IT WAS 1993
by James Strauss
Doug, the pilot, was wrong about one thing. Arch had traveled the islands very extensively but as a youngster, bumming along aboard his father’s Coast Guard cutter. Maui was an inhospitable island for beaches and for ports. There were several bays, like the artificial ones at Kahului and Lahaina Bays. The biggest bay was located on the other side of the island, the one they were trying to get to, but even it required artificial concrete piers to guard boats from the powerful offshore waves. Maui did not have a reef network surrounding it like Oahu. The bum boat would have to dock somewhere back at Kahului, even if it was as far away as the boat launch, more than half a mile across the bay. Their options aboard the bum boat were not good, if they even managed to get aboard. Their odds were practically zero, especially since the two men leading the hunt had been maimed by Arch earlier.
Where could Andy Yee drop them off? The dock was out. It was a small harbor with an even smaller dock. The only place left was a small pier at the boat launch area. Initially the pier would be blocked by the body of the boat, but then where would they go? The two men who were after them might well miss the fact that the bum boat had motored away from behind the ship to arrive a half mile away, but once they got aboard the ship they wouldn’t be fooled for long. In spite of Herman’s entreaties of support, there was little chance he would remain silent if subjected to real interrogation. It was a little under five miles across the saddle between Maui’s two defunct craters. Two highways ran back and forth between the two ports, but the only cover was scrub brush not more than waist high. There was no hope of making it on foot in broad daylight. And there was little chance of an Ahi kind of cop being assigned to bring them in a second time.
With Herman in the lead they gathered together and moved across the Upper Deck. The hatch opening to the pilot boat was straight across the lower deck they’d come up from before, but on the other hull. Once they were coming down the stairs to reach the hatch, Herman ran ahead to catch Andy so he would not immediately pull the boat away. Since the crew would not be offloading to check out the boats supplies in the time allotted, there was only a short window available.
Arch watched the pilot come aboard from the crack of the door to their old cabin. Once he was past, and climbing the steps toward the bridge, Arch signaled the others. They raced toward the open hatch at the end of the hall, with Cyn bringing up the rear, Harpo eagerly at her side.
Arch reached the hatch and looked down. The bum boat was nuzzled up to the side of the ship, it’s specially constructed deck flush against the hull of the ship, with only a one-foot thick layer of hard rubber separating them. Herman came up out of the hatch of the boat and jumped through the ship’s side to stand next to Arch.
“It’s done,” he said. “I explained as best I could without explaining a whole lot. I gave him the cash. What he does now is up to him. All I told him is that you have to get to the harbor on the other side, and that the local cops are after you for some financial mess.”
Arch took the man’s hand and gripped it firmly. The German had surprised him again, even if he turned them in later. The man was the kind of guy Arch would like to have as a friend one day, if he ever got to a day when he could have friends.
“They’re going to question you,” Arch said, letting his hand drop.
“Yeah, no doubt, but they’ll have no reason to know you spent much time with me. I’ll go to work fixing the mess your pilot made of my electronics. Thanks for not breaking anything.” Herman said with a smile. “And don’t worry, I won’t ever tell them I read the document, or even saw it.”
No kidding, Arch thought, but did not say aloud.
“Thanks, you’ve been great,” was all Arch could think to say, as he stepped across the grinding rubber and onto the deck of the pilot boat.
Herman turned and disappeared. Arch helped the others aboard. A slight Asian man stepped around him to unlatch the big Independence hatch and seal it into place. He then climbed down the bum boat steps and closed that hatch.
“I told him no dogs,” the man said, pointing at Harpo. “Dogs extra. You pay extra at other side. No negotiations. Cost is two thousand. One thousand paid. For time and fuel. One thousand for my profit and dog. That’s the deal.” The man held out his right hand to shake.
It all happened so fast that Arch wasn’t ready to shake, and when he brought his right arm up he almost fell against the wooden hull that lined the inside of the boat.
“Who’s driving the boat?” Arch asked, finally getting his balance and shaking the man’s hand.
“Wife,” the man said, waving back to somewhere they could not see from the boats forward cabin. “Linda. Drive good. Married long time.”
“Where’s the other side?” Arch asked, having caught the reference when the man had mentioned Harpo.
“Lahaina,” Andy said, heading back toward a hatch at the stern of the boat. “Only place. Boat runs deep and fast. Lahaina in one hour, then come back to get ready for ship to leave. Hang onto sides when we get out of harbor. Rough water.”
Andy undogged the stern hatch, stepped through, and then closed it behind him.
Arch turned, understanding the captain’s caution. He was making two thousand bucks of fast cash and he didn’t particularly care how, which meant that the cruise ship business probably wasn’t going too well. The cabin was filled with assorted dry goods, and all kinds of stuff ship workers might want. There were little windows up near the top of the cabin that let in light, but without crawling up the wall nothing could be seen from the inside.
“I wonder if this thing ever leaves the harbor,” Arch said to everyone, but no one in particular. “If leaving causes an alert then they’ll just be waiting in Lahaina for us.”
“How would they know?” Doug asked. “I’ve flown over this place a thousand times. Unless they get lucky and notice us leaving the harbor, which I think we’re doing right now, how are they going to figure it out. There’s only one road around the six-thousand-foot peak on the west end here, and that other crummy road around the other side.”
The boat began to take to the sea. They were outside the harbor. The thrum of the two diesels had settled into a deep- throated roar. The boat was literally flying into the waves. Arch grabbed for some hand holds. The captain hadn’t been kidding. It was going to be an hour of slip-sliding along somewhere off the coast. He let go to slide up the wall, holding onto a bolted down coke machine for support. Through a little slitted window up above he could see the rough rocks of the shoreline with huge white breakers beating up their sides. He estimated that they were making about twenty knots, with the speed increasing. He grabbed some bags of potato chips and handed them around.
Doug crawled across the floor toward the only counter located on the starboard side near the rear bulkhead. It took him about five minutes of scrounging around under the bar to find some miniature containers of rum.
“Come to Jamaica, Mon’, and have a good time,” he said, laughing while he pressed his back against the bar with his butt firmly planted on the wood latticed deck, and his legs splayed out in front of him. He downed his first bottle.
Arch slunk down to end up between Harpo and Cyn, a counter of chips and dips out in front of them, cutting the central aisle that ran most of the length of the cabin in two.
“We’ve still got a five-mile problem once we get to Lahaina,” Arch said to her, Harpo letting him pat his head. “Terry Chow’s boat is down at the Marina near the Maui Ocean Center. Highway 30 runs around the peak, but it’s a totally empty sixteen miles on into Maalaea Bay from Lahaina. How do we get across the sixteen miles to the boat, and then is Chow going to be there when we show up? We don’t even know how to find his boat.”
“Is this what you do all the time for the Agency?” Cyn asked.
“What,” Arch answered, wondering what she was getting at.
“Make up scenario after scenario, none of which turn out to be the way you imagine them?” she answered, but with a smile.
“I got us this far,” Arch said, in self-defense.
“Oh sure, because of Atlantis,” she said, holding on to the supporting slats running up the wall as the boat began to really rise and fall, while it heaved in every other direction. “Harpo,” she went on. “Herman. Doug. And the rest of us. You’ve been running on luck from the start, and I doubt that word is used much in the training manual. I mean if they even actually gave you training, and there really is a training manual.”
“There’s no manual,” Arch said, mentally agreeing with her assessment, but not wanting to discuss it.
Sometimes, more times than he liked to admit, missions simply turned to crap and you had to play out the hand that appeared on the table, which wasn’t the one you had expected or even brought the right tools for.
“And none of that helps us figure out how to get sixteen miles down Honoapiilani Highway to the marina.”
“Maybe Doug has a girlfriend on Maui, since he seems to have one on just about every other island,” Atlantis answered, listening in to their conversation.
“Not on Maui,” Doug interjected. “I used to have a girlfriend on Maui but my wife found out about her so she had to go,” he went on wistfully, drinking another small bottle of rum to make his point.
The boat beat its way around the western edge of the island. When most of the predicted hour had passed, Arch crawled back up the cabin wall and peered again at rocks with surf smashing against them. They looked exactly like the rocks he’d seen an hour earlier. Before he could slide back down, Andy Yee undogged the hatch and stepped through the opening.
“We’ll be there in a few minutes,” he said, bracing himself to hold the metal hatch open and not fall down due to the ships movements. “Pay rest of money now and we’ll let you off at the pier. We seldom call on Lahaina so there may be questions. Answer how you want.”
Cyn eased her bag open and counted out most of the rest of their money. There would be no multi-thousand dollar bribes paid to anyone in Lahaina to give them a lift to the bay they were trying so hard to reach.
Their arrival was uneventful except for several people walking down the pier to see who they were, and why they were coming in by boat. Before the bum boat pulled away, a woman’s voice spoke from behind them
“Tell them you went whale watching,” the woman who must have been Andy’s wife said. “Not often lately, but sometimes we’ve done whale watching charters. Maybe it’s not far from the truth.”
“More luck?” Arch inquired of Cyn, who was leaning into to him for help in getting balanced on the swaying pier.
“It’s in the manual, no doubt,” she replied, hugging his arm. Harpo ran up the pier to meet the approaching group, and they didn’t seem the least intimidated by his enthusiastic hello.