Authors: Stuart Woods
They walked into a huge dining room with a band accompanying young women in grass skirts, and with everybody singing “Hawaiian War Chant.” They were seated instantly. “Welcome, Mr. Dickens,” the maître d’ said.
“Is there another party in the dining room named Dickens?”
“No, sir. You’d have to go to our library to find another one.” He left menus and a wine list and walked away.
“Did you book the table under Dickens?” Stone asked Dino.
“Maybe. I was still sleepy, and of course, there’s the jet lag.”
Dino snagged a waiter. “Two mai tais,” he said.
“ ‘Mai tais’? Really?”
“It was the only thing Hawaiian I could think of,” Dino explained.
Two large pink drinks appeared on the table. Stone took a sip.
“How’s your mai tai?” Dino asked.
“Not bad,” Stone said. “But it’s not Knob Creek.”
“I hear they’re bringing out one.”
“Don’t hold your breath.” The menu selections all had elaborate descriptions. A waiter appeared.
“I’ll have that first thing on the menu,” Stone said.
“Me, too,” Dino echoed.
Stone ordered a bottle of chardonnay, and the waiter walked away. “Do you have any idea what we ordered?” Stone asked.
“I think it said something about shrimp.”
Stone felt somebody’s knee nudge him and looked around to find nobody. He looked around again and found two large brown eyes looking up at him expectantly.
“What is it?” Dino asked.
“It’s a Labrador retriever,” Stone said. “Yellow, just like Bob.”
“What does he want?”
Stone suddenly got it. He felt his jacket pocket and found some small lumps. “A cookie,” he said, freeing one from the jacket. “Sit,” he said. The dog sat, and Stone gave him the treat. He didn’t move, except for his tail.
“I beg your pardon,” a woman’s voice said.
Stone turned to find an attractive woman in a tight, flowered silk dress.
“Is my dog bothering you?”
“He discovered that I have treats in my pocket. I have one at home just like him. What’s his name?”
“Felix. And yours?”
“Bob.” Stone gave Felix another cookie; it was gratefully
received. “My name is Jack Austen,” Stone said. “This is my cousin Fred Austen.” He indicated Dino.
“Hello, I’m Frances.” They shook hands.
“Would you like to join us for a drink?” Stone asked.
She looked across the dining room. “My party hasn’t arrived; I’d love to.” She sat down and Felix sat next to her, but not too far from Stone. “What are you drinking?”
“Mai tais,” Stone said. “It was the only Hawiian thing Fred could think of.”
“Me, too,” she said. “Where are you two from?”
“Atlanta,” Stone said. “And you?”
“Hartford, Connecticut,” she said, after a moment’s thought.
“How long have you been in Honolulu?” Dino asked.
“Only a few hours,” she said. “We’re just passing through.”
“What’s your final destination?”
“We haven’t decided yet.”
“ ‘We’? Did you bring along a husband?”
“I don’t have one of those. I’m traveling with a friend.”
“Did you arrive by air or sea?”
“So did we,” Dino said. Stone kicked him under the table.
“My friend has a Gulfstream.”
Stone shot Dino a glance before he could answer. “Bombardier,” Stone said. “It’s a Canadian aircraft.”
“I’m vaguely familiar,” she said.
“Does Felix enjoy air travel?”
“Sort of. He goes to sleep as soon as we’re wheels up.”
“Bob, too, but we didn’t bring him.”
“Where did you arrive from?” she asked.
“Manila. We started in Atlanta and flew east to Dubai, then onward.”
“So, we’re jets that pass in the night,” she said. “Do you ever get to Hartford?”
“Only once. Do you get to Atlanta?”
“I think we’ll be abroad for some time this trip,” she said.
“Sydney, I think. Marty hasn’t decided yet.”
“What business is Marty in?”
“He’s an investor.”
“So am I,” Stone said.
“How’d you make your fortune?” she asked.
“The old-fashioned way. I inherited it.”
“So effortless,” she said.
“Well, sort of. You have to keep your investment people from stealing from you, and that takes work.”
“Like that fellow in New York, recently. I can’t remember his name.”
“We’ve been traveling. Don’t get a lot of news. Don’t care about a lot of news, to tell you the truth.”
“Well, never mind, I won’t burden you with more.”
“Thank you so much. Another mai tai?”
She looked across the room. “My party is arriving,” she said, “so I won’t have time.”
“Another day,” Stone said. “In some port or other.”
She stood, and they stood with her.
“So nice to see you. Thanks for the drink.”
“Same here. Anytime,” Stone replied.
“Let’s go, Felix,” she said, and the dog obediently followed her.
“No leash,” Dino said.
“Funny, you were watching Felix, and I was watching her ass. What does that say about us?”
They finished dinner with Key lime pie. “I’ve had enough Hawaiian music for one evening,” Stone said. “Let’s have a nightcap at the bar.”
“Where’s the bar?” Dino asked.
“Across the room, a few steps up. Our path will take us right past Frances’s table.”
“Lead the way,” Dino said.
Stone signed the check and got up just as the band started again, so they had to maneuver through a crowd of dancing tourists.
As the approached Frances’s table, Stone took another treat from his pocket. And when they passed, Felix was right at his knee, sitting and pounding his tail on the floor.
“Oops, he caught me,” Stone said to Frances. “We’ve had it with the music.”
“Oh, Marty, this is Jack and his cousin, Fred.”
Marty stood up and offered his hand. “How do you do?”
“Very well, thank you.”
“Jack is a new old friend of Felix’s. That is, he has a pocketful of treats.”
“I’ve got one just like Felix at home,” Stone said. “We’ve had it with the music, so we’re having a nightcap in the bar. Will you join us?”
“We’re still on coffee,” Marty said. “Perhaps in a few minutes.”
“Don’t get lost.”
“Don’t worry, Felix will deliver us to you,” Marty said.
Stone and Dino continued toward the bar, waving at Faith and the crew halfway across the room.
They took a table and ordered Grand Marnier.
“You’re right,” Stone said. “Marty doesn’t seem like Viktor. Maybe he changed his appearance.”
Five minutes later, Marty and Frances appeared, led by Felix, who sat in front of Stone. Stone gave him a treat and scratched his ears. He also got a glimpse of a tag attached to Felix’s collar.
“This is quite a hotel,” Marty said. “I’d like to have seen it before the war.”
“Before my time,” Stone said.
“Mine, too, but I’ve seen it in movies. It looks like they must have been having a hell of a good time on the night of Saturday, December 6, 1941.”
“Ah, yes,” Stone said. “It makes me sad.”
“Sad that they were having a good time?”
“Sad that it was the last good time for a lot of them.”
“Well, yes, that is sad,” Marty replied. “My grandfather was here in Honolulu on the seventh.”
“I hope he made it through.”
“He made it through until Okinawa, when a kamikaze hit his ship. The ship survived, he didn’t.”
“If he’d lived just a couple of months more, I might have gotten to know him,” Marty said.
“I guess Okinawa was the last battle of the war,” Stone said. “I mean, it was over in May in Europe.”
“Yes, the last battle. His last battle.”
Stone thought he saw a tear in the corner of the man’s eye.
They finished their drinks and said good night. Marty and Frances, at Marty’s insistence, stayed behind to pay the bill.
The lights were turned low in their suite when they got back.
“For the honeymooners,” Dino said, opening a door to the deck. “Oh, good, the wind has dropped.” He stepped outside.
Stone followed him. “Nice moon,” he said.
“I’d call Viv,” Dino said, “but I’ve no idea what time it is where she is.”
“Where is she?”
“Somewhere in South Asia; I have trouble keeping up, and I left her schedule in New York.”
“What did you think of Marty?” Stone asked.
“I liked him. I thought I saw a tear in his eye when he was talking about his grandfather.”
“So did I. Do you think Viktor Zanian would ever shed a tear?”
“Nay,” Dino replied. “Not about anything.”
“Oh, by the way, Felix gave me his phone number.”
“I guess the two of you are on intimate terms by now.”
“It was on his ID tag, attached to his collar. It’s a Connecticut number, 203 area code.”
“Well, Frances said she was from Hartford.”
“That’s right.” Stone took out his notebook and jotted down the number. “In case I want to get in touch,” he said.
Stone was awakened by a small noise in the middle of the night. He looked at the bedside clock . . . 3:18
. He sat up in bed. His gun was in the hotel safe in his closet. He heard the noise again, a
, like the door to the suite closing.
Then there was a man in the room, and Stone leapt out of bed and ran for the closet.
Stone stopped running. “Dino?”
“Who’d you expect?”
“I heard a noise, and my gun is in the hotel safe.”
“The noise you heard was the door closing. Somebody was in here.”
Stone went to the safe and extracted the .380 pistol. “Okay, lead the way,” he said in a low voice.
“What for? They’re gone.” Dino turned on a living room lamp. “Where’s your passport?”
“In the safe,” Stone said.
“Everything’s in the safe. Yours?”
“Mine is in my bedside drawer. I don’t think anybody could have gotten to it without waking me.”
“You’re thinking Zanian?”
“Who else would care who we are? My wallet is untouched, and your money is in the safe.”
“Right,” Stone said. “The door to the terrace is still open.”
“I heard a door close, so it must have been the front door.”
“Must have been,” Stone agreed. “I’m going back to sleep.”
“Me, too,” Dino said. “Good night.”
“Good morning,” Stone said, leaving the pistol on the bedside table and pulling up the covers.
Stone woke to a ringing noise. The bedside clock read 8:15. He groped for the phone. “Yes?”
“It’s Faith. The Gulfstream is departing at ten
, local,” she said. “They’re filing for Christmas Island, then Sydney.”
“We’d better get dressed then,” Stone said. “But we don’t want to get there too early and be seen.”
“My bunch will go as soon as we’re dressed. We’ll prep the airplane. You want me to file for Christmas Island?”
“I’ll tune in the clearance frequency on my handheld and monitor it,” she said.
Stone hung up and went to wake Dino, but he was already in the shower. “Dino,” he yelled, “they’re departing at ten
Dino turned off the shower and stepped out. “I thought that last night we decided that Marty isn’t Zanian.”
“Yeah, but I thought of something else: Frances said that they flew in here from the west; that was a lie. Why would she lie to us?”
“Where did they file for?”
“Christmas Island. Why would anyone want to visit there twice?”
“Okay, it’s your gas money,” Dino said.
They arrived at the FBO at 10:45 and saw the Gulfstream taxiing out for takeoff.
“Drive into the hangar,” Stone said to the driver. They were deposited at the foot of the airstairs door, and the waiting crew put their luggage aboard.
“They’re rolling,” Stone said to Faith.
“Got it. My bet is Midway. You want me to go ahead and file for there? We can always change our destination later.”
Faith went forward and cranked up the auxiliary power unit, so they would have air-conditioning, then they closed up and allowed themselves to be towed out of the hangar.
One of the crew came back to where they sat. “Faith says they’ve already changed their destination to Midway.”
“Excellent,” Stone said. He turned to Dino. “It’s got to be Zanian.”
“I still don’t think that Marty is Zanian,” Dino said.
“You could be right, but I’m betting that Zanian is on that airplane.”
“I won’t argue that with you.”
They took off and headed in a northwesterly direction.
“Tell me again the significance of Midway,” Dino said.
“It was always a refueling stop. Juan Trippe, who founded and ran Pan American World Airways, constructed a building there, and his long-range seaplanes, the Pan Am Clippers, stopped for fuel.”
“I mean about the war.”
“After Pearl Harbor, our U.S. Navy codebreakers cracked the Japanese code. Japan was planning an attack, but they didn’t know where. There were references to a place called F, I think, and they thought that was Midway. To find out, they sent a coded message to Midway, telling the operator to send an open message that the island was having trouble with its water condenser. Before long the Japanese broadcast a coded message, which, when broken, said that F was having trouble with its water condensers.”
“So they knew it was Midway.”
“Right. So they sent a carrier and its escorts to a point northeast of Midway, to lie in wait, figuring the Japanese would attack from the northwest. They were right, and a three-day battle ensured, resulting in the loss of all four Japanese aircraft carriers and a lot of airplanes. It was a turning point in the war. The Japanese never won another battle at sea.”
They settled in for a long flight chasing the sun.
Late in the day, approaching Midway, Faith came back. “The Gulfstream just took off for Manila,” she said. “We heard them talking to the center. I’ve delayed our call to the center until they’re out of range. We’ll be on the ground about an hour, if you want to stretch your legs, then we’ll take off for Manila with a fresh crew.”
The old Pan Am building was still on the island, and Stone and Dino took a walk along the beach. The famous gooney birds were still nesting.
They took off. Then Stone and Dino got into pajamas, pulled the shades, and turned in for the night.
Faith woke them in time to shower, shave, and change into fresh clothes. Manila was hot, too.
Faith emerged from the cockpit as they were on their way out of the airplane.
“They’re not here,” she said.
“What?” Stone asked her, stunned.
“We’ll do a ground search at the airport, but as far as I can tell, they didn’t land at Manila. The Philippines are a big place, but I’ll see what I can find out.”
“We’ve come halfway around the world, and they’re not here?” Dino asked.
“They’re somewhere,” Stone said. “We’ll find out where, one way or another. Let’s charter a smaller airplane and search the island’s airports.”
“I checked on that,” Faith said. “There are three hundred and fifty-four airports in the Philippine Islands. I was unable to find out how many of them have runways more than five thousand feet long. Where do you want to start?”
Stone was struck silent.