15 Umikumamalima ~ Strong Currents

“Who brought bananas on my boat?” The captain growled, entering the galley after tethering The Kona Investigator dive boat to the pier.

“Probably one of the new guys.” Peter said, blaming the men who were all topside. Then he turned to Kumai.

“You can keep the metal box if you want it. And this.” He dropped his mangled knife on the small table. The blade tip was gone, the steel gouged and knicked.

“Gee thanks. Here’s a replacement.” She offered a knife she had retrieved with the other dive equipment.

“Whoa, a Mako Titanium Hydroalloy. Wait, is this evidence?”

“I suppose so.” Kumai grimaced.

“Then you still owe me a knife. Anyway, we won’t have too much trouble finding those divers. One has a gash on the face and another has a spear gun bolt to the leg. Two of ’em will be needing medical attention.”

“Unless they’re specially trained.” Kumai offered.

“I have the specialists with me.” Peter protested. “In the debriefing, our men indicated that they weren’t very skilled.”

“In water.” Kumai qualified.

“Do you think we’re dealing with military guys here? That doesn’t make sense.”

“I just can’t shake the question of why that Tokushima guy was at the pier. It seemed strange for him to come all the way from Honoka’a to talk to me. And he could have…”

“Manfred Tokushima?” Peter yelled. “Of course FBI.”

“Yeah he’s From Big Island.” Kumai said.

“No, not that, The FBI.”

“Oh, OH! ‘Federal job.’ Geez.”

“What?”

“Just how he introduced himself.” Kumai’s email notification chimed. Susan Winters was arriving in Kona in a few hours. “Listen, Peter, I gotta go.  I have a client arriving today.”

“Yes, right. I have to tell you, Kumai, the men reported that you did a good job finding the box.”

“The empty box.”

“Any box at all. And, take your bananas.”

“Yessir.”

dogasleeponboatKumai waved to the other divers topside as she gathered her few items, whistled for Mana and disembarked. The Maori was on the pier to stabilize her step. She held up the metal box and said, “Thank you for helping me with this.”

“We’ll find a full one next dive.” He promised. Next dive? Kumai thought.

“I’m Kumai, by the way.” She stuck out her hand.

“Taka. Thanks for all the help.”

“Yeah, you too.” She clicked the leash onto Mana and walked back to the parked truck. There was a municipal violation on her windshield, a warning of no overnight parking.

Once inside the cab, she dug through the Oshima’s bag, opened a packet of arare, and another of li hing mui gummi bears and shared them with the dog for breakfast. She finished off three bananas. Satisfied, she told the dog, “Let’s get that welcome basket made.”

Pualani floral was air conditioned which usually felt good. But this early in the morning, and still damp, Kumai shivered. She gave the young woman her bag of snacks, sixty dollars in cash and instructions for the basket. On the counter she saw an order ticket for a customer. “Kirby Ishita, One orchid wrist corsage, all white with pikake. Pick up noon Friday.” Tomorrow.

Kumai heaved a breath and said, “I’ll be back in 20 minutes for the basket.” The clerk nodded and went to her work table as Kumai left through the glass door. She couldn’t say why, but it irked her that Kirby had an order in for a corsage. It probably was his mother’s birthday. Nobody wore corsages anymore.

old_kona_airport_beach11The public showers at Old Airport State Park were fairly private compared to the open-air showers at the pier. Kumai and Mana shampooed in the cement block hut, then went out and sat in the sun at one of the picnic tables to dry while watching the waves roll in.

Clean, warm, and still a little hungry, Kumai just wanted to stretch out on the picnic table for a nap. Instead she got back on the road, picked up the basket, stopped at the Pink Mocha for two coffees and drove to the General Aviation end of the Keahole airport.

hakuleibohoSusan Winters disembarked from her jet in a pair of flip-flops, pale jeans the color of her eyes, a white lace tunic, and a supple leather backpack with long fringe. No Louis Vuitton logo-bearing luggage came out of the cargo hold and no entourage of assistants trailed her. As she walked closer, Kumai admired her simple silver wire earrings shaped as daisies, the sort of art you could find at festivals and farmers’ markets. She extended a hand to Kumai and asked, “Any interest in stopping for a burger on our way?”

Kumai assessed that she was swimming in unfamiliar currents with this client. She knew how to handle the diamonds, champagne orders, and prettified Polynesia. But this woman was more plain than the private jet owners that Kumai had grown accustomed to. She would need to observe more carefully to understand what Susan expected of her. That didn’t change the simple fact that Kumai was hungry.

“A burger sounds great. Do we need to wait for luggage and cargo?”

“No this is it.” Susan tapped her pack. “I keep a steamer trunk at the Four Seasons. We can stop for it or have it delivered to the ranch. Either way is fine. How did the truck work out?”

“It seems to be completely reliable.” Kumai said, leading the way to where she had parked Lightning.

“Oh. My. God.” Susan said, walking around the truck. “Is this it?!”

“Yes.” Kumai put on her cool professionalism. “Would you like to drive or shall I?”

“Kumai,” Susan stuttered. “I can’t believe this. And you say it’s reliable?”lightning3

“So far so good.” Kumai said, realizing that meant it had run for two errands and one test drive so far.

“You couldn’t have chosen another truck,” Susan gasped, “that would be more suited to me.”

Kumai froze. “You like it?”

“No.” Susan said, opening the passenger door. “I love it. Oh! The dog! Why do I keep forgetting the dog? Does he have a name yet?

“Mana.” Kumai said, heading for the driver’s side since Susan seemed to be getting in as a passenger.

“Like manna from heaven?”

“Same pronunciation, but spelled with one ‘N’.”

“Oh nice.” She said. “Easy to remember. Does it mean something?”

“Power, spirit, energy…”

“Perfect. Thanks. Mind taking me to the closest burger place while I follow up on some emails and texts?”

“Will do.” Kumai said. “That’s a black coffee there for you.” She pointed to the cup on the dash. The old truck had no cup holders. Her own coffee was nearly drained. Susan eagerly sipped and turned on her phone, ignoring Mana. Kumai wasn’t sure if she was more hungry or tired from the lack of a night’s sleep. But she could make it through another hour or two until she had settled Susan at the ranch.

Kumai pulled into the new Matsuyama’s Market parking lot for the Pine Tree Cafe.

“Why’s it called Pine Tree?” Susan asked, looking around.

pinetreecafe

“Out on the coastline there,” Kumai pointed toward the nearby sea, “There used to be a stand of trees that looked like Pines. People lived there, a camping lifestyle, at a popular surf spot.”

“I don’t see any trees, just new houses going in.” Susan shaded her eyes to see better.

“They evicted the squatter community, removed the trees, and are putting in a high-end residential time share thing. The Matsuyama’s have a convenience store and deli up the mountain, mauka, on the upper road above here. So when they opened their makai restaurant they named it in honor of the surf spot.”

The cafe had a long line already. Susan read the chalkboard, “What’s Kalua Turkey? Opakapaka? And Mix Plate?”

“The turkey is pit roasted, like luau pig. Opakapaka is a fish, very delicate. A mix plate has two scoops rice, potato mac salad, and the meat.”

“Potato or macaroni salad? No green salad?”

“You can get green salad. But the other one is both potato and mac salad, together.”

“Mixed?”

“Mixed.”

“I’ll have a burger.”

After burgers at Matsuyama’s, with doggie bags, they decided to stop by the Four Seasons.

“You can park under the entry portico.” Susan instructed. “I won’t be long inside. Need anything?”

“Nope. Mind if I go and check in with my office?” Kumai asked. She had a final invoice to leave with Annamae for her last client.

“Not at all. The dog?”

“He can go with me.” Kumai said.

lobby4seasonsThe concierge desk was busy with travelers booking snorkel tours, ziplines, and dinner reservations. The two staff on duty looked harried. Kumai remembered those days and appreciated again how her life had taken a new course. One concierge glanced to Kumai with a look of “help me.”

The guest had become loud. “What time does Alihi Mall open?!?”

“Sir, as I said, Ali’i Drive is a street, it’s always open.”

Kumai stood nearby on the guest side of the counter. “Excuse me, but maybe I can help? I was just down there. I saw the hours for today. They open at 8:00 AM.”

“Thank you.” The man said to Kumai, while looking at the concierge.

The man left.  Kumai sympathized, “Their questions don’t always make sense so I try to figure out what they really want.”

The young woman said, “I thought I had it figured out.  He acted like he wanted accurate information.”

“Nah, that guy just wanted a specific hour to make his plans around.” Kumai smiled.

“So you lied.” The other concierge snapped.

Kumai kept her smile and asked the first concierge, “Is Annamae in?

“Yes. Go on back.” She said. “And thank you.”

Kumai ignored the cold shoulder from the other concierge staff. If she were still behind that counter, she would be jealous of herself, too. Annamae’s door stood open. Kumai tapped, then entered.

“Hey Kumai! Good to see you. Wow, you look kinda tired. I was going to call you with another new client, but maybe you’d…”

“I’m fine. Bring it on.” Kumai invited, handing Annamae the invoice for her previous client.

“This one requires your more delicate networks.” Annamae advised. “Here’s the info.” She handed Kumai one of the old fashioned PHONE RECORD memo notes, which meant there was a carbon of the information somewhere. When she looked at the number prefix, she could see that the client had used a ‘burner phone’ for contact. They were playing safe. Annamae noted on the memo “needs dive gear,” so probably they wanted to buy lopakalolo or some valium. If they had wanted a stimulant, Annamae would note a request for gear related to flying. This was Kumai’s least favorite job, steering people, mostly because it dragged her back into the world of her own cocaine days.

She apologized to Annamae, “I know I’m always in a hurry, but a client is waiting for me out front. Thanks for the referral.” She waved the memo.

“Kumai? Have you given any thought to what I said in the message?”

“Not really, not yet, no.” Kumai kicked herself for deleting the voicemail. Maybe her phone had a way to retrieve it. “I’ll get back to you soon. Things should settle down by tonight.”

“Ok. Good luck…” Annamae drawled. For some reason it sounded like a warning.

And then…

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