Wandering past Tourneu on Kalakaua Avenue, he checked the giant outdoor clock. It was 9:45. That’s good enough, he thought, and headed toward the park.
He approached St. Augustine’s and was seized by a sudden, certain fear: Someone or a group of someones was following him. He hadn’t seen them, but his gut told him that he’d better do something to lose them or they would get him, and his imagination ran wild with what that could mean. He stopped at the pedestrian light with a small crowd of tourists on Ohua Avenue, and when the light turned, he took off down Ohua as fast as he could run. He ducked behind the wall of the church parking lot and waited to see if anyone came after him. No one came.
After a while he began to think that maybe whoever was following him hadn’t given up, but they might be planning to ambush him on the next block. He’d have to outsmart them, then, by cutting through the Marriott and then sneaking around the zoo parking lot. There was a line of bushes that he could hide behind if he had to, and he could figure out an alternative plan if or when it became necessary. He could get a bus along Kapahulu and from there, he would probably be safe.
His plan worked well. He caught the bus at Kapahulu Avenue and transferred at Waialae Avenue. The bus hissed and lowered, and Jay put his foot on the first step. He looked over his shoulder to make sure his pursuer wasn’t just waiting to board with him and then have him cornered, but the only people on the street were a gang of high school students and a couple of families with small children. No one was paying attention to him. He climbed the bus stairs victoriously, unable to suppress a proud grin. As he stood holding the railing, the bus spoke to him. “Aloha, welcome aboard the Route One bus to Hawaii Kai,” it said in a deep, sonorous voice like the hollowed trunk of an old tree. “Please kokua.” After several blocks, Jay pulled the cord next to his hand. A tone sounded and the bus decreed, “Stop requested. Waialae and tenth. Please exit through the rear door.” As the bus labored up the hill, he heard its faint voice. “Aloha,” it said. “Please kokua.”
Stepping onto the street again made him nervous. He crossed Waialae and a man that had been behind him who was talking on a cell phone suddenly pocketed the phone and leapt into the crosswalk toward Jay. Panic rattled his organs and he instinctively broke into a run, sweat pouring down his back and temples. When he had gone about a block, he turned to see that the man was just going to Tamura’s liquor store. He was relieved, and even laughed out loud, but he was shaken.
Jay panted up a gradual hill, passing a series of low, dilapidated single family homes on tiny lots until he reached a section of the neighborhood where a few of the houses were larger and well-maintained. He stopped in front of a tan split-level house with a two-car garage and a high privacy fence. The privacy fence had a built-in gate that was closed and locked, making it difficult to see anything behind the fence except for the iron bars on the windows, which looked recently installed. At a glance, the barred house looked like a prison. Jay lit his last cigarette and the flame-end glowed red in the darkness. The tiny fire illuminated his face like a melting candle.
He stood smoking for a few moments, watching the windows of the prison. They were lit from inside, and he could make out two figures hovering eerily to and fro. Even though he hadn’t been standing there long, Jay began to lose patience and curse to himself, and before he was finished his cigarette he had thrown it to the ground, still burning, and stomped on it as if he were trying to stamp a hole in the street.
Approaching the side of the fence that was closer to the top of the hill, he silently hoisted himself up and over the barrier, landing on the other side. A motion lamp detected and blinded him. Fortunately, he knew the layout of the yard and slipped into the cover of a hopseed bush that had been planted as an additional privacy barrier. He followed the perimeter of the house, sneaking beneath more barred windows, until he reached a large auxilliary building, which served as a type of shed, in the far corner. He opened the lock with a key he stored in a sealed section of his wallet and gently shut the door.
The shed was air-conditioned, spacious, and organized, and although it was dark, the myriad of stars that powdered the night sky stained the interior a dusty blue by way of a large skylight. Since he could only vaguely perceive the dim outline of shapes—an easy chair, a TV, a stereo, a mini-fridge—he inched slowly toward the shelves on the far wall, careful not to upset anything. After a few paces, he felt the sharp crunch of broken glass beneath his slippers. Although he wasn’t hurt or cut, his ears grew hot and he clenched his teeth to stanch an angry, noisy outburst.
When he reached the shelves on the other side, he felt systematically for the spot he wanted. He first tapped the shelf in front of his face, then swatted gently at the air lower, lower, until he reached the shelf at his abdomen. This shelf, he knew, held a series of crates with old LPs in them. One, two, three, four crates he counted, and then he thumbed through the contents of the fourth crate. One, two, three…when he reached record number fifteen, he removed it, his chest heaving. He turned, felt his way to the easy chair, and threw himself into it.
Still certain that he had been followed, Ginger Jay darted his eyes about the dark room as he prepared to empty the contents of the record sleeve, when a large decorative frame holding a sheet of cracked glass set in the corner opposite him caught his attention. The skylight lit the corner enough for him to see that the frame held a body portrait image of a handsome young man seated in a chair.
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