Monday, July 26, 2010

Aloha old friends and new. Here is Chapter 6 of The Bones of the King for those who are reading along.

Good, Bad, or Ugly, please let me know what you think.

And if you've gotten this far and not joined my blog, please do. Helps me to know who visited and makes thanking you a lot easier.



The Bones of the King --- CHAPTER 6 ---The Hunt Begins

Sid Hart sat in the tube entrance and watched the sun slip beneath the waves far out to sea. A hint of green limned its upper arc and then, following the sun, it, too, disappeared from view. The waves rolled on and the curtain of night rose in the east behind Mauna Loa’s smooth bulk. Stars burned through the deepening twilight and took their place in the night sky. The lava reluctantly gave up the heat of the day as night feeding swallows whickered back and forth across the stark black landscape.

Sid decided that he had fucked up. Screwed the pooch, poked the pup, you name it; he’d done it this afternoon. He should have waited, bided his time and let the situation clarify itself before he struck. Now his cover was blown. The police were sure to put two and two together and the heat was going crank up several notches. That might have been worth it if he had accomplished something for all the trouble he’d just invited into his world, but it was clear that his effort had been wasted. Dicked the dog. Fornicated the fucking canine.

The surface vessel had ignited wonderfully, the satisfying crump and thump of explosion and shock wave hitting him in the ears and chest moments after he had toggled the transmitter. Watching with his binoculars, Sid had had an excellent seat for the show. Flames and smoke had obscured his view for quite a while following the detonation but there was no hiding the surfacing of the submarine and the subsequent rescue of the crewman who had been knocked overboard. After another half an hour the orange and yellow Hawaii County rescue helicopter had come racing down the coast and hovered over the sub. The injured man had been winched aboard in a basket and then a man from the sub traded places with a crewman from the chopper, which then flew off to the north like a shot. Within minutes the two men on the sub had rigged a steel cable to the boats bow and taken it under tow, still blazing like a torch, and headed north. He never would have imagined that the sub could have towed the hulk, but what came next really floored him. After a moment on the surface the man from the chopper went below and pulled the hatch shut behind him. White foam appeared on either side of the sub and the deck began to submerge then pitched rapidly downward and vanished. A wave splashed over the bow of the trailing boat and then another and another, each larger than the preceding one, their combined weight pulling the bow ever lower. He thought the hull would surely sink but that hadn’t happened. Instead the waves coming over the bow had surged over and around the fire and extinguished it within seconds. The smoke plume became steam and then faded away on the wind as the strange procession moved farther down the coast. After a while the sub surfaced and the burnt out hull of the boat rose in response. The two vessels continued north until they disappeared over the horizon leaving Sid alone with his thoughts.

He had underestimated whoever was running the submarine. The explosion and fire had been a pretty sight, but there should have been more to show for it. Things like a dead crewman and submarine adrift in shock as the burning support boat was reduced to cinders. Instead the submariners had rescued their man, put out the fire on their vessel and essentially salvaged the hull for future use or examination. All this had happened in the space of two hours following what should have been a devastating attack on their operation. Hell, the only thing he had accomplished was to show his hand to no effect. Talk about a fuck up. And all because the men running the sub outfit had their shit together. Next time he would not leave anything to chance.

The east wind whispered to Sid Hart as the night wore on and he worried away at the problem he had created for himself. He was up against the wall in a big way. The sub crew had not been able to bring up the Harlots body, but he was sure they had found her and it was only a matter of time before they tried again to retrieve her. When they did the noose would tighten around his neck and the police would try to lock him up forever. He vowed not to let that happen.

The only way to keep that promise was to get to the Harlot before they did. Which meant he would have to do everything in his power to stop them from diving while he went after her. He was going to have to disable the submarine and he was going to have to get some better dive gear. The second was pretty straightforward, entailing a visit to one of the many dive shops in town. The disabling of the sub was not going to be as easy, but he was already looking forward to the challenge.

It was time for him to find out more about Manta Ray Submarines and the man who ran it. Time to ferret out their schedule and their weaknesses and wait for the moment when the method he would use to attack them would come to him in the course of observing his quarry. Sid Hart rose on stiff legs and stretched. He entered the tube for a few minutes, gathered some supplies and then returned to the flow, sealing the entrance carefully behind him.

Above the slope of Mauna Loa the newly risen moon lit the island with its soft silver light. He felt exhilarated. The road ahead was going to be dangerous, but he was supremely confident that he could do what was necessary to protect his world. Sid struck out across the flows, headed for the far off access road and his car. It was time to go north and hide in plain sight. A shiver coursed up his spine and he smiled in anticipation.

The hunt was on.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Plucked from the sea -- Chapter 5 -- The Bones of the King

Hi, friends. Thank you for reading these chapters of The Bones of the King. I realize it's daunting to enter D.T. Rhysing's world, but I'm confident you'll enjoy it once you're fully immersed.

If you find yourself interested, please comment and tell me why.

The first five chapters are posted on the blog and are easy to find. Please dive in and enjoy. Your input is invaluable. Hope to hear from you soon.




The shrill screech of the UWT was unrelenting. D.T. turned the volume down to a whisper and checked the sub’s system parameters. Their ascent rate of 300 feet per minute was not top speed, but it was as fast as he thought necessary and gave him time to gather his wits and prepare. It would do them no good to arrive on the scene without a plan. And the plan, which he quickly outlined to Detective McCoy, was simple, though it hadn’t started out that way. For a moment at the outset of the incident, listening to Noah’s cry of alarm, D.T. was thrust back into a darker time in deeper water and was lost, literally, in memories of an event that he struggled with always. Overwhelmed with choices, faced with so many possibilities to prepare for that there was no way to take care of them all, he didn’t know where to begin. Then the wail of the UWT drove all else from his mind and he knew what they would be dealing with topside.

Twice in the past ten years he had heard the identical banshee scream issuing from an underwater telephone system. On each occasion the transmitting unit had been in a fire and had produced the same infernal howl, as if the circuits could feel the flames eating into their electronic souls. The split second of paralysis would not have registered with McCoy and the danger to Noah had slammed shut the window on that other world.

With a flick of his wrist D.T. had pointed the Hot Runner for the sky and fed her the juice. His feet were pressed back into the acceleration pads and his weight had shifted from his chest and hips and elbows to the balls of his feet. It was normally a pleasant sensation after a prolonged dive but now he had little time to enjoy it. They were climbing fast.

When D.T. designed the Hot Runner it was the regal look of a cruising manta ray that he strove to capture in steel and fiberglass. To a great degree, the Hot Runner mimicked that look almost perfectly. Her wings were fixed and quite a bit stubbier than those of the manta but the effect was perfect for their purposes. They extended seamlessly from the hull with a small positive dihedral and were almost invisible when viewed from ahead of the craft. Their thick roots supported and enclosed two main propulsion thrusters, then tapered to thin cambered, virtually neutral lift water foils. A pair of tiny flaperons was set into the trailing edge of the wings and was used in conjunction with the twin rudders mounted aft to help the Hot Runner turn on a dime in extreme maneuvers.

The skin of the Hot Runner was a proprietary design silicon-polymer coating that promoted and enhanced laminar flow of seawater across its surface. This feature, coupled with the sleek teardrop hull and a high power to weight ratio let them fly through the water at ten knots. At that speed there was a tremendous drain on the available power of the batteries, but if they needed to and were willing to spend the electrons the sub could move quite quickly. D.T. was willing and from the sound of it, Noah needed them to.

McCoy was busy preparing to exit the sub with two life preservers and a portable fire extinguisher. The life preservers were folded into small plastic pouches and shoved into his shirt. The fire extinguisher was a powerful Halon model in a special high-pressure cylinder the size of a large thermos. It was anybody’s guess whether it would do any good once they got to the surface, but if he needed it and didn’t have it with him then the question would be moot.

By the time D.T. had finished instructing McCoy and checking his ascent profile the Hot Runner had left the darkness and five hundred feet of seawater behind them. Ahead a pale blue and silver circle of light filled the limits of their vision, growing ever wider and brighter. At one hundred feet they could begin to make out details of the ocean’s surface above. Their target was a black smudge at the center of a series of concentric shock rings that overlaid the normal cris-crossing linear patterns created by wave chop and swells. There had been no other vessels in the area when they dove and no keels were visible from their vantage point. Normally they would arrest their ascent at twenty feet and put up the camera mast but something told D.T. there was no time. They were going to surface so close to the Safe Boat that he felt sure they would avoid any danger other than that posed by the burning craft. He had to take the chance for Noah’s sake.

D.T. bled off speed by making a wide circuit of the Safe Boat hull. They were banked hard over into the port turn and had almost boxed the compass when he saw a body floating motionless in the water some twenty feet from the stricken craft. He jinked once, pulled into an almost vertical climb and powered upward. The Hot Runner broke the surface, rose for an eternity into the smoke filled sky and then crashed down into the water with a huge splash. The weight of their keel kept them upright and very quickly restored the sub’s surface equilibrium.

“Go!” D.T. shouted.

McCoy opened the hatch and was outside faster than D.T. thought possible. The detective dove in directly in front of the view port and swam like he had a three-day liberty he couldn’t wait to get started on. D.T. hit the master trip switch to shut down all thruster power and went topside with the first aid kit and another fire extinguisher. Things were far worse than he had imagined and again, for just a moment, before the need for action spurred him on, D.T. was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the casualty they were dealing with.

The Safe Boat was fully engulfed in flames, drifting on a light breeze and trailing a rapidly spreading slick of burning gasoline. She was facing south, her starboard side to seaward, and was sitting lower in the water than usual. The Hot Runner had surfaced too close and now there was a very real need to move away to safety. Acrid black smoke boiled from the hulk and from the sea and rose over and above them as D.T. watched McCoy.

The big detective proved to be a very good swimmer, pulling strongly toward the inert body of Noah Spencer with an efficient crawl. Just as it looked like McCoy was going to win the race the wind freshened and the line of flame pulled itself toward Noah. With a grisly puff of white smoke, Noah’s hair burst into flame and he seemed to twitch in the water like a sleeper trapped in a nightmare from which there was no escape. D.T. screamed at McCoy but it was too late, or so he thought, until he saw the detective’s shoulders and back rise up out of the water in the characteristic surge of a sprinter using a butterfly stroke. As McCoy brought his hands together to penetrate the water he kept them flat and outstretched and sent up a wall of water directed right at Noah’s head. Noah disappeared behind this splash and D.T. saw the legs and feet of McCoy kick hard once, before he too, disappeared.

Noah’s head was smoking but no longer on fire. The flames around him seemed to have been forced back briefly by McCoy’s targeted spray, but they were soon going to close over him like a wave. As D.T. watched, Noah was jerked under the water as suddenly as if a shark had chosen that moment to put him out of his misery. D.T. was just about to go below and see if he could see what had happened through the viewports when McCoy surfaced with Noah in tow in a cross-chest carry. They had covered an amazing stretch of water submerged and as D.T. watched he saw Noah spit up a mouthful of seawater. Something knocked against his feet and he looked down to see the fire extinguisher and the two life preservers McCoy had carried topside rolling around in the shallow water in the hatch well. When D.T. looked up McCoy was closing the distance to the sub with long powerful strokes. D.T. urged them on silently while the inferno of the Safe Boat bore down on them all.

Noah was conscious but dazed. He had been kept afloat; his head elevated and out of the water by a flotation device D.T, required all of his crewmen to wear. It was a tiny harness with a small inflatable collar and chest piece. If a person hit the water without first disengaging the safety, the vest would automatically inflate. If they were unconscious, the vest would right them until help arrived or the person came to. McCoy pushed Noah up onto the curved superstructure of the Hot Runner and D.T. pulled him aboard.

Noah was breathing regularly and while McCoy surveyed him for bleeding and broken bones D.T. went below, re-energized the thrusters and backed the sub away from the flaming hulk of the Safe Boat. He radioed Hawaii County Fire and Rescue with their position and status. When they were a hundred yards farther offshore he jettisoned the trim weight so that the sub would ride higher in the water, set the auto pilot to hold a heading that kept their stern into the swells and then went back topside to see how McCoy was doing.

As D.T. stuck his head out of the hatch he was greeted by Noah’s voice. The plucky Hawaiian was on his back looking up at the cloudless sky.

“We’re gonna' need a new Safe Boat,” Noah said with a grin. D.T. chuckled and shook his head.

“Well, your sense of humor’s still intact.” D.T. said. “Are you okay?”

“Shot at and missed....” he replied.

“...Shit at and hit.” D.T. finished. And that’s exactly what it looked like.

”What the hell happened up here?” asked McCoy, giving voice to D.T.’s thoughts.

“All I know is I was talking to you one second and looking at Mike in the next,” said Noah. “The Safe Boat guys aren’t going to believe this happened to their baby.”

“They’ll be happy to sell us another one,” D.T. said. “Noah, are you sure you can’t remember anything else?”

“I wish I could, D.T.,” said Noah, “All I know is I was on the UWT and there was a loud crack and then the whole port side of the boat exploded. I must have been kicked overboard by the shock wave.”

“And it’s a good thing you were,” said Detective McCoy, nodding toward the flaming pyre that a few moments ago had been their surface craft.

At that moment one of the fuel tanks exploded and they all ducked involuntarily as the fire on board the Safe Boat redoubled in intensity. The pillar of smoke generated by the conflagration was growing thicker as the foam of the floatation collar began to burn in earnest.

“Well,” D.T. asked, “You think the chopper will be able to find us?” McCoy smiled ruefully and shook his head in amazement.

D.T. stowed the fire extinguisher back in the Hot Runner and did what he could to prepare for the work that they would have to do in order to get the Safe Boat back to Keahou. It was possible the burnt out hull would contain evidence and he wanted to be able to examine it closely. D.T. didn’t want to discuss it with McCoy in front of Noah, but he was pretty sure they had just run afoul of one of Sid Hart’s fire bombs.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Bones of the King - Chapter 4 - Starlight into darkness

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.
Aloha, Doug.


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.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Bones of the King - Chapter 3

Thanks for reading this #teasertuesday entry, the third chapter of my novel, The Bones of the King. Please join my blog so that I know you've visited and please comment on this chapter or all three. I live and die by your input and I appreciate your time and consideration. Mahalo, Doug.

The Bones of the King - CHAPTER 3

Hovering over the delta of sand and coral rubble that had snared the drum, D.T. reflected on how lucky they had been. One foot to the left or right and it would have continued down the slope, possibly descending well beyond the operational limit of the Hot Runner. McCoy continued to videotape the site while D.T. held station above their find.

It was the fuel drums used to supply to Hart’s diesel generator and then haphazardly stockpiled behind his shop, which had been the key. In the first photograph there were seventeen of them and in the second photograph there was one less. That the missing drum happened to be one of those closer to the shop only made it more probable that it had been used by Hart to dispose of Charlotte Gerber’s body. If not, then where did it go? The house was four miles of tire chewing lava away from the nearest secondary road. The stake out logs showed no activity on the night in question, and yet the very next day one of the fuel drums was gone.

All that Hart had had to do was wait until nightfall and then begin his task. Dressed in black, probably in a full wetsuit and booties, mask on his forehead, he would have carried the empty drum down to the edge of the sea. The knoll of lava would have blocked the view of anyone watching and the rush and rumble of incoming waves would mask any noise he might have made.

Removing one end of the drum would have presented little challenge to a man with a shop full of tools, nor would fashioning a way to close and seal it. Next Hart would have carried the body to the shore and placed it in the barrel. He would refasten the lid and tie a towrope around the top then tip it over into the surf and swim it out to sea. When he figured he had gone far enough he would have punctured the drum and let the sea slowly fill it.

The land dropped precipitously offshore of Hart’s property and he must have been very familiar with the bottom profile. He would know that he had only to swim a little way out and he would have hundreds of feet of water below him. Hart would have been quite content, knowing that the body of Charlotte Gerber would soon be out of reach of any search, and would eventually be consumed by the tiny but voracious life forms that inhabit the ocean.

The drum would have bubbled fitfully as the water closed over it. D.T. could picture Hart watching, maybe even following for a while to make sure the drum continued its descent. Starlight would help him track it for a while and then plankton, disturbed by the turbulence of its passing, would have marked the way with tiny beacons of cold light.

“Hot Runner, Surface One, comms check.”

Noah’s voice sounded in D.T.’s ear as he performed his half hour check in. D.T. keyed his push to talk button on the yoke and replied. “Surface One, Hot Runner, we have you loud and clear, how do you copy?”

“I have you loud and clear, D.T. How’s it going down there?”

Two days of sweeping the water offshore of Hart’s property with side scan sonar had yielded several contacts, but only three looked promising. The scans had been performed by Knowltonn and Noah using Manta Ray Submarine’s surface tender towing a sonar torpedo north and south in a series of overlapping swaths. By the afternoon of the second day they completed running passes and were ready to examine the data. They returned at sunset to Keahou harbor, parked the tender at Hale Kea, the seaside estate of a very good friend, and then headed north to Anaeho’omalu Bay with their laptop to see whether they would be diving the next day.

In an era where a good computing system was outmoded in the time it took to plug it in, the Manta Ray Submarines setup was excellent. In a safe room beneath the office space they had a very flexible setup of quad Mac’s that could crunch all the data they could throw at it in the blink of an eye. During the initial planning of the maintenance facility D.T. had insisted on budgeting that luxury first, and they had been rewarded many times over for doing so. Their computational needs were driven by a desire to immerse potential customers in a virtual simulation of their proposed dives and the system and software produced results that were visually stunning. They could generate a very realistic three-dimensional view of their entire operating area on monitors or via virtual reality visors and give the simulated controls of the Hot Runner to the customer. When prospective clients saw what awaited them on a real dive the sale was easy. Every time the Hot Runner submerged a new data set was collected and incorporated into the existing database. New objects appeared on the bottom, the reef grew or was impacted by storms. In one case they were able to document the damage done to coral by a super-yacht dragging its anchor along the bottom and convince the owner to be a more responsible mariner.

This morning, the third day of their search, with everyone anxious and excited, they had returned to the site towing the Hot Runner, and immediately dove to locate and examine each of the contacts. Examination of the sonar readout showed the lava flow that created the most recent layer of land had been flowing at high speed when it reached the sea. The rapid cooling of the lava created a steep slope that dropped quickly. From sea level to seven hundred feet it descended at an angle of almost fifty degrees before leveling off briefly in a small, nearly horizontal shelf. Below the shelf the drop off continued down to almost twenty-five hundred feet where it leveled off once more in wide plain that extended beyond their field of view. Their data indicated that two of the contacts were located on the first shelf at seven hundred feet. The third, and most shallow contact was in view in front of them and it was apparent that it was exactly what they had been searching for. D.T. keyed his microphone and answered Noah’s query.

“Surface, Hot Runner, we have acquired target one.” He checked his systems readouts and turned to Detective McCoy.

“Do you want to check out the other two contacts?” he asked. They had enough air for another six hours and the battery amp hours were at seventy-five percent capacity. The scrubber, which absorbed carbon dioxide as they exhaled it, was effective for seventy-two hours with three passengers. He and McCoy were not going to be running any marathons inside the hull so life support was not an issue.

The detective had obviously forgotten the other contacts. He lowered his video camera. “What do you think?” he asked.

“The other contacts are less distinct but very similar in profile. They’re a little farther south at seven hundred and fifty feet.”

“You thinking what I’m thinking?” Mike asked. D.T. could see McCoy’s wheels turning as he came to terms with the implications of three barrels instead of one. “Can we do it? Can we get down there?” The question made D.T. laugh out loud and Mike frowned. McCoy didn’t understand that here at last was a question D.T. could answer easily. He keyed the microphone and spoke while looking at Mike and smiling.“Surface, Hot Runner, we’re leaving contact one at a depth of two eighty and heading south for contacts two and three.”

“Surface, aye. Good hunting,” replied Noah.

D.T. throttled up and turned to starboard, then lowered the nose until they began to glide a few feet above the steep sand slope. Past four hundred feet the sand gave way to a jumbled boulder field and the light diminished rapidly. Dark shades of blue were now the defining colors and black shadows the only contrast to them. At five hundred feet D.T. switched on a small set of exterior floodlights and the rocky scarp was illuminated in sharp relief. A school of weke flashed silver in unison, their myriad numbers darting right then left before parting to let the sub pass. A lone trevally accompanied the sub, keeping pace just off the bow as the Hot Runner descended.

McCoy and D.T. were most likely the first humans ever to see the terrain slowly unreeling in front of the view ports. In a world where the brightest light is the bioluminescence of phytoplankton their passage was like a brief but brilliant sunrise. A blenny froze atop the coarse sand as the light grew in intensity. The trevally swooped in and struck like a flash of blue lightning, leaving an explosion of sand to mark the spot. They moved deeper and the local rhythms returned to normal, the sub diminishing as it descended until it was just a dark shape within an aquamarine halo that faded slowly and then disappeared.

At seven hundred and fifty feet D.T. turned and traversed the slope, the port wingtip nearly brushing the sand. Somewhere out ahead of them lay the answers to questions that had not been asked until a few days ago. If the contacts were barrels would Detective McCoy want them raised? What if there were no obvious puncture marks in the sides? Was he sitting on information about other missing women? D.T. had been in some dark and lifeless places and seen there the results of the stupidity of men, but he had never encountered anything remotely similar. What kind of person would do this? And why? He realized in that moment that their dive was shedding light on a darker domain than the one passing beneath them.

“We got something.” Detective McCoy pointed at a shape slowly becoming more distinct against the jumbled backdrop of coral rubble, sand and rock. D.T. throttled back and then reversed the thrusters to arrest their momentum. They slowed and the lights gradually illuminated another barrel lying on its side. D.T. backed and rotated the sub until they were facing the slope. From that position he was able to maneuver to within a few feet of their target. The sea had begun to claim the barrel, but it would be many years before the patient growth of deep-water coral and the slow corrosion of iron would disguise its shape. It looked as though it had been submerged recently, but there was no way to tell. What set chills running up D.T.’s spine was the way the sides were pierced with numerous triangular openings, identical in shape with those they saw in the first contact. D.T. keyed the microphone and called Noah.

“Surface, we’ve found contact number two. Looks like we’d better order that arm.”

Noah and D.T. had been debating for some time whether to outfit the sub with a manipulator arm. Passengers were always asking why they didn’t have one and if there was one thing they realized early it was that the customer was always right. There would be trade offs with turbulence at speed so they had spent a lot of time looking for the right system. They wanted to be able to disconnect it in a heartbeat for those dives when they needed clean lines and no restrictions on their top-end speed. Now circumstances required action outside of their capabilities and the design characteristics had less priority. They had a recovery job to perform.

“I’ll make the call right now,” replied Noah. “Do you want to go with Sub Sea or...”

The underwater telephone reception was very good, so much so that D.T. had no trouble hearing the crack of an explosion followed by a muffled thump and an exclamation from Noah. Then silence, thick and palpable as a shroud.

D.T. was throttling up and blowing negative, headed quickly for the surface when the UWT came to life again, filling his ears with a high pitched electronic scream that grew too loud to bear. He ripped off his headset and pointed the sub toward the distant and obscured sun. Urging the Hot Runner on, D.T. outlined his plans to McCoy and had him prepare for their surfacing. Darkness gave way to deep blue in the view ports.

The sea let them pass.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Those who are at sea

Those of you close to me know that I have been working on a manuscript with a former submariner named D.T. Rhysing and that I have been out of touch with him for many months. While this is not out of the ordinary I have been concerned because of requests I have received for information about him from several government organizations. I am quite sure my e-mail has been compromised and that my phones are tapped, but because I was told to expect this if I came on board with the project, I've soldiered on. As my source notes are from extensive interviews conducted at various locations around the Hawaiian Islands during the past two years I know that nothing in my communications will shed any light on Mr. Rhysing's present wherabouts.

Three days ago, on June 31st, I had my first contact with him in a long time. When I asked him where he was he replied only that he was at sea and that he wanted to begin sharing the story with the outside world. To that end, here in this simple blog, I will be posting chapters while searching for a better outlet.

I thought at first that I knew what D.T. Rhysing intended when he set out to make this story known, but I'm no longer sure. I thought I knew how it ended, but that, too, is in doubt. Though this book does have an ending, I think D.T.'s story is just beginning and the only thing I'm sure of is that it will end, as it started, at sea.

Douglas M. MacIlroy


D. T. Rhysing owned Manta Ray Submarines, a small business that took passengers on one hour long submerged tours through the seascape of the Puako reefs. On occasion their services were chartered by corporations or by individuals able to pay for custom tours to anywhere along the coast of West Hawaii, but, Monday through Friday, their bread and butter was regular dives for regular people. On Saturday mornings they ran a half-day of short duration dives just outside of Anaeho’omalu Bay, their base of operations. The Saturday dives were for children selected through a program of scholastic achievement or specific need as decided by teachers of every school on the island. On Saturday the company made no money but was paid in good will and reaped the dual benefits of publicity and a great deal of hands on contact with people on the beach. Some of them were usually interested enough to schedule a dive during the week and D.T. figured it all came out even somewhere along the line. The Saturdays were shorter than the weekdays, long on fun, and the entire crew got a lot of satisfaction from them.

Today’s dive off the coast south of Kealakekua and two days of imaging the bottom from their surface craft were something like the Saturday dives in that they were being donated for free to the Hawaii County Police Department. Normally D.T. would have made them pay like everyone else, but this once he had been persuaded to do otherwise by a good man in a tight spot.
D.T.’s persuader and sole passenger was quiet; taking in details and checking the alignment of the video camera he was aiming through the starboard view port. Most passengers became effusive beneath the surface, wanting to share their amazement at the view, but not this man. He was working a crime scene and D.T. was doing his best to help him.
The somber convergence of his passenger’s job and D.T.’s had begun at Anaeho’omalu Bay two weeks earlier at the end of the last dive of the day. The night technicians were mating the sub to its transporter when D.T. noticed a man standing off to the side watching the ballet and checking out the operation as the crew worked. They got a lot of that and mostly just let people watch without pushing information on them. If they wanted to know what was going on, they usually asked.

Their observer was a tall man with broad shoulders and a trim waist, strawberry blonde hair and a hint of freckles. An old pair of Vuarnet sunglasses hid eyes that nonetheless seemed to take in every detail. He wore a bamboo print aloha shirt, khaki slacks and held his shoes with the socks tucked neatly into them in his left hand while the right stayed in his pocket. He looked like a tourist just down from the hotel to check out the beach, but something about him told D.T. different. D.T. waited; content to watch the crew perform their well-practiced duties. After a while the man walked over and got right to the point.

“Evening,” he said as D.T. turned to face him. “My name’s Mike McCoy.” D.T. shook the proffered hand and then read the no frills business card McCoy handed to him. Under McCoy’s name were the words ‘Detective - Hawaii County Police Department’.

“How can I help you, Detective?” D.T. said as he pocketed the card.

“Mike, please,” McCoy said.

“Okay, Mike,” D.T. replied. “What's up? You don’t actually want a submarine ride, do you?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” he said, with a grim little laugh, “but there’s more to it than that.”

“There usually is,” D.T. said. “Tell you what, Detective, let us get this baby put to bed for the night and we’ll scare up some cold ones and you can tell me your sea story. I haven’t heard a good one in quite a while.”

“You got it,” McCoy said, “But, I’m buying. Where should I meet you?”

D.T. looked out past the mouth of the bay to where the breakers were being stripped of foam by the rising wind. Tomorrow was probably going to be a wash. The sea was too rough for passenger transfer and thus all dives would most likely be cancelled, which meant they could perform a thruster change out and still have time to clean up shop and go play golf in the wind. Most people he knew hated that last part, but high winds usually meant peace of mind for him because none of his gear or crew was on or under the water. As a result, he played some of his best golf in bad weather.

“Wait for me at the pool bar,” said D.T. “It’ll take us about half an hour to tuck her in.” Then he thought about which waitresses were working the pool and added, “Detective McCoy, are you married?”

“Ten years now. Four kids, two cars, one house and a mortgage through the roof. My wife works for Cameron Real Estate. Why do you ask?”

“Well,” D.T. said, smiling. “If I send you over to the pool bar you’ll get asked that and more. I don’t want to be the one to have steered you in that direction if you didn’t want to be there. We’ve got some beers back at the barn. Why don’t you walk along with us?”

McCoy did a little deduction on his own and laughed. “Maybe I should be mad at you for steering me away from the pool bar.”

“There is that possibility,” D.T. replied. “You can let me know which is which if you get that sub ride you’re going to try to wheedle me out of.”

They set off for the access road at the southern end of the beach, following the shallow impressions made by the huge balloon tires of the transporter as it wended its way through the tall coconut palms, headed unerringly toward the distant maintenance facility.

“We’d like you to help us find a body.”
They were sitting beneath the open night sky, watching the stars come out as the last red glow of the day faded in the west. Behind them, suspended from the overhead crane by four nylon slings, the Hot Runner gleamed, freshly washed and polished, illuminated by a bank of high intensity halogen lights. The battery pods had been removed and were charging in their racks. A lone high-pressure air hose and a small systems monitoring cable connected her to the maintenance suite computer and the air storage tanks buried deep beneath their feet. In the offices the lights burned brightly as Bob Knowltonn and Noah Spencer downloaded data from the onboard sensors.

D.T. remained quiet. Detective McCoy could not know it, but his opening sentence had brought D.T. up short. Like breathing at depth on a regulator that suddenly stops feeding air, it had gotten his attention and stirred memories. Images from not so long ago and always close at hand played out in his mind. A sun shot sea filled with light. D.T. descending, knowing all along that the sea would reveal only tangled metal and debris swaying in the gentle currents far below, wreckage once a triumph of engineering.

McCoy spoke again and D.T. surfaced from his reverie as the detective described the events that had led him to the bay that afternoon.
“Her name is Charlotte Gerber and she is thirty years old. Born in Naalehu, the only daughter of the town doctor. Married once here on the Big Island and then divorced a few years later. No children, thank God.” McCoy seemed to be telling this tale from long experience, as though he had briefed others in his search, or had lived with the information until it had become a part of him.

“Two years after her divorce she met the man we think killed her and began to date him.” McCoy pulled an object from his pocket and tossed it over. It was a USB memory storage device. He would download its contents to their computer system later. “That contains everything the papers have published on this case. The parts of the articles where their reporters have to think for themselves are mostly bullshit, but we supplied the chronology of events and pertinent facts. Keep that because if you do decide to help us you’ll need to know what you’re getting into.”

“Thanks,” D.T. said.

“Our suspects name is Sidney Hart. He used to live on the coast south of Kona in a house he built on family land. He’s a tropical fisherman, but from what we’ve gathered he doesn’t need to work. He’s inherited enough from his folks, including the twenty-two acres he lives on, to keep himself in food and beer money. Seems to be a loner. The house used to get electricity from a diesel generator he ran a couple of times a week. There were several neighbors, but only one really close by and their house is over a quarter mile away. Hart dabbled in martial arts and drives an older model Humvee. He probably grew a little dope for himself, maybe sold a little, but we’re not sure. Some days he would tinker in his shop that was next door to his house. Says he’s an inventor, and he may be, but he hasn’t got any patents and there’s no income that we know of associated with that claim.”

“You said the house used to get electricity from a generator and that his shop was next door to his house. Why the past tense? D.T. asked.

“I’m getting to that,” McCoy said

“How often does he fish?”

“Maybe twice a week as far as the neighbor can tell.”

Tropical fishermen collected reef fish for sale to local distributors who in turn shipped them to wholesalers. Ultimately, if they survived the journey, the fish ended up in aquariums around the world. A productive tropical fisherman could make a nice living and, if done responsibly, there was minimal effect on the environment. But D.T. had only met two who fit that bill. Most of the ‘trops’ he had experience with were reef rapers who destroyed habitat and fish to make a profit and were little better than a mongoose crawling around inside a road kill carcass in search of an easy meal.

“Hart and Gerber hit it off pretty well. They were engaged for a while but something soured the relationship. Two weeks prior to the appointed day Charlotte decided to call off the wedding. Hart, who had apparently been a less than ideal prospective partner, further demonstrated that fact by threatening both Charlotte and her father with bodily harm. This behavior called a lot of attention to Hart and Miss Gerber had a TRO placed on him. Hart eventually violated it and landed in Hilo jail for three months.”

“How did he violate it?” D.T. asked. Temporary restraining orders were virtually useless when it came to protecting someone from abusers. It was like using a jellyfish to ward off a barracuda. They might look effective to someone who didn’t know any better and might even work half of the time. But it wouldn’t stop a barracuda and the barracudas knew it.

“Hart visited their house one night.” McCoy finished his beer and absently began to crimp the sides of the can with his thumbnails. “Charlotte had gone to live with her father while she figured out her next move. Hart was caught leaving their property by an off duty cop who happened to be driving by at the time. The boys in Naalehu know everybody and everything that happens there and they were on the lookout. It was a lucky break.”

“How so?” D.T. asked.

“The officers who picked up Hart called Dr. Gerber and his daughter to come down to the station and verify Hart’s identity and possibly press charges for trespassing. While the Gerbers were there a fire totally razed their home. Investigators suspected arson because of the speed of involvement. A search of the site yielded a very stylish little timing device attached to the inside of what used to be a can of accelerant. Gasoline, to you and me. The can had been placed on the upwind side of the house and was split wide open. There had been a small explosive charge inside. When it detonated the entire side of the house was engulfed in flame. The wind took it from there. Two neighbors tried to get some garden hoses on it but that was a lost cause. House was a total loss. If Hart hadn’t been caught, the Gerbers might easily have been killed and Hart would probably have gone to Kulani Prison for murder. So there was good luck all around, it seems.” McCoy stood and stretched. “You got anymore of these?” he asked, holding his thoroughly crushed beer can.

“Coming up.” D.T. said.

D.T. walked into the maintenance bay and over to the offices. Noah looked up as he entered.

“What’s McCoy want with you?”

“You know him?” D.T. asked?

“We went to school together at Punahou.” Noah Spencer was young and athletic, five feet ten inches of lean muscle and Polynesian good looks. He had straight dark hair that he kept trimmed short, high cheekbones and piercing brown eyes and mouth full of dazzling white teeth. He looked like the Cheshire cat sitting there in his chair and D.T. suddenly realized that Noah knew perfectly well what the detective and he were talking about.
“He talked to you first?”

“Only to see if it was possible. I figured it was but told him he had to talk to you. It’s your kuleana.”

His responsibility. D.T. should not have been surprised that Noah knew the detective. Since he had met Noah and made him a partner in Manta Ray Submarines D.T. had never known him to be more that three phone calls away from the man who could get the job done in the islands. Noah pushed back from the desk where he sat and laced his hands behind his head.

“You have a say in this, Noah,” D.T. said, slightly irritated that his partner felt he did not.

“I know, D.T., but this is something you’ve got to decide on your own.” Noah gestured with his arms to include the building and its contents and, D.T. felt sure, the bay and the entire entity they had given life to. “When you first showed up here,” Noah continued, “drawing blueprints in the sand and talking a blue streak, I thought you were lolo, really nuts. But you sold me and I decided to give it a chance, and I have to tell you that your ideas made real have totally blown me away.” Noah stood and put both hands on D.T.’s shoulders and looked into his eyes, making sure he connected. “You asked me to be your partner and I appreciate it and have busted my okole to make you believe you did the right thing.” And he had. Noah was a hard worker and a true believer in their vision for the company. He never stopped when there was a project in progress and his tremendous energy had carried the day many times. D.T. was disturbed that he would not include himself in the decision the detective was asking them to make.
“D.T.,” Noah said gravely, “I am your partner. But this,” he gestured around them again, “this is all yours.” Noah could see D.T. was about to object and shook his head.

“This is your heart and soul. Look, I know what Mike’s been telling you, okay? He told me the whole sad story. That man, Doctor Gerber? His house is gone. You thought about that? It’s gone. All his life, his things, the works. Gone. And now, after all this time, maybe his daughter is gone, too. There’s a lot at stake. I’m on board either way and I’m pretty sure what you’re going to say, but on this one the call is yours.”

D.T. understood only too well what might be involved but the possibility of danger, other than the type they encountered each time they went to sea, seemed remote. On the flip side, D.T. knew what Noah was talking about and appreciated his candor. It confirmed that D.T. had made the right choice in making him partner. Noah was the salt of the earth and D.T. was glad they were in things together.

Noah smiled. He had seen the understanding register with D.T. and knew he had gotten his point across.

“Okay, Noah,” D.T. replied, “I understand. And now that you know that, why don’t you find Knowltonn and come over and join us in this pow-wow. Sounds like we’ve got some interesting days coming up.”

“You got it, D.T.”

D.T. took two beers from the reefer and rejoined Detective McCoy who was running his hand over the sleek lines of the Hot Runner. He popped the tab and handed the detective one, then opened his and knocked back a few swallows. There was nothing quite like a good beer at the end of a long day.

“I talked to Noah,” D.T. said. “He tells me you guys went to school together. Are you still friends?”

McCoy took a drink and replied. “We did and we are, Mr. Rhysing. I’ve known about you and this outfit for a while. Watched you get started and take on Noah. When he told me he was going to be a partner in some submarine company I did a little digging to see who you were, and whether you were on the up and up. What I found at first was a lot of nothing, but I’ve got access to a few lines of inquiry that most people don’t so I dug a little deeper. There are a lot of holes in the records but there was enough to convince me you’re a stand up guy. And you’ve shown it by what you’ve built.” McCoy tapped the wing of the sub and looked around. “I’m glad you and Noah hooked up. He’s really happy here.”

Mike,” D.T. said, “Noah had a big hand in all of this and I’m glad he’s on board. I’ve gotten more out of our partnership than he has. Now, why don’t you finish the story and we’ll see whether you get that sub ride.”

They walked back to the chairs and sat and sipped thoughtfully on their beers. Bob Knowltonn and Noah joined them and after a moment of reflection, Detective McCoy continued his tale.
“After the fire Charlotte Gerber moved to the mainland and worked as a physical therapist for a sports medicine clinic in San Diego. She never remarried. Doctor Gerber rebuilt his home and office and continued his practice until his death in a traffic accident two years ago.”

“Was it really an accident?” asked Noah.

“It happened on Oahu while Dr. Gerber was attending a convention. His rental car hydroplaned on H-1 freeway near Pearl City in a sudden rainsquall. He was caught broadside between a truck that had managed to slow down and one that couldn’t. Hart’s neighbors said Hart was home at the time so I don’t think there was a connection.

“Gerber was a decorated veteran. Riverine patrol boats. He was buried at Punchbowl with full military honors. Charlotte Gerber attended the funeral, visited friends and relatives for a week then returned to California.

“Four months ago she moved back to the Big Island to work at The Four Seasons as their resident physical therapist. She bought a small condo in Kona and joined the Kai Opua Canoe Club. Seemed to be settling in nicely and then one day, out of the blue, she failed to show up at work. Her supervisor tried to phone her for two days but got no answer so she went to talk to her building manager. They tried to open the condo but couldn’t. Someone had broken a key off in the lock. The manager thought he saw blood on the concrete near the door and that’s when we got the call.”

Bob Knowltonn got up and detached the air hose from the subs air charge manifold. D.T. found himself mentally checking off the security measures they had in place and wondering how he would breach them if he were on the outside looking in.

“Was it blood?” Noah asked.

“O positive, which matches Miss Gerber’s but leaves us right where we started,” Mike replied. “We don’t know how it got there or when.

“Our initial investigation into her disappearance introduced us to Mr. Hart and the history between them. We found that he still had the same address and as a matter of course we went out to his residence to look around and ask him a few questions. Hart wasn’t home so we walked the property line and took some pictures.

“The house sits on the northwestern corner of his land, smack up against the ocean on the top of an old a’a flow. His shop is closest to the boundary and there's a bunch of junk all over the area between the shop and the sea. Looks like he’s even got a homemade boat ramp.

“The next day he was home and volunteered to come in for questioning. The results were troubling but inconclusive. Mr. Hart had a deep gash on the back of his left thumb that he claimed to have inflicted while working in his shop the day before. He denied even knowing that Charlotte was back on the island. He was helpful and cooperative to the point of letting us to take a blood sample for testing. Turns out his blood type is the same as hers, but the blood at the scene was not his.

“We questioned Charlotte Gerber’s neighbors and one of them reported hearing a scuffle outside her door around seven thirty in the evening the day before Miss Gerber failed to show up for work. The neighbor said she saw a man fitting Hart’s description in a Blue Ford pickup with a white camper top leaving the parking lot at high speed shortly after seven-thirty. No license plate number was recorded. On the strength of the witnesses report we set up an observation team in the living room of Mr. Hart’s nearest neighbor, a retired sugar plantation worker by the name of Clyde Togawa. Three days later Hart’s house suddenly burst into flames. It was totally engulfed within minutes, and completely razed long before the fire department could get there. Hart was out fishing at the time and has since moved to Hilo where he lives to this day. He’s trying to collect insurance money on the house and he’ll probably get it, but I’m sure he set the fire himself to destroy evidence.”

D.T. thought there were too many loose ends in the detective’s story. Nothing was clicking. How did he know there was a body to be found, why did he need a submarine to find it and why was he so sure it was recoverable at all after all this time?

“Evidence of what?” D.T. asked.

In reply, the detective pulled out two photographs and handed them to D.T.. “One of these pictures was taken the day after Charlotte Gerber went missing. The other was taken two days later during the stakeout, after we had questioned Hart about her disappearance and one day before his house went up in smoke.”

The first picture was a view of the makai, or seaward, edge of the house and included the back of the shop structure and a low knoll of lava. Two rails extended down toward the sea from the shop area. They stopped just short of the water and appeared to be rusted and derelict. Other unidentified machinery parts were scattered around helter-skelter and a dozen or so fifty-five gallon drums were stacked next to the shop building, which was made of tin roofing crudely bolted to a metal framework.

The second picture had been taken at almost the same angle, but apparently from much farther away. The same details were visible as well as the knoll of lava that formed the base for the house pad and shop foundation. The house was a ramshackle single story post and pier box with a tin roof, tiny windows and a large lanai that commanded a sweeping view out over the cobalt blue Pacific.

Detective McCoy had obviously found his answer in the pictures so D.T. knuckled down and started studying them carefully. A life at sea and not a little beneath it had taught him that God really was in the details. You just had to keep looking until you saw them.

The boat ramp told him that Hart was resourceful and not afraid to try to figure a way to put a boat into the ocean from his backyard. He probably realized very early that the angle of his ramp required a serious winch and that the sea would not be cooperating as he tried to guide his vessel onto the parallel rails. It was a ramp that you would only be able to use once in a blue moon, but it existed, and that alone was evidence of Sid Hart’s inventiveness. The shop would have been a place to putter and fabricate, a haven from the stuffy house and whatever life he had had there.
The photos showed only the metal walls but all D.T. had to do was look around their maintenance facility to see a sampling of the type of equipment Hart would have had in his shop. What was in the pictures that he wasn’t seeing? It was a puzzle and the solution was in his hands, but he couldn’t find the missing piece.

And then, like the dim outline of a sunken vessel slowly appearing out of the gloom, D.T. saw the answer. There was just a ghost of it at first, but with every second the outlines became increasingly substantial. In the end it was as though floodlights had been turned on to illuminate the scene. The missing details snapped into bold relief and with them in place he knew without a doubt why the detective had sought them out.

McCoy must have sensed D.T. had crossed over to his side because when D.T. put the photos down and looked up, the detective was smiling knowingly. Knowltonn and Noah immediately reached for the photos, aware that D.T. had seen something in them that had made all the difference.

For his part, D.T. knew with a cold certainty that Charlotte Gerber was dead. Nothing was going to change that, but what they could do for her in the here and now was recover her body and help bring her killer to justice. The prospect of the search excited him. D.T. felt sure they would find Charlotte's remains and the evidence needed to prosecute and ultimately, convict and incarcerate Sidney Hart.

“Mike,” D.T. said with a wry grin, as the detective sipped his beer contentedly, “Looks like you’ve got yourself a submarine ride.”