by Stephen Blackmoore
......."I don't know where to put him."
.......Nathan Hakata is a dizzying blur of tweaker energy. His faded blue and white aloha shirt and cargo shorts are covered in blood, and he's managed to track a fair amount of it across the small warehouse floor flitting back and forth in his flip-flops. The speed's making his voice ramp up with the sing-song flow of pidgin. He sounds like a chipmunk on crack.
.......The "him" he's talking about is a massive Hawaiian, easily 500 pounds, lying dead on the cement floor with an icepick buried to the hilt in his throat. Looks like he flailed around a lot, too, before he tapped out, arms sweeping the blood like Satan's own snow angel.
......."Jesus, Nathan. Couldn't you have killed someone, I dunno, thinner?"
......."He's a wrestler," Nathan offers. Well, that would explain the size, anyway. Sumo's huge here in Honolulu. Ever since Akebono Taro, a born and bred Hawaiian, became the first non-Japanese to reach the highest rank of Yokozuna, they've been crazy for it.
.......I pinch the bridge of my nose, fighting a headache, and ask the question I've been dreading since I got his phone call.
......."What the fuck happened?"
.......Nathan looks at the floor, shuffles his feet, scraping thin lines in the dried blood. He blinks a lot, licks his lips, starts scratching his left arm.
.......It always takes him a while to get going when he has to make shit up, so I let him think about it and see if I can figure it out on my own. He called me about an hour ago from a pay phone down the street from the dilapidated, Pearl City warehouse. The first things I noticed when I got here were a forklift, some creaky-looking shelves piled too high with heavy pipes, and oh yeah, the mountain of dead flesh in the middle of the floor.
......Through an open door to a rear office, there's a folding table leaning against a partly rusted-through partition, a couple of folding chairs, a Nike duffel bag stuffed so full the zippers are buckling.
.......I have no idea what the hell is going on.
......."This is gonna be complicated, isn't it?"
......."Yeah." He stares at me. Nathan and I go back about a year and a half. He had some information that helped me get a guy cleared of kidnapping charges. Netted me a healthy payday. Irritating little bastard that he is, he's been useful once or twice since then. Good informants are hard to find out here on the Islands -- especially for blonde, balding, middle-aged half-assed private eyes from the mainland, so I try to help him out every once in a while. But this is something else.
.......I stand easy, try to look patient.
......."Heroin," Nathan says. "In the duffel bag."
.......Okay. I can buy that. A lot of smack comes through the Islands from South-east Asia on its way to points east. Ironic, really, since only U.S. freighters are allowed to dock here.
......."Duke got it. I don't know from where. He set up to sell it. I was helping him out."
......."Duke." I look at the face again. Shit. "That's Duke Lonohana."
.......With Akebono retired, Lonohana's probably the only local boy with a chance to move up into international Sumo. Boy's gotten a lot of press this last year. He has fans. Lots of them. Big, beefy, rabid, Samoan fans.
......."Dude," I say, "you are so fucked."
......."I know. I know." He's flapping his arms around now, pacing. "We gotta hide him."
.......I love that "we."
......."Nathan, you don't just hide a quarter ton of Sumo wrestler." And how would you do it? A chainsaw would take a week. It'd be like trying to carve up a whale.
......."We have to hide him. Now. We only got--" He glances at his watch. "Half an hour."
......."The buyer, dickhead."
.......Nathan has sunk to new depths. "I'm so outta here." I turn toward the door, careful not to step in any blood. "Have fun, Nathan."
......."I'll cut you in for half."
......."Your half's a quarter million."
.......As plans go, I've heard better.
.......You don't go into a drug deal unarmed, and I don't have a gun on me. Getting a permit for a pistol in Hawaii is like shoving a fat man through an airplane window and I'm just not up for the paperwork. Don't even think about concealed carry.
.......I have him shovel Duke into the office with the forklift. It's like watching an epileptic knead dough. Duke rolls, slides, snags on a fork. There's blood everywhere. Finally,Nathan gets him inside, but only after rolling him on his side and leveraging him with the door. It's quite the engineering feat.
.......I spend the time looking the place over for anything useful. Cleaning supplies, some wood, a couple propane tanks, a tarp. And fifteen jerry cans full of gasoline.
......."Nathan, were you planning on burning this place down?"
.......He gets off the forklift, ambles over to me. Looks at me like I'm stupid. "Yeah, brau. My uncle David's place. Paid me to light it for the insurance money."
.......I wonder if it's occurred to Nathan that the police will be a lot more suspicious of the fire if they find a dead Sumo wrestler in the wreckage. Anyway, not my problem.
.......I cover the dried patch of Lonohana's blood with the tarp, set the folding table and chairs on top. Not perfect, but it'll do.
.......The mostly empty shelves are a lot more rickety than they look, the pipes shifting if you look at them funny. Just in case, I shore them up with some 2x4's, rig it to topple over with a good shove. In case things go south, I should be able to bring the whole thing crashing down, right on top of the table. In theory, at least.
.......The whole time I'm keeping half an eye on Nathan. He did his friend. No guarantee he won't try to do me, too.
.......All things considered, it doesn't look half bad. "And ten minutes to spare."
......."This isn't gonna work. They're expecting to see Duke."
......."No, they're expecting to see half a million dollars of China White."
.......It's all bullshit, of course. That's how these things work. The buyer isn't packing half a million, and it's not worth that much, anyway. It never is. It's going to be some tweaker just like Nathan, and he's going to have a paper bag full of hundreds and twenties scraped together by his crackhead buddies.
.......I'll walk away with a couple thousand. At the end of the evening I'll call the cops, give them a revised edition of the truth, hand over half the cash as proof, and have them put Nathan away for first degree murder.
.......Everybody will be happy. Except Nathan, of course.
.......Then I'll take the rest and go get hammered with Sophie, a salesgirl from Macy's in Ala Moana mall. Maybe get into her pants, too.
.......Nathan's looking over his shoulder at the office where he rolled his Sumo buddy like a giant snowball.
......."Not feeling guilty, are you?"
......."No. Fucker was gonna sell me out to the Yakuza."
.......It takes a second for my brain to process what he's just said.
......."You wanna run that by me again?"
......."The buyer's Yakuza. I told you that already."
......."The fuck you did. Youre shitting me, right? Tell me you're shitting me, Nathan. How the hell does some pissante tweaker like you hook up with mobsters?"
.......He looks at me like I'm dense. "Duke."
.......Of course. Duke's the Sumo golden boy right now, and if the Yaks like one thing, it's their Sumo. If he's anywhere as close to the top as it looks, they're going to be paying very close attention.
......."He met them at a match, didn't he?"
.......Nathan's nodding like a bobblehead puppet. I could still duck out a window. Let Nathan fend for himself. If he's dealing with Yak mobsters, he's not going to last the night.
.......And if I'm still here, neither will I.
.......My karma must be making up for that anchorman's wife I slept with last month, because that's when the door opens.
.......Two Japs in aloha shirts. One short and fat hanging on to a good sized carry-on bag. Face like a boiled tomato. Eyes squinting through coke bottle lenses.
.......The other guy's a bodybuilder. By the way his shirt falls over those six-pack abs, my money's on a gun. If I didn't know they were Yakuza already, the missing pinky finger and dragon tats crawling down his arms would have told me.
.......The short fat one I can take. Maybe. The bodybuilder, maybe ten years and twenty pounds ago. Or maybe if I had a baseball bat and he was already unconscious.
.......But both of them? I'm fucked.
.......They look us over, eyes taking in the scene. Squinty's eyes pop between Nathan and me.
......."Who's da haole?" His accent's so thick you could pave the streets with it.
......."Larry Stern." I step forward extending my hand. Nervous habit. Some people sweat, I shake hands. I stop when the bodybuilder glares at me.
......."Where's Duke at?" Squinty asks.
......."He couldn't make it. Asked Nathan and me to fill in for him."
.......He's not convinced. I'm worried I might have to do something rash, like shit my pants and start screaming, when he nods his head to the bodybuilder. "Check 'em."
.......The pat-down is quick and efficient, lingering on those areas I might have a gun.
.......Squinty breaks into a smile. "I'm Irving Hoshimoto. He's Gary Tanaka." He sits in a chair. "Where's the heroin?"
.......Nathan takes the seat opposite him. "Where's the money?"
.......Squinty's smile goes away. I'm about ready to apologize, hoping we don't get shot, when he lifts the carry-on to the table and unzips it. Stacks and stacks of hundred dollar bills stare at us.
.......I hand him a brick from the duffel. He works it over with a spray can and a strip of paper.For all I know, the stuff is just tight-packed baking soda. The thirty seconds it takes the paper to turn purple are the longest in my life. But he seems satisfied. He nods to the big guy.
......."We can do business. One hundred thousand dollars."
.......I am definitely in the wrong line of work. I'm speechless.
.......Nathan, however, isn't.
......."No," he says. "Five hundred. That's the deal."
......."Excuse us a moment, would you?" I grab roughly Nathan by the collar, drag him away from the table. I'm trying to keep my voice level, failing miserably. "Nathan, goddammit, if you dont shut up right now, the large gentleman here is going to kill you." Not to mention me.
......."You're fucking in on it, aren't you? I thought I could trust you, Larry!"
.......This would be the paranoia portion of our evening. Isn't meth grand? "Nathan, I'm not in on anything. You called me. Remember? To help you? I'm trying to help you."
......."Fuck you. I don't need your help." He pushes me away. He's ranting. Loudly. The Yaks are looking wary.
.......I'm about to slap some sense into Nathan when an ear-splitting fart from the office rips through the air.
......."What the fuck was that?" Hoshimoto asks.
.......Duke. Letting go in the office.
......."There's somebody else here. Go check it out."
.......Tanaka draws his gun. Hoshimoto gets out of his chair. Nathan comes unglued.
.......Nathan screams something incoherent, he didn't mean it, he's sorry. Kind of hard to tell over the gunfire. Besides, I'm more concerned with getting my ass over to the 2x4's before I get a slug in the head.
.......A bullet rips past my ear just as I hit the boards, shoving them hard out of the way. There's a loud creak, but other than that nothing happens.
.......The two Yaks look at me like I've lost my mind. Hoshimoto starts chuckling. Tanaka joins in, but not so much he can't aim his gun at me.
.......I grab the shelf and shove with all 180 pounds of middle aged, out of shape haole that I've got.
.......Tanaka's shot goes wild, takes out one of the overhanging lights as the whole magilla comes crashing down on him and Hoshimoto. There's a clanging like I'm inside a bell tower at Vespers, then I go deaf.
.......The last of the pipes rolls out, stops at it butts up against Nathan. He doesn't mind. A bullet's already taken half his head.
.......Things have gotten too out of hand for me to tell the cops about this. Besides, they're going to figure most of it out eventually. Nathan's side job for his uncle should help keep me out of it.
.......I line up the propane tanks, pour gasoline on every flammable surface I can find. Double on Duke. From the smell of him, he'll light up just fine.
.......There's a gas line for an oven that's already been carted away, and I open that up for good measure.
.......I wait a few minutes, smelling gas as it fills the room. I close the front door, drench it with gasoline, pour a long trail out of the building.
.......I pull out my Zippo, glad for the first time in five years that I haven't stopped smoking. Something to thank the ex-wife for.
.......The wave of heat billowing up and out sears my face. So hot that I wonder if I still have eyebrows.
.......I only stay long enough to see it catch, flame crawling up the old wooden walls.
.......I leave the heroin inside to burn. The hell am I going to do with it?
.......But the money is sitting on my passenger seat.
Copyright (c) 2007 by Stephen Blackmoore.
Stephen Blackmoore lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two immense dogs, writing about his city more than is probably healthy. His work has appeared in Demolition, Shots and Spinetingler. Stephen can be reached through his website, L.A. Noir.
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