Blood Orchids by Toby Neal
Blood Orchids follows police woman Lei Texeira, whose life starts to unravel after discovering a gruesome murder scene on the shores of beautiful Hawaii. A scene that also begins to expose Texeira’s dark buried past. After an impulsive mistake she is sent to mandatory counseling to help deal with the escalating violence and how it triggers her. Meanwhile she gains the attention of a killer, and the lead detective on the case, Michael Stevens. Even deeper conspiracies develop the story, originating with her father, a convicted drug dealer. Haunted by a persistent stalker, the shadow of her past looms over the growing relationship with Stevens, Texeira, with the help of her loyal Rottweiler, battles the monsters of her past and present, reaching out toward a loving future.
About Toby Neal:
Born and raised on the island of Hawaii, Neal uses her native knowledge and first-hand experience as a psychologist to create realistic settings and experiences, complex characters and an all around chilling crime thriller.
Toby's inspiration for her thriller, Blood Orchids:
Blood Orchids was sparked as an idea by a tragedy that happened in my community—two teen girls were drowned. I was a grief counselor in the crisis team that went to the high school to work with the students inthe aftermath. At first we were told they were victims of foul play, though later it turned out to have been accidental.
For months after, perhaps because it was so traumatic to hear they’d been murdered, thought about it, and wondered what it would be like to try and solve such a crime in a small Hawaii community.
Lei Texeira, my protagonist, is the gutsy and vulnerable product of a multicultural heritage. Lei is ¼ Hawaiian, ¼ Portuguese, and half Japanese. She has Asian features with freckles, a wide, full mouth that gets her in trouble, and curly hair (from her Hawaiian/Portuguese side) Her appearance is unique and reflects the many cultures of our Islands. Her scarred past is part of what drives her quest for justice for victims, and her healing through confronting her demons and a love relationship is a theme I begin in this book and carry forward to the other novels.
Drowning isn’t pretty, even in paradise. The girl’s features were bloated by water and nibbled on by wildlife. She lay half embedded in silty mud, naked as a seal carcass. Long hair that might have been blonde wrapped around her like seaweed, one sparkly hair tie still in place on the side of her head.
Leilani Texeira grimaced at the sulphurous smell of the mud as she stepped into it, shiny regulation shoes disappearing, and squatted to inspect the body. After three years on the force in Hawaii she’d seen several drowned corpses, and had learned to stay detached as she looked for any signs of violence. Still, she was thankful for the small mercy of the girl’s closed eyes.
Her partner Pono’s voice was a bass drone interspersed with static as he called in the discovery on the radio. Lei stayed on her haunches, her eyes slowly surveying the entire overgrown area of the small county park. Invasive christmasberry bushes and clumps of tall pili grass competed along the unkempt banks. Midmorning sun leached reluctantly from under cloud cover as she spotted what looked like a bobbing coconut a few yards out. Lei glanced around—no palm trees ringed the pond.
She pushed her pant legs up and splashed forward into murky water warm as blood, clots of yellowish algae dotting the surface.
“Hey!” Pono called. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Got another one,” Lei said. The water reached her thighs. Any deeper and she’d have to go back and take off her bulky duty belt. She approached the body, floating face down. Female, small build, brown skinned and nude—Lei mentally composed the report. She extended her baton and poked the corpse, wondering if something might fall off if she touched it, but the flesh was hard. Still in rigor. These girls hadn’t been dead long.
“Let the crime techs deal with it. You know you’re not supposed to touch the body—I don’t want you to get in trouble again” She ignored Pono, in the grip of a compulsion she couldn’t put words to.
There was something familiar about this body.
She grabbed a handful of trailing black hair and gently pulled. There was bit of give, but the hair held and the body moved sluggishly at her tug. Lei steeled herself and, walking backward, slowly towed the body to shore in a parody of rescue. She backed up into the shallows, bringing the girl up onto the muddy bank, and rolled her by flipping the shoulder. The brunette landed on her back with a splash next to the blonde.
Lei sucked a breath and bit her lip, bile rising.
The eyes were open this time, and she recognized them.
Haunani Something-or-other—a sixteen year old kid with an attitude. Lei had busted her for possession at the high school a week ago. The girl’s once-brown eyes were cloudy. Her open mouth was filled with water. Rigor kept the arms raised at an angle. Haunani looked as if she were waving for help, the motion frozen forever.
Off in the distance Lei heard sirens. She staggered out of the mud up onto the grass to stand beside Pono. Her stomach crawled back down her throat as she breathed in through her nose, out through her mouth and touched the tiny cowrie she kept in her pocket.
“I know her. I mean, I knew her.”
“Who she stay?” Pono used pidgin, dialect of the Islands, when he was upset. He rubbed his mustache with a finger and she knew he wanted a cigarette.
“Remember a couple weeks ago? Drug bust at the high school? Her name’s Haunani Pohakoa.”
The last name came to her along with a memory of the girl’s cocked hip and long shiny hair. Haunani had been vain about that hair, tossing it around like a pony flicking flies. Lei wished she could forget the slick feeling of the wet strands as her heart squeezed, remembering the fragile bravado Haunani had worn like armor—an armor they shared. She’d felt an immediate connection to the girl when she met her. Lei rubbed her hands briskly on soaked uniform slacks.
For more information about Toby Neal and Blood Orchids, visit Neal's website.
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