Excerpt: THE MUSUBI MURDER by Frankie Bow

Author: Frankie Bow

Category: Cozy Mystery

Author bio: Like Molly Barda, Frankie Bow teaches at a public university. Unlike her protagonist, she is blessed with delightful students, sane colleagues, a loving family, and a perfectly nice office chair. She believes if life isn’t fair, at least it can be entertaining. In addition to writing murder mysteries, she publishes in scholarly journals under her real name. Her experience with academic publishing has taught her to take nothing personally.

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Our guest of honor, Jimmy Tanaka, may have been “The Most Hated Man in Hawaii,” but he was also the biggest donor in the history of the College of Commerce. We were in no position to be picky about the moral character of our benefactors. Not after the latest round of budget cuts.

I had never seen the cafeteria this dressed up: white tablecloths, a wall-length refreshment table laden with stainless chafing dishes and platters, and extra security. I felt out of place, a drab little sparrow (and a sweaty one) in my dark wool suit. Everyone else sported Aloha Friday wear, cool cotton prints with colorful hibiscus or monstera designs. Something was making my neck itch. It was either the humidity or the plumeria-spiked floral centerpiece.
I was the only professor at the table. We had been evenly dispersed around the cafeteria to encourage (force) us to mingle with our Friends in the Business Community. The arrangement had the added benefit of keeping Hanson Harrison and Larry Schneider separated. Our two most senior professors are like fighting fish, flaring their gills at each other when they get too close.

I’m constantly telling my students how important it is to network. What I don’t tell them is that I, personally, hate doing it, and, furthermore, I’m not very good at it. Mercedes Yamashiro, the only person at the table I knew, was deep in conversation with the woman next to her.

Bill Vogel appeared at our table, looking even more sour-faced than usual. Put him in a lace mantilla, and my dean could do a passable impression of Queen Victoria. “Mercedes,” he barked. “Do you have any idea why Mr. Tanaka would be delayed this morning?”

“Oh, hello, Bill. No, I haven’t seen Jimmy since he checked in last night.”
He gave Mercedes a curt nod and stalked off without so much as a glance in my direction. I was the only person at the table who actually worked for him, but I was of no immediate use. Vogel would remember my name well enough when it was time to delegate some unpleasant task.

The good-looking man on my right was studying the contents of a manila folder. Even if I had the nerve to interrupt him, I couldn’t imagine what I would say. I certainly couldn’t open a conversation by telling him how much I liked the way he smelled, although that would have been the truth. He had a pleasant aroma of soap and cedar. Maybe I could comment on the weather. Hey, have you noticed it’s raining outside, ha ha, what are the chances? It only does that like three hundred days a year in Mahina. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place him, and I certainly didn’t want to volunteer the fact that I had forgotten his name. I wished that whoever had planned this breakfast had thought of providing name tags. I stared at the exit sign over a side door.

Exit. I dearly wished I could.

A flicker of motion under the sign caught my eye. I thought I saw a flash of baseball caps and sunglasses. I blinked at the empty doorway, and wondered if I had seen anything at all.

A shriek, followed by a metallic crash, startled the entire cafeteria into silence. At the refreshment table, two black-aproned servers stood wide-eyed, staring down at the wreckage of the dropped fruit platter. One held his hands over his mouth; the other clutched a round, stainless steel cover. Something round and white rolled to a halt on the floor, where it rocked gently among the translucent pineapple wedges and flabby melon chunks. Security guards converged on the object, conferred briefly, and sent the skinniest one sprinting out.

“It’s okay, Molly.” Mercedes Yamashiro patted my arm. “This kine stuff follows Jimmy around. I cannot even remember how many times he’s had blood thrown at him, or people make one human chain to keep him out of somewhere. Not your guys’ fault that people can be so rude. What was that thing? Not a bomb, I hope.”

“Look over there,” I said. “Our dean seems really upset. This is very unfortunate.”

I had been secretly hoping for a minor disruption like this—something that would let me get out of there and back to work as quickly as possible. I could see Vogel now across the room, shouting into his cell phone, his jowly face wobbling like an enraged blancmange.


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