The International Writers Magazine:Dreamscapes Fiction from
WISH YOU WERE HERE
William Starr Moake
is a real trip. I've been in Honolulu for a month now and I still
can't get over the weather. It's February and temperature is in
the low 80s every day. Back in Detroit it's as cold as a witch's
tit and the snow is blowing.
feel sorry for Nolan. He's paying me to lay on the beach in paradise
while he hoofs it through sooty-colored slush. I should be paying him
to follow Huntley, the snitch who rolled over on him when the cops infiltrated
their operation. Huntley was easy to find. I figured he would head for
the fun and sun and after I checked the flights to Mexico, I found him
listed under his mother's maiden name at United Airlines. A one-way
ticket to Honolulu had been purchased from a travel agent in the burbs.
The stupid bastard didn't have the sense to leave Wayne County to make
Nolan told me to keep track of Huntley and wait patiently until I found
the right circumstances. Hell, I would gladly wait years in this place.
It has to look like an accident so Nolan won't get any heat from the
FBI. After I found Huntley, I took a hotel room directly across the
street from the highrise building where he rented an apartment. I can
see him from my window when he sits on his lanai to look at the ocean.
He doesn't have a clue that anyone is watching him. I've followed him
all around the island in my rental car and not once did he ever look
in his rear-view mirror. Huntley thinks he's safe because he made a
deal with the Detroit cops to vanish 5,000 miles away until it was time
to testify in court. Sooner or later I'll catch him alone and he won't
see it coming.
In the meantime I'm content to soak up the tropical ambience. The hotel
manager thinks I'm a businessman from Chicago taking a long vacation
on the advice of my doctor. The truth is I am getting older and I'm
starting to think about retiring. You can't stay alive in my business
if you get careless and I'm not as sharp as I used to be. I could do
a lot worse than Hawaii when it comes time to call it quits. I like
the way Hawaii makes me feel. It's so laid-back and comfortable I'm
more relaxed than I have been in years.
I even met a woman I dig. Her name is Ruby Moon and she could easily
pass for a wet dream: five-foot, nine inches tall and exotically beautiful
with long black hair and almond eyes. She's mostly Korean with a little
Hawaiian and haole (as they call whites in the islands) thrown in and
she works as a call girl in Waikiki. The first time I talked to her
in a bar she got mad when I said she looked like a dragon lady.
"What the hell does that mean? I'm not Chinese."
"I'm Korean. Not all Asians are Chinese."
"Can we start over? My name is Jack Bryce." When I tried to
shake hands with her, she stared into my eyes and didn't move a finger.
"What do you want?"
"I'll buy you a drink."
"I already have a drink."
"You're not making this very easy."
"Are you sure you can afford me?"
"My daddy died and left me the farm in Iowa. You want to see the
deed?" She tried hard not to smile, but I knew I had her. "That's
better. Now tell me what you're drinking."
"I should have guessed."
After I ordered a refill from the waiter, she said: "What are you
doing in Honolulu, Jack Bryce?"
"I'm here to kill someone." I get a kick out of telling people
the truth because they never believe it. She played along, smiling the
whole time. "Anyone I know?" "I seriously doubt it."
"What did he do?"
"Let's not talk about that jerk. Tell me your name."
" "You're kidding. Is that your real name?"
"Moon is a highly-respected Korean name."
"What about Ruby?"
"My father thought I resembled a jewel."
"He was right. You're gorgeous."
I see Ruby a couple times a week when she's not busy. I take her to
a fancy restaurant for dinner, then we go dancing at a nightclub or
take in a comedy show and usually end up in my hotel room. She's expensive,
but I like her and I think she likes me, too. Once, as she was leaving
the hotel room, she refused to take the five hundred I peeled out of
my wallet. She said that night was a freebie because she had an especially
good time. Of course she had no idea that Nolan was paying for everything,
including her. I have a virtual blank check with him because I'm saving
his ass from prison. He puts money into a bank account I withdraw from
anytime I want to with no questions asked.
Ruby is young enough to be my daughter if I had one, but she doesn't
mind the age difference. She's used to dealing with older men. If I
put any effort into it, I could probably fall for her in a big way.
But first things first. I'm here to take care of Huntley and I can't
afford to get scatter brained about it. This might be my last job and
I intend to do it right.
Huntley thinks he's a lady killer, but he couldn't score if his life
depended on it. I ate lunch the other day at a sidewalk cafe in Waikiki,
watching Huntley strike out twice with young women tourists on the beach.
He has a wife back in Detroit, a real woofer who left him for a nightclub
bouncer. He could do better if he combed his hair once in awhile and
bathed more often. I don't understand these young guys. They think women
like the sloppy look. Two days of whiskers and no socks went out when
"Miami Vice" ended and Don Johnson got fat. Nowadays women
want a man who looks like he works on Wall Street.
After lunch I walked back to my hotel and did a double-take when I saw
who was waiting in the lobby. Nolan climbed out of a rattan chair and
shuffled over to me. He didn't look happy.
"What the hell are you doing here, Frank?"
"Checking up on you."
"You want to queer the whole thing? Huntley is right down the street."
"Let's go to the bar. It's nice and dark in there."
We took a booth and ordered double Scotches. "What's this all about?"
I asked him.
"I wanted to find out what's going on."
"I'm staying close to Huntley."
"You haven't called in two weeks."
"What the fuck do you want -- a daily report?"
'"Take it easy, Jack."
"I don't work that way."
"You been spending my money like I was printing it on a press."
"Things are expensive in Hawaii."
"When are you gonna make your move?"
"When the time is right and not a minute before."
"How long will that take?"
I drank half of my Scotch. "Why don't do Huntley yourself while
"I'm paying you to do it."
"Then leave it to me and go back to Detroit."
"I got a right to know what's happening with my money."
"That's not the deal we made."
"I don't need this shit with the DA breathing down my neck."
"Stop whining. I know you can afford it."
Nolan sipped his drink and stared at me. "You should be careful
how you talk to me, Jack."
"Drink up. This conversation is over."
In the lobby I took his arm and led him outside, which he didn't like
"What is this --?"
"You're going to the airport," I said, flagging down a taxi.
"Like hell I am."
I opened the door and shoved him into the back seat. "After you
get back to Detroit, give me a call and let me know if you want me to
handle this job. I don't care one way or the other, but I'm not listening
to any more complaining." I slammed the door and told the driver
to take him to the airport, then I watched the taxi pull away. If there's
one thing I can't stand, it's a client who snivels about money. Nolan
was paying his lawyers twice as much as me and the best they could offer
him was a few years less to rot in prison. I could get him off scot
free with no witness to testify against him. Nolan had his priorities
all wrong, but like most damned fools, he couldn't see it. That night
I had dinner with Ruby Moon to try to forget Nolan and Huntley, but
it didn't work like I hoped. "What's the matter?" she asked.
"Nothing. It's not important."
"I know you want to tell me." I grinned at her. "You
must be psychic."
"As a matter of fact --"
"I think I lost my job."
"You're not going to kill anyone?"
"Is it a big disappointment?"
"Well, the money would have been fun to spend."
"What business are you really in?"
"From the family farm in Iowa."
"Go ahead and ridicule me. I don't care."
"All right, keep your secrets. I have secrets of my own."
"You're an open book if I ever saw one."
"You think you know me, but you don't."
"What don't I know?"
"I'm studying to become a nurse. I take classes at the university."
"Good for you."
"You don't believe me."
"Sure I do."
"You think I'm too stupid to learn nursing."
"No I don't."
"You think I'm just a stupid whore."
She pulled her hand away when I tried to touch it across the table.
"You're wrong, Ruby. I like you a
"But you think I'm stupid."
"Will you stop saying that? Why are you getting so upset?"
I could see angry tears forming in her eyes. She looked like she hated
"I'm sick of everything," she blurted out.
"You want to leave?"
"And go where?"
"Like to your crummy hotel room, right? All we do is fuck there."
"We don't have to do that. Where do you want to go?"
She wiped her eyes with a napkin, smearing mascara.
"It doesn't matter."
I paid the check and got a taxi outside the restaurant. In the back
seat Ruby took off her shoes and curled up beside me, wrapping her arm
around my waist. All of a sudden the anger was gone she looked like
a little girl.
"Can we drive around the island?" she asked. "Sure. Why
The driver looked at me in the rear-view mirror. "That's a little
"Just start driving," I told him. "When you run out of
island, turn around and come back to town."
"Which way you wanna go?"
"Take your pick. And there's a hundred-dollar tip if I don't hear
another word out of you."
In the mirror I could see the driver smile and zip up his mouth.
I never got a call from Nolan, but the next day there was ten grand
more in my bank account. Although he wasn't as stupid as I thought,
he couldn't admit he had been wrong to come to Honolulu and bug me.
The truth is I don't like Nolan at all. I've done a couple jobs for
him and he always came off like he was doing me a favor when he paid
me. He'll end up behind bars or dead because he's got his head up his
ass. He thinks he's a big shot, but he's just a little man who got lucky
in a dirty business. One day he'll piss off the wrong person and get
what he deserves. After thinking about the situation, I decided to let
Huntley off the hook. He didn't deserve a break any more than Nolan,
but I was feeling generous once I made up my mind to retire in Hawaii.
Besides, I didn't want the local cops looking for me if anything went
haywire in the hit. You can't retire in a place if you have keep looking
over your shoulder. Last night I waited until I saw the lights go out
in Huntley's apartment, then I hurried across the street to catch him
as he was leaving.
He stopped on the sidewalk and turned around.
"Who the hell are you?"
"I'm your guardian angel," I said, pulling out a cigarette.
"You got a light?"
"I don't recognize you. How do you know my name?" I lit the
cigarette with my own lighter. "I've been following you for a month."
He looked like a deer in the headlights. I put my hand in my jacket
pocket, which happened to be empty. "Don't even think about running.
You wouldn't make it ten steps." He looked around nervously. There
were no other pedestrians on the street, just a lot of car traffic buzzing
by. "Relax, man. I'm here to do you a favor."
"What do you mean?"
"Nolan paid me to kill you, but I'm gonna let you fly away like
a bird." He started backing up. "I don't believe you."
"You can't stay here in Hawaii and you can't ever go back to Detroit."
"Stay away from me."
"You'll have to get lost in some out-of-the way country that Nolan
has never heard of. And you have to leave tomorrow morning."
"I'm not going anywhere. You won't shoot me on a public street."
"You're not listening to me, Huntley." He started backing
up again. "You're bluffing."
"I'm trying to help you. Use your head for a change." I knew
he was spooked, but I couldn't believe what happened next. He sprinted
into the street and made it about half-way across before a van slammed
into him. After flying through the air, he bounced several times on
the pavement and came to rest on his stomach. His arms and legs were
twisted out of place like a rag doll. The van driver was an older Chinese
man who began babbling hysterically. "You saw!" he shouted
at me. "He ran right in front of me!"
"Take it easy, pop. It wasn't your fault."
"Crazy man!" he howled. "Right in front of me!"
I stuck around until the cops showed up. I didn't want them tracking
me down as the witness who disappeared. I told the investigating officer
I had been asking the victim for directions to a restaurant when he
bolted into the street. "Why did he do it?"
"I don't know. Maybe he had a hot date." The cop seemed to
buy my story and while we were talking, the ambulance arrived to pick
up Huntley. "Is he dead?" I asked the cop. "He's still
breathing, but he don't look so good."
"Where are they taking him?"
"Queen's Hospital." After I ate supper at the hotel restaurant,
I went to the hospital to check on Huntley. "Are you a relative?"
the nurse at the front desk asked me. "I'm his uncle. I just heard
about the accident."
"I'm sorry to have to tell you that Mr. Huntley expired shortly
after he arrived."
"You mean he died?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so."
Driving back to my hotel, I realized I had pulled off the perfect hit
by accident. It was almost funny, especially since this was my last
job. I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for Huntley - the first
time I had ever felt like that about a mark. All he had to do was disappear
and he was home free, but he was too rattled to believe me. Some guys
are born losers. I wanted to put everything behind me and start a new
life in Hawaii. I've been doubled up like a fist for the past twenty
years because of my work. Skill or dumb luck or a combination of both
got me through all those years in one piece, but it's time to unclench
and move on to something more peaceful. I have enough money socked away
to live comfortably for the rest of my life if I don't turn stupid with
it. Maybe I'll try a legitimate business with not much down side, like
import-export in the islands. I'll make sure Ruby keeps going to those
college classes so she can become a nurse and get out of hooking for
a living. She's way too brittle for that kind of business. Huntley is
a carrier pigeon who delivered his last message to either Saint Peter
or the guy with horns and hooves. If I was a gambler, which I'm not,
I'd bet that Huntley is smelling sulfur right now. I sent a telegram
to Nolan today: "Frank, the job is finished. You keep the final
payment. I'm retiring in Hawaii- sun, sand and a girl named after a
heavenly body. You get the picture. I don't wish you were here. In fact,
if I ever see your face in the islands again, I'll come out of retirement
just for you. Seriously, Jack."
© Bill Moake May 18th 2004
of the Sun
in Buenos Aires
Fiction in Dreamscapes
all rights reserved