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Murder Under the Palms

Police Detective Pauline Clucas was on Maui for a vacation to get away from it all.  Take  a  breather.  She was dressing to meet friends at the Five Palms restaurant when a blare of sirens whined to silence in front of her Kihei condo complex.  

She twisted the lid on her makeup when she heard the commotion outside her bedroom window.  There hush tones of urgency as people scurried along the passage way.  

“Move it, Maguire.”

“Who’s got crime scene tape?”

“I do. “

“Captain Quan is already on the scene and man he’s in one of his moods.”

From down the passage way came a booming voice.  “Seal off this passage way and post an officer at the elevator.  No one comes in or out without an escort.  This is a murder scene.”

“Shit,  Quan heard you.”

‘Murder? ’hought Pauline Clucas.  She added a final dab of lipstick, pulled  her badge from her purse and headed for the door.

Inside condo #511,  Lieutenant Steven Quan surveyed the body of a dead male.  “What have you got so far Echo?”

“The body was discovered by a cleaning lady.” Echo, refered to a clip board and continued.  “The Vic been dead for at least two days.  Have to wait for forensics for time and cause of death.  But looking at his skull I’d say blunt trauma.”  

“Any sign of the murder weapon?”

“Not so far.”

“Who’s working on I.D.?”

“Hey! Hey Lady you can’t go in there!” At the door to condo #511 a uniform police officer tried to restrain Detective  Clucas.  “Lady.”

“Aloha, Steven.”  Detective Clucas shouted as she strolled down the hall.  “Long time no see.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!  Just what I need.”

“Saw your yellow tape.  Need some help, Captain Quan?”

“No thank you.”

“Wonderful.  I’m always willing to give up some vacation time to help a fellow law officer.”

“No, thank you, Detective.  Everything’s under control.  Go somewhere – anywhere – watch a sunset -- have a Mai Tai.”

“What’s the victim’s name?”

“We don’t have an I.D. yet,”  Officer Echo offered.

“Forced entry?” Asked Detective Clucas.

“Not that we can deter—“

“Echo, damn it.  Don’t encourage her.” Captain Quan turned back to Detective Clucas.  “You’re still here.  Why haven’t you left?”

“Steven,  I’m staying three doors down in #508.  How can I feel safe with a murderer loose?  Who knows, I could be next.”

“Wouldn’t that be nice.”

“Steven that was mean spirited.  I’m feeling a lot of animosity.”  Clucas gave Captain Quan a playful punch on the shoulder.  “Come on.  Where’s the old Aloha Spirit we hear so much about?”

“Okay.  A quick look.  Then out.  Promise?”

Detective Clucas raised her right arm.  “Promise.”  

Officer Echo and Captain Quan watched as she stepped over the body went to the window then  onto the balcony overlooking the swimming pool and Pacific Ocean.  Detective Clucas reversed course through the kitchen and peeked into the bedroom. Then fell to one knee and took a long look at the body.

“Find the murder weapon?”

“Not yet.”  Officer Echo said.  “How about—“

A female officer entered the condo waving a sheet of paper.  “We have an I.D., Captain.  A name. Four names actually.  Samuel Finley Breese Morse  IV.”

“Ah, that explains a few things,”  Detective Clucas said.

“What things?”  Asked Captain Quan.

“Come on Steven.  American history.  Famous painters.  Famous inventors. “ Detective Clucas pointed to the body on the floor.  “I’ll bet he was a chip off the old block.”

“And you come to that deduction because—“

“I’ll be back in a bit.”  Detective Clucas headed for the door.

“Where are you going?”

Clucas pressed a finger across her lips and whispered. “I have to break a date and get an internet connection.”

When Clucas disappeared,  Quan yelled at the officer posted at the door.  “Maguire,  DO NOT let anyone else in here without my permission.  Close the door.”

Officer Echo shuffled his feet and asked, “Not being nosey.  Just curious.  What is it between  you at that woman?”

“She cheated.  Now find out who the hell Samuel Finley Breese Morse  IV is.  .  . Was.”

Two hours later the Maui forensic team was leaving as Detective Clucas bulled her way back into condo #511 carrying a tray of Mai Tai cocktails complete with umbrellas. “

“You promised” Captain Quan said.  “What are you doing here?”

“Here, here.  Or on Maui?”  Clucas looked from man to man.  “Enjoying my favorite things.  Surf, sun, golf,  music, snorkeling, Mai Tai’s,” she held out the tray of  Mai Tai’s to Captain Quan and Officer Echo, “and of course trying to help you solve a murder.”

“This is an active homicide.  On Maui we don’t drink and do —“

“I didn’t put any booze in yours,” Clucas grinned.

Quan looked at the tray. “Which one’s mine?”

“I don’t remember.” Clucas picked up a Mai Tai at random and took a gulp. “But I think we can de-active this case.”


“Really. How do you want the facts?”  When neither man responded Clucas continued.  “First,  I was right about Samuel Finley Breese Morse  IV.  He was a chip off his great, great, great grandfather’s block.  He was a historian and a mathematical genius.  Started working for Bell Laboratories in the late sixties –which leads us straight to the motive.”

Quan sighed,  grabbed a Mai Tai and sat on the couch where Officer Echo joined him.  “How does working for Bell Laboratories lead us straight to the motive?”

“Ah, ha.  I’ve got your attention. .. That took a little research.  I had to go all the way back to 1536 and a man named Francesco Lapi,  a Florentine merchant, who used the ‘GIFT’ to denote units of wine called amphorae.”

“Never heard of amphorae, “ Echo said.

“What ‘GIFT?” grumbled Captain Quan.

“Good question.  But not so fast, Captain.  Let’s get to the motive first.”  Clucas handed both men a pencil and a pad of paper.  “You boys any good at math?”  

Echo shrugged.  Quan gave her a ‘where-the-hell- is- this -going?  look.  “Yeah, I’m not so good either. But try this.  Supposed you had something that might by be worth one tenth of a penny.”  Both men nodded. “If you sold ten in one second you make one cent.   If you made one cent a second you’d make sixty cents in minutes and three dollars and sixty cents in one hour and eighty-six dollars and forty cents in one day.”

“Detective  Clucas, this isn’t Jeopardy. ”

“Sir, they don’t do math problems on Jeopardy, “ Echo said.

Quan shifted to the far side of couch as Detective Clucas continued.

“I’m giving you the motive, Steven.  Is the math’s too tough?”  Clucas looked at both men.  “Okay, let me do it for you. In one year your eighty-six dollars and forty cents a day would become thirty-one thousand, one hundred and four dollars.  Now if you count the years from January 1, 1983 until the present  you’d have to times thirty-nine to thirty-one thousand, one –“

“Stop it!  Stop it!  Who gives a damn about January 1, 1983” Quan downed his Mai Tai and reached for another.  “You are toying with us. “

“Au-contaire , Captain.  I’m explaining the motive. And a lucrative one it might have been.  Thirty-one million times one billion almost every minute would have made Samuel Finley Breese Morse  IV the richest man in the world.  But he didn’t want it.  He gave the world a gift. A gift that maybe, just maybe was not his to give.  The murder was a crime of envy and revenge. “

“I’m still confused.” Captain Quan said.

“Of course,” Detective Clucas nodded. “It is confusing. As to the murder itself,  the answer has been waiting at the front door in a letter the victim left at the front desk of this complex.  Steven,  the whole thing was a set up.  Samuel Finley Breese Morse  IV,  through very generous in one regard was very… well miserly in others.   He didn’t pay for this trip to Maui.  He thought he won it in a raffle.  But there was no raffle. The murderer knew he was cheap and sent him this letter. . .”

Clucas hand a folded piece of paper to Captain Quan and continued.  “Samuel Finley Breese Morse  IV showed this to Matt at the registration desk.  He even asked Matt if it was the ‘real deal.’ He took a picture of all the info with his cell phone and left on the registration desk. ”

Captain Quan unfolded the paper.  Officer Echo leaned over for a closer look.  The paper was multi-colored with palm trees on each side.  Two hula girls waved out of the windows of a little grass shack at the bottom.  


Aloha! Congratulations! Here is all the information you will need to enjoy your island sojourn.  
Please save the following - or take a photo with your cell phone
Codes will change upon your departure

   PARKING SLOT       - A23 facing toward the resort
   LAND LINE               - 808-555-4663
   DOOR CODE               - #9294321
   POOL CODE              - 6321
   POOL BATHROOM  - 6321       
    BAR-B-Q                    - 6321


“Looks official, doesn’t it, Captain?”

“It does.”

“It isn’t. But it was good enough to get the victim away from home and safety so our perp could commit murder.”


“All the facts point to – let me get to that in a minute. . . lastly the murder weapon.”

“You found the murder weapon?”

“It was right here in this room. . . but now,”  Detective Clucas pointed to the balcony. “It could be somewhere on the lawn below.”

“We’ve conducted a thorough search of that area,” Officer Echo said.

“Or it could be floating in Pacific.” Detective Clucas waved good-bye and started down the hall.  “ I’ve got to go.  Meeting some friends for dinner at the Five Palms restaurant and I’ve already delayed our date twice.”

“Hold it Pauline,” Quan said.

“Ah,  Steven we’re finally on a one name basis again.  Aren’t you sweet.”

“You didn’t tell us anything.  We still don’t know who did it –maybe a  he – how he did it.  Why he did it.  Or what he used to do it.”

“Sure I did. I told you what he did it with. I’ll bet it was sitting right here in this condo waiting for our victim to arrive.  I’ve  laid everything on the table, Steven. Give it some thought. Or call me tomorrow.  We can make a date. Maybe play around.”  Detective Clucas laughed and with a swish of her skirt left the crime scene.  


Dear Reader can you help Captain Quan and Officer Echo to the solution.  Everything is there in the clues above.

Who was the murder?  Hint you don’t need a name.
Why did he kill Samuel Finley Breese Morse  IV?
What gift did Samuel Finley Breese Morse IV give the world that was going to be sold for one-tenth of a cent and would have made him the richest man in world?  Hint you have probably used it once or twice already today.

What was the murder weapon?



At the Tiki Bar later that night, Officer Echo asked,  “Captain I don’t want to be nosey,  but –“

“You are nosey, Echo.”

“Yes, Sir.  I know.  But how long were you and Detective Clucas an item.  She is a very attractive woman.  And—“

“We were never and item.”

“You said she cheated.”

“She did.  At golf,  you horses ass.  Used a foot wedge.”

“Foot wedge?

“She must have  kicked the ball with her damn foot.”

“You saw her?”

“. . . No.  But she was in the deep rough.  Her ball was stuck under a palm tree.  We were playing for five dollars a hole.  I was already down twenty-five dollars.  I looked away for one second.  And her ball comes flying out and onto the  – “

“Captain . . . I think I know why we’ll probably never find the murder weapon.”


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