Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 78 - James C. Clar

Trouble In Paradise

Amir sat at a table beneath the famed banyan tree on the ocean side of the Moana Surfrider Hotel in Waikiki . It was December 6th and night had fallen as it usually does in the islands, like a soft curtain of midnight blue velvet. On the veranda stage behind him a small combo worked its way through yet another rendition of “Blue Hawaii.” He sipped his guava juice and watched the lights of a giant container ship about one-half mile off-shore pass behind the eastern flank of Diamond Head . The freighter disappeared into the inky tropical darkness. A moment later he looked up to see an older, Asian man in khakis and an Aloha shirt approach his table.

“Excuse me,” the stranger said, “but you look like a ‘local’. I was wondering if you know of anywhere decent to eat within walking distance of here?”

Amir expected someone younger. The man’s ethnicity was also somewhat perplexing. Nevertheless, he was too well trained to betray his surprise. “Maybe,” he replied. “What type of food are you interested in?”

“I was thinking Thai, perhaps.”

That cinched it. The reference to Thai cuisine was the key. With that, Amir took his pen and, grabbing a cocktail napkin, began writing. A moment or two later, he folded the napkin in half and offered it to the man.

“About five or ten minutes west of here, where Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues intersect, there’s a place called Keo’s. You can't go wrong.”

“Thank you,” the Asian gentleman said as he accepted the proffered paper. “My family will be quite appreciative.” He turned on his heel and walked away. Amir lost sight of his erstwhile companion as the man mounted the steps to the veranda and made his way across the crowded hotel lobby.

About fifteen minutes later Amir, too, left. He glanced over at the band as he walked past the stage. This time the musicians were attempting to inject new life into “Little Grass Shack” but the tune seemed to be beyond the point of resuscitation. He climbed the main staircase and returned to his room on the second floor of the stately hotel. He showered and then packed. He was in bed and asleep in less than thirty minutes He had an early start in the morning. His flight left at 7:15 A.M. HST.

A quarter-past seven, that was four hours before the president’s motorcade left the airport and headed for the annual December 7th commemoration of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It had taken Amir nearly five months to cultivate his sources and ferret out the exact details of that route. Allah willing, with the information that he had just passed to his contact, the American president would never reach his destination. If all went according to plan, Amir himself would be well on his way back home by that time.

The next morning at 5:00 A.M. he exited the hotel via the marble staircase that led to the porte cochère. He stopped at the bell desk and requested a taxi. As he was waiting, he sensed a presence at his elbow. Slowly, deliberately he turned and came face to face with his contact form the previous evening.

“I wanted to thank you again for the tip about that Thai restaurant. We had a wonderful meal. We’re leaving today as well. I'm just sorry that we didn't discover that place earlier in our stay. We most certainly would have eaten there another time as well.”

Amir was speechless. Either he had made an egregious mistake or this man was one of the boldest and most iconoclastic operatives he had ever encountered.

“By the way,” the man continued, “the directions on that napkin made absolutely no sense whatsoever. I threw it out after spending nearly twenty minutes studying the map in one of those tourist publications you find everywhere here. You must have been confused. Fortunately your verbal instructions were accurate and easy to follow. Again, thank you so much for your kindness. I assumed that you were a resident. For a visitor you're remarkably well informed.”

Amir was rendered speechless. Without really being aware of what he was doing, he bowed in response to the man’s gesture. Once again, the Asian turned and, without another word, walked to the street where he and a group of eight or nine other Japanese climbed aboard a small shuttle bus that, presumably, was taking them to the airport.

Amir turned to the bell captain and explained that his plans had changed. There was no point in returning home. He had failed in his mission and, given the timing and the meager resources at his disposal, redemption was an utter impossibility. It might take days or weeks, but retribution was inevitable. He would welcome it when it came. For now, he would continue to enjoy what remained of his time in paradise He descended the stairs to the street. He turned right and, as he passed the police substation just past Kaiulani Street , he noticed the sun beginning to rise over the ocean to the East. He would find a place on the beach to pray. Then, after a light breakfast, he would look for somewhere more economical to stay until his masters came for him.


THE END

BIO: James C. Clar is a teacher and writer who lives in upstate NY. His book reviews, articles and author interviews appear regularly in the pages of MYSTERY NEWS. His work, including short fiction, has also appeared in the CRIME & SUSPENSE EZINE, MYSTERYAUTHORS.COM, WORD CATALYST, HACKWRITERS, LONG STORY, SHORT, CRIMESCENE:SCOTLAND, ORCHARD PRESS MYSTERIES and CRIME TIME MAGAZINE (UK).

3 comments:

Patricia J. Hale said...

Fantastic.

Mystery Dawg said...

Jim,
I just love these Hawaiian based stories. Location, location, location!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments, Pat and Dawg. As to location, well, Hawaii is a place I love. It's also somewhere that, in my opinion, has not been exploited nearly enough for its noir/mystery potential. I keep waiting for a HONOLULU NOIR volume in that series from Akashic but nothing so far. (James C. Clar)