Lauren brought the twin-hulled “Fool’s Gold” down off plane, as he eased into the lee waters of the southernmost unnamed island just off the Lanakai coast of Oahu. He’d been to the three small islands years before but, since they lacked any source of water, hadn’t stayed long. The islands were uninhabited except for occasional day boaters. A thin finger of rock extended out and parallel to the island. It appeared to have no portage or beaches. Between that slim expanse of rock and the island itself, however, was a stretch of deep water twenty feet wide with a small beach at the end. Lauren guided the boat along in the very center of the surging water, cautiously avoiding jutting lava rocks projecting out of each side. He’d seen the area before but never considered going all the way into land on the beach. The island had no other portage at all, however.
Waiting for just the right surge, Lauren beached the cat under power, making sure not to run it to far up into the sand. The powerful dual outboards mounted on the stern of the craft could pull the boat backward with tremendous thrust, but only if they were submerged and not in contact with the bottom or any of the lava rocks strewn around.
It would take time for Sharon to get the car, get the supplies needed and then drive across to the small Lanakai community of beachfront homes. They’d shot down a federal helicopter of some sort, with unknown casualties. They’d taken machine gun fire from another official-looking inflatable. There was no chance the Fool’s Gold was ever going to be able to cruise around Kaneohe Marine Base, and then pull into He’eia Pier and dock after that. The Marines would be on alert, and the Marine Corps was not a force to be taken lightly.
Lauren climbed from the boat after instructing Shapiro to lie where he was, not that his condition was going to allow for anything else. The man would be lucky to survive the trip, Lauren also realized, which might throw a real monkey wrench into everyone’s plans, including his own. It was becoming readily apparent that only massive amounts of transferred capital were going to be able to assuage the tempers of some really angry players.
Lauren climbed the single shrub-covered peak dominating the island. The mound of land stuck up no more than nine hundred feet above sea level so the climbing was not difficult, except since he was dressed only in bare feet and jockey shorts meant that any sharp lava might cut him badly. The branches were abrasive all on their own. Once near the top of the hill, Lauren held up Shapiro’s cell phone to see whether there was sufficient signal strength for a call. Four bars appeared in the left upper corner of the iPhone, one after another. There was plenty of signal strength. Lauren dialed.
“I’m on Kailua Road headed in,” Sharon said instantly, as she picked up. “Had to stop at Castle Medical to get the oxygen rig. Nobody else had one. Where are you?”
“Offshore a bit,” Lauren answered. “I can see the inlet near Buzz’s Steak House. The bridge going over. Drive to Kailua Beach Park there and let me know the depth of the inlet. Sometimes it’s too sandy to get over. I want to bring the boat in and get inshore as fast as I can without being noticed. The shit is going to hit the fan real fast, and we need to get to Bank of America before that happens if we can. We’ve no protection without the money.”
“I’m headed in. I’ll call you when I’m next to the inlet. If I can’t call, dial me up in fifteen minutes. I’ve got shorts, shirt, and sandals for you.” She hung up without saying goodbye.
“The new and improved Sharon Prentice,” Lauren said out loud, staring at Shapiro’s phone. Sharon was on top of everything. He hadn’t even thought about the possibility that Shapiro’s phone might not accept incoming calls or be skipped to another number…but she had. Lauren wondered what the changes in her would mean for the potential of their future relationship together.
He made his way carefully back down the sandy brush-covered hill, avoiding the rocks as best he could. The last thing he needed was any limiting of his mobility because of a serious injury to one or both of his feet.
Shapiro was unconscious, lying curled up in the bottom of the boat. Lauren checked his pulse. The man was still alive, but not by much.
He noted that the tide was going out. He made his decision and fired up the outboards. If they remained beached any longer there would be insufficient water around the props to back down. The Glacier Bay was a big heavy boat. There would be no digging it free without equipment and time. Lauren had neither.
He moved the transmission lever into the reverse slot. Nothing happened. The boat didn’t budge an inch. He brought up the power from idle to half.
The boat moved, but barely. With a silent prayer, he brought both outboards up to full power. With water and sand flying past both sides of the hull the boat moved slowly backward. Once the props bit into deeper water they propelled the craft straight into the rocks to one side before he could cut them off. The crunch of ruined machinery was awful to hear. The boat surged up and down, bouncing against sharp lava, its fiberglass sides becoming immediately worn and scarred. Lauren took a brief moment to think before jumping overboard into the water up to his waist. He moved to the stern and inspected the props bobbing in and out of the heaving waves. The starboard propeller was toast. Almost nothing left. But the port was in good shape, as long as the supposedly protective rubber grommet inside was not destroyed.
Lauren struggled back aboard the bobbing boat. He started the port outboard and moved the transmission lever to reverse. The Fool’s Gold pulled away from the rocks into the center of the inlet. With water cascading over the stern, Lauren eased the boat all the way out to rougher water. He hit the bilge pump switch for high-volume override. The pump would only run at maximum capacity for a few moments, but it would likely be enough. The channel into Lanakai’s southern inlet was less than a mile wide. Piddling along on one motor Lauren covered the distance in less than ten minutes, glad that the entire run was inside the reef and the tide was nowhere near ebb.
Sharon stood on the northern tip of a sand berm sticking up from the water. She was pointing inland. Lauren got the message. The coast was clear. The water in the sometimes dry channel was sufficient to allow passage. He guided the Fool’s Gold under the bridge and headed for the deeper waters of the tidal poor further in. Once he was through the narrow mile-long channel the pool created inland was surrounded by suburban homes. If he could land at someone’s private dock where no one was home, then it would be some time before whoever was looking might find the craft.
The water opened up as he cleared the channel proper. A white house loomed ahead. A long-covered dock ran parallel to the shore in front of the house. Two boats were tied under the cover to the outside of the main pier, but the interior of the dock was empty. Lauren guided the Fool’s Gold in. There was only one way to find out if anyone was in the white house.
Once he had the boat securely tied, and checked Shapiro again for signs of life, he moved along the dock to the house. The place was locked up. Lauren breathed a sigh of relief. He walked up a very narrow launch ramp between the white house and the one next door. There was a chain link gate at the top but no lock. He dialed Sharon’s number.
“Follow the channel to Akumu Street. Turn right on Lopono Loop. Third house is white. Between that and the fourth house is a gate. I’ll be standing here waiting. You can back through the gate all the way down to the pier. Shapiro’s not that big but heavy enough to be troublesome if anybody’s looking.”
“Five minutes,” Sharon answered and hung up.
Five minutes later the car appeared. Sharon drove by, stopped and then backed up to the gate, expertly making the corner, and then sliding into the narrow passageway toward the water.
“Clothes?” Lauren asked as the car stopped next to him.
Sharon pushed a Foodland plastic bag out the window. “Extra underwear. Thought you might need a change.” She waited while he dressed. He talked as he worked his salt-encrusted moist body into the attire.
“We’ve got to get Shapiro from the boat to the car and out of here before anybody shows up. We’re really trapped in this housing development. If we can get out and onto the Pali Highway, then we’re only fifteen minutes from crossing over to the other side and getting to the bank. With control of the money, we’ve got a fighting chance. If they get Shapiro first, there’s no telling what’ll happen to us, but it won’t be good.”
Lauren guided Sharon down the long narrow decline. He stopped her before the car came to the round landing just above the base of the pier. He could not drive the boat to the small ramp because there was no way to secure it. They would have to carry or haul Shapiro to the car from midway down the dock, which meant a certain amount of public exposure. Lauren knew that many of the homes in Hawaii, especially those set back from the ocean, were occupied by retired people with nothing else to do other than stare out and see what was going on around them. There was nothing to be done for it. They would have to take their chances.
It took only minutes to get Shapiro attached to the oxygen cylinder. Once the two small plastic tubes were strapped into place Lauren turned the system on and opened the release valve. They waited to see if the man’s shallow breathing would strengthen but they were not ready for his almost instant recovery. Only seconds after his fifth or sixth breath, Shapiro came alive and sat up.
“That was close,” he whispered, eyeing both of them as if he’d been conscious the entire time. “We better get the hell out of here. I’m a bit tired of laying in the bottom of this thing.” Shakily, with Lauren carrying the green oxygen bottle, the man got to his feet.
With Shapiro loaded into the back seat and Lauren behind the wheel they made it only as far as the Castle Medical Complex located at the Kalanianioli Highway and Kailua Road intersection. The same complex Sharon had purchased the oxygen rig from that was currently being used by Shapiro. The entire intersection was being operated by Honolulu Police Officers with cars and cycles parked all over the place. There was no way to avoid the intersection or turn around and go back. They could only wait through the traffic, moving at a snail’s pace, and then get caught.
“Did you use our American Express for the oxygen?” Lauren asked his wife.
“Well, no shit Sherlock, like I had a couple of hundred in cash on me,” Sharon shot back, her tone one of exasperation tinged with anger.
“Not your fault,” Lauren replied softly. “These people have every asset in the world on their side. The question is, how do we handle them when we get up to that light?” Lauren checked behind and around them but there was no way out that he could see or imagine.
“Shapiro. Do they know where we’re going, or trying to go?” Lauren asked, watching the man in his rear-view mirror.
“Hell, I don’t know. I presume so. Where else would we be going? Bank of Hawaii is the only entity in the state qualitative enough to handle the agreements and transfers. The Feds would have to guess but it wouldn’t take a wizard to figure it out.”
“So, what are these agreements exactly,” Lauren inquired, but Shapiro remained silent.
“Between here and downtown Honolulu there are least ten chokepoints the cops can cover with one unit,” Lauren went on after a few minutes of inching along in the bumper-to-bumper traffic. “I left the Magnum aboard the boat on purpose. We can’t kill any local cops without all of this blowing up into something there would be no coming back from. We can’t shoot our way out. We can’t proceed. We can’t go back. Any thoughts, Sharon?”
“Give up,” his wife replied without hesitation.
“Give up?” Lauren and Shapiro both asked together.
“Sergeant Yee has his interests to protect and so does Hiyashi. If we get to the bank and execute whatever plan Shapiro has then they stand a good chance of being cut out. They probably aren’t cooperating with Ashton, who’s on some sort of implacable Javert Les Misérables thing against Shapiro. Everyone’s in this for himself, one way or another. Give up and talk to Yee. Nobody gets anything if Shapiro fails to get to the bank, except maybe the feds if the money’s already transferred.”
“It’s not,” Shapiro replied.
“So, there it is,” Sharon added, you’ve only got to convince Yee to let you go into the bank alone with Shapiro. If he goes along and makes trouble the bank will react and stop everything. They want the transfer too though. Shapiro’s money is probably more cash than the rest of their liquid deposits together, and they’d love to outperform First Hawaiian, their main competitor.”
Lauren had no idea where his wife came by the information she did. He wondered if it had always been that way and he’d simply never noticed.
He inched the car forward to the head of the lane and watched as the officer directing traffic took note of them, and then directed them through but off to the side. The man spoke into his shoulder-mounted microphone. Other officers quickly gathered by the side of Kailua Road, as traffic was directed around Lauren’s stopped car.
The traffic officer walked up to Lauren’s open window. “I believe Sergeant Yee is awaiting you in the parking lot. Move straight ahead and pull in to the right. You’ll see his car under the entrance awning.” The officer was matter-of-fact. Lauren was surprised that they, and the car, were not searched, and there was no SWAT Team type of aggressiveness in the accomplishment of their apprehension.
Lauren helped Shapiro form the back seat. They moved to the black Marauder. The back door on the passenger side swung open. Lauren eased the old man in, laying the oxygen bottle on the floor under his feet.
“Get in up here,” Yee pointed at the front passenger seat as he spoke. “Your wife can ride next to Rudy, behind me.”
Lauren had not failed to notice Hiyashi, already ensconced in the back seat but nothing seemed surprising anymore. He did what he was told, knowing Sharon would do the same. Once the doors were closed, Yee started the engine and pulled slowly out from under the E.R. entrance.
“Good to stay out of satellite surveillance every once in and awhile,” he murmured.
“What now?” Lauren asked.
“United States Attorney Norman Luke. That’s what’s next. You can’t just walk into the bank and take care of the business. Without binding paperwork, you’re eventually going to a federal lockup and it’s highly unlikely anyone will get anything. Ashton has full control, no matter what it looks like. Only Norman Luke can make this deal work, and it’s not the place Ashton’s people will be expecting us to go. The feds have a huge presence out here but they’re nothing compared to the Honolulu police.
“Everybody gets out of the helicopter?” Lauren asked casually, knowing that even a United States Attorney could not absolve him of murder.
“Yeah. Lucky for you,” Yee answered. “What in hell were you thinking, and what in hell did you shoot that chopper down with…some kind of cannon?”
“They were shooting at us,” Lauren answered.
“They were shooting to scare you into stopping. Nobody was shooting at you, or you’d be dead,” Yee stated, emphatically, hitting the top of the Marauder’s steering wheel to make his point.
“They were shooting at us to make us stop back in nineteen forty-seven. Killed twenty good men. Screw them,” Shapiro rasped from the back seat.
“Did you just think you could walk into the bank and get what you wanted without going through the feds first?” Yee shot back. “How about the passport you don’t have Mr. Shapiro? How about the simple fact that you can’t fly anywhere off this island, including back to the mainland, without the very minimum of a driver’s license? You can transfer all the money you want but if your own needs are to be met then you need the government’s help and cooperation. You can’t be at war with them. None of us can.”
“It is good you shot down the helicopter,” Hiyashi commented from his middle position in the back seat. “They need to be shot down to understand. We are all in. Nobody should be shooting at nobody, or any of the other things done.”
“Gee, thanks for adding your two cents on this Rudy,” Yee commented. “What’s done is done. We don’t know how far Ashton’s gone off script and we can’t trust him. So, we’re meeting Norman Luke away from the federal building. We need the ability to move and stay independent until this is settled.”
The Marauder burbled over the top of the Pali, the road running between two high peaks of the Koolau range. The Pali Highway was the only road over the mountains leading directly into the heart of Honolulu’s business section.
In mere minutes the Marauder shot down the four-lane highway leading into the city’s heart. Although not running either lights or siren Yee disregarded most of the traffic control devices along the way, rolling through stop signs and running red lights if the cross streets seemed clear of passing cars. They pulled into Pier Six near the Aloha Tower Shopping Mall. When they were a ways out on the pier itself Lauren spoke up.
“What’s this? That’s the Navatek. We’re not getting aboard another boat, are we?” he asked, pointing at the advanced technology dual hull ship sitting at the dock with its gangway down, as if expecting passengers.
“Yes, it’s the only way,” Yee answered. “There’s no place we can meet on the island that doesn’t fall totally under Ashton’s control. Norman’s already on board. The ship’s as stable as a fortress, even in rough water, so don’t worry about getting seasick.”
“Yeah, right, like seasickness is anything more than a nuisance at this point. I’m not armed so any helicopters are strictly your department.” Lauren helped Shapiro from the back seat and walked him up the gangplank carrying the oxygen bottle and wondering what he could find aboard the Navatek in the way of weaponry. He presumed the police were armed so they would be the most likely source for armament. He wasn’t going to allow anyone to hurt Sharon again, or himself for that matter, not without taking measures to fatal levels. Whatever Ashton’s game was it was one with shifting rules and no consideration for the safety of others.