Koa stepped closer and stopped short. Even as a veteran of the Special Forces in Somalia and a witness to more than a few murder scenes, he struggled to suppress his nausea. Control. Stay in control. Block emotion. Concentrate. He clenched his teeth until they hurt. His nausea receded.
In the dozen years since 2003, when he’d left the army to join the police, Koa had heard about ritual killings, but had never actually seen one. Until now. The naked body lay with its legs toward him, feet slightly separated. The trunk was bloated from putrefaction. The skin had blackened. The genitals had shrunk into the body, but the deceased was unmistakably male. The sight, the smell, and the walls squeezed in upon Koa.
After meeting with the county prosecutor, Koa asked Sergeant Basa to join him for the afternoon. “Where we going?” Basa asked as they headed toward the saddle.
“To see Aikue ‘Ōpua.”
“The big-shot native sovereignty asshole?”
As with all Hawai̒i policemen, Sergeant Basa had been through community sensitivity training, but he was still a haole, and many Westerners had little patience for native activists, especially loudmouthed sovereignty types like Aikue ‘Ōpua.
The Monarch had a good crowd when Koa walked in a little after ten. The odor of stale beer and cigarette smoke hung heavy in the air. A classic Wurlitzer jukebox pulsed neon colors as it filled the room with Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Koa hadn’t heard that one in a long time.
Judging from the frayed clothing and work boots on the thirty or so patrons, Koa figured them to be stevedores, forklift operators, and cargo handlers from the nearby port. Most were beer drinkers, but a few guarded shot glasses. They were mostly spread out in ones and twos at separate tables, but five rough-looking men with weather-beaten faces and sunburned arms, and a rougher-looking woman with heavy wrinkles and what appeared to Koa to be skin cancer, had a poker game going at one of the large round tables. They announced their bets loudly and swore like sailors when the cards disappointed them.