1840 hrs, Ship’s Time, Thursday, April 4th, 1935,
aboard the S.S. North Haven, Honolulu Harbor, Hawaii
Nick reported for duty at the gangplank. There was nothing he could do for Mac now and his family still needed the money. He promised himself that he’d find those responsible and make them pay!
First Mate Pedersen was furious. “Where the hell you been, you sorry landlubber? You’re ten minutes late!”
Nick lied. “I wasn’t feeling well and I went to see the Doc. He wasn’t in and I waited.”
“Course not, you idiot.” Pedersen shoved the clipboard under Nick’s nose. “Because, fool, he’s off the ship and on the town.”
Nick bit back his emotions and let Pedersen’s insults roll over him. After the news about Mac, he couldn’t care less what Pedersen said. Nick remained numb for hours, seeming to sleep-walk through his duties. By 2300 hours, he had emptied the trashcan several times and actually welcomed the backbreaking task. The garbage dump was located on the far side of the dock and it was dark and rat-infested. The heavy trashcan was unwieldy and the bottles rolled around precariously. At least the mindless activity helped keep his emotions at bay.
Pedersen looked at the time and said, “That's about it for our watch. Go dump the remaining trash. When you return, our relieve will be hear and you can go."
Nick shouldered the heavy trash can and started the long, arduous walk to the dump. Except for the occasional scurrying rat, the dock was deserted. At the end of the pier, out of view of the North Haven, he dumped the bottles onto the growing pile of garbage.
As Nick straightened up and the most unpleasant feeling settled over him. His neck hairs stood on end. It was like someone walking on his grave. Nick turned his head searching. Shadows moved and Nick fell backwards onto the pile of bottles as something whooshed past his ear.
Nick grabbed for something – anything! His hand closed on a full sake bottle. He rolled to his feet with the bottle cocked behind his ear ready to throw. A dark shadow of a man, clad in black from head to toe, faced him. He was small in stature and a mask covered his face.
The man took a step closer and pointed a two-handed short sword at Nick’s face. “We have some unfinished business, Grant-san.” His English was heavily accented.
This guy was Japanese but… “Buddy, you got the wrong guy. My name’s Grandmore.”
“You can’t fool me, Nicholas Grant. I want the map case.”
Nick screamed at the top of his lungs. “I don’t know what you are talking about! Who are you?” He hoped to alert someone on the ship, or maybe a returning crew member.
The Japanese man slashed at Nick. “No one is coming to help you. I don’t want to hurt you, boy, but you will bring me the case. Do you think I work alone – or that I don’t know where you mother, Helen and sister, Judith live?”
“No!” Enraged, Nick threw the bottle with all his might. The man easily dodged it and the bottle shattered harmlessly on the dock. Nick bent down and grabbed another by the neck. The man lunged, Nick used the bottle to parry the blow, and the bottle shattered. Sake and shards of glass covered them both. The man slashed again, aiming for Nick’s head. Nick jumped backwards and swung wildly with the broken sake bottle. Unfazed, the attacker immediately closed the distance, slashing the air with lightening sword strokes. “I could kill you at any time, Nick. Go retrieve the case. I’ll be gone with the night and your family will be unharmed.”
Nick’s mind raced. If he still had the map case he could give it up. But this guy was probably Mac’s killer. A foot landed on Nick’s chest slamming him backwards. As he fell, Nick lashed out with the bottle. He felt it bite deeply into his opponent’s thigh.
The attacker reeled back and glanced down at his leg. Blood started to flow freely. “I’m through toying with you Grant! I want Lindbergh’s package!”
“I don’t have it anymore!” Nick screamed. Surely, somebody must have heard the ruckus by now!
His attacker flipped the sword up and caught it by the blade. “Tell me quick who has it and I will spare your life.” He drew it back to throw.
Nick had to figure a way out. If he told this guy that Grooch had it, would his life be spared? It seemed an unlikely prospect.
Out of nowhere, a white streak smashed into the black clad man.
Nick recognized him. My God, it’s the ship’s cook!
The two men toppled over into the garbage pile scattering trash and bottles everywhere. They spun on the ground as each vied for advantage. The short sword skidded down the dock.
Suddenly the men rolled away from each other and jumped to their feet. The opponents circled, each moving in a distinct fighting style. Nick had seen martial arts demonstrations in Chinatown and Little Tokyo back in San Francisco.
Nick wanted to help, but how? He picked up several bottles and yelled, “Hey you, black pajama man! Catch!” Nick hurled bottle after bottle at the figure. The man blocked the bottles easily. His eyes never left the cook’s face.
“Throw at feet, boy! Ninja dance on broken glass in cotton slippers!” The cook instructed Nick.
Nick gathered more bottles and pitched as fast as he could. Ninja! Why on earth was a Japanese assassin attacking him? The ninja lifted and shifted his feet in something resembling a sailor’s jig, but Nick scored again and again. Soon the ninja was crunching on broken glass.
The ninja backed away from the cook. He reached into his waist band, drew a small metal fighting star and hurled it at the cook. The cook twisted away but failed to avoid the star - it embedded deep into his right thigh. Distracted, the cook didn’t see the ninja close the distance and deliver a snap kick to his throat. The startled cook crumpled to the concrete. The ninja drew a small knife from a hidden ankle sheath.
Nick yelled, “No!” and whipped a well-aimed bottle with all his strength. It smashed into the side of the ninja’s head. Uh-oh! Nick dove over the trash and rolled to his feet wielding a trash can lid. The ninja clawed at his wounded face. He tore the most of the mask away as he plucked shards of glass out of his cheek. Even in the dim light, Nick got a good look at his face.
The ninja laughed. “Don’t be stupid, Nick - tell me what I want to know!” Blood streamed from the deep facial cut, his thigh, and his feet. He reached for another fighting star.
Nick prepared to repel the impending attack. He lifted the trash can lid to use as a shield when a roar grew from the opposite side of the pier. Both Nick and the ninja turned to see a mob of shipmates charging around the corner. Armed with axes, shovels and metal bars they arrived in a mad, screaming frenzy. The ninja threw his star, but his aim was off. It embedded harmlessly in Nick’s trashcan shield.
Third mate Johnson led the mob and brandished an ax handle. “You there, in black, stand back from my shipmates!”
The ninja seemed to consider his options, then turned back to Nick. “This is not over Grant-san!” He fled into the night, leaving only bloody footprints.
The third mate knelt over the cook’s body. “Mother of God, he did you poorly. Who was that guy and what did he want?”
The Chinese cook sat up and studied the fighting star deeply embedded in his thigh. His face was calm, almost serene. “Good question,” he gasped, fighting to control the pain, “He friend of yours, Nick?”
Nick didn’t answer. He watched in horror as blood spurted with each beat of the cook’s heart. “Oh my God, you’re about to bleed to death!” Nick quickly removed his belt and wrapped it around the cook’s thigh. “Give me that axe handle, Mr. Johnson.” Nick pushed the handle between the belt and the cook’s thigh and twisted, staunching the blood flow. He tucked an end into the cook’s belt to keep the secure.
The cook was ashen and looked like he was about to pass out.
“Stay with me, Cookie!” Nick shouted. “Help me, somebody! We’ve got to find Doc. He’s going to bleed out.”
Nick swung one of the cook’s arms over his shoulder and hoisted him to his feet. Some one took the opposite side. Nick looked over at his helper and saw a familiar face. It was Commander Boltz, one of the naval officers. What was he doing here? Then they moved swiftly towards the North Haven in silence.
The Epic Struggle for the Pacific Airways
Created on ... February 9, 2007
Updated on ... July 27, 2008
Copyright 2007-2008. Jamie Dodson. All rights reserved.