Saturday, 17 July 2010
TWIN FALLS By Max Keanu
Sheila chose to take the high road that circled up behind the Twin Falls area for her daily run. This maintenance road through the jungle; a graded road running next to the Lowery ditch was used by the East Maui Irrigation company to repair the canal and keep debris from clogging up its steady flow. It was also used by many long-distance runners and sports addicts to keep in shape year-around. Sheila considered it to be a safe run and normally ran it three or four times a week.
Occasionally, she ran into runners she knew, but today the jungle was uncommonly still and silent. No trade winds rustled in the thick overhead canopy. The maze of nearby foliage was strangely devoid of the usual and constant twittering of small Hawaiian forest birds and their constant darting about from tree to tree.
Fritz followed Sheila at a distance, careful not to step on rotting tree limbs, dry leaves or branches to alert her to his stalking. He was dressed in a white, woman's jogging outfit, a cap that read, I love American Idol (written in glittery sequins above the visors) and a pair of black size twelve high top men's Converse tennis shoes. His long red hair was pulled underneath his cap creating a bulbous, almost comical light bulb shape. In his fanny pack he carried two Diet Pepsi's, a Shott hairbrush, a tube of Revlon maroon lipstick, four condoms, a ball-peen hammer and a large serrated switch-blade knife.
Fritz knew most of the paths in the Twin Falls recreation area and realized he could intersect with Sheila half way up to the falls by taking the lower trail and then doubling back on an old firebreak road to arrive ahead of her at the water siphon. He ran at a jog as soon as he reached the lower road. He occasionally caught glimpses of Sheila's long and luminous blond hair on the high road above through the multiple shades of the jungle's concealing verdure and frondescence. He scurried off the road when a group of camera- toting, overweight and pasty Canadian tourists ambled down the road towards the parking area, complaining all the while about the oppressive heat, the awful humidity and the annoying mosquitoes.
Sheila was happy today, smiling as she jogged, thinking about her upcoming wedding to Oz, thinking about whom to invite to the ceremony, whom to invite to the reception and who not to invite when she saw a lone woman sitting on a large rotting log next to the trail. The red haired woman was moaning, holding her ankle and obviously in great pain. Sheila assumed she was a professional athlete of some sort from the sinewy tone of her long legs and her broad muscular shoulders.
"Are you okay?"
"Can you please help me up? I think I can hobble back to my rental car, if you can give me a hand up. Tripped over a tree root... I got lost," The woman said in an deep, oddly intoned, but friendly voice. Sheila thought she recognized the voice, but she couldn't place it.
"Lean on me. I'll help you back to your car."
"Okay, sweetie. Thank you so much for helping me. It must be a mile or more back to the parking area. I don't want to keep you from your exercise. I need to rest here for a moment, my head is spinning a bit... so sorry to put you out."
"No problem. I'd want somebody to help me if I hurt my ankle up here. My name is Sheila Unger."
"I'm... from Vancouver. Silly me, running alone. I usually run with my boyfriend... Walter."
"I run with my fiancé, but he's off island... funny, everyone calls him Oz, but his given name is Walter too." Sheila said, wishing Oz was with her now, thinking the woman might be a lesbian from the odd inflections of her voice and the way she stared into her eyes with a look of expectation and superiority. Something she just couldn't put her finger on aroused her suspicions, but she disregarded it.
Many years ago Fritz and three friends were playing in the Lowery canal's swift current using automobile inner tubes for flotation when a boy died. It was reported in the Maui News that the young boy hit his head on the rocks jutting down from the man-made tunnel's ceiling while on his inner tube. That he had been knocked unconscious and had passed through a defective rusted iron grate. The boy had then drifted down to where Fritz now stood with Sheila in front of the grate leading into a long irrigation tunnel. The metal rusted barrier fronting the tunnel was made of four-inch-wide iron I-beams; a criss-crossed grate to keep large limbs and dead cattle out of the Maui water system. The grate had rusted out back then, as it was now and this was something Fritz never forgot. He had thrown the single rock that had rendered the boy unconscious. The young boy had gone through the rusted gate to his death through the siphon and was eventually found miles away in the canal system near Haiku town.
Fritz recalled the vivid description in that long-ago news story... once inside this long tunnel, the circumference narrows to less than a two-foot diameter. Over a distance of several hundred yards the water pressure and momentum build tremendously to create a siphon effect. The water in the tunnel then drops abruptly for nearly a half of a mile through a series of even narrower pipes. Upon reaching the valley floor the water pressure creates an even more powerful siphon, thereby forcing the water up the other side of the deep valley with incredible force. Eventually, the water flows out to the sugar cane fields in the isthmus between the beautiful East and West volcanoes of Maui. Death from being trapped in this siphon doesn't come instantaneously, but arrives slowly and painfully from a combination of asphyxia; sever bodily trauma, and possibly heart failure brought on by sheer claustrophobic terror within the mind.
"I need to brush my hair back to keep it out of my face, don't want to trip again," Fritz said, holding his cap in one hand, shaking his long hair out over his shoulders and unzipping his fanny back. He produced a brush that he had stolen from Sheila - just one of numerous items that he appropriated the day she arrived at Oz's estate.
Sheila stared at the brush in the woman's big hands. She found it very odd and somewhat confusing that the woman would have a Shott hairbrush with the her initials, SKU, engraved on the handle exactly like the one she had misplaced only days before.
Fritz smiled to Sheila as he brushed back his long red hair and repeatedly stretched a frilly pink hair band in his big nimble fingers. He looked directly into Sheila's eyes with an overly friendly smile and then gave the brush to Sheila to hold. He tied back his mass of wavy long red hair, secured it with the frilly band, flattened down the sides and then pushed stray strands of wispy hair behind his big ears. He quickly grabbed the brush out of her hands, returned it to the fanny pack and wrapped his hand tightly around the wooden handle of the ball-peen hammer.
"Gees, I lost a brush exactly like that recently," Sheila said, dumbfounded, wondering how her ninety-dollar hair brush, the one that she was almost certain was hers, had gotten into this woman's hands. She also noticed strands of blond hair, very much like her own in the boar bristles just as the woman snatched the brush back from her. Curiously, the woman appeared to be free of pain from her fall now. She was rocking back and forth with an odd nervous energy and seemed to be supported on her sprained foot with no problems.
"Have we met?" Sheila asked, trying to connect the woman's face with a name.
"I would think so," Fritz declared, a tinge of sarcasm in his voice. He no longer spoke in a woman's higher register.
"Really? Funny, I recognize your voice, but..." Sheila stopped cold, was abruptly taken aback and just stood staring at Fritz's face with her mouth agape.
"Yes, it is I, Fritz Mann. Real shame you'll never get to know me as the beautiful Marilyn Mann. I'm sure we could have become great friends under different circumstances, honey."
"Fritz?" Sheila asked, flabbergasted and bewildered. "Why do you have my hairbrush... not that you can't borrow it... just ... well, please ask me the next time, okay?" Sheila said, not really knowing how to respond. It was creeping her out seeing Fritz in female clothing and jewelry, make up and endowed with breasts much larger and fuller than hers.
"Surprised?" Fritz asked with a contemptuous smile.
"You might say that. Gees, I'm not really sure what to say."
"There's nothing for you to say. Since you are the other woman in my life... and well, gees, I need you to be out of it, out of it for good. I'm in love with Oz and I can't have you spoiling all my plans, for heavens sake." Fritz said, in a mimicking and mocking tone as he extracted the bal-peen hammer fully from his fanny back. He held it behind his back still, twirling it between his strong fingers like a cheerleader with her favorite baton.
"Your plans? Oz and I are going to marry, Fritz. I know you are his best friend, business partner and all that, but... well... what is this? Is this some kind of joke? Come on Fritz, what are you up to? Is this a prank, come on... Mick? Mick! Are you out there in the jungle somewhere with your movie camera?" Sheila asked, displaying her big toothy gleaming smile, subconsciously transmitting a scream for help in the form of an exaggerated and very loud nervous laugh. It was all too weird for her, but she realized it could only be a prank.
"Mick, are you filming me... are you making another one of your YouTube videos or somethin'?"
She looked around nervously, expecting Mick and her friends to suddenly jump out of the dense jungle and have a long roaring laugh at her expense.
"It's no joke, Sheila." Fritz said, as he swung the hammer up solidly into her jaw. She reached up with her hands and caught the tip of her tongue in her hands that she had bitten off and then spat out a broken tooth. She stared at her tongue tip for a moment, her eyes widening in panic and confusion. Fritz moved behind her, brought the hammer down fast and hard on different spots on top of her head and on one side of her once beautiful face.
Sheila stumbled forward, but Fritz held her up with one hand by her pony tail and swung four more times with an audible cracking to her skull. He was certain the round steel head of the ball peen hammer would look like smooth rock impacts to the skull caused by the tunnel ceiling and the larger immovable boulders on the tunnel floor to a medical examiner.
Blood flowed copiously from Sheila's ears and mouth onto her running clothes. She was on her knees making gurgling sounds in her throat, looking over her shoulder at Fritz with pleading eyes, paralyzed with fear, trying unsuccessfully to scream for help. She still held her tongue tip tightly between her thumb and index fingers, as if it were a re-attachable fashion accessory.
"Can't have you falling down in the dirt, sweetheart, we don't want this to look like a struggle - a cat fight between us girls. Into the canal you go, surfer girl." Fritz said, giving Sheila one more whack to her skull and then a solid heave into the fast flowing canal.
He watched her sink. She went forward with the swift current as he stared in amusement at her repeatedly gasping for air. Convulsions shook her body like a traumatized fish wiggling frantically after being mercifully released back into its element. Her body turned over and she floated face down in the stream for a few yards, then suddenly her head shot up gasping again for air. She then fainted back into the water on her back, her head craned up at an odd angle, her neck distended to its limits, arms flailing against the current, her lungs struggling to inhale precious air before they filled completely with blood and the murky dirty brow water of the canal.
At the mouth of the tunnel she became hung up on one of the rusted and jagged I- beams that made up the criss-cross bars of the grate. Fritz looked around for a long limb to pry her off. Just as he broke off a dead limb from a Kukui tree with a loud splitting of wood, she opened her eyes to look directly at Fritz and began to struggle with a renewed and fierce determination. By doing this she was inadvertently freed from the rusted grate and was forcefully pulled by the relentless current deeper and deeper into the tunnel. Fritz waved goodbye with a satisfied feeling as she disappeared into the dark hillside tunnel, absolute horror now etched in her flawless complexion and blue eyes.
Fritz figured her body shouldn't get stuck in the siphon pipes since the past week was heavy with rain and a strong flow. Her body, if found, would be found miles away after the siphon pipe resurfaced into an open canal near Kahikoa Road.
He didn't think her body would float all the way down through the miles and miles of canals, bloated and battered in the canals adjacent to the island's main airport or in the surrounding sugar cane field's labyrinth-like irrigation system.
On the way back Fritz stopped at the lower falls and pond to wash Sheila's blood from his hands, to relax, enjoy the beauty of the day and to take a refreshing swim in the buff. Murder was tiring and very hot work in this oppressive heat and humidity. He drank down one of the lukewarm Diet Pepsi's in one long gulp and belched long and loud.