This arti­cle is part 2 of 9 in the series The Maui Condiments

The trip from Lexington to Chicago was unevent­ful, though crowd­ed.  There’s no first-class on the pud­dle jumpers that cov­er these short flights, so I was wedged in for about an hour-and-a-half.  No use com­plain­ing.  The only options are dri­ving or pri­vate plane.  Maybe I should speak to L.T. about that sec­ond option next time.

The whole trip was very well planned, with only min­i­mal lay­overs in Chicago or LA and short­ly after noon I was wing­ing my way over the Pacific, com­fort­ably ensconced in first class with a nice meal before me and a glass of Pinot Grigio in my hand.

Finishing lunch and brows­ing through Skeptic, it was not dif­fi­cult for me to drop off to sleep since I had been up since before four a.m. and the three thou­sand or so miles from LA to Maui quick­ly passed at six hun­dred miles per hour.

It was mid-after­noon when the plane land­ed at Kahului air­port on Maui.  It was cer­tain­ly nice not to have to fly into Oahu and make anoth­er trans­fer for a short flight to Maui, and I was feel­ing quite refreshed as we de-planed into bright sun­shine and eighty-five-degree temperatures.

I head­ed into the ter­mi­nal to col­lect my bag­gage, feel­ing quite cer­tain that L.T. would show up prompt­ly as he had indi­cat­ed in his note.

Sure enough, he was wav­ing a greet­ing to me as I approached, look­ing every bit a res­i­dent Hawaiian in his bright flow­ered shirt, kha­ki pants, and deck shoes with­out socks.

“Michael, how good to see you,” he greet­ed me with a huge smile on his face, extend­ing his hand to shake mine.  For some­one who was only five feet eight inch­es tall with slight­ly gray­ing hair, his grip was some­thing to expe­ri­ence, per­haps some­what akin to being in the clutch­es of a moray eel.

His sun­glass­es hung from the pock­et of his Hilo Hattie shirt and he pat­ted my right arm with his left hand as we exchanged greet­ings.  He could exude warmth when he want­ed to, but I knew that deep down there was a pro­fes­sion­al­ism lurk­ing under all the camaraderie.

“Let’s go grab a drink.  I’ve got access to a club room where we can talk and relax for a bit and I’ll fill you in on things,” he con­tin­ued to smile as he gen­tly prod­ded my back and we head­ed to the lug­gage carousel.

After pulling my suit­case from the carousel and walk­ing the short dis­tance to the club room we set­tled our­selves into a cou­ple of com­fort­able lounge chairs and L.T. ordered a Mai Tai for him­self and a whisky sour — no ice — for me.  I’m still not sure how he knew that was my drink of choice.  Suffice to say, L.T. undoubt­ed­ly knew a great deal more about me than I did about him.

After some small talk dur­ing which he asked how I was doing and how was the flight, he became slight­ly more seri­ous — dead­ly seri­ous was nev­er a trade­mark of his — and we began the dis­cus­sion about the pur­pose of my being in Maui.

We were the only occu­pants of the club room at the moment and the young lady who brought our drinks expe­di­tious­ly dis­ap­peared, leav­ing us quite alone.

“Michael,” began L.T., speak­ing between sips of his Mai Tai, “the man you will be deal­ing with will be arriv­ing in Maui with­in a cou­ple of days.  That’s why we had such a short rein on the arrange­ments for your trip here.  I deeply appre­ci­ate the fact that you decid­ed to help on such short notice.”

“Too good an oppor­tu­ni­ty to pass up,” I replied.  “Never been here before but always want­ed to come and the free tick­ets in first class were an induce­ment I just could­n’t ignore.

“But I feel it only fair to tell you, L.T., that this is going to be my last caper.  You’ve always played fair with me and been very gen­er­ous regard­ing my fees, but I’m into my for­ties now and I’m well sit­u­at­ed mon­ey-wise.  My reflex­es are slow­ing down with age and the thrill of the work no longer attracts me.  I hope you won’t think bad­ly of me for accept­ing your rather lucra­tive offer for this assign­ment, only to let you know this.”

“Well, I must say,” he said after a slight pause, “I’m sur­prised and dis­ap­point­ed that we won’t be work­ing togeth­er again, but I ful­ly under­stand your rea­sons and cer­tain­ly wish you no ill will.  I have full con­fi­dence that you will main­tain com­plete con­fi­dence about what has tran­spired between us.”

“I don’t plan on writ­ing any expos­es, if that’s what you’re con­cerned about,” I said.

“No, I’m not the least con­cerned, but it’s good to hear you say it just the same.

“Anyway,” he con­tin­ued, “his assumed name is Mehmed Abu.  He’s an American cit­i­zen whose real name is Marion Herschel.  He was sent to prison sev­er­al years ago on a rob­bery charge.  He served six years of a fif­teen-year sen­tence and, while in prison, con­vert­ed to Islam. That was when he began call­ing him­self Mehmed Abu.  He became par­tic­u­lar­ly embroiled with a mil­i­tant wing of Islam, a sect that calls itself Haram Ishtar.  He left the U.S. short­ly after his release from prison, osten­si­bly going to Venezuela to work in the oil indus­try.  Once there, he got him­self a job as a sea­man aboard a con­tain­er ship bound for Iran.

“After reach­ing Iran, it was pret­ty sim­ple for him to find the nec­es­sary help to get him to Afghanistan where he hooked up with Al Quaeda and pret­ty quick­ly moved up the ranks because of his knowl­edge of America, its weak spots and how to take advan­tage of them.

“He was sent back to the states after near­ly three years there, short­ly after the U.S. stepped up its pres­ence.  He went through Pakistan into India where it was pret­ty easy to make his way to England, Canada, and back into the U.S.

“Of course, he was now Marion Herschel again and had set him­self up as an importer of goods from the far east, in Seattle.

“His com­pa­ny is called Martine Enterprises and it’s run strict­ly on the up-and-up.  He does­n’t want any undue atten­tion to him­self or his com­pa­ny but, in real­i­ty, he’s run­ning a sep­a­rate busi­ness import­ing high-grade hero­in, con­trol­ling its dis­tri­b­u­tion on the street, and using the prof­its to sup­port a large oper­a­tion out of Hong Kong which is con­cen­trat­ing on hack­ing into U.S. infra­struc­ture com­put­er sys­tems with the goal of shut­ting down, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, some of the largest elec­tric gen­er­at­ing plants all across the country.

“You can imag­ine the chaos such a large coör­di­nat­ed attack would cre­ate, when whole cities go dark and oth­er vital ser­vices are with­out elec­tric­i­ty for extend­ed peri­ods of time.”

“Indeed,” I respond­ed, remem­ber­ing all the prob­lems of the great Northeast black­out a num­ber of years ago when elec­tric load trans­fers near­ly threat­ened to shut down every­thing east of the Mississippi.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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