This arti­cle is part 3 of 9 in the series The Maui Condiments

“Herschel is a real king­pin, in the purest form of the word.  Only he has con­trol of and knowl­edge of all the routes and meth­ods of trans­port­ing the junk he’s sell­ing, as well as the con­tacts he keeps with his gang in Hong Kong.  He’s the head of the snake and if we can lop off the head we believe that the rest of the snake will be in such dis­ar­ray that we can effec­tive­ly move on it and dis­man­tle the remain­der.  We’re already work­ing on get­ting into the group in Hong Kong, but it’s wound tight.  Once they get wind of Herschel’s demise, they’re very apt to make the mis­takes that will gain us final access and we can clean it up once and for all.”

“Sounds pret­ty vast,” I pon­dered.  “With that kind of pow­er, the guy must trav­el with some high-pow­ered protection.”

“That’s the odd thing.  Because of the legit­i­ma­cy of his import busi­ness, he feels that he can move about with rel­a­tive impuni­ty.  The trips he most often makes are osten­si­bly for that busi­ness, but we know that he is also keep­ing things mov­ing with the shadier parts as well.  But he sel­dom trav­els about with more than a sec­re­tary, a man who seems also to serve as his valet, if you will, see­ing to his dai­ly needs, buy­ing his clothes, sched­ul­ing meals and appoint­ments.  That sort of thing.  He also has a girl­friend who is always with him and who, I guess, pro­vides some addi­tion­al legit­i­ma­cy as well as the nor­mal fringe benefits.

“The guy also has some habits that don’t fit into being a true Muslim.  He likes to drink, and he’s not above hav­ing out­side sex­u­al encoun­ters when the oppor­tu­ni­ty strikes.  And appar­ent­ly, his girl­friend does­n’t mind.  She either shares in those encoun­ters or he show­ers her with enough gifts to keep her oth­er­wise sat­is­fied.  He’s also a smok­er, most­ly pipes, and usu­al­ly smokes Borkum Riff although he won’t be smok­ing much since the hotel is smoke-free, even the grounds.

“One thing’s for sure.  This guy has­n’t glommed onto all the required prac­tices of Islam.”

“Sounds like the typ­i­cal American play­boy,” I mused.

The con­ver­sa­tion between L.T. and me con­tin­ued as he filled me in on some of Herschel’s itin­er­ary.  I was booked into the Kaanapali Shores hotel, which is where Herschel was also stay­ing.  This would pro­vide me addi­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ty to observe his move­ments and see if there might be some sort of pat­tern.  There was also the chance that I might just “acci­den­tal­ly” bump into him and strike up an acquaintance.

L.T. had reserved a dark gray Nissan Altima for me to dri­ve while on the island.  This car is one of the most pop­u­lar vehi­cles rent­ed on the island and does not stand out so, should I need to tail the guy, I would be less notice­able than if I were dri­ving a can­dy-apple red Porsche Carrera or yel­low Lamborghini.   No James Bond Aston Martins for me, although the idea of some built-in rock­et launch­ers does tick­le one’s fancy.

I was giv­en a num­ber of pho­tos of Herschel and of his two com­pan­ions.  From his prison records, I dis­cov­ered that Herschel him­self was five feet, eleven inch­es tall and weighed — when he left prison — one hun­dred and nine­ty-five pounds although more recent pic­tures of him sug­gest­ed that he might be over two hun­dred now.  His male com­pan­ion was small, maybe five feet eight, and very slim, prob­a­bly no more than a hun­dred fifty-five.

The girl was pret­ty, but not drop-dead gor­geous.  She was approx­i­mate­ly five feet six with­out heels and had dark brown hair.  The one pic­ture of her in a biki­ni was very flat­ter­ing and it was obvi­ous that she was tak­ing good care of her­self phys­i­cal­ly.  Most any male would have been proud to have her on his arm.

L.T., know­ing that I was not trav­el­ing with firearms, asked if I would need any.  I let him know that I would decide lat­er and if so, I’d give him a call.  He gave me a num­ber where he could be reached on the island and said that he would be stay­ing until the com­mis­sion was completed.

I assumed that he was going to be my back­up this go-around, not the clan­des­tine group that had been around dur­ing my China assignment.

It was get­ting to be late after­noon Hawaii time and, as I had to dri­ve about thir­ty miles to the hotel, we fin­ished our review and drinks and head­ed out of the ter­mi­nal to the park­ing lot.  L.T. had already rent­ed my car and had had it brought over and parked so that I would not have to wait in a long line at Hertz along with oth­er arriv­ing tourists. 

He helped me with my bags, showed me to the car I would be dri­ving, and, hand­ing me the key, said “Good luck, Michael.  You’ll have to find out how long Herschel is plan­ning on stay­ing and make your plans accord­ing­ly.  Your return flight is sched­uled for ten days from now.  If we need to change that, I’ll take care of it.  Just let me know.  Be care­ful.  I know you always are.”

With that, he turned and head­ed off to his own car some­where in the lot.

I could­n’t help won­der­ing if he was dri­ving a dark gray Altima as well.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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