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Anthiny Bidulka

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Anthiny Bidulka


  Candy Hearts

  Also by the author

  Amuse Bouche

  Flight of Aquavit

  Stain of the Berry

  Sundowner Ubuntu

  Tapas on the Ramblas


  Candy Hearts

  A Russell Quant Mystery

  Anthony Bidulka


  Copyright © 2009 by Anthony Bidulka

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, with­out the prior written permission of the publisher or, in case of photocopy­ing or other reprographic copying, a license from Access Copyright, 1 Yonge Street, Suite 1900, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  , M5E 1E5.

  Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

  Bidulka, Anthony, 1962-

  Aloha, candy hearts / Anthony Bidulka.

  ISBN 978-1-897415-38-2

  CIP data on file with Library and Archieves Canada

  The publisher gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program.

  Printed and bound in Canada

  Insomniac Press

  192 Spadina Avenue, Suite 403

  Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5T 2C2

  In the middle of the North Pacific Ocean is an island nicknamed "The Gathering Place." Its population sits at under a million, the area code is 808, and the average temperature is 25"-30" C (75"-850 F). This island is Oahu, Hawaii.

  The people of Hawaii are known throughout the world for their spirit of Aloha. This spirit can only be described as an inner warmth: a feeling of love, respect, and hospitality. This spirit comes from the very soul of this ancient people.

  This book is dedicated to my longtime ku'uipo and brand new pilikua, Herb, who would spend every vacation, weekend off, and special occasion in Hawaii if he could (and with dozens of trips already logged, he has given it a good try), and to his lovely oasis that, because of his presence there, has become mine as well.

  Herb's love affair with the islands—Oahu in particular—began in childhood and has deepened with time and maturity. Although the experience has recreated itself many times and in many ways, some favourites (and favourite memories) endure: the Surf Club on Kuhio, Waikiki Shore with its perfect slice of Waikiki Beach and view of Friday night fireworks, the scent of plumeria, POG & vodka on the beach, ahi tuna poke, La Mer and Orchids at the Halekulani, sunset hula by Kanoe Miller, Starbucks and oat bars, Holly's cottage in the hills, Evil Jungle Prince at Keos, music radio and newspaper on the beach, perfect Mai Tais at the Royal Hawaiian, swimming with dolphins, jogging down the Ali Wai, watching videos at Hulas, climbing up Diamond Head, grocery trips to Daiei, walking Kalakaua, spotting the green flash at sunset, towels from ABC, the juiciest fruit from Henry's, Pat and Jack Brattus, long afternoon walks down the beach, finding perspec­tive, the first breath of moist, tropical air as we step off the aircraft, the many family and friends we've laughed with there, and antic­ipating years and years and years of the same.

  Much Aloha.

  Early on, when I was first settling on a concept for this sixth Quant book, I had Russell investigating a rather dark case surrounding a suicide club and a nasty character who preyed on terminally ill people who'd come to believe that taking their own lives (or hav­ing someone do it for them) was a better way out. Although I ulti­mately decided the storyline wasn't what I was looking for, I've stored it away for potential use in the future. That being said, I owe a debt of gratitude to the people who helped develop the concept and flesh it out with wonderful detail, including Jo-Anne, Brian, my sister Hope, Ted, my niece Kim, and Delia. Your willingness to share your special talents and brainpower is much appreciated.

  In the summer of 2005, I had the opportunity to speak at the annual Association of Canadian Archivists conference. I knew lit­tle about the process of archiving, but found the subject fascinating and thought it might make good fodder for a book one day. That day has arrived. I never forgot the many fine professionals I met that evening, and called upon two of them, Tim Hutchinson and Cheryl Avery, of the University of Saskatchewan Archives, for help when I was developing this story. Tim and Cheryl provided invaluable insight. Thank you for your generous donation of time and information. Any errors I've made in this regard are solely my creation.

  I also want to say a special hello to Louis Volz who won his place in Russell Quant lore at the 2008 Human Rights Campaign National Dinner in Washington, DC.

  I need to thank: James Fuester who, upon hearing the title of this book, immediately sent theme and decor suggestions for the launch party (...sandy beaches of turbinado brown sugar and meringue froth...) and both Jim and his very "cool" mom for my very own Bidulka Michigan football sweatshirt, T-shirt, and PEZ -awesome!; once again the EY alumni group led off by Shelley B— I can't think of a better crowd to celebrate with; everyone who came to the Sundowner Ubuntu book launch to share in the fantas­tic food and drink prepared by the pros at Prairie Ink, and African rhythmic dancing of Kahmaria Pingue, Kirsty, Kristen and drum­mer Marnie—each launch just gets better and better thanks to all of you—the spirit of ubuntu is truly in abundance in Saskatoon; Karen for the way cool telegram; JorDan for the special African feast (Kelly, Rhonda, Jan, Paul, Dori, Rob, Jill, Shelley, David for sharing it with us, and Nigel {as Russell Quant}, Catherine {as Jane Cross) and Herb {as narrator) for the awesome dramatic re-enact­ment from Flight of Aquavit); all the entrants of the World of Russell Quant Wine Gift Basket Contests—special thanks to Book & Brier, Little Sister's wine and cheese afternoon attendees, and Chronicles of Crime; my fellow "Men of Mystery" Neil Plakcy and Mark R. Zubro; the Bloody Words gang for laughing at the right spots and the opportunity to MC a spectacular gala; Caro Soles for your wonderful "Touring Texas with Tony" article; only my hairdresser knows for sure—thanks Shelley for keeping my poster up all year long - Salon Pure rocks!; Kevin Hogarth and Clipper for marathon photo session with great results; Wayne Gunn and Raymond-Jean Frontain for your especially kind words; Dori for the cool black golf shirts; Sheila for all you do for Acreage Life; Robert and Ted for a great evening in New Orleans; Ward for Ubuntu in a frame; Carrie S—terrific to finally meet in DC—you're my cemetery god­dess; My Facebook Fan Club—special thanks to Shawn, and offi­cers Mark, Bonnie and Dyl!; Vicki for inviting me to TypeM4Murder; Bev J for our office parties for two!; newly weds Graham and Randall for suggesting a title for a Hawaiian-themed Russell Quant—Poison in the Poke—before I'd even written it— sadly there was no poison in the poke...this time; David Rimmer of After Stonewall Books for all you do; and to the absolute best circle of family and friends that any guy could have...much love.

  Special affection and appreciation is reserved for my talented colleague and friend from Florida, author Neil Plakcy, whose own detective, Kimo Kanapa'aka, appears on these pages. As a great fan of TV series crossovers (remember when The Six Million Dollar Man showed up on The Bionic Woman?), I was thrilled with the idea of our two detectives appearing together. Neil and I have attended conferences and toured together many times, so it only made sense that our characters should finally meet. I'm sure their adventures are only just beginning.

  To all the people in the industry—booksellers, reviewers, inter­viewers, distributors, events coordinators—thanks for paying attention to Russell Quant and for keeping reading alive.

  Insomniac Press continues to believe in the world according to Russell Quant—thanks Mike and Gillian. And Gillian, thanks for being my date to the Arthur Ellis Awards dinne

  This book was pulled into production six months earlier than originally planned, and editor Catherine Lake jumped on board with no notice, having to make room for it in her busy life. Thank you for the willingness to do so and grace under pressure.

  Truly, the best part of what I do is the people who read these books. I've been lucky enough to meet many of you over the past half dozen books at readings, on tour, at conferences, or just on the street or in a grocery store. And if that's not enough, I wake up every morning to find wonderfully inspiring, encouraging, and uplifting emails and messages sent to me from places across the street to the other side of the world. I cannot thank you enough for this. It is that extra bit of special that I never anticipated when I first began to write, and have come to treasure.

  For dear, sweet, cousin Lorraine. Forever unforgettable.

  And Herb.

  Chapter 1

  "Russell Quant, will you marry me?" I gulped.

  The old, vine-fortified banyuls I'd been blissfully sipping, along with our shared Grand Marnier and lilikoi souffle, suddenly turned sticky in my throat. I wished for a draft to cool my rapidly crim­soning cheeks. Although only seconds passed before I responded to the unexpected question, it seemed as if the world around me had slowed to half speed. Visions of my life passed before my eyes. Or at least the last seventy-two hours of it.

  The telephone call had been unexpected. There are no sweeter six words than: come to Hawaii for the weekend. With the possi­ble exception of: Your ticket is paid for, Russell. That's when the cyclone first hit. After that, it was such a whirlwind, I hadn't even been aware that I was being swept off my feet—until those final six words: Russell Quant, will you marry me?

  We were staying on Waikiki beach in Oahu, at the plush Halekulani Hotel. Halekulani means "House Befitting Heaven."

  And from what I'd seen so far, I was so becoming an angel. Our days began with boogie boarding or kayaking in the mornings. Afterwards we'd grab a bite at House Without a Key, the hotel's outdoor gathering place immortalized by the Charlie Chan novel of the same name. Then it was time for lazing on the beach or around the pool with its stunning orchid mosaic. In the early evening, after cleaning up, we'd return to House Without a Key, wearing our tropical whites and shirts that billowed in the perfect breeze and find a spot under the kiawe shade tree. From that glo­rious place, we'd sip on surprisingly strong Mai Tais (regular ice, not crushed), watch the sunset, and enjoy the hula of a former Miss Hawaii. This wasn't the hip-rattle-roll stuff you get at the tourist luaus either. This was graceful hula, accompanied by ukulele, steel guitar, slack key, and the lilting falsetto vocals unique to tradition­al Hawaiian music. Later we'd have dinner at popular eating spots like Keo's or Alan Wong's. But tonight, the eating experience had been ratcheted up a notch or two.

  We were dining at La Mer, on the second floor of the hotel. The menu featured "neo-classic French" cuisine. I didn't know what that meant, but I liked it all the same. I liked it a lot. It might have been the champagne they served us before our butts were even in our chairs. Or the unimpeded view of Waikiki beach, the Pacific Ocean, and Diamond Head. Or the fact that they brought a little stool just to set my camera on. Or maybe it was the fillet of opaka-paka baked in rosemary salt crust. And still, despite it all, I was completely oblivious to the portentousness of all this luxury and excess. I thought he was just really happy to see me.

  Then came THE QUESTION.

  Even though I never took my green eyes off his cocoa brown ones, I was acutely aware of our waiter, Raymond, standing not far off. He'd obviously been in on the whole thing. I could feel his ear-to-ear grin even though I couldn't see it. And I was pretty sure a few neighbouring diners were also monitoring the drama at our table. How could they resist? Two well-dressed men seated at the best table in the house, a tropical paradise as our backdrop, the sul­try haziness of too much, too-expensive wine that begs close acquaintance from perfect strangers, romantic island music, one of us with a ring in his hand and hopeful look on his face, the other with a wide open mouth and shock on his (that would be me).

  For a second I looked away. At Raymond. He gave me an encouraging nod. My eyes fell back on Alex Canyon. I gave him my answer.


  I had a couple of hours to kill at the Honolulu International Airport after seeing Alex off on his flight to Australia before my own flight home to Canada. Alex is a private and corporate secu­rity specialist and had been working a job in Melbourne for the past couple of months. Hawaii had been playing the role of handy halfway point for our not-regular-enough liaisons. It was going to be weeks before we saw each other again. That seemed like a good enough reason to head for the nearest bar to drown my sorrows.

  The place had a name, I'm sure, but I decided to call it Hawaiian Kitsch. It was stuffed to the rafters with everything Hawaiian, from surfboards to drinks served in fake coconuts. It was also stuffed with haole (non-Hawaiian) customers. It seemed everyone was desperate to get one last hit of island flavour before they returned to their real lives, sadly lacking in plumeria leis, grass skirts, and kalua pig burgers. There wasn't even an empty stool at the bar to be had. My eyes jumped from table to table assessing whether anyone was about to leave. It didn't look that way, so I decided to forgo the drink and simply find a comfy spot near my gate and dig into the Josh Lanyon book I'd been saving for the plane.

  This far ahead of departure, I had plenty of choice spots to pick from, and selected one with a good view of the tarmac. Even tar­macs in Hawaii somehow manage to look tranquil and tropical. I settled in with a bottle of water (poor replacement for a double gin and tonic) and a bag of the licorice I always keep in my carry-on.

  Half an hour later, having difficulty concentrating on my book with my head full of this and that, I heard loud voices. Someone wasn't happy. I looked around to find the source, half-thinking I wanted to shoot them an irritated look for interrupting my non­reading. What I found were three guys, about a hundred metres off: two Hawaiians and a haole.

  One Hawaiian was much smaller than the other two guys, short and wiry, with a tortoise-like face, and looking extremely jumpy. He was the one doing all the caterwauling. The other two were showing him something—ID maybe? Weapons?—and I guessed they were either some kind of airport security or the Hawaiian version of mafia hit men. From my experience as a once-upon-a-time-cop, and something about the stance of the two big guys, I was betting on the former. Either way, things did not look so good for the tortoise.

  And just like that, the jittery-looking guy took advantage of a passing parade of Japanese tourists, and, using them as a shield, made a dash for it, heading my way.

  I heard a muffled "Stop! Police!" come from one of the pur­suers, temporarily waylaid by the tourists. I instinctually leapt to action. Things were happening so fast, I didn't have much time to make plans, other than to decide I had to do what I could to stop the fleeing man. He was barrelling (not very tortoise-like) toward me at breakneck speed. I was either going to have to get into a footrace with him through the airport terminal, or find a way to stop him.

  I never made the high school football team. It wouldn't have been difficult, though, growing up in Howell, Saskatchewan. Most graduating classes numbered under a dozen, and were half female, a statistic that practically guaranteed a spot for anyone who wanted to suit up. But despite being built as sturdy as a tree by grade nine, it just wasn't for me, so I never tried out. But, from my days at the police academy, I do know a thing or two about tackling goons.

  My airport runaway was moving too fast to assure a quick takedown from behind. Instead, I needed to break his momentum. That's the thing about speed—the faster you're moving forward, the faster you go down when you meet with an obstacle. I decid­ed to be that obstacle.

  Timing myself as carefully as I could, with bowed head and hunched back, I propelled myself into tortoise's path.

  He never saw me coming. I felt the man's body fold over mine as I rolled over the floor, and
looked up just in time to see two legs flailing in the air. Success!

  I'd barely come to a stop before the two cops were on the guy like icing on cake. For big fellows they moved like cheetahs. In one slick move, the haole had the smaller guy up and in cuffs, while his partner pushed his nose into the tortoise face and said some words that probably weren't very nice.

  I stood up and was brushing myself off when I saw the Hawaiian cop coming over.

  "Hey," he said as he approached, his dark eyes covering every inch of me.

  He was tall, well-built, and casually dressed for a cop, in nice fitting jeans and a worn, surfer's T-shirt, the kind The Gap sold to kids who'd probably never been on a board. But something told me this guy was one-hundred-percent authentic. And he certainly wasn't a kid. The face was handsome, and on closer inspection didn't look all Hawaiian after all; there was some other influence in his exotic features. Strong jaw. Sharp cheekbones. Nice lips. I only noticed the lips because I thought I detected a slight grin there.

  "I'm sorry," I said, palms out. "I know I shouldn't have inter­fered. It's just that I used to be a cop."

  The guy cocked an eyebrow. "Instinct, right?"

  I nodded. "Yup. Never goes away, I guess."

  Surprising me, he reached out and took my left hand in his. Aw crap. Was I gonna get a set of stainless steel bracelets for all my trouble? Was I about to share a cell with tortoise man?

  Instead, the cop turned my hand palm up and inspected a scrape I must have gotten from my tumble.

  "You need some medical attention."

  "Nah, nah," I said looking at the wound. "It'll be fine. I'll just clean it up in the bathroom."

  "Uh, if you're done chit-chatting over there," the other cop called over with a funny look in his eye, "maybe you could pay some attention to the perp we got over here?"

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