Kumai pulled Peter Yelley inside from soaking kiawe chips out at the barbecue. “There are men surrounding my house.”
He seemed surprised, not about their presence, but that she knew they were there.
She paused and studied the undercover agent. “Your men?” She asked.
“They need to work on their concealment skills before I will claim them.” Peter answered. He took another swig of his Longboard Lager.
“Maybe they were revealing themselves to reassure me.” Kumai suggested.
“That’s why I am here.” Peter huffed. “And since when did men peeking out of the bushes around your house reassure you?”
“Since two minutes ago.” Kumai laughed. “Thank you for the protection.”
“It can’t be for more than tonight, you know. Karl, the guy with the scar, was working for someone, maybe even a group of someones.”
“It will be nice to be able to relax tonight.” Kumai lied and forced a smile. Relaxing was the opposite of what she had planned. Maybe she could get out by herself on the beach and slip away from the gathering. Her mind flashed on animals at a watering hole, especially the feeble one who wanders off from the herd. She held her breath. The first thing she planned to do to regain some power over this situation was a small white line of powder. She huffed.
“Why are you glowering at me if you’re so glad for a chance to relax?” Peter asked.
“Am I? Must be the sun. It’s bright out this afternoon.”
“Kumai, we can make a plan together to keep you safe for the next few days.” Peter put down his sweating bottle and looked at her askance. “I need you to stay here under our protection tonight.”
“What do you mean ‘need’? Don’t you mean ‘want’?” Kumai asked. Susan’s words rang in her ears, do you have to answer to him?
“Yes, yes.” Peter looked down at his bottle, then used his thumb to peel at the loosened label. “Safest that way.”
“No it’s not.” Kumai shook her head. “My safety at home has been compromised. You know that. Strategically, it’s the best place for me to be a sitting duck. Bait. You liked my bait idea!”
“I hated it.” Peter objected.
“But you couldn’t come up with a better idea.” Kumai grinned.
“Hate that too.”
“Admit it. I was right.”
“You are in serious danger. Stop gloating. Stay aware, keep close to the house, and try never to be alone.”
“What about when using the bathroom?” Kumai asked.
Peter reached out and took her wrist. “Stop. You know you need to be careful. So be careful.”
Aye, aye. “Right.” Kumai said, somber. “Got it.”
They stood in awkward silence for a moment. Kumai usually dealt with stress through humor. But as Peter had established, this wasn’t funny. She did feel better knowing there was a perimeter of protection out there. “Is Taka with your men?” She asked.
“Taka is off-island. And he’s not with my agency, remember?”
“Right.” She said, disappointed.
“He asked me if you got what he sent you. Something silver?” Peter said.
“Did he say where he sent it?” Kumai asked, trying to sound casual.
“I hope it wasn’t one of the bombs.” Kumai chuckled.
“Stop joking around.”
“Right, sorry. Not funny. No, I didn’t get anything. I will ask Bonnie about it.”
They walked back out to the lanai. Sage and Tom had just arrived. They took turns kissing Kumai on the cheek to greet her.
“Aloha, Kumai.” Sage hugged her. “How have you been?”
Kumai looked at Peter. “I need to tell them some of this. It’s only fair to warn them.”
Peter nodded agreement. Susan sighed with relief.
“Let’s all sit down. Get yourselves something from the cooler.” Kumai pointed to an ice chest tucked in a triangle of shade, where Mana was stretched out to cool off. When everyone settled, she started, “My neighbors were murdered.” She told them about the dives and the bombs.
She ended with, “An explosive destroyed Lightning last night when Susan and I were at Choo’s.”
Peter added, “And Kumai’s vehicle, a mail truck, had also been wired with explosives.”
“It had?” She asked.
Everyone sat in silence, processing. A familiar voice asked from the side yard behind Kumai, “Who in their right mind would want to go to Choo’s?”
Kumai turned and caught her breath. “Kirby?” He had been in the water and was still wet. Something about seeing a landlubber glistening with ocean water, his muscles defined by the t-shirt clinging to his form, and his kind eyes seeing only her made her body turn electric. She tried to regulate her breath, like she would do when a dive got dodgy. “Come join our barbecue.”
Kirby glanced to Bonnie and nodded. Kumai surprised herself with how glad she felt to see him. It eased the sting of Bradon’s betrayal and Taka’s absence.
“Beer?” Peter asked, extending a bottle from the cooler.
“Not for me, thanks.” Kirby said. “Unless it’s root Beer. Or a ginger Ale.” He chuckled.
Kumai watched as Kirby joined the gathering with a can of soda. He told Kumai, “Bonnie called me about the barbecue. I’m sorry, I thought you knew I was coming, or I wouldn’t have just…”
“Me too.” Tom said. “We’ve been hearing about all the morphine going through Waimea. What do you know about it?”
“Only rumors.” Kirby said. “It’s not passing through the hospital or the medical community. Although some of the empty ampules have been found in dumpsters near suspicious deaths.”
“Suspicious how?” Bonnie asked.
“Either our Kupuna have synchronized their ghost watches, or there has been an unusual number of elder deaths recently, especially for those living in the Hawaiian Homelands without any heirs.” Kirby frowned at his can and sipped.
“Oh, what I heard was about some sketchy stuff being sold by dealers from Da Hui.” Tom said. “Doesn’t sound like the same thing.”
Peter closed the grill cover and strolled closer at the mention of the Hawaiian gang.
Tom continued, “So maybe Kumai’s neighbors were after that treasure at sea.”
“What treasure is that?” Peter asked.
“The Kam Treasure.” Tom said, as if everyone should already know that. “Stored in metal boxes that were in the statue base.”
“There was a metal box in the back of Lightning.” Bonnie said. “Wasn’t there when I brought him from Hilo.”
“I put that in there.” Kumai said.
“I wondered what that was.” Susan said.
“I took it out when I borrowed the truck from Susan.” Bonnie said.
“But it was empty.” Kumai grumbled. “Pretty disappointing.”
“It didn’t feel empty!” Bonnie said.
“Where did you put it?” Peter asked.
“Over on the side of the house. It was all rusty. I didn’t think I should put it in the house. But I didn’t want to leave it sitting out in the open truck bed when I went into town.”
They all followed Bonnie to the side of the house. It was gone. Kumai looked at Peter who just scowled at the empty space, thinking. “How heavy would you say it was, Bonnie?” He asked.
“Over 30 pounds. And under 70, I can’t lift 70.” Bonnie said.
Kumai looked to Peter. “I could swear it felt empty.”
“It was empty when we had it.” Peter assured her. “Somebody put something in it.”
“Okay, let’s all just try to relax this evening, okay?” Kumai said, feeling exposed out at the side yard. She wanted to either get enveloped by the protection of her lanai or get going on a run, including the errand she had in mind for go-power.
“Good idea.” Peter agreed. “Just stay gently alert, maybe moderate any drinking or other substance use.” He glanced at Tom, who remained oblivious.
“Kumai, could I talk with you for a minute?” Kirby asked.
“Sure. Let’s go inside.” She wanted to take him to her bedroom for privacy, but that seemed a little too intimate. She needed to use the restroom, which was even worse. “I’m not supposed to be alone this evening, and I need to use the restroom.”
“Oh?” Kirby said a little too cheerfully. He was grinning at her.
“All I meant was I wonder if you would mind stationing yourself outside the door while I step down the hall?”
“It would be my pleasure.”
“Thanks, then we can talk.” She brushed past him.
He stood outside the louvered doors of the bathroom. “Actually, it might be easier for me to say what I need to while I’m not looking directly at you.” Kirby said. “Do you mind if I talk through the door?”
Kumai debated whether to pretend that she couldn’t hear him. This was just a little too weird. “Go for it.”
“Thanks. It’s just that, well, what I want to say is kinda difficult. The last time I saw you, I was having drinks, you know, drinking too much maybe. No, definitely. I just think that maybe if I wanted to be a part of your life, I’d need to change that. I mean, I know that I want to be a part of your life. I just wasn’t sure if you needed me to change that. But then I realized that it didn’t matter whether you needed me to sober up or not. I needed to do that for myself.”
Kumai listened carefully. She knew the sounds of someone wanting to get clean. Problem was, she was just on the verge of falling off of her own wagon. It didn’t really matter anyway since Kirby’s recovery would include advice not to start a new relationship at this time.
“So I did.” Kirby said.
“Did what?” Kumai asked, then flushed. Not too awkward.
“I started AA. Only,” Kirby paused.
Kumai opened the door. “Only what?” She asked. She walked to the sink and washed her hands.
“Only, they said to wait to start a relationship. I don’t want to wait. And, most of the meetings are in the evening, when I work my swing shift.”
“I have an answer to the second one.” Kumai said. “My meetings are on line.” She couldn’t believe that she had just admitted that. It was going to make it so much harder to get out of it and back in the cocaine saddle.
“Can you show me how to do that?” Kirby asked. “It sounds like something that would help me.”
“Sure.” Kumai said, not wanting to do this at all. Maybe she could get him on the website, and leave him to his privacy in a meeting while she snuck off for her own plans. “Over here.” She directed him to her small desk in her room where the laptop sat open, dormant.
They fired up the website for SOS. “I need to copy that web address.” Kirby said.
Kumai copied the link and put it into a blank email. “Just type in your address.” She said.
As the website opened, her sponsor greeted her from a chat corner, “Hey, Kumai. I’ve been a little worried about you. It’s been a while.”
“Hi, Gina. I have a friend here with me, Kirby, who wants to go into recovery. I’m showing him the online forums.”
“Hi, Kirby. I’m Gina, and I’m a narcotics addict.”
He looked at Kumai, wondering what to do. Kumai nodded at him to go ahead and type.
“Hi, Gina. I’m Kirby. And I’m uh, I drink too much, so I guess that means, or I guess I am, uh, I’m an alcoholic.” He sneered and hit enter.
“Nice job.” Kumai encouraged. “Just keep exploring. I’ll be, um, in the other room or around somewhere.” Or not.
“Wait.” Kirby said. “There’s something else I wanted to tell you, about your client Susan. I overheard that Kealoha Ranch is being reorganized as an employee-owned operation.”
“I dunno. I just thought you might want to know.” Kirby shrugged.
“Thanks, I do. I’ll leave you to it.” Kumai pointed him back to the computer.
“Kumai?” He asked.
“If you’re not supposed to be alone…”
“What are you going to do tonight? I mean, while you’re sleeping?” He turned and looked at her bed.
“Are you offering?” She chuckled.
“Yeah, actually, I am. I don’t have to be in a bed to sleep. That chair over there would be fine. It would be, well, I’d want to be the one if you need someone.”
“Uh, geez. Wow, okay.” She stammered.
“Was that a yes?” He asked.
“I don’t know.” She said. “I’ll get back to you.”