It Was 1993
The first thing Arch noticed, while walking up the pier toward downtown Lahaina, was the clouds surrounding the very top of the mountain that was the center of the western lobe of the island. They were huge, slowly billowing, and beautiful in the morning light. The people who came to meet Arch’s team were greeted by Harpo, who ran ahead of them, until he seemed to disappear into the crowd of tourists near the base of the pier. Tourists were tourists, whether they were shopping, drinking, eating or getting off a boat.
“Head over to the Sunrise café,” Atlantis said as she pointed at big red building less than a block from the pier. “I’ve never lived here, but I’ve hiked this whole area. There’s some wonderful trails up and around the mountain. At this time of day the Sunrise is open, and it’s small and a favorite of boaters, like us.”
They all moved where she directed. Once inside the place, Arch pulled out a chair at the only table that would hold all of them,
conveniently in a corner back from the main entrance.
“Small doesn’t exactly describe it,” Arch responded, looking around. There were exactly eleven tables with about half of them filled.
“This place will have a waiting list in about an hour, and everyone looks just like us except the staff,” Atlantis said.
A waitress appeared from around a corner, carrying a bunch of menus, thick coffee mugs and a round Bunn coffee pot. Somehow she managed it all without the load seeming to be too much. She sang out her greeting, “Aloha, welcome to the Sunrise on this wonderful day, I’m Lulu.”
It was impossible not to smile at her comment or the lickety-split manner she had of distributing cups to everyone and pouring them all coffee without anyone instructing her to do so
“Scrambled eggs and ham mac’ nut pancakes,” she continued to sing. “Get them before the surfers come in and eat them all up.”
She finished pouring coffee, and was gone in an instant back around the corner she had appeared around.
Arch reached for the little stainless container of cream, or whatever stuff it was, and then for two brown packages of Hawaiian sugar. He sipped gratefully, not sure he was ready for breakfast after the rough trip, even if he’d never felt ill while aboard the bum boat.
Lulu came back in minutes to take their orders. Arch ordered the surfer special for all of them, including one portion for Harpo. Lulu had rested a bowl on the table while she was writing in her little green book. Putting pencil and book in her apron pocket, she walked the bowl around the table and put it down next to Harpo.
“Water,” she sang, “no dogs allowed in Hawaiian restaurants except for the blind, but everything needs water.”
She disappeared again, with a swish of her 1940’s style waitress outfit.
Arch waited to see if she was going to come back with the manager to ask about Harpo’s credentials, but nothing happened.
Arch began talking. He knew it was time they were all made completely aware of the severity of risk they’d unknowingly, or knowingly, signed up for. He began at the beginning and moved forward to the present, trying to leave out as little as possible. When only silence prevailed following his succinct delivery, he went into some of his own background, explaining as much as he could with respect to just how ruthless and outside civilian authority the people he worked with really were. He tried to impress on the team that these people operated without restriction, (up to and including the wanton murder of civilians) if in their opinion national security required it.
“Does national security require killing us all?” Atlantis asked.
Lulu brought food for everyone, both arms lined with plates, and her hands filled with bottles of ketchup, syrup and pats of butter. In Arch’s opinion the lithe local woman moved more like an Olympic gymnast than a waitress. None of them moved to eat the food, though, except for Harpo who quietly slurped from a plate between Cyn and Arch’s feet.
“I don’t know. So far they’ve gone so far as to shoot at me, not caring whether Cyn might be in the line of fire or not. We don’t know whether mission team members are acting on their own or under orders. Juan has personal reasons for wanting me dead. I’m the one that found his security breach, and killing me might close that breach. Although so many people now know his control officer might modify the mission objectives.”
“Was that a yes or a no?” Doug asked, finally picking up a knife and fork to cut up his stack of delicious looking pancakes.
Arch ignored him, and went to work on his own plate. Soon Cyn and Atlantis joined in.
While eating Arch continued to review their situation.
“We’ve got to get from here to the marina, which is sixteen miles west on Highway 30, and we’ve got to presume that the forces opposed to us boarded the ship, somehow knowing we were there. They didn’t find us, but likely questioned enough people (maybe even the radio operator), to know we were there. And if we were there when the ship came in, then they have to be wondering how we get off, and where we are now?”
“Which means we can’t risk renting a car here, or taking a cab?” Cyn asked.
“Unless they don’t know,” Doug chimed in. “Maybe we went to ground in Lihue and the cop didn’t give it away, or the ship would have been interdicted at sea. Just maybe the Independence was seen as a wild hair that somehow we might have been able to use to get away. How we pulled that off was pretty arcane though, without even the ships’ officers knowing squat.”
“So do we or don’t we?” Cyn asked.
“Do we or don’t we what?” Arch came right back, half his plate gone, unaware until he stopped to speak that he was wolfing his breakfast down faster and faster.
“Go by car?” Cyn went on.
“It’s all a risk,” Arch replied. “One risk after another. The more we take, the more likely one of the risks isn’t going to pan out.”
“We’re sitting here in public having breakfast in downtown Lahaina,” Doug replied, looking up and around him. “That’s a risk right there, although it doesn’t seem that the jig is up just yet. No cops. No choppers. No hubbub at all, except more tourists coming in the door.”
“I don’t think we can do the car thing,” Arch decided. “That’s just too much. Not necessarily renting a car or paying a cab, but the likelihood of one cop or guard or agent of any kind standing at the marina waiting. Game over, right there.”
“If they knew we were on the ship,” Atlantis said, stopping to inhale some food, “then they would have to guess we took the bum boat. The boat should be back there, or on the way by now, having had only one place to land on the eastern lobe of the island. The other marina would be our only target to get off the island. So let’s throw a delay into the situation and disappear while we’re doing that.”
“Disappear?” Doug laughed openly. “Like to where? We’re sitting right on the coast with no where to go. We can’t take a boat and we can’t fly out. What are you talking about?”
“We don’t fly, but we do go up,” Atlantis shot back.
“Up where?” Arch cut in, exasperation in his tone.
Atlantis pointed across the table, upward and away from the ocean. “Up there.”
Arch literally turned his head to look out the small grimy window Atlantis was pointing at. The mountain range rose up just beyond the city’s boundary.
“We climb,” Atlantis said, smiling. “It’s called the Lahaina Pali Trail. It goes from here up, and then over the two rift valleys, and past the giant windmills on top to descend back to Highway 30, not far from the marina.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Doug said. “We don’t have real shoes, much less boots, and we’re not equipped for climbing through the jungle. And we don’t have any booze.”
“Walking Company Store Number 274 is right up the street,” Atlantis explained. “I’ve climbed the trail a few times. It’s all scrub up there until you reach around thirteen thousand feet. Maybe a mile of the thick stuff, then up and down the rift walls, but that’s it. All we need are some long socks, boots and maybe a few packs.”
“Cyn, we got any cash left?” Arch asked.
“More than enough for stuff like that, I think, and breakfast, maybe,” she replied, reaching to pick up her cloth bag.
Arch was reminded of the gun, when her handling of the bag gave away its heavy presence inside. They had the gun. But what good was a handgun, even a pretty powerful one, when arrayed against what they faced?
“And booze,” Doug said, finishing his breakfast.
“We’ve got enough trouble Doug,” Atlantis replied, her words delivered with a cutting edge. “Didn’t you listen to a thing Arch said a few minutes ago? We might all die.”
“I want to die happy,” Doug came back, smiling at the attractive waitress.
Arch noted the stringiness of Cyn’s hair, and the frayed condition they were all beginning to show. If he could see it, then others would pick up on it soon enough. Street people the world over did not do well under difficult or high pressure circumstances.
“Booze it is,” Arch said.
The pilot’s drinking problem would have to wait until a later time. The climb alone would hold back much of his drinking, as exertion became ever more difficult the more alcohol the body consumed.
“We could use some fresh clothes, bottled water and some snacks,” Arch elaborated. “We don’t know how long we might be up there.”
“Once we hit the highlands there will be plenty of wild guava,” Atlantis answered. “More than we can eat.”
“How far is the trail head, Atlantis?” Arch asked.
“Straight up from here,” she replied. “It angles across the face of the mountain above the town, so we’ll cut right into it as we hike up. There are probably a hundred trails cutting into it.
Lulu took the empty plates away and then came back with more water and coffee.
“We’ve got about a grand left,” Cyn said, peering inside the bag.
“Good,” Arch breathed out in relief. “Then we’ll buy pants, boots, packs, water and maybe a few field blankets and a light tent in case we have to stay over up there. Probably gets a bit cold at night that high up.”
“Sixteen hundred feet, “Atlantis noted, “but we won’t go that high.”
Arch paid the bill and tipped Lulu nicely, but not too much. They didn’t want to be remembered too well, even though Harpo’s presence was a bit of a giveaway.
They walked to the shoe store, which was unaccountably open as such an early hour. Arch opened the door and walked through a pair of white French doors under a gray portico. The building looked like it had been made yesterday, but on the design of an ancient Hawaiian plantation house.
“We’re not really open yet, but you’re welcome to look around,” a young man said from behind the long single counter.
Arch knew immediately that the place would have everything they wanted and more. It had a huge boot selection, as well as clothing and
accessories. Before they could spread out, he quickly gathered his small team together.
“It’s a small town,” he instructed, in a whisper. “Don’t tell them where we are going or what our plans are. If it even comes up, we’re just tired from walking and want some better boots and clothing for hiking.”
“I’ll be damned, but that’s a dingo,” the young man said, pointing at Harpo.
“Shit,” Arch thought to himself. Their plan of trying to remain out of sight and out of mind had just gone out the window.