aerial photography of buildings during daytime
This arti­cle is part 8 of 9 in the series The Honolulu Retribution

“Michael, flight 2620 did explode in mid-air, but not because of a bomb.  There was a cat­a­stroph­ic equip­ment failure.”

“You’re lying, L.T.,” I shout­ed.  I was close to pulling the knife even if I was­n’t quite ready to make final use of it.  I want­ed him to feel fear.  I want­ed him to know that ret­ri­bu­tion was near.

“No, no!  Haven’t you seen the news today?  The Navy recov­ered the flight recorder yes­ter­day and, just today released a short state­ment about the cause.  CNN’s been run­ning the sto­ry for hours.  That’s all they’re show­ing.  You know how they are.  They get one hot sto­ry and they go over and over it hour after hour, to the exclu­sion of every­thing else.

“That plane was car­ry­ing those new lithi­um-ion bat­ter­ies.  Apparently, one of them over­heat­ed and start­ed a fire that they could­n’t get to.  It only took less than a minute for the flames to ignite fumes from the plane’s fuel tanks and she went up like a blimp filled with hydrogen!”

“You expect me to buy that cock-and-bull sto­ry? You expect me to believe that you were sim­ply going to let me call it quits and walk away from being a paid assassin?”

“Well, I can prove the sto­ry about the plane if you’ll let me turn on the TV.”

“Go ahead,” I told him.  He picked up the remote from the chair­side table, turned on the TV, and punched in the CNN channel.

“.…debris is being brought aboard some of the Navy ships now, but no bod­ies have been recov­ered as of yet.  Guidance from the Anatolia, which was in the vicin­i­ty at the time that 2620 per­ished proved help­ful in guid­ing the Navy to the spot where the plane entered the ocean.  The black box — the flight recorder — was mirac­u­lous­ly found quick­ly as it was ping­ing from a sec­tion of the wreck­age that was still afloat.

“As we stat­ed before, the flight recorder has appar­ent­ly record­ed that a fire orig­i­nat­ed with one of the plane’s lithi­um-ion bat­ter­ies and quick­ly spread, ignit­ing the plane’s fuel, which caused the plane to vir­tu­al­ly explode in mid-air.  It is unlike­ly that any of the pas­sen­gers were still alive when the remains of the plane hit the water.  The Navy will continue…”

The words trailed off as I pon­dered what I had just heard.  So it was­n’t a bomb and I was­n’t a target.

We sat qui­et­ly for a while, each with his own thoughts.  L.T  was prob­a­bly think­ing about the fact that a pro­fes­sion­al assas­sin had just come to kill him, but would­n’t.  I was think­ing about the rage that I had been har­bor­ing the last few days, togeth­er with all the doubts about anoth­er killing.  I felt a cer­tain exon­er­a­tion, a kind of release.

Finally, I spoke, “So you  real­ly don’t care that I’ve made a deci­sion to quit?  You’re not con­cerned about “loose lips”?”

“Michael, the only peo­ple you need have any con­cern about may be those close­ly relat­ed to some of your tar­gets and I seri­ous­ly doubt that you’ve left any trail to yourself.

“And what could you pos­si­bly say about me or any of the oth­ers you’ve worked for?  I’d guess that you don’t know any of the real names or have any proof of who they worked for.  There seems lit­tle chance of embar­rass­ment com­ing to any of your clients and any noto­ri­ety you might gen­er­ate would only lead back to you and make you a tar­get of those peo­ple we’ve already talked about.

“No, Michael.  You’ve got noth­ing to fear from me, I assure you.”

Somehow I believed him.  That lit­tle nag­ging feel­ing that I had before was­n’t there anymore. 

“I’m sor­ry, L.T.  I guess you can under­stand why I had my doubts, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing the untime­ly demise of that plane right after I decid­ed not to be on it.”

“I can under­stand.  And I’m sor­ry that you’ve prob­a­bly been going through hell the last few days.

Let me fix us a cou­ple of drinks.  We can both calm down and you can tell me exact­ly what you’ve been doing since I left you at the airport.”

A few min­utes lat­er we were both enjoy­ing a cold gin and ton­ic and I was pro­vid­ing details of my jour­ney to Oahu and my time on the island.

After a cou­ple of hours of nurs­ing the first and then a sec­ond gin and ton­ic, I decid­ed to head back to my hotel, although sure that sleep would only come fit­ful­ly this night.

As L.T. walked me to the door and as I entered the soft warmth of the island night, I turned to L.T. and said, “L.T.  I would like to make one request.”

“Sure, Michael.  What is it?”

“Do you sup­pose we could trav­el back to the main­land on the same plane?”

L.T. laughed, “I’ll see to it, Michael.”

* * *

As I head­ed down Kuahaka Street toward the light­ed down­town of Honolulu, I smiled inwardly.

Well, at least I’ve got the begin­nings of a good knife collection.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.

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