Kai Cooke & Ongoing Characters
-- the Surfing Detective:
Kai Cooke is a licensed private investigator in the state of
stands six feet-even in sandals, khakis, and aloha shirt, and has sun-bleached
brown hair. His shoulders are broad, as you’d expect of a surfer, and his
chest bears his badge of honor: sixteen pink welts left by a tiger shark. Kai’s
sand-toned business card displays a hanging ten surfer and says “Confidential
Investigations – All Islands.” His tiny office above fragrant Fujiyama’s
Flower Lei’s overlooks Maunakea Street, a storied stretch that intersects
Chinatown and seedy Hotel Street. Atop his filing cabinet stands his tarnished
trophy and faded glory: “Third Place--Classic Longboard--Makaha.” Business-like
in most things, he is blind to the dust gathering on the trophy and to the pile
of papers in his overflowing inbox.
The stereotype of the dimwitted, inarticulate wave-riding dude couldn’t
be further from the character of the Surfing Detective. Surfing actually helps
him solve cases: “Sherlock Holmes had his pipe,” says Kai, “I
have my surfboard. Floating on the glassy sea I drift into a kind of trance and
can disentangle the most intricate web.” For this reason he rarely resorts
to strong-arm tactics, preferring instead the more contemplative style of the
soul-surfer. He is an idealist who looks for the best in people and a realist
who is prepared for the worst. And for the worst of the worst, he has his Smith & Wesson.
Kai (Hawaiian for “sea”) was hanaied at age eight by the Kealoha
ohana, related through his aunt’s marriage, after his parents were killed
in a airplane crash on the Big Island. He formed an especially close bond with
his surfer cousin Alika (see below). Now in the prime of his life, Kai is still
single and searching for “Miss Right.” To women he is polite, soft-spoken,
and erotically drawn. He tends to fall in love too fast, often with the wrong
person. Though a loner who prefers working cases solo, he sometimes enlists the
help of the following ongoing characters in the series.
Tommy Woo is an attorney, jazz virtuoso, and Kai’s most-trusted
friend. In addition to providing client referrals, Tommy gives
the P.I. worldly-wise counsel and occasionally covers his back.
Divorced, pushing fifty, with a shock of grey hair and tortoise
shell glasses, Tommy adorns his loose-jointed and lanky form in
all black like a parish priest. His Chinese Catholic father and
Jewish mother exposed him from infancy to their diverse interests.
Tommy developed the wisdom of Confucius, the funny bone of a Rabbi,
the pomp and circumstance of the Pope, and the musical soul of
an African. He can spin ethnic and off-color yarns until you cry
uncle, then step to the keyboard and take your breath away with “Rhapsody
Though notorious for his tasteless jokes which offend just about
everyone, Tommy has not one prejudiced bone in his body. But he
is cheap. Like Kai, he
runs a one-man show to keep expenses low, so that he can work less and play
jazz more. Around the demands of a full-time attorney, Tommy Woo squeezes in
gigs several nights a week at various clubs around town. How he manages to
wrap up a late-night session, then cruise into his legal office--eyes wide
open--the next morning is anybody’s guess.
Mrs. Fujiyama is the sole proprietor, since her husband’s passing, of
Fujiyama’s Flower Leis on fabled Maunakea Street. She is a bone thin,
silver-haired native of Osaka, Japan, whose small frame and retiring nature
can be deceptive. She is a dynamo of energy and will who has -- when necessary
-- wilted more than one big, husky man who made the mistake of crossing her.
Behind her warm, humble, self-effacing smile and her half glasses worn low
on her nose, she runs her flower shop with the cunning, cool sagacity of a
hammerhead shark. But to her employees and tenants she is an island oasis --
the epitome of gentle, balmy kindness as long as they do their job, pay their
rent, and don’t trash the building. Though she likes to keep relations
with her tenants businesslike and formal, Mrs. Fujiyama sometimes takes an
interest in Kai’s cases and, less welcome, his love life.
Mrs. Fujiyama’s Lei Girls (Blossom,
Joon, Chastity, Leimomi):
Mrs. Fujiyama’s four lei girls -- Blossom, Joon, Chastity, Leimomi --
are young nymphettes, most in their teens, who string fragrant leis in the
back of her shop. They sometimes play a role in Kai’s cases, or unadvisedly
in his personal life.
Cousin Alika Kealoha:
Kai’s closest relation in Hawai‘i is his cousin, surf mentor, and
North Shore big wave rider, Alika Kealoha, who helps track a missing surfer
in WIPEOUT! Alika is a fearless waterman who charges the biggest waves legendary
Waimea Bay serves up. His shoulders and arms are massive, his torso shaped
in a powerful “V,” and his smooth, clear skin the color of mocha.
An artist with wood, he is the finest finish carpenter on the North Shore,
if not the whole island. His wife, Mele, is an accountant. Their two keiki,
Keahi and Pua, help tend the family taro patch and mango, papaya, and banana
Madame Zenobia --psychic and palm reader—and Kai’s
other office tenants:
Madame Zenobia, psychic and palm reader, is one of four tenants
whose offices share with Kai’s the second floor of Fujiyama’s Flower Leis. Behind
her psychedelic-colored glass bead curtains flickers a single candle. Jasmine
incense wafts into the hallway in a musty, spiced haze. Perched on a wicker
throne in the dim smoky light, Madame in her bejeweled turban whispers tremulously
to her clients, glued to her every word. Kai assumes she is a charlatan or
a front for some other illegitimate business, but he has never bothered to
check. Kai’s other tenants include a free-lance editor, bookkeeper (who’s
never in), and passport photographer. These may play roles in future cases.
Former K-9 cop who becomes a pet detective after her husband and fellow officer falls in the line of duty. Kai had a crush on Maile in high school and meets her again when she helps him recover a stolen golden retriever in Kula. After working with the spunky, strong-willed pet detective, Kai becomes convinced she’s the love of his life. Trouble is, he has to convince Maile that he’s the guy for her.
Famous surfing dog stolen from radio pitchman Barry Buckingham in Kula, the golden retriever is recovered by Kai, with the help of pet detective Maile Barnes. She eventually adopts the dog, who becomes the only link between Kai and Maile during stormy periods in their relationship.