Luckily, I was alive in the ICU at Kona Community Hospital attached to a couple of drips — saline and medication, following emergency surgery to relieve pressure on my brain.
Unluckily, Pika told me a cop was waiting outside the unit to interview me. My headache returned as though I welcomed its homecoming.
‘How long in intensive care?’
‘If all goes well, and I see no reason why not … a couple of days.’
So I had breathing space to concoct a credible story, explain why I had fled the scene of a murder. In retrospect, I wondered myself. I could put it down to two previous incidents: being framed by a cop for murders I did not commit, and being locked up in a cell, facing a twenty-year rap.
But most of all, I wanted to know who attacked me and why.
The diagnosis was spot-on. Two days later I had a new room with a view overlooking the grounds; an open window let in a cool breeze, and I could eat regular meals.
But I felt edgy for two reasons. My medical tab was piling up, and Detective Mauve Hennessey was sitting in a chair by my bedside taking notes. I hadn’t seen her before and she didn’t seem to know much about my previous encounters with the Big Island justice system; she was probably drafted from Honolulu.
She paused, and pushed a stray lock of hair from her eyes. ‘Does any part of your story resemble the actions of an innocent man?’
I guessed she was older than me, maybe early thirties, but she looked trim and fit in her business suit; probably on a fast-track to a top job.
I had to admit she was right, but I played it straight.
‘How was I to know that the bad guys weren’t about to open the storeroom and finish me off?’
She gave me a look that told me I was being a dumb shmuck.
‘Bad guys either kill you or they don’t. They sure don’t lock you in a storeroom with a dead body if you’re also dead. What’s the point of that?’
‘Well … I wasn’t thinking straight right then.’
She let that one pass; gave me a piece of space before she hit me with the big one.
‘Okay, so when Officer Kaila stopped you outside, why did you run off like a startled jackrabbit?’
I held up my hands and put the same expression on my face. She waved my hands away, and started to scribble in her notebook.
‘Don’t tell me. You weren’t thinking straight right then.’
She sighed. ‘And I suppose the same excuse when you disposed of your blood-stained clothes in a trash can on the beach?’
I nodded again. A twinge of pain; I sensed my headache returning.
‘It doesn’t look good,’ she said.
For the second time, I had to admit she was right on the money. I glanced at the water pitcher, the half-empty glass, and the acetaminophen tabs on my bedside table. It wasn’t enough.
I rubbed my head. ‘I could go for a large coffee from the vending machine? Strong and black.’
A glimpse of amusement seemed to sparkle in her eyes. ‘First credible thing you’ve said … so far.’ She stretched and got up, gave me a look. ‘Just in case you’re thinking of taking a walk, I’ve posted an officer outside.’
So my story had more holes than the Titanic, but I had one Get Out Of Jail Free Card to play.
When she came back with the coffees and we settled down, I plunged right in.
‘So how come I land up in here with a skull fracture?’
She shifted in her seat. ‘That’s what I want to know. Who’s your ex-accomplice?’
I couldn’t believe this. She thought I’d had an argument that got out of hand and I was struck with a blunt instrument or, more likely, a gun. It would explain my DNA at the crime scene. When I tried to reason with her, she countered it.
‘Mr. Reeves. We have ascertained you climbed out of a second floor building, clambered down a drainpipe, and covered an extensive area of grounds before climbing over a gate.’ She paused before winding up again.
‘Officer Kaila watched you sprint like Michael Johnson across the highway and onto the beach. From there, you made your way back to Sandy’s bar, a good few miles. Explain that, with a hole in your head.’
Then the final nail in my coffin.
‘We found the gun used to shoot Ms. Swain. It’s got your fingerprints on it.’
I slumped back onto my pillows while she read me my Miranda rights.
‘You have the right to remain silent…’ Her voice droned on and on. ‘If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.’
Not only couldn’t I afford a lawyer, but also the hospital tab. Not that Hennessey cared; she seemed happy to leave me stewing, with the officer posted outside.
It was time I hauled in the big guns. The one man who had the clout to get me out of this mess. I gave Hennessey ten minutes to get out of the hospital before reaching for my cell phone.
When he answered, I cut across his familiar baritone. ‘Hi, big fella ... I’m in deep shit, and I need your help.’
A pause and a deep sigh at his end. ‘Where are you, brah?’
I told him. I heard a deep-throated chuckle.
‘Just like old times,’ said Smokin’ Joe.