“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.