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

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.

8:15 EST

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.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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