Unerwater rocks cracked, boiled up, and burst to the surface in a dark circle. Kumai hoped that her dive team reached the air in time to protect their ears from the blast. A percussive wave slapped her and she swallowed a mouthful of sea water. A coughing fit made her retch. Her body felt miserable in every way.
Taking a breather in the survival float posture, she laid back on her tank and thought. If the explosion didn’t draw the boat back to retrieve them, she was sure that the divers had a plan for signaling to be extracted.
A flare shot up a few hundred yards to the south of her.
The boat swung around for the diver who signaled. Magnum lights washed over the dark surface in a search pattern. Kumai held up the dive mask with the lens aimed to reflect the light, while she waved with the other hand. The boat angled toward her. They stopped twice more before reaching her. She was unable to tread water any more and had to be pulled to the boat by a rescue hook. Her leg muscles were shaking from sprinting under water to get clear of the explosion. She sat down with a thunk and shook off her vest and tank.
On deck, the team leader was telling Peter about how they had found the cases filled with dynamite. Kumai counted four divers. The boat started and stopped again. They pulled the fifth diver out from the water, his ears bleeding.
“This is out of our hands now.” Peter said in a low voice to the team leader. “We have to let them think we’re giving up. If we don’t, they’ll get even more aggressive. It will endanger the whole mission to press it.”
The dive leader’s back was to Kumai so she could only hear his tone of protest, but not his words.
“I know. But we need to back off.” Peter answered.
The diver walked to the tank rack. Kumai stayed on the bench where she had landed. The medic was busy with the last diver they had retrieved, or she would have asked him what to do to get her legs working again.
“I’m sorry about getting you into this.” Peter said to her.
“I signed up.” Kumai said.
“Thanks. Now unsign yourself. Do you have somewhere you can lay low for a while?” He asked.
“How long a while?” She asked.
“A week, maybe two. I can let you know when the coast is clear.”
“That’s okay. Won’t hurt to stay vigilant until the killers are caught.”
“But you will go away, right?”
“Sure.” To the farm down the road. Her calves shot pain like a bad cramp. It took her a moment to remember the hit she took from a fish club. “I’m gonna need help getting home. Can you drop me?” She asked.
“Are you injured?” He asked.
“Just bruised, but I’ll need help walking.”
“I’ll get the medic.” Peter stood up.
“No, I can wait. But maybe we could route our return via Puako and I could use that dinghy again.”
“As long as someone rows you.” He said.
“The medic?” Kumai asked.
“That’ll work.” Peter said, “I can have an ambulance waiting at your place.”
“For the other divers. And for the medic to have a ride back to work while he monitors them.”
“Oh. Okay then.” Kumai said.
The sail home and her hot shower were a blur. Kumai hobbled to her bed and dove directly into a dream-filled sleep. Taka was kissing her, but it was a Kirby-passionate kiss. She felt confusion and guilt about not knowing exactly who she was kissing. But whoever it was started licking her face. She wondered if this was like exchanging ha, some cultural difference that she hadn’t learned about. Still, it felt pretty weird to have her face licked.
She put her hand out to stop the Kirby-Taka guy, but now he had hair all over his body, like fur. “What?” she muttered.
He whimpered. The licking resumed.
“Okay, okay, wait.” She said and woke up. She opened her eyes to see Mana staring at her, his tail thumping the bed.
“Oh thank goodness.” She said and got a fresh lick for it. “Mana. It must be Wednesday.”
Sunlight had warmed the bedside table where she kept her glass of water. A cardinal sang in the yard, “Birdie, birdie, birdie.” She sat up and felt all the bruising from the day before. Somewhere in the top drawer of her bedside table she knew she would find a tube of Arnica pellets for treating muscle strain. She used it for overworked muscles but had noticed it listed bruises. She twisted out seven of the pellets, which may have been sugar pills but they helped her feel better, and let them dissolve under her tongue.
She got up and dressed to meet Susan. Her bedside clock said that she didn’t have any time to lie down for another few minutes in her clothes. It said that she had slept away the morning.
A delicious breeze came in from the lanai carrying smells of lime, coffee, and bacon. Mana trotted to the door and Kumai followed him out. Bonnie had set the table for four. Maybe Susan had a companion with her.
“D’ya get some rest?” Bonnie asked, coming out through the kitchen. “Lemme see those calves.”
Kumai nodded yes and rotated.
“Ouch.” Bonnie said.
Rather than look at the bruises and feel even worse, Kumai scanned for where the coffee smell had come from. Bonnie handed her a cup, hot, strong, and bitter.
“Just like I like my men.” Bonnie said.
Kumai smiled. “Thanks. Where’s Susan?”
“She went on. Tom took her to the airport in Lightning. Then he picked up Sage so they could come back with your car.”
“Oh that’s great. Thank you for thinking of that.”
“They’re due here in a minute, so I let the dog go wake you up. He’s been begging to see you.”
“Nice.” Kumai said absently, trying to remember what she had going today other than getting Mana and taking Susan to the airport.
“And your Aunt called, said she’s fixing supper for you and to come as early as you like.”
“Ah, that’s what I have today. I’m housesitting for my ohana for the next couple of nights. I’ll go pack if we’re waiting on the others to eat.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to just sit’n’stare?” Bonnie asked, “You been through a lot.”
“I think I’ll do the sitting down at the farm, thanks.”
Kumai was tossing toiletries into her catchall when she heard Tom and Sage come in, talking very fast. She went out to see what was going on.
“Kumai,” Tom said, dropping to his knees, “I’m so sorry about Inigo. He’s such a great little car and I just keep messing him up.”
“That’s okay, Tom. It’s just some marshmallow. Maybe you can chip away at it a little today?”
“That’s marshmallow?” He asked. “It looked more like cotton candy or fiberglass insulation or something, all white and fluffy. But now the front end…”
“What? Wait. What are you talking about?” Kumai asked.
“Idiot rear-ended me.” Sage muttered.
“No! Lightning!!” Bonnie wailed. “Boy, if you even scratched my truck…”
“You were driving Susan’s truck?” Kumai asked.
“I meant to say ‘her truck’.” Bonnie said. “I gotta go see the damages.” She dashed out the front door.
Sage said, “I was driving Lightning.”
Tom got up from kneeling and started to follow Bonnie.
“Wait, Tommy. What happened?” Kumai asked.
“He’s claiming now it was a mongoose.” Sage raised both eyebrows and turned to go into the kitchen.
“I’m a little fuzzy on all the details.” Tom started.
Kumai put her hand on her hip.
Tom started to giggle hysterically. “It’s not funny. I know. I know.” He tried to stop and got the hiccups as well. “The dash was all torn up, you know, like all cottony and fuzzy.” He giggled again and gestured piles of round stuff. “Which didn’t seem right. But I didn’t know if an airbag had gone off or something. And I thought you’d gotten some sort of car freshener like a carnival plus wild animal musk or something. I thought they should name it ‘zoo’ ’cause it reminded me of the smell of going to the zoo when you have some candy with you? But that didn’t seem right either.”
Kumai sat down.
“So then I was like, ‘Well, I’m sure it still runs okay even if it looks and smells not quite right.’ And it did, he ran good as ever. So I took off to catch up with Sage and follow her home.”
“Could have followed a little farther behind…” Sage said from the kitchen.
“All the time. She tells me all the time ‘increase your following distance’. That’s her way of saying that she thinks I’m tailgating.”
“Now why do you suppose they call it that, I wonder?” Sage asked. “Seen any tailgates up close lately, Tom?”
“So, uh, anyway we were going along the Queen’s Highway, you know, where there’s nowhere safe to run off the road…”
“Like all the roads on the Big Island?” Kumai asked.
“Yeah, like that. But then this mongoose runs out.”
“You veered for an animal?” Kumai asked. “Where’d you learn to drive? Never swerve to avoid animals.”
“Well, that just it. I always thought they meant the ones outside of the vehicle.” Tom said.
“Outside?” Kumai repeated. “There was a mongoose inside my car?”
“Maybe it was what tore up your dash.” Tom said. “I’m not blaming it. I just want you to know that I didn’t do that.”
“Tore up my… oh no. The marshmallows.”
“You keep saying that. But I think it’s cotton candy or something.”
“Tommy, the gift you left for me on the dash?” She said.
“It was marshmallow and it exploded and burned onto the vinyl.”
“Oh.” He said, processing. “Oh.”
“How bad is it?” Kumai asked.
Just then Bonnie reentered the house. “Ho ho! That Lightning is a tank. Hell yeah. Not. A. Scratch. He’s a survivalist’s dream.”
Kumai looked at Tom to remind him there was still a question hanging around waiting for an answer.
“It still drives and steers.” Tom said. “But it’s a lot shorter and more like a waffle fry than a straight fry.”
Kumai groaned. She took a breath, rubbed her shoulders, and looked up at the ceiling fan drawing slow circles. “Let’s eat and I’ll look at it later.”
“Brunch is served. Anybody want champagne?” Bonnie asked. “Susan brought us some.”
They all looked at each other then nodded no. They went out to the lanai and sat down. The stone floor of the lanai was warming up in the sun. The gentle heat felt wonderful on Kumai’s sore feet.
Bonnie had made a tropical salad with chunks of mango, papaya, pineapple, apple bananas, and kiwi in coconut milk. She squeezed a cut lime over the mixture, stirred in the juice, and served everyone. A platter of bacon and a rack of toast circulated the table.
“Susan said for me to use my, uh, Lightning while she’s outta town.” Bonnie announced.
“That’s pretty cool.” Sage said, “Getting to drive your truck after you sold it.”
Bonnie continued. “But we can share him if you need a car.” She looked at Kumai.
“I thought the Range Rover was Kumai’s.” Tom said.
“What Range Rover?” Kumai asked.
“The one they delivered to the middle of your driveway.” Bonnie said. “I suppose you didn’t notice the humongous honking thing out there that is blinding everyone with its brilliance.”
“I came in from the ocean last night, remember? And went straight to bed.” Kumai said.
Bonnie pointed inside to the kitchen counter. “The documents were on the doorstep this morning. Title’s in your name. Insurance card. Even the service, inspections, registrations, and tires are paid up for the next five years. It’s all in the packet of papers.”
“What?” Sage asked. “Did you find that treasure or something, Kumai?”
“I would never buy a Range Rover.” She scoffed.
“It kinda suits you.” Tom said.
“It’s a poser vehicle. I’d buy a Jeep or something.”
Sage looked at her. “Status issues?”
“So who bought it?” Bonnie asked.
They ate in silence. Kumai didn’t notice the zing of the fresh fruits and missed the tastes of the salted coconut oil on her toast. She was preoccupied with the idea that the vehicle might be some sort of bribe, payoff, or apology from Skip Summerbourne. But why would he admit doing wrong? If it was from him, she was returning it. “I guess I better go look in my driveway.” She said and pushed away from the table.
No one said anything. She heard their chairs scrape the stone floor as she went out the front door.
Inigo sat in the driveway, the nose of the passenger side unmarked. Some wrinkles were evident over on the driver’s side of the hood, however. And the dashboard was a cloud of white fluff instead of the smooth black vinyl it should have been.
Her eyes wandered to the silver Range Rover sitting next to her little blue disaster. The Rover had chrome hub caps, brushed aluminum wheels and trim, and cream leather interior. It looked… cool. She sighed. It was exactly something she would want but could never afford. That bastard.
On closer inspection, she might not have chosen the vanity plates which said, “GOTOGIRL.” She had to admit it wasn’t bad for a concierge name. But she didn’t necessarily have that job anymore. Which reminded her she still needed to stop by the resort. That was something she felt as much like doing today as sticking her hand in a blender.
Now, if the plates said “SNOBALL,” she would have been all over that. In fact, she saw the keys dangling in the ignition and wondered about a little test drive to the Puako store for a package of her favorite cakes. She turned to get her purse, saw the driver’s side of Inigo, and her three friends watching her from the front door.
She gasped but kept her expression under control. Inigo had a permanent sneer that revealed the front tire like a black tooth. That combined with the popcorn dash and wire-tied trunk made her want to cry. She put her hand on the windshield frame and whispered, “Inigo. I’m sorry. You didn’t do anything wrong. Snoball here could never replace you. In fact, I’m taking her back today, so don’t worry when I drive off in her. I don’t need her. I’ve got you.”
She sniffled and walked back to the house. No one said a word. She looked through the stack of vehicle documents. They were just as Bonnie said, all in Kumai’s name. To all appearances, Kumai had bought the thing.
She grabbed her phone and punched in the listed dealer’s telephone number. Her friends all went back out to the lanai to give her privacy.
She came out to the lanai a few minutes later. “Tom, I’m going to need you to meet me at the dealers in a little while. Can you do that and maybe Sage follow in Lightning to bring you back here?”
“Sure.” They both said.
“What’d they say?” Bonnie asked.
“The didn’t tell me anything helpful.” Kumai said. “So I’ll go see them in person and just leave it with them.”
“You don’t want it?” Sage asked.
“Is it possible that you’re being, well, I dunno.” Sage said.
“A little pretentious? You kinda have a thing about money and the lack of it, you know?” Sage said.
“That is so untrue.” Kumai protested. “I have friends who are homeless. I don’t judge people by how little they have.”
“How about by how much they have?” Sage asked.
Kumai worked her lips to say something, but she couldn’t think of an answer. Somehow, though, it was different. She just didn’t know how to explain it. So she simply said, “I’m not classist.” And then she wondered if that was even a word. “I’m gonna head out. Tom, do you mind waiting for me to call you? I don’t know how long this will take.”
“No worries.” Tom said.
“Thank you for breakfast, Bonnie.” Kumai said and leaned down to peck Bonnie on the cheek. The older woman blushed and looked down as she smiled.
“Mana!” Kumai called out. She gathered her bags and said, “See you soon, everyone.”
“Bye.” They said in unison.
She covered the passenger seat with a towel and lifted the dog into the Rover. She patted her derelict convertible and said, “See you in a few minutes.”
She sat in park for a while to figure out how to drive the vehicle, noting the location of the emergency flashers, emergency brake, and wipers. If she didn’t know better, she would have thought she had wet her pants. A strange warmth crept up under her bottom. She looked at the dog. She put her hand under her thigh. Heat. The seats were heated. After a search, she found the control to turn off the seat heater and looked for a seat cooler. Nope. Ha! This really was a stupid vehicle.
As she backed out of her driveway, she thought about the idea of this being a gift from Skip. If he had tried to kill her yesterday, why would he give her a vehicle today? She slammed on the brakes and jumped out. Then she realized she had left the dog in there, and if it was about to explode, she would never forgive herself for leaving him in there. She raced over to the passenger side and pulled out the dog.
The Rover sat halfway in the street, running, doors open on both sides. Kumai stood by her mailbox holding the dog. A car came down Puako road and went around the vehicle. It all seemed so quiet. So normal. Except for the mangled Miata. She wondered if she should get out of the way of potential shrapnel or get in the SUV and drive. She looked up to see her neighbor across the street peeking through the banana leaves watching her.