18 Umikumamawalu ~ Into the Lair

bluedragonThe Blue Dragon illuminated the dusk like a mirage. Kumai parked Lightning in a space at the far end, beside the small farmer’s market.

Kumai explained, “We have less chance of a ding from another car door out here.  Sorry there aren’t more streetlights, though.”

“I’m getting hungry.” Susan said.

“Yeah, me too. Hear that music? Sounds like Lorenzo’s Army is playing tonight.” The song Happy drifted out from the stage. 

“Wow. Those aren’t small-time players. They sound good.”

Kumai locked Susan’s door after she got out, then loaded their garage-sale bags into the cab while Susan looked at anthurium and papayas in the little market. Kumai hummed along with the music and conceived that she just might want to dance tonight.

“We need to talk.” A man’s voice came from behind Kumai.

“Jeez!” She exclaimed, bumping her head on the truck’s doorframe. “Did you really need to sneak up on me?”

“Sh.” The guy said and turned to look around. He had a long bandage on the side of his face.

“Oh.” Kumai said. She put her hands on her hips like her mother did when she was mad. “You.” It was one of the attackers from the dive last night.

“Meet me back out here after you get your table.” He said.

“Everything okay?” Susan asked, returning.

“I don’t know.” Kumai said, watching with Susan as the guy snuck away. “Let’s just go in and enjoy ourselves.”

“Sounds good ’cause now I’m thirsty too.” Susan said.

bluedragon_aboveThey walked up to the hostess at the counter. Kumai said, “Kaimana.”

The interior walls of the Blue Dragon were painted in aquas with contrasting trim the shade of blue at the 40-foot depth on a clear day. Susan gawked. “This place is extraordinary.”  The open roof drew attention from spotlights that stabbed up into the overhanging palm trees.  Their fronds spread like many-fingered fireworks spritzing diamonds onto the black velvet sky.   The dry night air whispered across the trees and the dance floor.

bluedragoninteriorThe hostess flipped two menus into her arms. “This way, please.”

A man raced past them out the entryway. A yell came from the area beyond the parking lot, out by the farmers’ market.

“Your friend.” Susan said, starting to follow the man out.

Kumai put a hand on her arm. “Don’t go out there.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not sure it’s safe.”

“Then your friend needs our help!”

“That was NOT a friend.” Kumai said. “I’ll go. You stay here. I don’t want you to get …anything to happen to you.”

Susan hesitated. “I’ll get our table.”

Kumai dashed out of the restaurant and over to the market. The guy with the bandage on his face was lying on the ground near an overturned table of white orchids. A metal stake like realtors use was sticking out of his chest. Where there should have been a sign hanging from the L, two carabiner-style clips dangled, empty.

No one else was out there, including the man who ran past them through the entry. Kumai felt the body for a pulse and found none. She looked around and saw movement flash at the street-side of the parking lot. She sprinted in that direction and heard footfalls behind her.

Susan panted, “Did you call 911?”

“No.” Kumai yelled over her shoulder, still running. The man ran ahead of them across the highway.  He crossed in front of a woodside Wagoneer.

The driver braked, swerved and yelled out his window, “Dude!” Surfboards slid sideways from the top rack and crashed onto the road.

Kumai crossed behind the Jeep, Susan’s steps catching up.

“Go back and call for help!” Kumai ordered.

Susan continued to follow at a run while she fished out her phone. She crossed the road, stopped to punch in three numbers, then held the phone to her ear as she resumed her pursuit of Kumai and the man.

“Ambulance.” Susan said in a loud whisper. “No, police.” She panted. “No, wait, both. Can I talk to both?”

She covered the phone with her hand and gasped to Kumai, “They screen 911 calls here? What the heck?!”

shipping_nightKumai stopped running and put a finger to her lips. She pointed to the streaked Matson shipping containers stacked four high. They both scanned the metal patchwork of shipping yard while listening. The evening darkened. Pale yellow lot lights buzzed on.

An alert sounded at the gates to warn that they were closing for the night. Kumai pulled Susan away from their search crouch while Susan gave information to the emergency operator. She pronounced Kawaihae correctly as kuWHYhigh, Kumai noticed, maybe because she had only heard the name and not read it.

They neared the gates. A car squealed out from the employee parking area and flew out of the compound into the trickle of traffic on the highway. The women raced for the gates before they closed, slowed by Susan who limped. Kumai berated herself for getting her client hurt.

Still on the cell with 911, Susan said, “Okay. Yes, ma’am. We will wait there with the body.” She hung up. “I didn’t see the license plates on that car, did you?”

Kumai said no. She also did not look forward to filing yet another police report. She did wonder, however, who would be on duty for the ambulance.

bluedragonlight
A crowd had formed around the body. Kumai said, “Let’s follow that guy who ran. He drove toward Waimea.”

“In Lightning? You want to pursue another vehicle in a hundred year old truck?”

“It’s souped up.”

“We’re s’posed to wait here for emergency services. Wouldn’t that be leaving the scene of a crime?”

“That guy is an important lead into solving that crime. Should we just lose him?”

“Oh hell.” Susan said and jumped into the truck. They had to squish in with the bags.

Kumai eased out of the parking lot onto the highway, then floored it when they were out of sight of the Blue Dragon.

“Is ‘leaving the scene’ going to get us jail time?” Susan asked.

“Sitting around for hours to answer questions and fill out a third police report would feel like jail time.” Kumai said, then tried to cover her slip with a distraction, “I know someone who will vouch for us if there’s trouble.”

“Third? ‘Third police report’?”

Kumai focused on the road. She gripped the steering wheel more tightly.

“Why have you had to file police reports?” Susan asked. “Were there two other murders?”

“Oh, my car trunk got broken into yesterday. Theft.”

“That’s one.” Susan waited.

“The other was for my neighbors.”

“Why do I get the feeling there was more than a break-in for them? Oh, because they would file their own report. Unless they’re traveling.” Susan paused. “But they’re not, are they? If they’re traveling, it’s to the Big Vacay in the Sky. Am I right?”

Kumai couldn’t help it. She laughed. “Something like that.”

“Were you close?”

“No.  Not really.”

“Did they have an accident?  You wanna tell me about it?”

“Not really, no.”

“Let me rephrase. Kumai, I need you to tell me about it. What’s going on?”

“I don’t think we’re going to find that guy driving in the dark tonight.”

“You think?” Susan waited.

“You were limping earlier.” Kumai tried. “Are you hurt?”

“Blew out my flip flop.”

“We call ’em slippahs, here.”

“The neighbors?” Susan persisted. “And your not-friend back there tonight?”

“Okay. I don’t really know what’s going on. My neighbors were killed, then I was on a dive and that dead guy back there attacked us. I cut his face with my swim fin.”

“Uh huh.”

“I don’t know what it’s all about.”

“Any ideas?”

“Some, but I probably shouldn’t talk about it.”

“Secret agent stuff?”

“Something like that.”

“And you live like this?”

“Like what? These past few days have been a bit unusual…”

“Undercover.”

“Oh, not me. I’m no agent. I’m a concierge.”

“Uh huh.”

“No, really.”

“A concierge who dives.”

“That’s not unusual.” Kumai said. “I think.”

“The underwater combat part might be. This is so…” Susan took a deep breath.

Kumai waited.

“Unbelievably…”

Kumai could find other jobs. The boat fund didn’t have to grow overnight.

“Cool.” Susan sighed and leaned her head out to look at the starlit sky. She pulled her head back in and said, “You know, I’m not hungry any more but I think I need to visit my Pusher.”

Kumai’s heart dropped. This was not what she wanted to be doing. “This might not be the best time.”

“Legal stuff, Kumai.”

“Huh?”

“Caffeine and Sugar. Take me to Daddy Starbucks. Didn’t you mention there was one in Waimea?”

“Oh, I did.” Kumai took a deep breath.

“I used to use. Probably too much.” Susan mused. “But drugs didn’t do me any favors.”

“So you just quit?”

“Just stopped. A few years ago. Easy as deactivating a facebook account.”

Kumai wondered if that would be easy. She also realized that she hadn’t wanted to use for an entire day. Again.

waimea_starbucks
Susan waited in the truck while Kumai went in for two soy lattes, a pound of Kona beans, and the bag of consignment clothing that they probably no longer needed.

The truck radio played soft slack-key guitar as they drove to the ranch, sipping in starlit silence.

And then…

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