Excerpt: The Place of Refuge – Chapter 1 -3



Jessie looked at Teddy Dias and thought about having his children.

What got her thinking that way was the look of fatherly indulgence on his face, which was a little weird, considering. Teddy was watching two of his underlings administer a beat-down to a surfer-dealer named Vince, who had come up short on his money.

Vince wasn’t enjoying himself, but he seemed to realize that it could be worse. The two men using their fists on him worked without noticeable enthusiasm. The crowd in Lori’s Bar stayed true to the North Shore surfer’s code of conduct and went about their drinking and palavering as if they saw nothing. And Jessie found herself ignoring the spectacle in favor of June Cleaver fantasies of life with Teddy.

It was more than a little weird.

“Okay,” said Teddy. “Gabe, Frank, that’s enough.”

Gabe was holding Vince up while Frank gave the surfer’s ribs some extra attention. Frank let fly with one more gut punch.

“Frank,” said Teddy, “that was unnecessary.”

The false benevolence was supposed to make Vince feel grateful to the same man who had ordered his pain. Teddy knew it, Vince knew it, and Jessie understood it too. She could tell that Frank didn’t take the rebuke seriously.

Gabe let Vince fall to the floor, which was probably the worst part of his punishment. Six different kinds of tetanus lurked down there.

Teddy reached his arm around Jessie’s shoulders. She recalled the first time he had done that. She had wanted to cringe, but at some point that urge had faded. She could feel the thrum of blood under his skin. He would be hot for her tonight, and she wouldn’t have a problem with that.

Across the table, Teddy’s new friend Chuey put a sycophantic grin on his face.

“Hey, Teddy, you run a tight operation. My uncle’s gonna like that.”

Jessie didn’t like the young man, but she didn’t expect her opinion to count.

Teddy stroked her hair.

“So,” he said, “how’d you like to go to Mexico.”

“As long as it’s with you, Teddy.”

He turned back toward Chuey and grinned.

“The boss here says we’re good to go. Let’s talk details.”

From the beginning Jessie had pretended that details bored her. She still had trouble believing that Teddy bought her airhead act, but here was this up-and-coming pakalolo dealer talking shop right in front of her.

She listened for a while, but not long enough to make him wonder. Then she turned to Delilah.

“Am I going to like Nogales?”

Chuey’s girlfriend smiled back.

“Home is where the heart is. I like it because Chuey’s there.”

“You ever feel homesick?”

“A little, but not for here. For Vegas. That’s where I met Chuey.”

“How long you been in Vegas?”

“Couple of years.”

Jessie knew that story. Economic refugees from Hawaii made a major contribution toward keeping the Vegas casinos and hotels going. At some point, someone from Hawaii must have caught on in Nevada and told his cousins and his cousins’ friends, and now there was a revolving door.

“What brings you back here?” said Jessie.


Family. The word explained a lot in Hawaii.

“Chuey wants to meet them. Seriously, though, you’ll like Mexico. There’s even a few of us there.”

“No kidding.”

“One guy I’m thinking of in particular. King Kamehameha come back to life.”

“What’s his name?”

“Hosea,” said Delilah.

Jessie didn’t realize at first that she was staring, but then she noticed the strange look that Delilah was giving her.

“Hosea what?”

“Huh,” said Delilah after a moment. “I don’t think I ever heard his last name. He’s just Hosea. That’s kind of the way it goes there. Lots of people are vague about who they are, or how they got there. Especially how they got there.”

Jessie got up from her seat.

“Going to the ladies’.”

Delilah didn’t get up to go with her, which surprised Jessie a little. Delilah was usually big on the girl stuff. But if she didn’t want to come along, that would make things simpler.

Teddy nodded, only half hearing. Jessie made her way toward the rest rooms. Coming into Lori’s earlier, she had suppressed her disgust as her flip flops stuck and pulled loose from the floor with each step. Now she barely noticed.

Inside the women’s room she glanced around. Just to make sure, she stooped and checked under the door of each stall. Unless someone was standing on a toilet, she had the place to herself.

She needed to make this fast. Delilah could change her mind, and Teddy was capable of the odd attack of paranoia. He might bull his way right in here. She speed-dialed a phone number filed under “Janice” in her contacts.

“Hey, Jess,” said a woman’s voice. It was always a woman. Teddy might be listening, and she couldn’t have a man answering her friend Janice’s number.

“Green,” said Jessie.

It was the color of the day. If she didn’t work it into whatever she said, they would come running to get her out of trouble.

“What’s up?” said Detective Ronald Tedeschi.

“Teddy’s going to Mexico. I can go if you want me to.”

“Damn, that’s huge.”

She could almost hear him thinking over the airwaves.

“I told you something like this could happen, but I didn’t really think it would. This is going to go interagency.”

Which meant more opportunities for bureaucratic fuck-ups.


“Soon.” She said.” Any day.”

“I’ll set something up. Can you get away?”

“I can always go shopping.”

“Damn,” said Tedeschi again. “This is where we find out what you’re made of. You’ll be pretty much on your own.”

I’m counting on it, Jessie thought.

That was the one thing she couldn’t tell anyone.