We compare them to what we have on our camera. Given the trajectory she was on originally, it looks like she should have kept going straight over our poor unsuspecting John Doe. I wonder what made her change her mind. But it’s clear that by the time she reached him, she’d slowed down considerably.

Some rough calculations are made and they estimate that our victim could have been enveloped by the flow anywhere between 1:15 a.m. and three this morning. It narrows it down slightly which always helps. Let’s hope Hibby can get it even closer.

Again, that begs the question. What was he doing down there?

No cars were found at the Kalapana end that weren’t accounted for. Other than the odd abandoned one, but that’s not unusual. We slapped an orange AV—abandoned vehicle—sticker on them and hopefully the locals will strip it down to nothing in days. The local tow company can then just drop the shell off at the scrap metal yard in Kea’au for crushing. Recycling—island style.

We head back to the station in Hilo, and I’ll give Hibby a call for some more detailed photos of the ink. It’s distinctive. Perhaps we can identify him from that.

 * * * *

“You hungry?” I ask him.

“Actually…” He grins.

“A man after my own heart. Ken’s for a good loco moco?”

“You bet.”

We pull into Ken’s House of Pancakes, a local diner and institution in Hilo since 1971. They’re open around the clock and have won the best breakfast on the BI the last fourteen years running.

I used to love coming here as a kid and trying to convince my parents to let me have the loco moco. “Only if you promise to eat it all,” was the rule from Mum. I’d always struggle to finish it but Dad would give me a wink and casually pick pieces off my plate until it was all gone.

The orange Naugahyde booths haven’t changed in years and we slide into one at the back of the room where we can see everything. Hawaiian photos and pictures of celebs line the walls. Some new ones I haven’t seen, but it’s still the same Ken’s it’s always been.

“Hey, boys, what will it be?” asks our server Mandy.

“Pure Kona,” says Kalani. She whips back to the counter to grab the other pot, then flips the cup upright and pours him a steady stream of the hot brew.

“You?” she asks.

“Cappuccino, dry, please.”

He grins.

“Have you decided what you’d like to order yet?”

“I’ll take the Sumo Grinder with the kimchi. Mac salad, thanks,” says Kalani.

The “Good Luck” printed on the menu after this giant burger and fries makes me think of Dad again. But I don’t think I’ll be helping Kalani out if he gets stuck with finishing it.

I can’t decide.

I’m tossing up between the loco moco—“two scoops rice,” beef patty, brown gravy, and two fried eggs on top with a short stack of mac nut pancakes. Or the crabcake eggs benedict and some Portuguese sausage.

I go back and forth. If Vannie was here, she’d say, “For God’s sake, Reef. Just order something. Anything!”

She’s one of those people who glances at the menu for two seconds and knows instantly what she’ll have.

I finally decide on the crabcakes. It’s a new item. I should try it, knowing I have the backup of the old favorite in the sausage which is like chorizo, a smoked, pure pork sausage with garlic and paprika. Plus, pancakes if I don’t like it.

“Let’s print off the ink photos and hit the local tattoo parlors after lunch,” I say to Kalani as my cappuccino comes with a nice head of froth.

“Good idea. One of my cousins works at Fine Lines. We’ll start there and see who he can direct us to. It might cut it down a bit.”

“Sounds good. I’m kind of relying on you here because I’ve been away for quite a while. I’m not up on everything going on anymore.”

“No worries, that’s why Captain Quintal thought we’d be a good fit. You know how old vice gets and I’ve been looking for someone to partner with. Why did you move away from here?” he asks, giving him an interested look. He has a habit of sweeping his hand back through his loose black curls quite often.

“I was at uni in New Zealand. I finished my degree and came home with Vannie. She’s another Kiwi and it just felt stifling at the time. I thought the branch of law I’d gone for and the smallness of the island was the problem. So we went out to LA. Her work’s portable. But after two years in maritime law, I knew I was on the wrong track. Too many egos, too many loopholes, and contingencies. It wasn’t for me. I couldn’t tolerate the bullshit. Or some of the decisions I was forced to make in trade-offs. Morally it wasn’t honest enough for me.”

“I can understand that. So why did you go to school in New Zealand?” He gives me a thoughtful look.

“Canterbury’s one of the top one-hundred law unis in the world. And it was Mum’s old uni. I have family there and I wanted to see New Zealand for a bit. Plus, Mum wanted me to have a New Zealand education.”


“She doesn’t like American undergraduate programs. She thinks they’ve a con, badly run, and a poor level of education. Both my parents are activists in their own way.” I smile.

Don’t get Mum started on…just about anything. She’s got a sharp brain and is never shy of an opinion or expressing it immediately. I love that about her. My personality is similar to hers, whereas Dad is the consummate diplomat.

He can sit for hours through polite negotiations and bullshit. But when it comes down to it, he’s an immovable force. People underestimate his easygoing island personality—often to their detriment. And find themselves on the short, sharp end of things when it comes down to the wire. They’re skewered there by my father’s ability to let people back themselves into a corner while he gathers evidence to hang themselves.

They think they’re on the home strait, free and clear. Then they run face first into the concrete wall that is Scott Kahili’s own special brand of a logical, precise mind that knows exactly how it’s all going to go down.

“So you left there and became a cop?”

“Yep.” I smile as our food arrives.

And keeps on coming…

Jesus, I’ve forgotten how much food they give you here.

The crabcakes are ono, and I drown each pancake in its own individual syrup puddle of coconut, guava, and liliko’i—the local passion fruit.

 They slide Kalani’s huge sumo burger onto the table with all its accompaniments and the gong peals out, with the whole restaurant yelling, “Sumo!”

I laugh. I’d forgotten about that. A big, fat, sumo wrestler in traditional mawashi—the sumo loincloth—with a fluffy, thick, eyelash lei around his neck, squats on the counter. When someone orders a sumo item, they bash the gong.

Fuller than I thought possible, we stagger out of there and back to the station. I fill Lieutenant Soong in on what’s going on. Then we print off a list of ink shops, and bigger photographs of our JD’s—John Doe’s—artwork.

Our first stop is Kalani’s cousin Gerry at Fine Lines. He’s a young mixed plate Hawaiian Cook Islander local with oversize gauges in his ears, blond and black dreads, a lip ring, and a ready smile.

“Hey, bruddah, how you going?” he asks Kalani, giving him a man hug, both arms fully cuffed in tribal ink.

“Yeah. Good, brah. Just trying to track down some work. Thought you might recognize it or can help us out, yeah.”

He shows the pictures to Gerry but he shakes his head.

“It’s not someone here in town. I kinda know everyone. Did something happen to him?” He frowns at us.

“Yeah. Long story.”

“Ugh. Don’t tell me.” Gerry holds up his hand.

“Is there anyone else we can try that might know someone?” asks Kalani.

Gerry thinks about it, sweeping his hair back with his hand. “Yeah, go and see Kendall Harisho. He knows a lot of people.”

“True. Good call. Thanks.”

We drive out to a shop in an industrial area behind the main drag.

But he hasn’t got a clue either. Nobody seems to know anything, and the afternoon is wearing on with nothing to show for it.

“Here’s Sonny Long’s address. He might know something. He’s kind of an old inker.”

We opt to try this one last person. Then I’m ready to call it quits for the night and start fresh again tomorrow.

We drive back into downtown Hilo, and turn up off the waterfront into Furneaux, then right into Keawe Street.

This is a small store tucked away in the back of an old barber shop. The ceiling still has a decorative pressed tin roof, with old-fashioned ceiling fan wicker paddles, and black and white tiles, worn by time and people’s feet.

The tattoo artist is an older man with Chinese heritage and a long, wispy Fu Manchu mustache that just touches his collarbone.

We ask him the same questions we’ve been asking all afternoon.

He considers us for a few moments, then slowly says, “Maka. This is Charles Tanigawa’s work, yes?”

Maka comes over and nods in agreement. “Jeez, what happened?”

“Bad accident,” I say.

“That’s not that dude that got fried out at the lava, is it?”

I just look at him. “What have you heard?”

“Nothing, man. Just that some kid high on some shit got cooked by Pele.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“Facebook. Where else?” He shrugs, like I’m not tracking well.

“Is there anyone specifically talking about it?” I ask.

“No. It’s just on the Puna Reviewer. Anyone can join. It’s an open forum.”

“Show me.”

He brings it up on his laptop.

Lots of misinformation and speculation but it’ll have to be picked through to see if there’s anything useful on there.

“Thanks, appreciate it,” I say.

“No worries.”

“Where can we find this Charles Tanigawa?” asks Kalani.

“He’s gone.”


“You won’t find him.”

“We work with other police agencies on the Mainland and the other islands.”

“No. He’s gone, gone. Died last year.”

“Shit,” I mutter. “Would anyone have a record of his work or clients?”

“I don’t know. He was a bit of a loner. Worked on his own, out of his home down at Na’alehu. Maybe someone would have his portfolios. I’ll show you some of his work.”

He taps around and pulls up some photos of the distinctive style that’s on our young JD.

“He was a good artist. He did a lot of tribal and custom blackwork. What an idiot.”

“Why do you say that?” I ask.

“Ah…” He sighs in frustration, stroking his short, pointed goatee a few times. “He did a lot of shit, you know. Got into meth and all sorts of stupid stuff. He said it helped his creative muse. And some of his stuff was pretty inspired but you can only do that insanity for so long before you lose it.”

“What did he die of?” asks Kalani.

“Drug overdose,” says Maka blandly like this is nothing out of the ordinary.

God I hope not in this case. Although this island is rife with a seething drug industry. Some homegrown, a lot imported from Asia. I’d love to find who’s bringing this shit in and stomp on their balls.

But I’m not undercover now, or vice. It’s not my kuleana. Although it looks like our case is quickly being dragged into that cesspit.

And Kalani must agree with me because he heaves out a pissed off breath. “So much for getting out of vice,” he mutters darkly.

“You know his address down there? I ask.

“No. Not exactly.”

I’m about to sigh with frustration again when he says, “But I can draw you a map with how to get to his house, yeah. I wouldn’t try and find it in the dark, though.”

“Thank you,” says Kalani, showing more patience than I have right now.

It looks pretty straightforward. Na’alehu is a small fishing village on the south-east coast. We should be able to find it. Although he’s right, darkness has already crept up and it’s probably best to get a fresh start in the morning. Kalani agrees with me, and we head home.“Good day, thanks, boss. I’ll see you in the morning.” He swings his leg over his Indian’s bike seat, flicks the kickstand up and starts her up. She rumbles into gear; and he gives me a two-finger salute and a grin as he wheels away, taking his time, only opening her up and putting on speed out on the road

Anatonio Te Maioha

~ My muse for

Reef Kahili

Reef's cat Koko

Mahalo!!! ~ a big thanks to for these AMAZING videos of Pele letting her hair down. :) Just incredible. The slow flows are as fascinating as the fast ones. Watch the second one for a slow one... Go and check out the other amazing videos they have. MESMERIZING. 

Humphrey the gecko

who turns up for his

papaya breakfast most mornings. 

Hibby always wear a plumeria 

bloom behind her ear

Tiny Ni'ihau shells Reef wears

from his grandmother

A world of drugs, deceit, and death awaits in paradise...

After a near death experience, and burned out from working undercover vice, Detective Reef Kahili returns home to the Big Island of Hawai’i to mend his heart, and heal. But the first day on the job, he has to investigate the charred remains of the partially buried body in Madame Pele’s lava flow. He's instantly thrust back into the world he tried to leave behind.

When he meets Hibby O’Neil, the mysterious assistant M.E, he’s intrigued by her. Is there any truth in the rumors flying around the department about her and her late husband?

The closer they come to the truth, the more things heat up on the island as deeper, more sinister layers of deceit are uncovered.

Integrity and honesty drives Reef, it’s why he became a cop but now that’s also in question. Caught between solving a crime and his attraction for the enigmatic M.E., Reef wonders who to trust. Have his instincts let him down over Hibby?

Hibby O'Neil looks

like Tina Louise

THIS is amazing. Watch the fast and slow moving lava. It's like watching pizza slices being pulled and the gooey cheese... seriously good  :)

Meg Amor

Sensuous Romance,

and Mystery, Crime Fiction Writer