Fire Prayer

Fire Prayer

by Deborah Turrell Atkinson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590586006
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication date: 02/10/2009
Series: Storm Kayama Series
Pages: 282
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Deborah Turrell Atkinson lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, with her husband and two children. A zest for traveling off the beaten path, friends, and her deep interest in the native myths and lore that abound among Hawaiis rich and varied cultures contribute to her books. Fire Prayer is the third book in this Hawaiian Mystery series. www.debbyatkinson.com

Read an Excerpt

Fire Prayer


By Deborah Turrell Atkinson

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2007 Deborah Turrell Atkinson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59058-402-6


Chapter One

Jenny Williams sucked in a lungful of smoke. Her eyes followed the woman down the front walk, but her thoughts were still on Tanner. His hands had been steady because he wasn't taking his medicine. Which was also why his eyes wouldn't meet hers. And the damned fool told her he had himself under control. Yeah, yeah. She'd heard that story for the past ten years.

His intelligence was an electrical short circuit that could fry them both. Too bad he wasn't in a downswing; he was so much easier to deal with when he hated himself. Angry tears stung Jenny's eyes. His illness was a curse, and everyone he came in contact with suffered from it. He might not like to take the drugs because they slowed his mind down, made him gain weight, even made his hands shake, but he was lolo without it. Looney Tunes.

The depressions were easier to handle than his manic swings. Hyper, he was like a meth head, twitching and buzzing with confidence and crazy ideas that peaked, then tapered into paranoia. Not only did he rearrange magazines, books, napkins, eating utensils, or anything else in the house so that lines only he saw were parallel (or at right angles, whatever his obsession that day), he often answered the people in his head before he responded to the ones who stood right in front of him. The invisible conversationalists were former professors and folks he'd admired over the last decade or so and still guided his life. Forget about the wife and kid.

Jenny set her jaw. She'd known when she went to answer the woman's knock, he'd slip out the back door. No way he would stand still long enough to wait. Well, good riddance.

Part of her was a little worried he'd think up some reason to barge back in. Not even a stranger would inhibit him when he was hyped, and there was no way she could keep up with the intricacies of his arguments. Such a sad goddammed waste. All she could do was shut him down. If he'd stayed one more second, they would have had a full-on screamathon. Again.

She heard a soft noise behind her and shouted, with a quick glance over her shoulder, "Get back in your room." She knew it wasn't Tanner because he wouldn't creep, he'd blow in like a tropical storm. Knock over a few things on the way.

At the door, Jenny's voice broke. She cleared it, then coughed a few times. Maybe the visitor would think she was fighting a cold. Right. Still, it wouldn't help to show any weakness, or any distress. The woman was an old high school friend of Tanner's, after all. And God knew giving other people a view of her troubles hadn't done her any good in the past and wasn't about to now.

The woman, a Honolulu attorney, seemed nice enough, and asked how well Jenny knew Lambert Poele and Brock Liu. Jenny was happy to relate that Brock was mostly an asshole with some redeeming qualities and Lambert was a recluse who was hardly ever seen. She hoped Liu was the one in trouble. She figured someone was if a lawyer was asking around, and Brock wasn't very popular around here.

The part about Poele was only a tiny fib, and that by omission. She'd seen him a few days ago for the first time in a while. A smile loosened the grim set of her lips. If she hadn't been so mad at Tanner, she would have blushed at the memory.

Jenny watched the visitor drive away, and turned to the beer she'd left on the coffee table. It had been hard to get past the anguish over Tanner's visit and talk to the woman. Christ, these encounters sucked the energy out of her worse than night shift at the hospital. She drained the long-neck and listened for Luke.

If he'd been peeking down the hall a few minutes ago, he'd been smart enough to lie low. "Luke?" she called.

No answer. She wandered into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door. She needed another beer. "Luke?" she yelled again as she popped the top. "We need to talk."

* * *

Storm Kayama looked good, really good. She had the same dark, liquid eyes that he'd always admired, but her solid athletic frame had an ease she hadn't shown in high school. Fifteen years ago Storm had been a pissed-off sixteen-year-old with spiked purple hair. Now strands of her shoulder-length mahogany hair escaped from her thick French braid and wisped softly around her high, wide cheekbones. She tucked one lock, then another, behind her ears, only to have them work free during the conversation with Jenny. Her voice was soft and low and the big brown eyes he remembered met Jenny's with humor and empathy.

He tore at a hangnail and thought back on himself in those days. A skinny high school senior with acne and no friends. He'd been on the verge of his disease then, and his family doctor, the over-worked family practitioner in Kaunakakai, was the only medical person who believed him. Everyone else thought he was stressing over school work, his perfectionism, the drive to go to a good college on the mainland. Whatever it was, the other students picked on him like a pack of mynahs shredding a ripe mango.

Except for Storm, who actually talked and listened to him. She, too, was a misfit. Rumors drifted behind her like smoke. They said someone powerful had kept her from getting shipped off to the Hawai'i Youth Correctional Facility. A big time Honolulu lawyer, with the clout to get her out of Pa'auilo and the trouble brewing there, took her into his family in the Hawaiian way, made her a hanai daughter. The black leather jacket she wore like a uniform only confirmed her bad-girl persona. No one picked fights with her. They left her alone, and she acted like that was just fine.

Tanner had tutored Storm in her sophomore biology class. When she arrived on O'ahu, she didn't have much background in the sciences and was at a disadvantage at the new school. But he detected aptitude, a quick mind, and a toughness he admired. Some of the students at their exclusive school were cruel manipulators, and he'd seen her face them down on a number of occasions. One time, she did it for him.

And here she was, taller, smoother, and a lot more peaceful.

Tanner would have liked to tune out and let his mind wander, especially with the pleasant distraction of watching his old friend Storm make her way up the front walk. He did that sometimes-kind of like staying underwater. But Jenny, with her back to the door, kept poking and punching his arms and chest while she alternated between pleading with him to take his medications and blasting a gut-twisting inventory of how he'd screwed up, how he'd ruined Luke's life and hers.

Right then he wished he could hold Jenny underwater. She'd played the Luke card again, and he couldn't ignore the palpable stab of guilt. My son, he thought, the last remaining love of my life, is the weapon she uses to bludgeon me. He's her silver stake. She wants to pound every one of my failures into the atomic structure of my cells, the submolecular tangle of every neuron and dendrite snaking through my nervous system. She likes to see me twitch.

But he wouldn't let her. Take a deep breath, he told himself. Let the electricity run through your body to your fingers and out into the universe, away from your fractured mind. Look at something tranquil. Storm, who now stood at the door, would do. Though he saw her wince at the sound of their angry voices.

Tanner backed up. Coming on an impulse had been a big mistake. He should have stopped by Skelly's first and asked his friend to give him another haircut. He'd had one last week, but maybe another would have smoothed his rough edges. He also might have borrowed a razor, and scraped the afternoon shadow from his chin.

Hell, Jenny would have ranted anyway. She didn't notice his efforts any more. All the resentment she carried around had stained the sunny glow of compassion that had once been part of her. And, he admitted, some of that was his fault. But her bitterness was taking its toll on all of them, especially Luke.

Storm had decided to go ahead and knock on the door, which distracted Jenny, thank God. When his ex wheeled away, Tanner lingered a couple seconds longer to get another look at this woman from his past, whom he still counted among his friends.

Right then Luke peered around the corner with an expression of pain on his face that sent a surge of remorse and anger coursing through Tanner. The dark circles under the boy's eyes nearly tore him in half.

Luke was the reason he'd gone there in the first place. Tanner tiptoed to his son, ruffled his hair, and whispered that he would help him. Then he slipped out the back door.

He could still hear Jenny's fake cordiality as he crossed through the banana trees bordering the back property line. His property line. His house, for what it was worth. The trees were overgrown, and their heavy leaves and ponderous flowers still dripped with last night's rainfall. He could stand there without being seen.

He couldn't see Jenny, but her voice sliced the still air. What had happened to her, to them? When had her blue eyes flattened to veined granite, her voice changed from a lover's caress to a shrill buzz of destruction? When had her golden hair turned to straw and her willowy stature toughened to sinews of decay?

She would poison Luke. Contaminate him with the venom of her bitterness and desperation. He was still an innocent, like others Tanner had known who'd been destroyed at a young age. But he shoved those memories aside quickly.

Moloka'i can be a rough place; few live here in the style of a university professor or business executive. That kind of job rarely exists on this island, which was why Jenny stewed in her misery. She couldn't see that people could be happy and comfortable if they supported each another, when they relished the crystal seas, the embrace of soft breezes, and the fertile bounty of the earth. Jenny couldn't see past the size of a paycheck and a job with status.

Luke was the best part of Tanner's life, the most important accomplishment of his thirty-three years. He had to do something to mitigate his estranged wife's fury and preserve his son's still unspoiled outlook. Out there under the trees, Tanner's eyes burned and his throat ached. He needed to find a way to prevent Luke from being caught in the same crossfire of hatred and rancor he'd seen ten years ago.

Chapter Two

The brisk trade winds nearly tore the duffel out of Storm's hand. She preceded her partner and lover, Ian Hamlin, down the steps from the thirty-passenger Turbo-prop-Moloka'i Airport didn't bother with jet ways-and looked back at him. "Did you actually meet this guy?"

"Briefly," Hamlin said, and jammed a cowboy hat over his sandy hair. It looked good with his bushy moustache. "He didn't say much. His assistant does most of the talking."

"But he's paying you a retainer to look into this."

"Sure. He may have a legitimate negligence suit if Hawai'i EcoTours didn't warn his son of dangerous water conditions, or if the equipment was defective."

"How will you find out?"

"We know Brock went out two weeks ago because we've got a charge on his credit card for March 26th. The morning was calm, but the surf had risen considerably by early afternoon."

"How old is he?"

"Twenty-six."

"Pretty young."

"Old enough to be an executive at Pacific Shipping and Transport. He also sits on the board. Missed a board meeting for the first time ten days ago."

Storm squinted at him. "He grew up in the islands, didn't he? He'd know how treacherous the ocean on those unprotected shores can be."

"I've still got to check it out." Hamlin looked away from her. "Brock is Liu's only son. Devon Liu is pushing eighty and looks like he's aged a decade in the last two weeks. Plus, he's not an easy man to ignore."

"I see." Storm didn't want to argue. They'd had disagreements before about personal injury suits and had different points of view on the topic. Hamlin was more ambitious in terms of his client list and their connections. Storm maintained that she didn't want her job, and her life, to revolve around social connections and the size of her paycheck. She also wanted her vocation to be about good will, and didn't hesitate to point out to Hamlin that it was working; she'd made enough money on her last case not only to pay her share of office expenses, but to put a generous hunk into an IRA.

Tanner Williams' phone call had been a surprise, a voice from the past. The last time she'd seen him, he'd saved her from a dismal science grade. That was the year she'd transferred to O'ahu from the Big Island, a lonely, displaced sixteen-year-old.

Though they'd never discussed it, she'd known that Tanner had his own struggles. He was a year older than the other seniors. According to rumor, he repeated his junior year because of health problems and was monitored by a doctor on his home island of Moloka'i. Students whispered that none of the Honolulu specialists had found anything wrong with him. He was just mental.

Tanner never discussed personal issues, and he rarely sought the company of other students. But he'd been honest, kind, and smarter than anyone else in the school, including a lot of the teachers. He'd given Storm support when she needed it, and now she would do the same for him.

Not that she needed much of an excuse to come to Moloka'i, especially when Uncle Keone and Aunt Maile were going to be there. They didn't often leave Parker Ranch, on the Big Island of Hawai'i, where Uncle Keone was one of the long-time paniolo and a ranch foreman.

Hamlin caught up to Storm and gently touched her arm. Storm could tell he knew he'd touched on a sensitive area and wanted to change the subject before it grew into a dispute. They needed this long weekend to linger over wine-soaked, unhurried dinners and breathe deeply of the peace that was Moloka'i. They needed long walks under the stars, cuddling before the cozy fireplace of the Lodge, and retiring to the sophisticated and cozy cabin-style rooms.

"Devon Liu's situation is sad, that's for sure," Storm said, to put the difference behind them. She was glad to be distracted by the sight of a bandy-legged, cowboy-hatted figure who stood by the low platform that passed for a baggage claim, just inside the chain link fence.

"Uncle Keone," she shouted, and dashed toward him.

The man, whose skin was darkened by the weather to a leathery mahogany, wrapped his arms around her. "Hey, honey girl. It's been way too long."

"That's cuz you won't leave the Big Island and come to Honolulu," Storm teased.

"Not. We just been plenny busy lately, clipping calves and training colts. I been meaning to come see Dusty Rodriguez for months. When Maile and I found out you'd be here, nothing would keep us away." The lines around Keone's eyes radiated like the warmth of the sun. "Plus, get chance to pick out some good cutting horses. Dusty got the best."

"He gets his cattle from Parker Ranch, doesn't he? We once helped him round them up and load them on the barge."

"Sure enough." Keone sighed. "That was quite a few years ago, back when your daddy was still alive."

Hamlin caught up to Storm and Keone. "Keone, it's great to see you. How's life on the Big Island?"

"It's good," Keone said and grabbed Hamlin in a hug. "But it'd be better if we saw more of you two."

Storm linked her arm with Keone's. "When can we see the horses?"

"Soon," Keone said, and gave Hamlin a wink. "Depends on what else you need to do."

"I need to make a run into Kaunakakai, but other than that, I'm going to relax," Storm said.

"From what I hear, you need a vacation."

"I'm fine," Storm said, but her smiled disappeared as she took in the glance that passed between Hamlin and Keone. "I wasn't hurt in that cave, just scared."

"You were damn lucky not to end up drowned like those surfers," Hamlin said.

Keone put his arm around Storm's shoulders. "Let's just thank our lucky stars that you and Aunt Maile's 'aumakua got the job done."

Storm's hand went to the little gold pig she wore on a chain around her neck. Aunt Maile was not only a registered nurse, she was a kahuna la'au lapa'au, or native healer, and believed deeply in the ancient Hawaiian traditions. She'd sent the necklace, their shared family totem, to Storm during her last case. The emerald-eyed charm had been a gift for Storm's thirtieth birthday, and Maile's timing with its arrival had been prescient. The case, though Storm would never admit it, had left a thread or two of silver in her dark hair.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Fire Prayer by Deborah Turrell Atkinson Copyright © 2007 by Deborah Turrell Atkinson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Fire Prayer 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It¿s a happy coincidence that allows Honolulu attorney Storm Kayama to accompany her boyfriend to the island of Moloka¿i, where Ian Hamlin is filing a negligence claim on behalf of a prominent businessman whose his son disappeared while kayaking. As Hamlin investigates the somewhat shady Ecotour guides, Storm responds to a plea by her high school friend Tanner Williams to check in on his twelve year-old son, whom Tanner fears is being neglected by his ex-wife. After getting little information from the insular community, Storm grows more concerned for the diabetic boy, a concern that grows to alarm when the mother is murdered and the boy vanishes. While all of Deborah Turrell Atkinson¿s Storm Kayama mysteries are enjoyable and explore the culture and beauty of Hawai¿i, Fire Prayer proves to be the most elegantly written and carefully crafted of the series. The narratives change frequently and even timelines are toyed with by Atkinson, yet these never results in confusion and instead engage the reader with a swiftly moving plot and fascinating characters. Storm herself has grown considerably since her first appearance in Primitive Secrets, and the reader is able to see how her relationships with her family and Hamlin continually evolve. Atkinson¿s greatest talent is recreating the atmosphere and culture of local Hawaiians without making them a cliché or creating stereotypes. A local resident of Honolulu, Atkinson treats the islands and its people with respect yet never alienates those not familiar with Hawaii. Descriptions of the food, smells, and sights of Moloka¿i are made with a practiced ease that will have the reader hungry for a visit to the isles. For readers unable to take a vacation in paradise, though, Fire Prayer proves to be a sufficient substitute as its whisks them away to an exciting place of intrigue, beauty, and aloha.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It¿s a happy coincidence that allows Honolulu attorney Storm Kayama to accompany her boyfriend to the island of Moloka¿i, where Ian Hamlin is filing a negligence claim on behalf of a prominent businessman whose his son disappeared while kayaking. As Hamlin investigates the somewhat shady Ecotour guides, Storm responds to a plea by her high school friend Tanner Williams to check in on his twelve year-old son, whom Tanner fears is being neglected by his ex-wife. After getting little information from the insular community, Storm grows more concerned for the diabetic boy, a concern that grows to alarm when the mother is murdered and the boy vanishes. While all of Deborah Turrell Atkinson¿s Storm Kayama mysteries are enjoyable and explore the culture and beauty of Hawai¿i, Fire Prayer proves to be the most elegantly written and carefully crafted of the series. The narratives change frequently and even timelines are toyed with by Atkinson, yet these never results in confusion and instead engage the reader with a swiftly moving plot and fascinating characters. Storm herself has grown considerably since her first appearance in Primitive Secrets, and the reader is able to see how her relationships with her family and Hamlin continually evolve. Atkinson¿s greatest talent is recreating the atmosphere and culture of local Hawaiians without making them a cliché or creating stereotypes. A local resident of Honolulu, Atkinson treats the islands and its people with respect yet never alienates those not familiar with Hawaii. Descriptions of the food, smells, and sights of Moloka¿i are made with a practiced ease that will have the reader hungry for a visit to the isles. For readers unable to take a vacation in paradise, though, Fire Prayer proves to be a sufficient substitute as its whisks them away to an exciting place of intrigue, beauty, and aloha.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Honolulu, Tanner Williams hires his high school friend Storm Kayama to travel to Moloka`i to insure his diabetic twelve year old son Luke is receiving proper care from his ex-wife the kid¿s mother, the acrimonious Jenny. At the same time her law partner and lover, Ian Hamlin is also going to Moloka`i to investigate whether a local kayaking company was negligent in the disappearance of Brock Liu, the son of an Oahu shipping mogul. --- Doing a background check on Jenny, Storm realizes Tanner has reason for concern. She visits Jenny accompanied by Tanner, but soon after she leaves, Luke Williams discovers his mother¿s corpse. He calls the cops, but vanishes. Storm worries that the killer believes Luke is an eyewitness to the homicide of his mom and is coming for the kid on the lam who also lacks his diabetes medicine. She and Ian begin to theorize that Brock¿s disappearance and Jenny¿s murder tie back to an unsolved decade old homicide that both were involved in. --- The Hawaiian locales steal the show from a fun whodunit. The two investigations are cleverly designed so that they ultimately tie together although most of the book focuses on Kayama being in the eye of the storm. Although Storm and Ian as lawyers doing field work as investigators seems a non-starter (where is Jack Lord when you need him), mystery readers will enjoy touring Hawaii as Deborah Turrell Atkinson provides plenty of FIRE POWER (for further tales of Hawaii see PRIMITIVE SECRETS and GREEN ROOM). --- Harriet Klausner