“It’s the white Corolla across the street there at the curb,” Bishop said, pointing to his car.
“The one with all the rust?” Hersey asked incredulously.
“Are you sure it’s white? It looks more like beige.”
Bishop ignored the remark. So, he hadn’t washed the car in a while. “Get a move on, lady. There is no time to waste. We need to get to Haleiwa to pick up Diane’s trail.”
Bishop broke into a sprint towards the car, cautiously watching the Chinese herbal shop front for any sign of Wong. He opened the door of the 1996 Toyota and slid behind the wheel as Hersey got in the passenger seat. Bishop cranked the engine. When he turned the key, there was a rapid clicking noise for a few moments, followed by a grinding sound, before the starter engaged. Finally, the engine of the 16-year-old car sputtered to life, making a distinctive metallic knocking noise. The car backfired loudly, and gray smoke billowed from the exhaust pipe. Bishop shifted into drive, cranked the steering wheel, and pressed the accelerator after checking the rear-view mirror. The vehicle lurched away from the curb and out onto the street. Checking the rear-view again, Bishop saw Mrs. Wong standing on the sidewalk in front of the shop, shaking her fist at him. The old woman was shouting something, but Bishop couldn’t make it out over the engine noise.
The Corolla was a beater in every sense of the word but was the best Bishop could afford for the time being. He’d had a late model 4Runner, but had totaled it in a crash. Then when he filed the claim with his insurance, the insurance rep told him his policy had lapsed after he’d missed two monthly premium payments, so he had to eat the loss while continuing to make the remaining monthly payments. Desperate for wheels, he’d bought the Corolla for nine-hundred bucks in cash from a guy he knew, Jimmy Māhoe, a bell attendant at The Royal Hawaiian.
After it warmed up, the engine evened out a little, and the exhaust smoke thinned some. Bishop stuck his left arm out the open driver’s window with his elbow bent and hand pointed to the sky with his palm facing forward and then made a right turn off Hotel Street.
“What was that all about?” Hersey asked, raising her voice over the engine noise and vibrations of the car.
“What are you talking about?”
“Sticking your arm out back there.”
“Don’t you know how to drive?” Bishop asked. “I was signaling the right turn.”
“Why didn’t you just use the turn indicator thingy?”
“The turn indicator isn’t working. The car has some kind of electrical malfunction, and I’ve been too busy with work to get it in to have a mechanic look at it.”
“Are you sure this car will make it to Haleiwa? Is it even roadworthy?”
“Of course, it’s roadworthy and will get us to Haleiwa.”
“What year is it? It seems pretty old.”
“It’s a 1996 model.”
“Yeah, they knew how to build cars that last back then.”
“Can you put on the air conditioning? It’s a little stuffy in here.”
“Uh, the air conditioning isn’t working right now because of the electrical issue. That’s why I have my window down.”
Hersey reached for the handle to roll down the passenger door window but discovered it missing.
“I don’t have a handle on my side.”
“Yeah, that window doesn’t roll down, anyway.”
“I don’t mean to be rude, but this thing is a piece of junk. I guess I expected a successful private detective would have a decent car.”
“This is just my work car,” Bishop lied out of embarrassment. “It’s nondescript, which is useful for tailing people. The last thing a private investigator needs is a car that stands out in a crowd. That would be about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.”
Hersey craned her neck to look back out the rear window glass.
“How do you figure it’s nondescript with all the smoke pouring from the exhaust?”
“Are you an expert on cars, too?” Bishop asked as he merged onto the freeway.
“Then enough of your opinions about the car. I want to know more about your friend Diane. What did you mean when you said she had a troubled past?”
Mostly, he only wanted to change the subject of the conversation. Bishop sped up to go with the traffic flow, but when the speedometer reached 55, the car’s front end shimmied and vibrated so badly he had to drop back to 50.”
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