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.