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ONE OF HER OWN
A Lei Crime Novella
BY SHAWN McGUIRE
Maui is the perfect place… for murder.
Gemi Kittredge, rising MMA star, is facing the fight of her career. She hasn’t heard from her flighty sister in two weeks. And, she’s just come across the body of a fellow boxer during her morning run.
While her friend, Consuelo Aguilar, helps Gemi stay focused on the match, Detective Lei Texeira is hot on the trail of the killer. But the closer they get to the truth, the more Gemi starts to fear the killer could be one of her own.
ONE OF HER OWN
A Lei Crime Novella
BY SHAWN McGUIRE
Gemi Kittredge had almost reached the midpoint of her morning run near Kahului Bay on Maui’s north shore when she found the body. When she saw the feet, from about forty yards away, she assumed it was a homeless person, sleeping by the cluster of heliotrope trees for the night. Reasonable. Except for the birds.
No one would be sleeping with gulls all around them like that, she thought.
The closer she got, the more she started to feel sick. The white, pink, and teal running shoes were the exact kind Heleena wore.
It can’t be her. Plenty of people have those shoes.
Except a violent shiver, Gemi’s personal warning sign that something was wrong, ripped through her body.
When she was fifteen feet away, the gulls flew off and the sand crabs skittered away. “Hello? Are you okay?”
At ten feet, she saw the woman’s face. Or what used to be her face. She’d been beaten so badly she was unrecognizable. Her left eye was covered by a purplish-blue bruise and swollen to the point that it looked like the skin might split open. The right was still open and staring blindly. No. The gulls had pecked off the lid. Her left ear, too. Blood had dried and caked around her nose, which had been hit so hard it was pushed off to the left. Her lips had pillowed to probably three times their normal size. Bruises covered her abdomen between her hot pink jogging shorts and black sports bra. The beating must have gone on for a long time to cause this much injury.
“Oh god.” Gemi turned so she wouldn’t puke on the woman. When her stomach had emptied, she wiped her mouth with the back of one hand and pulled her cellphone out of her waist pack with the other. She trembled as she dialed 9-1-1.
“Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?”
“Yes, hi, I’m at Kanaha Beach Park. There’s, um, a body.”
“A body? As in a dead body?”
Gemi heard clicking over the phone, the operator typing on her computer, notifying the police.
“Yes, a dead body.”
“You’re sure the victim is dead?”
“Yeah,” Gemi replied, wincing as she looked over her shoulder, “pretty sure.”
“Where in the park are you?”
Where was she? She looked up and down the beach for some sort of landmark. She usually ran to a point just past the Kahului Airport. She hadn’t made it that far.
“I’m on the beach, across from the airport.”
“The police will be there shortly,” the operator told her. “They’ll want to talk with you. Do you feel safe staying where you are?”
She wanted her to stay? Gemi closed her eyes, took in a slow breath, and let it out again. Yes, she had to stay. The gulls and crabs would come back if she left. This woman—Heleena?—had been through enough.
“Yeah. Okay, I’ll stay with her.”
She took a few steps back, close enough to keep the birds away, but not too close. That’s when she noticed the woman’s hair and gasped. The black ponytail, currently splayed off to the woman’s right, was long enough to hang to her waist. A two-inch wide, bright turquoise stripe ran down the left side of the ponytail from her scalp to the tips.
“It’s called Mermaid,” Heleena said of the color just yesterday at the gym. “What do you think?”
Gemi covered her mouth with the crook of her elbow, holding in a scream. She leaned forward, her head between her knees, willing herself to not puke again and hoping that when she looked up, it wouldn’t be Heleena lying there. Slowly, she lifted her head. It was still her.
While waiting for the police to arrive, Gemi searched around, making sure there wasn’t another victim somewhere in the trees. She also called her friend, Consuelo Aguilar, to come be with her. Gemi and Consuelo had met in the cafeteria at Kahului College last year. They’d both been heading for the only vacant table and by the end of lunch had formed a solid friendship.
“Really?” Consuelo groaned. “I’m not out of bed yet.”
“Please,” Gemi said. “There’s something bad going on.”
Consuelo agreed, and Gemi was explaining where she was when the sound of police sirens shattered the silence. Minutes later the beach, normally vacant this early in the morning, was buzzing with activity. Police put up tape in a big square to keep people away. Television news crews showed up with cameras. Newspaper reporters held out cell phones to record whatever statement they could get. Gemi could barely breathe from the crowd suddenly surrounding her.
A detective who had introduced herself as Leilani Texeira pulled Gemi off to the side, away from the microphones, to get her statement. As they walked, Detective Texeira pulled her long, out-of-control-curly brown hair into a bun, exposing all of her freckled, olive-hued face and tilted oval eyes. She wanted to know why Gemi was there that morning.
“I run here almost every day at this time,” Gemi said.
“What exactly did you see?” the detective asked.
“Heleena.” Her stomach roiled again.
“Heleena?” Detective Texeira asked. “Do you think that’s who the victim is? You know her?”
“Well,” Gemi felt like she might puke again, “it’s a little hard to know for sure considering the condition of her face. But, yeah, I’m pretty sure she’s Heleena Carrere.”
“How do you know her?”
“She’s in MMA with me. Was,” Gemi corrected, a wave of sadness flooding her. She stared past the detective at the cluster of police in the cordoned-off area. “She’s the number two fighter in the featherweight class. Was.”
“Mixed martial arts,” Gemi said. “It’s like boxing and wrestling and taekwondo all mixed together.”
“Did you see anyone else in the area?”
“No. The beach was empty. That’s why I like running here in the morning. It’s peaceful.” Her eyes stung. “Usually.”
This couldn’t be real. Stuff like this only happened to strangers, not to someone Gemi knew.
“Did you touch anything?” Detective Texeira asked.
Gemi shook her head. “Nothing.”
“Anything else you feel I need to know?”
Gemi thought then pointed. “I puked in the trees over there.”
Detective Texeira gave her an empathetic smile. “Understandable. This is enough for now. Don’t leave yet. I’ll probably have more questions for you after we’re finished with our investigation. And don’t talk to any of the reporters. ‘No comment’ should be your only statement.”
Gemi nodded and hugged her arms around her torso. Her running shorts and tank top had been fine while she was moving. She’d worked up a good sweat during that first six miles, though, and now, the breeze off of the ocean was chilling her. She’d also stopped running without stretching, so her muscles were seizing up.
She squatted to loosen her thighs, watching Detective Texeira and the other officers carefully search every inch of the area. Any little clue could lead to something, Gemi supposed. What did the bruises all over Heleena’s body tell them? She propped a heel in the sand, toes up, and leaned forward to work her hamstring. Heleena’s boyfriend had to be crazy with worry, wondering where she was.
“Miss, do you have a statement?” a reporter asked.
“Were you the first one on the scene?” another added.
“No comment,” Gemi answered repeatedly as question after question was lobbed at her. Finally, a police officer came over and told the reporters to leave her alone, that she wasn’t going to talk to them.
“Thank you,” Gemi mouthed at him and stared again at the scene within the yellow tape.
Heleena would have fought back. Blocking and defending would have been an automatic response. Her arms were probably covered with bruises, too.
“What did you do?”
Gemi turned to see Consuelo standing behind her.
“Finally,” Gemi said. “I called you half an hour ago.”
“Sorry. I had to put some clothes on.” Consuelo narrowed her eyes, probably wondering what had shaken the normally unflappable Gemi. Her answer came a second later when she glanced over Gemi’s shoulder. “Is that a dead body?”
Gemi dropped to sit on the sand, her face in her hands. “I know her, Consuelo.”
“You know her?” Then, sounding every bit like the journalism major she was, Consuelo asked, “Who is she? Were you close?”
“She was a fighter at my gym. She was in a different weight class so, you know, we’d see each other at the gym and talk sometimes. I knew her, but we weren’t super close or anything.”
“Are you okay?” Consuelo put an arm around her shoulders. “You’re a little green. Do you want a ride home?”
Gemi nodded. “I can’t leave yet. That detective wants me to stick around until they’re done investigating. I just can’t believe this happened to someone I know.”
Shawn McGuire is the author of young adult, coming-of-age novels that blend contemporary settings with a touch of fantasy and magic. She started writing after seeing the first Star Wars movie (that’s episode IV) as a kid: she couldn’t wait for the next one so wrote her own episodes. Sadly, those notebooks are long lost, but her desire to write is as strong now as it was then. She grew up in the beautiful Mississippi River town of Winona, Minnesota, the small town that inspired the setting for her young adult books Sticks and Stones and Break My Bones. The Milwaukee area of Wisconsin (Go Pack Go!) was her home for many years and now she lives in Colorado with her family where she loves to read, cook and bake, craft, decorate her house, and spend time hiking and camping in the spectacular Rocky Mountains.
Links to Shawn’s website, blog, books, etc.
Website – www.Shawn-McGuire.com
Email – Shawn@Shawn-McGuire.com
Newsletter – http://eepurl.com/bEuxc5
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/shawnmcguire1/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/Shawn_McGuire
Instagram – https://instagram.com/shawn.mcguire1/
Young Adult series – The Wish Makers
STICKS AND STONES – http://amzn.to/1VALY6h
BREAK MY BONES – http://amzn.to/1QXLTSB
NEVER HURT ME – http://amzn.to/2b5ZMFn
HAD A GREAT FALL – http://amzn.to/2b60gLw
BACK TOGETHER AGAIN – http://amzn.to/2bK32TP
Mystery novella series
ONE OF HER OWN – http://amzn.to/1O1Vc9I
OUT OF HER LEAGUE – http://amzn.to/1ZayHQr
Thank you, Shawn, for sharing your story with us. Don’t miss the chance to read these books!