MOMENTS LATER, MICHAEL and I were driving ten miles above the speed limit back to the resort. Because I was in a convertible instead of the closed-in ambulance, I could see out, and realized we were passing the Hawaiian Homesteads that Josiah Pierce had been talking about. The soaring Waianae mountains were beautiful, but their foothills were marked by shanties and trailers around which wandered children, chickens and dogs. A fierce wind was blowing the laundry hanging on outdoor lines almost horizontal to the ground.
I was starting to feel like a gawker, so I looked fixedly at the ocean on my right. But soon we came to a long, sandy beach filled by hundreds of tents and a few cars and trucks that had seen harder times. Was it a camper’s convention? I wondered, until I saw a weather-beaten baby swing blowing from a tree branch. Hawaiians walked between tents, visiting with each other. Some stirred a bonfire, apparently cooking. So this was an even harsher homeland, for the homeless.
I tried to bring my attention back from this sorrow to the present, but I was feeling pessimistic. I said, “Braden threw the cigarette in the grass like he did that kind of thing all the time.”
“Are you thinking he still might have been the one to start the fire?”
“Well, I don’t even care about what Braden did or didn’t do anymore.” Michael’s voice was fierce. “I just want to get my hands around that bastard’s throat.”
Michael made an exasperated sound in his throat. “Obviously. He almost murdered you, and if that wasn’t enough, your father too. He’s not going to get away with it.”
“My dad thinks it’s a mental disorder, that he might have something called Munchausen’s-by-proxy where you intentionally make people sick, but it’s really out of the perpetrator’s control.”
Michael shook his head. “Your dad’s a very nice guy. Buddhist, right? His gentle philosophy shows, but I don’t buy it for a second.”
“Once I find the wasabi container we can call the police. Or maybe it should be the health inspector first?” I waited for Michael’s opinion, but it didn’t come, and that made me nervous.
WE ARRIVED AT Kainani with the sun was at its late-afternoon peak. A hot, rough wind raced through the trees and plants around the house. A newspaper from another house’s lanai whipped across me as I emerged from the convertible.
“The door’s locked. That’s good,” I said, testing the handle. I’d been unable to shake my worry that Calvin had entered the townhouse and removed the only evidence that could connect him with the poisonings.
After I unlocked the door, I kicked off my sandals and headed toward the fridge. My father had said he’d placed the wasabi on the top shelf of the fridge, where it would be easy to see. I began scanning for it, but among the many groceries there, it wasn’t obvious.
“Rei-chan! Once we were driving home and checked the telephone, we heard your father was ill. Where is he?” Tom’s voice came from upstairs.
“We had an ambulance take him to the emergency room at Waianae. But it’s all right, I just came from there.” I spoke distractedly as I continued to search the fridge with no luck.
“Oh, no.” Tom clattered down the steps in fresh shorts and T-shirt. His hair was wet, as if he’d just taken a shower. When he saw Michael, he nodded shortly. Tom had been the one who’d answered the phone when I’d called the previous night to tell my father I wouldn’t be home.
“Hello,” Michael said.
“Hello,” Tom answered him shortly. “Why not Queen’s in Honolulu? They know him there.”
“The first sixty minutes after a stroke are the golden hour,” I said. “I thought he needed care as fast as possible.”
Tom nodded. “Yes, of course. That was the proper decision. Sorry for my haste. And was it…I mean, is it…a stroke?”
“He had an MRI and his brain’s fine, and they also checked for heart attack. They think he has a case of lithium poisoning. And I think I know where it came from: the wasabi that Calvin offered me with my sushi, the night before I became sick.”
Tom interrupted me. “How could any wasabi be in the fridge? I’ve not seen it, and I know a food inspector took everything away.”
“This small container must have been missed. Dad said he found it in a corner of the fridge door. He was so eager to add spice to his bowl of ramen that he just scooped some out of the container without thinking about whether it was old or new.”
Tom’s words came slowly. “If the wasabi was poisoned with drugs, that means Calvin is the likeliest person to be the poisoner.”
“Yes; Calvin’s goal was to murder Rei,” Michael said. “We’re thinking that the poison was left behind accidentally, and it was taken by Dr Shimura.”
“But Calvin was just here!” Tom’s voice rose in alarm.
“What?” I exclaimed.
“My father and I came in from golf and went upstairs to take our showers. Otoosan dressed first, and when he went downstairs, he saw Calvin had arrived. Apparently he came to say hello, because he’d heard our young cousins, Braden and Courtney, had been looking for him. Father offered him a glass of juice, and the two had a short chat, during which time I came down, and then the two of them-my father and Calvin-went out for a walk.”
“Where’s Uncle Hiroshi now?” I’d finished taking everything out of the fridge in my fruitless search. “Let’s hear from him exactly what happened.”
“As I said, he left the house with Calvin. He was planning to walk to the hotel gift shop to pick up a Japanese newspaper.”
“How long ago did this all happen?” Michael asked.
“I’m not sure,” Tom answered. “About forty minutes, maybe? Just before the big winds started to blow.”
“Was Calvin going to go to the hotel with Uncle Hiroshi?” I asked.
“I don’t think so-let me call my father. He might have the cell phone with him.” Tom punched the number into his own phone, and then had a brief conversation with his father in Japanese. To us, he said, “Calvin turned after the gate for our development to go to his house, and as I thought, my father continued on to the hotel. Father said Calvin told him that he would be home this evening listening to some music while the Kikuchis are away in Maui. He extended an invitation to us to please visit, if we have the time.”
By now, I was digging through the top of the kitchen trash: mango remnants, old paper, empty water bottles, but nothing that looked like a wasabi container. Where else could he have put it? I ran to the little waste can in the hallway bathroom. Nothing there either.
“Don’t run water down the kitchen sink,” Michael said to Tom. “There’s a chance there’s residue there. But Rei and I are going to head out to try to find this container.”
“How can you do that?” Tom raised his hands helplessly. “It’s probably floating out in the Pacific right now. I mean, his house is right on the beach.”
“Not so fast,” Michael said. “We’ll start by checking trashcans along the route they took. You can help us, if you like.”
I interrupted, ‘There won’t be any trash cans anywhere. Trash collection isn’t until Monday, and there’s a prohibition against putting out the cans until that morning.”
“Should we call the police?” Tom said.
“I can tell you right now there isn’t enough for a warrant,” Michael said.
“How can you be so sure of everything?” Tom’s voice was sharp.
“If he told you, he’d have to kill you,” I said to Tom, smiling as I parroted the old joke, but still giving him a significant look.
“All I ask is that you give me a chance,” Michael said, looking straight at my cousin, who nodded very slightly.
“I want to help,” Tom said. “Rei may have forgotten to mention that I was in the kendo club at Keio. I may not be able to kill a man with my bare hands, but I can hold my own quite well with a stick, bat or club.”
Michael smiled. “OK, then. Rei, is Tom’s number programmed into your phone?”
“Yes. What are you proposing we do?”
“I want to make a visit with Calvin, and have a conversation.”
“Oh, yes, I’d like to tell him something,” Tom said.
“All in good time.” Michael’s voice was soothing. “We’ll call you when to come, Tom. In the meantime, I think you should stay here in case anybody telephones on the landline. Maybe your father can get to the clinic to check on Dr Shimura. Rei and I have to go shopping for a few supplies.”
“EXACTLY WHAT IS your intention?” I asked Michael, when we were driving to the shopping center in Kapolei. “I can guess you’re going to wire yourself, or me, but you can’t imagine Calvin’s going to confess if we go right over there.”
Michael shook his head. “No, I’ll go there at dusk, and will probably come by water.”
“Why do it the hard way?” I glanced to my right at the roiling Pacific. It was rough tonight; the radio announcer had said the waves would swell four to six feet.
“The waters and beaches are legally open to every man, woman and child in Hawaii. If we show up on the sandy beach on the other side of the mansion, technically we’re not trespassing. And as Courtney mentioned, there’s a camera at the regular entrance to the house.”
“There might be a camera in back too, Michael, and in any case, why can’t we just…” I broke off, remembering the answer to why we couldn’t walk along the beach. Huge rocks had been turned up from the ocean floor, in order to create the sandy swimming lagoons. These rocks were mounded between the public areas of Kainani, and the private area where the Kikuchi house lay, creating an insurmountable boundary.
“Approaching by water will be a cinch. I’ll line up Kurt and Parker to sail with me, and you can wait with Tom.”
“Who?” I asked, already excited.
“Kurt and Parker, of course. You can wait with Tom at your house, and if and when the timing is right, we’ll call you to join us.”
“It’s my family problem, just in case you haven’t noticed,” I said sharply. You can’t do it without me. You have no right.”
Michael was silent for a while, then said, “I love you, Rei. It’s not that I think you’re too weak for this. I just would prefer you not to see me behaving in a way that you haven’t before.”
“Oh, come off it, Michael. You’re going to have a conversation, not a Guantanamo Bay interrogation. And I know more about Calvin than you do. I should be there the whole time.”
Michael looked at me for a long moment. “All right, then. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”