Which one speaks to you the most?
Rocky Bluff has all of them and more, wrapped up in a deliciously deceptive murder-mystery that asks the question:
Who killed Nora, the costume lady, on opening night?
Early Praise for Rocky Bluff:
"Hornsby mixes the obvious with the impossible for a terrific blend of interest. The supernatural doesn't escape her pen as she brilliantly includes yet another twist in her story."
~Henz - 5 star Review
"So how do you investigate a murder that happened on stage during a Halloween play? Who do you suspect? The whole cast?"
~Anna L. Walls, Author of Speed of Dreams - 5 Star Review
"Author Hornsby has another winner here! We get our favorite cast of characters from the Lei Texeira novels and we meet new and intriguing ones as well."
~Marie M. Amazon Reviewer - 5 Star
" If you think you know what's going to happen in this story, read on. It only gets better as you rush through the pages to get to the end."
~Pontonjeri Amazon Reviewer - 5 Star
If you've ever been to Maui, done the Time Warp, or watched Dateline NBC, you'll love the newest Kindle Worlds sure-to-be- bestseller-- Rocky Bluff.
Detective Lei Texeira has just moved to Maui from Kauai with Michael Stevens when they witness a tragic death during a theatrical rendition of The Rocky Horror Show at Maui's Iao Theater. After a prop falls from the rafters killing one of Frank-N-Furter's Transylvanians, tampering and murder is suspected. Stevens is assigned the case but Lei can't keep her nose and her theories out of his investigation. Especially when she realizes that her new running partner and friend, Kali, might have been the target. To unravel the mystery, Lei goes undercover in the bizarre theatrical rendition of a narcissistic transsexual scientist and his band of weirdos. Following clues from both Kali and a mysterious resident of the Iao Theater, Lei and Stevens struggle to apprehend this killer before another life is taken. But the murderer keeps one step ahead of the cops, taunting Lei and Kali in this game of terror.
Written for Kindle Worlds/Toby Neal's Lei Crime Series - Rocky Bluff uses the beloved characters Lei Texeira and Michael Stevens in this whodunnit at the haunted Iao Theater on Maui's east side.
For fans of Blood Orchid, Torch Ginger and other Lei Crime Novels:
Rocky Bluff takes place between the Lei Crime Novels TORCH GINGER and BLACK JASMINE.
From the author, Kim Hornsby:
I'm very grateful to Toby Neal to have the opportunity to use her characters and write for this highly successful series. It's not necessary to read her set first but you might want to after you read Rocky Bluff!
Here is the first chapter of Rocky Bluff:
Lei Texeira stood on stage of Maui’s Iao Theater among the costumed actors and stared at the dead body. She’d seen the whole ugly mess. It looked like a freak accident, but all her police training told her to keep the crowd back for now, not to touch anything. Sirens wailed outside, getting louder, closer. One minute the fantasy of the Rocky Horror Show was in full theatrical swing on stage and the next minute, a woman was dead and the strangely-clad actors stood frozen in shock.
Lei’s once fiancé, now simply her live-in boyfriend, Michael Stevens, had taken charge from the moment he flew out of his seat in the audience. He and Lei were both detectives with Maui Police Department, but only one of them didn’t have PTSD from being abused as a kid. Lei hadn’t reacted like a cop, something she wasn’t proud of, but would have to revisit later. Never having seen this bizarre play before, she’d almost believed it was part of the script. Strange things had been happening onstage for the last hour and a half, unlike anything she’d ever seen before, not that she went to the theater on a regular basis. But this particular play was bizarre, and Lei had long ago turned off her cop warning signal to simply enjoy the spectacle of The Rocky Horror Show. Apparently it was normal for the crowd to yell “Asshole” every time one of the characters said his name, and to have flashlights waving and rice being thrown. Most audience members seemed to know when and how to perform each ritual.
So, no, Lei hadn’t reacted when the giant moon crashed to the stage, crushing a cast member. It was ten seconds before she pulled herself together, ran down the aisle and joined Stevens on stage.
Lei’s friend, Kali, who played the tap dancing groupie, Columbia, stood near the feet of the dead woman looking horrified. Her hands covered her mouth as if to keep from screaming, or crying. Nora, the victim, had been a favorite with the cast. That much Lei knew.
The murder weapon, a large quarter moon prop, that until ten minutes ago had held Frank-N-Furter as he descended from the theater’s rafters, lay on its side beside Nora, like a dog who won’t leave their dead owner. When the prop broke free, the main character, a transvestite scientist, had been seated on the curve of the moon singing “Don’t Dream It, Be It,” in full spotlight. Thanks to quick thinking, he’d jumped to a level spot at the top of a staircase while the moon continued its path to hit Nora on her head. Lei attributed Derek’s fortunate landing to his dance training. He looked flustered.
“You okay?” Lei asked him.
He nodded, but Lei knew no one was really okay.
Although Stevens had taken the victim’s pulse immediately and feeling nothing, shook his head, one of the cast ignored the pronouncement and was now doing CPR.
Lei stared at the grim scene on stage. From one angle it looked like Nora lay on the stage floor like she’d decided to take a nap. From another angle you could see that the amount of blood pooled by the woman’s left ear had to indicate a fatal injury. Lei fingered the smooth stone in her jacket pocket, her reminder to not let the darkness take over at horrific moments like this. Dissociation was a bitch sometimes. Somehow, the stone helped.
The theatre stage door flew open and paramedics burst into the once gorgeous, but now charmingly decrepit theater. Audience members had scattered, some going home, many spilling into the aisles talking and maybe still hoping. Lei knew this woman was dead, never to be revived by any amount of CPR. “Let’s move over here,” she said, directing the cast to the back of the stage. “Make room for the paramedics.” She wasn’t wearing her police detective badge, Stevens either, but the cast of twenty actors and crew did as they were told. No one on stage looked vindicated like this death was what they’d been hoping for. Lei noticed things like that.
Both wires that had held the moon prop led to a carabiner-type loop that connected them to one central line that now dangled uselessly. She bent over the wire, took a photo with her phone, just in case it got moved before the police photographer arrived, and wondered how a wire simply gives out. Someone would have to go up in the rafters to investigate. The break looked too clean for fraying. Tonight’s tragedy might not have been a horrible accident after all. It might have been a murder.
When the theater cleared, and the cleaning crew had swept up the rice and other props the audience left behind, Lei offered to drive Kali home to Lahaina. That was the type of thing friends did and Kali was Lei’s new friend. Although Lei was coming to this friendship table kind of late in life, she was learning what friends did for each other by using her Aunty Rosario as an example. Driving Kali home would be the type of thing her aunt would offer to do. Even after the paramedics took Nora’s body away and the theater started to clear, Kali continued to cry into a growing pile of Kleenex as the man who played Frank-N-Furter in Rocky Horror stood close by, comforting her.
Having met Kali Baker only a month ago, most would say Lei didn’t know her well. But their friendship had blossomed fast, strangely similar to love at first sight. Unlike Lei, Kali was an emotional person. She hugged everyone, blurted out compliments, and was able to show exactly what she felt at any given time. Normally, such a demonstrative person would have had Lei rolling her eyes and walking away, but not Kali. They had loads in common deep down, below the surface, beyond what the average person ever saw.
Kali looked like an eighteen-year-old petite Barbie doll, but was actually Lei’s age—late twenties. Where Lei was Hawaiian, Portuguese, and Filipino, Kali was pure white bread. Where Lei had short brown curls, Kali had long blonde hair. To the naked eye they didn’t appear similar. Not physically, anyhow. They’d met while running with their dogs. That day something in Lei had fallen away to include this energetic dynamo. In the last month, they’d spent a lot of time together, especially because Kali left her dog at Lei and Stevens’ house when she rehearsed at the Iao Theater down the road.
“I’ll take you home,” Lei told her. “Just leave your car here tonight.”
Kali was a mess, trying to talk through her sobs. “Nora always wanted to be onstage with us. Mike thought this would be fun instead of always helping backstage. After years of sewing and helping with costume changes, she got to join us.” Kali still wore the stage makeup that had transformed her into Columbia--a red bow tie, sequined tails, and a sparkly top hat. But by now Kali’s face was a swirl of clownish color and tears. A false eyelash had come off with the mopping of tears and was stuck to Kali’s jawline like a giant cane spider hanging on. Lei reached for it. “Eyelash,” she said handing it over. They walked out the theater’s side door to Lei’s new silver Tacoma truck.
Stevens would stay behind with a crime kit. He’d manage the investigation. The Iao Theater was inside his jurisdiction, not hers. Being present when the moon fell didn’t count except to make Lei a witness. Damn.
She and Stevens had just moved to Maui from Kauai six weeks earlier. They’d been ready for something new. Stevens was offered a promotion as Detective Sergeant, a position with Kahului Station, headquarters for MPD. As luck had it, the timing was right and Lei joined her old partner from the Big Island, Pono, who was now working at Haiku Station on Maui.
This was Stevens’ case if the death turned out to be murder. Playing second fiddle to Stevens wasn’t a role she relished, but her job was to stay with Kali tonight, ask some questions, and maybe even come up with a lead.
The director, lighting director, costumer director, and prop mistress for the play remained with Stevens for questioning. Two officers from the Kahului Station, Hensley, and his rookie partner, Sakamoto, would help. Not her. She’d get in trouble for sticking her nose into another station’s investigation, and that wouldn’t be good because Lei was terrified of her boss at Haiku Station, Lieutenant Omura. And because of that, Lei wanted to do everything by the book. Not piss off the Steel Butterfly again. Weeks ago, when she reported in to Haiku for the first time, Omura had barely looked at her, saying, “There’s no room for publicity hounds at my station.” That had been her welcome to Maui.
“Yes, Ma’am,” Lei said.
That same day, she and Stevens had found a perfect little cane cottage in the Iao Valley and were now officially living together. Thinking of their home just down the road, Lei had an idea.
“How about you stay with us tonight? You’re upset.” Kali sat slumped against the door. “I’ll bring you back to your car in the morning. Stripe can have a sleepover with Keiki,” Lei threw in for good measure. Her Rottweiler, Keiki, loved Kali’s dog, Stripe. The two dogs had spent a lot of evenings together while Kali rehearsed this show and were currently in Lei’s fenced yard. Double protection, as Lei saw it. Which was good any way you looked at it. She was kind of OCD about protection from bad guys. With good reason. Having a Rotty and a Rhodesian Ridgeback in her yard on weekend nights for Halloween month, was a plan that benefitted everyone.
“That’s probably a good idea,” Kali sniffed. “I don’t want to be alone.” She looked out the window miserably. “Was it an accident, do you think?”
“Not sure, but maybe.”
“Who would want Nora dead?” Kali began to sob again.
Lei didn’t have an answer.
Her place in the Iao Valley wasn’t far from the historic theater. As they drove in to the valley, Lei hoped that once she settled Kali in, she could return to the crime scene. Stevens had told her to ask Kali a few questions about Nora and the rest of the cast. See if Nora had any enemies. Fish for motive. But on the drive to the house, Kali had nothing to tell. Everyone was good friends, no bad feelings between anyone, least of all Nora. Lei wracked her brain for what else she might do to help Kali. She could make her a cup of tea. Sit and listen to her cry. But that was hard for Lei to pretend she didn’t want to speed back to the theater to help. She was a better detective than friend. In past cases, she liked to get right in the center of a crime, get messy, and work her way out, not sit on the sidelines with a friend, wondering what was going on. She wanted in to the eye of the hurricane.
They parked and got out of the truck, the air fresh from recent rain in this valley. Keiki and Stripe wagged their tails and jumped around to see the women approach the fence. “See anything tonight, Baby,” Lei opened the gate and patted Keiki’s back. The serial killer case on Kauai that she and Stevens cracked wide open had been crazy-weird enough for Lei to have new appreciation for her guard dog. She and Stevens had moved from Kauai to get away from all the publicity after cracking that one, and because they needed a fresh start somewhere new. Probably that’s what Omura meant when she called Lei a publicity hound.
After settling Kali on the couch with both dogs lying nearby, Lei made her a cup of tea.
“You’re so sweet, Lei,” Kali’s tears had subsided but the box of tissues was still within reach. Handing her the mug, Lei noticed Kali’s makeup had smeared enough to make her look like a dead person herself.
“Feel free to take a shower,” Lei said from the edge of the living room chair.
“I might do that.” Kali set the mug on the coffee table.
“While you shower, are you okay if I head back to the theater for a bit to take a look?”
Kali glanced to the bathroom door. “Sure. I’ve got Stripe to keep me safe.”
Kali depended on her dog the same way Lei did. Protection was important, especially as a single female. One of the first conversations Lei ever had with Kali was about how a large dog made them feel safe in the world. Able to relax. She and Kali had gone for smoothies after that and talked for another hour about their dogs.
“Is my makeup all over my face? I’m sure I look terrible.” Kali smiled.
Kali was very pretty by All American cheerleader standards. Lei smiled back. “Even more terrible than usual.”
When Lei walked through the stage door of the Iao Theater, Stevens was up in the rafters with the lighting director, Keven. Several tearful cast members, still in costume and makeup, were sitting in the front row talking, watching; probably waiting to hear if Nora’s death had been an accident. After fielding questions Lei wasn’t at liberty to answer, the actors stood to leave. Hensley and his rookie partner, Sakamoto, had told them they could go. They’d moved to the stage to estimate the trajectory fall of the prop. Hensley stood by the bloodstain on the stage floor. His partner, who everyone called “Saki,” hung on every word from his mentor. From the rafters, Stevens and Keven spoke in hushed tones.
Lei approached Hensley. “What do you think? Accident or murder?” she asked.
Hensley knew who Lei was. Sort of. When she and Stevens arrived on Maui, they’d bumped into him in Takamiya Market and the near-retirement cop had zipped his lips shut when he saw the couple together. It wasn’t against policy to date, but Hensley probably sensed they liked their privacy.
Hensley looked to the rafters. “Could’ve been an accident, but Stevens says there’s room for doubt.” He shook his closely-shorn head.
“You knew the victim?” Saki asked Lei.
“I knew of her. One of the cast members is my running partner.” She could still smell the blood even though it had been cleaned from the stage floor.
Stevens descended the ladder in the wings and Lei walked over to meet him. The only people in the theater now were the caretaker, Mack, the lighting director, Keven, the show’s director, a man named Mike, the set designer, Dan, and the four cops. Everyone else had been asked to leave. Keven was upset, tears rolling down his plentiful cheeks and Lei knew it didn’t look good.
The four cops circled near the stage’s stairs and in whispered tones discussed what Stevens had seen. “It looks like the main wire holding everything was cut. The wire cutters are missing from the theater toolbox. The prop was checked two hours before the show started so it was cut after that. Keven insists the prop’s lines were fine.” Stevens motioned to where the actors had been seated in the front row. “Apparently Nora was out of place on stage. Too early in the script to be where she ended up, so I’m thinking it wasn’t necessarily meant for her. Still, looks like we have a murder on our hands.” No one batted an eye. Everyone knew what this meant. The investigation had begun.
Hensley and Saki went downstairs to take a look in the dressing rooms. Lei stayed with Stevens. “Someone wanted that moon to fall.”
Stevens glanced at the production group gathered by the stage door. “But why? No one was supposed to be on that side of the stage.”
Lei inwardly cringed. This friendly community theater production of The Rocky Horror Show was now living up to its name. At least the horror part.
It was almost dawn when Lei and Stevens pulled in the driveway of their home. They both favored this type of house even though now that they were living together they could afford something bigger, newer. The place they’d found to rent was a small cottage, painted green with white trim and a rust-colored tin roof. The sight of it made Lei happy every time she drove up. It was a perfect place for Keiki to hang out while they worked. Even though they were only a few miles from the heart of downtown Wailuku, Lei could imagine they were in the most remote part of Maui, back in the folds of the West Maui Mountains, beyond Kahakuloa, where the wild boar lived.
The Iao Valley State Park was tropical rainforest at its finest, with every shade of green imaginable. From their house, they couldn’t see the Iao Needle, the famous tourist attraction, but evidence it was there was reflected in the daily traffic on the road when the gates to the park were open. The Needle resembling a breaching humpback whale, stood guard to the remote part of the valley.
Lei opened the cottage door carefully, trying to be quiet. Kali was probably sound asleep, unaware that tonight’s accident had become a murder case. No one had been charged. Stevens didn’t see motive from the director, the caretaker, or any of the crew. By all accounts, no one was supposed to be standing under the moon at the time of its fall. Maybe the killer had the wrong victim. Maybe the killer hadn’t anticipated Derek jumping clear the way he did. Even if he’d fallen with the moon, he wouldn’t have died, maybe not even been seriously injured.
Keiki lay beside Stripe on the floor and when Lei and Stevens walked through the living room on the creaky wooden floor, both dogs raised their heads. It was time to get a few hours’ sleep then head back to the station. Lei would help work the case today seeing Saturday was her day off, the one day she and Stevens had off work together. Usually. Trails got cold fast in the islands and clues faded away if you didn’t get some answers in the first forty-eight.
“We can hit this in a few hours,” Stevens whispered as they entered the cottage’s bedroom.
Keiki settled on the floor by Lei’s King-sized bed, a monstrosity that she’d moved from the Big Island to Kauai and now to Maui. Stevens pulled off his collared shirt and chinos, and slipped into bed beside her. His body was warm and comforting in a very boyfriend way. She nuzzled into him, one of her favorite positions—tucked into his shoulder, top arm flung across his well-muscled abdomen. Stevens always seemed so big to her, so elegantly long, especially in bed. Tonight the thought of getting frisky was completely vetoed by their exhaustion. “Think it was Keven?” she asked, her words barely audible.
He sighed wearily. “I’m gonna say no.”
She closed her eyes. “That moon wasn’t meant for Nora,” she mumbled.
“I agree. But who?” Stevens sounded on the edge of consciousness.
“Me,” Kali said from the open bedroom doorway. “I think the moon was meant to kill me.”
To Be Continued ... ROCKY BLUFF
Kim Hornsby is an Award-Winning Seattle novelist who loves to write about women in strange lands so she can travel and call it research. Two of her novels are Amazon Bestsellers, having reached the #1 spot in Romantic Suspense and Paranormal Romance. She's proud to have shared the top 5 spot with the likes of Stephen King, Dean Koontz and J.D. Robb.
Kim writes daily, blogs weekly, and is published by The Wild Rose Press, Cajun Flair Publishing and her own publishing house, Top Ten Press. Suspense, Romance, and the Supernatural are themes threaded throughout her fictional work.
A mother, a wife, a messy housekeeper, a dog lover, and a voracious reader, Kim was born in Belleville, Canada, then lived in Vancouver, Maui, Whistler, Taipei and now makes Seattle her home. Instead of clothes and jewelry, she spends her mad money on travel. Plane tickets can usually be found on her desk.