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    C James
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

In Memory of Ed Wooton

For the Love - 33. Blackheart

Steve turned around in the water, a few degrees at a time, scanning the dark, rain-swept waters. Searching in the darkness, he groaned, "I don't know, I can't see anything. I think we drifted too far offshore and the current got us."

"Yeah, but how do we find our way back to the beach? Maybe we could listen for the surf..." I said, hearing the waves but being unable to tell their direction.

Steve listened with me for a while before saying, "I can't tell for sure... we'd better be sure we don't go in the wrong direction."

We floated for a while, listening to the distant surf. The sound of each crashing wave seemed to come from a different direction - almost as if the ocean was mocking us... The rains ended as suddenly as they had begun, and near the horizon I began to see a few stars. One bright star caught my eye and I grinned; the points of light around it formed a familiar pattern. I cried out in joy, "That's the North Star. The coast here faces north, so if we swim away from the North Star, we'll reach land!"

Steve and I both launched into a freestyle crawl, pacing ourselves for distance. Every few minutes we stopped, gazing into the dark as the clouds lifted. Soon, we saw the looming black mass of mountains, with a line of luminescent surf guiding us back to the beach itself.

With the beach in sight, we swam hard, covering the distance within a few minutes. The welcome feel of sand under my feet felt like heaven as we waded ashore, relieved to be safe. The darkness was still near total, though the starlight was slowly revealing the scene. Glancing about for familiar landmarks, I found a grove of palms beyond the sand, though the beach was wider than I remembered. Looking down the beach, the shape of the cliffs bounding the cove confirmed my thoughts, "Steve, this isn't our beach...."

Steve's hand found my shoulder as he said, "Yeah, I think you're right. We must have drifted either up or down the coast a little. No big deal; it's almost dawn, and we can wait for first light and hike back to our beach. It can't be far. Worst case, we know the highway isn't far from the coast here, so we just hike inland 'till we find it, then hitch a ride."

"Yeah, but one problem... we're naked, remember?"

Chuckling, Steve replied, "Yeah, but I don't see anyone around, so we'll be fine, don't worry, unless..." Steve paused for effect before adding, "Unless Veronica finds out. She'll never let us live this down."

Laughing, I followed Steve to the tree line to wait for dawn. While we waited, I found a few fallen palm fronds and tried my hand at weaving them, attempting to make some form of clothing. Steve laughed but joined in, though by the time the first glimmers of dawn lit the horizon, we had precious little to show for our efforts.

We took a guess that we were west of our beach, and hiked to the rocky outcropping that bounded the cove to the east. I carried a few palm leaves just in case, figuring they were better than nothing, as we scrambled up the slope of rough volcanic rocks. Sure enough, as we crested the top a dozen yards later, the glow of dawn revealed a familiar stretch of sand and trees; we'd found our beach. The climb down was difficult, but soon enough we were on sand and jogging towards our tent.

After that adventure, the rest of our first day camping went smoothly. Upon reaching the tent, we crawled in to sleep for a while, waking sometime around late morning. Pulling on shorts, we played in the water for a few hours before building a sandcastle together.

The afternoon sun called to us for some tanning, so after changing into some of Steve's racing suits and lathering on some suntan oil, we laid out on a towel, holding hands as we dozed in the tropical sun. I can't ever remember being happier.

After our nap in the sun, we walked along the beach, finding a tiny stream snaking inland through the rain forest. We explored it for a few dozen yards, marveling at the strange multi-colored plants and tiny fish. Speaking of visual marvels, Steve had become even more of one; the tropical sun had turned his tan a rich, deep golden color, taking on a vibrant glow. Steve caught me looking and teased, "Chris, stop thinking those thoughts. I'm jailbait for you now, you dirty old man," before racing down to the water with me in pursuit, Steve hollering "Help, I'm being chased by a pedophile," until my fingers found his ribs.

We played in the water, charging and splashing, ending only when Steve chased me up the beach, both of us falling into each other's arms as we clambered into the tent. As our hands began to explore, I said, "This is like magic, in so many ways. What we're doing would land me in jail in Arizona, and if I wasn't here I'd be in a jail cell this week."

Steve's hands traced my chest as he replied, "Yeah, I'm sure glad things worked out this way. I love you so much, it would have ripped me up inside to see you in jail..."

We hugged, and then much more, before washing off in the warm surf. We pulled on shorts and sneakers, hiking back to near the road where we had stashed the scooters behind some bushes. We made no plans, no designations in mind, and simply went for a ride, following our whims, riding inland, seeing more of the 'real Hawaii'. In one little town, we found a small store, which was a combination grocery, clothing, and hardware store. On a rack against the corrugated tin wall was a collection of brightly colored board shorts, of all makes and patterns, a far better selection than I'd seen in the big fancy department stores, with much better prices as well. We stocked up on a few pairs each, passing up a display of T-shirts; Steve had been right, we were basically living in shorts, and as long as the supply of suntan oil held out, would likely continue to do so.

We finished the day by watching the setting sun blaze a trail of color from the rim of Haleakala's crater. Only later did I learn that Haleakala means 'house of the sun'. The views from there were spectacular, well worth the laborious ride to the summit.

The following days flew by. By day, we rode the scooters all over the island, taking in different sights and places. At the village of Hana, we spent a morning enjoying what the guidebooks assured us was one of the last unspoiled towns in Hawaii. I'm inclined to agree. A little further down the coast, heading south from Hana, we chanced upon a surprise; the grave of the aviator Charles Lindbergh, in the graveyard next to a tiny old limestone church. Looking around the tropical scene, with its view of the sea and the mountains of the Big Island in the distance, I could well understand his wish to be buried here.

Our idyllic days on the beach passed all too quickly, and with regret, we returned to the resort to turn in the scooters and take the shuttle bus to the airport.

The flight to Honolulu was brief, though offering us some awesome views of Molokai en-route. A quick cab ride to Waikiki deposited us at our hotel a few blocks back from the beach. The hotel proved to be decent, though well past its prime; clean, but its best days long past.

A short walk from our hotel brought us to a scooter rental office. The most powerful things we could rent, due to our ages, proved to be a newer model of Vespa scooter, with a 50 CC engine, a top speed of around fifty mph, similar but a little more modern and slightly faster than what we'd had on Maui. After presenting our driver's licenses, a problem reared its head: unlike the rental office at the Maui resort, they would not let me rent two under my name, and they rejected Steve due to his not yet being eighteen. Steve argued that he would be turning eighteen within hours, but they would not budge from their policy. We reserved the scooters for the following morning, which wasn't that great a loss due to it already being late in the day.

After a walk on the white coral sands of Waikiki beach, we stopped by a beachside McDonalds for dinner. The menu was a surprise, in addition to the regular fare, it featured Saimin; a type of a noodle soup. Other unusual items included pineapple as an option on burgers, and Portuguese sausage and rice on the breakfast menu.

We spent the evening walking around the Hilton Hawaiian village, so far feeling very unimpressed with Honolulu. We both found it highly commercialized and built up, not at all like the placid coast of Maui. The 'Hawaiian Village' was not a village at all, just a big resort full of restaurants and shops, so we left, stopping by some small stands on our way back to the hotel. The one purchase we made was an especially loud and garish Hawaiian shirt, which we both thought would make an ideal gift for Dex. I managed to slip away from Steve for just long enough to make a little purchase of my own.

That night, as we climbed into bed, Steve whispered in my ear, "This is your last chance to do the deed with a sweet, innocent minor. You'd better make the most of it, you old letch." Advice I took to heart, in both word and deed.

The following morning, I wished Steve a happy birthday as we awoke. We picked up our scooters, and clad in our loud board shorts, sunglasses, flip-flops and tank tops we set out to do what we had come for; track down any information that we could.

We soon arrived at the address given in the ad, to find a small strip mall in the suburbs of Honolulu. Steve and I exchanged a nervous glance as we parked the Vespas, "Maybe we should try tipping the police?" Steve mumbled, before shaking his head and answering himself, "As if they would do anything based on just a picture of a playing card in a shoe ad."

One of the stores was indeed named "The Shoe Whore," and through the darkened windows, we could see what appeared to be a high-end shoe boutique, with opulent chairs and decorations in place of rows of shelves, the store apparently catering to both sexes. The 'closed' sign on the door shot down our hopes of resolving things that day, but we were relieved to see that the store would open at eight the next morning. Our flight home was an evening flight, which would give us at least some time to see what we could learn. If it was good enough, we had the option of paying a penalty and delaying our flight, though I had a hunch that Mr. Williams would not be pleased when he found out the reason for any delays.

Taking a walk along the strip mall, we found little of note except for a seedy-looking biker bar at the far end. A row of Harleys parked out front left little doubt, confirmed by a quick glance at some exiting patrons. We both thought it odd that a high-end boutique would locate next to a biker's dive bar, but if the place was a front as we suspected, it might make sense.

After our quick reconnoiter of the strip mall, we had Steve's birthday to celebrate. We set out on the scooters from the strip mall, going first up nearby Mount Tantalus; a mountain within Honolulu itself, with a road to the top beginning just blocks from the mall.

The road up was hair-raising; a narrow switchback, with numerous tight hairpin turns, thick tropical vegetation on one side and precipitous drops on the other. The oncoming traffic on that road made me very nervous as it was on the uphill side, often forcing us to ride near the edge, but the view from the top was spectacular. We could see the ragged slopes of Diamond Head, with all of Honolulu laid out like a map, stretching towards the waters of Pearl Harbor to the west.

After a quick discussion, we decided to head up the coast, away from the city. After tying our tank-tops to the cargo rack of my scooter, we descended Mount Tantalus via the continuing road, a slightly easier route than the way we'd ascended, and made our way towards Koko Head.

We spent a couple of hours snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of Haunama Bay, finding it far more crowded than the snorkeling sites in Maui, even though the surroundings partially made up for it. Haunama Bay is bordered by Koko Head, and consists of a crater about half a mile across open to the sea on one side. The fish were as spectacular as in Maui; all kinds, colors, and shapes, though what looked like angelfish were the most plentiful. We swam out to an area called The Channel, where we spotted a Moray Eel in the coral. It was a beautiful spot, but crowds were not what we had in mind, so we headed north, up the coast, leaving the city behind. Slowly, the signs of urban life faded away as we found ourselves on a road bounded by the sea on one side, and spectacular cliffs on the other, bounding a broad swath of forest, and even the cliffs were mostly cloaked in vibrant green.

We found a quiet beach by afternoon, well up the coast, with a little cone-shaped island just offshore. Steve looked beautiful in the sun, as I reached into my pocket and withdrew my purchase from the day before. Smiling, held up the Puka-shell choker, "This isn't your birthday present," I said, "it's just something I saw and thought would look so hot on you..."

I placed it around his neck, admiring the contrast between the tan skin of his chest and the white shells, as his hands met mine. We looked into each other's eye for the longest time, before strolling to the water's edge, hand in hand. Steve looked at me again, saying simply, "Forever..." and I knew exactly what he meant.

"Forever..." I replied, before our lips met for a kiss.

After some more sightseeing, we returned to the hotel not long after dark, and had dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant. Across their formal table, I handed Steve his birthday present. He opened the wrapped box slowly, his eyes sparkling in the candlelight, before withdrawing a silver chain. Attached to the chain hung a silver and turquoise arrowhead pendant, inscribed on the back with our initials, surrounded by a heart, identical to the engraving on the back of the watch Steve had given me. He looked at the inscription, an eyebrow arching in an unasked question, to which I replied with a chuckle, "I was thinking the same thing when I saw it on the back of my watch. We both had the same idea..."

Steve put the necklace on, "I love it," he said, the pendant hanging low on his chest, the silver going well with the black tank-top he was wearing. It also went very well with the Puka-shell choker, the white shells pure as the teeth his broad smile revealed.

Our morning wake-up call signaled the start of our last day in paradise, so we packed up our backpacks, depositing them at the front desk as we checked out. The desk clerk said they would hold the packs for us until that afternoon.

Again wearing shorts, flip-flops, tank tops and sunglasses, we set course for the strip mall. We parked at the far end before proceeding down the sidewalk to the shoe store. We approached with caution, seeing only a clerk as he removed the 'closed' sign and unlocked the door. With some trepidation, we passed the windows and entered the store.

The clerk stood with his back to us, arranging some shoes with exquisite care on a velvet-lined display. He was a fairly big guy, just a shade over six feet, with close-cropped spiked brownish-blond hair, and seemed fixated upon his task. He wore a black t-shirt, the back of which bore a stylized design of two gothic dragons, facing each other with an Ankh held between them.

A subtle cough from Steve caused the clerk to spin around. At first, he gave us a cold stare, until his right eyebrow arched slightly, "What can I help you with, gentlemen?"

The clerk was, I thought, dressed strangely for his job. The front of his T-shirt proclaimed "i'm not crazy, but the voices in my head are %#$!en Nutz!"-- hardly appropriate business attire for a high-end store. In response to his question, I replied, "We're not here about shoes, we're here about that three of hearts in the ad. We can make it worth your while..." I said as I withdrew a wad of cash from my pocket, holding it between my fingers so that the clerk could see the thick wad of c-notes.

The clerk paused for a few moments before replying, "I think I know what it is that you're looking for. I'll tell you whatever you want to know in return for that cash, but nobody is to ever know where you got the information - understood?"

We nodded in agreement as the clerk led us to a computer at a counter in the rear of the store, near a rear door. He pushed a few buttons behind the counter, and then waited silently as the computer booted up. When the desktop appeared, he gazed at us with cold eyes before asking, "What do you want to know?"

Exchanging a confident glance with me, Steve asked, "Anything you can give us about Blackheart and his dealings with people in Lonesome Valley, Arizona."

Tapping a few keys, the clerk replied, "Ah, yes. I know about that one. A simple purchase, some encrypted information provided via courier on a thumb drive. To a reverend, as I recall."

It was hard not to grin as I replied, "We need proof. What can you give us?"

The clerk angled his head, adjusting his wire-rimmed glasses with a single finger as he stroked the short whiskers on his chin before answering, "How about a copy of the e-mails, complete with IP? This will take a few minutes, but I'll put it on a disk for you. Will that get me the cash?"

Steve and I exchanged a glance, before nodding agreement. This was proving to be easy, a little too easy, I thought, making me uncomfortable. Even so, I couldn't see any harm in seeing what the clerk came up with. While we waited, I asked, "Got any info on a webcam-based porn site? The servers were located here in Honolulu."

The clerk shrugged immediately while snapping a CD into the computer, "Nothing that I've heard. But these e-mails should be just what you are looking for. Just a few more minutes."

We stood waiting, pacing nervously, glancing around the store. It was decorated with fancy displays, bedecked with imported shoes, and had the look of a very upscale establishment. That made the clerk's attire even more incongruous, but I figured that things were just really laid back in Hawaii.

The clerks face changed to a weak lopsided grin, "Ah, here we go,"

"Is the disk done?" I asked, as the chime linked to the store's door sounded.

The clerk chuckled, "No, but you two are. Meet my friends."

Spinning around to look, Steve and I found the door blocked by two very large guys in riding leathers and denim vests, replete with the usual Hell's Angels paraphernalia, and each wielding a length of thick chain.

The clerk coughed once, "I hope you'll forgive me for not introducing myself; I'm Blackheart. I'd heard that you two were coming to Hawaii, and I received an e-mail from your reverend friend offering a very generous amount if I could see to it that you don't ever leave these islands. Yes, a generous amount indeed," he said, while rubbing his hands together, "and I've enjoyed looking at the offer and savoring my reward as we've been having our friendly chat, waiting for my friends to respond to the buzzer."

I began glancing around, looking for something, anything to get us out of the trap, as Blackheart's soliloquy continued unabated, "I must admit, I'd about given up hope, as I had no idea where in the islands you'd be and my attempts to track you came to naught. Little did I know that you'd be considerate enough to deliver yourselves to my very doorstep. I was delighted when I recognized you both, you made my day. Now, gentlemen, I do apologize for spoiling your vacation, but I'm afraid your numbers are up."

Blackheart stepped around the counter with a baseball bat in his hands. Steve and I backed away, glancing back at Blackheart's henchmen as they advanced, the chains whirling through the air above their heads, emitting a steady, menacing hum.

Remembering Steve's method when he saved me from the Piedmont cop in the bookstore, I lunged forward, grabbing the fire extinguisher from the end of the counter. Pulling the pin, I aimed it at the two Hell's Angels and pulled the trigger. They took a single step back, but stopped as absolutely nothing happened.

Blackheart laughed, "I guess it's a dud. What a pity," as he advanced, baseball bat at shoulder level, poised to strike. With no other way to go, I hurled the fire extinguisher at Blackheart. He dodged aside, as Steve and I darted for the opening he'd given us, heading for the back door.

We had barely made it through when the sound of the baseball bat splintering the jamb inches from my head caused me to duck. I stumbled forward as we ran through a room packed with computer gear. Spinning on my heel, I heaved against a tall rack of electronics, causing it to fall in our pursuer's path. They dodged back easily, but the delay gave us time to slam against the emergency exit, forcing it open and setting off the alarm as we dashed into the alley behind the strip mall.

Running as fast as we could, we raced down the alley, making it only fifty yards before Blackheart and his henchmen burst through the exit we'd used.

Leading the way, Blackheart yelled "Get 'em," as they broke into a run. We held our lead, barely, racing for the end of the mall. Reaching our scooters, keys already in hand, we leaped on, starting them as Blackheart and his thugs rounded the corner just feet away. We took off, Steve ducking as a blow from Blackheart's bat cleaved the air where Steve's head had been but a moment before.

Racing from the parking lot, we turned north, running the Vespas flat out. We ran a stop sign, looking for a turn when Steve yelled, "We've got company..."

I turned my head to look back, to see three motorcycles roar out of the parking lot, Blackheart -still wielding his baseball bat- in the lead.

Steve and I raced through a stoplight as it changed to red, continuing north up the road to Mount Tantalus. Frequent over-the-shoulder glancing revealed Blackheart and his crew, stalled at the light, blocked by the heavy flow of cross-traffic. We had a few moments' respite, but I knew they would catch us quickly and I was fresh out of ideas. We kept the scooters wide open, weaving in and out of the slower traffic as we began the winding ascent of Mount Tantalus. Spying a dense thicket of trees where I thought we could hide, I looked back, seeing that it was too late; Blackheart and his henchmen had us in sight as they closed in for the kill.

Whipping around the hairpin turns, difficult even at the thirty-five miles per hour which was all the Vespas would do uphill, we fought a losing race. The three motorcycles closed the gap on every straightaway, Blackheart coming in faster on what looked like a more maneuverable bike than the big Harleys his cohorts rode. We fought for every inch, cutting the turns so tight that I felt vegetation slapping against the bare skin of my shoulder more than once, as our desperate race up the mountain drew to an inevitable close.

We rounded another hairpin, Steve on my left on the inside track, coming out of the turn a few feet ahead of me. Pulling to just within yards behind us on a brief straightaway, to the left of us both, murder in his beady eyes, Blackheart made ready to take a swing with the bat. As he pulled closer with Steve, he was close enough that I could easily see the lettering on his motorcycle, 'Yamaha' near the bottom, and 'R6' emblazoned on the fairing.

Gunning the Yamaha, Blackheart closed in on Steve as he tried to dodge. Steve wasn't going to make it, so I swerved my Vespa, clipping Blackheart's fat rear wheel with my front tire. The impact almost knocked me off my scooter, and as I struggled to regain control, I saw Blackheart's bike begin to fishtail as he slammed on the brakes, raising a cloud of white smoke. He straightened out, falling back fifty yards behind us as we shot around another hairpin turn, the precipitous drop to our right being the least of our concerns.

We cut another corner, blaring horns greeting us as we rounded the blind turn, face-to-face with an oncoming car. Swerving back into our own lane, I glanced back to see Blackheart and his two henchmen, their chains awhirl, riding in flank, just a dozen yards behind us and gaining fast as we leaned hard into another hairpin, tires chuffing all the way.

Cutting into the opposing lane again, we barely missed an oncoming garbage truck. I couldn't see any way out; we had no chance to outrun them, and no way to get help. I couldn't spare the time to call the police; I'd lose control if I tried. I also knew there was no way the police could reach us in time...

A blare of the truck's horn behind us cause me to turn my head to look; Blackheart, in the lead by a few feet, pulled into the hairpin curve in the opposing lane, apparently oblivious to the garbage truck entering the turn from the opposite direction. They would have met head-on at the apex of the curve if Blackheart hadn't swerved at the last possible moment. One of the Harleys just yards behind him wiped out as the truck clipped it, spilling its rider onto the pavement, but Blackheart managed to straighten out, dropping his baseball bat as he charged towards the pullout on the outside of the hairpin turn.

Blackheart's brake light lit up as his Yamaha crossed onto the gravel verge, and my last view of him was of Blackheart astride his Yamaha, roaring into the open sky beyond. Blackheart displayed good jumping form -like a pro dirt-bike rider- riding his Yamaha, the brake light still glowing, on a ballistic arc towards the rocks a hundred feet below.

Steve and I pulled to a stop, watching as a mushroom-headed column of smoke and flame rose into view, signaling beyond doubt that Blackheart was out of the picture, permanently. His two henchmen were a different matter; the one who hadn't lost control pulled to a stop near his fallen comrade, helping him up off the pavement. Steve and I gunned the scooters, continuing up Mount Tantalus, hoping that the surviving thugs would not pursue. We followed the road to the top, heading back down on the loop road, with no sign of pursuit. As soon as we reached the city streets, we took several turns, before pulling to a stop once we felt sure to have eluded any pursuers.

Steve raised the issue first, "I don't think we should call the local cops. If they contact the Piedmont Sheriff's Department..."

I nodded, "Yeah, not good. I don't think we're breaking any laws if we just leave, and Blackheart's dead. I'll call Sheriff Buchanan and see if he can get the FBI to raid that shoe store. I'll bet there is loads of stuff there, including that e-mail from Thaddeus putting a price on our heads."

The call didn't go smoothly. Once I'd told him what had happened, the sheriff yelled at me for a while before saying that he'd call the Feds right away. He also informed me, in no uncertain terms, that we were to head for the FBI's offices in Honolulu immediately, and then hung up after yelling at me some more.

©Copyright 2007 C James; All Rights Reserved.
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Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.  The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"

Many thanks to Conner for editing, support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions on this chapter.
Many thanks also to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions (and for thinking up a title!).

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading and advice, and for putting up with me.
Any remaining errors are mine alone.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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One more great chase.  Blackheart sure took a hell of a fall.  Hopefully he'll be out of the picture forever.  If his two stooges are smart they'll disappear. I hope there is enough evidence to take down rev and Sheriff.  

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