The Duke


Jimmy and Darren rushed back to Jimmy’s house through the pouring rain.  The rain, To Darren, felt warm and comforting simply because they were nearly invisible when they were out in it.  No one in their right mind, or on a serious mission, could be found working through such a brutal beating downpour.

The garage was unlocked and the Corvair was where it was supposed to be.  Jimmy’s dad never garaged the government car, only his beloved Spyder.  Jimmy pulled up on the garage door handle and the door slid upward, squeaking away, it’s metal on metal rollers and hinges making a racket no matter how much oil was shot into them. Both boys remained standing out in the rain, frozen in place, although complete shelter from the elements was only a few feet in front of them both.

“I thought you might want some company,” Star Black said, leaning sensuously against the Monza’s left rear quarter.

Jimmy moved slowly inside the garage, more to hear her better than to gain shelter from the rain.  Darren slowly followed, wondering how they were supposed to get back to the Cannon Club driveway, reclaim the Bofors clip, and then get it driven over to the cliffs near Makapuu Beach, before dumping it into the ocean waters.

Jimmy said, “ah,” but nothing more came out of his mouth.

“I thought so,” Star said, her eyes flashing brightly.  “I’m bored stiff and you’re up to something.  You two are always up to something.  I want in.”

“There’s nothing to be ‘in’ on,” Jimmy said, his voice sounding so phony and nervous that Darren could not help but openly shake his head.

“She knows,” Darren said, stepping around Jimmy, who normally assumed the leadership position on any of their many adventures together, but in the presence of Star Black remained befuddled and seemingly disconnected from his normal intelligent and quick mind.

“Well?” Star said, folding her arms and looking for all the world like she was never leaving the garage.

“How did you get in here?” Jimmy asked, weakly.

“I was invited,” Star replied.  “Where we going? Back to Pearl to get some more loot?”

“Oh, Jeez,” Jimmy breathed out“We’re going back to the club to get the BoFors clip, and then we’re going to take it out Kalanianaole Highway and dump it off the cliffs,” Darren said, seeing no other way to get rid of the bothersome girl.

“We taking the anemic little hot rod here?” Star said, backing away from the car to take the whole thing in as if she was appraising it to be junked.

 “Get in, the back seat,” Jimmy said, stepping forward and quickly getting into the driver’s seat.

 “Get the door,” he said to Darren, starting the Corvair.

Darren waited by the sliding door, holding the rope.  The Corvair only started on the first attempt when it was warmed up, otherwise, it took four or five distinctly spaced turns of the ignition key to get it to catch and run.

The Corvair finally started, and Jimmy backed it out of the garage, Darren getting the door and then jumping in beside him.

“The rain’s over, we can leave the top down,” Darren said to Jimmy.  Everything was wet but the torrential rain had disappeared as if it had never been there.  The runoff had been deep and fast down every street on the base that the boys had walked and then run through.

They drove down Diamond Head Road before it turned into Monsarrat, Jimmy keeping the speed down, almost as if they had the BoFors clip resting in the back seat again.  The fresh cool wind blew over them, smelling of flowers and other exotic flora Darren couldn’t identify.

“See the USA, in your Chevrolet…” Star belted out from the back seat, actually sounding a bit better than Dinah Shore from the television ads, Darren thought.

Jimmy turned on the radio and caught Frankie Valli singing a song that was fast becoming the hit of the year.  It was called Sherry, and the boys always sang along when it played, but they didn’t with Star Black in the car.  She did, hitting the amazingly high falsetto notes with a purity that was more than surprising, and somehow she knew all the words from memory.

The song ended as Jimmy eased the Spyder onto the short upward angled road that led into the Cannon Club parking lot.

Star Black made no comment as the car stopped and both boys got out.

“Keep a watch out,” Jimmy said to Star, as he and Darren headed into the brush to retrieve the clip.

“Keep a watch out, that’s rich,” Star yelled at their backs.  “What is this, Sky King but with a cheap mini-Chevy instead of a neat plane?”

 Jimmy carefully lifted the rounds into the back seat, as Star scooted over to remain as distant as she could from them.

“We’re off,” Jimmy said, putting the Corvair in gear by hitting one of the transmission shift buttons mounted on the dashboard.

The cliffs running along the mauka (toward the sea) side between Makapuu Beach and Diamond Head were among the most beautiful wave swept features of the entire Hawaiian Island chain. The Molokai Trench called the Kaiwi Channel by locals, is the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean for thousands of miles in any direction at 2300 feet, and extends just offshore from the cliffs, descending down from the nearly vertical shelf that abruptly falls off into the depths there.  That, plus the short distance between the two islands makes the waters among the most windswept and treacherously dangerous seaside areas of the world.

Star Black made the decision for the three of them, to stop just past the entrance to Hanauma Bay and climb down to the edge, since that portion of Kalanianaole Highway, the only road, allowed for parking along a narrow strip just mauka of the highway.  Jimmy carefully cradled the clip in his arms, the rounds covered against prying eyes of other passing cars filled with tourists from all over the world.

The hike was easy for Star and Darren, but Jimmy had to slowly work his way down to the very edge.  The cliff at that point rose up nearly a hundred feet above the roiling waters, their deep blue white-capped waves occasionally leaping up almost to the top edge before crashing against the rocks.

Darren looked out toward where Molokai sat on the horizon, looking more like a pancake than an island that possessed the highest cliff-top to sea elevation in the world.  From one ridge it was a straight drop of 3900 feet to the sea below.  There would be no likelihood of anyone finding the clip where it was going, he knew.

Star and Darren waited for Jimmy to get set up to dump his load.  Carefully, he removed the towel and placed the rounds on the stone, before unceremoniously shoving them over the lip.  There was no drama, as the clip simply disappeared over the edge.  The three stood together, looking at the water heaping up like it wanted to possess them or at least drag them from their perch near the very edge.  It was a hypnotic experience to stand there and so dangerous that the state refused to allow for easy access to where they stood, although it wasn’t against any law.  Over a hundred tourists died every year from doing the same thing they were doing and ignoring the danger of a freak wave swooping up to gather them back and down into the death-dealing churn of raging seas.

 “What now?” Star asked as they turned as one to climb back up to the road where the Corvair sat waiting.

 “We’ve got to get to my Dad so he can get to Elvis and the dinner at the Club can be arranged,” Jimmy said, as if doing such a thing was just another everyday event for a teenager enjoying the summer break.

Darren was aghast at Jimmy’s revelation.  It was like the brightest kid Darren had ever known was a complete paralyzed idiot in the presence of the young woman they both knew as Star Black.  Darren couldn’t get it.  Her effect over his friend was almost magical, and he wondered while they climbed, if there was something wrong with him for not succumbing to that same effect.

Jimmy went on blabbing the entire story to Star until they reached the car.

 “Okay, I’ve got it,” Star finally replied, once she got a chance to wedge into the litany of Elvis-related short stories Jimmy was running on about.

Jimmy did an illegal U-turn on the highway, using the low-end torque of the high-revving flat-six engine, turbocharger screaming, to spin both rear tires and bring the car around using almost no pavement at all.  The little Spyder launched itself back toward Hawaii Kai on the way to downtown Waikiki.

 “You don’t need your dad, who probably wouldn’t do anything anyway,” Star intoned, her bright clear voice penetrating right through the wind and over the howl of the engine.  “He’s a nice man but he’s a bit of a stick, and he’s not going to take any risk at all.  All you need, you have.  Sergeant Cross is an amiable coward, and Wu is forever yours now.  They’re all you need.  Simply go back to the Duke, tell him the dinner is on and get the date and time down.  Let the Duke do the invitations to a done deal. Then we’ll go tell Cross and Wu and that’s it.”

Jimmy blasted down the steep hill from the top of Koko Head mountain, running through the very end of the yellow light of the traffic signal at the intersection to Hawaii Kai’s only shopping center.  The signal was one of only three on the entire island, and Jimmy loved to play ‘chicken’ with it.  He swung the car into the shopping center, blew by the filling station adjoining the main building, and then slowed for the speed bumps leading back to Zippy’s drive-in restaurant.

“Shave Ice,” he said as if speaking to himself.

Darren knew the shave ice joint well since Jimmy could never pass through Hawaii Kai without stopping there. They served a ‘cold brain’ shave ice that was bigger than most human brains and caused no end of ice cream headaches when consumed because it melted too fast to keep up with.  The special concoction was made with syrup imported from Czechoslovakia and the ice was shaved so fine it all stuck together even if tipped to the side.

“Those are bad for your health,” Star muttered.

 “You want one or not?” Jimmy asked, pulling up to the little window of the place, situated in the middle of the parking lot and no bigger than an old-fashioned outhouse.

 “Strawberry,” Star murmured.

 Darren ordered banana since only three flavors were ever served at shave ice outlets on the island.  The third flavor was lime.

They got the shave ice.  Jimmy pulled into a parking slot across from the tiny drive-in, since no shave ice could survive the wind generated in the passenger compartment of a convertible with the top down.

“What is this ‘we’ stuff, Star?” Darren asked, turning in the front passenger seat to look at the beautiful young woman.

Star slowly consumed her shave ice, making no reply, not even looking back at Darren.

“This is our deal,” Darren decided to risk saying to Star, “and there is no ‘we’ involved here.  You came for a ride and the ride’s about over and that’s that.”

He waited for her response, not expecting much more than the quiet ascent.  And then he didn’t move fast enough.  Star had casually reached her right hand into the paper shave ice cup, scooped out the entire remaining mass of her ‘cold brain’, and heaved it directly into his face.

“Ahhhh,” Darren screamed, and then jerked back, causing his own shave ice to drop solidly into his lap.  He screamed again, grabbing the door latch and bailing out of the car backward.  He leaned down and tried to get rid of the extremely cold and adhering ice from his face, chest, stomach, and crotch.  Gradually, he succeeded.

“My God,” he finally got out, straightening up.  “What did you do that for?” he asked, his breathing coming in rapid gasps.

“I know everything,” Star said, dumping her empty shave ice container onto a nearby grass-filled median, “and I’m along for the ride, as you big-nosed skinny friend here mentioned.

“That’s littering,” Jimmy complained, getting out of the car to retrieve the paper cup.  He crumpled the cup and stuck it into the cigarette holder under the center of the Spyder’s dashboard, before re-seating himself.  “Big nose?” he whispered, almost to himself.

“How do I look?” Darren asked, standing next to his open car door with his arms spread.

 “Get in, we’re headed back to see the Duke at the Moana,” Jimmy ordered, starting the Corvair, which, since the engine was warm, fired right up.  “You look like somebody punched you in the nose and you’re still bleeding, plus you wet your shorts.  You shouldn’t have worn all-white today.

 “I can’t go to the hotel or see anybody like this,” Darren said, still trying to futilely clean himself off.  “I’ve got to get home and get these into the washing machine.”

“That syrup’s indelible European stuff,” Star remarked, looking bored while sitting casually in the back seat.  “No way that stuff’s coming out.”

“I can’t be seen like this,” Darren said, his voice almost breaking.

 “Like who’s going to care?” Star asked, before going on, “you’re not a major player in any of this.  Let your friend here do the talking.  When he’s not playing Mr. Wizard with live explosives, he actually makes a bit of sense.”

 Darren got in the car and Jimmy eased the Corvair out through the parking lot to the highway.

 He turned the radio back on, once they were headed back into Waikiki. Amazingly, Frankie Valli was belting out Sherry all over again.

 “Big nose?” Jimmy said, under his breath, only Darren hearing him.

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