The next two days were spent as most tourists spend their time in Hawaii, away from the hotel during the day, sometimes at the beach, sometimes visiting local natural attractions or shopping.
At nights I traveled in the area between Kaanapali and Lahaina seeking out restaurants and nightlife.
During this period I neither saw nor heard any more of Mr. Herschel.
On the third day, I was up at two a.m. to catch a shuttle that would take me up to Haleakala where I would get to watch the sunrise come over the clouds which usually hung below the summit of this mountain, following which I would bike down the mountain on a rented bicycle.
When I returned to my room in late afternoon, I found the day’s issue of the Maui News on the table where housekeeping had placed it.
I usually just browsed the paper each day to catch a glimpse of what the key issues of the day were for the island. On page three was the headline TOURIST DIES OF MYSTERIOUS ILLNESS AT WMH. This was a reference to the West Maui Hospital and the article went on to describe the symptoms which sent Mr. Marion Herschel to the hospital where he died twenty-four hours after admission.
Herschel had succumbed to the ricin pretty quickly. This poison works more effectively when inhaled as a powder or injected as it was to Georgi Markov in London in 1978, allegedly by a Bulgarian. However, ingesting the material can be equally fatal, especially when a high enough dosage is swallowed. Herschel’s two tequilas were more than sufficient and the poison is so rare that it is unlikely that his death would ever be attributed to something that would no longer be in his system.
It had not been necessary to replace all the salt in the container with ricin, as minuscule amounts of the stuff are fatal, so its presence in the salt was concealed by the taste of the salt itself.
I prepared to go home.
I had received a call from L.T. who had seen the article in the paper as well and when I told him I was ready to head home, he said that he would meet me at the airport to send me off.
The next day I dabbled around the hotel most of the day, taking all my meals there and packing my things to catch the night flight back to LA. The plane didn’t leave until nine-thirty that night, but checkout time at the hotel is noon, so I cleared up the bills shortly before noon, threw my bags into the Altima, and set out for Wailuku to check out that community near the airport before turning in the car and checking in to catch my flight.
L.T. and I had agreed to have dinner at one of the restaurants in Wailuku
I got to the restaurant before L.T. and went to wait for him at the bar where I nursed a whiskey sour until he showed up.
“Hi, Michael,” he greeted me as he took his place on one of the bar stools. “Nice work. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that M.H.‘s “illness” has been diagnosed.”
We chatted about minutiae for a few minutes and then were escorted to a table for dinner.
As we dined, most of our conversation was about trivial things since the restaurant was somewhat crowded, and “work talk” would have been overheard.
However, L.T. mentioned once again that he was sorry that I had made a decision to retire. He reiterated how valuable my work was and that it was a shame to lose such expertise. But he seemed to understand that my decision was irrevocable.
We parted amicably as he picked up the restaurant tab and I headed off to turn in my Altima at the rental agency and get my bags checked for the flight.
By the time I reached the airport and checked through security, I had about two hours left before the flight, time which I spent alternately dozing in the uncomfortable seats of the waiting area and reading the paperback novel from my carry-on.
Finally, over the public address system came “Flight twenty-six twenty will now begin boarding at gate C‑6.”
Time to get aboard, settle in, and take a Benedryl. No sense staying awake as Maui would be clothed in darkness and LA was five-and-a-half hours away.
CNN Breaking News.
United Airlines Flight 2620 has apparently crashed at sea approximately 800 miles east/northeast of the Hawaiian Islands. The flight departed Maui, Hawaii at 9:30 p.m. local time and was headed to Los Angeles.
The freighter SS Anatolia reported seeing a fireball about the time that communication and radar contact was lost with 2620.
If the plane exploded in the air, the likelihood of any survivors is remote and U.S. Navy ships operating from Hawaii are speeding toward the area where the flight is likely to have gone down.
CNN will break into its regularly scheduled programming as details become available.