I’d heard the stories all my life. Kane, Pele, Maui, Kamapua’a; heroes and villains, impossibly beautiful women, tricksters, monsters and demons.

It’s part of growing up in the Hawaiian tradition, part of the weave of life and the ocean. They’d always been far away though; from a distant time and place, lost in the years and the encroachment of the modern world.

They’d always been distant. Distant, that is, until I found myself meeting some of those things of legend, landlocked, on the mainland; far from the ocean, far from where I’d ever have expected to hear of them, much less meet them.


As soon as the strains of Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” started, I drifted over to the wildest part of the dance floor. Just as Christina growled “sweatin’ til my clothes come off,” I raised a hand without really looking and snagged PeeGee’s little black overshirt out of the air, then glanced to make sure she still had some kind of clothes on.

One tiny silver bandeau top, one black microskirt, her usual shiny dancing boots — silver this time – and a wicked grin and wink as she spun back into the crowd. After a year, it was pretty much a ritual. She’d find me when we closed the club and retrieve her shirt. I stuffed it into a cargo pocket. It didn’t take up much room.

Sylvia, the “bar boss,” was laughing and shaking her head, looking over the rail to the dance floor.

I scowled down at her. “What?”

She tried to suppress her laughter, and looked up at me. I pretty much towered over her — hell, I pretty much tower over everything. I’m just an inch over six and a half feet tall, and just a hair under 300 pounds if you catch me on the right side of that last piece of steak.

That makes me a little small by Mom’s family standards. My two older brothers have me by a good two inches of height. Still, I’ve taken care of myself and they’ve run to fat, even though I’m the gimped up one.

My dad was a Ha’Ole, but my mom is pure native Hawaiian.

Despite being a foot and a half shorter than me, Syl failed to look impressed. “I think she loves you.”

“PeeGee loves everyone. Hell, Syl, she thinks Molly and E are part of a balanced daily breakfast.”

We did our best to keep the drugs out of the club — keeping a license was tough enough without a bunch of drug busts. The Crimson had a reputation for being pretty clean and we tried to keep it that way. We’d been having more a problem lately. The police had been hammering a lot of the mid-level drug pushers and while that sounds great, for us it made a power vacuum. There were some rumors that Anthony Montage — “Tony Montana” — was trying to assert control over some of the clubs to use for distribution.

I’d been stopping his pushers at the door on a regular basis lately, so that rumor was probably true. Not that I was too worried about that, I’m not really afraid of much. I grew up hunting kaku — barracuda — and ran into far more than my share of sharks, even the big man-eaters, the Niuhi.

Tourists that bother to learn anything at all usually think the only word for shark is mano — but like the Inuit have so many words for snow and ice, we have different words for different classes of sharks. Mano are the smaller, less dangerous sharks; Niuhi are the true man-killers, the big Tigers and Great Whites. Once you’ve come face to face with a few of those, not very much can scare you.

In any case, while PeeGee wasn’t exactly at the top of my list of potential would-be crime lords, she was always obviously already sailing on E before she ever hit the door. I sporadically checked her purse just to make sure; she cheerfully acquiesced, then crossed her eyes and stuck her tongue out at me when I didn’t find anything.

Sylvia grinned. “Can’t argue that. Still, she trusts you, so keep an eye on her.”

That too, right down to Sylvia’s reminder, was ritual. PeeGee — short for “Party Girl” was sort of an unofficial club mascot. She was an incredible, energetic dancer who spent nearly all her time on the floor. She couldn’t stand it if people looked down or depressed. From her driver’s license, her real name was Danni – another one of those “i with a heart over it” girls – and she was really pure positive energy at the club. She’d gleefully rush a table full of morose introverts and drag them out to the floor one by one. Men, women, whatever. She was a one woman party.

She’d once mentioned that she taught at a dance studio and it showed –she obviously had training and the endurance of a marathon runner. Tall and slender, runway model pretty, she was also the dirtiest dancer I’d ever seen. Dirty enough that I actually had to give her warnings, which she cheerfully apologized for with doe-eyes, fluttering lashes and a mock sad-face pout. Then she’d bring it down a notch. For a little while anyway.

PeeGee being PeeGee, she was welcome at every table. I’d had to lift her down off of more than few of them. We tried to keep an eye on her; she was everybody’s friend, but she rarely had a wing chick or a consistent group of friends, and that made her a little vulnerable, so we sort of adopted her and made sure she made it into a taxi when the club shut down.

I glanced back at her and could see she was giving impromptu “grinding lessons” to a terribly embarrassed, slightly heavy set girl who must have looked morose enough to become her latest prey. I watched long enough to make sure PeeGee’s remaining clothes stayed mostly on, and to see her victim finally give in and start dancing with abandon. PeeGee just has that effect on people.

Syl pointed back towards the back of the club. “The loading dock damn alarm is going off again. Nick says the company rep can’t figure out what’s going on with it.”

I shrugged. “It’s been doing this since I got here, so that’s at least a year. I think that tech is down here at least once a month. I’ll check it out.”

I carefully scanned the main dance floor for any problems – it’s my club on Friday and Saturday nights. Well, mine and PeeGee’s. I don’t think she’s ever missed a Friday or Saturday, ever. At least not since I started as security at the Crimson, a huge, loud, pulse pounding club in the center of the city. It’d started life as a brewery over one hundred years ago.

I started working there in my second to last year of Law School, but I only really worked two days a week most of the time, as the one man riot squad at the club. Still, I took my job damned seriously. The other guys handle most of the routine stuff, but when it really hit the fan, I was on.

After an encounter with me, most of the real problem children either reconsidered their evil ways or moved the hell on. I’d played football all thorough college — not good enough to even dream about trying out for pro teams but trying to fight me was just a bad idea. Most martial arts aren’t really suitable for guys my size, but I’d boxed growing up, and even studied Sumo for a while as a kid — Sumo is pretty popular in Hawaii.

Really though, there are weight class restrictions in combat sports for a reason, and there just aren’t many people in my weight class. Besides, law school is a consolation career for me. I’d been a police officer for a whole two years after college, before I took a bullet through the knee and had to make another life choice. So I have some pretty good aikido-type grips-and-throws training to go with everything else.

The floor looked pretty peaceful, so I nodded to Ron working security on the balcony “top deck” to keep an eye on things for me — he had a pretty good view from there.

I warily skirted the dance floor, doing my best to discreetly sneak by — not exactly the easiest feat for a guy my size. Not that it mattered, I didn’t see my bane approaching as usual. I could never figure out how she did that.

A stinging slap on my butt made me spin back around — PeeGee was grinning ruefully, shaking her hand like it was broken. Her latest victim was standing in shock with her hand over her mouth, wide-eyed, along with half a dozen other women.

“Do I need to throw you out for a week, PeeGee? You can’t touch the security or you get banned. You know the rules.”

“It was an accident. Honest!”

“Like the last ten times?”

She wasn’t even trying to conceal her smirk. “Only ten? Oh, I mean ‘yes.’ I’m just really clumsy.”

That was complete crap — anybody who’d ever seen her dance knew that.

“Behave, PeeGee.” I gave her my best police-glare. It was completely wasted on her.

“I will, I promise.”

As I turned and headed back towards the loading dock, shaking my head, I could hear PeeGee’s stage whisper.

“Careful girls, you could break a tooth on that ass!”

That was answered with slightly inebriated howls of female laughter.

PeeGee was safe and she knew it. Around the club, I’m viewed as sort of the patron guardian saint of single girls. That’s no help at all when you’re in the dating scene yourself. It’s a permanent invitation to the “big brother” zone.

Not that dating has ever been all that easy for me. I heard somewhere that “androgyny” is the in thing with women these days and that sure as hell puts me outside the mainstream. There seem to be two kinds of girls in the world — the ones that like guys big and dumb, and the ones that like guys who are normal size and smart. Big and smart isn’t the combination most of them are looking for. Hook-ups aren’t too hard, but relationships with the kind of girls normally attracted to guys that look like me don’t tend to work well.

Those girls are usually from that “hot-crazy” zone trifecta — redheads, strippers and girls named Tiffani. And while that can be fun, I prefer women who can think and don’t spell their names with “i”s with hearts over them. And who aren’t likely to go all scissor-stabby bunny-boiling crazy.

PeeGee always struck me as flighty, and maybe a little ditzy, rather than dangerous or obsessive. She was certainly pretty enough, but it’s also against the club rules for workers to pick up customers.

So PeeGee, for all her flirting, knew she was off limits. That’s no doubt why she did it.

I’d only had a few serious dates in the last year — I’d taken out the leader of my four person study group a couple times.

I’d stayed out of the lead in my main study group; when a big guy like me tries to lead, they usually end up being viewed as a bully and an asshole. A sparkly, smart little blonde named Abby quickly assumed command — despite being smurfette-cute she was laser-focused, fully committed to success, and a natural born leader. She kind of amazed me; she had to fight twice as hard to get taken seriously, and worked four times as hard as anyone. The other guy in the group, Vince, listened to her because he was hoping to get into her pants, while the other woman, Jennifer, was an introvert with an eye on tax law. She was about one solid step from being a shut-in, and was happy to let anyone else lead the group. As a group, we actually hit it off pretty well, and stayed in touch even when we weren’t studying.

The only time I’d seen her falter was when her father had a stroke, then died after six weeks in the hospital, just as he seemed to be getting better. It’d happened over summer break, so she hadn’t lost her place in the program. When she’d returned, she’d buckled down even more determined and forced herself to stay upbeat.

Tough, funny, smart and cute as hell with a great personality, she was pretty much a dream-girl and it was a huge disappointment to me that we just didn’t click the right way. For whatever reason, it was like taking a sister out on a date. Abby and I made damn good friends; we just didn’t have the right chemistry. It was like finding a perfect pearl you couldn’t keep. I think she was as disappointed as I was.

At least we recognized it in time to keep our friendship.

After Abby, as far as I was concerned, any serious dating was going to be put off until after I passed the Bar.

Of course, when I had time — a rare commodity for most law students — there were always the women who ended their names with “i.” I had a lot more spare time than the other students for a few reasons. I’d always been good at school, and there’s a lot of memorization at law school and I’m really good at that. Mom says it’s because of the Hawaiian tradition of oral history, but both my older brothers barely passed high school, so I’m not so sure about that.

Other than my memory, I had a couple other advantages. I was a little older than the other students and I already had a bit of practice in some aspects of the law — you don’t get to be a beat cop very long without learning a thing or two about how the law, lawyers and especially prosecutors work. And you can end up with a lot of courtroom time in very short order.

Those advantages gave me a lot more spare time than my peers, and once I’d recovered pretty well from being shot, I started looking for a job, mostly to prevent boredom, and buy a little better quality food — it takes a hell of a lot of lean protein and greens to fuel me — If I take in much in the way of carbs, I’ll end up like my brothers, so I eat lean as hell and hit the gym like a religion.

By the time I reset the alarm and got back to my normal post, I could feel a little bit of a change in the floor. Quieter, less energy — and that usually meant fewer problems.

Whatever they tell you, good security takes people. And good security is critical in a large club in a big city. You can do a lot with cameras and alarms, but they don’t make decisions. They can help settle guilt after something has happened, but don’t do anything to stop the problem before it gets out of hand. They also malfunction — our loading dock alarm was a great example of that.

Most importantly, real people can sense problems before they really manifest, before they are actually problems.

The floor was still quiet when PeeGee came up followed by a small mob of women.

“Hey Big Guy.”

“Working here, PeeGee.”

“I know, but I’ve been telling the girls here about your tats.”

I sighed, not even bothering to cover it. PeeGee’s weird obsession with my tattoos was another long running game. And once she was locked on she wouldn’t let go until I cooperated.

“Why PeeGee?”

“Because they’re cool.” She turned to her followers. “His mom is real Hawaiian, those tattoos were done old-school, hand tapped into his skin with wood tools.”

I began rolling up my right sleeve. I learned when it was easier to go along with PeeGee. “It’s called kakua, and some of the tools are made from animal tusks. Hurts like hell.”

One of the women leaned over and looked at the pattern. “It’s all triangles. Really neat, decorative triangles, but triangles. Why would you choose that?”

“They’re shark teeth. Rows and rows and circles and swirls of shark teeth.” PeeGee grinned like a shark herself. “Goes all the way up his arm, half his torso and down his leg. Even covers one cheek of that rock hard ass of his.” She rolled her eyes like a teenager and gave an exasperated sigh. “Not that he’ll show that part to me.”

I scowled at PeeGee, then looked over at her friend. “I didn’t really choose them, the artist decides what you get, based on who you are and how he sees you. The sharks’ teeth are a kind of protection.”

The girl she’d been grinding with earlier reached over and timidly touched the back of my wrist. “They protect you? Like bullet proof?”

I shook my head. “Definitely not bullet proof, I can vouch for that. I used to patrol the old slaughterhouse district, the Dog Run, when I was cop. Messed up kid shot me. Three times in the back — the vest stopped those, but he put bullet through my knee. That’s why I have to wear the brace; took the insurance money and hobbled over to law school.”

“What did you do to the guy that shot you?” Her voice was hushed, probably expecting some kind of epic fight story.

“I didn’t do a damn thing except try catch my breath and try to stop the bleeding. Getting shot hurts a lot. The guy who shot me ran from my partner and went right in front of a city bus.” Every time I heard the hiss of bus brakes, I had a flash of watching the strung-out seventeen year old kid folding under the bumper of that bus.

“So maybe the tattoos got vengeance for you?”

PeeGee shook her head. “They don’t work that way, Cassie.” I had no idea how PeeGee knew that, but she was right.

I studied the patterns on my wrist for a second. “They don’t. It’s hard to explain, but the tattoos kind of ‘tell’ sharks that we have kinship, that we have an agreement. Tell them that I belong there in the ocean.”

Cassie looked puzzled. She obviously didn’t get it and probably never would. People don’t understand the ocean. The bright colors of plants and animals fool people, make them think it’s a world of emotion and feeling. Like it’s some kind of Disney-esque undersea rainforest full of funny, clever, humorous animals.

It’s not.

It’s a completely alien world; mammals and birds have emotions. Anger, love, sadness, all those feelings we share with our fellow air breathers are completely out of place in the ocean. We have few fellow travelers out there; the dolphins and whales, maybe the octopus and squid. But it’s really a coldly rational world. Air doesn’t belong, much less emotion.

Sharks and fish don’t get angry, and their sense of self-preservation isn’t the same as fear. The logic of survival rules everything. Kill, eat, avoid death, breed.

It’s impossible to explain to anyone who hasn’t been there, lived half on land and half in water.

Cassie shrugged. “That’s cool.” Although to be honest, she didn’t seem like she meant it.

PeeGee sent me a secretive smile and roped her temporary posse back on to the dance floor. I went back to scanning the crowd — the energy was building back up as the temporary calm passed. A glance at the clock told me why. It was nine o’clock; the “dinner” part of “dinner and dancing” was coming to an end, so we were starting that heavy rush of customers.

It wasn’t long before Ron signaled to me that something was building on the floor — by the time I got there, a full blown shouting and shoving match was underway. We always tried to have back up, but if I waited too long, this could blow up into a real brawl, so I waded on in and separated the two at the center of everything.

“One chance: back off and stay away from each other or you’re out.”

Each began immediately blaming the other for the commotion.

“Shut up. If I wanted to hear this kind of shit, I’d be teaching preschool.”

The glared at each other from either side of me, but stayed back just enough. Just as they started to back off, something slammed into my back, knocking me forward.

I caught myself and spun around.

“sorrysorrysorry…” PeeGee was detangling herself from a heap, stepping all over a guy who was curled up gripping an obviously broken wrist.

She managed to step away from him and stop stomping all over him for a minute and stared at me wide eyed. “It wasn’t my fault! I was just dancing and he ran right into me!”

Her friend Cassie was fiercely backing her up and nobody else seemed to have an opinion. The two idiots who started the whole thing faded out before PeeGee even had a chance to finish.