We exchanged a high five, and he sat down in the chair vacated by Detective Hennessey two hours previously. He brought me a change of clothes like I’d asked — my new plan.
‘What kinda mess you got yourself into this time?’ he said.
Smokin’ Joe Hardy was a famous black heavyweight boxer, named after the legendary Frazier, before a history of cuts forced him into premature retirement. He’d invested his purses wisely and set himself up for life; now he lived in a mansion on the Big Island with a view over Kona bay.
I first met him in jail — both of us were facing murder raps; both of us had protested our innocence; both of us had been released on bail, and later freed on appeal when Detective Patterson was sent down for trying to pervert the course of justice.
Smokin’ Joe had taken a shine to me — I don’t know exactly why, but his attorney told me I was polite and the big fella respected that. Posted bail and stood by me while I tried to prove my innocence. I owed him big time, but he had shrugged it off.
‘Brah, you know nuthin’ about nuthin’, he had said.
Maybe that was it. I’d been a greenhorn then, and not much wiser now.
I owed him an explanation, and he nodded his head as if he were taking instructions from his trainer. When I finished, he heaved himself out of the chair and stood looking out of the window.
He turned, gave a toothy grin. ‘Your call, brah.’
I had many reasons why I decided against trusting the justice system and, as I looked at it, I couldn’t be much more of a hole.
‘Give me five minutes to get ready. Then I’m out of here.’
Smokin’ Joe gestured to the door. ‘And the hard-nosed cop outside?’
I smiled for the first time in weeks. ‘I’m sure you can find a way to distract him.’
As soon as I had changed and said I felt fine, if a bit unsteady on my feet, the big fella opened the door, looked up and down the corridor, and beckoned the cop inside.
Straight into a stranglehold.
We left him gagged, handcuffed, and trussed up in the bathroom tub, turned on the shower and closed the door.
I couldn’t hole up at Sandy’s bar nor at the big fella’s mansion — they’d be the first on the cops visit list — but I’d beach-bummed around enough to know where to hide out. Smokin’ Joe staked me — settled the hospital tab, rented me a Chevy with darkened windows, and freshened my billfold with Franklins.
‘Any more, just call,’ he said. ‘And that’s not just money, brah, you hear me?’
I gave him a high five with tears in my eyes and waved him away.
I was now a fugitive on the Big Island.
On the run, with no plan…
I spent a long afternoon at Mollie’s rooming house; so called, because she had a spare mattress in her kid’s room. This time Aiden wasn’t in jail, but out on the trawlers for a few weeks. Fifty bucks paid for a few bottles of Jameson; she hated cops. It wasn’t much, but I had to hope it also zipped her mouth.
I stared at the damp patch on the kid’s ceiling before finally accepting I’d run out of options. I only had one live card to play.
I called Janet.
Janet Taylor, a private investigator, put her life on the line trying to protect me from a vicious killer. Got hurt real bad, but had now recovered and was back at work. I also owed her big time. She was still in her office in Kona, writing up a stakeout report; another matrimonial spat. I kept it lighthearted, we made a few jokes.
‘Keeps me in business and pays the rent, she said. ‘Same thing … bimbos for the husbands and boy toys for the wives.’ She laughed. ‘And sometimes it swings both ways.’
It was good to hear her laugh. I had missed her. Seemed like she felt the same, but she was as sharp as ever.
‘What’s on your mind, Shayne?’
I told her most of what I could remember at Kandoo: the Swamp Donkey dead and that Detective Hennessey had me down for the rap. And I was on the run, but Smokin’ Joe was staking me.
‘Saved by Mr. Muscles, huh?’ she said. ‘We need to meet up. Like soon.’
‘I’ll drop by your office. Look out for a silver Chevy sedan. Thirty minutes, okay?’
It was. She was waiting when I pulled up. I moved into the passenger seat and she drove us to a secluded spot along the Kona coast and parked.
We looked at each other in the half-light of the evening, and smiled. It had been a long time and she hadn’t changed — light ebony skin and dark, curly hair down to her shoulders. Just how I liked it. Late twenties — younger than me — and she dressed classy. For a detective, she was hot.
I could almost feel her dark brown pupils boring into my mind, searching for the truth.
‘You’re in big trouble, mister.’
That made me snicker. It became infectious, and we both laughed until the air between us became silent. I had no right to ask her for help, and she knew it. Softly spoken, but the message was clear.
‘Aiding and abetting a felon is a criminal offence. I should turn you in.’
But when she reached out and squeezed my hand, my eyes misted up for the second time that day.
It seemed so inadequate, but Janet shook her head.
‘Goes with the territory, Shayne Reeves.’ She thumped my arm. ‘And hell, it’s much more exciting.’
That was one quality I’d noticed about her. She welcomed danger; it gave her a buzz, made her feel alive. And I had supplied plenty.
‘What’s the plan?’ she said.
A gull screeched overhead; an answering cry that faded on the wind. I could smell Janet’s perfume; I could still feel her fingers touching my skin, raising goose bumps along my flesh. I looked at her, silhouetted against a backdrop of a crescent moon.
‘There isn’t one,’ I replied.