It Was 1993
by James Strauss
Somehow Amelia Earhart was a name that appeared to have some importance in Arch’s life. Once back inside Cynthia’s home Arch spread the file out so it could dry completely, and also to give him time to lay out a rough plan of escape from the island. The mention of Princeville Airport, and the possible surveillance problems associated with it, caught Cyn’s attention in an unexpected way.
“The restaurant,” Cyn exclaimed. “That’s great! We can use Amelia Earhart’s place to hide out in and the women there to cover for us.” Arch had driven by Princeville Airport from time to time, since it was right beside Kuhio, and no one going by on the highway could fail to see it if driving toward the north shore. He’d never paid attention to what else might be in the terminal. That a restaurant called Amelia Earhart’s was located on site was news to him.
“It’s on the second floor,” Cyn explained. “I worked there for awhile. I got fired, but they still like me.”
“Fired?” Arch inquired, not surprised. “I wasn’t much for waiting on people who didn’t deserve to be waited on,” she replied. “How will we get the pilot to stop and let us off in Lihue? How do we get aboard the Independence? I’ve always wanted to ride on that old relic. This could be fun.”
Cyn’s enthusiasm was dangerous, Arch knew, but his need for her willingness to help save his life suppressed normal caution. Upon his return he’d noticed that the candle for lighting drug packages was gone and the bedroom was now spotless, with no tin foil anywhere. He’d hoped to sell Cyn on the idea that helping him out would help her out, as well. He didn’t want, or need, her to think that he was the second coming of the Messiah. Missions were messy. Each and every one of them. They always involved a whole lot more boredom, idiocy, drinking, drugging, and unintended consequences (often including violent collateral damage) than any citizen was likely to believe. In spite of most missions being created and ordered by the Agency, and there was little question that what they were involved with, although the goal other than staying alive wasn’t clear, was every bit a mission. When he’d become a field agent eight years earlier Arch thought he had a good chance of endangering his own life. His thoughts had been accurate, but now he was endangering the lives of everyone around him. He had a ‘too willing’, brilliant, but a damaged, drug-taking woman as his only real ally, against forces almost unimaginable in power and funding. And a dingo.
“Why’d you come back for me at Lumahai?” Arch asked the woman, point blank. They were sitting on the floor next to the dingo, Harpo and Arch was occasionally touching his head. Arch could tell Harpo didn’t like being petted, but he enjoyed the fact that he let him anyway.
“You’re it,” she replied, sitting down with her back to the same wall on the other side of the dog. Instead of heating more drugs she lit up a cigarette. Harpo sniffed, and then looked at Arch with a strange expression. He nodded at the dog. They understood one another. The woman was worth all the trouble because Harpo loved her and she was valuable to me. Those two things could not be carelessly interchanged. The woman was trouble in every way and Arch wanted her form of trouble to be focused on them, whoever them really was, and not himself.
“It what?” He asked, kind of dreading her answer. “You were right,” she said. “I have nothing. Dad pays for everything and gets paid back with all the guilt he silently sends my way. He’s only letting you stay here because he hates the government that seems to be after you and also because you are ‘any man at all,’ as he described before he even met you.”
It was good, Arch thought, that Cyn felt she needed him as much in her way, as he needed her. His relationship with Harpo was significantly healthier than his was with the woman, but then he wasn’t in a position to be very critical. Cyn was tacitly admitting that her father, the old German, would help if pushed. And to get to Oahu, Arch was going to have to push everyone at every point, possibly to the eventuality of their being hurt or killed. In other words, he was in exactly the kind of situation he’d so hated, time after time, while working for the Agency.
“You very well might get hurt or killed,” he blurted out, unable not to tell her the whole truth about his situation.
“Really, like I give a damn,” she quickly answered, spitting a small chunk of tobacco from her mouth and blowing a puff of smoke across the top of Harpo’s head. The dog grimaced and lay down.
“What’s the plan,” she asked, when he had no brilliant come back. She asked the question again.
“So what’s the plan?” She lit a second cigarette from the embers of the first and then ground that one out on the hardwood floor. Arch frowned, not at her smoking, which was bad enough, but at the damage to the beautiful flooring.
“Don’t be such prig,” Cyn said, reading his expression, and then puffing away. Arch hadn’t heard the word prig in many years. There was nothing to be accomplished by acting like her father or some other authority figure.
“Like I said, my plan is to get to Princeville, get aboard one of those planes flying in and out of there, convince the pilot to fly me to Lihue (because those planes don’t go into Honolulu International), and then get from Lihue to the port and then aboard the Independence.” He said the words like he knew exactly what he was talking about.
“So you don’t have a plan,” Cyn observed dryly, with a disappointed shrug.
“What kind of agent were you again? With who? The same outfit that lost that war?”
“Okay,” Arch answered, ignoring the snarky jab and determined not to upset the woman with some kind of devastating comeback. “You know the island a lot better than I do. What are you thinking I might do?”
“The pilots love us,” Cyn stated, like that obtuse fact was important. “The pilots of those planes are mostly ex-military and the women running Amelia’s all look kind of like me. So, you hide out in the basement until we convince one of them to take us aboard for a few bucks and drop us in Lihue. A little female charm and a few bucks go a long way on this island.” Arch sat thinking. Nothing Cyn said was out of line with what he’d learned as an agent in the field. Almost every time, women and money worked much quicker and more effectively than Navy Seals and bombs. Except for one thing.
“I’m broke,” he confessed. “I don’t even have a working credit card.”
“Dad’s got money salted away like slabs of fish in the bottom of his freezer,” Cyn said.
“Your Dad’s not going to give me any money,” Arch replied. “I already owe him my Rolex.”
“He doesn’t really want that old thing. He’s a Breitling man. He’s got three of those, although he doesn’t care enough about time to wear any of them. Beside’s, he’s not going to give you money. He’s going to give it to me. How much do we need?” Arch didn’t want the woman to accompany him past Princeville, but as usual of late, he had almost no choice in the matter.
The woman went next door to get money from the old German, who’d turned out to be her father. Arch thought it unlikely the old nasty geezer would part with anything but he’d been fooled by young beautiful daughters successfully appealing to old grizzled fathers before. He kept down when moving about the house, stuffing wadded up old newspapers into his New Balance 1300s to dry them out, paying attention to Harpo, who was quickly becoming the greatest dog in the world simply because it was obvious he liked Arch. Arch wasn’t used to being liked. Staying low to the hardwood floor, that the woman so abused with her stubbed out cigarettes, paid a huge dividend. As he moved around the room, he peeked up over the lower edge of the great room window to check out the beach. The rain had poured into the Lumahai river. The current carried the brown water north, down the coast to become mixed into the normally clear water of the surf. It was ugly at the beach but not as ugly as it was fearful. Standing on the sand with his back to the water stood Raul, with hands on hips, wearing his thin black wet suit. He was staring intently at Cyn’s house. Arch looked through one of the plants near the corner of the window to watch him without being detected. He was able to see the man’s facial features for the first time. Raul appeared to be in his thirties, and his facial features were as thin and hatchet-shaped as the rest of him. He looked like a spy or an assassin, or both.
Arch’s own appearance had earned him the nickname of “the Cherub,” personally assigned by none other than the Vice President of the United States. “Get me the Cherub,” had become a laughing under-the-table mantra among the White House administrative staff. His appearance had caused people who might otherwise suspect he was in the business to think ‘not him,’ and scan right on past. Not so Raul. The man’s appearance was down right scary, even to Arch. He heard the door open and close behind him.
“Get down and don’t make a sound,” Arch whispered back at Cyn, his eyes not leaving the window. “Raul’s on the beach and staring at the house.” Cyn walked over to the window he was crouched down along side of, looked out at Raul, and then waved with a smile on her face. Raul nodded slowly back, and then began to walk in the direction of his own place.
“Are you crazy?” Arch hissed at the woman.
“I know Raul,” she said back, tossing a packet of cash onto the couch and then turning to head into the kitchen. “That’s where I get my stuff.”
Arch watched Raul’s departing figure. The big man moved like a vertical panther, heading straight for the black Zodiac. Arch no longer had any doubt that the man didn’t need any team of minions to haul that heavy boat up onto the sand. Arch stayed low, moving slowly to reach out for the life saving cash Cyn had brought back. Arch sat on the floor of the house he’d broken into; counting out four thousand dollars in cash of money he hadn’t earned in any way; given to him by a woman he’d just met. Since running out of credit and money at the resort nobody and nothing had been anything but surreal. The bills in front of him were all twenties, and they looked like they’d been together for a long time. Arch thought about bribing a pilot to fly them out of north Kauai, but the more he thought about it the more he was convinced that although it might work, the obstacles in surviving getting to the airport and then finding a plane that had two seats available, were too great. Really great. The night had to pass. Raul was a clever, intelligent and experienced opponent. He’d also no doubt worked with others who probably had more of all those qualities than Arch did. He didn’t think it was possible for the collected entity of what Raul represented, or for the mission he himself was on, to have too much difficulty figuring out that Arch was very close by. No dogs had been brought in. There was no search of nearby woods going on. No helicopters; offshore patrols; or even a full court press of local cops or unmarked cars. To Arch, fresh from the same line of work, that meant they were close. And they would come in the night. They wouldn’t come again with only one operative in night vision goggles and a single firearm. To Arch’s knowledge nobody had made anything more than a cursory visit to Cyn’s father’s place, or even the house Arch was holed up in. There were no cruisers prowling the resort parking lot. The rental Lincoln, sitting there with four obviously flat tires, had generated no interest. That, in of itself, was a dangerous form of interest. Cyn and he could survive in the bracken near the Princeville Airport until morning, but they had to get there first. The old Mercedes would not work as transport again. Raul had not been standing in front of Cyn’s house in order to re-establish his relationship with her. He’d been there to case the place for later entry. He’d come with a team and every house and resort residence, including Charo’s Restaurant, and Cyn’s house, would be gone into, inspected and even taken apart if necessary, to find Arch and the missing file. There was a way to get out and it was nearby on the beach. Arch went to the bedroom to check on bedding. He opened the closet, which was stuffed full.
“What are you looking for?” Cyn asked.”Infra-red protection,” Arch replied. “We need a heavy blanket to cover us on the sand, preferably something dark.” Cyn reached past him and pulled out a full size Hudson Bay blanket. A blanket way too heavy for use in most Hawaiian weather conditions. It was green-colored, which would work even better for cover against intrusive night vision gear. The only way to get past the axis powers allied against them was to make themselves resemble large unobtrusive sand crabs.
Arch knew he was as far from conducting an effective mission to escape from Kauai as a professional former field agent and team leader of the CIA could get. His plan to get to Princeville seemed sound, though. It was full night and they were ready. The woman had agreed to every part; from using the Hudson Bay blanket to cover them in the night while they crawled slowly and laboriously over the sand together, to how they would reach the Mercury outboard, and then overcome the fact that they lacked a key to it. They were both assuming that they would still have enough strength to drag the inflatable down to the water and launch it out into the surf line. Although those objectives were a bit of a stretch, especially when remaining undetected was vital to their very survival, Arch felt they were accomplishable. A diversion was vital, however. Attention at the critical time of their arrival at the boat had to be directed elsewhere, and it had to be of the ‘heat in the night’ variety. Hertz Rentals was going to be a bit upset because he’d chosen the Lincoln to offer up to the mission gods for their survival. Cyn waited back at the house with the blanket, a small plastic bag with their stuff in it (including the wad of cash) and patience, while Arch prepared the Lincoln for a timed immolation. The car sat alone in the lot, still down at all four corners, with four flat tires. That was good and bad news. Good because the fire he set in it would be isolated, but bad because he would be exposed while setting the fire. Burning the car with the necessary delay needed, and doing it so the tank would not explode and cause damage to the resort or Charo’s, wasn’t as easy as any moviegoer might believe. There could be no flaming wick placed in the gas filler tube. That only worked for Hollywood. The engine compartment, from below, was the most flammable and long-burning point for ignition. The delay element Arch decided to use was assembled from a piece of cloth, an empty green bean can, and some melted remains of Cyn’s drug candle. The can would sit high enough to be out of the wind. The flame would heat the gas line running along just above the car’s engine pan. The aluminum tube would burst from the pressure and the gasoline inside it would then ignite. Arch reached the Lincoln by winding through the bushes, and then scurrying across the dark tarmac. Everything went as he planned. The cloth-wicked candle lit. He found he could reach and insert the can where it was needed. There was no wind under the cars low frame. He got the wick ignited with a minimum of flare, and got the hell back into the bushes and then on to the house without incident. Everything worked perfectly, until it didn’t. Cyn was a citizen, not a player, and citizen’s do what citizen’s do. Arch had forgotten . He rushed to get the blanket right and their stuff out onto the sand when she let Harpo out the door. The dog stood next to Arch, as if to gauge what his own role was to be.
“What are you doing?” Arch forced out, in a desperate whisper.
“What do you mean?” she whispered back, innocently. “We can’t just leave Harpo. Dad won’t take care of him. So, he’s with us.” Arch stood in momentary shock, realizing he was now conducting a life or death mission to steal a Zodiac on an abandoned night beach from a professionally trained assassin, and he had a drug-addled woman as a partner, and her silent dog along rounding out the enthusiastic, but badly damaged team.