"You may already be a winner," was all the envelope
Finishing his nightly marathon of Dinty Moore stew and Hard Copy
was too excitable for him, so Lester Smith took a deep breath before
opening the envelope that had just dropped through the mail slot.
No return address.
Immediately he called his mother.
"That's right, ma, going to Hawaii! Says I won some
contest for an all expense paid trip for a murder mystery weekend.
Course I'm going. The pacemaker? I'll be fine.
No, stress won't be a problem. Doc said to stay clear
of guns and rainfall, is all. Leave in the morning. I
promise I'll call you collect from Hawaii. As soon as the
operator answers I'll ask for myself, who I know won't be there,
you tell her I'm not there and that way you'll know I arrived safely.
What? Yes, I could just use my calling card; didn't
think of that. No, Gloria doesn't need to know. Remember?
If she finds out I left the state I'll lose joint custody
of the kids AND their trust fund. Be back in two days. Love
Had it only been twenty-four hours since the "Dead Floaters
Murder Mystery Troupe" biplane landed in the Onomea Bay in
a torrential downpour? The pilot apologised for the turbulent
flight, and Lester's panic attack really did subside quicker than
the stewardess had predicted. Now he was sitting in the lobby
of the Itchy-Itchy-Nietzsche trying to choke the rising panic at
"Look, honey, it's the guy who got airsick on the plane!"
Lester ignored it. It was that couple in front of him who
kept sending their peanuts back.
The bus pulled into the portico just then and tooted its horn.
Lester sauntered outside. As the portico gutter emptied
its contents onto his head, he screamed like a woman, causing a
dark-haired woman behind him to snort loudly. He turned.
"Ginger." She thrust her hand forward. "I
recognised you from the plane."
He decided to try his luck, and returned her gesture.
"Oh yeah?" He smirked, proud of his apparent
"Yeah. That stewardess was so nice to give you her
wings, especially after you'd just thrown up on her shoes."
Damn. He pulled his hand back. An awkward silence
filled the air.
Lester decided to forget the exchange and just find a seat. He
could be unobtrusive for the length of the tour.
Until she sat next to him.
He noticed that she looked vaguely familiar, but couldn't place
it. He would figure it out tonight during dinner when the
Twenty minutes later, the bus was peaking Caldera Summit, heading
to the drive-up point so passengers could come within touching distance
of the active volcano.
The rain hadn't let up since they'd arrived yesterday, and as
the bus unloaded, Lester could feel his breathing becoming laboured.
Ginger noticed and offered her umbrella.
"Hon, how do you take a shower if you're that afraid of
Rather than report that he didn't, he accepted the umbrella and
fearfully stepped from the bus.
People were already ooh-ing over the tour guide's information,
but Lester viewed the hot magma by himself.
"Kilauea. Gorgeous, isn't it?" said Ginger.
He was becoming more aware of how beautiful she was.
Now would be a good time to reclaim your cool, he thought.
"Sure is. Bumps right against the Manua Loa, the mother
volcano. During its first erection, pyroclastic flows had
temperatures as high as 1075 degrees Centigrade."
There. That oughtta do it.
He saw Ginger's shoulders begin to quake and thought he heard
a stifled cackle.
He turned his attention to his feet where many lava rocks lay.
He popped one in his pocket. The bus began loading,
so they walked back.
He had missed the tour guide's rendition of "Put a volcano
rock in your pocket, suffer a fate worse than death," originally
recorded by Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Volcanoes.
Three hours later, he was sitting in the Itchy banquet room with
ninety-eight other participants: he couldn't find Ginger.
A bearded man in a tux appeared and sat next to him.
"Lester? Hi, I'm Jim, the co-ordinator. Enjoying
Lester turned to see if there were another Lester behind him,
but when he saw no one, he held out a hand. "Yes, thank
"Good, glad to hear it." He slapped Lester's
back. "Listen, I have a proposal for you, if you're interested.
"Me? Sure. What do I need to do?" Lester
said, as he took a sip of wine.
Jim explained the plan.
Lester's wine spit-take hit Jim squarely in the forehead. Lester
Jim let out a laugh as he cleaned his face.
"I'm so sorry," Lester said, in a half-whisper.
Jim laughed again. "No need, muh boy. I should've
explained. Here's what's gonna happen. . . ."
* * * * *
Dinner was delicious, and as they brought dessert, Ginger came
to Lester's table.
"Where were you?"
"You know, room-mate stuff."
At exactly ten minutes till nine, an argument broke out at a
centre table between an oil Baron and his mistress. It became
heated quickly, and as the man pulled a knife on her, Lester watched
When no one made a move to help, he decided to step between them
in a valiant attempt to calm things down.
"Let's talk about this, okay? I don't think we really
want a scene here, now, do we?" Lester said.
"Butt out, skippy," said the Baron.
"I just think we can settle this without anyone getting
"You can't talk to him," said the mistress. "He's
a three-timing, turd-bucket."
"Slut," said the Baron. "I'll kill you for
Lester was about to step away when the room went dark.
A shot fired. Someone screamed. A body slumped to
When the lights returned, Lester was lying face up near the table
with a bullet hole in his chest. The staff moved his body
before guests began investigating, and as they lifted him, they
noticed the oozing blood.
They moved Lester into an adjoining room while the Emcee directed
the guests through their paces of guessing the murderer. None
were the wiser.
Jim called for the hotel doctor, and the staff tried to make
For a moment, Lester lay there, unable to open his eyes. The
searing pain in his chest brought his memory back. Something
had gone wrong: blanks didn't leave that kind of pain.
There was a knock on one of the doors in the rear of the room
and he heard Jim answer it. While he couldn't make out the
voice, it was a woman's, and someone who knew Jim.
"Yes, nearly as planned, wasn't it? I'll take care
of making sure everyone gets paid as soon as the job is finished."
"Lester? Can you hear me?"
Lester fluttered his eyes open and stared at Ginger.
"How do you feel, hon?" Her voice was edgy.
"Like I just ate my ex-wife's chilli. What happened?"
"The bullet lodged in a corner of your pacemaker. You'll
be bruised for a few, but otherwise, fine."
He began yelling in a girlie voice. "I won't be fine.
Someone set me up!"
"The bastards planned this all along. Someone wants
me dead. Wait. . . .how did you know I had a. . . ."
"That's right sugar."
Ginger was sneering.
Lester was confused. "What do you mean?"
She pulled a gun on him and held it over the hole in his chest,
then said, "Would you like me to finish here? Or away
from the public? This time I won't miss."
He stammered. "I....I don't understand." Then
it hit him. Where he knew her from. "OH MY GOD!"
She pulled off her wig.
She curled her lip again. "That's right, cupcake.
Surprised to see me? Apparently I'm rusty. Missing
your heart wasn't the idea. But, I'd rather see you fry for
"This is about the trust fund, isn't it?"
"And the kids."
"You're not fit to be with them. They need someone
who isn't afraid to bathe them."
"How long did it take you to cook up this scheme?"
"Money cuts time in half, muffin. Get up."
She cocked the pistol.
"Nice and slow. Through the dining room."
As they walked past the Baron's table, He jumped up to say hello,
and saw the gun. His movement was swift, penning Gloria to
the ground in one fluid move.
"This little lady botherin you, son?" He grinned.
Lester was flabbergasted. And pleased.
The Baron motioned for the authorities. They already had
Jim in custody and was now lifting Gloria from the floor. He
introduced himself as the manager of the troupe.
Before they took Gloria away, Lester stopped them. "Thank
God, the world will now be safe from your chilli." He
turned to the authorities. "Lock her up, and make sure
you give her a good shower."