MICHAEL LOOKED TAKEN aback when, nine minutes later, I emerged, scented with jasmine and wearing a chrysanthemum-patterned wrap dress.
“That was quick.”
“I want to make sure we have time to get there.” I’d been hoping for more of a compliment than quick, because the dress reminded me of a vintage Japanese textile. But I wore no make-up except for lip gloss, and I’d slicked my wet hair back with a leave-in conditioner instead of drying it.
“We’re in very good shape, although wouldn’t you know, I’m low on sunscreen. On the way to Tantalus, can we swing by my favorite store? I don’t think it’ll take more than twenty-five minutes.”
“We could go to Long’s Drug in Kapolei.”
“I’m sure my store has better prices.” Michael combated my annoyed expression with a sly grin. “You told me yourself that I’m the cheapest man in America. I’ve decided to embrace my nature.”
Michael’s special store turned out to be military-a super-sized, double-floored Navy Exchange located in the section of Pearl Harbor that was unguarded and more or less open to the public. Still, I could only enter the Exchange escorted by Michael, who had decided to dress down his image and only show his State Department I.D.
“By the way, I’m the only one who can actually purchase things. So if you want something, let me know. Don’t attempt to buy it yourself, or you’ll get in trouble.”
Michael selected two tubes of Neutrogena Sport, and then led me downstairs via an escalator. “Why don’t we stop in jewelry for a minute? I had a brainstorm that we should wear wedding rings to your interview with Josiah Pierce.”
“That’s overkill, don’t you think?”
“Sssh.” Michael looked around. “It’ll make me seem more legitimate. Unless you’ve already told him I’m your old friend.”
“I didn’t mention you when I spoke to him…”
“Superb. That makes me your husband. You can explain that you didn’t mention I’d be along earlier because you didn’t know when my sailboat was arriving.”
“Michael, I can do that, but I think you’re trouble-shooting to an extreme degree. Sometimes telling the truth is easier than lying. Have you ever thought of that?”
“Too much.” Michael smiled at me. “Come on, let’s shop.”
At least I wasn’t paying out of my own pocket for this nonsense, I thought as we were fussed over by many friendly Filipina sales clerks at the jewelry counter. Apparently we were on the old side for prospective newlyweds-much was made of Michael’s silvery hair, which he seemed to enjoy a bit too much. I concentrated on selecting comfortable golden bands for the two of us, after which Michael declared I needed an engagement ring, too, and we went to the counter with diamonds and cubic zirconium rings. I pointed to another gold band with an oversized cubic zirconium solitaire surrounded by tiny fragments of the artificial crystal. It looked properly bridal, but Michael didn’t seem pleased.
“Is that really your taste?”
“Not exactly.” I shrugged. “But it looks like what every girl wants, doesn’t it? And it’s on sale.”
“No,” said Michael. “It’ll blow your cover, big time. Look at how low-key and tasteful you always are, especially today in your dress. On your hand, that ring looks misplaced and fake.”
Since when did he work for the Style Network? I grumbled, but went back to looking. In the end, Michael located a simple, square-cut solitaire. On my hand with its neatly trimmed, clear-polished nails, it looked like it belonged.
“Can you return the rings?” I asked Michael after we left twenty minutes later with all the jewelry bag tucked casually in the same bag as the sunscreen.
“I’m almost certain, but I didn’t ask the ladies for fear of being slaughtered. Hey, shifting gears for a minute, I have to tell you about what I did earlier this morning.”
“OK.” I’d put on my rings, and settled back in the passenger seat.
“The guys decided to sleep in this morning, so I got the convertible and drove to Pearl Harbor to see if I could get into the wartime archives. I located Uncle Yosh’s arrest warrant.”
“You did?” I found myself feeling strangely worried. Here at last would be the truth about Uncle Yoshitsune-at least as the wartime government saw it.
“Yes. He was detained on suspicion of espionage and held at Sand Harbor for two months starting in April 1942. Other papers in his file described how he was transferred to Camp Minedoka in Idaho. There was yet another paper detailing his release to work overseas with the troops as a Japanese language translator.”
“So the story’s exactly as he said. I can trust Uncle Yosh,” I said with a flood of relief.
“It looks that way. But while I was in there I reviewed many files of other Japanese-American civilians arrested right after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and I noticed something. There were no witness reports of Yoshitsune Shimura doing anything out of the ordinary. None of his co-workers reported him.”
“You’re wondering how they reeled him in, then-and why?”
“This is speculation, but we do know that the government was forcing Japanese nationals out of their homes, if the individual family’s home was located in an area convenient for espionage. Usually this meant near the ocean or a military base. Perhaps the cottage location, plus the ease at which he could handle all mail coming into Oahu, was just too much for them to handle.”
“It’s so unfair. Did you bring copies of these documents for me to read?”
“I didn’t make photocopies because I didn’t want to raise red flags. There was enough curiosity about why a suit from Washington wanted to get into their archive without a prior appointment or even an actual suit. I don’t ever like to play on my father’s name, but here I was forced to.”
“I suppose it’s impossible to know everything about Yoshitsune and Harue’s past.” I sighed heavily.
Michael squeezed my hand. “I’m not as pessimistic as that. It’s just that we’ve only seen your family’s movie one way. I wonder how the screenplay would read as written by the Chinese family who moved into the house.”
“Or by the Pierces,” I said. “If we put all three together, we’ll have Rashomon.”
“Hey, did you see the tiled-roof estate we just passed? Tantalus must have the most beautiful group of old houses on this island.”
I had been noticing the houses, but they’d blurred together in my mind. Older mansions tucked away behind protective old stucco or rock walls overgrown with vines, not just the typical bougainvillea but rarer things. And there were flowers from Europe and North America, hydrangeas and roses the missionary wives must have propagated to remind them of home. I said, “Wealthy colonials always seem to gravitate toward hill country. I guess it’s the combination of cooler temperatures and great views.”
“Not to mention moisture,” Michael said. “It’s perfect here. This Hawaii just doesn’t look like where your family’s staying.”
“Do you want to know why?” I felt a need to defend my side of the island. “The early developers channeled the water that was naturally in the mountains to the cane plantations by building artesian wells. That’s one of the reasons the leeward mountains are so eroded and parched.”
“It can’t all be man’s doing. There’s a different weather pattern here. The proof is that we’ve gone through three rain clouds in the last fifteen minutes, and I bet if we called Kainoa, he’d tell us it hasn’t rained a drop.”
“Would you want to live up here, if you could?” I asked, keeping my eyes on the view as we climbed the switchback that was Tantalus Road. We’d already been on it for fifteen minutes, which seemed interminable to someone with motion sickness.
“Oh, I don’t think so. I’m one of the hoi polloi who think the ultimate is to live next to water. Speaking of which, later today, are you up for a sail? I’d love to take you out on
“I thought you knew I don’t sail.” I could barely get the words out because this was a tough drive for me, up a narrow pitted street that zigzagged back and forth like a switchback train track.
“What I remember you saying is that you haven’t tried sailing,” Michael said mildly.
“Well, if I get motion sickness on planes, trains and in cars, I’m not likely to be much of a sailor.”
“You may surprise yourself. Hey, what’s the house number again?”
“Twenty-seven,” I said, reading from the directions I’d written down when talking to Josiah Pierce Jr. the day before. He said we’d notice it because of the roses.”
I could hardly believe the mountain road could wind any higher, but it did. On the last stretch to the top, we found the house. The sign was ancient and almost too small to see, but the rock wall surrounding the house was low, and I could see it clearly-a well-kept white stucco house with well-finished brown woodwork and a beautiful old green slate roof. The house looked like it had been built before 1920, but the condition was excellent, as were the grounds, which were beautifully landscaped, but this time with local flowers like hibiscus and ginger.
“Here we are,” I said, glad the car had stopped. I took a sip of water from the bottle and began to feel my stomach settle.
“Are you OK?” Michael looked at me with concern.
“I’m fine now the car’s stopped.” I took a few deep breaths and said, “All systems go. I hope I don’t put my foot in my mouth too badly…”
“I feel just the same,” Michael said. “If I start to screw up, just call me honey.”
“Got it,” I said. “The code word is honey.”