May I introduce the first chapter of Hawaii On Fire (I will be adding chapters 2 and 3 soon). This has been my blood, sweat and tears for the past few years. I hope you all enjoy.
As Tom approached the door of the plane he took a breath and hesitated. This was it. He had driven from Atlanta to Dallas. But, to get to Hawaii, obviously he had to get on the plane, or take a long boat trip. He touched the sedative in his pocket, for the tenth time, making sure it was indeed still there.
“Sir, are you getting on the plane or not?”
Tom looked around to the young woman. She met his gaze with impatience and repeated the question.
“Well, are you getting on?” She repeated as she removed the ear buds in each ear so as to hear his response.
“Sorry ma’am,” Tom said as he stepped aside, “got a little flying issue. Why don’t you go ahead of me.”
Tom watched as the young woman brushed by him, not saying a word.
As his hands shook, Tom removed the bottle of sedatives from his pocket and took one tablet; he swallowed it without water. He knew the pill had no time to take effect, but just taking the pill gave him the courage to make it to his seat.
“Excuse me, I believe I have the window seat,” Tom said to the smiling man in the aisle seat.
“Ah, yes brother. Please, take your seat, “ The man said as he rose to his feet to let Tom pass by him.
“Thanks man. Say, you have to be Hawaiian. Are you heading home?” Tom said as he returned the man’s smile.
“Mahalo my friend. Yes, I am from the island of Kauai. I have been here visiting my sister in Dallas. Now, I am on my way back home,” The man said as he extended his hand and Tom shook it.
Tom couldn’t help but return the man’s smile. The small, olive skinned man smiled with his whole face. It started with a crinkle at the corner of his dark brown eyes, traveled down his face, upturning his nose, and ended broadly at the corners of his mouth. Even his gray tinged hair that feel slightly over his eyes and down to his shoulders seemed joyful.
“I am Tom. What is your name?”
“My name is Ernie Kai. But, my friends call me Happy. So, please call me Happy.”
“It is easy to see how you got your nickname. You smile with your whole face. It is nice to meet you Happy Kai.”
“Ah, you are too kind my brother. It is nice to meet you as well Tom. What takes you to Hawaii?”
Tom started to answer but hesitated as the plane pulled out from the terminal. Tom reached into his pocket for the sedative bottle, opened it, and took another pill. Feeling the panic, Tom gripped the arms of his seat tightly, closed his eyes, and tried to will the fear to go away.
“Tom, my friend, what is wrong?” Happy asked as his smile is replaced by a look of concern.
“Man, I haven’t flown since 9/11. I’m afraid of flying. It took a year of therapy just to get me to the point I can even set foot on a plane. I think this was a mistake. Can they turn the plane around? What do you think Happy? I need to get off this plane.”
“Easy my friend. I am afraid we are past the point for the plane to return to the terminal, if they would even do that for you. Look out the window.” Happy said as he smiled and pointed.
Tom opened one eye and looked towards the window; he knew the plane had taken off. His stomach lurched as the plane left the runway and banked right.
Happy laughed and motioned for the flight attendant.
“Gentlemen, is everything all right over here?” The tall blond haired attendant said as she stared down at them sternly.
Happy replied, “No my sister. We got an anxious flier here. Any chance you can start the bar service early? I think my friend here could use some liquid courage. You look like a reasonable woman. And say, mighty pretty if you don’t mind this old guy saying so,” Happy said as he winked at the flight attendant. “Come on now, can you help a brother out?”
Not immune to Happy’s charm, the flight attendant softened, smiled and said, “I think I can come up with something. Be right back.”
“Let it be some Jack!” Tom yelled after her as the sedative started to take effect and relax him.
She didn’t turn around, but waived and disappeared behind a curtain a few rows ahead of them.
“Are you feeling better now Tom?” Happy asked as he smiled at Tom again.
“I think so. I can feel the sedative taking effect. I know I shouldn’t drink and take these pills,” Tom said as he patted the pocket where his sedatives were stashed. “But, what the hell.” Tom said as the flight attendant returned.
“Here, don’t tell anyone,” She warned as she handed Tom a small brown bag.
Tom peered inside the bag and found, to his delight, four airplane size bottles of Gentlemen Jack.
The attendant winked and said, “To share with your adorable seat mate.”
“Yes ma’am. Happy and I will enjoy these. Thanks again.”
“Thank you my dear,” Happy said. “Maybe we can get together in Oahu and have a drink. Just the two of us. What do you say?”
The flight attendant patted the top of Happy’s head and said, “What I say is that you are too old for me. But, you sure are cute. I’m tempted but no, my fiancé wouldn’t like it,” She said and pointed to the ring on her finger.
“Well, you can’t blame a guy for trying. Thanks for the booze sister.” Happy said as he smiled up at the woman.
“No worries. Yell if you need anything else.”
Within minutes, both men had downed the small bottles and felt the effects of the whiskey.
“So Tom. You never told me. Why are you going to Hawaii? Especially with you so scared to fly.”
As he pushed the second whiskey bottle around on the tray in front of him, Tom stared out the window.
“My brother, if you don’t want to talk about it…”
“No, I do. I just don’t know where to start. You see, this was to be my wife and I’s twentieth wedding anniversary trip. But, she, uh, she died on 9/11 in one of the towers.”
Tom could tell that Happy was processing what Tom had just told him. The silence was awkward between the two men.
Finally Happy spoke, “Tom, I am sorry. I don’t really know what to say. Such a tragedy for you. So you are honoring her by taking the trip that you had planned together. I think that is a great idea brother. Good for you.”
“I’m honoring Amanda. I didn’t think of it that way. Thank you my friend.”
“You are welcome. But, you are coming to Hawaii at a strange time for the state,” Happy said as he stared towards the front of the plane. A troubled look suddenly came across his face.
“Strange time. Do you mean because the Governor has disappeared? How long has it been now?”
“Our beloved Governor Lee has been missing for two weeks now. My daughter is a detective. She said there are no leads to his whereabouts. She’s frantic with worry and frustrated by the dead ends in the case. It’s like he’s vanished into thin air. How can that happen?” Happy turned to Tom, a look of despair in his eyes.
“Ah, such a mystery my friend! For such an important person in government to vanish. Do you know, is there any word of enemies that he may have had? Anyone that, god forbid, wanted to do him harm.”
“He was a Governor that was well known to be tough on crime. Especially drug dealers. I can imagine that yes, he could have had some pretty serious enemies among the bad guys.” Happy said as he stared at the seat in front of him.
“Hmm. I don’t like the sound of it Happy. And gone for two weeks; that can’t be good.” Tom replied as he stared out of the window. “Say my friend, this sedative has really worked for me. I’m going to close my eyes for a while.”
“Yes, brother sleep. Before you know it we will land in Hawaii.”
“Tom, my friend. It is time to wake up. We are about to land,” Happy said as he gently nudged Tom’s arm.
“Um. Thanks Happy,” Tom said wiping his eyes. “Can’t believe I slept through the whole flight.”
“And snored through it too!” Happy smiled at Tom.
“No! I’m so embarrassed. Was I loud?”
“I’m teasing you. You breathed a little heavy. No, you didn’t really snore.”
“You’re a kidder. I like that,” Tom said as he gently punched Happy on the arm.
“My brother. Life is too short. We must have fun. You will have fun while you are visiting our islands. Please don’t be overly sad thinking about your wife. She wouldn’t have wanted that I am sure.”
“You are right. Amanda was a bright, happy woman. She would have wanted me to enjoy this trip. I will try my best.”
Happy started to speak but, was interrupted by the Pilot as he announced that the plane would be landing shortly.
Tom stopped to admire the beauty of the airport. A rich, dark paneling lined the walls that gave the space a uniqueness Tom had never seen in any other airport. He passed another open air space. The green, lush area made him think, yes, this place is paradise. A parrot squawked loudly which startled Tom out of his daydream.
“Lucky parrot,” he said aloud.
Suddenly, a beautiful young woman approached him. She wore a brightly colored flower printed dress and is barefoot. Tom thinks to himself this is how women in movies about Hawaii dressed; it must be native dress. In her arms she carried what looked to Tom to be necklaces made of lovely, aromatic white flowers.
“Excuse me sir. Would you like to buy a lei?”
“Um, uh well I’m flattered.” Tom had to admit the offer was tempting. He hadn’t been with a woman in a really long time. Tom looked around for Happy but realized he had lost the small man in the crowd.
“Say, is it not illegal what you are doing? I mean prostitution.” Tom asks, lowering his voice.
“Sir?” The young woman took a step back and looked at Tom puzzled.
Before Tom could say anything else, Happy is beside him again. Not only did he smile, Happy laughed so hard that tears ran down his face.
“No, my friend. She didn’t ask if you wanted to buy a lay. The flowers she is holding are called leis. L-e-i-s.”
His face now brick red, Tom turned to the woman.
“Honey, I am so sorry. I don’t think I could be more embarrassed. Please excuse me.”
The woman smiled and moved away quickly.
“Happy, you saved me from making even more of a fool of myself. Thank you my friend.”
“No worries my friend,” Happy said as he wiped the tears from his eyes, “Wait till my Lana hears about this? She hates tourists. She’ll go on and on about this for days.”
“Well, glad I could be of some entertainment. I guess.” Tom said as he rubbed his smooth head.
Happy extended his hand.
“My brother. It has been a joy to have met you. Here, let me give you my cell number. Just in case you need anything. Ready?”
Tom reached for his phone.
“Got it. Thanks man. Maybe we can have dinner while I’m here.”
“That would be great. Just remember, I live on Kauai. Next island over. But, its the Garden Isle, well worth the visit for you. One of the most beautiful places you will ever see.”
“Well then, I must make it over there. I’ll call you. Take care Happy Kai. It was a pleasure to have met you. So you will visit your daughter now? Not going to Kauai today?”
“Right. I have not seen my daughter in two weeks. I will stay here on Oahu tonight.”
“Have a great visit Happy. And again, great to meet you.”
“Mahalo Tom,” Happy said as he turned and headed out to the parking area.
Tom watched the back of Happy’s dark head disappear into the crowd. As he was jostled around by the crowd, Tom thought about what his next move should be.
“I need another drink,” He said to the passersby. Some smiled at him. Some just ignored him.
“Hey man, Stinger Rays is just around the corner that way.” A young blond man said as he pointed, “Got a full bar. Anything you want.”
“Thanks man. I appreciate it.”
“No problem. Enjoy dude.”
“Gotta be a surfer,” Tom mumbled to himself as he located Stinger Rays and walked inside.
He found a seat at the bar, and waited for the young bartender to notice him. She made her way over to Tom and smiled as her long blond hair fell into her eyes as she spoke.
“Hi, what can I get for you?”
“Well, hi there young lady. Jack, straight up.”
“So, on the rocks?”
“No ma’am. Straight up. You do know what that means right?”
“Like I said, with ice?”
“Okay. Straight up means take the bottle, pour into a glass, and you’re done.” Tom replied, trying to hide his irritation. It was amazing to him how many people didn’t know what “straight up” meant.
“Oh, got it. Coming right up.” She said as she smiled at Tom and walked away.
“Hard to believe a bartender wouldn’t know what straight up means.” The man that sat beside Tom said.
“You wouldn’t believe it. Happens all the time.”
“Wow, you don’t say. So, is this your first visit to our islands?”
“Pretty obvious I’m a tourist huh?” Tom smiled back at the man.
“Yes, brother. You are so pale.” Pointing to his dark olive arm he continued, “You need to be tan, like me. Besides you look like all the tense mainlanders that come over here. Allow Hawaii to relax you man. Enjoy your visit and chill.”
Tom smiled as he studied the impressive young man. With dreadlocks falling down to his waist and tattoos covering both of his muscular arms, Tom thought how he looked like a mighty Hawaiian warrior. But, there was a kindness in his eyes that made Tom trust him, similar to the kindness and concern he had seen in Happy’s eyes. It made Tom want to get to know the people of these islands. Not just to be a tourist. He wanted to make friends here.
“My friend, that is some good advice. I will get started on that tan right away. But, I’m afraid with my Irish skin, all it will be is pink, red if I’m not careful. When I had hair, it was red. Sometimes, when I was out in the sun too long, you couldn’t tell my face from my hair!”
“Ah, you are funny,” the young man laughed as he took another sip from his beer, “What is your name brother?”
“Tom Carroll. And yours?”
“Kona Palakiko,” He said as he extended his hand to Tom.
Tom shook Kona’s hand and said, “What a great name. Not a doubt that you are a native. Say, on the flight over her I talked to someone on the plane about the disappearance of the Governor. What do you think about it?”
“Such a bad thing,” Kona said as sadness took over his face, “Joseph Lee is very loved here by most people. Did you know that he’s the youngest Governor ever of Hawaii?”
“No, didn’t know that. And so he just vanished. Don’t you think that is strange? Given the fact that Government officials usually are so well guarded.”
“Governor Lee was well known for his love of his independence. He had a habit of sneaking out of the Governor’s mansion and going for long hikes in the Ewa Forrest. That’s a nature reserve just north of here. Maybe that’s where he went, and, well I don’t want to think of what may have happened to him. ” Kona said as he stared past Tom into the busy airport past the bar.
“He may be okay Kona. You cant think the worst. Just wait and see what happens.”
“You are right my brother. He is probably okay and will turn up very soon. But, that shouldn’t be your concern while you are here. You are here to enjoy yourself.”
“It is hard for me not to be interested. You see I work as a corporate investigator. My mystery solving is for large corporations. But, any mystery I here about gets me interested and I want to solve it. Maybe I’ll look into it. Ask some questions. See what I can find out.”
Kona stood and smiled down at Tom as he gulped down the last of his beer, “Well brother, if you find Governor Lee, you will be the state’s hero. I wish you the best of luck. Listen I’ve got to go. It was nice to meet you Tom Carroll.”
“You too man. And Mahalo. Did I say it right?”
Kona laughed and patted Tom on the shoulder, “Perfect. You’ll be like a native in no time. See you man.”
As Tom watched Kona leave, his thoughts turned back to Governor Lee. He couldn’t help but be intrigued. What happened to the man? Tom decided to see what he could find out.