Preview: Palm Trees and Snowflakes

The second Hawaiian Storm mystery featuring Vanessa Storm from Torn Roots hit the Amazon virtual shelves in time for Christmas 2018 and for downloading to those new Kindles you might find under the tree. This is a true Christmas story, with mystery, action and even romance for Vanessa. Here’s an excerpt from the opening.

Vanessa drew her Walther PPK/S when she heard the crunch of tires on the gravel at the entrance to the pier and pulled the palm frond in front of her a little lower to see better. “All in place?” she said quietly into the comms unit slung over her ear.

“Ready,” said the local Honolulu police officer behind the palm fronds to her left. At least six-four with bulging arms, he dwarfed her five foot, five inches. Silva, she remembered. His name is Silva. In her earpiece, she heard five clicks, confirmations from five more officers from three different law-enforcement agencies—two from Honolulu PD, three from harbor police, and one from her partner, FBI Special Agent Alan Terakawa, crouching beside a Honolulu harbor cop across the alley.

She checked her watch: 9:10 p.m. Warehouses loomed around them, their walls dark cliffs. The row of palm trees they hid behind screened the blank faces of the warehouses from the highway, preserving the tourist allure of Oahu.

A Lexus glided into the alley between the warehouses, stopping in front of stacked shipping containers. She raised her weapon and pushed the palm frond out of her way. We’re ready for this.

She froze when she heard another set of tires on the cracked asphalt and the deeper rumble of a heavier vehicle. A full-size black van slid behind the Lexus. Its engines cut. The Lexus’s driver door swung open and a short, round man in a dark suit climbed out. A taller man got out of the passenger side. The van’s side door slid open, disgorging three large men. One, at least, held what looked like an Uzi.

We’re not ready for this. “Stand by. Repeat, stand by. Do not engage. Calling for backup,” she said into her comms unit before switching channels to radio to Honolulu PD dispatch. “This is FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm at 9 Pier, Berth 10B, requesting backup.” She gave her clearing number. “Notify Special Agent in Charge Waxman. We have second suspect vehicle, four more suspects than anticipated. It looks like they are heavily armed. Repeat, requesting immediate backup.”

“Roger,” said the dispatcher. She sounded calm, almost as if she did not care. “Swat unit notified.”

The short, heavy man spoke to the others. Although Vanessa could not hear his words, he seemed nervous, even fearful. At the cargo container nearest his car, he entered a four-digit code on padlock keypad. He swung one door open, cursing when it nearly hit the bumper of his car.

He disappeared into the container, followed by the taller man. Vanessa saw the big Honolulu cop fidgeting. He was probably wrestling with the same quandary she was: to risk making an arrest when they were possibly outnumbered, and definitely outgunned, or risk letting the suspects get away, throwing away months of surveillance, research, lab work and legal preparation.

She took a deep breath, in through the nose, out through the mouth. She needed to confer with her commanding officer.

The two men came out of the shipping container, the short one carrying a large box. The box was heavy, given the way he struggled to the trunk of his Lexus. The other man closed the door as one of the large men took the box from the portly one. He loaded it into the back of the van.

That was when the Harbor cop stepped out of the shadow of the warehouse. “Freeze!” he shouted. “Police. Drop your weapons.”

The goons did not hesitate. An Uzi spat and the harbor cop went down. Vanessa fired a split second later, hitting the shooter. He fell, one last blast firing upward as gunfire erupted from multiple directions. The other two goons who dropped to their knees, taking cover behind the van, firing their Uzis into the palms and toward Terakawa’s position behind the corner of a warehouse. Vanessa threw herself to the ground as automatic fire shredded the palms. The two Honolulu cops fired from behind the trunks, hampered by concern for Terakawa.

Vanessa could see the two men from the Lexus squatting behind its trunk. They had no weapons, but the van driver was also firing an automatic weapon through the window.

The big Hawaiian cop beside Vanesssa fired again and one of the Uzi-toting men pitched sideways and lay still.

“Dispatch, we’re taking fire. Officer down. Request immediate SWAT backup, and paramedics,” Vanessa shouted over the din of gunfire.

Palm Fronds and Snowflake is a longish story, just under 10,000 words, available for just 99 cents from Amazon.