The rain came the following morning. Jimmie’s dad’s Corvair wasn’t going anywhere. Although the convertible top seemed secure when the levers were pushed to hold the canvas and metal rod lattice work down securely, the pounding rain and wind of a Hawaii monsoon downpour were simply too much for it. Darren plodded toward Diamond Head along 16th Avenue, knowing full well that the rain was so heavy and driving that he would not have known where he was if he didn’t travel the same route almost constantly. The Fort Ruger rock wall that rose up at end of the street at the intersection, forming the top line of the “T” that served as the top bar of the letter describing it, was easily scaled. Darren tried to ignore the rain and the miserable conditions that came with it. The recreation center was his destination, although it could not be seen across the central ballpark area that formed the heart around which the other operations of the base functioned.
“What took you so long?” Jimmy asked, his voice denoting the impatience and enthusiasm that formed the foundation of his expressive personality, as Darren finally arrived through the front double doors of the center.
Sergeant Barton ran the center, although he almost never talked to any of the kids, like Jimmy and Darren, who hung out there or played pool and other available games. The sergeant mostly pushed a big wide brush back and forth across the wide-open spaces that took up most of the floor space in the single great room configuration of the place. One day he’d stopped to demonstrate how the pushing of such a brush was something not as simple as it seemed. When the brush was pushed along and then stopped, it had to be bounced once off the floor before proceeding. That dumped whatever the brush head had accumulated for the next push to truly clear the area in front of it. Jimmy and Darren had been impressed, although they never got to try out the new learned behavior because the sergeant never let go of his tool and the center was locked when he wasn’t there.
“Okay,” Darren said, breathing hard as he dried himself with two white towels Sergeant Barton had thrown his way without making any comment, like he’d been expecting Darren’s arrival somehow.
Darren eyed the sergeant while he worked to dry himself as best he could while still remaining in is tee-shirt and shorts.
“You tell him I was coming?” he asked Jimmy.
“He doesn’t talk much and, I think, listens even less, so…no,” Jimmy replied, watching the sergeant continue his sweeping in a far corner of the room.
“Strange,” Darren said, carefully folding the damp towels and putting them on the seat of a nearby chair.
“You talk to your Dad?” Darren asked, walking in small circles around Jimmy to help dry himself off.
“Last year,” Jimmy began, before pausing.
“Last year, what?” Darren demanded.
“Elvis,” Jimmy replied. “Elvis put up fifty thousand dollars at Pearl Harbor to help build that Arizona Memorial everyone’s been talking about. My dad met him at the concert he did to raise the money.”
“What?” Darren asked, stopping his monotonous pacing. “Does everyone on this island know Elvis Presley except me?”
“Hey, it’s good news,” Jimmy said. “Dad’s agreed to talk to Elvis about coming, and maybe the Duke too.”
“Great, but that’s the easy part,” Darren replied. “The hard part is going to be Sergeant Cross. He’s a stickler when it comes to proper identification at the door. He even grills guests sometimes to make sure they are properly invited and not gaming the club.”
“What game?” Jimmy asked, perplexed.
“Dinner at the club,” Darren said, “It’s about half what it would be in town, and the drinks about a third of the price, and then there’s the view, which can’t be beat.”
“What did your dad say about talking to Cross?” Darren asked.
“Well, that’s the tough part,” Jimmy replied. “We have to talk to Sergeant Cross. If that fails, then dad will go to the general, but he said that if has to go to the general then you’ll probably get fired, because Cross will be cross that someone went over his head. It’s a military thing, dad said.”
“Me?” Darren said, stunned. “I put all this together and then I get fired? How could that possibly be? Cross can’t fire me. My dad got me this job and he’s the harbormaster for all of Pearl.”
“Your dad is a warrant officer, remember?” Jimmy said, flatly. “Warrant officer is like a private in the Army when it comes to being able to communicate cross service and with the real Air Force officers who really run the Cannon Club operation.”
“My dad’s not a real officer?” Darren asked, surprised again.
“That’s not what I meant, but it doesn’t matter,” Jimmy replied. “The fact is that we have to go and see Sergeant Cross and talk him into the deal. Elvis and the Duke, and all that goes with them, will put the club on the map.”
“Oh yeah, just great,” Darren sighed. “You don’t get it. Sergeant Cross gets paid a sergeant’s salary. He doesn’t want any more people or any more work that goes with those people. That’s why he’s such a stickler about membership and identification. Fewer people, fewer employees, and therefore less work.”
The rain beat down so hard on the roof of the center that it became hard to talk or be heard over it.
“Let’s head to the club and take shelter there,” Jimmy said. “If nothing else we can swim in the pool in the rain.”
“Oh God, how can we motivate Cross to do anything?” Darren said, sounding dejected.“He listens about as well as sergeant Barton here. What have we got to get him to do anything, much less this?”
“Let’s go,” Jimmy said, grabbing the towels. “It’s a short run, we’ll use the towels like umbrellas.”
Out of seeming nowhere, Sergeant Barton appeared, his broom nowhere to be seen.
“I’ll take those, thank you,” he said, holding out one big hand, as he was waiting for someone to put money onto its upturned palm.
Jimmy silently handed the towels over.
Once they were outside in the pouring rain Darren couldn’t keep silent.
“There,” he yelled at Jimmy, that proves my point. Sergeant Barton is just like Sergeant Cross. He protects what he sees as his own, and he doesn’t want any extra work either.”
“Well,” that’s not specifically true,” Jimmy yelled back, taking off at a run. “Barton can’t fire you,” he threw over his shoulder as he ran toward where the club sat invisibly up on the flank of Diamond Head.
The club wasn’t open, but the gate worked like it always had, and the back door into the club proper was unlocked, which meant that Sergeant Cross was inside. The sergeant’s tiny Datsun pickup was parked off to the side in the parking lot, where he always parked, but it was impossible to see if anyone was inside it without going over to it.
“Into the valley of death rode the six hundred, guns to the right of them, guns to the left of them, volleyed and fired…” Jimmy quoted from the Charge of the Light Brigade as he stood holding the door open, looking more like a too young, sopping doorman rather than a teenage Military brat.
Darren stopped before entering, looking Jimmy straight in the eyes. “It’s not guns,” he said.
Jimmy looked back at him in question.
“It’s cannons to the right of them, cannons to the left of them, cannons in front of them, volleyed and thundered…” Darren recited.
“Whatever,” Jimmy laughed out.
They dried themselves using two of the discarded cloth table covers that were in the canvas dirty wash bin and then proceeded to search for Sergeant Cross. After about twenty minutes of covering every square inch of the club, they couldn’t find the sergeant anywhere. Jimmy called for him at the top of his voice but to no effect.
“What the heck?” Jimmy said, giving up.
The sound of the backdoor slamming rang through the large dining area where the boys stood together. Both boys turned, as one, to look across the dance floor, where the door was hidden behind some curtains. Sergeant Cross burst through.
“Over here,” he hissed across the dance floor upon looking up and seeing Jimmy and Darren, bent over as if carrying something very heavy.
Darren ran across the floor, his go-aheads squeaking wetly with each step.
“What is it, sir?” he asked, running up to the sergeant.
“We’ve got real trouble,” Sergeant Cross said, his voice much more subdued than Darren had ever heard it.
Darren looked down to see what the sergeant was holding and almost fell over in shock. Jimmy ran up and stopped a few feet away, also frozen in shock.
The sergeant was holding the Bofors clip, the round’s polished brass gleaming in the places where mud didn’t cover the casings fully.
“I don’t know where these came from, I swear,” the sergeant said, plaintively. “It’s like they washed down from up on the mountainside, but that can’t be. The brass is all polished. These are new rounds not from old World War II storage up there.
“What are we going to do?” Darren muttered, more to himself rather than to the sergeant.
“What are we going to do?” Sergeant Cross responded, his voice gaining more of its usual commanding timber. “I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to get rid of these damned things. Somebody’s trying to get me fired and we’re not going to let that happen.”
There was complete silence, other than the hard rain impacting on the roof above them.
Darren’s mind raced. The rounds they’d buried had been buried in loose dirt. They hadn’t even bothered to pack the dirt down when they’d buried the clip, never thinking about torrential rains beating down on the mountainside. The clip must have been unearthed, as the rain ran in runnels down the mountain, and then the empty casings had floated enough to be carried along, finally arriving in onto the edge surface of the parking lot, not far from where Sergeant Cross usually parked.
“We’ll help you, of course,” Jimmy said, his voice more that of a used car salesman than the Jimmy that Darren knew.
“Yes, we’re all in this together,” Sergeant Cross said, his voice conveying his gratitude. “Here, take this and dump it into the ocean,” he said, holding out the mud-spattered and dripping clip as if was made of some radioactive substance.
Once more Jimmy took hold of the rounds and very gingerly began moving through the door and out into the rain. Darren followed him, but Sergeant Cross remained inside, silently closing the door when the boys were through.
“Where are we going?” Darren asked Jimmy in a whisper. “We don’t have a car or even a bike.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Jimmy replied. “We’re getting these out of there so we can be the guys who save Sergeant Cross.”
“What are we going to do with them?” Darren asked when they got to the parking lot.
“We’re going to put these under a bush down the driveway and out of sight,” Jimmy replied. “Then, we’re going to get the Corvair, no matter how much the top leaks, put the clip inside, and drive to the Makapuu coast area. Over the side of the cliff, it goes, not to be seen for a million years, or whenever the Pacific Ocean dries up.”
“How does that help us?” Darren asked. “Nobody knows anything about us being involved here.”
“Are you thinking straight at all?” Jimmy asked, bending down to place the rounds carefully under a bush where they couldn’t be seen by anyone driving or walking by. “The Duke knows, and besides, we’re saving Sergeant Cross. We wait a bit and then ask him a favor, not to mention that you don’t even have to be worried about being fired again.