Kai Cooke & Ongoing Characters

Kai Cooke -- the Surfing Detective:

Kai Cooke is a licensed private investigator in the state of Hawai‘i. He 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:

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 in Blue.”

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:

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 groves.

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.

Maile Barnes:

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.



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