Hello friends. Here's Chapter 4 as promised. Please read, join Ironwoodwind and comment. Thanks to Barbara Uechi for linking to her Kona Yoga blog. http://uechi.typepad.com/konayogacom/this-week-announcements-updates.html
A soft breeze cooled Sidney Hart as he sat in the entrance of a small lava tube a quarter mile south of his old home site. From his vantage point Hart could see the coastline past his property and Togawa’s and on into the heat haze to the north. Only three hundred feet from shore, the tube entrance was a good spot to observe from and would remain so until the morning sun rose above the wall of lava behind him. Then the flow would begin to bake and he would have to move. For now, though, it would do. He did not need to see much more.
Three days ago he had returned to his property to retrieve a batch of crystal meth he’d stashed months earlier. Approaching the tube he noticed a boat headed north close to shore. At first he thought nothing of it, but upon leaving with his drugs nicely bagged he noted that the boat was still moving in the same area offshore so he sat down to watch.
Three hours later he knew he was in trouble. Big trouble. The crew of the vessel was not trolling, at least not for fish. They were conducting some kind of search and that could only mean they were looking for the Harlot. The insufferable bitch was still fucking with him! He should have swum her much farther out than a few hundred feet. Maybe he should have found a way to take her miles out to sea in his boat before letting her sink. More importantly, though, since what was done was done and no sense crying about it, he had to know who was in the vessel offshore and how they figured it out? Or were they just guessing? Whatever the case, he had to find out what they were doing, why, and if possible, what they knew.
Many years ago he had been SCUBA diving offshore of his property to test a new rig. During his brief stay at two hundred feet he had paid particular attention to the details of the sea floor topography. There in the half light and quiet cold he had seen that the bottom dropped steeply away, disappearing into the fathomless blue. A thrilling sense of anticipation coursed through him as he floated above the void. He made his first kill two weeks later.
She had been visiting from Oahu, living in Ka’u, trimming pot during the winter harvest season and had been hitching to Kona when Hart picked her up. By the time they had driven twenty miles her fate was sealed. She was pretty and blonde and talked a blue streak, telling Hart everything about herself without being prompted. She lived on the North Shore near Ehukai Beach and shared the rent with several other girls. They didn’t have a lot but they didn’t care. The beautiful days at the beach and the parties every weekend were all they needed. A friend had given her the name of a guy on the Big Island who would put her up for a month during the push to get his crop to market and pay her twenty an hour when she worked. Her roommates all thought she was on the mainland visiting her folks. All Hart heard was that no one would miss her.
She let him take her to his house and sometime during the night he tied her to the bed and blindfolded her. The sex was beyond description and the sense of absolute power was enthralling. He did not untie her or remove the blindfold until the afternoon of the third day, after he had strangled her for screaming too loudly while he was trying to sleep. He fucked her again in the evening, her body stiff and pleasantly compliant, then went out into his shop and used a saber saw to cut the lid off of an old fuel drum. She fit nicely, tucked into the oily space, knees bent up by her chest, feet down, hands folded in front of her as though in prayer. Hart cooked some ahi and went out to his lanai, watching the stars over the ocean and wishing the girl didn’t have to go so soon. After he’d eaten he welded the drum’s lid back on, then took his axe and went to work with it on his grinding wheel until the edge was razor sharp. The lower tip of the axe blade punched tight little triangular holes through the metal about an inch and a half long by half an inch wide, and the weight of the girl kept the drum from jumping too much as he maneuvered around it. He tipped it onto its side and used candle wax to seal each puncture, then returned to his lanai and had a beer.
Hart waited till midnight when the heat had left the flows and the night air was cool then dragged her down to the water. He wore a bathing suit and tabis and carried a set of swim fins and a mask. The barrel rang with a muffled note as he pushed it off the edge of his property and into the surging water. Donning his mask and fins, Hart entered the water and took it under tow with a small bridle of cord thrown over his shoulder. A few minutes of easy swimming and he was well offshore. Wavelets tapped lightly on the drum, shifting it beneath his hands as he found each wax covered hole and pushed a finger into the openings. The sea began to fill the void and the drum settled lower. A soft exhalation of air rippled the water as each puncture sank below the surface. The drum whistled and bubbled at the end, the weight of the water pulling it under before the last of the air was displaced. Hart had taken a deep breath, grabbed hold of the lip and let the descending drum pull him down. At twenty feet he cleared his ears, exhaled, and let go as it spiraled from starlight down into darkness.
It had taken time and planning and there had been some mistakes on his part over the years but he had made the crossing and come through stronger for it. There had been many other women, all drifters of some sort; each without roots and each with few people to search for them, assuming anyone had known where to start looking. Hart lived on his own terms, like the big Ulua that stalked the reef, taking his prey when they left the protection of the coral, ranging over his territory as he wished. It was a good life and no one was going to take it from him.
The Harlot had been one of his mistakes. She had made him step outside his character and try to win her in the old way, the weak way, the way of the feathered nest and pleading. What had he been thinking? She had driven him mad with desire and he had taken the bait and run with it. Maybe if he had fought more she would not have let him go so suddenly. But she had cut him loose like a dying marlin and he descended into the depths. The days and weeks that followed were the worst of his life, but in the end he survived and was ultimately revitalized by the finality of her rejection. He had husbanded his strength and grown and planned. Now, years later it was she who had been given to the blue.
Was there a chance the searchers could find the barrel and recover her remains?
Hart knew the tiny creatures of the ocean would reduce the body to bones in a year and to nothing but teeth within a few more, but only three months had passed since he had disposed of her and that was not remotely long enough. He hadn’t counted on anyone guessing what had happened, no less sending out a boat to search for her. If he had known that was going to happen he would have taken her body to Napau Crater and dumped it into the East Rift. There were places along that crack where a body would fall for a long time. Still, though the land could swallow you up, it was nothing compared to the sea! The sea consumed all! But now someone was meddling with his work and he had to figure out what to do while there were still options open to him. He knew no one had found anything yet or he wouldn’t be watching now. He’d be in Hilo Jail waiting to be sent to Halawa Prison. If he didn’t want that to happen he was going to have to do something, and do it fast.
When the sun was low in the western sky on that first day he had retreated stealthily up the flow to a distant kipuka of kiawe trees that would shield him from view if any crewmen on the boat happened to look inshore. From there he ran through the heat, over the smooth pahoehoe flows, always skirting the chaos of the a’a lava until he intersected the access road where he had parked his rented Camry. He drove to Keahou in time to see the search boat pull into the bay and moor at the overnight slip.
The two-man crew offloaded a yellow torpedo shaped device and two small waterproof boxes and left in a metallic blue Dodge club-cab pickup truck. There was a sign on the door but he had not wanted to get close enough to read it. Instead, after the truck left, he turned his attention to the search vessel.
A quick dockside examination told him it was a Safe Boat, a durable 18-foot long rigid hull boat owned by Manta Ray Submarines and he knew immediately that he was right to think he’d landed in trouble. A submarine! He’d heard of the company a few months back. The Big Island boating community was relatively small and any new entry into the business fray was usually featured, as well as advertised, in Hawaii Today, the small paper that served the west side of the island. Word of mouth was an even better source of information and he quickly found out that Manta Ray Submarines ran tours of the reefs outside of Anaeho’omalu Bay, catered to high-end clientele and had a submarine that was supposed to be state of the art. He had no idea who ran it or how many crew they employed. Manta Ray Submarines had been just another player in the ocean tourism game until now, but all that had changed. A submarine! Could they find the Harlot with it? Hart knew he had to scope things out and do something about it fast. He needed time to think. Was there a way to stop the search? He decided to return to his land and spend the night in the lava tube so that he could watch what went on the following day.
Driving back to the south he mulled over the situation in his mind and resolved to do whatever was necessary to protect himself. There was no way he would sit back and let them take what he had worked so hard to achieve. His property was his home and sanctuary and gave him the freedom to pursue his quarry, both at sea and on land. His freedom was more than just a state of being. If thrown in jail he would never again experience the delicious power that coursed through him as he took a woman, mind and body. If captured and convicted he would lose all that he held dear. The quiet days and peaceful nights would be gone, replaced by years of confinement.
Close to his hideout an onshore breeze blew in off the sea and mixed with the warm air rising from the now cooling lava flows. A taste of salt and a hint of sulphur wafted around him as he carefully worked his way by the bright light of the moon across the jagged and uneven terrain. Soon he could hear the soft susurration of the sea in the distance and he began to scan the silhouettes of the tops of lava formations against the starry sky.
The tube entrance was small, only four feet across and three feet high but it opened into a huge system that ran many miles upslope. He had explored it to the very farthest reaches during his teenage years and knew its twists and turns like he knew the land above it. The tube was the perfect hiding place and had served him as such for many years. Locating the opening was simple for him but would be all but impossible to the untrained eye. Even in the daytime the small entrance was difficult to find. Long ago he had camouflaged it with a piece of black fiberglass cast from a mold of a nearby exposed basalt wall. When placed over the opening the cover looked as though it was just another heat blasted section of bulged and distorted rock.
Picking his way carefully, Sid Hart homed in on his hideouts front door. To avoid wearing a trail in the brittle surface of the lava he always approached the entrance from a different angle. Once in position in front of the door, he sat quietly for several minutes, listening to the night sounds for any sign he had been followed. As he waited he checked the position of a small slab of real lava set against the camouflaged cover. If anyone had stumbled upon his lair there was no way they would be able to replace the telltale rock without him knowing. The slab was undisturbed. Setting it aside, he lifted the cover and crouched down to step inside the tube. Turning around briefly, he pulled the cover back into place and attached a pair of bungee cords to a hook set in the inward facing side. The cords were connected to hooks epoxied to the floor and ceiling of the small entrance tunnel. They prevented the cover from shifting with the wind and gave it just enough resistance to movement by hand from the exterior so that it seemed as solid as a real piece of lava. He had tested it long ago by using a tiny skylight a mile inland to exit the tube and return to the seaward entrance. The skylight, a term he found quite appropriate to the nature of the tube systems characteristics, served as his back door should he ever need one. The main entrance camouflage was virtually undetectable to a casual hiker and the odds of anyone ever discovering it were astronomical.
Hart turned on a small penlight and duck-walked thirty feet in and twenty feet down to where the small passageway entered the main channel of the tube system. Once an insulated conduit for the lifeblood of the island on its race to the sea, the lava tube was now an empty vessel. Its arched roof twenty feet above his head and the smooth walls fifteen feet to either side formed an underground superhighway which narrowed at times but always held true to its reason for existence and remained oriented from east to west, summit to shore. It extended almost four miles inland to where the collapse of the roof had blocked further exploration. He had spent long hours trying to find a way around the debris but had finally given up. The tube was more than big enough for his uses and in time he had turned it into the perfect home away from home.
Hart removed a larger flashlight from a canvas rucksack and used it to check his surroundings for any signs of intruders. Satisfied that no one had violated his space he climbed up onto a shelf of stone made by receding lava levels. There was a mattress there and water and a cassette player. He pressed play, turned off the light and stretched out on the mattress. The dry air in the tube settled around him like a warm blanket and he fell asleep to a recording of more pleasant times with the Harlot.
After a restless night he woke early and left the tube to take up his position on the flow to await the arrival of the search craft. The sun had just begun to heat up the surrounding lava when he spied a high-speed vessel approaching from the north. As it neared his property and slowed, Hart trained his binoculars on it and saw that it was the same vessel that had worked the waters offshore the day before. The two crewmembers lowered the yellow torpedo over the side, let out some line and began their methodical passes up and down the coast.
The long morning that followed afforded Hart the time to think about what had to be done and to formulate his plans. When the sun was high overhead he removed a few items from a toolbox, covered the entrance to the tube and headed for town.
Now, exactly a day later, Hart again watched and wondered whether to proceed as planned. Things had changed slightly. On this third day of his long watch, Murphy had raised his head with the appearance of the submarine under tow behind the Safe Boat. Five minutes after their arrival on station one man clambered onto her, opened a hatch and disappeared inside, pulling the hatch closed behind him. Within seconds the sub had disappeared, leaving only a small patch of smooth water to mark the spot. Whatever they were up to, they certainly wasted no time going about it.
The subs presence meant that they had most likely found something and were headed down to have a look. If so, that meant their search had been successful and would probably change how the police viewed him. Was the plan he decided on yesterday still the right course of action? If he had known the Harlot’s disappearance was going to cause him this much trouble he would have made her suffer a lot more than she had.
Despite the way things looked he knew he had been extremely fortunate in the timing of his visit to the tube three days ago. The razing of his house had been the classic fuck you move, easy to accomplish and very satisfying in the long run. The thought of the police camped out in the Togawa’s house running a stakeout on a charred patch of lava made him smile. In the aftermath of the destruction of his home he moved to Hilo and rented an apartment there, biding his time, diving now and again to keep up appearances. He sold ice on the side and had come back to his property for the first time since the fire to pick up a stash whose sale would pay for a new engine for his boat.
Fishing out of Hilo was a drag for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the rough water, but until some time went by he was going to have to deal with it. There were still fish to be found, new reefs to seek out and plunder and the peace he found during the hunt was still the same. After a while he could return to the Kona coast and build again on the knoll. It would be a better house this time, with solar panels for electricity and none of the perpetual dicking around with that damn generator. He would get himself a nice home theater, too, one of those big projection screen TV’s and a huge living room and maybe a hot tub for the deck. All he had to do was build a reverse osmosis system and he would have all the water he needed. Just suck it up out of the ocean and run it through the rig and presto, instant fresh water. If he worked it right he could make a nice meth lab underneath the house. Build a little hidey-hole and make some easy money. The girls would come for the drugs. They were weak and they would open themselves up to him and he would have his way again and again and again.
Hart shook his head to clear his thoughts. There was not going to be any future for him if what he thought was happening offshore was allowed to continue. Though the situation was slightly different today, he had to act. From a canvas pack at his feet Hart removed a transmitter of the type used to operate radio controlled model airplanes. He removed a cover on the back, inserted a battery, then replaced the cover and set the unit in his lap. Through his binoculars the cockpit of the search boat jumped into sharp relief. Sunlight glinted off chrome and the bright blue sea formed a backdrop behind the crewman leaning against the helm console as he spoke into a microphone.
“That’ll be enough of that,” said Hart as he toggled a switch on the transmitter. A puff of brown smoke jetted into the air near the bow, followed immediately by an explosion of orange flame that engulfed the entire hull of the small vessel. The thump of the shockwave passed over him as shards of metal and fiberglass rained down on the sea. Black smoke billowed from the ruined craft in a roiling plume that climbed high into the morning sky.