The frightening hours at the site as they evacuated nearly a hundred men who had been pinned down and trapped overnight. Then jogging alongside the vehicles as they headed back to safety. Another hail of bullets and mortar rained down, smashing Cody in the thigh. As they bundled him into an APC in agony, little did he know the injuries would mark the end of his army career, leaving him with frequent nightmares, a bad limp and an honourable discharge.

Cody had become an accomplished skier growing up in Denver and taught skiing for a few years before joining the 10th Mountain Division. After considerable training, and in his mid twenties, his first action was in Desert Storm with the nearest mountain thousands of kilometres away. Nevertheless, he finished his Iraq tour on a high, enjoying army life as a corporal. 

It all imploded in Mogadishu for many people. President Clinton had noble intentions, as Somalia was not regarded as strategically important. Five hundred thousand Somalis had died and over one million refugees suffered from the warlord activities of Mohammed Aidid and his clan. The United Nations were struggling to deliver food and other aid to the desperate civilians and so Clinton sanctioned extra U.S. troops to Operation Provide Relief in late 1992.

After initial success, the turning point occurred in July 1993. Acting on poor intelligence, American missiles accidentally killed senior Somalis at a meeting being held to discuss how to diffuse the power of Mohammed Aidid. Many Somalis lost respect for the U.S. forces and this became a significant factor as the troops fought to retrieve their colleagues in the ghettos around the stricken Blackhawk chopper. 

And Mogadishu went horribly wrong for Cody. With his leg torn apart and his army career over, he had drifted around Colorado working odd jobs for a few years before moving on to Maui. Employed as a barman at Moose McGillycuddy’s in Lahaina, Cody was bitter about life and the cards he had been dealt. He knew he drank more than he should and with his drug habit wondered what the future had in store.

Cody toyed with his treasured Carl Zeiss DF 7x40 binoculars - a 21st birthday gift from his parents. Made in East Germany during the Cold War they were termed Checkpoint Charlie binoculars. Not that Cody knew or cared too much about that. The binoculars reminded him of the good times in the Rocky Mountains, especially on the ski slopes of Steamboat - as well as the horror in Mogadishu. 

Now, on a Saturday afternoon in a rare treat, lounging back in a cane chair at the charming Kula Restaurant, Cody placed the binoculars to his face and looked up Crater Road toward the dormant volcano rim of Haleakala. He allowed himself a chuckle - at least he was near a mountain, even if he would never ski it. Not because there was insufficient snow but because Cody would never ski again.

Haleakala last erupted in 1790 and is around nine hundred thousand years old. The crater area is huge, at twelve kilometres long and four kilometres wide. The rim is three thousand metres above sea level. On this unusually cloudless day, Cody could lock his sight onto the top and wander his gaze down Crater Road as cyclists enjoyed their lazy downhill ride.

With his binoculars, Cody could just make out the joyful faces of the young tourists, especially the ladies, wind blowing through their hair and without a care in the world. “They don’t know what’s ahead of them. You never do,” he muttered to himself and continued to follow the group as they made their way closer to Kula, before sweeping into the tree line and out of his sight.

“Hey, mister, you perving on that group of cyclists, eh?” the young waiter joked.

“No, man. Just checking out the lovely scenery and remembering the good old days,” he then rose and limped towards the cashier.

Later that evening, people wandered into Moose McGillycuddy’s for drinks, maybe dinner and later dancing. A pole on the dance floor provided for the athletic and frisky to display their talents. McGillycuddy’s came alive as the sun went down, a favourite amongst locals and tourists alike with its graceful broad timber balcony overlooking Front Street.

“A Kona draught, one Jack Daniels on the rocks and a Maui margarita,” drawled a patron when Cody asked for his order.

“Coming right up,” Cody replied to the tall, well dressed and confident visitor – or so he thought, as he’d never seen the guy before.

Wayne Fletcher paid for the drinks and sauntered over to a four-seater booth on the balcony. He handed the iced margarita to a young lady of Japanese and Polynesian descent and gave the Jack Daniels to a very big guy also with mixed race features.

“So this is sleepy Lahaina,” Wayne remarked. “Doesn’t look too dozy to me.” 

With a population of around nine thousand, Lahaina had been the capital of Hawaii until the mid 1800s before Honolulu ascended into the role. 

Kamehameha the Great, a king from the big island, also called Hawaii, moved to Lahaina in 1800 after conquering Maui and unifying the archipelago for the first time. Whalers and missionaries arrived in the 1820s and for forty years Lahaina boomed. After whaling ceased, the town stagnated until the first wave of Japanese migrants arrived in 1868 to work in the new sugar plantations established by Americans arriving from the mainland.

Portuguese, Norwegian, German, Puerto Rican, Korean, Filipino and Spanish labourers arrived over the next forty years creating a unique melting pot. In between these migrations the American mainlanders asserted their influence and in 1890 Hawaii became a territory of the United States. Lahaina grew into the charming commercial capital of Maui, relying on tourism and hospitality for its major industry.

Wayne Fletcher arrived in Honolulu six years earlier and this was his first visit to Lahaina. Raised in Fort Worth Texas, Wayne’s parents were very successful in property development, especially in the sprawling metropolis between Dallas and Fort Worth. At Fort Worth Country Day School, Wayne adopted many of the traits of the Southern Baptist upper middle class culture and grew to be a tall, hunky linebacker with a plentiful share of cheerleader sweethearts.

While Wayne inherited his father’s strong physique and a certain amount of charm, he also possessed his arrogance and accompanying bigotry. However, Wayne lacked the intellect of his parents, therefore his expensive education was somewhat wasted. He dropped out of a private college and bummed around with his father in property for a while. After failing to apply himself to the opportunities presented at the time, he took to booze and drugs. When his father insisted Wayne try some volunteering, he left for the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu.

After a couple of years in Port Vila, Wayne convinced his father to help him start up in Honolulu property development. With his father’s advice in the booming environment, Wayne quickly amassed a small fortune, often from shady deals involving corrupt officials. He took to the high life of cocaine, gambling, fast cars and faster women, which led him into debt and ultimately financial ruin with the Honolulu property market crash in 1997.

Embittered he had played a good hand poorly in wasting his privileged upbringing; Wayne became a rather nasty, self-absorbed individual. He ran a small used car business in Honolulu, employing his mate Carlos Montoya. Carlos and his girlfriend Jade were now with Wayne in Lahaina. 

“So, Jade. What about these weird-ass Japanese panels you were telling Carlos about?” Wayne enquired before taking a swig of his Kona draught. “What’s the story?”

Jade Sato put her glass down, leaned forward and brushed her long black hair away from her face before replying quietly, “I’m not sure when or how grandad acquired these panels. They were always around when I was a kid, but I looked at them more closely the last time I visited about six months ago. They’re strange, quite colourful and look old. I tried to draw him out about them but he was vague and a little tired at the time. Since grandma passed away, grandad has slowed down a lot. I’m not sure how long he’s going to last. I only mentioned the Japanese panels to Carlos because they’re so beautiful. Why are you interested?”

“Yeah, dude. Since when do you give a shit about Japanese artefacts?” chimed in Carlos, shifting his bulky frame forward in anticipation.

Carlos looked liked he could be a Hawaiian native, Filipino or Japanese. A big bruiser in reasonable shape, he was the sort of guy you might cross the road to avoid on a dark night if he was heading your way. Carlos grew up in a rough neighbourhood in Honolulu and acquired enough street smarts to keep on the right side of the law, while supervising a gang of hoodlums who derived protection money from vulnerable small businesses. The extra income supplemented his modest pay for odd jobs at Wayne’s World Used Cars, to the extent he lived well and enjoyed expensive tastes in cars, clothes and women.  

Wayne grinned at Jade, gulped another mouthful of ale then confided, “Jade, you know I’m a man of many pursuits and when in Port Vila, I befriended a guy who makes his living out of South Pacific artefacts. He taught me a little about valuable old stuff and a lot about buying and selling. The profits can be huge if you can locate the right buyer. Operating in a tax haven certainly is another advantage.”

Wayne paused to gauge Jade’s reaction as she leaned closer, clearly interested.

Petite with a flawless complexion and shiny shapely legs, on this occasion Jade chose an elegant green, white and blue patterned dress to complement her legs and her slender arms, which she adorned with a set of golden bracelets. Jade worked diligently as a sales assistant in a clothing store where she consistently exceeded her targets. Appearances meant a lot to her and she admired the buccaneer style of Wayne and Carlos whom she considered were going places, one way or another.

“Anyway, when I heard about these old panels,” Wayne continued, “I did some research and discovered they might be worth a few bucks, maybe lots depending on their number, condition and age.”

Okay,” said Carlos. “What are we waiting for?”

Jade looked up at the ceiling pursing her deep red lips and recounted, “There are four of them, each about six feet by six feet. They appear to be in good condition, but I wouldn’t have a clue how old they are. They look ancient, but who knows? They’re very colourful and have rather interesting painted themes. I remember one showing a few samurai in a garden gazing towards a bright sunlit sky,” and Jade crinkled her nose as if shielding her eyes from the glare.

“Hey, you guys right for another round?” enquired Cody, who edged up to the trio while Jade was chatting away.  

“Yeah, man. We’re in for the long haul. Another round of Kona, Jack D and the Margarita special for the princess,” as Wayne flamboyantly swept his arm in Jade’s direction. “And, dude. Where does a guy get some action round here?”

“That depends what you’re after stranger. Where do you all come from anyway?”

“We’re from the fast lane and I’m looking for a fast chick if you know what I mean,” Wayne chuckled. “So what do you know?”

“I know a lot about this place, but it’s mostly tourists this time of year and you’ll have to strut ya stuff on the dance floor later to have any chance of a pick-up. The Aussie and English gals are your best bet,” Cody suggested. “Far away from home and looking for adventure,” and he slowly shook his hands and gyrated his hips. “Tell you what, how about I let you know if I see any acting horny.”

“You’re my man, Cody, and there’s twenty bucks in it if you spot me a winner,” Wayne laughed.

Cody gave a wry smile, tipped his forehead in a mock salute and hobbled away to get the drinks.

“Hey listen, guys,” Wayne whispered. “Wanna have some blow before the cripple comes back? I got a few snow bombs,” and he reached into his pocket for some little balls, rolled up in cigarette paper looking like tear drops. He quickly handed them one each, which they surreptitiously swallowed before taking a swig from their drinks.

Wayne sat back up, glanced around the room and declared, “Well, we need to see these panels, Jade, without granddaddy getting too wise. So can you arrange for us all to meet the old guy tomorrow after lunch? I brought a little camera because I’d like to send some snaps to my buddy in Vanuatu. He’ll probably have a good idea of their value and maybe even line up a buyer.”

Jade swept her sleek black hair from her face and replied, “That shouldn’t be too difficult, I’ll ring grandad in the morning. Let’s plan for mid afternoon. He always likes to see me and I’m sure he won’t mind me bringing a couple of friends. Yeah, should be fine. Now let’s have some fun.”

Cody reappeared with the drinks, “Hey, guys. I’m Cody. When you want more drinks, just come over to the bar and I’ll sort you out with your usuals. For grub you might try the fajitas. Pancho uses some special spices that won’t let you down. Just tell him how much chilli you want.”

“Thanks, Cody. This is Jade, the big guy is Carlos and I’m Wayne. Remember to scout around for those hot babes for me, pal.”

As Cody shuffled away, the Honolulu trio talked about their plans for the following day before ordering some fajitas. After another couple of rounds and with the music growing louder, Carlos and Jade moved onto the dance floor.

Wayne wasn’t sure what to make of Moose McGillycuddy’s. The place was full of posters and memorabilia bordering on the tacky. A framed picture of James Dean, ample photos of Marilyn Monroe, and different beer posters suggested a theme of not allowing a bare piece of wall to go unmolested. Even a few plastic sharks hung from the ceiling.

While Wayne sat peering over the balcony at a couple of groups wandering down the street, Cody reappeared and tapped him on the shoulder. ”Hey, Wayne. There’s a spunky bird on the floor now, just dancing by herself. She certainly looks like she wouldn’t say no to some company. Haven’t seen her before, so she’s probably a tourist.”

About twenty people bopped around on the dance floor to the beat of Love is a drug, so Wayne casually sauntered over and checked out the women.  There were a few dancing in little groups, and then he spotted her just as lovesick Bryan Ferry pleaded, ‘and I need to score’.

The lone dancer was lithe, graceful and very sensual. Wearing tight black jeans and a lime green polyester top, she moved her body slowly to the music, oblivious to the crowd around. 

When the track finished, Wayne followed her to the bar, admiring her feline gait from behind. He caught her eye before stepping forward and declaring, “My buddy over there bet I couldn’t start a conversation with you. You wanna have a drink with me at his expense?”

Wayne then produced his George Clooney grin and knew his favourite pick-up line had worked again.

“Why not,” she laughed. “And let’s make it expensive.”

“Sure, he’s loaded anyway. And I’m Wayne by the way, and you are?” 

“Tegan.”

Wayne quickly sized her up – late twenties, pleasing on the eye without being a stunner, knew how to present herself; confident, a tourist and from her accent he considered English her mother tongue, but definitely not American. He wondered whether she was by herself, hoping she wasn’t waiting for friends.

“Over here, buddy,” Wayne called as Cody approached. “What cocktails would you recommend tonight?”  

“Well, depends what spirits you like. My favourites here would be Blue Hawai'i with rum, blue Curacao and pineapple juice, or maybe an Ectoplasm, which has vodka, rum, nutmeg, cream and lemon juice. Or for a guy like you, perhaps a Tequila Sunset. Like a Sunrise but with brandy instead of grenadine. But they’re all good,” assured Cody.

“What do you feel like having, Tegan?” asked Wayne, searching her green eyes.

“I’m a sucker for vodka and anything with cream, so I’ll have the Ectoplasm thanks.”

“Make that two, pal. Who knows what two Ectoplasms will lead to?”

Wayne and Tegan made their way over to join Jade and Carlos. After introductions, a few more rounds and some banter about Kiwis being poor relations of Australians, the group decided to move on to the Outrigger Hotel bar where the Honolulu trio were staying.

As they left McGillycuddy’s, Wayne slipped a twenty-dollar note into Cody’s top pocket winking, “Thanks for the loan, pal. See you around.”

The next morning, Wayne woke late and alone. His recollections of the night brought a wry smile to his face. That Tegan was something else, though maybe I shouldn’t have been so rough. But she was just another lay Wayne shrugged. She hadn’t enjoyed his sexual antics, especially being tied to the bed, so the night ended in tears before he unceremoniously shoved Tegan out the door.

After a while thinking of the day ahead, he rang Carlos and they arranged to meet for a late breakfast at The Whalers village nearby.

“Are we all set for this afternoon with grandad, Jade?” asked Wayne.

“Yeah, he’s looking forward to seeing me again and suggested we come by around 3pm,” answered Jade, looking fresh and eager. “What do you have in mind when we meet?”

Wayne thought for a moment, “I’m not sure, but expect we’ll let him show us around his house. We’ll raise the subject of panels and ask what he knows about them. At some point I’d like to take some photos. Guess we’ll take it as it comes. Will they be on display?”

“Yeah, he has them along one wall in the living room, quite a feature. We should be able to get him talking. Are you thinking of asking whether he wants to sell?”

“Nah, not yet. I’ve no idea what they’re worth. Suppose we should at least ask him how old they are. Let’s just see what happens,” and Wayne tucked into the big breakfast the waitress had brought to the table.

Afterwards, the trio drove around the northern part of the island to Kihei, over to Wailuku and back to Lahaina. Wayne was interested in checking out the harbours and later they wandered around the marine shops, brokerages and the like.

Arriving at Jade’s grandad’s house in Ka'anapali, a few miles north of Lahaina just after three o’clock, the group were warmly welcomed inside by the elderly man and after introductions, offered coffee and biscuits. They explained how Carlos and Wayne knew Jade, and later Kenji shared stories about his life and the changes he had witnessed in Maui in his time. 

Kenji Sato had arrived in Maui from Japan as a baby in the late 1920s with his parents from Kyoto. His father Taro found work in the cane fields with his best friend Doni Yamaha. Ken, as he liked to be called, talked about his childhood, recollections of the cane-burning season, his school years learning English and the years watching Maui develop as a tourist destination.

Kenji’s dad worked at the Maui Trading Company and unlike most of his friends, was fortunate not to be interned during the Second World War. Kenji explained how the Japanese-American community had formed a patriotic organisation called the Maui Emergency Service Committee and that many of these young men enlisted in the U.S. forces. Nevertheless, many families suffered as their breadwinner was interned at short notice, leaving the families to manage as best they could.

After the war, the sugar cane industry slowly declined, replaced by tourism. Kenji began work as a chef’s hand at the new Hotel Hana-Maui, Maui’s first resort hotel. He worked his way up to become a highly regarded chef. Kenji also talked fondly of his wife Mazuki and their four children. Jade was the youngest grandchild from his only son Tomi.

“You’ve had a very interesting life, Grandad,” Jade remarked when Kenji’s thoughts slowed. “And one thing I’ve always wondered about is how you came by those fascinating panels?” as she glanced towards Wayne and winked. 

“Ah, the fusuma, as they are termed in Japan,” Kenji replied. “They are beautiful aren’t they? My father’s old friend Doni travelled to Kobe after the war to visit his aging relatives and returned with eight of them. He was very guarded about their origins and how they came into his hands.”

“My dad believed they date back to the olden times before the Meiji restoration, so maybe Doni’s forbearers had passed them on through the generations. Over here,” signalled Kenji with his walking stick, “you can see samurai warriors in a Japanese garden with Mount Fuji in the background.” He pointed again. ”And in this painting a contemplativeBuddha sits on a wooden bench amongst cherry blossoms, with colourful birds flying about his head. The panels are well preserved with their bright colours. Something to behold aren’t they?”

“They’re very beautiful,” Wayne said, admiring the panels. “But how did you come by them?”

“Doni sold four of the panels to an art collector from Florida, visiting Lahaina on his honeymoon in 1955. He gave these to Mazuki and me as a wedding present a few years later, not long before he passed away. I was thrilled then and they've always been our most prized possessions.”

“They’re incredible,” Wayne enthused, examining them more closely. “Do you mind if I take a few photos as I’d like to show them to one of my friends?”

“Not at all, and I’ll make some more coffee then show you around the back garden.”

After Kenji returned with the coffees, they strolled around his garden, which displayed more gravel and rocks than plant life in thekaresansui style.

Influenced by Zen Buddhism, Kenji explained how the sculptured rocks and mosses represented ponds, islands, mountains and rivers. He also told them about one of the most famous karesansui gardens at the Ryoanji temple complex in Kyoto.

“One day I would love to visit the Ryoanji temple,” he sighed longingly.