Lauren was nervous, as he worked to finish the home-built suppressor for the Mannlicher. He had no doubts about testing the weapon and getting his ‘dope’ right for the shot. Sniping was ninety-percent preparation, equipment, and intellect. Taking the shot and getting it dead on target when everything else was done to specification was the five percent, and it was the ‘art’ part.
That five percent separated a good shot from a natural. Lauren knew he was a natural so he wasn’t concerned about that at all. He was more concerned about having lunch with his wife.
At the rapid-fire breakfast, they had before the kids jumped into their van, which was almost a limo but not quite, she invited him to spend lunch with her on the open lanai at Zippy's. He accepted without question. The invitation was unlike her. In fact, the only time he’d ever received an invitation like it from her was when she announced her second pregnancy. It was not to be anything like that, Lauren knew. They were living in the most perilous dangerous time of their marriage, with outside forces crushing them inward, while emotional forces threatened to tear them apart.
His fingers drummed the table nervously, as he stared out over the bay towards the island in the center. He decided to take the boat out after lunch, as long as the news his wife had to give him wasn’t too terrible. Whatever she had to impart was not likely to be something he wanted to hear.
Sharon showed up, came down the long stretch of the lanai and got him. They both went back to the ordering counter together, ordered, and then waited in silence until their food was ready. They unloaded the tray back at the table, and then sat on the same side of the park bench-like side to enjoy the view. They’d both ordered teri-plates, Lauren’s favorite, with two scoops of a flavored macaroni salad known only to Hawaii. He sipped his Kona coffee and waited for her to speak.
“Why you? Why us?” she asked, taking a drink of her own Hawaiian Punch.
“What do you mean?” Lauren replied, surprised by the questions.
“We’re nobody,” she continued, “we’re nothing to these people. We’re not acceptable to any of them socially, racially or in beliefs. So how did we end up in the middle of this, and why is everyone treating us like we’re important to them. And don’t give me that crap about collecting information. You know nothing and they seem to know everything. Where’s the hook?”
Lauren sat with his steaming coffee cup halfway to his mouth. Her questions were more than valid. They were questions he should have asked himself right away, but had not. Their entire involvement was out of place. Nothing fit. The more he thought about it the more things began to stick out.
“Why did we come to Hawaii and where did we get the money to move here?” Sharon probed.
“For the professorship at Chaminade. You know that.” he answered. "And the money came from the accident.”
Their car had been hit from behind by a drunk driver. The man didn’t want the police called so he’d paid them fifteen thousand dollars to let it all go.
“Yeah, fifteen thousand dollars fell out of the sky. And how did you get the job at Zippy’s when the professorship thing disappeared?”
“Ochuru needed help. I took the job,” Lauren answered, not liking being led to a place he knew he didn’t want to go.
“Ochuru asked you to work here. The man is a total local racist. He hates haoles and everyone knows it. There are two haole’s working at this Zippys.
Any idea who they are?” Sharon threw the words out quickly as if she was reading from a script she wanted to get through as quickly as possible.
“Us,” Lauren replied, with a sour feeling forming in the pit of his stomach.
“Yeah, us. And then the bartender disappears so you get his job. It’s the best paying job in the place, except for Ochuru himself. You were only here three days before he gave it to you.”
“Okay, okay, it does seem like we’ve been manipulated a bit, maybe but to what intent? What could they possibly want?” Lauren stared down at his unfinished teriyaki steak, thinly cut and oozing a wonderful smelling sauce, but he made no attempt to eat it. His appetite was gone.
“I don’t know,” Sharon answered. “But think about it. We’re living in Shapiro’s house. You’re working nearby. Shapiro’s coming. You’re down in the basement assembling some weapon of mass destruction. Remember the movie you made me go see with you years ago called The Parallax View? Or better yet, does the name Lee Harvey Oswald ring a bell?”
Lauren sat in shock, his wife’s conclusions hitting him like he was catching for a major league pitcher but without a mitt.
Sharon spoke between forkfuls she was still taking from her own plate. For some reason, her appetite was fully intact. Lauren wondered if she had been so shattered by the ‘incident’ that her emotions were deadened to just about everything else.
Lauren didn’t like the fact that she’d been to the basement and checked out what he was doing with the Mannlicher. She gave no hint she understood who the weapon was intended to be used on.
“Shapiro’s got to be coming soon. Not in six months, but soon,” Lauren said, musing to himself more than making a statement. “The boat is part of it. All so smoothly done. They want Shapiro dead. And they want me to take the fall for killing him. I don’t understand though. Who cares? They could kill Shapiro and nobody would know a thing? What do they need me for, or a fall guy at all?”
“Shapiro is supposed to be a billionaire, right?” Sharon added, before going on. “If that’s so, and if he was able to evade detection and arrest for most of his life, don’t you suppose he has a few moves of his own? He has to have some way to guarantee that they’ll keep their word. None of them are trustworthy, not the cops, the Japanese mobsters or whoever the spooks really are.”
“They want the money, but how can that work if the U.S. government is involved?” Lauren puzzled over the contradiction.
“You said the government got most of the treasure early on. Who were the point men on that mission?” Sharon asked.
“Landsdale. OSS. Another guy named Santy Romana. They tortured Yamashita’s driver for the locations. Shapiro only got the stuff from one location before the government could get there.
“What happened to those two men?” Sharon inquired as if she already knew the answer.
“They retired and both got rich in different business ventures.” Lauren knew the answer he’d found on Wikipedia was not correct. It made no sense. Both men had been career spooks, not businessmen of any significance, whatsoever.
“You’ve got some work to do,” Sharon said, “but it has nothing to do with finding out what is going on with the Japanese, the police or even the government people who…did that to me. You’ve got to find out when Shapiro is really coming so we’ll know how much time we have. And you’ve got to find out how to get off the slippery slope they’ve thrown us onto. This has been in the mill for a long time and a lot of people are involved. They’ll never let us walk away. Not alive.”
His wife stood up and took the tray to the trashcan. She cleared it, popped the tray atop the counter and walked back toward the restaurant proper. Lauren caught up with her.
“I’m sorry, really sorry. I should never have gotten the family involved in any of this. I’m sorry you got hurt.”
Sharon stopped and faced him. “You couldn’t have known. We’re here because you did such a great job in combat and came back with some psychological problems. They spotted that and decided to use us. If anything, what happened to me helps me understand what happened to you. We are in this together. I love you. And we have the kids. They are at risk here too. We’ll make it work.”
Lauren stayed behind, watching his wonder of a wife walk away. He decided to take the ‘Fools Gold’ out for a run across the harbor. Once out on the water he again circled the island slowly three times. Exiting the harbor to the open water he took it up to maximum speed, racing toward the tip of Portlock, thinking about how Shapiro would come to the island. He’d come by ocean-going yacht. Sergeant Yee had given that much away. How would he get from the yacht to the shore? Lauren Prentice.
Lauren’s prime mission shifted immediately. Neuzel was a rotten maggot and something had to be done about him but family and survival came first.
The complexity of what he was involved in was extreme. A solution would take time and planning.
The boat blasted out across the waves until he slowed it and then drove it back to the harbor, its wonderfully balanced dual catamaran hulls lifting it up above the choppy waves, seemingly without effort.
Lauren didn’t know what to do. Neither the CIA nor the NSA was going to accept the personal injury he’d visited on the clone when he broke his hand. Either agency, if its agents were anything like Marines, would take any injury to any of their personnel as very personal. There would be trouble, although it might take some time to come. He didn’t know whether he should get rid of his weapons in order to appear less like the target he was being set up to be.
Should he go to Yee, or even directly to the CIA? There seemed no path through the miserable overhanging forest that had rapidly grown up to begin drooping down through the jungle forest his life had become.
He went to work at the bar. Nothing happened. All was as it had been before the clone incident. There was no crossover time between the end of his wife’s shift and the beginning of his own. Sharon was asleep when he got home. Lauren woke up early, made coffee and prepared breakfast for the kids. The kids came and went. Lauren took a few laps in the wonderfully soothing waters of their pool. His wife appeared in the window, with a cup of coffee in her hand.
“Good morning,” Lauren smiled, toweling himself dry. “I need your advice.”
“This is new,” she responded, her tone still flatter than it had ever been before the incident. They hadn’t had sex since, and Lauren didn’t push it.
“You know things,” he replied. “I don’t know how to do. We’ve known each other for a long time. I think I should have been asking you about things a whole lot more than I have.”
The admission was hard for him. Lauren considered himself the leader of the family. It had never occurred to him before that the family might better be served by a shared partnership.
“What now?” she responded, sipping from her steaming cup.
Lauren told her about the incident in the bar the night before.
“And you want advice on that?” Sharon said, seemingly untouched by the violence and emotion of the event.
“No, just more background. I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know what to do at all. Proceed on into the disaster we know is coming? Run away? Talk to somebody? I don’t know.” Lauren literally threw up his hands in frustration.
“They didn’t arrest you,” Sharon said, after half a minute. “They didn’t even detain you. They didn’t come for you today, any of them. They’re staying right on track with their plan as if nothing happened. That isn’t a good sign. It means Shapiro is due at any time and they don’t have a Plan “B” yet, or time to implement one. You’ve been to Yee and he’s got to be in on it. He put us in here, which is ground zero for targeting. The NSA, CIA, or whomever, is in on it or you’d be in federal custody…and those people likely wouldn’t have done that to me. You go to Hiyashi and reason with him. He’s oriental, connected, and probably smarter than all the others combined.”
“But he told me about the boat,” Lauren informed her.
“I didn’t say he wasn’t in on it,” Sharon replied, quickly and flatly. “Everyone’s in on it. He may listen to reason, however. If that doesn’t work then we have no choice but to run, even if means leaving everything we have here. We’ve got enough money to fly from Oahu to the Mainland. We’ll make it there alive, maybe, just in time to begin the next of your grand adventures.”
The last sentence was spoken with some venom in it. Lauren’s culpability in causing what had happened to her would be long in being forgiven, and certainly never forgotten. Lauren was willing to accept that, along with a new understanding of her depth, which he’d never comprehended.
“What do I tell him?” He asked.
“I don’t know. Mano el mano, you have to work that out. You have to change their plan, which means you’ve got to give him a better plan, but you can’t do that unless you really understand what their plan is. And, somehow, you have to impress upon him that the current plan will not work because you won’t let it work. They need you. Make them need you more. I have to get ready to go to work.”
Sharon got up and left the room without further comment. Lauren paced for a while before heading out toward Zippys on foot, hoping to catch Hiyashi having breakfast. The Japanese man ate a substantial breakfast every day, in spite of the huge amount of alcohol he consumed every night.
Hiyashi sat in his usual bench seat overlooking the harbor. A single duck with five ducklings trailing behind floated not far out in the water, hoping to get a snack from anyone eating on the outside lanai. Three enforcers sat in separate booths around him, either for security or merely to keep anyone else from sitting close.
Lauren walked to the booth, bowed and wished the man a good morning. Hiyashi spooned Saimin down, grunted and motioned for Lauren to sit opposite his own position.
“I need to speak to you without your friends around,” Lauren began.
“No speak English,” Hiyashi said, with a Cheshire grin, and then went back to working on his soup.
“Alright,” Lauren gave in, hoping Hiyashi was that certain of his men. “I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t know who else to go to, so I picked you. I’m not going to be the sacrificial lamb in all this. I’ve figured it out. My life is just about over, but I can save my family. We have enough money to fly out of here tonight. I’m not going to have Shapiro’s death pinned on me. I’m not going to have my family sitting in his house like some gathered together staked out herd of goats, awaiting the judgment of whoever is making the decisions.”
He stopped, not knowing what else to say. Hiyashi ate the rest of his soup, which took more than five minutes. Lauren tried not to look too nervous or give any sign that he doubted any of the things he’d said, which he did. Maybe he and Sharon were going way out in imagining a scenario that was inside nobody else’s mind, much less set up as a plan of action.
“You and family on no-fly list. Home Security. TSA, and stuff,” Hiyashi responded, dropping his ceramic spoon into the empty bowl.
Lauren sighed deep inside his being. The power of the forces gathered against him was overwhelming. They could not leave the island. The could not stay on the island and not be brought back to where they were. There was only one other choice.
“Then I must sacrifice myself for my family. I must kill Sergeant Yee, yourself and as many of the others as I can before they take me out. I will do this. My family is all I have, other than bad dreams, a bad job, and no friends. I don’t want to die, but that choice is being taken from me.”
John Lennon’s Imagine song began playing very quietly down through the ceiling-mounted speakers into the silence that followed. The words penetrated to Lauren’s very core: “…you may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one…”
Lauren thought to himself while he waited for Hiyashi to speak. The coincidence of the poignant anti-war song about peace played while he was delivering a threat of war.
“I told them they were wrong,” Hiyashi said. “I told them you were a bad choice. They think you a damaged tattered piece of flotsam left over from that conflict. But you are not. You are a warrior. All warriors live with problems, as you do. As I do. What is it you propose, other than you and I killing one another?”
Lauren was surprised. Hiyashi had confirmed Sharon’s analysis of the situation without saying a word about it. He’d denied nothing. If they killed Lauren, and that meant they’d have to kill his family too, then they’d either have to find a substitute patsy pretty quickly or come up with another plan. A shiver of fear also traveled up and down his back. Hiyashi had sounded like he was prepared to do combat immediately, but Lauren had brought nothing to his side of the table.
“I have a better plan, but I’d prefer the others were in on it,” Lauren said. “I don’t trust anyone involved in this and I think you can understand why. I want everyone who’s in on this to meet at the house and listen.”
Lauren knew he was asking for something that might be impossible. It was quite likely that every entity involved was acting independently, only held together by the need to get a share the great fortune. But, he needed the time, as well as their willingness, to make anything work. He had a hazy idea of what might be possible but that would depend upon them telling him more.
“If we meet at house you have all together,” Hiyashe replied. “Maybe bad for us. You violent warrior. Not very predictable, as you are proving this minute.”
“In everything, there is a risk,” Lauren shot back. “You have no plan. The plan they all came up with, which you probably already told them would not work, will not work. I’ll make certain it doesn’t work. But, if my family is brought in. then I can make something work. Everyone gets what they want, and then we all walk away.”
“You must give something now,” Hiyashi said, staring into Lauren’s eyes. “Some piece of your plan. I agree about old plan. Not a good plan, that one. But I must have something, other than a threat.”
Hayashi knocked the knuckles of his right hand on the wooden surface of the table for emphasis as he finished. Two of his three henchmen came halfway to their feet but were quickly waved back down.
A vague idea had surfaced in the back of Lauren’s mind and it suddenly became clear. On the Sunday past, he’d driven past Makapuu Beach and stopped to check out the pier used by the Oceanic Institute for Research. Several deep-sea submersibles, used to explore the ocean bottom, had been resting on special supporting structures inside a protective building. He’d idly asked a working technician about them and what they were for.
“The Molokai Trench is sixty-five miles wide and over sixteen thousand feet deep,” Lauren repeated to Hiyashi. “It’s beyond the ability of modern technology to raise something from that depth,” Lauren stated, “and it’s right in front of us,” he pointed to the waters towards Molokai, the island rising up on the other side of the trench, only twenty-two miles away.
Hiyashi’s eyes followed Lauren’s pointing finger. A frown creased the man’s thick forehead, but a small smile began to form on his lips.