“If your ambulance stud thinks he’s safe by sneaking away, he’s not only a coward but stupid.” Kane laughed at Kumai. “We’ll find him.”
“I wouldn’t worry about him.” Kumai hissed. “Your men can’t even get me.”
“But now,” Kane sat on a rock, “I got you. Let’s drink to that.” He pointed his gun at the canteen in Kumai’s hand.
Acting like her hands were shaking as she fumbled, she stalled with the small cup from the lid. C’mon Kirby. “Why did you kill my neighbors?” She asked.
“They killed themselves.” Kane started laughing again. “Suicide by stupidity. When they decided that they could afford to leave my stable, they knew they had breached our agreement.” His eyes were black as the cave mouths, sucking the life out of his expression.
Kumai looked away and shivered. “You don’t seem to have a very good latch on your barn.”
Kane stood up and slapped her. “Maybe I’ll saddle-break you. Show you how to keep your thoughts to yourself.” He pointed to the cup in her hand. “Pour.”
She poured. Trickles of the sugarcane alcohol dribbled into the cup while she listened for Kirby’s returning sprint. Nothing. Her heart started beating so loudly it drowned out any other sounds.
Kane grabbed for the cup. She tossed the liquid into his face, scolded, “Your manners.” and used the canteen to knock the gun from his hand.
The pistol fired and Kumai’s ears rang so that she could barely hear Kane scream as he clawed at his eyes. He lurched toward her. She side-stepped and brought the hydroflask down on his head. He fell to his knees on the a’a lava. Of all the injuries he had just sustained, the lacerations from the lava would be the worst. He bellowed.
Kirby came running and grabbed Kumai by the elbow. He dragged her into a run. They reached the lowest spot he could find and he yelled, “Get down!” as he pulled the fleece blanket over them.
“Those guys will be able to find us under a blanket, Kirby.”
“But the bees won’t.” He answered.
Kane’s screams shifted to hysteria. Kumai heard the men running to help Kane, coming closer.
“This way!” one yelled.
“Keep back!” another screamed, “He’s covered in bees.”
“Run!” The third cried out before his screams joined Kane’s.
Kumai shivered and listened.
Kirby gently placed a hand over her fist filled with blanket. “We’re safe.”
Buzzing circled around them, grew to a swarming hum, and hovered. Kumai squeezed her eyes closed and held her breath. The men’s screams diminished to whimpers.
The buzzing continued, slowly quieting to the level of bees at work instead of frenzied. She didn’t dare touch the ground or sit for risk of getting cut. Her legs cramped and she wanted to shift positions. Blood trickled down the corner of her mouth. She wiped it away with her free hand and let herself breathe. She checked her phone. Still no service.
Two men’s voices approached from the distance. They were arguing. “You know Kane says no hospitals.”
“I don’t know if Doc can help him with all those stings. We gotta get these guys outta here.”
Kumai heard scuffling, moans, and curses. Gradually the panting and footfalls drifted into the distance. The heat of the sun on the blanket was intense. She started to feel dizzy and sleepy. Without touching the ground, she tried to steady herself.
Kirby lifted an edge of the blanket and fresh hot air sucked in from the surrounding lava. “We need to get under the cover of those caves.” he whispered.
The Hummer’s engine fired up. The fading crunch and clunk of rubber and metal over rock told them that the men were gone. Kumai threw off the blanket and stood up, almost falling over as her legs failed her. Kirby reached up and steadied her. She scanned the area and saw movement. As she watched, black feral goats leaped through the lava field and trotted away from all the noise.
She got her balance. “Thank you.” She took Kirby’s hand and lifted to help him stand. He wavered slightly so she grabbed him and held on. He gasped. They stood in a bizarre lean onto each other until the circulation returned to their legs.
“Okay, that’s even worse than having them go to sleep.” Kumai complained, releasing Kirby and stomping her feet. “I almost wish my legs would just stay asleep.”
“Yeah.” Kirby winced.
Kumai looked down at her bloodied hand. She was surprised by how much was there. “Sorry, Kirby, I got some blood on you.”
He snorted, then winced and grabbed his side. He flashed a fake smile at her and then saw the blood on her face. He scowled, “That bastard hit you?”
“Yeah. I’m fine, just sore and mad.”
“Okay. Let’s move.” Kirby turned to walk. Blood trickled down onto his pant leg.
“Kirby, wait.” Kumai looked under his hand clasped to his side. “You’re hurt!”
“Shot, to be precise.”
“Oh no. No, no!”
“Kumai. Kumai! I’m fine. The bullet grazed me, it didn’t go in or hit anything. Just a surface wound, okay?”
“No. Not okay. Lemme see.”
“What? No. I’m the medical professional.”
“Okay, fine. But when we get to the caves, we need to pour this on it.” She held up the canteen.
“Right.” He said through clenched teeth. “It’s strong enough to cauterize it.”
“Goats.” Kumai said, still walking.
“It sounded like a baby’s cry or something.”
“I saw them run away when I stood up.”
The minutes spent picking their way stretched and sizzled. Kumai had no idea how long it took before they hobbled into the shade of the cave opening. Kirby collapsed and whimpered at the pain. Without saying a word he lifted his shirt and presented the cut to Kumai for her to rinse with moonshine. She held out her phone strap, “Wanna bite this?” He rolled his eyes. “Okay, here goes.” she said and poured a small trickle of the alcohol over the swelling gap in Kirby’s skin.
Kirby cried out and his body grew taut. Kumai stopped. They both sat there, just breathing.
“Do you ever think about the privileges we enjoy in life?” Kumai asked.
Kirby looked at her in disbelief.
“No, really,” she continued. “Sometimes, like when I’m having a hard time, I think about how rough other people have it. Somebody probably has to live in caves, maybe even here in Hawaii. I have a roof over my head. Lots of people have cuts and wounds and never get to have medical care.”
“Survivor guilt, or something close to it.” Kirby said.
“Seriously? I mean, think of all the amazing conveniences we have. Even running water, electricity, vehicles, phones…”
“Kumai, everybody has privilege, and everybody has suffering. It’s a sliding scale and the balance and circumstances are different for each one of us.”
“You sound like you’ve thought about this a lot.” She said and studied his face.
“I have. You don’t work with meth addicts and hear them begging you for help without thinking about such things. Then when you get them to where they will live, what do they go out and do?” He asked.
“Isn’t having access to advanced science a privilege?” She asked.
“Or because meth is a part of that science, is it suffering?” He asked.
“Whoa.” She said.
“Yeah. The only way out of that one is to stop any Them vs. Us perspective on privilege. If we don’t compare the forms of our privilege and suffering, but instead acknowledge that everyone has both, then we can find some common ground.”
“Does that make your job easier to do?” She asked.
“It makes judgment harder to do.”
Kumai nodded and looked out to the black sea of mineral in front of them all the way to the ocean. That was it for her view, a band of grey-black, then dark blue ocean, horizon line, and a band of light blue sky. So simple. She relaxed as the shade helped her to cool off. “At least we can slow down now.” She said, hoping to reassure Kirby.
“What’s that?” Kirby asked, sitting up.
“What?” Kumai asked, listening. She expected more goat noises.
Another vehicle was ascending the trail. “Tourists?” Kumai asked, hearing how feeble her hope sounded.
“It’s another black Hummer.” Kirby shaded his eyes, then stood. “They must have called in reinforcements.”
“Let’s see if this cave dead ends in forty feet, then.” Kumai said and gestured for Kirby to lead the way in.
“Why are those guys so determined to come after you?” Kirby asked as he led the way toward the back of the cave. It took a minute for their eyes to adjust to the darkness, so the going was slow. Kumai couldn’t tell where the back wall was.
“They thought I knew too much. But I was clueless until Kane told me too much. So I actually do know some of what’s going on now.”
“Great.” Kirby grumbled. “He probably wouldn’t have told you anything unless he planned to finish us off. What did you learn?”
“He’s running an escort service. I think it’s based out of Choo’s. The creep calls it his stable. My neighbors were working for him and breached some contract. They tried to get out. Which is what Annamae told me too.” Kumai ducked for a low spot in the stone ceiling that Kirby covered with his hand.
“I’m going to have to use my cell phone as a flashlight.” Kirby said. “To save our batteries, change the settings so your phone won’t keep searching for signals. We should turn off yours to save for later.”
Kumai pulled out her phone and wiped the perspiration from the screen. She pressed the power button and saw a warning of No Service. She held down the button. Her phone buzzed then went dark.
Kirby flicked through his settings and quickly changed the configuration. “Do you hear anyone coming?” He asked.
Kumai listened. Her breathing traveled to the close walls of the cave and came back muffled. Sounds from Kirby mixed in and traveled around the dark tunnel. No noises came from the distant cave mouth. The bright dot carried light just this far into the tunnel. The light didn’t shift.
“Nothing.” She reported.
“We need to get out of view of that opening.” Kirby said. “Those guys might have night scopes and glasses so that they can see in the dark. I’m picking up our pace from here. You scan either side for somewhere, anywhere, to hide. I’m going to watch our footing as well as warn about any low spots overhead.”
“Got it.” Kumai dashed after Kirby as he set off fast down a lava tube that his phone illuminated.
A cockroach the size of a medjool date buzzed past their heads. “Kona Cruisers.” Kirby announced. “They’re crawling everywhere, if you feel something crunch underfoot.”