Disclaimers: Sorry to say, none of them belong to me. Sentinel is Paramount and Pet Fly, One West Waikiki is Rysher and Glen Larson, Marker is Stephen Cannell Productions. No infringement is intended. I'm just having a little fun with (a lot of) the boys.
Many thanks to Gina for research, keeping my island directions consistent, and helping with inevitable plot problems. We took a little license with locales and fictional names, but most of this is spot on! Thanks, too, to Shellie for enduring disjointed fragments and unfinished scenes while this story came together; your comments are always welcome! Mahalo, aikane!
Two West to Waikiki
by -- Mackie
"This is so weird," Blair Sandburg murmured in perplexed delight as he walked beside his partner through the terminal of Honolulu International Airport. "I've never really thought of you as a babe magnet."
Jim Ellison was equally bemused. So far, a flight attendant on their trip from Seattle to Honolulu had given him her phone number, and others since their arrival had greeted him with casual friendliness. "No kidding," he agreed. "And what's with the Hawaiian greeting -- 'aloha, mack'? Sounds like the language has gone slang or something."
"Must be some sort of new cultural thing," Blair agreed, shedding the light jacket he'd worn on the plane and breathing the warm, clean Hawaiian air. The locals called it the "aloha spirit", but whatever it was, the soft scent of plumeria and ginger blossoms filled the lungs and the spirit with a sense of peace. Yep, there really was something different about Hawaii; you felt it the second you got off the plane. "Maybe something like that California Valley-speak of a few years ago, remember?"
"Fer shur," Jim murmured in deadpan response. Then he wiped his forehead with the palm of his hand. "Man, I'd forgotten what the humidity was like in the tropics."
"What humidity?" Blair asked seriously. He hadn't really noticed; the humidity was barely affecting him. Around them, various gift carts sported colorful displays of flower leis, and locals and tourists alike were dressed in vividly printed shirts, dresses, and the more traditional muu muu (pronounced moo-oo moo-oo, and not like two lows from a cow, Blair had already explained to Jim, who'd just smiled tolerantly).
March in Hawaii was a special time. While the State of Washington and much of the rest of the country suffered through the throes of winter cold, Hawaii was balmy and sunny. Although daily rains were probable, the weather generally remained warm and benign. March was a time between the cooler, heavier rains of winter and the humid heat of summer; it was perfect.
Blair was still amazed by the memory of coming home to the empty loft and finding two airplane tickets on the table. Winter had not been kind to Cascade this year. Abnormally high rainfall in an area noted for its precipitation combined with record-breaking cold had made life in the city miserable. They'd needed the vacation. Now, Blair understood why Jim had kept pestering him about his plans; he'd been looking for an empty week in which to book their trip.
"I am getting so mellow in my old age," he said with a sigh, a little surprised to find he was actually enjoying all the signs of crass tourism around them. "Five years ago, you never could have gotten me to Hawaii to do the tourist thing."
"I know it offends your liberal sensibilities," Jim chided, "but it's warm, cheap, and relatively close."
"Yeah, I'm not complaining," Blair hastened to explain. "I really appreciate it. It's just that, when I studied here for a semester as an undergrad, I learned how badly the locals were exploited, first by American big business, and then by the Japanese during the 80's land boom."
"Would you believe I actually agree with you?" Jim countered mildly.
"Yeah? It must be the humidity."
"Probably, but for a nation that used to pride itself on being a melting pot of diverse cultures, we've had a pretty deplorable track record when dealing with our own indigenous peoples."
Blair smiled and shook his head in amazement. Sometimes, Jim managed to surprise the heck out of him.
A young woman at one of the lei stands stepped forward with a huge smile and blocked their path. "Aloha, Mack," she greeted, slipping a plumeria lei around Jim's neck and giving him a kiss on the cheek.
"Thank you," Jim managed to say politely before turning away and loosing a mighty sneeze. "That's very nice."
Blair waited hopefully, but the woman only smiled radiantly at him before turning her attention back to Jim. "Call me," she urged before returning to her cart.
Jim nodded, wiping at the allergic tears forming in his eyes and hurrying on so he could remove the offending flowers from his neck. He handed the lei to Blair. "Wear it in good health," he said, reaching for his handkerchief so he could harness another sneeze. "Just don't get too close."
"Thanks," Blair said enthusiastically, slipping the fragrant blossoms around his neck.
Jim was concentrating on his tearing eyes and was unable to avoid colliding with a large Hawaiian in a saltwater-faded tank top and baggy shorts. The impact almost caused him to lose his balance; the man was huge, over three-hundred pounds of muscle and fat. The Styrofoam coffee cup the man was carrying spilled its lukewarm contents down the front of Jim's shirt.
"Whoa, sorry, bra'," said the man, pawing ineffectually at the dark blot.
Jim hastily stepped away from him. "That's all right," he said. "My fault." He looked at his shirtfront in distaste, then handed his claim ticket to his loftmate. "Sandburg, why don't you go pick up the luggage and I'll change out of this -- I've got a spare shirt in my carryon."
"Sure," Blair agreed amiably. "I'll wait in baggage claim for you."
They parted company, Jim to find a restroom, Blair to find their luggage.
Jim found the closest restroom and went inside to the sink. He stripped out of his stained shirt and tank tee, then grabbed the spares out of his flight bag. Dressed again, he rinsed as much of the coffee as he could from the stained clothing, wrung it out, and folded the items on top of the rest of his stuff. It would have to do until they reached a spot where he could wash and dry them properly.
Leaving the restroom, he was surprised to find the big Hawaiian waiting for him; and he'd brought a friend, equally huge. They stepped up on either side of him, and Jim felt something poke him in the side.
"Don't cause no trouble, bra'," the first man said. "Lot of haole tourists get hurt you cause trouble."
The first thought that ran through Jim's mind was that he couldn't even take a vacation like normal people; the second was that he wasn't going to cause any trouble, not stuck between a third of a ton of muscle dressed in faded tank tops and shorts large enough to clothe a hippopotamus.
And then he wondered why these two had singled him out from all the tourists arriving on his flight. After all, he didn't look all that affluent. Airport muggers usually targeted businessmen or vacationing married couples with kids; they were the ones who carried cash. "The wallet's in the right rear pocket," he said calmly.
The man snorted derisively. "Don't want your money, cop," he said as he and his partner hustled Jim toward the exit. "You comin' with us."
So they knew who he was. The fact certainly put a new twist on things, but Jim didn't have a clue as to why he was being kidnapped in Hawaii. He didn't have any hot cases pending at the moment.
A petit young woman in tight jeans and a flowered shirt suddenly blocked their exit. It was a dangerous move considering the combined weight of her opposition, but the large Hawaiians stopped obediently, apparently confused by her confrontation.
Abruptly, the woman slapped Jim across the face. "I never want to see you again, Mack!" she hissed angrily, then stormed off.
As Hawaiian greetings went, it lacked a certain warmth; as prophesy...who could say?
With the blow still stinging his cheek, Jim was marched out the door.
The terminal was covered by a traditional roof, but there were very few truly enclosed spaces -- most of the walkways were open on either side to admit the fresh breeze. The baggage area, for reasons of security, was fronted by a wall of glass facing the taxi queue and loading area. Blair waited with the other passengers from his flight for the luggage carousel to start moving and disgorge all the assorted suitcases, bags, surfboards and backpacks that had crossed the Pacific with them.
In front of the windows, a three-piece band -- consisting of ukelele, slack key guitar and Polynesian drum-- was playing some traditional Hawaiian music designed to assure the tourists they'd finally reached paradise. Two dancers in grass shirts and multiple leis danced the hula, their movements graceful and intricate. Blair wasn't fond of heavy-handed commercialism, but when it involved pretty girls, he could be a lot less critical. He watched appreciatively while waiting for the baggage to arrive.
Distracted, he was hardly aware when Jim stepped up beside him, but he did notice his friend had picked up a snack. "Red Vines," he said in approval. "Let me have a piece."
After a moment, the bag was offered to him, and Blair took a strand. "You're a bit pushy even for a tourist," observed the familiar voice.
Blair glanced away from the dancers for a moment, took in the linen shirt and colorful suspenders beneath a light-weight sport coat. "Man, when you go casual, you really go casual," he commented, but already the warning bells were going off in his brain.
"I give you candy," the man retorted in irritation, "and you start insulting my wardrobe?"
If he hadn't been distracted by the dancers, Blair would have realized the truth sooner. "Sorry, man," he laughed in embarrassment. "You just look enough like my friend to be his twin."
The differences were subtle but obvious when looked for -- this man was definitely more relaxed and laid back than Jim; besides which, he had a tan. He also had a mischievous sparkle in his eyes that indicated he seldom took anything too seriously. Beyond that, and maybe a year or two in age, the two men were astonishingly identical, especially since Jim had allowed his hair to grow a bit from his previous crew cut.
"You're kidding," the man returned with a frown, munching on some candy.
"No, it's amazing," Blair insisted. "You look just like my partner."
The frown turned to alarm. "He's gay? Do you have any idea what that could do to my reputation?" Blair laughed and started to explain, but the man's focus shifted and he smiled. "Hi, Sherry."
The woman who stopped beside them looked perplexed. "Mack? I thought I just saw you a minute ago."
So this guy was named Mack. Well, Blair concluded with a mental grin, at least that explained the unusual greetings Jim had been receiving.
"Nope, been here all the time," Mack assured her with a charming smile.
The woman blushed crimson. "But I saw you going off with two big Hawaiian men," she insisted. "I slapped your face."
Mack's smile faltered. "You slapped me?" he echoed, abruptly stepping behind Blair. "Why would you want to do that?" No, Blair concluded, this man definitely, obviously, undeniably wasn't anything like Jim.
"You know why!" the woman retorted, then frowned. "Oh, lord, if I didn't hit you, who was it?"
The woman's words finally penetrated Blair's humorous thoughts. "Wait a minute!" he interrupted urgently. "What two Hawaiian men?"
Sherry shrugged. "Just big men. Very big men."
"Kind of like the Bobsey Twins on steroids?" Mack asked.
Blair turned around to face Jim's double. "You know them?"
"Yeah," Mack sighed in irritation. "I've never met them, but I know who they are. I should've realized this whole thing was a setup to snatch me. What the hell could go wrong in a place as public as the airport?" He grimaced. "Unfortunately, I didn't count on the stupidity of the opposition."
"You're saying they've kidnapped Jim?" Blair accused in alarm. "We have to call the police."
Distracted with his thoughts, Mack replied, "Nah, I am the police." He shook his head with annoyance. "I think I know where they've taken him. Grab your bags and come on. I'll drop you at your hotel and go pick up your friend."
Blair found their luggage and pulled it off the carousel. "Uh-uh," he said, following behind. "I'm coming with you."
The local cop drove a dark blue Camaro convertible. Blair stuck the bags in the tiny back seat and jumped into the passenger side, nearly bolting up again as the cloth upholstery scorched his back and thighs even through his clothing. Convertibles and sunshine -- made for each other except when one was parked too long under the other.
Mack didn't seem to be bothered by it. He removed his jacket and added it to the pile in the back, then climbed in and started the engine. Nervously, Blair noted the holstered weapon on the man's right hip.
Within a few minutes, they were on the H-1 and heading east. The freeway cut between the lush Koolau Mountains on their left and the pristine high-rise towers of Waikiki on their right. Blair and Jim had left Seattle on an early-morning flight, and with the time difference, it was still morning; traffic was relatively light. By mid-afternoon, the crush of commuters joining with the tourist throngs would reduce the entire island to a state of stop-and-crawl progress.
"So, what's your name?" Mack asked conversationally.
"Blair Sandburg," was the somewhat distracted reply. Blair had suddenly realized he'd just driven off with a complete stranger. What if the man wasn't really a cop? "Sorry, I only know you as Mack."
"Lieutenant Mack Wolfe, HPD Homicide," the driver introduced himself.
Blair relaxed a little. The answer had sounded genuine. "Why does someone want to kidnap you?"
Mack shrugged off the question. "Just a case I'm working on," he answered, adding, "If you have any sunscreen handy, you'd better put it on. You'll be french fried in about an hour."
Blair unbuckled his seatbelt and twisted around in the seat to find his carryon bag. He found what he wanted and sat down again. The wind was making his hair blow into his face, so he pulled the long curls back into a pony tail, then rubbed a thick layer of sunscreen over his face and neck, making certain to coat the tops of his ears. "Who are the big Hawaiians who took Jim?"
"Jim," Mack echoed. "That's your -- uh --friend?"
"Friend and partner," Blair agreed. "Jim Ellison -- he's a cop, too."
Mack thumped the steering wheel in irritation. "A cop? Damn, this just keeps getting better and better." He glared at his passenger. "Somehow, my captain's gonna figure out a way to blame this whole mess on me." After a moment, he added, "He really looks that much like me?"
"Twins," Blair confirmed. "You must have an Ellison somewhere in your family tree."
"Don't recall one. Maybe he has a Wolfe in his." He glanced at Blair again. "You're a cop?"
"Consultant." Blair didn't want to get into lengthy explanations, so he admired the car. "Nice wheels for a police car."
Blair sat back in his seat and fretted. The vacation was off to a rocky start. "Is Jim in any danger?" he asked a little anxiously. He thought he knew the answer -- Mack was entirely too relaxed about the kidnapping to make Blair think the situation was grim, but still...
"Not if he stays with the Primo Warriors," Mack answered vaguely.
"The Primo Warriors," Blair echoed. "The two big Hawaiians?"
"And what if he doesn't stay with them?"
Mack's confidence never wavered. "Then he goes from being with Dumb and Dumber to being with Dumbest. He's not in any danger." He shook off his irritation at the Primo Warriors. "Is this your first trip to Hawaii?"
"Second. I came here for part of a semester during my sophomore year in college."
"Yeah? What was your major?"
"I'm an anthropologist."
"No kidding." Mack seemed to enjoy the small talk, another trait that distinguished him from Jim. "What hotel are you staying at?"
"Jim rented a house on the windward coast," Blair answered. "Neither one of us is much into the tourist scene. He wants to try surfing -- he was a surfer years ago -- and I thought I'd check out some of the island's cultural history, maybe fly over to Kauai and hike Waimea Canyon." Actually, he was planning to find a nice gift for his partner. The meager funds he'd scraped together for a vacation this year couldn't begin to help pay for this trip; he felt the least he could do was show his appreciation in some small way. Lieutenant Wolfe didn't need to know this, however; he already had strange notions about the two friends.
"So, you're just getting away from the rain and cold for awhile," Mack observed.
"Yeah, but what makes you say that?"
"You're not tan enough to be from the sun belt, and your travel clothes are too casual for an easterner. I'm guessing northwest -- Oregon, Washington, Idaho?"
Blair was impressed. "Cascade, Washington," he confirmed.
"I can spot a tourist to within two states of his home," Mack admitted humbly.
Blair surreptitiously studied his unexpected ally. No poker face there, he realized. Mack's expressions were right out there for everyone to see; there was no outward reserve, no visible defensive barriers, no heavy layer of suspicion. He saw he still had the sunscreen, so he popped it back into his carryon and twisted in the seat to put it with the rest of the luggage. He saw the luggage tags -- SEA/HON. Seattle/Honolulu. He smiled. Mack Wolfe -- keen observer or bullshit artist? Or maybe a combination of both. Blair would have to stay on his toes and constantly remind himself that this lookalike was not -- repeat not -- Jim Ellison.
A phone buzzed, and for the first time Blair noticed the unit attached to the detective's belt. Mack slipped a tiny earplug into his ear; it attached to the phone with a thin cord. "Wolfe," he said, his voice picked up by a tiny microphone on the cord. He listened, and his expression tightened. "OK, I'll check it out." Ending the call, he glanced at Blair. "I'll have to drop you off somewhere."
Blair shook his head. "No way, not until we find my partner."
Exasperated, Mack insisted, "Look, I have to investigate a homicide. I can't do that with you hanging around."
"Why not?" Blair countered. "I've seen dead bodies before. I'll stay out of the way."
"Like that's even a remote possibility," Mack grumbled, but he didn't protest any further.
Jim decided the old adage really was true -- there was never a cop around when you needed one. His captors, who each gripped one arm tight enough to cut off circulation, took him across the road to the airport parking lot and bundled him into the front seat of a battered old El Dorado convertible. Even with the wide bench seat, he was squashed between the two huge men.
Through some miracle, he had managed to hang on to his carryon. Since his hands were going numb, he dropped the bag onto his feet and worked his fingers in an effort to restore some circulation. He felt like a minnow caught between two beluga whales.
The Cadillac's suspension groaned under its heavy burden, but the engine was in good shape. They left the airport lot, cut north to the H-1 freeway, and picked up speed, heading northwest.
The sun was hot on top of his head. "Do you mind if I put on a hat or something?" he asked. "I don't want to get sunburned my first hour in Hawaii."
"You very funny man, Mack," the giant to his right said, but he picked up the carryon and rifled through it, finding only innocent toilette articles and some spare clothing, including the coffee-dampened tee and shirt. He passed the bag to Jim. "Help yourself," he said obligingly, studying Jim closely. "You lookin' a little pale. You been sick or somethin'?"
Jim put on his Jags cap and rubbed sunscreen on his face and arms. "I wish I knew what the hell you were talking about," he grumbled.
The driver noticed the carryon bag for the first time. "You planning a trip?"
Jim was confused. "Yes, I was planning a trip to Hawaii." And then he got it. "You think I'm someone named Mack."
The big Hawaiians shared a laugh at his humor. "You Mack Wolfe," the one on the passenger side replied. "Very funny man."
"No," Jim explained patiently. "I'm Jim Ellison, not very damn funny at all."
"Nah," the driver scoffed, but he sounded doubtful.
"I have ID," Jim returned mildly, glad this was all a case of mistaken identity, but realizing he could have placed himself in real danger if his captors decided to rectify their error and not leave any witnesses.
"Show me," said the other passenger.
The Caddy turned north on the H-2 freeway, which cut up the center of the island through a knot of small towns and military installations. The Koolau Range dominated the horizon a few miles to the east, while the eastern slopes of the Wai'anae Range rose on their left.
Jim struggled to move forward enough so he could reach his wallet. Damn, he really was wedged like a sardine. Successful at last but left a little breathless, he handed over his ID.
"Ah, bra', we got big problem," the passenger-side Hawaiian said. "Says here James Ellison, Cascade Police."
"Where's Cascade?" asked the driver, focusing on the least important portion of his companion's report.
"Washington," Jim answered, wondering if he'd made a possibly fatal mistake by showing them his police ID.
"So, why different name?"
Baffled, Jim asked, "What different name?"
"You, Mack Wolfe. Like twins."
"We're not twins," Jim replied, wondering how he could resemble the local cop so closely that a woman who knew him well enough to slap his face could be fooled. The thought was a bit unsettling, but at least it explained the whole absurd mess with the weird aloha greetings and the kidnapping.
"Guess we gotta let you out here," the passenger said. He sounded a little doleful.
"No, we take him to Pipeline," the driver insisted.
"Bad move," his companion complained. "We in big trouble already. Pipeline only make it worse."
"Pipeline in trouble, bra," the driver countered. "Let him clean up the mess."
"Why don't you just drop me near a phone and we'll forget this whole thing?" Jim asked calmly, not really planning to be so generous with his forgiveness but wanting it over with. Besides, he'd left Blair stranded at the airport, and while the young man was resourceful, Jim didn't want him worrying needlessly.
The H-2 freeway ended, and the Caddy slowed as it joined tour buses and sightseers cruising up the two-lane through a broad, flat expanse of pineapple fields. There wasn't a phone in sight, but Jim knew Oahu was a small island and crowded with most of the State's population. A telephone couldn't be far away.
"OK," agreed the passenger.
"Uh-uh," said the driver.
The debate continued as they passed the Dole Pineapple Plantation, where most of the tour buses were bound, and the driver was able to pick up a little speed. The two-lane was officially designated Highway 99, but like the road it merged with at the coast, it was simply Kam Highway, named for King Kamehaha, the ruler that had united the Hawaiian islands under a single monarchy. The road paralleled the shore all the way around the eastern half of the island, until it changed names in the city of Kane'ohe.
They reached the North Shore, and the Caddy headed northeast. The pineapple fields were behind them now, and they traveled past beaches with colorful names like Pap'iloa and Laniakea. Small houses and local businesses clustered the roadside on their right.
The bickering was getting them nowhere. Jim started to point this out, but his fellow passenger abruptly drew the gun he'd dug into Jim's ribs at the airport. Automatically, Jim flinched, wondering if he had enough feeling in his arms to wrestle it from the huge man. But when the weapon fired, it simply shot a stream of water into the driver's face.
The Caddy swerved as the driver cursed, but it soon regained its proper place on the road. Within moments, Jim found himself the unwilling middleman in a squirt-gun war.
He'd been kidnapped at the point of a toy gun; there was no way in the world he would ever be able to live down the embarrassment!
Things couldn't get any stranger...could they?
Past Waikiki, the H-1 became Kalaniana'ole (Kalani) Highway, where Mack was forced to slow to accommodate the heavy traffic. The highway ran behind the arid slopes of the extinct volcano known as Diamond Head, then passed through the upscale neighborhood of Kahala, where the rich folk lived. Progressing economically downward but still in the pricey stratosphere of the very rich came Aina Haina and Hawaii Kai, beyond which the road curved around another dead volcano, Koko Head. Mack pulled into a beach parking lot within the shadow of the giant landmark.
Crime scenes had a similarity no matter where they were located. The obligatory cluster of patrol cars, their roof and window lights flashing, the streamers of yellow crime scene tape, the morbidly curious straining to get a glimpse of the violence -- all of these were familiar to Blair. However, as illogical as it sounded, he couldn't help thinking violent crime shouldn't have a place in paradise. There was something particularly vulgar about murder amid the perfect brilliance of sky and sea, the sparkling sand, and the swaying palms. Even the onlookers, in their vibrant Hawaiian-print clothing, looked obscene.
Mack parked the Camaro in the last spot of shade and climbed out. He glanced around, saw the Medical Examiner's car, and retrieved his sport jacket from the back seat. Taking a minute to shrug into it and straighten his appearance, he seemed almost unaware of his extra care.
Blair thought this might be an interesting sidebar as he walked beside the detective toward the yellow tape. He ducked under in perfect time with Mack, so the uniformed cop holding the barrier didn't even look twice at the tee-shirted, long-haired young man.
As they crossed the hot sand, Mack seemed surprised to find Blair still beside him. "You particularly fond of dead bodies?"
"No," Blair answered simply, not bothering to explain he was curious about Mack's personal interest in someone from the ME's office. He was also more than a little concerned that Mack might cheerfully abandon him if he strayed too far from the Lieutenant's side.
The body was lying in the sand by a natural pile of rocks that bordered a little cove. A surfboard lay in pieces amid the black volcanic rock nearest the waterline. The corpse was clad in swim trunks and looked to be a mix of several Polynesian races.
Blair hardly noticed these details, however, because his eyes immediately fell on the woman who was examining the body. She was gorgeous -- petite and blond, elegant and sophisticated even crouched incongruously beside the dead man on the sand. No wonder Mack Wolfe had paid extra attention to his appearance!
"Hey, Doc, what have you got for me?" Mack asked with casual interest, squatting on his heels across from her. Blair stayed on his feet, not wanting to appear intrusive, but he didn't want to miss anything either.
She indicated the corpse with a sweep of one latex-gloved hand. "He's been dead approximately four hours. Some swimmers pulled him from the water about fifty minutes ago. Cause of death appears to be asphyxia by drowning." She placed a finger against the back of the dead man's head. "There's a serious contusion at the base of his skull, probably indicating a fracture. He more than likely drowned after he was knocked unconscious."
Blair saw the broken surfboard and couldn't help himself. "So it looks like a surfing accident," he blurted.
Mack glared over his shoulder at him, and the woman looked up with polite curiosity. Blair rushed on, impulsively holding out his hand. "Blair Sandburg," he introduced himself. "And you're Doctor -- ?"
"Dawn Holliday, the Medical Examiner," she replied, peeling off her glove to accept his handshake. "Are you a police officer, Mr. Sandburg?"
"Consultant," he replied, blushing.
"You're a civilian tourist," Mack shot back, rolling his eyes at Holli as if embarrassed to admit the young man was with him. "Go wait in the car."
"Sorry," Blair murmured, scowling darkly at the back of the detective's head but not moving to obey the order.
Doctor Holliday just smiled. "A surfing accident is exactly how it looks," she agreed.
"But?" Mack asked.
"What makes you think there's more?" she countered mildly.
"Because I know you, Doc, and nothing's ever just a simple, straightforward accident," Mack replied. "So what's wrong with this picture?"
"Sand," Mack repeated flatly.
She put on a fresh glove and opened the victim's mouth. "See the sand?"
Mack peered closely, while Blair turned his attention to the men recovering the broken pieces of surfboard. Peering into the mouths of dead people was a little more than he could stomach, especially since he hadn't eaten anything beyond the depressing airline food and a strand of Red Vine candy.
"OK, I see sand. So what?"
"It's the wrong sand for this beach," she reported triumphantly. "He was drowned somewhere else and dumped here."
Blair took an interest again. "You can identify different beaches by the sand?"
"Not all of them," the ME answered helpfully, "but there are a lot of easily identifiable variations in the composition of the sand making up the beaches of Oahu. There are different ratios of shell, olivine and ground lava that give each location a distinct personality. That's why we have green sand beaches and black sand beaches. In this case, the sand in the victim's mouth is from Nai'a Beach, further up the windward coast."
"Thank you," Blair said, grateful for the explanation. "I take it Nai'a Beach isn't a surfer beach, so a surfing accident there wouldn't be plausible?"
"Exactly," Doctor Holliday agreed.
"What about currents?" Blair continued. "Could he have drifted here in four hours?"
She shook her head. "Absolutely not." She smiled at Mack. "You have an observant new partner, Lieutenant."
"He's not my partner," both men quickly objected.
Only Mack's heart really wasn't in it. "I know this guy," he said, indicating the victim. "He's Moki Maguire. A fine Polynesian surname if there ever was one."
Doctor Holliday jotted the name in her notebook. "Good. There wasn't any ID on the body."
Mack glanced at Blair. "He's a friend of Jimmy Kahala's, who's cousin to Danny Kahala, who probably sent the Primo Warriors to the airport to kidnap me."
Blair processed this chain of information quickly. "You mean Jim's kidnapping is linked to a murder?" he asked softly, the blood draining from his face.
Just west of the turnoff for Waimea Falls Park, a lush garden of tropical flora from across the Pacific, the El Dorado crossed a narrow bridge, after which the driver turned left. For one horrible instant, Jim was certain the man was crazy, but there was a road of sorts, hidden by lush growth. The narrow dirt track sloped sickeningly downward, and the Caddy's loose shocks and springs made it rock like a rowboat in high seas. The oil pan hit bottom a few times, but the driver seemed unconcerned. Apparently, he'd done this maneuver a number of times before.
Toward the bottom of the slope, the driver gunned the engine, and the powerful Caddy leaped forward, it's weight and momentum carrying it through a shallow stream safely to the other side. A rough encampment had been set up beneath the sheltering trees of a small cove. Lean-to's of corrugated metal, a fire-pit, a rusty barbecue, and assorted surfboards added color to the shadowy scene. Beyond the trees was a narrow strip of rocky beach and the best waves Jim had seen in years. They rolled in from the far north, gaining size and momentum from storms borne on the jet stream, and there was nothing to block their path until this little strip of rock called Oahu, thrust out of the sea by the wrath of a volcano millions of years ago.
For a moment, Jim forgot his predicament to stare in appreciation at the waves. He was in a local surfer area, where tourists were definitely not welcome. Sandburg had been wrong about one thing -- the locals had managed to save some of the best for themselves.
The driver shut down the Caddy, and noticed the direction of Jim's stare. "You surf?"
"Not for years," Jim admitted. "I'm looking forward to doing some this trip."
"You can borrow my stick," the passenger offered generously, opening the door and shifting his huge body out. "Best surf in Oahu, 'cept maybe Sunset. Too many there now. Big surf competition this weekend. No big waves like December, but good competition for beginners."
Jim slid his body across the seat and climbed out. It felt good to be able to breathe again, and he stretched his cramped muscles.
A man, bare-chested and wearing baggy jams came toward them; he was a local judging from his deep tan and Polynesian features. Right now, his expression was alarmed. "What you do?" he all but shouted at Jim's kidnappers. "I tell you I need see Mack Wolfe, not you bring him to me."
"Big mistake, Pipeline," the driver said, clearly nervous even though he outweighed the smaller man by almost two hundred pounds. "Not Mack. Another cop."
The man called Pipeline stopped short and stared wide-eyed at Jim. "They cloning you now?" he asked in amazement. "Not enough cops go around, they gotta make copies?"
Jim started to open his mouth, but the big Hawaiian who had occupied the passenger seat chuckled and said, "Cloned? Coulda done better than Mack, eh, bra?"
The three Hawaiians laughed while Jim just glared at the speaker. "My name is Jim Ellison," he explained coolly when the merriment had died down. "I'm here on vacation. I'd like to get back to it sometime soon."
"Sure," Pipeline said amenably. "Mack gonna be pissed at us?"
"Don't know," Jim answered truthfully. "I've never met the man."
"Ha, good one," Pipeline chuckled. "You his bra' or cousin or what?"
"Or what, I suppose," Jim shot back. "I know this is all real funny to you boys, but I've been kidnapped, in case you haven't noticed. The longer you keep me hostage, the harder it's going to be on you."
"Kidnapped?" Pipeline echoed, alarmed. "Hostage? No, no, bra'. Like Primo One say, all big mistake. We take you back, all buddy-buddy, OK?"
"Sure," Jim lied easily. Still, these three didn't look as if they had an IQ between them, so maybe he wouldn't file charges. It would waste a lot of his vacation time, and no real harm had been done. Curiosity got the better of him, and he asked, "Why did you want to kidnap Mack Wolfe?"
Pipeline waved away the question. "Not kidnap, no no," he protested. "Talk. Just talk to Mack. Stubborn haole cop," he added under his breath. Whether he meant Mack or Jim, he didn't elaborate.
Primo One and his companion (presumably Primo Two, Jim deduced) walked off a short distance to converse privately, so naturally Jim tuned in to see if they were discussing him. He was a little startled by what he overheard.
"Bra', I've got finals tomorrow," One moaned. "If I go to jail over this, I'll get an incomplete, and then I'll be stuck in summer school to make it up."
Two wasn't impressed. "Yeah? Well, I've got the final evaluation on my thesis day after tomorrow. If I miss that, I won't have my Master's in time to take that special Polynesian Studies course in Aukland. I've got hotel reservations and everything."
So the awkward pigeon English was just a put-on for haoles and other strangers. Jim immediately decided to revise his opinion of his captors. Or at least the two big ones.
"So, what you think?" Pipeline asked a little desperately. "Forgive and forget, Policeman Jim?"
Jim shrugged. He really wasn't interested in falling any deeper down this particular rabbit hole. "Oh, hell, why not?" he sighed.
Pipeline grinned broadly in relief.
Another car jolted down the road and bounced through the creek. This one was an old VW bug converted to a dune buggy, it's metal so rusted it looked ready to disintegrate in the first strong breeze. The driver leaped out and rushed over to the group, his expression deadly serious. "Pipeline, someone killed Moki."
The atmosphere changed in that moment, becoming chill with shock and anger. The Primos hurried back to join the little group.
"Moki?" Pipeline repeated dumbly. "Moki? Why someone kill Moki?"
Jim's cop instincts went into overdrive, and he asked, "Who's Moki?"
Pipeline looked stunned at the bad news. "Moki -- uh, Moki got in trouble with my cousin, Jimmy, only it was Jimmy got caught by the cops. Moki got away." He looked back at the bearer of the bad news. "Moki really dead, bra'?"
There were about a dozen questions needing answers in that brief statement, so Jim plowed on. "Jimmy's in jail? What did he do?"
"Cops say he broke in Inichi Corporation Headquarters, kill guard, make big mess," Pipeline answered automatically. "Jimmy big conservation nut, wants Hawaii quit building golf courses and hotels. Get Japanese developers out. Got framed."
"And Moki was with him?" Jim persisted. Off Pipeline's nod, he added, "So what is this Inichi Corporation?"
"Inichi Corporation." Primo One fairly spat the words. "What they couldn't conquer in 'forty-one, they bought in 'eighty-one."
"So you think the Corporation is responsible for Moki's murder?" Jim asked, trying to stick to the subject.
"Asian economy going down," Pipeline explained quietly. "Hawaii going down with it, not enough fat Japanese tourists spend their money here. Land cost getting cheap, too, Inichi figure good time buy more. Place is called Inichi Plantation, used to be owned by the family. Old man sold it to his sugar cane workers and went home to Japan back in the fifties. Now Inichi wants it back. Jimmy and his group fighting the sale."
"Does your cousin pose a real threat?"
Pipeline shrugged. "Inichi has billions, lots of fancy-talk lawyers. Jimmy has passion and a lot of locals on his side. Governor Williams listen Jimmy, got special committee study impact and da kine." He looked toward the newcomer. "Where Moki found?"
"Near Kaiwaihoa," the man replied. "Looks like drowning, but that smart ME lady seems to have her doubts." Significantly, he added, "Except Mack Wolfe took the call."
Pipeline cursed. "He always there."
"This Mack Wolfe, do you think he's dirty?" Jim asked.
Again, Pipeline shrugged. "Don't know. My friend, Richard, trust him. But Richard rich haole. Mack not so rich haole, lots of bills, lots of bad habits."
"But good cop." Primo Two defended stoutly. "Maybe not smartest cop in Oahu, a hard ass, but not dirty."
Pipeline's scoffing noise made it clear what he thought of that observation.
Primo Two was insistent. "No. Remember when Joseph Kalama got arrested for the murder of the Japanese sumo champ? Mack cleared him, found the real killer."
"Except the big-time, bad ass Japanese millionaire got away," Pipeline shot back.
Primo One seemed to be in agreement with his equally large counterpart. "Not Mack's fault."
Pipeline relented to the popular majority. "Maybe Mack OK," he conceded, "for haole cop." He shot a look at Jim. "No offense, bra'."
"None taken," Jim replied.
They all finally seemed to realize they still had the little matter of Jim Ellison to deal with. Pipeline sighed. "You can surf here, you like. Borrow a stick from anyone. But you gotta promise not make trouble my bra', OK?"
"Sounds to me like you have enough trouble already," Jim responded. "But I'd like to get to a phone. There's someone who'll be worried about me."
"Sure," Pipeline agreed, brightening a bit at the thought he could do a small favor and thus help erase any bad feeling Jim might harbor toward him. "My Tutu has phone. I take you to her."
Dawn Holliday was intrigued by the explanation of the botched kidnapping. "I'm not sure Oahu is ready for two Mack Wolfe's." She stood in the shade beside Mack and Blair near the Camaro while the shrouded corpse of Moki Maguire was lifted into the coroner's van.
"There aren't two of them," Blair corrected her quickly. "Except for physical appearances, they aren't at all alike."
"You say that like I'm supposed to be insulted," Mack retorted. "I wouldn't want to be a guy who enjoyed having you for a partner. You're like a corporeal conscience, always nagging."
"I don't mean to nag," Blair replied calmly. "I'm just worried about my friend."
Aware he'd been a little harsh on the younger man, Mack nodded, accepting the apology.
"How does the kidnapping fit in with Moki Maguire's murder?" Holli asked, getting back to business.
"Two nights ago, Inichi Corporation headquarters was broken into and vandalized," Mack explained quickly. "A security guard was killed. Cops grabbed Jimmy Kahala as he was running from the building, but Moki got away."
"Jimmy Kahala," Holli echoed. "Now I remember where I've heard his name before. He belongs to one of the rabid environmental groups trying to halt development in Hawaii."
"That's the guy," Mack agreed.
"He filed a complaint concerning water and soil checks conducted by the Department of Health," she continued. "He claimed the results of the testing, which showed no evidence of poison or other contamination, had been doctored."
"He was talking about the tests done at Inichi Plantation," Mack explained for Blair.
"Inichi Plantation," Blair repeated, trying to keep up with the discussion and mostly succeeding. "As in Inichi Corporation, where the break-in was?"
"Sort of. The Plantation used to grow sugar cane. It was a subsidiary of Inichi Corp. The old man lost heart sometime after the war, and he sold the land to his workers before he went back to Japan."
"That was in the fifties, wasn't it?" Holli asked, sorting through her island history.
"I think so," Mack agreed, "I don't remember. I just know that the old man's son, who's CEO of Inichi Corp, is trying to buy the land back, and some of the locals there are getting sick and blaming him."
"Was Moki a member of this environmental group?" Blair asked.
"No, but he and Jimmy Kahala are friends. Moki lived on the Plantation. It's kind of a traditional community, follows a lot of the old ways. Some of the young men there are pretty militant about gaining independence for Hawaii. They're part of an organization calling itself the Hawaiian Nationalist Party. Besides, if Jimmy thinks someone is poisoning the Plantation people, you can bet he'd try to find out who's behind it." To his credit, Mack was starting to believe there might be more to the break-in and vandalism at Inichi Corporation than had first seemed obvious. His pesky tagalong asked a lot of questions, but all the thinking out loud brought up some new possibilities for consideration.
Blair frowned. As fascinating as the local political conflicts were, it still didn't explain his central concern. "How does that fit in with Jim's kidnapping?"
Mack shrugged. "All I can figure is Jimmy's cousin, Pipeline -- whose real name is Danny Kahala -- wants me to prove that Jimmy's not guilty. I refused to see him when he came in to the office. Pipeline isn't very smart; he probably figured to talk to me one way or another, hence the phony message to meet a snitch at the airport. Just bad luck you and your friend were arriving at the time."
"We seem to have a lot of that kind of luck," Blair admitted. "Can we go find Jim now? I know you don't think he's in any danger, but I'd really like to see for myself, especially since Moki's murder."
Mack sighed. "Yeah, OK." To Holli, he said, "When can you get started on Moki's post?"
"Right away," she replied. "I should know something by tonight."
"OK, I'll meet you at One West around seven," Mack said, climbing into the Camaro. "I'll even bring dinner."
"Dinner in the morgue with Mack," Holli murmured. "Sounds like a delightful evening." She smiled at Blair. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Sandburg. I hope your friend is all right."
"Thank you, Doctor Holliday," Blair answered, buckling his seat belt. "So do I."
They turned onto Kalani Highway again and continued around Koko Head toward the windward side of the island. Traffic was thickening.
"You hungry?" Mack asked as they reached the large community of Kane'ohe.
"Actually, I am," Blair admitted grudgingly.
"Great." Mack turned off the highway and headed into town. At a local beach jammed with tourists, he double parked by a hot dog cart. "Come on, I'm buying."
"That's -- uh -- great," Blair said doubtfully, following the Lieutenant to the cart.
"Four Tiki dogs and two Cokes, Al," Mack said, passing napkins and condiments to his somewhat less-than-appreciative guest. "How's business?"
"Slow, boss," the Hawaiian vendor answered. "Not many tourists want hot dogs."
Mack refused to be daunted. "It's early in the season yet," he said. "Give it some time."
"This is your business?" Blair asked in surprise.
"You bet," Mack answered with enthusiasm. "One of several entrepreneurial enterprises I'm involved with."
Blair took a tentative bite of the sandwich. Actually, it wasn't bad. If a tourist in Hawaii was desperate for a hot dog, a Tiki dog was a good choice; he just couldn't understand why the detective thought hot dogs would be the first impulse of people on a beachfront lined with everything from hamburger joints to elegant seafood restaurants. "You should take this thing on the road, hit all the surfer beaches up the coast during lunch time," he suggested.
The gleam of dollar signs lit up Mack's blue eyes. "Not a bad idea," he approved. "I'll look into it."
"You'll need a driver," Al protested. "Judge yanked my license after my last ticket."
"I'll look into that, too," Mack promised absently, heading back for the car as soon as the last bite of hot dog had been stuffed into his mouth.
Blair scarfed the remainder of his lunch and hurried to catch up. As he jumped into the seat, he drank some of his soda in an effort to wash down the bready remains that seemed to be stuck somewhere in his throat. "Thanks for lunch," he said, choking a bit. He'd noticed Mack hadn't paid for the sandwiches; it might have been his hot dog stand, but such laxity probably indicated sloppy bookkeeping. Still, it was none of his business.
"You're welcome," Mack answered, ignoring the sarcasm.
Traffic was even heavier as they left town and returned to the highway.
"Don't you have a siren or something?" Blair grumbled as the Camaro slowed to a crawl.
"Nag, nag, nag," Mack muttered, switching on the radio in self defense. The song was an oldie, Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys. Mack burst into enthusiastic vocal accompaniment. He had a passable, if not entirely remarkable, singing voice.
Blair looked at him in astonishment.
Mack scowled back. "What? Now you don't like my singing?"
"You're singing's fine," Blair assured him.
"Well, what then?"
Blair shook his head.
In exasperation, Mack grumbled, "I can't get you to shut up when I don't want to listen to you, but when I ask a question, you go all coy on me."
"Sorry. It's just -- ," Blair hunted for words, " -- kind of like seasickness, I guess."
"Oh, thank you very much."Blair almost laughed. "Not your singing. When I look at you, my eyes tell me one thing, but my brain knows something else. You look like Jim, but you aren't him. It just feels a little weird, that's all."
Pipeline drove an old, convertible dune buggy, which was a favorite mode of transportation among the surf crowd. They turned mauka off Kam Highway onto a dirt road that ran a few blocks up a slight hill before ending at the rainforest. On either side of the road were small, dilapidated houses constructed of lumber, prefab, and whatever materials the builders could scrounge. But there was no sense of despair here -- the homes were well cared for and colorful with garden beds.
Pipeline parked his car in front of one of the more carefully maintained little houses and turned to Jim. "This place belong my Tutu -- my grandmother. You be nice, OK?"
"I'm always nice to grandmothers," Jim retorted coolly, climbing stiffly out of the doorless and uncomfortable car.
Pipeline hurried to catch up with him, and they stepped onto the lanai together. "Take off your shoes," he ordered nervously, removing his own sandals and leaving them beside the door. Jim complied, removing his socks as well, and only then did Pipeline open the screen door and gesture him inside.
The interior showed evidence of great poverty in the family, but everything was clean and neat. A tiny woman with a bronzed, weathered face and long gray curls came out of the kitchen. She beamed at Jim. "Mack Wolfe, 'bout time you finally came to see us." Then her smile faltered and turned to sorrow. "You're not Mack. You two brothers, or what?"
"No, ma'am," Jim returned politely. "I'm just a poor haole tourist who bears an unfortunate resemblance to the most-hated man in Oahu."
"Not hated," she hastened to correct him. "Misguided. He arrested my grandnephew. Won't listen to reason." She ushered Jim into the kitchen and unceremoniously plunked him down at the table. "Who are you?"
Jim rose graciously. "My name's Jim Ellison."
She pushed him down again, not used to the formalities. "Emma Kahala," she introduced herself, shaking his hand. "Why did Daniel bring you here?"
So Pipeline was evidently 'Daniel'. "Your grandson kidnapped me, thinking I was Mack Wolfe."
She glared at Pipeline, who had slunk into the kitchen behind them. "Stupid, Pepu," she chided. "Now you going to jail just like your cousin." She looked slyly at Jim. "What would make you forgive and forget, eh, Jim Ellison?"
"Ma'am, I'm a police officer," Jim said calmly. "I've been kidnapped and threatened by your grandson's friends at his own instigation."
"You like lau lau?" she asked hopefully. "I feed you good food, treat you like family. You can't turn on family. Pepu will take you surfing, show you all the good places, private places, no tourists."
Jim was really starting to like this woman. She had a guileless optimism about her, a confidence that if she wanted something badly enough, she could make it happen. "Let me make a phone call and try to track down my friend," he said. "Then I'll consider it."
"Where's your friend?" she asked, eager to make things right.
Jim sighed. "I don't know." Blair didn't know the address of the rental house or the name of the leasing agent who held the keys. He didn't even know the airport car rental agency where Jim had booked their transportation. He wouldn't have much cash, and his credit cards were maxed out. Jim wasn't worried about how Blair would get by -- his partner had a knack for landing on his feet -- but he really wanted to let him know he was OK.
Pipeline's grandmother was skeptical as she dished out a plate of fragrant lau lau and put it down in front of him, adding chopsticks and a paper towel as a table setting. "Then how you gonna find him?"
"Through HPD, I guess," Jim reasoned. "He must have reported that I'm missing."
The woman snorted. "Missing tourists not a high priority. They figure you just out looking for good time action."
She was right. "I have to try," Jim insisted, struggling a bit to unwrap the unfamiliar ti leaves and get at the pork mixture within. "Sandburg will be worried."
"Sandburg?" she echoed, brightening. "Not darling little haole Jew with sweetest blue eyes this side of heaven?"
Jim paused with the first bite halfway to his lips. "I don't know," he said, wondering if a grandmother might describe his partner that way.
"Blair-baby-blue-eyes?" Tutu prompted.
"That's him," Jim admitted, thinking the weirdness factor in his world had reached cosmic proportions. But the pork was good, and he was hungry, so he started eating while Tutu shifted her attention to her grandson.
The woman threw a dishtowel at Pipeline, who ducked as if she'd hurled a grenade. "Stupid Pepu. Not only does he kidnap wrong haole, but kidnaps friend of Blair-baby-blue-eyes. Where did you get your stupid gene from, eh?"
Pipeline looked offended. "Who this haole Blair?"
"Lived with us ten, eleven years ago, when the U of H did that cultural study to find the 'real' Hawaii. Come over from mainland somewhere."
Pipeline remembered. "Kid with the hair, wrote everything down, way too serious."
"Yeah, he listened good, understood our problems as well as any outsider could," Tutu agreed. "Nice boy." She saw Jim's bowl was empty. "You want more? Got plenty. You thirsty? Got beer, soda, coffee, whatever."
"A beer would be great," Jim admitted, already on the brink of forgetting that he wasn't exactly here voluntarily.
She uncapped a bottle and handed it to him. It was Primo, a local brew. He took a grateful sip. He'd become used to her rapid-fire verbal delivery, and he understood most of it because her speech was less flamboyant than Pipeline's awkward pigeon. Besides, he liked and admired her, even in these first few minutes, so he listened carefully when she spoke.
"My grandnephew is a good boy, but like Pepu not too bright upstairs." She tapped her temple for emphasis. "He think he wants independence for Hawaii, a return to the old ways. Lazy stick doesn't know a thing about the 'old ways'. I tell him 'can't go back, find ways to make Hawaii work for all, not just some', but silly boy think with his heart, not his brain. He don't know compromise, angry he can't find job, thinks everything too menial. Me, I put on lei and work at hula show, make smiley faces for haole tourists take picture to take home, take pictures of me because I look real Hawaiian." She thumped her chest. "I am real Hawaiian, damn proud to be, but just as proud to be American. We can't be independent, not in Twentieth Century, not in next. Someone will rule us, better U.S. of A. than others I could mention. But we have great problems, different from other States, and no one listen. Like all children, Jimmy is impatient, wants to be heard now. They say he kill guard at Inichi HQ. Very bad thing. Jimmy would not hurt except to defend himself, and he never kill. Never. Even with that tough crowd he hang with now, Jimmy would not kill."
In spite of everything, Jim was moved by her passion and smiled at her.
She beamed back at him. "Ah, Mr. Tough-guy Policeman, man with smile like angel can't have a hard place in his heart. You help us?"
Jim looked at Pipeline, who was smiling with pathetic hopefulness. "Was Moki part of this tough crowd?"
Pipeline nodded and turned to his grandmother. "Moki dead. Someone kill him."
Tutu was saddened but not surprised. "He was a good boy once, grew up hard and bitter, thought violence was best way to take back the land." She sighed. "Lots of angry mana in that boy."
"With Moki dead, it will be just that much harder to prove your grandnephew's innocence," Jim pointed out.
Very quietly, Tutu stated, "But you help us now, right?"
Jim nodded. "In spite of my better judgement, I'll help you," he agreed. "Remember, in Hawaii, I'm just another tourist. My badge means nothing here."
"No, but you know what questions to ask, the path we must follow to find the truth," the woman answered simply, shaking off her sorrow over Moki's death.
"OK, tell me the evidence against Jimmy. But if he's guilty, I won't be able to help you."
"He's not guilty," Tutu assured him. She picked up a thick file folder and handed it to him. "Better than telling. You read official police report."
Jim accepted the file with a laugh. "I don't want to now where this came from."
"OK, but you come outside," Tutu urged, dragging him to his feet before he could get up by himself. The lady could be forceful without even trying. "Nice day, good breeze, comfy chair. Pepu, bring more beer for Jim-smiles-like-angel."
Outside on the lanai, Jim slouched into a comfortable wicker chair with a sigh of pure contentment and put his feet up on the low railing. Pipeline handed him another beer. "Thanks for helping my Tutu," he said uncomfortably.
"You're welcome," Jim said mildly, noting Pipeline hadn't said 'Thanks for helping us', or 'Thanks for not bashing my head in for kidnapping you'.
Pipeline grinned, his natural optimism and good nature springing back to the fore. He was like a cocker spaniel, always happy and prepared to get into mischief when the whim struck. "I show you one good surfin' time, bra'. Secret places all over North Shore. Best spots, you see. No tourists."
"It's a deal," Jim said, uncapping his second bottle of beer and opening the folder.
He'd only read a couple of pages when he heard a car coming up the road. He glanced up with a smile because he'd already recognized the enthusiastic voice spilling words from the passenger side.
Blair opened the door and jumped out before the car was even stopped. "Jim!" he nearly shouted, dashing onto the lanai. "Are you -- ?" He stopped, taking in his partner's relaxed pose, his calm expression, the beer and the smile. "Obviously, you're OK," he concluded with a grin.
"Absolutely," Jim agreed. "What about you?"
"It's been -- interesting," was all Blair would admit with a shrug, still grinning.
He was suddenly enveloped in a bear hug. "Blair-baby-blue-eyes!" Tutu exclaimed in delight. "Glad you found us. How you been?"
"Great, Tutu, thanks," Blair answered, returning her hug. But he had his eyes on Jim, not wanting to miss the next moments.
Mack sauntered toward the lanai and stopped to stare at his lookalike. The two men studied each other for a long minute.
"Damn, this is weird," Jim admitted, rising to offer his hand. "Jim Ellison." Mack returned the handshake. "Mack Wolfe." To Blair, he said, "Do you think we look alike?"
Tutu crowed with laughter. "No one so blind as man who looks in the mirror!" she stated.
Mack frowned, wondering if he'd missed something profound, but Jim only smiled as he sat down again. Sometimes, the wisdom of the elders was nothing more than well-phrased bullshit. She knew it, too, and gave him a wink.
Irritated, Mack gestured to Pipeline, who seemed to be trying to shrink into invisibility behind his grandmother. "Get over here."
"Don't shoot me, Mr. Trigger-mortis Man!" Pipeline implored, only half-kidding unless his acting skills suddenly had improved dramatically.
"You don't run, I don't shoot," Mack said simply, wincing at what was obviously an old nickname and reaching for his handcuffs.
"What's the charge, Lieutenant?" Jim asked mildly.
Both Blair and Mack looked confused.
Blair pointed out the obvious. "Jim, you were kidnapped?"
Mack chuckled without humor. "I get it," he said sarcastically. "She's charmed you, hasn't she?"
"She's a charming woman," Jim agreed.
The local cop suddenly spotted the file folder. "How did you get a copy of my case file?" he demanded.
"Someone left it on the doorstep," Jim returned coolly.
"You know," Mack growled, looking at Tutu, "I was going to talk to the folks at Inichi Plantation because I've got a dead body that might be connected with your grandnephew's case. Now, I'm not so sure."
Tutu only smiled serenely. "Good for you, Mack. I knew you'd quit being a good-for-nothing haole cop and finally do your job."
Mack's frown only deepened. Talk about left-handed compliments! She might as well have delivered it with a sledgehammer.
"Mind if I tag along?" Jim asked.
"You're on vacation," Mack protested, gesturing toward Blair. "With him." He sounded eager to be rid of his passenger.
"I'm an interested, duly appointed observer."
"Appointed by who?"
"The Kahala family."
"You don't have any authority here."
"I know. Call it good public relations."
Mack thought about it. "OK," he agreed reluctantly, wondering if his captain would approve or disapprove of his decision. Probably the latter. He looked at Blair. "You staying here?" he asked hopefully.
"Sorry, no," Blair replied with a grin. "Watching you two work together is not to be missed."
"Figured you'd say that," Mack grumbled, heading for the Camaro.
"I'll come too," Tutu insisted, hurrying down the steps toward the car. "No one at Plantation will talk to you. I get them to."
Blair hurried to the car to grab the luggage out of the backseat. "Trunk, please?" he asked.
Mack looked ready to deny this perfectly logical request, then relented and allowed Blair to stow the bags. Jim added his socks to his carryon and threw it on top of the other bags, then slipped his bare feet into his shoes. Blair shut the trunk lid and hopped into the rear seat.
Jim held the car door for Tutu. "You take the passenger seat," he offered.
She laughed at him. "Back seat turn you into pretzel," she objected. She looked at Mack. "You let me drive?"
The Lieutenant's eyes widened in horror. "Uh-uh," he blurted lamely, adding, "It's against regulations. Besides, I'm just as tall as Ellison."
Tutu grinned and climbed in next to Blair. "Same height maybe, but no so gallant, eh?"
As Mack grumpily started the engine, Tutu said, "You clear my Jimmy. We have big luau. Real Hawaiian-style luau, not phony deal like Makaha Mack. Make you all family."
"Thrills," Mack muttered to himself as he backed the car up to turn around.
Jim settled back into his seat and smiled. It was going to be a great vacation, he decided. There was just the little matter of a murder to solve first.
"Just how many business ventures do you have?" Blair asked curiously.
"Hey," Mack shot back, "the cost of living here is very high, in case you hadn't noticed. A man needs to be on the lookout for business opportunities." Or maybe he just needs to be in someone's pocket, Jim thought sourly, remembering Pipeline's suspicions about the Honolulu detective. His good mood faded quickly.
Inichi Plantation was like a step back in time. Nestled at the base of the Koolau Range, it was in a shallow valley surrounded by rainforest that hid the sights and sounds of the late Twentieth Century passing on the highway just a few hundred feet away.
The houses had been built of wood and thatch sometime in the 20's, and except for updated plumbing, little had changed. The sugar cane was gone, but in its place were fields of cultivated flowers and a large commercial vegetable operation. Only two modern buildings spoiled the pristine perfection of old-Hawaiian charm.
"They have a cold room where they make leis," Tutu explained as Mack parked the Camaro. "Make hundreds every day -- big contracts with tour agencies, the luau companies, the hula show where I work."
"I take it they sell vegetables, too?" Blair asked, noting the size of the gardens.
"All big hotels buy fresh produce from Inichi Plantation," Tutu replied proudly. "Could sell twice as much if they had more room."
"It looks to be thriving," Jim admitted as he climbed out and stretched. He looked at Mack. "The murdered man, Moki, lived here?"
Mack scowled. "How did you hear about Moki?"
Jim just smiled slightly. "Coconut wireless, bra'," he answered calmly.
"Yeah, nothing on this island travels faster than a good story," Mack admitted, turning his back on the houses and looking toward the highway. "Except right now, I'm more interested in what's on the other side of the highway."
"Nai'a Beach?" Blair guessed. Off Mack's nod, he explained to Jim, "That's where Doc Holliday figures Moki was killed."
"The ME." Blair rolled his eyes in a time-honored male shorthand and silently mouthed, "Wow!"
Jim's interest was immediately piqued. "OK, let's find the murder scene and get the good doctor some evidence."
Mack had missed the exchange, and he looked suspiciously at his two unwanted cohorts, who just gazed back at him with bland innocence. Frowning, he looked at Tutu. "Mrs. Kahala, you're well known here -- "
"Call me Tutu," she interrupted smoothly.
Mack stuttered to a halt. "You're not my grandmother."
"I'm somebody's grandmother," she countered with irrefutable logic. "All the years you've been in Hawaii, when was the last time you say 'aloha' to anyone, eh, Mack?"
"What does that have to do with anything?" Mack mumbled defensively. "I'm not prejudiced. You know that."
"Call me Tutu," she reiterated.
With elaborate care, his patience waning, Mack said, "OK, Tutu, do you think you can rustle up a couple of residents willing to talk to me about Moki? I need to know the last time anyone saw or talked to him."
"Sure," she answered willingly. "Mind the beach. Lots of rocks this time of year." She strolled off to meet with her friends and find someone willing to answer questions for the haole cop. Not very many, she silently wagered herself.
The three men went back out to the highway, waited for a break in the steady stream of traffic, and dashed to the other side. A thick stand of bushes and trees blocked their way, but they found a narrow footpath that led them to the beach. As Tutu had told them, it was a narrow sweep of dark, pebbly, volcanic shingle, uncomfortable for sunbathing unless someone brought a chaise lounge or chair. The water was relatively calm, and the distant swells moved diagonally across the shoreline instead of rolling in. A natural finger of lava jutted into the sea, creating even more calm in the little bay. Several windsurfers were taking advantage of the smooth ocean, their colorful craft skimming the surface, sails billowing in the breeze.
"Doctor Holliday mentioned sand," Blair said doubtfully, looking around.
Mack started across the shingle toward the little peninsula. "There's a strip of sand over here," he explained, leading the way.
Jim followed more slowly, dropping behind and keeping Blair beside him.
"What do you think of Lieutenant Wolfe?" he asked quietly when he was certain the detective couldn't overhear.
Blair contemplated the question. "We don't get along very well."
"I don't mean personally, I mean as a cop."
"OK, I guess. He seems kind of cavalier about it. He wouldn't even make an official report about your kidnapping. He just told me he'd handle it and tried to dump me off at a hotel."
"A little fast and loose with the rules," Jim commented. "OK, so what about personally?"
"Kinda fast and loose there, too, I guess," Blair admitted. "I get the feeling he's trying to pull his life together, maybe become a little more respectable."
"I think he has a thing for Doc Holliday."
Jim thought about it. "She must make three times his salary," he guessed. "He'd need some heavy capital to impress her."
Blair shook his head. "She doesn't seem like that kind of woman. Besides, I don't think Mack's even aware of how he feels about her, and she seems to be oblivious." He frowned. "You think he's dirty?"
Jim shrugged. "Maybe. Pipeline talked about money problems, an expensive lifestyle."
"If I had to make a guess, I'd say Mack's an honest cop," Blair said, surprised to hear himself defending the man. "He may not be the smartest cop I've ever known, but I think he's probably tenacious and determined."
"OK," Jim relented. "Just keep the possibility in mind."
They reached the narrow strip of sand, where Mack was already looking around for anything out of the ordinary. Remains of an old campfire blackened a circle of stones at the base of the natural breakwater, and assorted cans and bottles testified to its frequent use as a local hangout.
The Lieutenant scooped a small handful of sand into a plastic bag and stuck it in his pocket. "Might as well get the Doc to do an official comparison."
"When's the estimated time of death?" Jim asked.
"Five, five and a half hours ago. Why?"
"Was the tide in or out?"
Mack had to think about it for a minute. "It was high tide," he answered at last.
"Good." Jim scanned the rocks, then pointed to a place a few feet from shore and well above the waterline. "There's some blood on those rocks. It looks pretty fresh."
Mack peered where Jim was pointing, but he couldn't see much of anything. "That's blood?"
"That's blood," Jim confirmed.
Still doubtful, Mack quick-dialed his phone. "Kimo, my man, I need you an your forensics bag of tricks at Nai'a Beach wikiwiki." After explaining the details and answering a few questions, Mack next called for a patrol car to secure the scene. With this accomplished, he flopped down in the sand and leaned back on his elbows.
Jim and Blair stood there for a minute, then came to a mutual agreement and sat down as well.
Mack watched the windsurfers. "Soon as the uniforms get here, I'll drop you somewhere," he said, sounding far too pleased at the thought.
"You're not going to look around here some more?" Jim asked, trying very hard not to sound critical.
"Kimo knows what to look for," Mack replied, unoffended. He was more concerned with getting rid of his unwanted allies. "Where do you want to go?"
"The house rental place," Jim answered after a moment. "It'll probably close soon. We'll hitch a ride to the house and pick up a rental car tomorrow."
"Good plan," Mack approved. He probably would have made the same comment if Jim had said he and Blair would have to spend the night sleeping on the beach.
Jim dug the paperwork out of his wallet and read the address aloud.
"Good, that's in Hawaii Kai, on the way back to town," Mack said, smiling contentedly. Finally, his day was looking up; he could get rid of this meddlesome duo and not have to venture too far out of his way to do it. "Pity you can't get in to Waikiki tonight. The Ilikai always has a big Saturday night luau, lots of food and dancers."
"Gosh, just us and two hundred other tourists," Blair murmured. "Sorry we're going to miss it."
Mack shot him a look. "You're a real pain in the ass, you know that?" he said, but his tone with mild, without an aggressive edge.
"Coming from you, that's a compliment," Blair returned just as mildly.
Jim figured their bickering had become habitual in the few hours they'd been together. They were starting to sound like an old married couple! He hid his amusement by watching two uniformed cops pick their way clumsily across the shingle.
Mack got up and brushed the sand off his clothing, and the other two followed his example. He pointed out the suspected blood to the officers, who couldn't see it any better than he could. "Make sure Kimo sees it," he said casually, "and take a look around, see if anything else turns up."
"Sure thing, Lieutenant," one of the cops acknowledged, his expression studiously neutral as he looked from Mack to Jim and back again. He had questions, but they didn't concern the crime scene, so he wisely kept quiet.
"Let's go," Mack said, and headed back toward the road.
If anything, traffic was more congested than ever as it slowed to creep past the HPD patrol car parked on the narrow verge with its near side wheels still on the asphalt. Losing his patience, Mack crossed by the simple expediency of holding up his badge and striding unheeding through the midst of the snarl.
Horns honked and brakes squealed, but there was no rending of metal, and the three men made it safely to the other side.
Back at Inichi Plantation, the sense of peaceful tranquility still reigned. Tutu was waiting for them on the lanai of a small house, and she hurried forward to meet them, a plump woman in a bright blue muu muu at her side. "No one talk to you today, Mack," she said, disappointed but not surprised. "Everyone with Moki's family, making plans for the funeral. I'll stay here awhile and help, catch ride home with someone."
"Damn," Mack muttered, chafing over the delay in questioning potential witnesses. Still, it wasn't a good time to force the issue; he figured every Hawaiian Nationalist there had the phone number of the ACLU stashed in his wallet.
"You come back tomorrow," the woman with Tutu advised. "They'll talk to you then."
"This is Momi Malaka," Tutu said belatedly, introducing her to the others. "She runs the lei operation."
Blair was especially happy to meet the woman. "I'm fascinated by the whole tradition of lei making. If you'd let me, I'd love to come back and ask you some questions about it."
Momi smiled at him. "Sure. You come back anytime." She poked Tutu in the ribs.
"He's just as cute as you said," she added in a loud aside, and Blair blushed crimson.
Jim looked at Mack. "You'll be coming back tomorrow, won't you?" he asked innocently.
Mack's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Yeah, but I don't run a taxi service."
"Why not? You seem to have every other sort of business," Blair countered.
"Just get in the car and try to keep quiet until I drop you off, OK?" the police Lieutenant grumbled.
Jim and Blair just exchanged grins as they complied.
"Enjoy your vacation!" Mack practically chortled, waving as he drove off without waiting for a response.
"Charming fellow," Blair muttered, his normal good cheer waning as he plopped down on the curb beside their bags. The day was catching up to him -- too much sun and wind from riding around in the backseat of the convertible had left him feeling sticky and gritty. His eyes burned from sweat mixed with suntan lotion.
Jim looked around the little shopping center where Mack had dropped them off, and a sly smile crept over his face. "Chief, you pick up the keys to the house," he said, handing over the paperwork.
Blair struggled back to his feet. "What will you be doing?"
Jim nodded toward a car rental agency. "That's a branch of the same outfit we were going to use at the airport," he explained. "I'm going to see if they can get us a car."
As they gathered up their bags, Blair commented, "Do you remember what happened the last time we split up?"
"I'll shout for help this time if anything happens," Jim promised with a grin.
When Blair came out of the rental office fifteen minutes later, keys and a map clutched triumphantly in his free hand, he found a very self-satisfied Jim sitting behind the wheel of a Chrysler convertible. The trunk lid was up, and his luggage was already stowed. Blair added his bags, closed the trunk, and jumped into the passenger seat. "You don't plan to do any economizing on this trip, do you?" he observed dryly.
Jim grimaced. "Actually, I had to trade up. They didn't have the same model I'd reserved at the airport."
"Cool," Blair approved. He handed Jim the map with the route to their rental house highlighted in blue. "You want to take a look at this, or do you really want to try following my directions?"
Jim chuckled. "I'd like to get there sometime today," he returned, scanning the printed sheet. Off-handedly, he asked, "What would you like to do tonight?"
"Shower," was the prompt reply. "A dinner that doesn't come wrapped in paper. Probably a disgustingly early night." He grinned. "Pretty dull, huh?"
Jim just shook his head. "Sounds like the perfect first night in paradise," he admitted wryly. He indicated a restaurant. "Food in little cardboard containers OK?"
"Chinese is always OK," Blair admitted. "You want me to get it?"
"I'd say wait here, but you've already had a bit more sun than you need today." Jim dug out his wallet.
"My treat," Blair interrupted him, climbing out of the car. "I forgot to bring a hat. I'll have to buy one tomorrow."
"I've got one you can use in the meantime," Jim told him. "We'll get it sorted out later."
Blair headed across the parking lot, his footsteps a little less bouncy than usual. Slouching in the car seat, Jim pulled his cap over his eyes and dreamed of a cold Cascade rain washing the sand and sweat from his wind-burned skin. A few minutes later, he opened his eyes as his partner dropped two heavy bags onto the rear floor.
Blair fished around inside one for a moment and produced two large drink containers, their plastic lids already pierced by straws. Handing one to Jim, he climbed back into the passenger seat and drew a grateful sip through his own straw. "There's a market next door to the restaurant, so I picked up a few things for breakfast, too."
"Good." Jim took a long, cooling drink of iced tea, then started the engine and drove out of the parking lot.
The two tired men hardly exchanged a word as Jim followed the memorized directions to their rental house in Hawaii Kai. It turned out to be a lovely wooden home sitting just off the sand, with a spectacular view of the ocean lapping the shore only a few yards away. Shaded by tall trees, the house felt secluded even though it had neighbors close by on either side.
Jim parked under the carport and shut down the engine. It felt good being in the shade. In concert, the two men straggled out of the car, gathered up all the bags and luggage, and trooped into the house. It was simple but adequate -- a large front room facing the ocean, a small kitchen, and bedrooms at either side, each with a full bath. The floor was wood planks covered with throw rugs in strategic locations, the furniture was cheap but comfortable, and everything had been cleaned and stocked in preparation for their arrival.
"The agent said the place was fumigated yesterday," Blair said as he dropped his luggage and put the food bags on the kitchen counter. "How's your nose?"
"Fine," Jim answered after a tentative sniff. "Better some odor than the cock roaches and spiders I seem to remember reside in these parts."
Blair shuddered. "They'll arm wrestle you for dinner and win," he agreed, finding plates and utensils.
"I'm gonna take a shower first," Jim said, seeing what his partner was doing. "Just stick my stuff in the fridge and I'll nuke it when I come out."
Blair put everything in the refrigerator. "Sounds like a plan to me," he agreed, picking up his bags and heading for the nearest bedroom.
"Uh, Chief?" Jim called after him.
"What?" Blair asked, turning back.
Jim made funny hand gestures around his head. "Try to do something with that large mahogany plume you have growing out of the top of your head, OK?"
Blair touched his hair, a lot of which had escaped the ponytail and was now frizzed at full attention. He grimaced. "Curly hair and humidity," he mumbled. "I'd forgotten."
The shower revived him enormously, and he had recovered his familiar bounce after shedding the day's sludge from his skin. Suntan lotion was a necessity, but dust and sand clung to it tenaciously, creating a fine, gritty residue that absorbed the sun's heat and stubbornly held onto it. He smoothed down his wet hair and secured it in another ponytail. The ends would still frizz, but he might be able to escape a comparison to Yahoo Serious.
Jim looked equally refreshed. They ate at the table and watched through the front windows as the sun dipped into the Pacific.
"It's too early for bed," Jim commented when they were finished.
"And it seems silly to sit around watching TV on our first night of vacation," Blair agreed. "We could take a walk on the beach."
"Or a drive into town."
Blair thought about it. "I know a place that's not on any of the tourist maps."
"Yeah?" Jim asked with studied indifference. "Where's that?"
"The morgue. Doc Holliday and Lieutenant Wolfe are planning to discuss Moki Maguire's autopsy results."
Jim smiled. "You're suggesting we crash their little party?"
"I'm just a wild and headstrong kind of guy," Blair replied humbly. "What do you think?"
"You know the address?" Jim returned promptly.
"One West was all he said."
Jim grabbed the phone book. "That should be enough."
End Part One
Continue on to Part Two