Kumai didn’t expect the guy to run when the police were closing in on him. But he did run, straight toward her. Searching for something to use in her defense, she saw a planter full of thorny bougainvillea on the upper level. It would be too heavy to lift. Down on the lower level just beyond the parking lot was a colony of feral cats waiting to be fed by their defenders, the AdvoCats. The scene looked like a late-night alley with mousers milling around and sitting on every ledge or nearby rock.
The only weapon available to Kumai was surprise. So, she ran down the stairs as if she was going to run toward the guy. He paused, watching which way she would run at the bottom of the steps. If she went into the hallway below, she would be trapped in a dead end. If she ran toward him it would be an immediate confrontation, which might make him think she was armed so that he would be bluffed into turning away. Or she could go out to the open parking lot.
She darted toward the hall, circled the stairwell, and came back out into the bright sun of the open lot. Cats stood up from their self-spa treatments as she sprinted toward them. Her pursuer’s footsteps continued to close in on her.
A tabby sat near the food bowls. It stood as Kumai approached and looked hopefully at the dishes. “Sorry about this.” Kumai said mid-run as she grabbed the cat, whirled, and passed the feline, paws splayed and claws unsheathed, to the guy.
She opened out into a full sprint. A yowl erupted, maybe from the cat. Then more hissing arose from the crowd. Cats went in every direction. Kumai veered to run toward the police cars. She slowed only when she saw the intrigued expressions on the approaching officers’ faces. She turned to look for her pursuer and was able to stop when she saw him paralyzed where she left him. He was a tower of traveling fur. Some cats ran up him while others were coming down. At the level of his torso where he tried to brush them off or fling them away, an eddy of action turned into a blur.
“That’s gotta hurt.” One of the officers commented as she approached Kumai.
“Hopefully not the cats.” Kumai agreed.
“That was quick thinking.” The officer said. “We were gearing up for him to take you hostage.”
“Yeah, me too.” Kumai agreed. Or just kill me.
By the time the ambulance had treated Kumai’s attacker for his scratch wounds, she had given her statement and was back on the road in Wanda. Randy’s Huli Chicken trailer was fired up in the dirt lot across from Kona Boy’s Kayak rental. She drove past the cartoon-bright racks of kayaks. Tourists were returning their morning rentals and the afternoon adventurers were starting to arrive.
Mana’s nose went up at the smell of kiawe-smoked meat. Normally Kumai would stop for the barbeque, but she had already texted Bonnie that she was headed home. Right now, home sounded good, with a cool dip in the ocean and a nap, maybe a cold beer with a bologna sandwich for a late lunch.
The last time she had stopped for Randy’s, people were lined up waiting for their plates. She’d had a chance to talk with Randy himself and learned that he was an ex-cop. He poked fun at her for being a concierge and made up some coconut-wireless rumor that her resort was being investigated for involvement in a prostitution ring based out of Choo’s. It was clearly just a rumor since Choo’s was not at the Four Seasons. Still, it had bothered her to have her establishment’s name tarnished by the association. It was bothering her still, but now it was niggling her because of the mention of Choo’s.
The grilling area’s patchwork of tarpaulin covers and galvanized pipe frames looked like a pop-up carnival in greys. White-grey smoke drifted up from the trailer-sized cookers. Cars were already pulling in to get their chicken or ribs with rice or potato-mac salad. Mana whimpered and sniffed.
“Sorry buddy. We can’t get chicken today ’cause it would traumatize Dave. Those are his cousins rolling on the spits there.”
The African Grey called out “Hello.” in Kumai’s uncle’s voice.
Mana let out a short bark and lay down.
Maybe Kumai should check out Choo’s. Friday nights seemed to be Kane’s choice for meeting women, and this was Friday. But the only thing she could think of to wear were the things left over from the White Benefit. Nothing of that assortment was casual enough. So, she might need to stop at the consignment store.
Road construction to connect Alii Drive to Napoopoo Road slowed her, as did brush clearing from the power lines along the roadside. By the time she got through Kona town, they felt like they were huli chickens roasting alive in the mail truck. She decided to stop at HiCo just to cool off and get everyone some water.
Charlie’s truck wasn’t in the parking lot, but Dede was at the shop. He started laughing when he saw Kumai get out of the white van. “You should paint the SPAM logo on the side of that.” He suggested.
“All who Wanda are not lost.” He said.
“Muh.” She chuckled, then asked, “Mind if I get the zoo some water?”
“Help yourself.” He extended a plastic bowl to her, traded it for the bird, and pointed to the public restroom.
“Thanks. Where’s Charlie?”
“She’s opening a tea shop up Holualoa. Scenic Tea, in Dovetail Gallery.”
“Wow, that sounds nice. Cooler.”
“Much. She made a blend just for you.”
“Oh? A tea blend for me?” Kumai stepped around to the counter.
Dede held up a bag with a handwritten label: Kumai’s IPA-T.
“IPAT?” Kumai asked.
“IPA tea.” Dede smiled.
“Cuz I like beer.” Kumai nodded and smiled. “That’s pretty awesome. And sobering.”
“It’s not like that. She just wanted to make something with coriander and knew you liked hot food and beer, s’all. It’s basically a spicy chai.”
“I feel famous!”
“You are, with us.” Dede said.
Kumai blushed and took the bowl for water. She came back out of the restroom with her hair dampened to cool her head and a bowl of water for the animals. Dave was chatting with Dede, doing tricks without being commanded to do so. “Somebody’s taught him to play dead.” Dede said.
“Oh?’ Kumai asked.
“Yeah, watch.” Dede picked up the bird from the glass counter and stood him on his palm. “Bang.” he said. The bird fell over on its side. “There’s more.” Dede chuckled. He casually tossed Dave into the air and the bird didn’t move a feather, landing back in Dede’s palm as if a stuffed animal.
Kumai burst out laughing. “That’s just… bizarre.”
“I wonder what else he can do.” Dede mused.
“Bark and meow.” Kumai offered.
Dave barked, then meowed.
“No keys today?” Kumai asked.
“Lemme look in your stash.” Dede set down the bird and looked under the counter. “Nothing today.”
“I need an outfit for tonight. I might go out to Choo’s.”
“Choo’s, huh?” Dede asked, not looking at Kumai.
“Yeah, what?” Kumai asked.
“Nothing. I just didn’t peg you as a Choo’s kind of person.”
“What’s a Choo’s kind of person?” Kumai asked.
“Let’s just say you might not want to wear red.” Dede said.
“How do you know this?” Kumai asked.
“People talk. Kona’s a small town.” He said, shrugging. “Ignore me. It’s just rumors.”
“Lots of people are telling the same rumor. What did you hear?” She persisted.
“Just that. I dunno.” Dede got quiet. Nobody wanted to tell on their neighbors, especially on an island.
“Okay, so I’ll dress modestly.”
“Or just go somewhere else.” Dede said.
“Yeah, but I’m going to check out the rumors.”
“In that case, wear red.” Dede laughed.
“I don’t want that much information. I think I can get the facts through observation.” Kumai wandered to the dress rack and sifted through her size. She resisted the temptation to choose something lacy or fitted. She found a rayon wrap dress in a brown wood-grain design. It was understated and cool. “I’m going to try this on. Mind watching Dave and Mana for a minute?” She asked.
Kumai would have liked the dress even if she didn’t have anywhere to wear it. A leather belt strung with minerals for a necklace and a pair of eight dollar crystal earrings completed the look. She came out, paid, and got back in the spam can with the dog and bird.
Once on the open highway the heat in the vehicle eased up. Mana was able to curl up and sleep. Dave watched out the windshield with an intent gaze as if he were flying. Kumai fought the urge to close her eyes and nap, hoping that things were quiet at home so she could get a rest there before going back out.
Her driveway was devoid of Inigo. Only Lightning was parked on the street in front of the yard. Kumai pulled the mail van into the driveway, then considered that maybe not everyone knew yet that she was driving this vehicle. She backed out, drove back a few houses up the road, and parked on the opposite side of the street.
“I’m home.” She called out when they burst in through the entry. It felt unfamiliar to call out in her own house, but in a friendlier, warmer way than just coming in and dropping her things in silence. She carried her pack to her room, checked the lanai, and then went to the refrigerator. It was loaded with fruit salad, purple potato salad, hummus, and cut up vegetable sticks. She sighed and pulled out the containers. While she was putting together a plate, Bonnie emerged from her room, hair towel-dried.
“Welcome back.” Bonnie said. “Got so hot today I went in the water to cool off. You should try it.”
“I think I will.” Kumai answered. “Want a plate?”
“Sure, thanks.” Bonnie went to the cupboard and pulled out two glasses. “Tea or water?”
“Water, thanks.” Kumai squirmed at the thought that they were acting like an old married couple. Whatever. This is nice. “Wanna eat on the lanai or inside?”
“Too hot for the lanai today.” Bonnie said. She turned on the kitchen fan and set their drinks on the counter in front of the stools, then put out cloth napkins and silverware.
“Did Tom have any troubles with Inigo?” Kumai asked.
“Not that I know of.” Bonnie said. “Oh, that mongoose of his chewed some wires, so it wouldn’t start. He had to fix the connections, and there was some weird thing attached to the engine that he didn’t recognize, but those wires were chewed too. He tossed the thing even though I told him he’d probably wish he had it later. So he put it in the garage just in case it was something vital.”
“Oh?” Kumai said, trying not to let her voice squeak. “Can I see it?”
“It’s on the workbench.” Bonnie pointed to the garage door. “Let’s eat first, though.”
“Right.” Kumai said, thinking that she hoped it wasn’t anything planted on the car that could be dangerous. She ate in a hurry, distracted and silent. Bonnie seemed okay with the silence.
“I’ll clean up. You get your suit on and get yourself into the water.” Bonnie said.
“Thanks.” Kumai answered, going into her room to change. She put on the suit quickly, thinking that the water would be as safe as anywhere if her house was going to blow up. Then she went out to the garage to look.
The thing was definitely not an auto part. She dialed Peter on her phone. “I need you to check something that was in my car. Maybe bring a bomb specialist?”
“What? Where are you?” Peter asked.
“In my garage.”
“Get out of there!” Peter yelled. “Wait, no, how long’s it been there?”
“I dunno, overnight, maybe. It’s not connected to anything and it’s not ticking suspiciously.”
“Okay. Don’t touch it. Send me a picture of it, then get out of there. Clear the house. We’ll be there as fast as we can.”
“I’ll leave the door unlocked for you. I’ll go out to the water.”
“Perfect. But send me a picture.”
“Will do. Thanks.”
She punched END, pulled up the camera app, and snapped a shot of the the cylinder. She almost touched it to turn for another angle when she caught herself. She sent the photo to Peter via text, then went back in the house to send away Bonnie.
“Can you run some errands for me?” Kumai asked.
“Sure. What you need?” Bonnie asked.
“I was hoping to have a barbecue at the beach here, maybe tomorrow? But I couldn’t take the heat in town so I didn’t stop at Costco. Are you up for doing that shopping if I give you my card?”
“I’d enjoy that.” Bonnie said. “I’ve been wanting to take ole Lightning out.”
“Great. There’s a cooler in the… uh. Actually, would you also get me a new cooler at Costco? My other one is, uh, bad.”
“Bad? I can fix anything.” Bonnie said, heading for the garage.
“No! No. Thanks. It has bad, uh, bad memories for me?” Kumai kicked herself for making it a question. She was terrible at bluffing.
“Oh, okay.” Bonnie said. “What you want to barbecue?”
“Anything is fine. I like the kind of foods that you get.” Kumai waved her hand in the air.
“Are you in a hurry?” Bonnie asked. “I was thinking of taking a nap.”
“Oh, uh, well, yeah. I’m kinda in a hurry cuz it will need to marinate.”
“What will need to marinate?” Bonnie asked.
“Whatever we get.” Kumai said. Just get out, Bonnie. Please, go.
“I see.” Bonnie said. “How long should I shop for?”
“Huh?” Kumai asked.
“Do you need this shopping to take a certain amount of time?” Bonnie grinned.
“Oh.” Geez, I wish that this was about me having a visitor. “Yes. Ha ha. Thanks. I’ll text you when it’s all clear, okay?”
“Okay.” Bonnie said. She grabbed her purse, the keys to the old truck, and stuck out her hand for Kumai’s card.
“Oh, right.” Kumai said, trying to chuckle but it came out as a short “Ha.” Her heart was starting to race. “Do you want to take the dog and the bird with you?”
“Seriously?” Bonnie asked.
“Just for fun? They like a ride.”
“Okay, sure.” Bonnie said. “Maybe I should take the cat too?”
“The cat? Oh shit, the cat.”
“Kumai, what’s going on?” Bonnie asked.
“Nothing, really, just you know…” Kumai tried to force a blush but she was looking around for the cat.
“The cat is on walkabout in the neighborhood. Don’t worry.” Bonnie said, lips pursed.
“Great. Good.” Kumai put her hands on her hips to look casual, “Thanks a bunch Bonnie.”
“No problem. Try to find something to do that I wouldn’t do.” Bonnie went out and waved as she went down the walk.
Kumai raced to her room, grabbed her outfit for Choo’s, her cosmetic’s case that was actually a kid’s pencil case, and the shoes she had worn to the white benefit. The melted sole was not too obvious and her only other footwear were too casual for a night out. She wondered what to do with her hair if she was going to go swim first. She reached for a strong rubber band to make a pony tail, then decided to be a little more exotic. She went to the kitchen, grabbed a pair of nice chopsticks, and picked a small white plumeria on her way out of the front yard. She tried not to run for Wanda.
Once clear of her house, she remembered to breathe. She texted Peter, “Should I warn the neighbors?”
He texted back by the time she had the van started. “Not yet. It’s pretty small. Probably would have just blown up your car.”
“Oh shit.” She whispered. He didn’t say ‘if it were a bomb.’ He just responded like it was a bomb. “Oh crap.”
“House is clear. I’m away for the evening. Please keep me updated.” She texted, then floored the van to get out of there. She got up to 15 mph in a matter of a minute or two. “I wouldn’t mind if you turned into a Cobra right about now.” She said to Wanda.