With the end of the Kindle Worlds program, I am revising all seven of my Kindle World titles. First up is the first KW title, Torn Roots: A Hawaiian Storm, featuring FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm in Hawaii. Get a taste of what’s coming up.
Chapter 1: Special Agent
Thursday, 4:55 a.m.
Vanessa groped in empty space. The phone rang again.
New apartment. The phone is on the right side of the bed.
She rolled over and found the handset. I should be used to this apartment by now. It’s been a month.
She lifted the handset to her ear. “Storm here,” she said to a dial tone.
The phone rang again. Cell phone. Damn. That means it’s work.
She pushed the covers off and bounded to the bureau where her cell phone sat, plugged into the charger. She hoped she could answer before it rang again and sent the caller to voice-mail.
Success, she thought as she touched the screen. “Storm here.”
“Good morning, Special Agent Storm. Al King here. Early enough for you?”
God, there’s nothing more annoying than a cheerful morning person. She squinted at the clock radio: 4:55 a.m. Vanessa sipped water from the glass she always kept on the night stand and hoped her voice did not sound frog-like. “It’s early, Mr. King, but not too early. How can I help you?”
“Ha!” King laughed. “You put on a good show, Special Agent Storm. ‘A’ for effort. Sorry to wake you, but we have an emerging and sensitive case for you on Maui. A chopper is waiting for you. Be at the heliport in forty minutes, and bring your Bureau laptop. I’ll bring a full dossier. You can read it on the flight.”
“All right.” What kind of case was so important to get her out of bed before five in the morning, yet warranted only Hawaii’s most junior FBI agent? “Can you tell me about it?” she asked as she opened her closet and pulled out her travel case.
“Arson and homicide, in a town called Hana. Have you heard of it?” King answered.
“I’ve heard of the ‘highway to Hana.’ Is that it?” She pulled out her navy-blue silk jacket, a pair of dark-blue pants and a light blue blouse, laying them smoothly on the bed.
“That’s one way to get there. It’s great if you like a two-lane highway usually blocked by falling rocks and daily rain. Tourists love to drive it, but I’ll be a minah bird’s auntie if I can figure out why. Maybe you’ll like it, you being from the east coast and all. Anyway, flying time by chopper is under an hour from Honolulu. See you at the heliport at oh-five-twenty.”
“Yes, sir,” she replied, but King had already hung up.
She turned on her tablet computer to look up Hana, Hawaii: a speck of a town in the rain forest. Population: 2,400. A hotel, a few holiday rental properties, two little stores. Few restaurants. From Google Maps, the police station there looked like a one-room schoolhouse.
As the newest FBI agent in Hawaii, Vanessa knew she would get the least interesting cases until she proved herself. And the least convenient locations.
She washed and dressed efficiently. She indulged in restoring her expensive hairdo after a broken night’s sleep, knowing it would soon be destroyed. Then she turned to packing.
She put two pairs of dark blue pants, a spare silk jacket and three blouses into her travel garment bag, stuffed underwear and socks into the pockets and strapped her shoulder holster on. She checked the safety and held her Walther PPK for a comforting moment in her hand. Not just for British movie spies: lighter and easier to conceal than the Bureau-standard Sig Sauer. She put it in the holster and pulled her jacket on, made sure she had spare ammo clips and left.
The dashboard clock flared to life as she started the engine of her car: 5:14. Less than twenty minutes to get ready. Not bad for a chick. Even an FBI chick.
Then she drove into the predawn darkness of Honolulu, bound for the FBI’s heliport at the Kalaeloa Airport. When she flashed her badge at the sentry, the gate opened wide and she drove onto the wide tarmac. Orange and yellow sky threw the peaks of the Ko’olau Range into silhouette.
Sitting in the middle of the H-marked circle was a black helicopter, its blades already rotating slowly. And to one side was one of the Bureau’s iconic black Ford Expeditions. As she beeped her car locked, the SUV’s passenger door opened and a figure emerged.
Special Agent in Charge Al King was a large, heavyset man dressed, as all FBI officers, in a conservative navy suit. He had a round face, prominent nose and a full mouth, but his most noticeable features were his piercing blue eyes. The down-draft from the helicopter whipped up the thin hair on top of his head. Damn. That’s going to seriously destroy my hairdo. The hairdo I just spent eighty bucks on in Honolulu.
King’s full mouth spread into a smile as Vanessa approached. “You’re early! I like that.” Vanessa shook his proffered hand. “I hope you got enough sleep last night.”
“I’ll live,” she said, then decided to soften the taciturn response with a smile. “How are you?”
King waved off her concern. “Don’t worry about me, Vanessa. I’m just glad I have a case for you personally on your second day in our humble field office. Plus, you get to take a helicopter ride to the Valley Isle of Maui.” His smile got even wider.
“Great.” I hate flying in helicopters. Couldn’t they have arranged a small island-hopping airplane? I can already feel the draft messing up my hair.
King’s smile faded. “Really, though, there are two reasons I’m assigning this case to you. It requires a delicate touch. The arson in question, and the possible homicide, took place on a construction site owned by foreign investors. Chinese, to be specific. There’s some tension between them and the locals, as well. Environmental protection with a dash of Hawaiian sovereigntists. From what I’ve read and heard about you, I think you have the required diplomacy to investigate without sparking an international crisis.”
“Thank you, sir. I appreciate the confidence.”
King started to get back into the SUV, but Vanessa put her hand on the door frame. “If you don’t mind my asking, what was the second reason you gave me this assignment?”
King’s smile returned. “You’re the only one in the detachment without too much on your plate already.” The door smiled.
That’s what I thought.