It Was 1993
Only Harpo reacted, walking toward the police officer standing in front of them with a grocery bag in one arm. The officer reached down to stroke the only part of the dingo’s head that he allowed anyone to touch. Harpo first wagged his tail, and then sat down to enjoy some more attention.
“What brings you to our back deck?” the woman said, a smile still painted across her lips.
Arch had only had a few seconds to prepare, knowing the question was coming. “That boat just off the shore out there,” he said, pointing out over the rail of the deck toward the open bay. “It’s a Coast Guard boat. We saw it from the beach and wondered if there was anything wrong. We were headed to the marina to have a bite, but thought we should check the boat out first.”
Both the man and woman put their bags on the nearby counter. The policeman picked up the binoculars and stared out toward where the Zodiac lay bouncing up and down in the waves, just outside the entrance to the bay.
Arch breathed in and out deeply, looking into Cyn’s eyes. It was hard for him to believe that Cyn, just a regular citizen from what he knew, could be so calm no matter what outrageous turn their fortune seemed to take.
“What is it, dear?” the woman asked, neither the man nor the woman giving Arch and Cyn any attention. Harpo walked out toward the rail, and then found a comfortable place to lay down.
“Seems your dog likes it here,” the woman said, smiling her big smile, but her eyes never leaving the distant horizon.
“Coasties, alright,” the man said, bringing the glasses down. “Radio was up but there was no word,” he said. “They’ve got to be doing one of their training things. Wonder where they brought the boat in from, because it sure as hell isn’t kept in the harbor.”
The big man put the glasses back on the counter while the woman returned to her grocery bag, grabbed it and then headed for the back door like they weren’t there anymore.
“Got some I.D.?” the police officer asked.
It was the question Arch had been dreading, but knew was coming.
“We’re on your property, I understand,” he replied to the officer. “Our stuff is back at the beach. We’ve been hiking since dawn. If you want, you can come back with us and take a look. I’m Archie Wade and this is my girlfriend Cynthia McManus.” I held out my right hand.
The police officer took my hand and shook it, using a firm grasp and displaying a friendly smile.
“Nah,” he said. “The boat is a good point. Don’t see those guys all the time and, in fact, I’ve never seen that boat before.” He looked back out to sea, his suspicions as a police officer aroused by the boat and apparently masked as to Arch and Cyn trespassing on his property.
“Get back to your stuff,” he said, picking up the other grocery back and then turning to join the woman who’d unlocked and gone through the sliding glass door.
“You’re from off island. We’ve got the highest shoplifting and petty theft rates in the nation. Don’t leave your stuff laying around, especially on the beach. Neat dog, by the way.”
“Thanks,” Arch said, moving slowly toward the corner of the deck. Harpo got up, seemed to nod at the smiling police officer, and then followed Arch and Cyn. Arch moved along the side of the house, trying to walk fast, but not too fast.
“Later on that guy is going to remember us, and that’s not going to be good,” he whispered to Cyn when they made it past the carport and out on to the rough road. A private black car was in the carport, one of the police vehicles common to officers in Hawaii. Hawaii was the only state that allowed officers to buy their own cars at department expense. All of them, without fail, chose black high performance cars, but from the manufacturer of their choice. Only the roof mounted emergency bar with small bright lights gave the car away as belonging to a police officer.
“Good thing we left most of our stuff behind,” Cyn said, carrying the cloth bag.
Arch thought about the gun in the bag. That they were armed hadn’t even occurred to him during the confrontation on the deck. He wondered if he was starting to lose some of his field-trained skill.
“Let’s hope they stay inside for a bit,” Arch said. “It’s not like were headed back to the beach,” he noted, taking Cyn by the arm to lead her straight into the bushes separating the main road from the small access one they were on. “We’ll stay on the main road until we’re there, and then get down to the boats.”
Arch looked up and down the road. It was still early. Traffic would build, but early on it would be light. They had to rush and get off the public thoroughfare as quickly as they could, without making it look like they were rushing to do just that.
The walk took ten minutes. They turned down the marine drive, and headed for the main building where they’d seen Atlantis and Doug entertaining themselves on the back deck. When they got there the couple was gone.
“Where in hell did they go?” Arch asked, feeling frustrated.
“Where else can they go?” Cyn replied.
“No place,” Arch concluded. “Inside?” He looked back at the main door. There was a showroom of boats inside the marina, and boats for sale lined up outside, as well.
“The boat,” Cyn said, pointing toward the docks.
“They don’t know which boat and neither do we,” Arch replied, following Cyn as she walked off the deck and back onto the road that led out to the docks. Between the docks and the marina sat a few service buildings, along with some used boats on trailers and miscellaneous boat equipment.
“We actually have a pretty good idea,” Cyn said, “just from reading the names.”
“I don’t expect them to connect Chow with Choi, if those two words are connected, I mean.”
“Wow!” Cyn exclaimed, “you aren’t used to working with much talent are you? Didn’t they just come down here to make sure nobody was going to arrest you, or worse?”
“What has that got to do with anything?” Arch replied, trying to get control of his emotions while following her toward the invisible docks that had to be located just on the other side of the buildings.
Cyn walked fast, never hesitating, even when she came to the beginning of the interlocked docks. With Harpo in the lead she moved quickly across the white wooden planks toward the end. Arch increased his speed to catch up to her.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “you’re right. I’m not used to being on the run any more than you are, no matter what my background.”
“The cop was unsettling, I’ll give you that,” she replied, stopping at the high protruding bow of a dirty white fishing boat. It was the second to the last boat on the pier, too long to fully fit into the slip.”
“Ta da,” Cyn said, stopping to swing one hand out toward the stern of the boat. Atlantis, Doug and a local man sat sipping from glasses on the flat stern of the fishing boat. Atlantis and Doug raised their glasses when they saw him.
“Right again,” Arch said, more to himself than to Cyn. Harpo ran down the dock parallel to the boat, looked for just the right spot and then leaped through the air to land on the deck of the boat. It wasn’t a great feat of physical prowess for a young powerful dingo, but it was impressive that he’d known to do it, as if somehow he knew the whole situation. The dingo stopped and looked back toward Cyn, like he was seeking further approval before proceeding.
“You would be Arch, come on aboard,” the local man invited. He stood just inside the bulkhead which surrounded the big flat fishing deck that took up almost one third of the boat’s surface.
“I would,” Arch replied, jumping across the short distance to land on the flat planks.
“We’ve got to get out of view right now,” he stated. “That house over there has a cop and his wife, or girlfriend, near the deck, and they’ve got binoculars.”
“I’m Terry Chow,” the short distinctive man said, with a grin. “Let’s get below.”
One after another, they all followed Chow down a ladder, each turning to go down the thing backwards like he had.
“Engine room,” Chow said, needlessly, once they were all standing together on the grates surrounding a huge yellow engine. “Caterpillar,” Chow said, smiling even bigger, and patting the side of the big chunk of painted metal. “We go Oahu, very fast, very fast.”
Arch thought about the Coast Guard Zodiac. No matter how fast the fishing boat was it wasn’t going to outrun that Zodiac, and if somehow it did, it couldn’t outrun the radio. The waters between the Hawaiian Islands might be some of the roughest waters ever charted, but quite possibly they were also the hardest to escape in. Where could anyone go but out into the open expanse of a two-thousand-mile ocean, or try to maneuver in and around the small collection of about eight islands (give or take some of the tiny ones located near the main ones).
Terry led them to another shorter ladder that led up into a small galley and a few rumpled staterooms, none of them having any doors.
“Plenty of room,” Terry said, waving his hand toward the motley mess of small rooms. “Plenty of food,” he said, stepping into the galley. “We eat plenty of fish. Ono. Ahi. Butteryfly and Chub. And I made coffee. Molokai Peaberry.”
Arch had never heard of any of the fish but the Ahi, but presumed the remainder to be locally available. How any local fisherman made it with the Japanese and Korean trolling net fisherman out there was beyond Arch’s ability to understand, but for some reason, he believed the man.
Without asking anyone if they wanted any, Terry went to work pouring handle less mugs full of coffee. “Coffee so pure you no need milk or sugar,” he said, taking a steaming mug of the stuff and shoving it into Arch’s hands.
For some reason the gesture made Arch feel warm inside. He realized it was the first time in days he’d relaxed. He took a sip. It was all that Chow said it was, although Arch wasn’t sure that the taste didn’t seem so great because of the situation they were in.
“What about the boat?” he said, as Chow handed out the other mugs. Arch noted that none of them said no, or indicated that they didn’t drink coffee.
“The boat?” Chow responded. “What boat?”
“The Zodiac sitting just outside the harbor,” Arch said, wondering whether Chow was unaware enough not to have seen it.
“Oh, that boat,” he said.
Arch felt relief. That boat. Yes, that boat, he thought, but did not say anything further.
“The boat looking for you, according to Ahi,” Chow said, drinking from his own mug. Idly, he pulled open a small refrigerator door, grabbed a chunk of something, and tossed it to Harpo.
Harpo caught whatever the human flesh looking chunk was, and settled down on the egg crate deck to consume it.
“Tuna, the good kind,” Chow said. “No dog can resist it.”
“Thanks,” Arch said, waiting for Chow to comment on the problem of the Coast Guard boat.
“The Lazerette,” Chow finally said, smiling mostly to himself
“What’s a Lazerette?” Atlantis asked before Arch got the chance.
“That’s the little section under the stern planks of the deck,” Chow explained. “There’s a porthole connecting it to the deck under those planks. Screwed down with eighteen half inch bolts. It’s a bitch to get on and off without the right tool because the bolts have special heads.”
“So, that’s where we stay until we get out of the harbor?” Arch asked, skeptically. Being bolted into a small dark space with no hope of living very long if the bolts weren’t removed didn’t sound very palatable. Especially when the only person responsible for getting them out was a complete stranger.
“Yup,” Chow said. “There’s no way in hell those Coasties out there, sick as they probably are, have a tool to do the job, and in fact probably won’t even look under the wood.”
“How about if one of us stays on deck?” Arch said, still uncertain about entrusting the unknown little Asian man with their lives.
“Your risk, really,” Chow said, after a few seconds. “I’m not running, and they don’t much care about me, anyway.”
Arch knew he wouldn’t go into that hole without someone up top to get him out. That manner of death, if it came to it, was just too awful to contemplate. Getting in, and staying in the hole for an hour would be monumentally difficult, even with someone up top that could be trusted.
“Gotta be that guy,” Chow said. “He’s the only one who can dress like crew and not be a suspect. Sorry. The dog can stay, but you gotta take that gear off of him. Just a poi dog. We all have ‘em. I just lost mine overboard, a couple of weeks back. You go overboard out there, and it’s damn near impossible to find you. He’s still out there somewhere.”
Arch felt the humanity of the man in his grieving for his dog. They had to trust him and Doug, the most unlikely member of their team, once again.