17.1.10

Scotch and Stories

"I'm in the living room, Morgan," came a thickly accented voice from the left of the entryway. "Mr. Sullivan, please come in."

"You'll have to forgive me professor," I said as I walked into the room, "but I did not come alone."

Diessen, who was sitting on the couch with a slew of drawings and books on the coffee table in front of him, stood up to shake my hand. I had to admit he was pretty hot for a professor in his fifties. Tall, lean, shaved head, blue eyes and a tan. His khaki cargo shorts and a tank top didn't match my mental image of of a professor at all. He could have easily played Lex Luthor in a Superman porn. He glanced towards the hall opening and nodded at Morgan and Jason. "Hello there. Morgan, please show his... friend... to their room. I'm sure he would like to freshen up and relax after their flight."

"Happy to," said Morgan. "Jason, I hope you like big bathtubs and firm mattresses. Follow me."

"Lady, you just said the nine magic words," Jason replied. He looked at me as she led him deeper into the house. "See you in a few. Momma's gonna have a nice long soak."

He turned his gaze back to me. "You, however, look full of questions. I rather think you'd like to get down to business."

"It's that obvious, eh?"

He smiled. "As obvious as is your close connection to that man there. I trust you love each other very much," he said with a wink. "Welcome, Mr. Sullivan. I hope you had a pleasant trip?"

"Please, call me Joe," I replied. "Any flight that ends on Maui is a pleasant trip in my book." I looked down at the mass of work on the table. "But I guess we should talk about why I'm here."

"Indeed. Please, have a seat." He motioned to the couch as he sat back down. I took a seat at the opposite end. "Would you like something to drink? I was just having a couple fingers of Scotch myself." He grabbed a bottle and two glasses from an end table and poured us each a healthy dose before handing me my glass. "I must remember to always find teaching assistants whose families run distilleries in Scotland." He clinked his glass against mine. "Cheers."

"Cheers, professor." I took a sip of the Scotch and savored the fruits that came to my nose. "Wow. That is one sensual whisky, professor. Both sweet and aromatic."

Diessen nodded. "Yes. And you may call me Karl if you like. You are not a student of mine, after all." He leaned over the coffee table and began digging through the piles in front of him. "Now, let me see. Ah yes, here they are. Tell me Joe, what do you know of the Hawaiian gods?"

"I've read a fair amount of the translations of the old tales, actually. I've always loved reading about mythology. Greeks, Pagans, Christians. This will sound shallow, I'm sure, but I am obsessed with tiki culture. I guess it comes from growing up in Los Angeles. But you know as well as I do that loving tikis is not the same as understanding polynesian religion. A few years ago, we came here for our honeymoon and I decided to learn more about the deities themselves.

"On the drive from the airport, Morgan told me that you were researching Pele, but she didn't dive into much detail other than to say that you had been out to Kaho╩╗olawe. To be honest, I thought that was a little strange. I hadn't come across any stories that put her there."

"And you would be correct in that observation. I can find no stories of the goddess that take place there either. But I have studied her extensively and have many reasons to believe that she made that island her home for awhile."

"That's intriguing. But Kaho╩╗olawe wasn't ever much of an active volcano, was it?"

Diessen nodded. "No, at least, not when she was there. But it was safe isolation. You see, I don't think she was there by choice." He casually adjusted himself on the couch to face me. "Take a look at these pictographs that the natives drew in sacred places there. They depict a prison around the goddess, one meant to contain her. Yet this is no prison crafted by the hands of man. The markings..." He pointed to a drawing of six star-like points around a circle containing her image, "suggest a more... powerful involvement. What they were keeping her from doing, I do not know. But I have reason to believe that you possess at least a portion of the answer to that question."

He looked at me with an expression of lust, but it wasn't sexual. At least, I didn't think it was. given his line of study, I figured that Diessen wanted a look at the other thing I was hiding in my pants, so I whipped out the silver box and handed it to him.

"I don't know if this is the answer, but it sure as hell freaked me out when I opened it."

Morgan walked into the room just as he opened the box and took out the key to examine it. "What's that, Karl? Looks like a spot of coin. Don't go spending it all in one place." She stopped by the end table and poured herself a Scotch before pulling a chair to the coffee table opposite from us and sitting in it.

Diessen carefully examined the key for a moment before putting it back in the box and handing it back to me. "I doubt we'd be able to spend it here, Morgan. Tell me Joe, what do you think that silver piece is? The markings suggest it's part of the mystery, but what part I cannot say."

"Wait. You didn't see it?"

Diessen looked at me. "See what? I opened the box and saw the coin. For all I know, this could be merely a token. But the lengths our Friend Ray went to get it to you... I must admit to you that I'm surprised that this thing wanted me to see... seems so insignificant."

I looked straight into his eyes. The kind of intense look that, when used on Jason, would cause his clothes to spontaneously evaporate. But in this case, my intention was merely to denote how serious I was about what I was going to say: "Trust me, this is no insignificant piece of silver."

Clearly the look had its intended effect. Diessen and Morgan both shifted slightly. Morgan looked at the box in my hands. "May I have a closer look?" I handed it over and her eyebrows furrowed. "There's something strange about this box. Why is it so light? It's clearly made of metal."

I nodded. "That was one of the first things I noticed. That and the weird tingly sensation."

They both turned to me. "What tingly sensation?" Diessen asked.

"The one I get when I hold the box in my hands. You didn't feel it? Happens every time I pick the damn thing up. I know it's like, eighty degrees here, but I've been thinking of getting a pair of gloves."

Diessen and Morgan exchanged glances. "I'm not sure what the more intriguing object in this room is," he said. "That box and its contents, or this young man here."

"Okay, now I'm getting a little creeped out," I said. "I really thought you would see this thing and know immediately what we were supposed to do with it. I mean, it was instantly clear to me what this thing is."

"Then what is it?" they said in unison.

"Uh, I'm pretty sure it's some sort of key. I was kind of hoping you'd know what it opened, professor."

Morgan downed the remaining Scotch in her glass in one gulp. "Well this just raises all kinds of questions in my head. Karl?"

Diessen looked at her and finished his own glass. "Me too, Morgan, me too."

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