Private Eye Mysteries 2-Book Bundle: Dead in the Rose City\Murder in Honolulu
Private Eye Bestselling Mysteries 2-Book Bundle contains two full length private detective novels: Dead in the Rose City and Murder in Honolulu, plus a bonus short story, The Wrong End of a Gun.
Dead in the Rose City (A Dean Drake Mystery)
In this hard-boiled detective novel nothing is quite what it seems. Dean Jeremy Drake, nicknamed D.J., is a private investigator and ex-homicide detective for the Portland Police Bureau. He is six-five, hip, tough, armed with a .40 caliber Glock, and courts danger and romance with equal abandon. These qualities are put to the test when Drake is framed for murder in the midst of two seemingly unrelated cases. The more he investigates, the more he realizes they are intricately and dangerously connected. It literally becomes a life and death issue as Drake has to use all of his detective skills, and then some, to fit all the pieces together in a deadly, high stakes whodunit and why.
Murder in Honolulu (A Skye Delaney Mystery)
On the lush Hawaiian Island of Oahu in Honolulu, ex-cop turned PI and security consultant Skye Delaney investigates the death of ex-husband and former prosecutor turned businessman, Carter Delaney, after she finds him dead in her bathtub with an apparent suicide note stuffed in his mouth. The one thing she knows for sure is that her German Shepherd Ollie bit an intruder who happened to have AB negative blood, which is also Carter’s blood type. Coincidence? He had hired her to learn if his new young wife was having an affair. Reluctantly taking on the case, Skye gets much more than she bargained for. As the bodies continue to pile up, Skye puts her neck on the line to find out the truth and nail a ruthless killer who has targeted her for death.
The Wrong End of a Gun, is a noir mystery short. When a man is seduced by a gorgeous blonde, his dream turns into a nightmare in which there may be no escape.
Praise for R. Barri Flowers
“An interesting blend of classic film noir and rough, modern cinema. Quick action and tight dialogue make it a jolting thriller. Good book to put on some slow jazz with and relax, letting your brain work on some problems that are nothing like your own.” — Robert A. Sloan, author on Dead in the Rose City
“Infidelity and murder in paradise lead to a one of a kind case for PI Skye McKenzie Delaney, and an enjoyable ride for the reader. Definitely put this one on your list.” — John Lutz, Edgar winner and bestselling author on Murder in Honolulu
“Murder in Honolulu is an exquisitely rich and masterfully constructed mystery. R. Barri Flowers now lays fitting claim to the beautiful island paradise as his territory, owning it in the same way Robert Parker owns Boston and Lawrence Block New York. A savvy, smooth, and sumptuous read that’s as hot as Waikiki beach sand.” — Jon Land, bestselling thriller writer
“R. Barri Flowers’ novel, Murder in Honolulu, is a gripping tale of crime and investigation, set in a vivid, gritty island underworld. It is filled with excitement, a sense of place, and memorable characters. Highly recommended!” — Douglas Preston, New York Times bestselling author
“Go ahead. Take a trip to Hawaii. Murder in Honolulu is your ticket. As long you don’t mind a surprise around every corner, Skye Delaney will be your streetwise guide.” — Camille Kimball, author
“Intriguing mystery in a tropical paradise with a dynamic PI. A compelling, intriguing read.” — Allen Wyler, thriller writer on Murder in Honolulu
“Gripping writing, wonderfully rounded characters you really care about, and vivid locations.” — Peter James, bestselling mystery author on Murder in Maui
“It gets no better than this! R. Barri Flowers has written another thriller guaranteed to hold onto its readers!” — Huntress Reviews on Dark Streets of Whitechapel
“Flowers once again has written a page-turner legal thriller that begins with a bang and rapidly moves along to its final page.” — Midwest Book Review on State’s Evidence
Murder in Honolulu: Chapter One
MURDER IN HONOLULU
The name’s Skye McKenzie Delaney. I’m part of the twenty-first century breed of licensed private investigators who live by their wits, survive on instincts, and take each case as though it may be their last. The fact that I double as a security consultant for companies in and around the city of Honolulu, where I reside, gives me financial backup not afforded to all private eyes. This notwithstanding, I take my work as an investigator of everything from cats stuck in trees to missing persons to crimes the police can’t or won’t touch very seriously. If not, I wouldn’t be putting my heart, soul, and body into this often thankless job.
I also happen to be happily divorced—or at least no longer pining for my ex—and not afraid to get my hands dirty if necessary in my business. I get along with most people, but won’t take any crap from anyone should it come my way.
Before I became a security consultant/private eye, I used to be a homicide cop for the Honolulu Police Department. Stress, fatigue, burnout, and a real desire to get into something that could provide more financial security and flexible hours, without the downside and depression of police work and know-it-all authority figures, convinced me to change careers.
During my six years on the force, I spent my nights earning a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration. I’m hoping to get my Ph.D. someday when I no longer need to work for a living and can devote my time to further educating myself. In the meantime, I’m getting an honorary doctorate in private detectiveology, where every case can be a real learning experience.
On and off the job, I carry a .40 caliber or 9-millimeter pistol Smith and Wesson—depending on my mood. And I’m not afraid to use either one if I have to, as it sure beats the alternative of ending up as just another private dick on a cold slab in the morgue.
If I were to describe myself character-wise, the words that come to mind are feminine, adventurous yet conservative, streetwise though I often rely on intellect to get me over the hump, and kick-ass tough when duty calls.
I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I’m attractive—even beautiful—and sexy as hell. I leave that for others to decide, but I’m definitely in great shape at five-eight, thanks to a near obsession with running and swimming, along with not overdoing it with calories. I usually wear my long blonde hair in a ponytail. My contacts make my eyes seem greener than they really are.
I recently celebrated my thirty-fifth birthday. All right, in truth, it wasn’t much of a celebration. I spent the entire day holed up in my house with my dog, Ollie, contemplating the future and happy to put much of my past behind me. That included my ex-husband, Carter Delaney, whose greatest contribution to my life and times was making me realize that no man was worth sacrificing one’s own identity and integrity, even if it meant losing him in the process.
I did lose Carter five years ago, after deciding I had no desire to share him with his mistress (and probably others I didn’t know about). It was a decision I firmly stand by today and am definitely the better for.
At least I convinced myself that was the case even as I came face to face with the subject in question on a muggy afternoon at the end of July. I had just filed away some papers when he walked into my office literally out of the blue. It was his first visit to my office since I joined the ranks of private eyes. I had once worked for the man as a security consultant. That turned into lust, sex, love, marriage, and divorce, and now we were little more than distant acquaintances.
The tremulous half-smile that played on Carter’s lips told me that he was not entirely comfortable being there. I felt just as awkward for probably the same reason: the ex-spouse syndrome, which would forever keep a wall of regrets and painful memories between us, thick as molasses.
Never mind the fact that Carter Delaney was still every bit the physical specimen I had fallen in love with another lifetime ago. Tall, fit, handsome, and perennially tanned with dark hair and gray eyes, he almost looked as if he had just stepped out of the pages of Good Looking Digest. Though it was hotter than hell outside, he was decked out in an Italian navy designer suit and wing-tipped burgundy leather shoes. He glanced at the expensive watch on his wrist as if he needed to be somewhere else.
At thirty-eight, Carter Delaney was a successful businessman. A former Honolulu prosecutor in the career criminal division, Carter had walked away from the job after excelling at it for the lure of cold hard cash in the world of commerce. He had turned his smarts and acumen into a successful Internet-based international trade company.
It was during the early stages of this success that I entered the picture. Carter had hired me, wanting to have the best security devices for both his home and business. The rest, as they say, is history.
At least it was.
We had managed to avoid running into each other for nearly a year now, which suited me just fine. I wasn’t looking for history to ever repeat itself, so quite naturally my curiosity was piqued as to why he was here now. Rather than appear too overeager, I decided to wait and let him take the lead.
“Hi,” I said tonelessly as I eased back into my chair and scooted it up to my gray workstation desk. I shuffled some papers to at least give the guise of being busy. In fact, I was going through somewhat of a dry spell right now with the sluggish economy and all. This was particularly true on the private eye side of things, where potential clients seemed more willing to go it alone or rely on an overworked criminal justice system to solve their problems.
I wondered if Carter was here for a social call or if he was looking to hire me as a security consultant again.
“Nice office,” he said, though the words seemed to squeeze through his tight-lipped smile.
I agreed with his assessment, as I’d paid enough for the roomy one-woman, air-conditioned unit in a high rent downtown office building that had all the tools of the private eye trade.
Carter hadn’t taken his eyes off me since entering the office. It made me just a little uncomfortable. I wondered if he was trying to undress me with his penetrating gaze, as if he hadn’t seen the merchandise before.
Either way, it was not winning him any brownie points, if there were any left to win.
I glared at him and said dryly: “Glad you like what you see.”
He immediately turned his eyes downward, as though searching for something. When he looked at me again, Carter’s smile had faded as he said, clearly for my benefit: “I’ve been meaning to stop by, see how things were going, but between work and—”
I was only too happy to bail him out in this instance, though I had the feeling he was stalling. For what, I had no earthly idea.
“Don’t torture yourself, Carter,” I told him. “It’s a little late for a guilt trip. Or have you forgotten that we’re not married anymore?”
At least not to each other. Six months to the day after our divorce was finalized, he and the mistress tied the knot. Rumor had it she was pregnant at the time. Rarely did I take rumors seriously but, sure enough, the newlyweds did produce a baby girl shortly thereafter. I didn’t want kids—at least not until I had done the career thing first. Carter didn’t want to wait for me or my career.
To this day, we’ve never discussed whether that was the beginning of the end or just the beginning of his wandering eyes. Either way, it did little to erase my self-doubts, what might have been, or what had transpired since.
“Like it or not, a part of us will always be married, Skye,” he declared, “at least in spirit.”
“I don’t think so,” I said, sneering. “In spirit or otherwise. What’s done is done.”
“Maybe you’re right.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
“Do you plan to tell me why the hell you’re here?” I decided to be blunt, since he seemed willing to take his own sweet time. And in my business, time was money. He didn’t have to know that it was only trickling in at the moment. “Or am I supposed to guess what reason my ex-husband might have for paying me an office visit?” I asked.
I honestly couldn’t think of any reason for him to be there. Other than maybe to check out my office digs out of curiosity or get a glimpse of what he’d given up back in the day.
He chuckled. “Still as impatient as ever, I see.”
I frowned. “Guess some things never change…”
We eyeballed each other for a moment or two of stubborn reflection. Finally, he asked coolly: “Mind if I sit?”
I indicated either of two brandy-colored cluster armchairs. He sat down and for some reason I was glad that my desk separated us.
Carter sat there staring blankly at me, as though in a trance. I stared back and waited with uneasiness at this unlikely get together.
I suddenly felt compelled to ask: “So how’s your wife and…?”
At about the same time he was saying: “I’d like to hire you…”
My question could wait. If I hadn’t known better, I thought I just heard Carter Delaney actually say he wanted to hire me! If the notion wasn’t so absurd, I might have burst into laughter at that moment. Instead, I forced myself to say: “I’m listening—”
He shifted in the chair unsteadily. “I think Darlene is cheating on me…”
He was referring to wife number two. I’d always detested the idea that someone named Darlene took my place in his life. It was as if her name was darling—somehow making her more endearing than I ever was to him.
Apparently, a certain someone must have concurred.
I resisted the urge to say what goes around comes around. Oh, what the hell, I thought. Let’s hear what else he has to say.
“Really?” I said. “Now isn’t that a terrible thing to suspect—” I couldn’t resist smiling when I said it, in spite of myself.
Carter peered at me beneath thick, dark brows, clearly annoyed and perhaps embarrassed. “I’m not looking for sympathy or amusement,” he said.
I got serious again. “Could’ve fooled me.” A well-timed sigh. “Exactly what is it you want from me?” I dared ask, almost afraid of his answer.
He recomposed himself, and after a moment or two said: “I’d like you to follow her around, see where she goes, who she talks to…”
I suddenly found myself laughing, almost hysterically, probably to keep from crying. When I finally stopped, I said: “You can’t be serious!” But something told me he was. “You don’t really expect me, of all people, to spy on the very bitch-slash-bimbo you left me for, do you?”
His brow furrowed. “Can you lay off the name calling? I was hoping this would be a bit more civilized—”
I was almost enjoying this. Almost. “Get real, Carter. You didn’t come here for civility. That ended between us the day you decided I wasn’t enough for you.”
He gave me a quizzical look. “Remember who kicked out who? It’s not like I’m asking you to do something illegal. Isn’t this the sort of work a private investigator does? Or is my money not green enough for you?”
I leaned toward him; anger building up that I thought had been buried for good. “Don’t patronize me! It’s not about money. It’s about respect! You’ve got a hell of a lot of nerve showing up in my office and asking me to snoop on your wife. I’m afraid I don’t come that cheap—” I took satisfaction in making that abundantly clear to him.
He actually seemed shocked by my reaction, and maybe even hurt. “Dammit, Skye, I didn’t come here to insult you. I came because I need your help.” He batted those charming eyes at me emotionally. “You think it was easy for me to come to you with my, uh, problem? Hell no, it wasn’t, but I did because I thought you’d understand.”
“Sure, I understand all right,” I told him. “You’re feeling betrayed, humiliated, and agony over your suspicions. Am I right?” I was sounding like a still bitter ex-wife and found it to be oddly refreshing.
Carter sighed, sounding exhausted. “You’re never going to give up the spiteful ex-wife routine, are you? What happened between us is history. Right or wrong, I can’t do a damned thing about it now.” He hoisted to his feet so fast he nearly toppled over. “I guess it was a mistake coming here. I thought you were professional enough to take on any case without letting your personal feelings get in the way. Obviously I was wrong.” He turned his back to me and headed for the door.
Carter always had an incredible way of being able to manipulate people—especially me—into seeing things his way. Not this time! I was not about to be conned into feeling guilty or unprofessional because I refused to take a case that was far too personal and could only stir up feelings that I would just as soon forget, if that was possible.
I stood and asked what seemed like a legitimate question under the circumstances. “Why me? Surely you could have found some other private eye in Honolulu to follow your wife around—one who didn’t happen to be your ex-wife.”
He turned around and gave me a look that implied the answer should have been as obvious to me as it was to him.
“Do you even have to ask why?” He clenched his jaw. “The last thing I want or need is to make public to already jittery investors my private business…or the fact that I think my wife—the mother of my three-year-old little girl—is cheating on me. You’re the only private detective I felt I could count on for a discreet investigation that wouldn’t come back to haunt me.” He lowered his head. “I guess in some ways it already has—”
I suppose I took it to heart that he trusted me enough to feel that I would handle such an investigation with the utmost discretion. But, all things considered, I wasn’t sure that I could trust myself as much.
“I can recommend someone—” I offered as a goodwill gesture.
“Don’t do me any favors,” Carter muttered irritably as he turned toward the door, gave me a final heated glare, and vanished much the way he had appeared.
I slumped back down into my chair, angry that he had put us both in an unenviable position. In truth, things had not been all that great for us even before the other woman entered the picture. Carter’s obsession with getting ahead at all costs and his insistence on meticulousness in every aspect of our lives clashed heavily with my somewhat lower aspirations and lack of perfect order in my life. And our differences over when children should become part of the picture hadn’t helped matters either.
The final straw came when I learned of Carter’s affair and the reality that he didn’t really seem to give a damn that the cat was out of the bag. It was more like a big relief to him. And when confronted with the option of me or the other woman, he was unable or unwilling to make what I believed to be the intelligent choice.
I sought to hold my ground where it concerned my ex. It had been over between us for a long time. I owed him nothing but the painful memories of days gone by. Neither of us had even pretended to be friends once our relationship had officially ceased. (I even turned down a generous divorce settlement, preferring to leave the marriage with only what I brought to it. At the time, it seemed like only a clean break could allow me to regain my dignity.) What was the point when we had gone too far beyond friendship to go back?
As far as I was concerned, that overused cliché applied perfectly when I thought of Carter Delaney. He had made his own damned bed and now had to lay in it—but not with me!
* * *
The privilege of sharing bed space with me in the post Carter Delaney era currently belonged to Ridge Larsen. A homicide detective for the Honolulu Police Department, Ridge had transferred from the Portland Police Bureau in Oregon just after I had gone into early retirement. He was forty, divorced, and handsome in his own rough-hewn, square-jawed way with crafty blue eyes, a shaven bald head, a thick dark moustache, and six foot three inches of solid muscle.
Ridge and I had been dating for the past six months. I wouldn’t exactly call what we had serious, insofar as my wanting him to put a ring on my finger. Being on my own for some time, I had become extremely possessive of my independence and privacy and was in no hurry to share my space with anyone on a permanent basis. Ridge seemed to understand and fully accept this, being of the same mind after a disastrous marriage, which probably accounted for half of why we seemed to work so well together.
The other half was that he tolerated my infrequent but not very pretty mood swings, knew when to leave me alone, was a great cook, and an even better lover.
An added fringe benefit of having Ridge around was that he came in handy during those not so rare occasions when I needed official snooping or able-bodied assistance in the every day and sometimes dangerous world of private investigations.
“I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting the current Mrs. Carter Delaney,” hummed Ridge in bed, his strong arm holding me close to his taut body, “but from what I’ve heard, the former prosecutor’s wife is hot stuff.”
I jammed my elbow into his ribs and watched him wince. “I wouldn’t know about that,” I said tartly. “And now is definitely not the time for you to fantasize about my ex-husband’s wife.”
The afterglow of making love for the past hour was dimming quickly.
Ridge groaned. “I wouldn’t dream of fantasizing about anyone but you these days.” He planted a nice kiss on my lips. I enjoyed the taste of him. “I only go for pouty ones with long blonde hair and a smokin’ hot body.”
I soaked in the compliment and felt my annoyance beginning to wane.
Ridge sat up and asked nonchalantly: “So are you going to take the case?”
I looked at him dumbfounded while partially covering myself with a satin sheet, as if he hadn’t already gotten a bird’s eye view of every inch of me. “What case?”
“Delaney versus Delaney,” he said cutely. “Sounds like pretty routine stuff to me.” He grinned. “Let’s face it, it took guts for him to come to you of all people for help.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. “Give me a break! Guts or not, why the hell would I want to find out for poor Carter if his wife is fooling around on him?”
“What are you afraid of?” Ridge asked.
“I’m not afraid of anything,” I insisted. Except for maybe not being in full control of my own life at all times, I thought. But I knew it didn’t work that way in the real world. We were all victims of circumstances for which we often had little to no control.
Ridge eyed me suspiciously. “You don’t still have the hots for your ex, do you?”
I stared at his chest, then into his eyes, rolling mine. “What do you think?” He gave me that look all men have—the one that says they need to hear the words of reassurance. “No, I’m not still hung up on Carter Delaney,” I said with an edge to my voice. “You of all people should know that, Ridge. I don’t make a habit of sleeping with one person while fantasizing about another—” I hoped that would erase all doubts.
“Prove it,” Ridge challenged me, “if only to yourself and maybe to Delaney. Take his case just as you would any other client. After all, it’s just business, right?” He twisted his lips and added: “Who knows, you might even find it therapeutic.”
I sneered at him. “Thanks for the advice, Dr. Phil.”
He grinned crookedly. “Just wait till you get my bill. I don’t come cheap.”
I could vouch for that, as his expensive tastes included having a sometimes difficult girlfriend.
Reluctantly, I climbed out of his king-sized bed and gathered up my clothes that were scattered about the floor as if a tornado had passed through.
“What are you doing?” Ridge asked with a frown.
“I’m going home,” I told him.
“Why? I hope it wasn’t anything I said or didn’t say.”
I slid into my jeans and zipped them. “It wasn’t. I have to feed my dog—”
He got out of bed. “Can’t it wait—maybe for a couple of hours?”
“No,” I said. “Ollie starts to get antsy when he goes practically all day without eating.” I looked around, but couldn’t find my cami, which seemed to work to Ridge’s advantage.
He came up behind me and wrapped massive arms around my waist. “Are you sure you aren’t just a little pissed at me?”
I wriggled out of his arms and gave him a sincere look. “There’s nothing to be pissed about.”
At least not with you, I told myself, reserving that for my ex at the moment.
Ridge looked relieved. “Good. I just don’t want you to throw away Delaney’s money for all the wrong reasons.”
He was starting to press his luck and my patience.
I sighed and told him: “This may come as a surprise to you, but what’s wrong for one person may be totally right for another—”
So maybe I was a little pissed at Ridge for seeming to represent the typical male in sizing up the situation. It was as if there was no room in the scheme of things for emotional baggage or ethical principles where it concerned making money. I wasn’t sure I bought into that or if he really did.
I found my top, which had somehow ended up beneath Ridge’s black denims. He gathered up his clothing.
“Any chance we can start the night over?” he asked lamely.
I couldn’t help but smile at the thought. “Don’t ask more of yourself than you’re capable of delivering.”
“Try me,” he dared.
Though a repeat performance was pretty damn tempting, I grinned and said, “Isn’t that what I just did?” while glancing at the wrinkled bed coverings that betrayed the hot and heavy activity that had taken place there tonight.
“At least let me drive you home,” Ridge offered.
“My car will get me there just as quickly,” I said, and kissed him lightly on the mouth. “You can walk me to the door, though.”
He grumbled and hugged me as we walked in step through his ranch style home on Keeaumoku Street in the Makiki section of Honolulu that wasn’t far from my office.
I could never be upset with Ridge Larsen for very long. His intentions were usually anything but self-serving. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder if by pushing me into this case, he was more motivated by his own insecurities than any self-doubts I may have had.
My instincts told me that both were likely to be tested before this thing was over.