It Was 1993
by James Strauss
With fear and trepidation on his mind, Arch raced up the concrete and steel stairs to the entrance into Amelia Earhart’s Restaurant. Giving a large quantity of drugs to strangers wasn’t like slipping somebody a “Mickey” in an old mystery show on television. He eased the door open and looked across the counter at the dining area. The table with the best panoramic view of the runway was set in the far corner, and was occupied by two men. Both were in chairs, and both were slumped over with their upper bodies and heads down on crossed arms, making it appear they were napping. Which Arch hoped and prayed they were. He walked into the restaurant and toward the table. He moved slowly, so as not to be considered a deadly threat if one of them popped up with a weapon. It was as Atlantis described, the men were out cold.
“I told you,” Atlantis said from behind him. “Works like a charm. I used it on my boyfriend all the time when he got too frisky.”
Arch frowned, but said nothing in reply. He checked out the pockets of both men, making sure not to let them slip from the table and potentially harm themselves while he did it. He also checked to see how they were doing physically. Both men breathed slowly in and out. There was no need to check pulses.
“Now what?” Cyn asked.
“Well, we don’t need a diversion for these two,” he said, standing back up holding the player’s wallet in his hand. Neither man was armed, which surprised Arch, and Raul carried nothing in his pockets, which didn’t surprise him. Arch read the Hawaii driver’s license in the other man’s wallet; Jeremy Ringo, with a Honolulu address in Hawaii Kai. There was a smiling picture of the man on the front. That the team leader, the role he had to be performing, carried identification at all, meant that he’d been called in on short notice. It was very likely his real name was Jeremy Ringo and he would be angry as hell when he found out they knew it. There was nothing to be done about that so Arch put the driver’s license in his own pocket. He noted the USAA insurance and Navy Federal Credit Union credit cards in the wallet. There was little question that the man was former military, if not active, and no doubt that he continued to work with the CIA. The pickle Arch had put himself in wasn’t going to be minimized, no matter how kindly any of the called-in agents regarded him. They would be about mission orientation, and Arch had to be the same way.
“You have a meat cleaver back there?” he asked Atlantis.
“Sure,” she replied, moving toward the bar.
“You’re not going to hurt them when they’re unconscious, are you?” Cyn asked, very quietly.
“Define hurt,” Arch responded, Atlantis walking over to him with a big heavy meat cleaver dangling from her right hand. Arch knew that although downright butchery was out of the question from his side, it might pay to slow the opposition down a bit if he managed to stay ahead of them. His nemesis was no longer Raul, but instead a guy Arch had never met and barely seen, named Jeremy Ringo. The team leader of the opposition, lay face down on the table, accompanied by Raul to his right.
Arch took the meat cleaver from Atlantis’s outstretched hand and then went down on his knees next to the table. Jeremy Ringo’s XL-3 German micro-radio chirped from Arch’s pocket, but made no other sounds. He’d taken the radio with a vague plan of using it to somehow hold off forces that had to be headed, at some point, toward the airport while Cyn, Harpo and Arch waited for the plane. Arch removed Jeremy’s right shoe. He wore no socks. He swung the heavy cleaver upward, and then almost gently down, using the dull edge instead of the razor sharp cutting side of the blade, to hit Jeremy’s big toe. The big toe clicked in a satisfying way, as the second knuckle of the toe joint was dislocated. There was no crunching sound, which would have meant broken bones. It was a case of substantial cartilage realignment. Jeremy’s body jerked at the strike, but the codeine #3’s continued to do their job, and his head remained down, with the rest of his body unresponsive. Arch moved over to Raul and performed the same procedure on his right big toe, almost putting a little more oomph into the strike, but pulling back at the last second. The man had tried to kill him without compunction, but Arch had to keep the mission in mind, which might mean some sort of happy ending down the road.
“What did you do to their feet?” Atlantis asked, seating herself next to Cyn and Harpo at the next empty table.
“Nothing major,” Arch answered, delivering the cleaver back to her. “Just some adjustment to their toe joints. No hospital stuff, really. They’ll be on crutches for a few weeks but nothing worse. And they won’t be running at all, for quite some time.” Arch didn’t add that his actions had been guided by possible legal sentencing in the future. Breaking or damaging cartilage or muscles and tendons was a misdemeanor in Hawaii, not a felony. Breaking bones would have constituted felony assault. Misdemeanors could be negotiated out. Felonies against federal officers, certainly not.
“When will they wake up?” Cyn asked.
“Not for a while,” Arch replied. “Not in time, I hope. When they do they’re going to be groggy as hell, not exactly light on their feet and mad as wet hens. We’ve got to be gone by then and Atlantis has to come with us.”
“What? I can’t go,” Atlantis said, worry evident in her tone. “This is my only job. Who’ll run the place while I’m gone.”
“When they wake up they’ll know who drugged them,” Arch replied. “You won’t be running anything from Guantanamo. I’m sorry, but you’ve thrown your lot in with ours unless you want to stay and take the chance of being tortured, or worse.”
Arch realized that he was lying his butt off again. There was no way he could leave Atlantis behind. She had no clue. No citizen could possibly have any clue, unless they were a one-time player, or had physically encountered players in the past. Atlantis would be forced to reveal everything she knew. What plane they were on. What their plan was. And she’d give up everything within the first ten minutes of being questioned. The following couple of hours of her life would be the most miserable of her time on this earth, and would be spent trying to prove that what she was saying was the truth.
Truly tortured humans tended to disappear after such treatment simply because the evidence of being tortured needed to die with them. Would the players Arch was opposing (and running from) go that far? In a heartbeat. There were no consequences for them because no one ever survived to seek the protection of the law, much less the police and courts, and even if they did live, the authorities cared little or nothing for anyone caught in such sadistic nets.
“We’ve got to move these men and then the Suburban,” Arch instructed, changing the subject from Atlantis accompanying them to Lihue. “That won’t help us when the others come back, but it’ll help with the pilot if we can’t keep him out of the terminal.”
“If I go to Lihue with you guys, can I stay there?” Atlantis asked, not allowing Arch to so easily change the subject. “I can get home and wait until they’re gone.”
“Okay,” Arch responded, lying again. He had no idea when the Independence would dock in Honolulu, even if they somehow managed to get aboard. It wasn’t likely that the ship would have Oahu as its next destination, not with six other islands to choose from.
It took all three of them to move the sleeping men. They dragged the two men across the floor to a long table against the far wall. They put them head to foot under the table. Atlantis grabbed a big table cloth from behind the bar and laid it out so that nothing could be seen of the men laying underneath the table.
“What about their shoe’s?” Cyn asked. “Trash can. They’ll be found later, like everything else in this building, but these guys won’t be needing them for quite some time, anyway. “The keys to the Suburban were on the table the men had been sitting at. Arch grabbed them and made for the vehicle.
“No guns please,” Atlantis yelled at his disappearing back.
“Okay,” he said over his shoulder, with a slight disbelieving shake of his head.
Arch intended to move the Suburban away to prevent it’s being viewed by anyone in the terminal or on the tarmac of the airport. Besides being evidence of the opposition’s presence, it was loaded with weaponry. There were two short barreled semi-automatic shotguns in special holders between the front seats, and an H&K submachine gun laying on the floor behind the passenger seat. He thought about what he might be able to get away with, as far as concealment went. He might need, although hopefully not, a handgun, one with some real stopping power. The Suburban was full-time four-wheel-drive, with a lever on the floor for low register. Once he got the vehicle started, and the automatic transmission set in neutral, Arch pulled the lever back. A red light appeared on the dashboard with a cartoon-like caricature of four wheels and a chassis.
Arch presumed the car was now in low four-wheel drive. The Suburban moved slowly when he put the indicator on ‘L’ and stepped lightly on the gas. The thing had plenty of power. He pushed down harder, steering the vehicle through a big circle until it was pointed directly at the dense thicket of brush and trees Cyn, Harpo and he had hidden out in. Arch floored the gas. The Suburban shot forward, and its engine started to scream, although the SUV topped out at less than twenty miles per hour on the speedometer. Arch aimed the car where the foliage seemed least dense and was filled with mostly bamboo thickets. The Suburban plunged in, as if made for just such a ground assault. The car lurched, jumped and was battered about, but ground its way deep into the mess of lush green forest, until it finally stopped with its wheels still spinning. The vehicle ended up high-centered atop a crushed mess of bamboo and new growth pines.
Arch searched the vehicle interior after shutting the ignition down. Arch was in luck. A Colt .45, Model 70 was wrapped inside a hotel towel in the center section. It was the model Colt had produced until the early eighties, but with better accuracy than previous models. The sights were obviously custom. Arch checked the action, and then looked back in the center storage area. No extra ammo. Arch ejected the magazine, and then the one shot in the chamber. Seven rounds of regular hard ball ammo. Jeremy or Raul knew about guns. The side of the slide had small letters punched in, just back of the tip of the barrel. “J. Clark” wasn’t the name of the owner. It was the name of the gunsmith who’d Modified the accuracy of the weapon. Arch climbed out of the Suburban and moved back through the bracken to the terminal building. He carried the automatic in his right hand, since sticking it the band of his shorts would only have it fall out at some inconvenient time or place. The bad news about the specialized nature of the gun was what it indicated about the level of expertise Ringo had to have to keep the thing as his duty weapon. The good news was that Arch could finally defend himself if a violent response was called for.
Arch made his way back upstairs into Amelia Earhart’s restaurant dangling the very specialized Colt .45 at his side. He felt no heightened sense of power in possessing the weapon. He’d spent so much time with such physically sophisticated implements that it felt quite natural. Although it sometimes appeared otherwise, when all else failed guns were still the way most gentlemen settled extreme arguments across the surface of the planet. And all too often all else failed.
“No guns,” Atlantis said, pointing at the Colt .45.
“Agreed,” Arch lied, asking her where he might find a sack thick and large enough to hold the file and the stuff leftover from Cyn’s tattered plastic bag. Atlantis fumbled behind the bar, emptying out something, and finally tossing a decent-sized canvas sack onto the polished surface. Arch fingered the old worn bag. It was perfect. A cord drawstring could draw the top together, and the dangling ends used to throw the bag over one shoulder.
“You have a thing going with her?” Atlantis asked, in a whisper as Arch loaded the file and then the Colt into the bag.
“What?” He responded, surprised. “Her?” Arch went on, trying to grasp what the woman was asking.
“With Cynthia!” Atlantis whispered even more intently, staring without blinking right into his eyes.
“I don’t know,” Arch said, being unable to comprehend what Atlantis was really talking about, and not being quick enough to come up with a better reply. He’d just met Cynthia and Harpo. He’d had about the same level of in-depth conversation with the woman as he’d had with the dingo, and he knew Harpo felt more positive about him than his owner.
Both women were considerably younger than Arch, and why Atlantis had even thought to come up with the question under their dire circumstance was beyond him. He’d attempted to inject some hope into Cyn’s ennui-laden mindset, but that was it, and it seemed to have worked to both of their advantage, at least temporarily.
“Men!” Atlantis stated emotionally, her voice filled with disgust, before heading back over to the table where Cyn sat with Harpo at her side.
“Johnny One, this is Johnny three, comm check, over…” squawked quietly but clearly from the micro-radio in Arch’s pocket. He pulled the small radio out
to examine its exterior case. Everything was so small he had a hard time finding the tiny transmit button.
“Who’s Johnny One?” Cyn asked, as he fiddled with the device.
“Ringo;” Arch replied, “Mr. Macho team leader; the guy with the hyper-expensive Colt automatic; Raul’s boss or leader; or whatever.”
“How do you know it’s him that that guy’s calling?” she continued.
“Johnny Ringo,” Arch said. “Bad guy back in the Old West. Gunslinger. Macho dude. It’s the kind of code name somebody like Jeremy Ringo would use. Every time.” Arch reflected on how Ringo’s reputation back in those days was as a very fast and accurate gunfighter with absolutely no morals. He hoped Jeremy would prove to be a lessor version of that. If not, then maybe the damaged toe might slow him down.