Sunday, 28 November 2010

JUNGLE LOVE By James C. Clar

Jungle Love

“Listen, Jake,”  HPD Detective Ray Kanahele squinted into the hot, tropical sun as he turned toward his partner. “Does it seem to you like we’ve been playin’ roles in the X-Files lately instead of Hawaii Five-O? I mean, shit! If it had to be one or the other, well, I like Scully but that new Kono is a stone fox. Anyhow, it’s been one really weird case after another.”
As easy on the eyes as Grace Park was, Jake Higa still preferred a male Zulu and the original 1960’s TV series. The wiry Japanese American knew better than to mention that to Kanahele, however. The big man was a devoted fan and dreamed of someday appearing on the remake.
“I never thought of it like that, Ray, but you’re right. Maybe it has to do with the bizarre weather we’ve had this year. Who knows? Could be it’s just our turn.”
It was only 8:30 and, already, the two men were baking in the sun that had so recently risen over the mass of Diamond Head that loomed, quite literally, over their shoulders. It was uncommonly warm and unaccountably humid for November.
“Whatever,” Kanahele continued. “All I know is that we just had, maybe, the coolest and wettest summer in years and now it’s shaping up to be the warmest and driest winter. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with it but every whack-job on the island seems to be coming out of the woodwork.”
Stocky and powerfully built, Kanahele shuffled his feet. He wrinkled his nose at the pungent odors emanating from the small lagoon filled with flamingos and other tropical wading birds located on the far side of the footpath from where they stood just inside the public entrance to the Honolulu Zoo. Higa looked down so that his friend wouldn’t see the smile that played across his normally stoic features. For a Hawaiian, Kanahele was all but allergic to the great outdoors. Surfing and barbecuing were about as “back to nature” as he ever got.
Higa was spared the necessity of responding by the arrival of a uniformed HPD officer and an attractive young woman of about thirty-five with short black hair and a tropical print blouse. It was obvious that the woman had been crying. Equally obvious was her effort to pull herself together.
“I’m Officer Ona. This is Helen Maitland,” the policeman addressed the two detectives. “Her husband’s in with Zoo security. The man nodded his head to indicate the first aid and security station behind him and along the Kapahulu Avenue side of the grounds. “Neither one of them is very happy, let me tell you.”
“Thanks, officer,” Higa spoke quietly. “Why don’t you head back there and see if you can settle them both down. We need to talk with Mrs. Maitland.”
After introducing themselves, Higa and Kanahele led Helen Maitland to a bench in an area somewhat pretentiously called the “Fuji Stroll Garden.”  They were surrounded by lush tropical ferns and flowering plants. The humidity was still an issue but at least they were in the shade. Over the sound of busses running up and down nearby Monsarrat Avenue came a manic shrieking from the primate enclosure down the path and around the corner past the restrooms. The Zoo was closed this morning owing to the strange events off the previous night. The monkeys, however, seemed determined to put on their accustomed show.
“I can’t believe this happened,” Maitland began without prompting as she looked down at her feet. “It’s all my fault.”
It seemed to Higa that he had never heard more pain and embarrassment from someone he was questioning.
“Tell us a little about yourself, Mrs. Maitland,” Higa urged. He looked down at the black Moleskine notebook in his hand. “I understand you’re anthropologist?”
“Yes. I’m teaching part time and working on my PhD up at UH-Manoa.”
“What’s your particular area of interest?”
“Shamanism and ancient medicine.”
“Oh boy,” Kanahele blurted. He was about to offer more but was silenced by a withering look from his partner.
“OK,” Higa turned his attention back to Mrs. Maitland. “How long have you been married?”
Maitland looked up and dabbed her eyes with a crumbled napkin. Kanahele offered her a clean white handkerchief. The detective had begun carrying them recently for just such contingencies. ‘Semper paratus’he had told Higa when the latter commented on the practice a week or so ago. “See, Jake,” Kanahele had replied. “I can quote shit in Latin too.”
“Ten years, detectives.”
“And everything has been going well?”
“Yes.” Maitland hesitated and looked down again.
“Hey, Mrs. Maitland,” Kanahele spoke. The veteran policeman’s prevarication detector was going off in his head. “I know this must be tough, but we can’t help you if you aren’t honest with us.”
“I know that,” the woman responded after a moment. “Donald and I are still very much in love, if that’s what you mean. It’s just that we’ve both been so busy.”
“What does Donald do?” Higa asked.
“He works for Matson shipping. He’s one of their IT people. It’s a very demanding job.”
“I’m sure it is.” Higa wrote briefly in his notebook. “Do you think the stress of his job has anything to do with, well, you know?”
Maitland began to sob, the sound mixing oddly with the rhythmic cooing of the zebra doves that nested in the thick undergrowth surrounding the benches where the trio sat.
Kanahele proffered a second handkerchief. “It’s my last” he said in a tone that approached admonishment. The trumpeting of an elephant off to the right added a bass note to the feral cacophony of ambient noise.
“It could. I just don’t know what to think anymore. The truth is, Don just hasn’t been interested in me lately. Physically interested, I mean.” Higa shot Kanahele a warning glance.
“You know,” Higa stated matter-of-factly, “that could have more to do with your husband than it does you. When men reach a certain age, well, things change physically and so do their, um, interests.”
“I realize that, and I even suggested to Donald that he have a physical exam. But he refused. He said he was just tired and preoccupied with work. He tried, I mean, we tried, but things just didn’t work out like they should. That’s when I decided to take matters he into my own hands.”
The two detectives looked at one another. Kanahele spoke first. The perspiration ran down the back of his neck and trickled from his receding hairline into his eyes. Silently he wished he’d saved one of his damn handkerchiefs for himself.
“What do you mean?”
“I took a trip into Chinatown.” Maitland’s eyes brightened as she began talking about something that she was obviously passionate about. “There’s a place … a little shop ... near Smith and North Hotel Streets just a few blocks from the Maunakea Market. Do you know the area?”
Higa and Kanahele nodded their heads in the affirmative. Both men were intimately familiar with the jammed sidewalk stalls featuring rare tropical flowers, exotic seafood, arcane herbal remedies and all manner of fresh produce that abounded in the triangle of narrow streets between Nuanu, North Beretania and South King. Kanahele, for his part, had spent his first two years on the force patrolling Chinatown’s seedy bars and “interfacing” with the area’s aging hookers and other hardened denizens.
“They’ve cleaned things up down there, of course, but, if you know where to look,” Maitland continued, “you can still get just about anything you want in Chinatown.”
“OK.” Higa interjected. He couldn’t hide his confusion. “You took a trip into Chinatown. I’m not sure how that bears on what took place here last night.”
“Oh, it ‘bears’ alright. Anyhow, I found the place I was looking for. I’d heard about it in the course of some research I was doing on an ancient Taoist text. There are still people out there in the ethnic communities that place great stock in the ‘old ways’, in this case, the proverbial ‘ancient Chinese secret’.”
Higa and Kanahele looked at one another, their puzzlement growing. Muffled audio borne on the light trade wind could be heard from the sound system at the Waikiki Shell across Monsarrat. One of the island’s ubiquitous hula festivals was in full swing.
“A small bell nailed to the door tinkled when I entered. The old Chinese woman who owned the shop looked at me suspiciously.” Helen Maitland paused to blow her nose on Kanahele’s handkerchief.
“I mentioned a name. The woman smiled at me, relieved. I told her just what I needed … powdered rhinoceros horn, bear paw, tiger penis and preparations made from the organs of the pangolin and civet cat. Who knows? Maybe she misunderstood me. I struggled with the names in Chinese. Maybe she gave me too much of something or, more likely, I made a mistake when I mixed everything together when I got home.”
“Jesus,” Kanahele exclaimed. “Most of that stuff is strictly black market. You realize how many endangered species acts were violated in obtaining it, not to mention the statutes that were broken smuggling it into the islands?”
“More to the point, Mrs. Maitland,” Higa interrupted. “Are you saying you made some sort of concoction and fed it to your husband?”
“Three nights ago. I prepared a philtre and mixed it with Donald’s wine before dinner. He drank the first glass so quickly I doubt he even noticed the after-taste. As far as the weird smells from the kitchen, he’s used to me experimenting with strange foods.”
“Well I be a monkey’s uncle” Kanahele blurted. Higa had all but given up trying to restrain his partner. Reality itself was quickly becoming too twisted, even for the madhouse that was Waikiki.
“Donald was gone that first night for, maybe two hours. The next night it was a little longer. He claimed not to have remembered where he’d been. I noticed that there was hair all over his clothing. I was convinced he’d been seeing another woman. I was crushed. Then I got the call this morning from the police and was told to come right down here. That Donald had … you know?”
Maitland began sobbing again as Higa and Kanahele stood.
“We’ll take this one step at a time, Mrs. Maitland,” Higa stated with more confidence than he actually felt.
“We need to square the trespassing charges with the Zoo officials. Then we’ll need to get some more information from you concerning that little shop you visited in Chinatown. We may be able to leave your name out of it, but the Fish and Wildlife people will need to be informed. Maybe Customs and Immigration too. We’ll see.”
“Of course, detective,” Maitland agreed. Her eyes were red and her nose was running. “But what about Donald? Of course I’ll stand behind him. The whole thing’s my fault, after all. Oh, God! I never thought it would work, let alone have the results it’s had.”
“We’ll know better once we have a chance to interview Mr. Maitland. At the very least, I’m going to recommend that he have a full physical exam, including a toxicology screen. He’ll probably be held over for psychiatric evaluation as well.”
“Hey,” Kanahele quipped with congenital but non-intentional insensitivity, “I’m willing to bet ole’ Donald’s gonna’ be banned from the Zoo for life, too.”
“I can’t help but feel sorry for that couple, Ray.”  The two policemen walked past the Nene goose and the Komodo dragon exhibits. They turned left through the orchid garden and headed toward their car which was parked just outside the service and maintenance gate along Kapahulu Avenue. Both men were sweating profusely and looked forward to cranking up the A/C once they reached their vehicle.
“C’mon, Jake,” Kanahele responded. “Any guy that isn’t interested in that Maitland woman is a loser to begin with. I mean, man, she’s a good looking lady.”
“I did notice that you couldn’t keep your eyes off of her. If Maile saw the way you were looking at her, she’d kill you.” Higa never tired of ribbing his partner about the latter’s loving but often tumultuous relationship with his long-suffering wife.
“You’re kidding right? Maile’s always telling me she’d pay me to have an affair. Says it would get me out of her hair for awhile.” Kanahele paused, pulled out his phone and checked the screen. Higa suspected that it was probably Maile herself checking in with a text message … as was her wont.
“Oh well,” Kanahele continued. “This one won’t get us on Five-O, that’s for sure. Do they have something like an Animal Planet: Porn channel? Anyhow. I’ve been thinking.”
Higa turned toward his loquacious partner. Ray Kanahele was a good cop and the right man to have in a tight spot but thinking was not always his greatest strength.
“Seriously. If that lolo buggah Donald Mailtland ever gets it together and has a son, you know the kid will be a real ‘chimp off the old block’. Get it? A ‘chimp off the old block’?”
Mercifully, the traffic noise and susurration of the palm trees overhead prevented the big Hawaiian from hearing his partner groan.
The End
James C. Clar's short fiction has been published in places like Flashshot, The Taj Mahal Review, Golden Visions Magazine, Apollo's Lyre, Word Catalyst Magazine, Everyday Fiction, Long Story, Short, Antipodean SF and the Magazine of Crime & Suspense. Stories featuring HPD Detectives Jake Higa and Ray Kanahele have appeared previously here on Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers as well as on A Twist of Noir and Powder Burn Flash.

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