So, I’ve published the first chapter before of my book, Hawaii On Fire. But, here is the new and improved version…
Chapter 1 – Hawaii On Fire, A Tom Carroll Mystery
“Joseph Lee, you are the governor of the state of Hawaii. You can’t just ditch your security and go out on some perceived mission to right a wrong. Please, what you are thinking of doing is unsafe. At the least let me help you. What is going on?” Lana said as she nervously picked at a hangnail on her left hand.
“Please lower your voice Lana. Good grief, I shouldn’t have told you about any of this, and I won’t tell you anything else. This is something I have to look into. You have to trust me on this Detective,” Governor Lee replied, running his hand over his short, black hair, a familiar gesture of his when he was annoyed.
“It’s not that I don’t trust you, I’m concerned for your safety. Besides, we’ve been friends since we were kids. I’m worried my best friend is putting his life in jeopardy. There is a reason that you have a security detail. This is a really bad idea,” Lana said as she finally removed the pesky hangnail from her finger. She made a mental note to hit the nail salon as soon as she was sure her friend wasn’t going to do something to put himself in danger.
“Okay. I’m a man of my word, I can’t tell you I won’t go. But, I will think about it. Deal?”
“All right, deal. Think about your safety. The people of Hawaii need you around my friend. Look, I need to go. Dad’s flight is coming in from Texas in just a few minutes. I want to make sure to see him before he heads back over to Kauai,” Lana sighed as she knew she would get no better offer from her old friend.
“Tell Pops I said hi. And Lana, thanks for caring.”
“Always my dear friend, always,” Lana replied as she cast one more worried glance at the governor, and left the room.
From the front window of the mansion , Governor Lee watched Lana leave through the front gate. After her car pulled out, he walked out the front door and towards the side garage, passing a security guard in the process.
The guard looked up from the CCTV monitor and greeted him, “Good evening, Governor Lee, a lovely evening for a walk. Perfect Oahu weather as usual.”
“Indeed, Ronnie, um, yeah, just out for a walk in the garden.” He cringed at the lie. “If I don’t see you again, have a good night.”
“You, too, sir,” Ronnie said as he turned back to the monitor in front of him.
Governor Lee turned the corner and looked both ways down the path to the garage. Having taken this route several times to ditch his security to go on midnight hikes, he knew this was the time of night when most of the security detail relaxed their vigilance. Instead of half hourly rounds to survey the grounds, they patrolled about once every two hours. Having seen the other security detail totally engrossed in a card game in the front room, he knew this was his chance to escape unseen.
He approached the garage and punched in the code for the door. Joseph looked around to see if the sound of the opening garage door caught anyone’s attention. Having seen his driver retrieve the spare set of keys for the SUV from the nearby cabinet, he sighed in relief as he was able to retrieve the keys from their hiding place. Sensing the coast was clear, he eased into the black SUV and headed the vehicle towards the entrance to the governor’s residence. As he anticipated, Ronnie does not even look up as the SUV passes by the small guard shack. He breathed a sigh of relief as he made the right turn onto South Beretania Street and headed for the docks on the edge of town.
As the governor made the turn into the driveway of the run down warehouse, Lana’s warning came back to him. Maybe she was right. This isn’t a great idea. But, if I’m right about who is behind this, I’m probably the only one that can talk to him.
He paused as he walked toward the front of the warehouse. His attention was drawn to the nearby door, he studied the small, pane of dirty glass in the door He wanted to get inside, but he knew that would probably mean breaking into the building.
“How can the governor of the state justify that?” He said aloud to the empty parking lot.
Yet, despite his feelings of guilt, he walked forward and attempted to turn the knob on the door, hoping that at least it might not be locked, and he wouldn’t have to feel too bad about entering.
“Darn it all!” He said aloud as the locked door stopped him.
Looking around, he found a large piece of concrete laying near the door. He picked it up, sighed, and laid it back down. He started to walk back to his SUV and leave, but turned around and picked up the piece of concrete. Quickly, he gave the window in the door a hard tap with the concrete which made the window shatter, he stepped back as the shards of glass fell at his feet. Holding his breath, he listened for any signs of an alarm system going off. When he didn’t hear anything, he stepped inside of the warehouse. To his right, was a small office with windows that were just as dirty as the front door. He tried the door and was happy to find that at least this door was unlocked, and he stepped inside the stuffy office. He stepped closer to the small desk in the middle of the room, and examined maps of the different Hawaiian islands.
“Hawaii On Fire,” Joseph read the writing on the top of the first map. “Oh no, he’s mixed up with that group of thugs, I can’t bear this,” He said as he stepped away from the maps and rubbed his temples.
Walking back to the maps, he noticed that there were red x marks on each of the maps. The marks were over popular tourist spots.
“I’m getting a really bad feeling about this,” He said as he again stepped back from the maps and ran his hand distractedly over his short hair.
Moving back out into the warehouse, he went up to one of the white paneled trucks parked inside the largest part of the warehouse. Opening the back of the truck, he gasped as he looked inside. Without even having to pick one the bags up, he knew the truck was packed to the top with bags of cocaine.
“This is all far worse than I thought,” Joseph said as he sat down on the bed of the truck and put his head in his hands.
“Don’t move Governor Lee, assure us that you are unarmed and were not followed,” one of the men behind him demanded.
“I assure you. I took great care to ditch my security to come here. You are welcome to search me, I am unarmed,” the governor said as he slowly raised both hands above his head, thinking again how he should have let Lana help him with this instead of going it alone.
Slowly the man approached, pulled him to his feet, and patted him down aggressively.
“Do you think being the governor gives you the right to break into private property? That’s a crime, even for you.” The man said as he continued his pat down of Joseph.
“Sure it is. But, I think drug dealing is a bigger crime, don’t you think so?”
“Shut up! Okay,” the man yelled, “he’s clear. Outside now,” the man said as he shoved Governor Lee aggressively forward in front of him.
With his hands up, Joseph led the way to the parking lot.
Suddenly a limo appeared from the side of the building. As Joseph tried to approach it, the men stepped between him and the car.
“That’s close enough. Big Kahuna likes his privacy. He’s only agreeing to meet with you out of respect for the fact that you contacted him directly,” one of the men said as he raised his gun and pointed it at the governor.
“Big Kahuna? What a silly thing to call him,” despite his situation, the governor laughed loudly.
“He likes his privacy. It’s just a way for him to stay anonymous. That’s it,” the man replied not looking at Joseph.
Governor Lee stood and watched as the back window lowered. He could see the top of the person’s head only, but knew instantly who it was.
“It is you. How could you do this?” Governor Lee’s voice cracked as he asked the question.
“Governor Lee, this is our one and only meeting. I want you to leave here and forget everything I am about to tell you. And I want you to leave us alone. I’ve made a lot of money in the drug trade, and I’m not about to give any of this up. But, you see, my cause is greater than the drugs or the money. I know you are disappointed in me, but, you have to believe me. This drug money is going to free Hawaii. Soon we will set Hawaii on fire and be a free, sovereign nation once again.”
“What are you saying? This is crazy talk.”
“No, no it is not. You’ll soon know Governor Joseph Lee that I’m serious about all this. The plan is already in place and there is nothing you or anyone else can do about it. Hey! What are you doing? Stop him now!”
Joseph had removed the cell phone he had taken from one of his guards and was attempting to dial 911. He had no idea that one of the guards had come up behind him until he felt the blow of the back of the rifle to his head, and then as he was loosing consciousness, he said, “How could you do this to me? Of all people, how could you do this to me?” Before complete darkness encircled him, Joseph heard another person moving quickly towards them. The deep, male voice spoke with authority as the man commanded, “Hey! What are you doing? Stop right there. Security, I said stop right there.”
Though his vision was becoming blurred, Joseph cringed as he watched the other man come up behind the security guard and knock him out with the butt of his gun. He braced for the impact as one of Big Kahuna’s men pushed him into the trunk of the limo and slammed the lid. Everything finally went dark as he listened to the tires spin out on the gravel as the car moved towards the road.
“Sir? Wake up. Come on, open your eyes.”
Through the haze of pain, Tom listened to the beautiful female voice. He knew she was talking to him, but, the pain radiating from the top of his head clear to his toes, he couldn’t get past it to respond to her.
“We may need an EMT here. John, can you make the call?” She asked.
“Yes, Detective Kai. Right away,” the officer said as he moved towards his police car.
“Wait. I’m okay. Really, hold off on calling the ambulance.” Tom said, still not opening his eyes.
“Can you sit up?” She said as she took his arm to help him.
“Yeah, yeah. Just give me a second.” Tom replied as he finally opened his eyes and looked up into the eyes of the Detective. Guilt struck him as his first thought about this woman of authority was that she was stunningly beautiful. Oh, that shouldn’t be my first thought about the detective. But, he couldn’t help it. Obviously of Hawaiian descent, her long, jet black hair was neatly braided, and fell gently across her shoulder and down one side of her olive skinned arm. She stood up, and Tom could see that she was petite, but strong looking and fit, he thought typical of a police officer. He sat up a little bit more and looked into her dark brown eyes. She smiled only slightly and looked away.
“Sir, are you feeling better? Do I still need to call for the EMT?” She asked as she looked around the warehouse parking lot.
“No, I’ll be okay. I’m pretty sure I was hit with the butt of a rifle. Detective, these men, they were kidnapping this guy. They hit him too. Did you catch them?” Tom asked as rose to his feet.
“What? No. What exactly happened here? I happened to be driving through on my way to work, and saw you lying on the ground. Tell me, what happened?” She asked as she twirled the bottom of her braid nervously with one finger.
“Well, I was making my last round through the parking lots for the night. A man was stooped over talking to someone in a limo through the car window. There were two men with guns standing between the man and the limo. I thought it was strange, but waited to approach them, since they really weren’t doing anything wrong. That’s when I saw the man reach for his cell phone. Then, one of the guys hit him in the head.”
“And you called out to them?” Detective Kai asked sternly.
“Yes, Detective. I ordered them to stop. I identified myself as security, and ordered them to stop,” Tom said as he rubbed the bump on the back of his head.
“Have you seen them here before, on any of your other shifts through the area?” She asked as she stared up at the warehouse.
“Actually, I usually work on Kauai. My boss asked me to fill in over here on Oahu for a few days. Last night was my first shift,” he replied as he sat down on a nearby ledge, his head still swimming from the blow to his head.
“Detective Kai, excuse me,” the young police officer again approached them. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but there is a development at the Governor’s mansion.”
“What is it?” she asked impatiently.
“It’s the Governor. He’s missing ma’am. He’s nowhere in the mansion, and no one has heard from him.”
Tom watched in surprise as the stoic detective dropped her head and sighed.
“Wait! Detective Kai. The governor, he’s fairly tall right? He wears his hair in a really short buzz cut?” Tom said as he moved to where the car had been the night before and examined the tire tracks that it had left behind.
“Yes, that is an accurate description of Governor Lee. Why do you ask?” Lana asked as she moved closer to where Tom was standing.
“The man I saw last night. The man being kidnapped. It was dark, but now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure it was Governor Lee. I knew he looked familiar.”
“No! No, no. I told him not to go, but apparently he didn’t listen.” Detective Kai said as she again began to twirl her hair.
“I’m sorry ma’am. I don’t understand,” Tom said.
“I’m the one who is sorry. I shouldn’t have blurted that out. But, you see, Governor Lee and I are really good friends. When I saw him yesterday, he told me he needed to go by himself to confront someone about something pretty serious. I begged him not to go, and I begged him to at least let me help him. He refused. When I left him, he said he would think about not going. Oh how I wish I had stayed and talked to him. I really shouldn’t be telling you all of this.” She said as she turned her back to Tom, not wanting him to see the tears in her eyes.
“Really, it’s okay. He’s your friend. I understand. Look, I know you want to go find him. I need to get back to Kauai. But, I’ll be glad to offer any help I can in the investigation.” Tom said as he smiled at the detective.
“Thank you. Yes, an official statement will be good. Here is my card,” she said as she reached into her shirt pocket, “Please call me at your earliest convenience so that we can talk more.”
“Of course Detective. I want to help find the Governor. I haven’t been living in Hawaii for long, but I understand what a good man he is,” Tom replied as he place her card in his own shirt pocket.
“Truly a man of integrity and honor. The best. Look, I need to go, I look forward to talking with you again soon.”
“Yes Ma’am,” Tom said as he watched her walk away.
Tom removed Lana’s card from his pocket and examined it. Detective Lana Kai, it said. He placed the card back in his shirt pocket and walked over to the company security vehicle and eased into the drivers side, pausing for a moment and again rubbing his sore head. As he drove away, he thought about the governor, and about Detective Kai. He wondered how involved he would get in this investigation. It had been a long time since he had used his private investigative skills. Would they be put to use here? Or, would he just give his statement and that would be it? He had to admit to himself that he missed his PI days. But, that had been a long time ago. A lifetime ago. Oh, it’s early, but I need a drink, he thought, and drove straight to the bar his boss had recommended on Oahu.
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?” She replied as she pulled out her phone and stared at the small screen.
“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,” Tom said as he returned the young man’s smile.
“Wow, you don’t say. So, is this your first visit to our islands?” He asked as he accepted a beer from the same bartender.
“Oh, I live on Kauai. But, I haven’t lived there long, six months now. It shows huh? That I’m a newcomer.” Tom said as he looked for the young bartender who had suddenly disappeared from the bar area.
“I’m afraid so my 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. You made the best possible decision to come live here. Enjoy your life on the islands and chill.”
Tom nodded in agreement 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.
“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 my friend,” he said as he took another sip from his beer, “But, yes, to just exist in life, it is not enough. It is living but not a life. Get to know us. Get to know our good things and the issues we deal with and worry about every day. Say 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, have you heard the news about the disappearance of the Governor. What do you think about it?”
“Ah, yes brother, it is all over the news. 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. I heard rumors that 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 onto the busy street outside the bar.
“He may be okay Kona. You cant think the worst. Just wait and see what happens.” Tom said, not wanting to divulge the events of last night to someone he had just met.
“You are right Tom. He is probably okay and will turn up very soon. But, that shouldn’t be your concern. I’m telling you, love life!”Kona said as he spread his muscled arms out, “Hawaii awaits you brother, drink it in as you would that fine whiskey that the bartender just put in front of you. These islands will intoxicate you just the same.”
“Ah, I like it, man. You are wise beyond your years Kona” Tom said as he raised his glass and tapped Kona’s raised glass.
Kona stood and smiled down at Tom as he gulped down the last of his beer, “Well brother, 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 a native in no time. See you, man,” Kona said as he pushed his hair out of his face, and patted Tom on the back as he made his way to the front door.
As Tom watched Kona leave, his thoughts turned back to Governor Lee. He couldn’t help but be intrigued. What happened to the man? Where had the people in the black limo taken him? He decided to see what he could find out. He had to admit, he hoped that he could be a part of the lovely Detective Kai’s investigation of the Governor’s disappearance.