Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Two Chapters From the New Crime Novel "Gone On Kauai"

Gone On Kauai is loosely based on the notorious 2007 case of a female tourist who mysteriously disappeared on Aruba. After Barbarous Coasts, it is the second installment of the Karl Standt crime novels.


Reilly was about six foot two inches, with thick sunburned forearms, what looked like a surfing t-shirt, and shaggy, graying brown hair stuffed into a Boston Red Sox hat.

He walked on to the terrace at the St. Regis and Standt knew it was him, by the way a cop's career can work over how you look. He waved Reilly over.

Bruno awkwardly weaved through the cocktail crowd, shook Standt's hand gruffly, then took a seat on the couches across from the detective and Katie.

“Ah,” he exclaimed, impressed by the surroundings. “I don't get the chance to come up here that often.”

Then he took his Red Sox hat off in the heat, and Standt noticed that he had a big bald spot on the crown of his head. He had the flushed look of a drinker, but otherwise didn't seem older than about forty-five.

Immediately his hand was in the air, summoning a waiter. The man who was working with Carla looked up, seemed to get a disappointed look upon recognizing Reilly, and came over.

"Chivas, on the rocks," Bruno said curtly. His reputation precedes him, Standt thought.

"Pardon if I put on some sunglasses," Bruno said, leaning back in his chair. Standt had the impression that the sunglasses were there to permit Reilly to leer unbidden at Katie.

"So you two are from…"

"New York," Standt said. Then Reilly's Scotch arrived. He immediately took a greedy gulp, the ice cubes tumbling down the shear angle of the glass on to his upper lip. He put the glass down.

"Welcome to Kauai. Best island in Hawaii. What can I do for you?"

"Amanda Wilcox."

"Surprise, surprise. You're working for her Dad Sam?"


Bruno paused a moment and seemed to size Standt up.

"So you worked the streets in the old days?"

"Manhattan. Midtown. You?"

"Boston, BackBay. The South End."

"I think I kind of know it…" Standt commented offhandedly.

Reilly looked like the kind of cop you did not want to run into when he was tired, demoralized, and you were acting belligerent. The brief introduction was over.

"I need to know what your evidence is," Standt said.


"Yeah, forensics. And who are the suspects in Amanda's disappearance?"

"There are no suspects in an accidental death," Reilly said matter-of-factly. "She was killed by a shark. In all likliehood."

He told this story like he had told it four hundred times before, and the tone suggested that he didn't believe in it anymore. Maybe never did. He spoke quickly, by rote.

"The paddleboard had bite marks all over it. Tear marks, like a thrashing shark. Terrible to think about."

"Did you find a tooth?"

"No tooth."

"Did you have a shark guy look at it, a biologist?"

"Yeah, she's at the University of Hawaii. I'll give you her cell phone number. Email, whatever."

"Did you pursue any other angles, such as any men close to her?"

Reilly was a little red faced and one sip later, had reached the bottom of the Chivas. Up went the hand to order another one. He flared at Standt under the surface.

"Who you been talking to, Chris?"

"Chris K, yeah. We spoke yesterday." We actually got high together, Standt thought to himself.

"That's what I thought. Chris is a good guy, but in this case, he's talking out of the side of his mouth. He has a big imagination. And he likes to smoke the funny stuff a lot. You get that here in Hawaii, fun in the sun. Goofy stuff under the sun.

"People don't go out on paddleboards and get mugged here. They get swept out to sea, drowned, smashed by a big wave, or sometimes, attacked by sharks. Don't go out in the ocean myself. Gives me the creeps."

"Yet you moved to Hawaii?"

"I like the weather, the people, the food. And the drink…"

Then he picked up the scotch, winked, and sipped it again.

"What did Chris say, exactly? I could guess. The shark attack was faked. That's his favorite story."

"You worked with him a lot?"

"Yeah. It's a small island, population-wise."

Then he seemed to move on from Chris.

"As I said, we found no evidence of foul play. No marriage gone bad, crazy boyfriends.

"We don't have very much crime here in Kauai. Only about a dozen, sometimes twenty, people drown per year. Amazing given the thousands of people who are in the water every day all year. It's paradise compared with…New York."

Bruno's second Chivas arrived and he wasted no time launching into it.

Katie hadn't said anything and seemed to quietly sit back. She disapproved of Reilly in a way she couldn't mask. She leaned forward.

"…Or Boston."

Reilly laughed in a phlegmy way. The scotch was doing it to his throat. The heat of Kauai that never went away…
# # #


She had her sunglasses on and she looked out the aircraft window. She let her eyes linger on the Pacific Ocean. It was a shade of blue lighter than the stratospheric ski blue. The sun made shadows of the clouds on the sea, which was empty except for frothy wavelets that broke along its surface.

She had two first-class seats. She sat in the one by the window. She kept the other one empty so no one would pry. So no one would tip off the paparazzi, or tell her how they idolized her, or even pretend not to know who she was, but in a conspicuous manner that was annoying and intrusive in its own way.

Her golden blond hair was tied back in a blue scarf. Brian Caleb, "Steam" they called him, was a personal bodyguard who sat reading a magazine across the aisle.

Amanda Wilcox was gone and she was flying out to Hawaii to lend a hand. She would do anything she could. She considered Amanda a dear friend in the friendless world of the famous. No expense would be spared.

She hadn't been able to get Amanda and her plight out of her mind. It wasn't just the awful tabloids and their salacious tastelessness. Absolutely nothing was sacred to them.

It was the ambiguity of "disappeared." The unknowns. Amanda had vanished into thin air. There was something impotent about the efforts to find her, a giving up on the case. It was in all the papers.

She'd always looked up to Amanda, even when strangers grew to idolize Scarlett.

She'd joined Amanda at one of her GMO protests, and the experience was exhilarating. Her presence had a potent effect on the media coverage and what people thought about food contamination. For once, she'd felt like she was making a difference, not just another movie.

Ironically, she wanted to be like Amanda, even as her own status skyrocketed to the stars. She wanted people to accept her for her brains, not just for her beautiful body.

She had a magnetic sexuality that came across not only on the screen but in person. But it blocked out everything else she thought was important.

People listened to Amanda, were moved and inspired by her. People watched Scarlett; they wanted to glide like her. She had a certain eye-catching sway in her arms and hips. A life force that originated in her eyes and travelled down her curvaceous body.

There was that body. They wanted her beautiful olive eyes, her thick lips, and her large prominent breasts. They hung on the sound of her voice. She felt consumed.

She wanted to be taken seriously, but secretly knew that she wouldn't ever have the automatic respect people had for Amanda.

Actors and directors respected her, coveted her stardom. Even though other performers obsessed over that form of acceptance, it was almost becoming tiresome. Scarlett felt like Amanda was the real thing. She was Amanda's friend and benefactor.

Scarlett couldn't yet hold a candle to Amanda's brand of modern femininity. She was jealous of Amanda's narrow activist fame, and imprisoned by her own actress' fame.

She was terrified of paparazzi and what they can do to your life. She thought of Princess Di. She ordered another tomato juice from the steward.

Amanda was just as good looking as she was in high school. But she was taller.

Scarlett knew men, all too well. She has her pick of them. She thought what had happened to Amanda had to do with a man. Or men.

She was going to spend the better part of a week on Kauai. She had some phone numbers, of an investigator and a reporter who were on the island. She was determined to get to the bottom of this calamity. She would want Amanda to do the same thing, if Scarlett disappeared.

She took off her glasses, and leaned her head back against the soft seat back. She closed her eyes. She wondered if anyone was staring at her.
# # #