“The police are here for us?” Susan hissed. The two women searched each marble stall and established that they were alone for the moment. “And you didn’t think I needed to know this sooner?”
Ginger perfume swirled past them on the night air as it swayed through the open rooms. The opulence of the washroom contrasted with specters of imprisonment.
“I, um… Well, it was one of those toss ups.”
“Toss ups?!” Susan blurted.
“You were looking forward to tonight. I decided to wait and see…” Kumai shrugged one shoulder.
“Okay, okay. Let me think for a minute. Blame isn’t going to move us forward.”
Susan said us. Kumai heard a whisper of hope in her otherwise silent career future.
“I see three options, maybe you see more. The main objective is not to be arrested in full view of everyone. This would change the tone of my introduction to the community.”
Ya think? Kumai was fascinated by Susan’s rapid shift to problem-solver.
“Option one is for me to wait here while you bring the police to meet us at the back. Then we turn ourselves in.” Susan waited for Kumai’s input.
Kumai waited to hear their other options.
“Another option is to leave now. They probably have people watching for us out front. We could leave via a fire exit. But we don’t know where those are and using one might trip some alarms.”
Kirby. Except he had left the dance floor without a word.
“And the third option would be to hide out somewhere. We could try to get a room here under an alias.”
The Dr. and Mrs. Ching, plus one.
“But they will eventually search the rooms.” Susan finished. She sat down on one of the velvet settees. Kumai leaned against the vanity counter but the light bulbs behind her were hot. A haze of perspiration bloomed all over her. She moved to the round pintucked ottoman, which put her knees up in a tawdry rock-star pose.
She leaned forward to listen. Susan said, “Thoughts?”
Kumai conjured no ideas four, five and six. Generally she called Tom whenever she needed extraction. But in this environment he would be less than subtle. Could Taka be of help? Too Switzerland. He would likely prefer not to get involved. Bradon was not an option since the knight role would give him horsepower for his sense of entitlement to Kumai.
“I may know a way that we can access the fire exits. Lay low here for a few minutes while I see what I can work out. I’ll come get you.”
“If we leave, we’re still fugitives.” Susan commented.
“But not publicly humiliated.” Kumai left the restroom and stood behind an areca palm to observe the great room. The officers were seated at tables on either side of the large space. Kumai couldn’t see any other police in the room, but with everyone wearing white, it became difficult to distinguish anything.
She found Kirby’s table and skirted the room to get closer. His date the waitress spied Kumai behind a full-size tiki, scowled, and whispered to Kirby. He looked in her direction. Kumai gestured for him to join her. He said something to his date and left the table to walk over.
She tried not to whisper. “I need your help. Can you get Susan and me out through the fire exits?”
“Can’t Bradon help you? Why don’t you ask him?”
“I need your help, if you’re willing. I can’t put myself in the position of owing Bradon for helping me, if you know what I mean. I can’t explain fast enough. And we need to leave discretely.”
“Okay, so if I help you go out the back way, how will you get your car?” Kirby asked.
“Well, crap.” Kumai said. “I didn’t think about that. Could you get my coral chit from our table and ask the valets to bring the truck to the back?”
“Okay, whatever. I can get your dakine.” Kirby started to leave.
“Wait.” Kumai put a hand on his arm. She wanted to be held by him and for all of this to go away. “Meet us at the lady’s room?”
“I’ll help, but I’m not going into the Wahine’s room, even for you. I’ll get the key, request that your vehicle be brought to the back, then come meet you to show you the exit.”
“Ah, I meant we’d meet you outside the restroom. I guess just knock for us? And, thank you Kirby.”
“No need to thank me. I don’t even know what I’m doing. I stopped being rational when I saw you tonight.”
“Kirby, I can’t just dump Bradon because I’ve, well… we, you know? I’d kiss you if I could.” She smiled.
He stepped closer and gave her a tender kiss. She moved forward for more but he turned and left without a glance her way. Kumai leaned back against the wall for a moment and reminded herself to breathe just like she’d had to do the first time she broke surface and submerged to dive.
Another course was being brought to the tables. She attempted to see what it was but with no success. She eased her way back to the restroom for Susan.
“Set in motion?” Susan asked.
“With a valet to the back.”
“Oh sheesh. Our truck.”
“Ready?” Kumai asked.
“I left my new scarf at the table.” Susan said.
“We both have our clutches, that’ll have to be good enough.” Kumai felt for the necklace just to be sure it was still with her.
A light tap sounded on the restroom door. “Let’s go.” Kumai said.
“This way.” Kirby ushered the women in front of him. He whispered as they walked, “There were two key-tikis by your plate, so I took them both to the valets.”
“Two?” Kumai asked. “The other one must be Dr. Ching’s. That might be okay, though, because he’s in no condition to drive. Can you get his car away from him for the night?”
“Okay, but what about him?”
“He’s pouring his way toward passing out. He may need a room.”
“I’ll check on him for you.”
“Great.” She stepped out the back door. “What’s taking the valet so long? Were they busy?”
“No, but they said there’s only one valet who knows how to drive your make of car.” Kirby answered.
“Cuz it’s a stick?! They might want to review their hiring practices.”
An angry roar from the distance out-dinned the coqui chorus.
“What was that?” Susan peeked out from the exit.
“It sounded like a jet engine.” Kumai said. “Susan, they’re taking longer than we expected. Do you want to find an alcove and hide there? I’ll come get you.”
Kirby waited for the door to close. “Hide? What’s going on? Is she in some kind of trouble?”
“We both are. The police are here to arrest us.”
“Police? Why? What police?”
“They just came in. Four of them. We may have left a murder scene last night.”
“You were in Kawaihae when that happened?”
“We were sort of witnesses.”
Kirby whistled. Another roar sounded in the distance, then the scream of tires on pavement tore through the darkness. The roaring grew louder as a British blue vehicle pulled up in front of them. The valet shut off the engine and raced back around to the front of the building while leaving the driver door open. The sudden quiet pressed on them.
“This isn’t Lightning.” Kumai said.
“Not your car?” Kirby grinned.
“We’ve uncovered the doctor’s secret side.” Kumai noted. “I don’t think we can wait much longer for our truck. Especially if that valet was running to turn us in.”
“You can’t drive that.” Kirby pointed to the Paint Shaker 2000 sitting in front of them.
Kumai sucked in her cheeks and went in the back door. She returned with Susan.
Kirby tried again, “Kumai, without special training you could get seriously hurt driving that car. I’ve seen them half-vaporized.”
She opened the passenger door for Susan and said, “Watch out. Don’t touch that silver pipe below the door. It’ll be hot. You may want to buckle up.” Susan looked wide-eyed at Kirby.
Kumai walked over to Kirby and said, “I’m trained,” and kissed him fiercely.
It was Kirby’s turn to lean on the wall for support. Kumai trotted to the driver’s side and climbed in, careful of the hot exhaust pipe.
“There’s only a lap belt.” Susan said. “Is that legal? Wait, wait, where’s the airbag?”
“This is it.” Kumai said and turned on the ignition.
Kirby’s hands flew to his ears as the Shelby Cobra roared to action. Kumai accelerated to a high rev and slowly released the clutch, squealing tires and fishtailing away from the lodge.
“They may have heard us leave.” Susan yelled.
But Kumai couldn’t hear her over the engine. It took all her focus and concentration to keep the horses under rein.
“Slow down.” Susan yelled. “SLOW DOWN!”
“IT WON’T.” Kumai yelled back, keeping her eyes focused on the road.
Noise and vibration adled her while she tried not to fight the machine. The cliff face didn’t give them margin for error. Each shift to the next gear brought a fresh slide nearly out of control as the rear wheels tried to overtake the front.
They opened out onto the upper road. Kumai glanced over to check on her passenger. Her vision tried to keep up with their shaking and produced a kaleidoscope effect. In each facet, a Susan appeared who moved like the muppet Animal with the frown and hair of Beaker. Kumai pulled her eyes away from the Susans.
The ride wasn’t really so bad if she just thought of it like a massage chair with a shiatsu cushion on top of that and three sumo wrestlers behind her kicking her airplane seat in turbulence. She felt the tension in her relax as she turned to jelly.
Susan tapped her shoulder and gestured to pull over. The two-lane road offered no shoulder but Kumai eased to the side and stopped. The idle was even more convulsive than when under way.
“Take. Me. Back.” The Susans yelled through clenched teeth, presumably to keep them from chipping each other.
“What?” Kumai yelled. “No, really?”
“Takemeback.” Susan yelled. “I’d rather be arrested.”
Kumai took a deep breath, put the Cobra in first, and floored it. She did a one-eighty on the highway. There was no room for a U-turn. She knew that if she tried to control a Shelby on short back-and-forth stints they would hit the rock wall on one side or go over the cliff on the other.
Her right rear fender scraped rock on the final fishtail, throwing sparks as metal grated along lava and the tail light burst. Now they were at risk of getting pulled over for a safety violation.
They were already headed for their arrests. Kumai’s only motivation now was to prevent adding car theft to the charges. She opened up the engine and let it do what it does best, passing quickly through all six gears. They headed back to the Moana Lodge and their uncertain future, the engine screaming across the quiet lava. At least, Kumai hoped it was the engine screaming and not Susan.
They turned to head for the back of the Lodge. Kumai executed a series of restraining downshifts. She slammed on the brakes when she rounded the building to find Lightning parked in the access lane in front of her. She stopped at ninety degrees to the truck.
Kumai killed the engine and removed the key.
“Holy hunshrubslubub.” Susan said. “I have brain shearing.”
“What’s that?” Kumai asked.
“You really wanna do this?” Kumai asked. “We could try again in Lightning.”
“Don’t have it in me.” Susan said.
“Okay. So… I’ll go get the police.” Kumai paused, wondering how to tell Susan that she looked like a muppet love-child. “You go to the restroom again to wait. You might wanna…” she gestured both hands up the sides of her head. Susan’s haku lei looked like a droopy Boho headband, slightly kapakahi over one eye, “freshen up.”
“Right.” Susan opened the door.
“Watch the tailpipe!” Kumai warned.
Susan got out and stumbled. Kumai jumped out to steady her but Susan was already underway to the door, walking like she was doing hava nagila.
Kirby hopped out of the truck. “Kumai!”
“Hey, Kirby.” She leaned against the sportscar to steady herself. The normally deafening coqui frogs sounded like distant temple bells. She smelled burning plastic and decided not to look at the bottom of her shoe.
“I tried to call you.” He dashed over to her, his infectious laugh filling the warm night air. “Those officers aren’t here for you.”
“They aren’t? If you asked them, now they will be…”
“No, no! They were invited here for the Benefit, as a courtesy, just like my Engine House. Emergency Services? A hospital benefit? They arrived late because they just got off duty. Off. Duty.”
Kumai snorted in disbelief. Kirby embraced her. Everything stopped shaking. Stars tapped her mind with their startling brightness and she began to laugh. Maybe it was less laugh and more hysteria because Kirby whispered, “It’s okay, you’re okay. It’s okay.” And it was.
Before she had a chance to look for the Milky Way she found herself exchanging yet another friendly peck with Kirby. It was a long and slippery peck. Her gratitude for his help was so great that she understood for the first time why they called the back part of a pickup truck a bed. It was probably also why they called them pick-up trucks.
She apologized, “I’m so sorry. Susan is waiting to turn herself in. I’ve got to give her your news and see what she wants to do next.”
Kirby’s release was reluctant. He handed Kumai the key to Lightning and she pressed the Cobra key into his hand. His eyes widened.
“The Doc definitely doesn’t need to be driving home tonight. I’ll pay for the damages.” Kumai grimaced and reentered the building.
“I’m also a diver…” Kumai said.
“And a race car driver. But, okay. Are the police ready for us?” Susan asked.
“Well, um… would it be worse for you to be in jail tonight than to have the evening here free and clear?”
“Even if there was a bit of — say — turbulence in the middle of your evening?”
“Okay, no more code. Out with it.”
“Aren’t here for us. They just got off duty and joined the Benefit. They’re here for the event.”
Susan’s jaw worked, the muscles twitching as she processed this information. Then she burst out laughing. “Poor Dr. Ching.”
“Yeah.” Kumai said. “Listen, I need a minute to freshen up too. Mind if I meet you back at the table?”
“Connie?” Kumai asked as Susan opened the door to exit. A man in the hallway hurried by with a unmistakable limp.
Bill Cosby inspired the writing about how it is to be in a Shelby Cobra. We have been passengers, but unlike Kumai, we didn’t have the skills to drive one: