THE RED HAIR band bobbed in the water before me, and like a sad echo, I remembered what Hugh had said about Jiro’s unprosecuted crime in Japan.
As I stared at the band, my own memories surfaced too. I remembered the black Mercedes S-class speeding out of Kainani the morning I took my first run, with two men in front and a woman in back. Charisse was late to the coffee shop that morning. And I also recalled Kainoa complaining that Jiro and Calvin sometimes came to the coffee shop, angling to pick up Charisse.
I’ve been to Kainani. I have a friend there. Charisse had smiled when she’d told me this, that very morning. A day later, she’d been absent from work, and the fire had flared out of control. The next day, arson investigators found her burned body.
Without thinking, I reached out to touch the hair band and discovered that some of its fibers were tangled in the underside of the trap. Maybe the trap had also caught some of Charisse’s hair.
I knew that I shouldn’t move the band, but nor could I allow it to be washed away. Still, I had to empty the tub. I carefully turned the stopper on the drain so the water didn’t rush out too quickly. My intent was to let the band settle back down in its hiding place, protected until the police could come.
After two minutes all the water was gone, and my feet were clean and bandaged. Still, there was sand on the bottom of the tub, and I worried about the cleaning lady working hard the next morning to get rid of it. I wet a towel and carefully wiped the surface until it was spotless, then dried it. As I worked, I heard a thud and a dragging sound. I was on instant alert, thinking about Kurt. Had he moved against Calvin?
I dropped the wet towels in a hamper made from an old Japanese basket and stepped out of the bathroom on to the soft, white carpet. I glanced down the hallway where Michael had gone and saw an unmistakable trail of sand. I couldn’t allow it to stay, no matter what might be unfolding downstairs.
I turned back to the bathroom to pick up another towel, dampened it, and began to clean up the sand.
“What are you doing?”
I jumped because Calvin was standing right behind me; apparently he’d walked up the carpeted stairs without making a sound.
“My…the sand.” He’d caught me off guard, and my words came out before my thoughts were aligned. “I’m sorry that I dropped some sand.”
“All the way there?” He pointed toward the bedrooms, where I’d last seen Michael go. “Where were you going, and why haven’t you showered and dressed in the yukata I brought you?”
He sounded like a bossy little boy; I would have rolled my eyes and snickered if we’d been by the pool. But I couldn’t do that here, so I turned my lips into a smile that I hoped looked helpless and endearing.
Calvin shook a finger at me. “Rei, I told you before, it’s time to take off that wetsuit. I brought you that robe to wear.”
“Calvin, that’s not…that’s not proper! You know how old-fashioned my father is!”
I’d barely gotten the words out before Calvin slammed me against the wall. Now I was regretting how I’d joked about his muscles, because I’d underestimated his capabilities. I wondered how long Michael would hide before he came to my aid.
“Your father doesn’t know you’re here-anyway, he’s still at Waianae Clinic,” Calvin said. “When I telephoned Tom just now to double-check, that’s what he told me. And that’s where he was going, because apparently there’s a complication.”
“A complication?” I caught my breath, hoping either Tom or Calvin was bluffing. But if there had been a real complication…No, I told myself. My father is in a safe place, with a good doctor.
“Tom said he thought you were out swimming and was quite worried you didn’t come back,” Calvin said. “He has no idea you’re in this house. Nobody else does, either.”
He was smiling an odd smile, and now my heart was working overtime. Tom knew I was here, but I remembered how I’d drilled him not to do anything until he got the call to come. Perhaps he thought I was still on the boat. Who knew what he thought; it was just unfortunate I had no way to contact him. Michael could; that was the only hope, but then Michael wasn’t about to leave the house until I did.
“Calvin, I’m so sorry about the sand. May I borrow your vacuum?” I tried to wiggle my shoulders away from his hands. I had to get an excuse to get away from him.
“The game’s up, Rei.”
“What game?” I spoke loudly. “It sounds as if you’re threatening me.”
“You’re completely alone now.”
“Of course I am.” I was measuring distances-eight steps down the hall to the stairs, but his short, solid body to get past. Ten steps in the other direction, to the bedroom where Michael had gone.
“I’ve taken care of your boyfriend. And the other one, too, the guy with no hair. It amazes me how many fellows these days want to look like chemotherapy patients.”
“How…?” I was unable to finish the sentence. Despite Kurt’s strength, I couldn’t believe he could have physically triumphed over Michael or Kurt, let alone both. Had he forced them to poison themselves or shot them with silencers? Or was he bluffing?
“Do you want to know what happened to them?”
“Calvin, I’m afraid I don’t know-’ I switched tactics midstream. “Yes, I was swimming with Michael and one of his friends before the riptide carried me out, and if they’ve come to find me, that makes sense, doesn’t it? I’m sorry if they entered without ringing the bell…”
“They certainly didn’t.”
“Well, I suppose you better tell me what you did with them, then!” I spoke up for the benefit of the mini tape-recorder. Maybe it would be the only way to tell the story…But no, I couldn’t think like that.
“Jiro ran into the bald one in the entertainment center, and got him under control with one of his toys. After we got him bound and put away, we got Michael.”
“What kind of toys are you talking about?” I asked.
Calvin released one hand to reach into his cargo shorts and pull out a black rectangular object that looked like a slightly large razor. Not a razor-a stun gun, the weapon that was easy to buy, and legal almost everywhere.
“Did you use that on Charisse, too?” I asked.
“Didn’t need to. That was…well, an accident after a good time was had by all. A shame, but nobody would ever have thought anything more about it if it wasn’t for you.”
“An accident, maybe, but you chose to move her body and burn it.” I kept my eyes on the stun gun. Was he going to use it on me, too? I wondered if the wetsuit would offer me any degree of protection.
“What do you think we should do, call the ambulance and say our favorite stupid girlfriend got hurt?” Calvin answered sarcastically. “Hey, as you know, I’m under orders to keep Jiro calm and out of trouble.”
“First, do no harm. Isn’t that the first line in the Hippocratic Oath? I should know; my father has it framed in his office.”
I saw a strange expression cross Calvin’s face-a mixture of anger and shame. I’d broken through, reminded him of what he’d once hoped to be. In that moment I brought up my free hand and smashed his nose, sending him rearing backward as I broke out of his weakened, one-handed grip.
I ran the three steps to the bathroom, but Calvin had recovered and was on my heels in no time. As I struggled with the flimsy lock, he pushed his way in and I was left with no recourse but to jump atop the toilet, reach toward the towel cabinet where I grabbed up the Chihuly vase and flung it straight at his forehead.
Calvin collapsed on the bathroom floor as blood spurted everywhere.
“Calvin-san? Daijoubu?” A high-pitched male voice called from downstairs, asking Calvin if he was alright. Jiro! Now I remembered what Kurt had said about seeing an Asian man in the house. Maybe it had been Jiro, whom I’d thought was on Maui, but really had never gone. And now I think I understood why Calvin wanted me out of the wetsuit and into a robe: I’d be Jiro’s entertainment, before they bumped me off.
Calvin was knocked out, but my problems were far from over. I locked the bathroom door and dragged Calvin’s limp body in front of it, to make a barrier that would delay Jiro a few minutes longer.
Sliding the bathroom window open to the second-floor lanai, I saw the waiting sailboat again. How I’d hated the boat, but now I longed to be on it. I wondered if Parker or Karen had the binoculars trained on the house. Probably, but since I was inside, they couldn’t know what was happening.
Well, there was one thing I knew about sailing. I reached back through the window to the light switch near the bath, which controlled an overhead chandelier. I flashed it on and off in three rhythmic sets of three pulses, the set in the middle longer to form an old-fashioned S.O.S. signal.
I still had to evacuate, and going down the lanai seemed a good choice, although there was no waterspout or trellis to serve as a support. Come on, I told myself, commandos do this kind of thing all the time. But as Kurt had implied to me, I couldn’t carry my weight; I was as soft as the towels I’d used to dry my feet.
The towels! I went back to the floor and grabbed up the heap of clean towels that had scattered when I’d thrown the urn. As I square-knotted the towels together, I noticed they were bamboo, not cotton, and could only hope they would be more flexible and strong than cotton. Soon I’d crafted a rope about twenty feet long; it wouldn’t get me all the way down to the ground, but close enough to make the jump safer. I used the same square knot to tie one end of the towel-rope securely around the lanai railing and had just climbed over when I heard the bathroom door crash open. I glanced toward the lush garden below me and, seeing nobody waiting there, slid.
My landing was good, with knees bent and feet and hands straight on the ground. I came out of the crouch fast and collected the last two towels, which had torn off the bottom of the rope when I’d jumped.
I melted against the side of the house, knowing that in seconds Jiro might look out the window for me. What would he think, that I’d run for the beach, or the main road?
The reality was that I had to find Michael and Kurt, as quietly and quickly as possible. I tried the kitchen door and found it had been locked. I hurried around the house, debating whether I should cut and run, coming back with the police for Michael and Kurt, but I couldn’t imagine them deserting me. I’d find them, and then we’d leave.
As I rounded the side of the house by the driveway, a slight sound caught my ear-it sounded like the purring of an engine. The main garage door was locked shut, but when I ran around the structure I found a second doorway sized for people, not cars. This door was unlocked.
As I’d feared, the dark garage was filled with poisonous fumes, and lit only by the running lights of the Mercedes, which was parked and running. In the hazy gloom, I could make out saw two men sprawled on the floor, their heads pressed against the crack between the garage door and the floor. I fumbled along the wall in the dark, pressing every button I could find; the light went on finally and then the main door groaned upwards.
As the fresh, life-giving air rushed in, Michael and Kurt’s bodies rolled forward. They had been gagged with socks and had their wrists and ankles bound with sharp plastic ties, the kind the police used now instead of handcuffs.
I grabbed a small pair of sharp Japanese gardening shears that I saw hanging on the garage wall and cut Michael’s ties. As his arms fell free, Michael’s eyelids flickered open. “Getting out,” he rasped.
“Yes, I’m getting you out.” I would have covered him with kisses, if there had been time.
“Getting out…of this…business.”
“I keep saying that too.” I cut Kurt’s ties, but Kurt’s eyes didn’t open quickly like Michael’s had. I pressed my fingers to his pulse, and thought I felt something, although I wasn’t sure.
“How long have you been in here?” I asked Michael, trying to stifle the horror inside me.
“Not as long as him,” he said, getting on his hands and knees and looking at Kurt with sorrow.
It was clear that neither man was well enough to escape on foot. But if I could haul them both into the Mercedes, I could back out of the opened garage door, and get us all to safety. I made the decision quickly and as I opened the rear passenger door, Michael staggered upward.
“Get in the car,” I said, as I heard the sound of the doorknob to the small garage door being twisted. That was locked, but the wide door meant for cars was open. As if he understood what I was thinking, Michael turned from the car and ran a few drunken-looking steps to the switch on the wall which sent the large door creaking down.
As Jiro, dressed in black shorts and matching tank top, came speeding barefoot around the corner, he slowed to get through the decreasing space. The garage door responded to the presence of an obstacle, and stopped.
Jiro seemed stunned, and in the time he paused, as if making sure the door had really halted, I’d grabbed the gardening shears from the floor where they lay beside Kurt and, without stopping to think, drove them into Jiro’s face. This was a day for surprises; I’d never been as rough on anybody before, but when I thought about what Jiro and Calvin had done to Charisse, and almost done to Kurt and Michael, I felt desperate, and justified.
Jiro fell to the ground with a cry, covering his face, and as he did so, the stun gun clattered to the floor. I grabbed it and held it ready to use, although Jiro showed no signs of being able to do anything but cower and cry, the hands covering his face turning red from blood.
Now, for the first time, I felt sick about the violence I’d committed, but Michael had in the meantime pushed Kurt into the car, and was calling for me. I pressed the garage door all the way open, jumped into the driver’s seat and backed straight out, assiduously avoiding running Jiro over, because now a corner of my brain was telling me that I’d seriously messed with the son of a billionaire, and there could be consequences.
Out on the lava rock driveway, I made a three-point turn and headed out to face the property’s gate. To my surprise, the gate didn’t automatically open; nor did any of the buttons set into the driver’s side visor work. Key chain, I thought frantically, and fumbled until I found a device with six buttons. The first one I pressed set the house alarm going, but the next opened the gate.
Out we sped, surprising a shocked-looking mother coaching a toddler on a tricycle, then past a lush grove where my father’s friends were practicing tai chi. I was going so fast that I almost missed Tom, whom Michael pointed out was running behind the car with a baseball bat. I slowed down and he jumped into the unlocked back row.
“Where are you going? Tom asked, between hard breaths.
“To the clinic in Waianae,” I said. “Kurt’s had carbon monoxide exposure…”
“I see that-and Michael doesn’t look good either.” Tom spoke crossly, as he took Kurt’s pulse. “Why didn’t you call me for help earlier? You said you would do that.”
“Sorry. We lost our supply bag with Michael’s phone, our walkie-talkie and other equipment in the ocean.”
“OK then. When I received a telephone call from Calvin, I was confused, but tried to keep calm. Then, when Michael’s friend from the boat telephoned, I realized you must be at the Kikuchi house, despite what Calvin had said, and I was quite worried.”
“Parker called you?” I was stunned.
“You apparently left your mobile telephone aboard, and Parker scanned the numbers stored within and started calling all the ones with Hawaii exchanges. It took a few calls before he tried our landline, and reached me.”
“I told Parker about Tom as a back-up,” Michael said in his slowed-down, weak voice.
“He thought you three were signaling trouble from the house. Some lights!”
“There was no signal,” Michael said ruefully. Calvin knocked me out too fast.”
“I did it when I was upstairs,” I said, then was distracted by the sight of Tom, who had angled Kurt under him and was now performing CPR.
We were fast approaching the Kainani gatehouse, and while I knew it would probably look incriminating for me to stop there in the car everyone knew was the Kikuchis’, I knew that to avoid stopping would be worse. In a few clear sentences, I told the startled teenage attendant to call an ambulance to the guard booth to take Michael and Kurt to the Waianae Clinic.
“Please go with them, Tom,” I said. “And when you get there, please tell my father I’m absolutely fine.”
“Where will you be?” Tom gasped on his up-breath.
“I’m staying here to meet the police. They have to know what happened, before they find two mashed-up guys at the Kikuchi mansion, notice the stolen car, and come to a different conclusion.”
“It could be bad for you, Rei,” Michael said groggily. “Did you get anything good?”
“I hope so, because I kept my wetsuit on and the tape-recorder running the whole time. I found a bit of evidence in the bathroom that’s more than we ever dreamed of, too.”
“The poison?” Michael murmured.
“Maybe. There were plenty of drugs, but also Charisse’s hair band, which I pray to God is still trapped in the bathtub where I saw it.”