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o ka pahoehoe ko lalo.
The sun above,
the smooth lava below.
K.O. landed at Keahole Airport in Kona, Hawaii. She loved the little airport with the landing strip carved right out of the black lava. She descended the plane's stairway to the tarmac, and inhaled deeply. Nothing else smelled like the Big Island. Scents of the ocean, jet fuel and plumeria blew in the warm breeze.
She walked the fifty feet to an open-air, tree-filled courtyard. She hit the restrooms first. She never liked the tiny bathrooms on the noisy prop-planes, and had managed to hold it for the forty-minute flight from her home on Oahu, despite chugging three Diet Pepsis.
Much relieved, she walked the few additional feet to baggage claim--another open-air pavilion with one carousel on each side. Progress, since the days when baggage was just tossed out onto the runway next to the plane. Some of the other outer island airports were still like that. She sort of missed it.
The Big Island had always been one of K.O.'s favorite places in the islands, the true antithesis to the bustling city of Honolulu. As a Honolulu Police Officer, K.O.'s job in Records and Identification was to track data and minutiae for over a million people. K.O. herself lived on the far side of Oahu--the lush, peaceful windward side.
Thankfully, she had been granted a transfer, and upon her return from this working vacation, she would move with her chief clerk Selena Wade to Evidence--a move she anticipated with relish.
No security check--she hefted her large bag, and staggered toward the center curb to wait for the car rental courtesy bus. Onceout of the shade, the sun was intense, and the sky seared the eyes with its blueness. Mauna Kea--a dormant volcano--soared above the airport, and disappeared into a greyish bank of vog--volcanic smog--that drifted from fifty miles away at Kilauea Caldera in the shadow of Mauna Loa.
K.O. saw that more new housing had worked its way up the mountain since her visit a year ago.
The Aloha Car Rentals courtesy van pulled up with a screech, and K.O. climbed into the blessed air-conditioned comfort before the driver could assist her. He loaded several bags for the tourists behind her.
As he pulled away from the curb and exited the small airport, he clicked on the microphone. "Aloha, everybody, my name is Kamuela, and welcome to the Big Island. We'll be at the Aloha Car Rentals office in just a few minutes, but if you have any questions, or if I can help out in any way, let me know."
K.O.'s blue-green eyes met Kamuela's brown ones in the rearview mirror. She could tell he smiled, because his eyes squinched up. She smiled back.
The van stopped at the office, and K.O. waited only a few minutes for her economy car. Translation: Don't rent this car if you're over 5'10", or have more than two bags. Fortunately, K.O.'s 5-7 fit comfortably, if not spaciously, in the driver's seat. Her large bag fit into the trunk, but her purse and carry-on had to ride with her.
Before she pulled out of the lot, she tuned the radio to a rock station, and cranked up both the stereo and the A/C. A short hop on the access road and she pulled out onto Highway 11, feeling like she was really on her way.
K.O. buzzed into Kona proper fifteen minutes later, and made a quick stop at the KTA grocery store for bottled water and a Snickers candy bar.
Her ultimate destination, the reason for her trip, was Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, on the other side of the island. She had decided to fly into Keahole airport, visit a few friends, and then enjoy the long drive to the park.
Marijuana plants, some over six feet tall, leafy and green, waved in the slight breeze on the slopes of Mauna Loa. Camouflaging the pakalolo were 'ohi'a trees, maile and bougainvillea.
A feral pig, tusks gleaming, nosed for roots at the boundary. He bumped a thin wire, and a blast echoed in the stillness. He screamed and ran as shotgun pellets fanned over his head, embedding in the tree trunks three feet above the ground. All was silent again in the dappled sunlight.
Two men and a woman pushed through the trees, stepped over the wire, and continued to the far side of the field. A small shack, roughly constructed and low to the ground, was their destination.
"Ho, Gerald!" the woman called as she entered the shack.
"Yeah, what?" Gerald answered, as he assessed the plants. Many were ready to harvest.
"What you t'ink of dis crop?"
"Yeah, brah," echoed the second man. "What you t'ink we going get for dem?"
"Tommy, relax already," Gerald said. "I don't know. Our job is just to cut 'em and haul 'em down da mountain. Rudy sells, and we just sit back and relax, have some beers, and count our money."
The woman, long dark hair tied back, wearing a stained tee shirt and shorts, with hot pink rubber slippers on her feet, reappeared with three machetes. She handed the first to Gerald, who immediately began cutting the ripe plants.
The second she spun at the other man, who jumped out of the way. The machete landed point-down, quivering at his feet.
"Shit, Jolene, you tryin' to kill me, or what?"
"Yeah, or what you moke. Jus' cut." Jolene strode to another section of the field and also began to cut.
"Such a bitch." Tommy picked up the machete, but stood staring at Jolene.
Gerald sliced his way to the large Samoan. "Cheez, Tommy, we nevah gonna finish, you just stand there." A stripe of dirt crossed Gerald's forehead, and sweat ran across golden skin into his eyes.
"Gerald, you evah t'ink what it'd be like to save some plants jus' fo us? I mean, we do alla work, alla risk, and Rudy guys, they just make all da money."
"Tommy, don' talk like dat. You goin' get us busted. T'ings going da way dey s'posed to. Don't rock da boat."
Tommy's machete dangled loosely in his large hand. His blue "Hang Loose" tee shirt stretched tightly across his gut above his sarong, a wild blue and yellow print, that covered him from belly to ankles. He lowered his voice to a rumble.
"You ever tink about taking a little on da side?"
"What do you mean?"
"You know, we been bustin' ass for a year, and Jolene, she just hang around and make trouble. Just t'ink about it."
"No way, brah! You crazy? You been smokin' dis stuff instead of jus' cuttin' it? Jolene is Rudy's cousin, man. We gotta watch her. She's dangerous."
A muted thump, then Tommy pitched forward. A machete protruded from his back, a trickle of blood dampened his tee shirt. Jolene stood at the edge of the new growth.
Gerald's eyes grew wide. His heart hammered. "Oh, my God! You kill him? For what? You crazy?" His machete slithered out of his nerveless hand.
"Rudy tol' me Tommy was skimmin'. Tol' me to take care of it. After what I jus' heard, this seemed the best way to take care of it." She swayed up to Gerald, snaked her arms around his neck and ran her tongue over his unresisting lips. "Get ova it, Gerald. Don' wimp out on me now. On us, now. Rudy like make you one partner."
Gerald stared at Tommy's body.
Jolene's voice grew hard. "Do whatever you like, but if we don' get dis crop in, we both goin be busted. Rudy don' like it late. We gotta dry it and get it to him for shipping." Jolene looked down at Tommy's body in disgust. "Da guy was such a pig. We canna carry him down da mountain. Shoots. Rudy goin' be pissed off I did it here. Now we canna use this field 'til his body gone. Da pigs and dogs can have him." Jolene wrenched her machete from Tommy's back, and marched back to the harvest. Gerald picked up his machete, and slowly followed, never taking his eyes from Jolene.