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Murder Casts a Shadow

Murder Casts a Shadow

Copyright Date: 2008
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  • Book Info
    Murder Casts a Shadow
    Book Description:

    New Year’s Eve, 1934. While Honolulu celebrates with champagne and fireworks, someone is making away with the Bishop Museum’s portrait of King Kalakaua and its curator. A series of brutal murders follows, and an unlikely pair, newspaper reporter Mina Beckwith and visiting playwright Ned Manusia, find themselves investigating a twisted trail of clues in an attempt to recover the painting and uncover the killer. Honolulu in the 1930s is a unique (and volatile) mix of the provincial and the urban, East and West, islander and mainlander. Mina and Ned, both of Polynesian descent, confront the complexities and contradictions of Island life as their investigation takes them into the heart of Honolulu society and close-knit local families, whose intricate histories and relationships will have a direct impact on future lives and events. A lively cast of characters aids Mina and Ned in their search for answers: Cecily Chang, an antiques and explosives expert, steers them through Chinatown’s back alleys; Hinano Kahana, a hula chanter and dancer, brings Ned closer to solving an ancient riddle; Mina’s grandmother, Hannah, helps them unlock a secret from the past. Prewar Honolulu comes to life in this thoroughly entertaining mystery that evokes a colorful bygone era.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6368-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. 1-3)

    From a bench in the garden, Mina Beckwith watched the clouds racing over the Ko‘olau Mountains and the moon rising over Nu‘uanu Valley. She took a deep breath and turned her attention to the party inside. Stone arches framed a patio with sets of open french doors leading into the spacious and elegant parlor. From the garden, the arches created small moving vignettes of dancing couples, laughing groups, floating balloons, flying confetti, and moving figures in stylish and fanciful costumes. Beautiful as it looked, Mina couldn’t bring herself to go back in. She’d kept her mask in place all night,...

    (pp. 4-9)

    On the morning of January 2, 1935, it was raining. Ned woke to the sound of water. From his half sleep, he realized it was water pouring from a drainpipe—the one off the roof, just outside his window.

    A breeze came and went through the screen, lifting the thin white curtain. It swayed the garden bamboo into a rolling clatter, and made the morning feel clean and refreshing.

    Ned sat up, yawned, and looked out the window. The house, up in Maunalani Heights, floated over a lake of clouds while somewhere below the city of Honolulu began another day....

    (pp. 10-16)

    Mina beckwith didn’t know if she should feel angry or not, but she felt angry anyway. She didn’t want to become a society writer. She didn’t want to do entertainment articles. She wanted to do real news stories. She wanted to cover things that mattered, and here she was, going up to the museum to do a story about some royal portraits. It’s not that she wasn’t happy the museum was getting them back. She understood the importance of the gift, and even appreciated it, but any rookie on the staff could write this kind of thing. Damn it, she...

    (pp. 17-25)

    The next day Todd sat behind his desk in the upstairs office of the Honolulu Police Station, on the corner of Merchant and Bethel streets. As the chief of detectives, he rated a roomy, now messy, office with glass windows that overlooked Merchant Street. He opened the folder containing the coroner’s report. Ned lay stretched out on a sofa that sat near one of the large windows. He was staring up at the ceiling fan, watching the blades turn in endless circles.

    “According to the coroner,” Todd said, “he’d been dead for awhile—probably happened sometime around midnight on New...

    (pp. 26-30)

    Both gates to the horseshoe-shaped driveway were closed, so Todd and Ned parked on the street and proceeded up the front walkway of Abel Halpern’s Nu‘uanu Valley home on Dowsett Street. A tall lava rock wall separated the long lawn from the street. It was an old wall, now ornamented with lichens and small ferns growing out of pockets in the stone cervices. Midway between the closed gates, a pedestrian path led straight toward the house. It circled on both sides around a fountain placed in the middle of the yard, and then resumed a direct line to the porte...

    (pp. 31-35)

    ʺLetʹs go talk to the brother next.” Todd started up the car and pulled away from the curb. “I’ll bet he’s a nut case too.”

    “There’s something else going on with that woman.” Ned frowned. “Did you see the bruises underneath all that makeup?”

    “I saw them.” Todd sounded disgusted. “I wonder what that’s about?”

    “If I had known her better, I would have asked. Poor girl looks like she’s living in a pressure cooker. But,” he reflected, “sometimes that’s useful for an actor. They have an outlet for some powerful energy.”

    “Oh God, what did I tell you? We’re...

    (pp. 36-41)

    It was midafternoon, around three o’clock, when Ned took a cab from the police station up to the museum for one more look at the crime scene. By the time he got there, it had started to rain again. The museum gallery was empty, except for the woman at the entrance desk and a young couple who looked like tourists.

    Ned couldn’t help but be affected by the heavy nineteenth-century design of the building. It reminded him of a penitentiary or an asylum. The style of exhibition within the bluestone walls reflected the European and American passion for “collecting.” On...

    (pp. 42-46)

    Nyla forrest gathered up her husband’s shirts and took them downstairs. Tomorrow was the day the laundryman came to make his regular pickup. She sat down on the living room sofa with the clothes piled next to her and began to check the pockets. She and Todd had been married for five years now. They’d known each other for a year before their wedding. Six years, she thought, should be long enough to know someone. Nyla looked out of the large picture window at the fading afternoon light. Yes, she said to herself, I should know him by now.


    (pp. 47-55)

    That night mina and Ned sat together in a second-floor Chinatown restaurant waiting for Mina’s friend, Cecily Chang. Cecily sold antiques and fireworks, and Mina was counting on her to help find out about the nitroglycerin. Ned had insisted that Mina do the ordering.

    “You won’t accuse me later of being bossy, will you?” Mina looked at him over the menu.

    “Never,” smiled Ned, “in fact, I’m quite used to being bullied about by women. I rather enjoy it.”

    Mina laughed, shook her head, and then went back to scanning the menu. She ordered the house chow mein, roast duck,...

    (pp. 56-60)

    Ned sat on the sofa in Todd’s office stirring a cup of coffee when Sam Takahashi entered the room. Todd would be doing the questioning, and Ned thought it best to be unobtrusive. Sam was tall and lean, and Ned couldn’t help but notice that Sam’s blazer and shirt were impeccably tailored. His slacks showed not one wrinkle, and his hair was perfectly cut and groomed.

    “I’m sure you know why we want to talk to you about Halpern’s murder.” Todd sat behind his desk.

    “I’m sure I do.” Sam Takahashi sat across from him.

    “This is Ned Manusia who’s...

    (pp. 61-70)

    A crimson sky was fading into night as Ned arrived at the theatre. He was returning for the evening rehearsal. Earlier, after picking up the car with Nyla, he’d met with the director, Johnny Knight, at a café where he’d made it clear that he didn’t want to take a big role in directing the play but would be available if Johnny needed help. Ned explained that he would come to the first few rehearsals, see the process get off the ground and then leave Johnny to do the job without any interference. He had noticed a marked look of...

    (pp. 71-77)

    The next morning, at eleven o’clock, Ned and Todd were back at the Halpern residence in Nu‘uanu Valley, interviewing the housekeeper. Kikue Tsuruda stood about five feet four inches. She wore her hair pulled back in a tight bun. Ned guessed her to be between thirty-five and forty. She had circles under her eyes, and she looked a little pale and fragile. They sat at a table in an alcove off the immaculate tiled kitchen. The clear windows and crisp flowered curtains framed the untamed foliage of the back yard. In a spotless white uniform, Kikue sat with her hands...

    (pp. 78-83)

    The next day, Mina was up early. She called the hospital and was relieved to learn that Cecily had regained consciousness. The morning looked bright and sunny so she put on a swimsuit, made a cup of coffee, and went outside to her veranda. She was looking at the ocean, trying to decide if she really wanted to swim, when from across the arbor Ned called out to invite her for breakfast. He informed her she had about twenty minutes, and she decided that a swim was just what she needed. The tide was high, but the water was fairly...

    (pp. 84-89)

    Ned arrived at the museum at about ten thirty. Todd was already in the gallery speaking to Martha Klein. Martha was wearing a well-tailored blue suit, and with her hair folded in a neat chignon she could have easily been mistaken for a buyer in a high-fashion clothing store. She looked over her glasses at Ned as he approached.

    “Ned, have you met Martha Klein?” Todd asked.

    “Yes,” he said. “Good morning, Miss Klein.”

    “Martha was just appointed acting director of the museum yesterday,” Todd reported.

    “Congratulations,” Ned said.

    “Well, I’m just waiting for our restoration expert to arrive,” Martha...

    (pp. 90-97)

    Mina had just finished her conversation with Todd when she happened to see Alfred Gisolfi walk into the courtyard. She knew he must be there to evaluate the recovered portrait. Besides doing art restoration, Gisolfi worked as an art purchaser for the Honolulu branch of S&G Gump’s, a company out of San Francisco. Gump’s very exclusive shop was in Waikīkī and sold a spectrum of beautiful objects to wealthy residents and tourists. She watched as he bought himself a cup of coffee, sat down at one of the garden tables, and proceeded to light a pipe. She went over to...

  18. 15 TIPSY TURVY
    (pp. 98-102)

    By the time Mina arrived at the theatre, it was almost eight. Her hair felt dirty. Her clothes were rumpled, and she was starving. She’d learned nothing more substantial about Sam’s arrest than what Ned had revealed on the phone. Chris Hollister went to dinner on his own. She had gone back to the newsroom and pounded out a piece on the arrest for the morning paper. Just as she had finished, Nyla called and asked her to come to the theatre right away. As she made her way through the stage wings, she could see Johnny Knight working on...

    (pp. 103-108)

    The day opened with intermittent squalls moving in from the northeast. It was a chilly, gray day. Ned caught himself scowling as he removed a tray of scones from the oven. He didn’t like it that she hadn’t been completely honest with him. She hadn’t exactly lied, but he still felt like he had been lied to. She’d concealed evidence from him. It aggravated him because he realized he’d done almost the same thing, by not telling her what Wing Chang knew about Todd. Trust, he thought, doesn’t spring from the head full grown. Just then, Mina knocked on the...

    (pp. 109-113)

    Nyla and mina had decorated the Maunalani house with an abundance of flowers and greenery. The staircase was wrapped in delicately scented vines of maile, and as Ned entered, their fragrance set off a chain of memories of his childhood in Sāmoa. Anthuriums and several varieties of flowering ginger were placed in large Chinese floor vases all round the room, with gardenias and lacy ferns gracing the smaller tables. By the time he arrived, the party was well under way. On a table full of presents in the living room, he placed two small lavender packages tied up with silver...

  21. 18 LOOSE ENDS
    (pp. 114-119)

    Early on friday morning, Mina put down the top to her car and loaded her suitcase in the back of her coupe. She was meeting Ned at noon for their charter flight to Kona, but this morning she was visiting someone special in Mānoa Valley who just might have some good information for her. The day was clear and still, a great day for flying if the weather held. She drove off, and as soon as she came over the rise near the University of Hawai‘i at the mouth of the valley, she saw the clear green outline of the...

    (pp. 120-123)

    Ned was waiting at the John Rodgers Airfield, staring at the amphibious craft he was about to entrust his life to. The plane was an eight-passenger S-38 Sikorsky, and Mina had warned him that although they were taking off from an airfield, they would be making a water landing in Kailua, Kona. The other passengers were already giving their baggage to the copilot and starting to board by the time Mina arrived. Their suitcases were taken care of, and they boarded the plane by climbing up a kind of stepladder, and entered the cabin through a porthole-like door at the...

    (pp. 124-129)

    Over cocktails ned realized that Nyla’s disposition was much like her father’s. He was warm, welcoming, and cordial. Sure of himself, Charles Beckwith exuded charisma and self-confidence without snobbery, and it was very clear that he was proud of both of his daughters. His hair was a little gray and his face slightly weathered, but his youthful exuberance made it difficult to pinpoint his exact age. Ned knew, because Mina had told him, that Grandma Hannah was about seventy-five. Her luxuriant white hair framed her timeless face. She carried some extra weight, but her brown skin was smooth and hardly...

  24. 21 OUT RIDING
    (pp. 130-133)

    The next day, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. Mina, Ned, and Grandma Hannah spent a pleasant morning driving to the North Kohala town of Hāwā. Before visiting the town, Mina drove down a dirt road that took them through the sugarcane fields to the impressive remains of a Hawaiian temple. Grandma Hannah refused to get out of the car to look at it, saying she didn’t like the feeling of this particular heiau. They went next to Hāwī and then to the courthouse to see the statue of Kamehameha. It was almost identical to the one in...

    (pp. 134-143)

    Early the next morning, well before dawn, Charles Beckwith woke Ned. “Time to get ready,” he said. “There’s coffee in the kitchen.”

    After dinner the night before, Charles had taken Ned aside, out of Mina’s earshot, and invited him to go on a wild cattle hunt this morning. Ned had accepted. The morning was cold. Ned hadn’t expected this kind of terrain or weather in Hawai‘i. He dressed quickly in his jeans, a T-shirt, a flannel shirt, and the quilted denim jacket that he had borrowed from Charles.

    He drank his coffee as fast as he could in the kitchen...

    (pp. 144-148)

    Back in honolulu, a week later, Mina unpacked and reflected on the trip to the Big Island. They had all returned the previous afternoon, and she thought everything had gone very well. She’d had time to talk to Ned, enough time with her father and grandmother, and some time alone. Nyla had appointed herself as Ned’s official tour guide, and had kept him so busy that Mina saw little of him after her sister’s arrival. Hīnano Kahana had offered his help on the verse. Best of all, Grandma Hannah had agreed to come to Honolulu for a visit in a...

  27. 24 A BUSY NIGHT
    (pp. 149-153)

    Johnny knight decided to begin a run-through of the play to make sure the actors were clear about their blocking. Rehearsal started at seven, and Ned had to make sure neither Sheila nor Andrew left before nine thirty. Sheila was no problem. She would be occupied until at least ten and maybe longer. Andrew, however, was another story. Before rehearsal began, Ned cornered Andrew and asked if he would sit with him during the run-through so they could review the lighting plot.

    “I feel lighting is so important to the texture of a production, much more than anyone realizes.” To...

    (pp. 154-159)

    Ned poured himself a whiskey and opened the stolen file folder. It contained several items. The first was a notebook that looked like simple records covering about five years. Listed were dates, the names of ships, and individual articles with prices and initials next to them. It was obvious to Ned that these records were about the illegal importing venture that Halpern ran. The next group of papers was more interesting. The pages were torn from another book and clipped together with a note that labeled them as “Blain’s journal.” They were written with an ink pen in old-fashioned penmanship....

    (pp. 160-162)

    The next morning, Mina was over at Ned’s house reading the file.

    “Holy Jesus,” she exclaimed. She’d finished reading the stolen papers and was staring out the window of the bungalow.

    “Is that an expression of religious devotion, or have you just figured something out?” Ned was removing scones from the oven.

    “I know what he was after.” Her voice was calm. She held up the paper with the list of letters. “It’s the stamps, Ned. He was after the stamps. These little notations are a big hint: m.s. stands for the missionary stamps; num. is for the numeral stamps...

    (pp. 163-164)

    Mina had just arrived at her desk when the phone rang. She recognized Alika’s voice right away. “Slow down,” she said. “I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”

    She listened as he reported everything he’d seen, and then she made him promise to stay at home and not repeat a word of it to anyone. She told him she would be there within the hour. Her pulse quickened as she placed the receiver back in its cradle and stared at the blank pieces of paper on her desk. Then, as if wrenched out of a trance, she grabbed her bag...

    (pp. 165-170)

    Ned was the only person in the reading room of the museum archives. He sifted through manuscripts and documents about King Kalākaua, and read about his questionable alliance with the notorious Walter Murray Gibson and their Hawaiian nationalist movement. He read a variety of opinions on the king, ranging from intelligent and determined to incompetent and alcoholic, and he realized it would take much longer than one morning to understand this complex monarch. He went through a file of letters to his widow, Queen Kapi‘olani, and noted the place where the Jonathan Leeds letter should have been filed. There were...

    (pp. 171-179)

    About five minutes after Mina got home her phone rang. She answered it and was surprised to hear Sam Takahashi’s voice on the other end. He was calling from jail. After an awkward exchange of pleasantries, Sam came to the point.

    “There’s going to be an announcement in the paper tomorrow. Elizabeth Katsuki is breaking off her engagement to me.”

    “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said.

    “Please,” he said. “A release from an arranged engagement is something to celebrate. But that’s not why I’m calling.”

    “No?” She tried to sound casual.

    “No,” he replied. “First of all, I didn’t kill that...

  33. 30 MEETINGS
    (pp. 180-194)

    ʺGet up, lazybones.” Mina’s voice jarred Ned awake. “Here’s some fresh coffee, and the news about the murder is plastered all over the front page. I’m going for a swim while you wake up, and then I’m going to make us pancakes and bacon.”

    The sound of the screen door banging behind Mina as she left the house and the delicious aroma of warm coffee were more than enough to wake Ned. He glanced over at the paper she had thrown on the pūne‘e, but decided not to read it. He took one sip of coffee, and then another, and...

    (pp. 195-202)

    Mina made ned drop her off in the front of the theatre so that she didn’t appear to be arriving with him. The cast parked in the rear of the building and used the stage door, but there were several front doors to the lobby, and one of them was always left unlocked for rehearsals. Mina also wanted to use the women’s lounge off the lobby to pin up her still damp hair. She knew the dressing rooms and bathrooms for the cast would be a noisy hive of activity, with actors trying on their costumes and putting on makeup...

    (pp. 203-209)

    Mina lay in bed dreaming. She had drifted out to sea in a two-person canoe, and she didn’t have a paddle. She looked on the bottom of the boat and found a children’s sand bucket. It was colored with circus animals and clowns. Inside the bucket was a paper with a wind chant written on it. It was written in an alphabet Mina had never seen before; but she knew if she could decipher it, a breeze would come up and blow her back to shore.

    It was morning, but not yet light, when Ned’s phone began ringing. He guessed...

    (pp. 210-219)

    ʺAloha, mina my dear. Cecily’s so anxious to see you.” Mrs. Chang greeted her with a warm embrace. “You go right up. She’s waiting for you.”

    As Mina began to walk toward the back of the antique shop, two large young men stepped out of the office to stop her.

    “It’s all right, boys,” Mrs. Chang called out. “Mina’s like family.”

    The boys dropped their tough demeanor, and they sheepishly wished her good morning.

    Upstairs, she found Uncle Wing in the kitchen, placing fresh-baked croissants in a basket. Cecily was seated at the table and wrapped in an aqua blue...

    (pp. 220-230)

    Hīnano picked ned up in his Model A truck and took him to his house that was right next to the Hulihe‘e Palace grounds. Ned had just enough time to leave his bag in the guest room and meet Hiku, Hīnano’s watchful German shepherd, before he was ushered off to the Kona Inn for an early lunch. After lunch, they sat in the shade of the back veranda at the palace. Hiku sat beside Hīnano, and the ocean was like a floating mirror, reflecting the billowing white clouds. Tiny waves fanned over the sand, making a repetitive and mesmerizing sound....

    (pp. 231-238)

    Mina was sitting up in bed, drinking a cup of tea and looking out the window. It was a windy morning. The rain was coming from the south, and tiny droplets of water were hitting against the bedroom window that faced the sea. She got out of bed to check the windows in the living room when the phone rang.

    “Hello,” she said, trying not to sound annoyed at being called before eight.

    “Mina,” said an excited voice on the other end. “It’s Kaleinani. I thought you’d want to know right way. In the paper today, with your article about...

    (pp. 239-249)

    ʺWhatʹs on your schedule for today?” Ned asked Mina. They were eating lunch on her lanai.

    “I’m checking in at the paper this afternoon,” she answered. “Then later I have to go to the theatre before the rehearsal to review the final press releases and the program notes with Johnny.”

    “After lunch, I think I’ll call on Todd,” he said.

    “I think he’ll be relieved to know he can talk to you about everything.”

    “There could be some hell to pay,” he shook his head.

    “Did you read the paper this morning? There was an article about Preston’s death on...

    (pp. 250-254)

    Nyla was saying her lines out loud in the car as she pulled into Mina’s driveway. It was dark, windy, and drizzling, and when she opened her car door, she decided to leave the headlights on and the motor running. She didn’t see or hear the car that had turned off its lights and engine and was coasting down the driveway just behind her. To avoid getting wet, she ran to the front door. Once inside, she headed straight for Mina’s bedroom and turned on the light. She heard the loud sound of the surf breaking over the reef. The...

    (pp. 255-262)

    At 10:00 p.m., Todd sat behind his desk at the station. He loaded a small revolver and handed it to Ned. “I know you don’t like guns,” he said, “but it would make me feel better if you carried this with you.”

    “If it makes you feel better.” Ned was not about to argue.

    “How’s your ankle? Are you sure you can do this?”

    “I bound it up, and I’m just going to make it work,” Ned answered.

    “I’ve arranged for an old truck, and some police dogs. If we’re going to pass for pig hunters, we need some dogs....

    (pp. 263-269)

    Mina rolled over under her quilt and began to wake up. The morning was dark with clouds, and it was still raining. In her half sleep, the events of the night began to surface. She remembered taking Nyla home and helping Grandma Hannah get her into bed. She remembered feeling exhausted and driving in a downpour to her own house. She opened her eyes and saw that she had fallen asleep on the pūne‘e in the living room. On the table next to her stood a glass and the brandy bottle. There was still a little brandy in the bottom...

  43. 40 CURTAIN
    (pp. 270-276)

    The audience rose to its feet to give the cast a standing ovation. The house was full. It was a Sunday afternoon and the last performance of the play. Though the theatre-going crowd in Honolulu was small, Ned’s reputation and word of mouth had resulted in people scrambling for tickets. The cast had done quite well. Ned was proud of their performance, and he was even more pleased that Mina was here, standing beside him, applauding his play.

    As the cast took its final bow, Mina, looking radiant, turned to him, smiled, and said, “Ned Manusia, you are a brilliant...

    (pp. 277-278)
  45. Back Matter
    (pp. 279-282)