Murder at the Edge of the Orient, Episode One
There’s a heat that wraps you in its steamy wet blanket. An oppressive tropical heat. It pretends to shield you while locking you inside a cocoon of sensory depravation. The kind of heat that enflames adulterers and inspires murderers.
I was the adulterer, hiding in the shadows outside the Half Moon Love Motel, a two-story coral cement apartment building designed with the ambition of a CIA safe house. Hiding within the obscurity of my brine-toned white 1984 Toyota Corolla Sedan.
My thoughts wanted to be somewhere else. This was the wrong place for me, the ex-lover hoping to resolve misplaced jealousy. It raised a stench—the kind that sticks under the armpits and steams up car windows on an equatorial island. The kind you can’t smell inside the bubble of self-gratification.
Two such self-gratifying lovers, Captain Bradley “Biff” Bennett, and my ex-lover, Sharon Loyola Pasfield, cloistered themselves in Room 211. The one on the near end, closest to the street. The one with the privacy screen on the garage door halfway down, declaring their passion by cheapening their dignity.
It wasn’t that I knew whether Captain Biff’s wife gave a rat’s ass. Lori Bennett ran the preschool slash daycare where my two children spent three raucous days a week.
When she asked me to follow Biff, I suspected she knew my investment. It saved her having to bribe me fifty bucks a day to put the squeeze on my old squeeze. I didn’t have a chance against her conniving tactics. Even though Nansi now had one more piece of evidence to convict me of continuing my affair with Sharon.
I decided tailing Biff had a bigger payoff. He left the base around ten p.m. in a 1993 Ford Crown Vic imported from the Grand Old US of A by a Yakuza gangster. Of course, I’m guessing at that last, but my estimate of a Captain’s pay suggested it was a bet I’d win. He’d made a rolling stop at the corner of Gate Two Street and Hoikusho Dori that almost had me made.
They’d arrived at the Half Moon fifteen minutes later. He’d walked fast and furtive to the privacy screen, shoulders hunched. Sharon had stopped him, tugging against his clandestine movements, coercing him to take in the view before pulling the large curtain down on their tryst.
In my third hour, I realized I’d put Sharon off twice after returning from burying my father in the frozen Montana ground. For Sharon, that was one too many. She knew my father was dead. Was probably showing her compassion to Biff Bennett right now.
Three other loving couples arrived in that time. Two left, their surreal smiles mocking me in the glow of mint-green dashboard lights. One guy caught a glimpse of me as he passed. His grin clamped up like my heart before his image disappeared. I figured Biff and my one-time dependency better come out soon, before the Okinawa City Police came by to dispute my stakeout.
It took me about five minutes longer to stew my way to a confrontation. Those three hours and a nickel had blackened my already charcoal gray mood.
I decided to move this ship along. Bust through the door, snap a Polaroid of Biff in the buff, then skedaddle like my hair was on fire. With a smidgen of luck, I’d be home and cuddled next to Mrs. Dumbass Pierce by two.
The Half Moon was straight as a bent horseshoe, curling with more architectural pizzazz than ninety-nine percent of its Island neighbors. I had pretty much a line drive into number 211, and Sharon’s brazen choice to leave half of the Crown Vic’s license winking at passersby made entry a cake walk. I crossed the sultry driveway and ducked under the curtain. The heat from the Vic’s engine had passed, and light from the streetlamp outside allowed my pupils to adjust inside of fifteen seconds.
My energy level was high. I looked forward to slamming against a hardwood door and hearing the crunch of my jealous anger surprise the bejeezus out of Sharon-doesn’t-give-a-shit-anymore Pasfield. Instead, a gleam of disappointment highlighted the space along the doorjamb.
I pushed in, hearing nothing. My Polaroid Sun 600 one-handed like Magnum PI, I kept my finger squeeze-ready against the red trigger, itching to salute Captain Bare-assed Biff Bennett in a blazing click and whir of instant memories.
Every feeble light in the room was on. The place hadn’t changed a lick since our last visit. Most of Sharon’s clothing was tossed on the bed along with Biff’s jacket, shirt and cheap polyester tie. Otherwise, the space looked as pristine as if they’d just arrived.
Only bare-chested Biff, military grade officer, had been demoted to slain adulterer. He was sprawled in the single club chair with his hands covering his bloody groin. An agonized awe contorted the blank-eyed stare that questioned me now. Questioned the universe.
My forbidden mistress reclined at his feet with a Heckler & Koch MK 23 gripped in her fist. The medium caliber round had pushed her head back into a vaudeville laugh. The bullet’s entry point marred her perfect chin and undermined the dramatic effect of her pose.
This day had started with a brilliant sun that cooked bad intentions out of most of the population. Here inside Room Number 211, the sins of three fools had settled to earth and swaddled us in blood and death.
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