Ben Fieldstone in A HUMAN ELEMENT, finds himself in dire circumstances stationed as a U.S. Navy photographer in Pearl Harbor. I too was stationed in Hawaii as a Navy photographer. I know of the dangers sailors can find themselves in on the island of Oahu if they’re not careful.
I was told not to go to the Pali Lookout alone, a spot far above Honolulu in the Koolau Mountains. Set on cliffs with treacherous falls awaiting those who aren’t careful. Or those who are tossed off…or jump off. It’s known for its moaning, howling winds. People have disappeared up there, they’d say. It’s a haunted place where the ghosts of Hawaiian ancestors are said to roam.
But back to Ben and his night of terror at the Pali Lookout. Can he be saved? More importantly, can he be saved from himself?
Ben meets the man in black:
Ben closed his eyes and forced himself to find a dark place with peace and no pain. The two men continued to taunt him but they echoed far away in a tunnel. He held his breath, willing himself to pass out. The wild wind of the mountaintop raged around him and shrieked in his ears.
Then two loud cracks shot out over the howling wind. The hands on him fell away. He let out a huge sigh, dizzy from holding his breath.
Ben opened his eyes and craned his head around to see what had happened. Under the bright moonlight the outline of the two big Samoans rose up from the overgrown road. They didn’t move. The wind whipped the giant leaves of the banyan and guava trees about like sails on a great clipper ship. The buzz of traffic from the new Pali road carried up to him from below. He scanned the area. What had happened? Who else hid out there? He pulled at the stakes. His hands shook as he tried to break free.
“Forget it, kid, they’re held down in cement,” a deep voice said. “These stupid locals make up these playgrounds just to mess with us haoles.”
Ben swallowed the saliva stuck in his throat and focused on his surroundings. There stood the green-eyed man, hidden in the swaying banyan trees. His black outfit blended into the dark forest. He moved toward Ben and holstered his gun, then popped open a switchblade from his back pocket.
“I am not here to hurt you,” the man said when Ben shrunk into the rock. “I’m going to cut the ropes.”
In a few swift movements he slit the ropes binding Ben, who staggered back. The man caught him and held him up, then ripped off the duct tape.
“Who are you?” Ben’s body trembled from the rush of fear and a fierce headache pounded in his temple.
The man didn’t answer. He bent over one of the dead Samoans and pulled out a wallet. He looked inside and threw it at Ben. “It’s yours.” Then the man led him by the arm down the overgrown road where he handed Ben his clothes from the brush. He tried to put them on but his hands shook so bad the man had to help him. He winced from the whip marks brushing against his jeans and shirt.
“Come on,” the man said. Ben looked back at the dead men sprawled face down. They oozed like two fat walruses sunning themselves in the moonlight. “Don’t worry about them. I’ll dump them later, somewhere they’ll never be found.”
In a daze, Ben followed his savior up the rough road, stumbling behind him in the dim moonlight. Those men had carried him unconscious down this road.
“I’ll take you back to base and you’re on your own,” the man said once they reached his car, parked off the main road. “Don’t speak of this to anyone. Understand?”
Ben nodded and climbed in the car. He looked over at the stranger in black who had saved him. His mammoth biceps flexed as he drove, hunched over the wheel. The man’s body looked crushed in the sedan. His square jaw tensed as he clenched his teeth. Ben turned to the window and closed his eyes. He had so many questions jumbled in his head. The wind blew soft on his face as they sped down the mountain curves.
Giddiness rose in him from the pit of his stomach to his throat. He bent over his knees with laughter. He laughed and laughed and then he sobbed with relief. He would live. Just like when he chose to save himself from his foster father. But this time a stranger chose for him to live.
The man looked over at him, both hands gripping the wheel. “Get yourself together,” he warned Ben. “I know what those bastards planned to do to you. This island is a cesspool of crap. Tropical paradise, my ass. Occasional good weather doesn’t make up for the trash-filled streets, gangs, and homeless. That’s what the tourists don’t see.”
Ben stared at him, fascinated by the man’s lengthy dialogue and then a memory flickered. “You were at my foster mother’s funeral. Why are you following me? Why save me?”
“I’m an interested party. Leave it at that.”
“I can’t. I would have died up there for sure.”
The man didn’t respond.
The man looked at Ben. His green eyes glowed in the moonlight that filtered into the car.
“Someday you might not thank me. Someday you might not survive.”