Three hundred and fifty pounds of attitude named Israel Aki stepped out of the jungle onto the beach.
“Showtime,” said Coutinho.
He glanced in the rearview mirror. Directly behind him, Kim had the surveillance camera ready.
Iz looked in the direction of their stakeout car. Coutinho reminded himself that it wouldn’t help to hold his breath. He pictured what the big meth dealer would see–an aging Jeep Cherokee with an authentic coating of mud from unpaved Big Island roads. The vehicle should blend in with a dozen others parked overnight in the beach lot, never mind the posted regulations. Coutinho and Kim sat motionless and hidden, they hoped, by interior shadows. Iz would either trek forty yards to check the Jeep out, or he would let it go.
After a moment, Iz turned and started toward the public restrooms. Coutinho exhaled.
“Damn it, go back” said Kim.
“Who, Iz? Whose side are we on?”
“Not Iz. Her.”
From the direction of Hilo a young woman hiked along the beach. Coutinho took in her ash blond hair and coordinated hiking outfit and summed her up in a moment. Northern European visitors to Hawaii tended to behave as if they were safe at home. Usually, they got away with it.
The problem this time was the group of five young local men lolling in the sand and smoking pakalolo. They were burning several joints instead of passing one around, which meant there must be fresh burglary reports on Coutinho’s desk back at the office.
Coutinho and Kim had been glad to see the young men, because their presence reduced the possibility of collateral damage. Prudent local residents saw mokes like these and moved on to another beach.
But not this young woman. She kept coming. Coutinho beamed telepathic rays at her:
Turn around and hike the other way.
If he and Kim had to break cover and prevent a gang rape, three weeks of watching Iz would go to waste.
The young woman stayed on course. Didn’t she know enough to circle the young men at a distance? No, she planned to stalk right past the clump of testosterone.
Coutinho caught himself praying that the mokes had smoked enough marijuana to take the edge off their aggression, and to make them slow to believe what they were seeing.
One of the young men sat up. Two others saw him and did the same. The rest didn’t move, but it was the stillness of predators. An unspoken plan passed from one to the next like a mental Frisbee.
“Shit,” said Kim.
No cop could fail to see what was coming.
With his left hand Coutinho pulled his earpiece free and placed it on the dashboard. His other hand eased toward his fanny pack, where his shield and Glock reassured him with their weight. Otherwise he looked like any beachgoer in a T-shirt, board shorts and flip-flops.
“If we gotta, we gotta,” said Kim.
He set their surveillance camera down beside him.
“Yeah,” said Coutinho. “Before it gets worse.”
He pointed at Iz, who had changed course. Instead of heading for the restrooms, he now approached the five young men.
One of the mokes stood, pretending to ignore the young woman. As she started to pass him, he pivoted and planted himself in her path. Even from a distance his smile looked more like a leer. The other young men also came to their feet. As if they had practiced the maneuver many times, they surrounded her in an instant.
Iz was closing in on the group. Kim opened the rear door of the Jeep, but Coutinho held up his hand.
Coutinho thought he saw something in the huge man’s stride.
Iz reached the young men. He didn’t wait for introductions. He threw a right fist and then a left. Two mokes dropped like ripe mangoes. Iz grabbed two more heads and banged them together with the same result. That left one man standing, but he took the prudent course. He ran in the direction of Hilo as fast as the sand would allow his feet to churn.
The young woman stood gaping. Only now did she realize what had nearly happened. Iz spoke to her and wagged his finger to emphasize his point. She listened, and Coutinho could see tears of relief on her face. Her lips formed the words.
Iz nodded. He turned and trudged toward the men’s room. Coutinho reached over the seat and tapped Kim’s knee. Just in time, Kim lifted the camera to photograph Iz as he disappeared through the door. Coutinho felt around on the dashboard and found the earpiece. He inserted it and hoped he hadn‘t missed anything important.
“Iz,” said a voice in his ear. “Howzit, brah?”
The voice belonged to their borrowed undercover officer from Honolulu.
Coutinho didn’t look at Kim, who didn’t look back.
“Showtime,” said Coutinho.
Albert Tucher is the creator of prostitute Diana Andrews whose world includes the setting an characters of Showtime. Thirty-five stories about her have appeared in print and online publications, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2010, edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler. Her most recent adventure is Value for the Money, published by Untreed Reads. When Diana permits, Albert Tucher also writes the occasional stand alone story.