Zero Break

an excerpt

Openly gay Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa'aka has a new case, and this one hits close to home. A lesbian mother of two has been brutally murdered in what looks like a home invasion robbery. In this excerpt, Kimo and his detective partner interview a suspect.

Ray and I rocked along to a classic Bruce Springsteen CD until we arrived at the homeless shelter on North Vineyard. We parked behind a pickup truck with a bumper sticker that read "Talk is cheap until you hire a lawyer."

The homeless shelter was a former church, a one-story building with a gothic arched roof and a makeshift addition out back. The receptionist told us Walsh was in the back courtyard, and there were five guys there, each one sitting by himself. A skinny moke with ropy upper arms sipping coffee in the shade of an anemic palm tree matched the description we had. "Mr. Walsh?" I asked, showing him my badge. "HPD. Can we ask you a few questions?"

Freddie was a tough-looking haole with a brown buzz cut and tribal tattoos on his biceps. I noted that and wondered if Shinichi, the waiter at Simple Sushi, had gotten his body parts wrong; he had said the man with Zoe Greenfield the night she died had tattoos on his forearms.

"What's this about?" Walsh asked.

"Mind if we sit?" I motioned to the two other chairs at the wire table.

"It's a free country."

I thought I'd try the direct approach. "You know a woman named Zoe Greenfield?"

That wasn't what he was expecting, and it threw him. "Zoe? Yeah. We grew up together in that rat hole commune."

"Really? What was your name back then?"

He laughed. "I was lucky. My parents were big fans of Queen, so they called me Freddie, after Freddie Mercury. Zoe wasn't so lucky. You know her parents called her Fallopian? And her brother Vas? That family was like a living anatomy lesson."

"You been in touch with her lately?"

He looked suspicious. "Why?"

"How about if I ask the questions, and you answer them? That work for you?"

"Maybe a month ago," he said. "She took me to dinner."

"That all?" Ray asked. "She take you to bed, too?"

Freddie laughed. "Zoe's a dyke, man."

"Well, let's just say she's flexible," I said.

"Look, I don't know what Zoe's been saying about me, but whatever it is, it's not true. I sure as hell didn't bang her."

"You ever go to her house?"

He looked suspicious once more. "I'm not saying anything more. I want an attorney."

Ray and I laughed. "You're not under arrest, Freddie," I said. "We're just asking some questions. But it makes us wonder, you know? What have you got to hide that you need an attorney for? Maybe we should bring you downtown, set you up in an interview room. Ask around among the other detectives, see if any of them have any questions for you."

Freddie sneered and started clenching his fists. "Yeah, I went to her house once," he said after a while. "But I didn't take anything, and I sure as hell didn't have sex with her."

"When was that?"

He frowned. Long-term memory looked like it wasn't his strong point. "At least a couple of months ago. Like I said, last time I saw her was like a month ago. We had sushi."

"Simple Sushi?"

He looked confused, but then it sunk in. "Oh, the restaurant. Yeah, I think that was it."

"Where were you on Sunday night?" I asked.


"Remember the deal, Freddie? I ask the questions and you answer them?"

He slammed his hand on the table, and it rocked. "God dammit, what the hell do you want?"

A couple of other guys in the courtyard looked our way, and two of them got up and left quickly.

"I want to know where you were on Sunday night."

"I was in custody, all right? In Wahiawa. But I was totally innocent. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They didn't even press charges."

He had been at a bar in Mililani late Sunday afternoon, minding his own business, he said, when an airman at Hickam started talking stink. So he'd taken a swing at the guy. Turns out the airman had a bunch of friends in the bar. There had been a brawl, and a half dozen of them had spent the night in holding cells at the station in Wahiawa.

I called Wahiawa on my cell and talked to the duty sergeant, who checked the records and verified Freddie's alibi. When I snapped my phone shut, I said, "Somebody killed Zoe Greenfield on Sunday night."

I watched Freddie's response, and noted surprise, and what looked like grief, too.

"Jesus. She's dead? Man, I liked her. She was one of the few people who knew the kind of crap we went through as kids."

"You knew her," I said. "She ever say she was worried about anything?"

I waited. I could see Freddie trying to access brain cells. "She was worried about something," he said. "Something at work." He shook his head. "I wasn't paying attention, you know? It was some kind of accounting shit."

We established that Freddie was going to be staying at the shelter for a while. He was trying to get into a training program, he said, selling insurance. A UH alum was pulling some strings for him. "I used to play ball there," he boasted. "Til I busted my legs."

The way he said it, you'd think he'd been hit by one linebacker too many, instead of taking a drunken fall. But I wasn't going to push him on it.