In this the second excerpt from Neil S Plakcy’s Children of Noah, Kimo’s partner Mike Riccardi is investigating an arson in Kahuku, at the northern tip of O’ahu, and he spots some racially-charged graffiti on the premises. He’s called Kimo and Ray to check it out. (See also excerpt for August 17, 2015)
Children of Noah
MLR Press (August 17, 2015)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-9910 (print)
The wind picked up as Ray and I drove along the tree-lined Likelike Highway, which went through the center of the island. The tops of the Ko’olaus were shrouded in mist and I was glad we had the hot coffee to counter the chilly damp.
The divided highway followed the contours of the Ko’olau mountains, and verdant slopes and craggy cliffs loomed beside us. It was a wilder part of O’ahu, and it was almost like going back in time. People lived up there in the mountains, off the grid, but they had modern conveniences like solar panels and water purifiers. And some of them were growing pakalolo and manufacturing ice, which were distinctly modern problems.
As we approached the Wilson tunnel under the mountains, I noticed some graffiti scrawled on rocks beside the road, and recognized one tag, the letters FTP, with an X over the stem of the T, a reference to an LA-based gang call the Fruit Town Pirus. Beside it was a scrawl of the Nazi swastika.
I knew that some of the mainland gangs were trying to make inroads in Hawaii, but that was the first physical evidence I’d seen. And the fact that someone had painted a swastika nearby wasn’t a good indicator of racial harmony.
When we came out of the tunnel we drove right into a downpour, and I had to slow down and turn my wipers on high because of the slick roadway and the slow-moving tourists. We rounded a bend and head of us on the right the town of Kaneohe nestled against a cove along the Pacific shore. No gleaming glass high-rises like downtown Honolulu; just a spread of houses and low buildings, with only occasional buildings of more than four or five stories.
We passed a standard suburban sprawl of houses and fast-food chains as well as the Honolulu Church of Light, the Iglesia Ni Cristo, the St. Anthony Retreat, and the Central Samoan Assembly of God, testimony to the religious diversity of the island.
The sun came out as we passed the signs for Brigham Young University and the Mormon temple. Early Mormon missionaries had come to Hawaii in the early 1900s to begin converting the locals. We passed a couple of different with chain link fencing around them, and signs for several different churches that sounded fundamentalist, but beyond that, I was disappointed to see that Laie was as mixed as the rest of the island, though I did notice a higher proportion of the kind of white, clean-cut people I associated with those Mormon missionaries on bicycles.
Further evidence of the religious character of the area was that local supermarkets wouldn’t sell alcohol on Sunday in deference to Mormon beliefs. Like Kaneohe, the streets were lined with single-story bungalows and small stores. I kept an eye out for graffiti but didn’t see much more than the occasional scrawl.
Kahuku was at the very tip of the island, in an area that tourists don’t generally frequent; the big waves of the North Shore crash around the other side of Kahuku Point, and usually the farthest that visitors get on the Windward Shore was the Islands of History theme park in Laie, where I’d gone many times as a kid.
You could drive for miles up the twisting Kamehameha Highway, paralleling the coast, and see spectacular cliffs and water views, and not much else. It was near the northernmost point on the island, Kahuku Point; in Hawaiian, ka huku means ‘the projection.’
It was nearly ten o’clock by the time we approached the day care center. There was only one fire engine remaining, though the police still had the street blocked and were directing traffic away.
I parked behind Mike’s truck with its distinctive flames painted down the side, and Ray and I flashed our IDs to the uniform keeping people away from the site.
From the charred foundation that remained, we could see that the day care center was a free-standing building, probably once a single-family house. There wasn’t much around it – no immediate neighbors, and a screen of trees around the back and sides.
The scene reminded me of damage I’d seen after Hurricane Iniki devastated Kauai just before I left for college, the way you could look right into someone’s home or office and witness the devastation first-hand. In this case, I could see a cluster of half-burned tables and chairs piled in the center of the front room. The front wall of a bathroom was gone, but the toilet and sink looked untouched.
We stopped in the parking lot, a few feet from the front wall, and looked around. Two of the four walls remained intact – the rear and the right side – and part of the roof. An interior wall that looked like it separated an office from the main area had been reduced to a tangle of half-melted studs; behind it was a desk and a file cabinet and the rear wall of the building. Children’s drawings had been posted there, brown edges curling around colorful scrawls of houses and flowers.
The front door was long gone, but just inside was a misshapen coat rack with a single sweater hanging on it, miraculously untouched. Below it were a pair of pink rubber Crocs in an impossibly tiny size—one of them intact down to the tiny charms in the holes, the other a melted lump.
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