44 Kanahakumaha ~ In the Dark

Kumai sat in the dark on the lanai and thought of three options.  If she called the landlord, he would check the perimeter for intruders and report back to her.  Or she could go back home to Puako with the animals.  Or she could go out there herself.

darkenedjungle

The landlord option got scratched first.  Whatever might be out in the jungle was less of a threat than spending an evening with a grown man who wouldn’t look her in the eye when they talked.  Going home tempted her.  But she would be at equal or possibly more risk there.  Doing nothing wasn’t much of an option if she wanted to sleep tonight.

She grabbed a large flashlight, kept it turned off, and went outside with Mana.  She stepped carefully through the dark pathway to the garden and found Dave in the fig tree.  Dancing with agitation, the parrot rattled the leaves as he hopped from foot to foot until she scooped him into her hands and held him.  “You’re okay.”  She murmured into the gray-feathered head.  “You did a good job of scaring away those trespassers.”

Mana sniffed the ground and ran from one spot to another.  He followed a scent trail under the lanai.

“Leave it.”  Kumai commanded when the scent pulled him toward the highway.  The intruders were long gone by now.

They walked a large circuit of the surrounding area then traced a smaller perimeter.  Satisfied that it might be all clear, she turned on the flashlight and walked around the coffee shack itself and the little ohana room.  Boot prints were pressed into the mud ten feet below Kumai’s screened windows.  Her stomach tightened.  She shut off the flashlight and listened.

bootprintCrickets and coqui chirped, mist condensed to droplets on leaves, the refrigerator upstairs turned on, then off.  A truck rumbled past on the highway.  A night-blooming jasmine released its cloud of fragrance.  The air turned colder as night closed in.  Kumai shivered.  The dog sat down, then laid down to wait.  Still Kumai listened.  Nothing stirred that shouldn’t.

Finally, chilled through, she took the animals to her room.  Her few belongings took only a moment to pack, although she couldn’t find her hairbrush at first.  It turned out to be over on the desk that she never uses.

Everything went upstairs with her to the main house.  She locked the sliding back door behind her, went around and locked the front door, and did a thorough check of the rooms with Mana’s help.

Assured that they were alone, she relaxed and started a hot bath.  A few drops of Hawaiian sandalwood oil and two sticks of vetiver root scented the water with wood and earth.  She placed a lighted candle on the tub rim and slipped into the water.  Every muscle unkinked and her tension unwound in the fragrant heat.  She sighed and soaked.

In a cloud of steam, she stepped out and lifted Mana into the warm water.  A light shampoo and rinse removed the musky scent of his nerves.  After being toweled off, he raced through the house, yapping and doing sprints, rubbing on the floor to dry his muzzle.

Kumai turned down the covers on the guest bed and switched on the reading light.  Then she returned to the kitchen and made herself a cup of tea.  She craved Snoballs but wasn’t going back out of the house until daylight.  Both Dave and Mana ate some supper, but nothing sounded good to Kumai.  Even after the soothing bath, her senses were on high alert.

She sipped her tea and dialed her dad to have a distraction.  Her father’s recorded voice said, “Aloha.  I’m surfing.  Leave one message.  A hui hou.”

“Dad.  It’s Kumai.  Please call me when you get a chance.  It’s Thursday night.  Mahalo.”  She hesitated before hanging up, and then added, “I’m uh, I’d like to know more about my Hawaiian side of the family.  Call me please.”

Despite the day’s naps, sleepiness crept over her.  She crawled into the guest bed where Mana had already curled up.  The bookmark fell out of her romance novel, making her hunt for her place.  Her eyes felt too heavy to read.

She shut off the light.  It felt like she was forgetting something.  She slept soundly despite her uncertainty, until she heard a loud thunk out on the lanai.  She remembered that she hadn’t closed or locked the lanai door.  Her throat clenched.  She forced a dry swallow.

Who could get up that far in the air?  Mana growled from under the coverlet.  “I’ve about had enough of this.”  She said to the dog.

Dave raised his head from under his wing when she turned on the light, then waddled down into the cushioned chair where he slept.  Mana dug himself out of the bedcovers and watched Kumai.  Her phone said it was the dark hours of morning.

She grabbed the massive flashlight for a weapon, walked through the dark house, and flipped on the lights for the lanai.

There was no one standing out there pointing a realty stake at her.  Unless they had ducked behind something.  She opened the sliding screen door and Mana raced out onto the lanai, growling.  She grabbed a potted poinsettia with her free hand and raised the flashlight as a club, then stepped out onto the lanai.

Mana was circling what looked like a severed head lying under the counter.  Kumai held her breath so she wouldn’t vomit and stepped closer.  Her eyes focused on the object.

It was a coconut.

coconutpalmHer little ohana room below had a dent in the corrugated tin roof.  A ring of debris had been cleared by the impact of the nut, which apparently bounced and came across onto the lanai.  Kumai leaned onto the railing to look closer at her roof for any holes or metal damage but she got mud on her forearms.

She pulled back and shined the light where mud had been scraped onto the railing and then tracked across the lanai’s artificial grass to the other railing.  She followed the prints and found more mud on that side.  The direction of the scrape indicated that someone had jumped down from there.  She shone the flashlight down the twelve-foot drop to the ground and saw either a hard landing spot or a place dug up by pigs.  There was nothing down there for pigs.

With the flashlight beam, she scanned the jungle below and listened for movement.  As she searched, something inside of her rose up and pulled the fear from her spine, pushed it through her chest, arms, hands, legs, and eyes.  Being chased, hunted, and stalked had shifted and passed through her to flip an invisible switch.  She was the huntress now.

“Tell whoever sent you I’m coming.” She whispered over the jungle as she squinted and scanned.  “And I’ll be coming for you, too.”

Her back straightened.  She went into the kitchen, set down the plant and flashlight, started coffee and washed the mud from her arm.  Today she would strategize her course of action.  She wasn’t sure where to begin her hunt but felt sure that it wasn’t from a place of hiding.

huntress_poster

As she leaned back against the counter and waited for her coffee, the poinsettia caught her eye.  She started to chuckle.  What did she think she was going to do with a holiday plant?  Her giggle turned slightly hysterical as she thought, “Stop or I’ll Mele Kalikimaka you!”

 

And then…

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