Unusual Business

They weren’t friends. Let’s call them acquaintances. Maybe. They’d done business together for several years, now, and today’s meeting had become a typical exercise. As arranged from the very beginning of their transactional relationship, they parked at opposite ends, then walked to the center of Kapi‘olani.

The man proceeding from the Ewa end carried a package wrapped in plain brown paper. It was the size of a shoebox. The other man, proceeding from the Diamond Head side, carried a white legal-sized envelope, and he was armed, always when he left his home, with a butterfly knife in his left pants pocket, and a retractable baton in the right one.

The man coming from the ‘Ewa side never left home without his Ruger LC 380 automatic. He’d honed his marksmanship skills in the military, and he could completely blow the center out of a target with relentless trigger precision.

Both men knew each other well enough that each could spot the other from quite a distance now, and because of this, they were on their guard from the moment they saw the dot of each other moving toward the middle.

Neither was moved to sweat over this. Each knew if it came to it, he could handle the other easily. Both were good killers who practiced that art at a superior level.

The closer they came to each other, the more they pretended they did not know one another. The Diamond Head man’s habit was to look into the sky, as if at interesting clouds or birds or the odd balloon. ‘Ewa always looked at the ground as if searching for dropped coins or jewelry, or a particular kind of insect.

Once they both sensed they were close enough to make eye contact, they did, but they also surveyed the area to make sure they were not being observed.

When they finally came together, Diamond Head said, “Do you have it all this time?”

“Yes,” said ‘Ewa, “my apologies for an incomplete order last time. My connection failed to come up with a good enough supply to meet my needs. Your needs. I have a new supplier. I have it all.”

‘Ewa handed the box over with his right hand, while Diamond Head extended the envelope with his right hand as well. Both took the other’s item with their left hands.

Diamond Head wrapped both hands around the box and shook it up and down slightly, feeling for the correct heft. ‘Ewa lifted the envelope flap and did a quick scan of the bills.

Looking ‘Ewa straight in the eye, Diamond Head said, “If I could open this package right now to make sure it’s all there, I would. But of course I can’t, so I’m taking your word for it. After last time, I’m not sure I can trust you anymore.”

‘Ewa smiled and said, “After all this time, just one little slip-up. Come on, you can trust me.”

Diamond Head smirked. “I should ask for a partial refund, but I won’t.”

“Yeah,” said ‘Ewa, “but I see you did give me less than I expected. So you did get your refund, didn’t you.”

“Of course,” said Diamond Head. “You didn’t think I’d let you get away with a partial order, did you?”

‘Ewa’s lip curled. “I told you what happened. You knew the order would be a little short. It’s not like I lied about it.”

“Then why didn’t you give me some of the cash back right on the spot?”

“Hey,” snarled ‘Ewa, “you don’t like to open up the merchandise out here in the open, and I don’t like to flash a wad of cash.”

Diamond Head snorted. “Yeah, right. Well, I think I’ve had enough of this little visit. Quite frankly, you’re pissing me off a bit more each time we meet now. Next time, everything better be up-and-up, or —”

“Or what?” hissed ‘Ewa, picturing himself blowing a hole in Diamond Head’s forehead.

Diamond Head wondered whether he might just beat ‘Ewa bloody, or slit his throat from ear to ear. “Or. Just or, friend. I’m sure you can fill in the blank.”

Now ‘Ewa snorted, his look daring Diamond Head to try doing whatever he thought he could.

“Screw this,” said Diamond Head. “I’ll call you about the next time.”

And with that, trusting his gut, he turned his back on ‘Ewa and proceeded to walk back toward his car at the ‘Ewa end of the park.

Diamond Head was no coward, and the thought of taking ‘Ewa from behind didn’t appeal to him. Maybe next time, he mused, as he too turned around and headed back to his car.

As he neared his car, Diamond heard a cry from the other end of the park.  Turning, he listened to the screams repeating. Picking up speed, he sprinted toward the commotion. As he neared the screaming person whom he could see wrestling with what looked like a large dog, the screaming suddenly stopped.

It was a dog, and it ran to the perimeter of the park, they disappeared up the street. Someone’s dangerous dog was running around loose.

The screaming had drawn a small crowd. Diamond Head pushed through. It was ‘Ewa. He lay there mangled. Diamond Head knelt and felt for a pulse. There was none. He lowered his ear to ‘Ewa’s nose to listen for any kind of breathing. Nothing.

Someone said, “I’ll call 911.”

Diamond Head eyed the envelope lying by ‘Ewa’s side. “Good idea,” he said, standing up with the envelope.

While the others looked at the man calling, Diamond Head strolled away, back toward his car.

Smiling, he thought about what a good day it had been.

“’Man Bites Dog’ always makes an unusual headline,” Diamond Head muttered, “but they’ll have to use the usual one this time.”

He laughed.

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