Authors: Jill Marie Landis
THE SUN WAS shining, and a light mist cast a rainbow over the ocean as Em and Louie walked down the shady stone walkway toward the Tapa Bar area. Em watched as the colors of the rainbow deepened over Waikiki, but the shower quickly moved on and the colors soon faded. Within seconds there was no sign the rainbow had ever been.
Just beyond the Tapa Bar, a banner announcing the annual Shake Off kick-off party had been stretched above a planter where a tall wooden tiki faced the ocean.
7 P.M. TONIGHT! SHAKE OFF COMPETITION
HILTON CONVENTION CENTER BALLROOM
TICKETS AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC / COSTUMES ENCOURAGED!
Em paused to read the sign.
“They gave me two tickets in my registration pack,” Louie said. “With everything that’s been going on, I forgot to ask if you’d like to go. The info says they serve a mean pirate’s grog. How about it?”
Em started to say no when out of the blue she thought,
loose lips sink ships.
Maybe after the entrants downed multiple mugs of pirate’s grog, she might be able to ferret out some information that would point to whoever had gotten his hands on Louie’s Booze Bible. She’d already been seen around the resort with Louie and the Maidens, so what better way to go undercover than to don a pirate costume?
“What are you wearing?” she asked Louie.
“I brought an old bandana to tie around my head and an eye patch. That’s as far as I’ll go aside from saying arrrggghhh a few times.”
“I’ll see if I can come up with something,” Em said. She’d just found the perfect excuse to slip over to the security office again. “I’d better start looking around if I’m going to go. I’m sure with all these shops around I can come up with a costume.”
The first store she passed was Louis Vuitton.
Or maybe not
, she thought.
The penguins were still looking glum as she passed their concrete lagoon. She walked into security and was relieved when she found Mr. Kim manning the security desk again.
“Ms. Johnson,” he said. “Sorry to say I don’t have any leads yet. We’ve been slammed.”
“High crime at the Hilton?”
He shook his head. “Not that much. We spend most of our time rousting the obvious hookers and tossing locals out of the pools.”
“I really need a favor.” She smiled up at him and took a deep breath. “Someone delivered an envelope to our room earlier today, and my uncle would like to know who left it. Do you think I could take a look at the footage from the front desk area? Just to see who dropped off the envelope?”
“You know, Ms. Johnson, the Hilton staff is here to serve you with aloha, but you can’t expect us to show you video feeds whenever you get a whim. The stolen binder or whatever is one thing, but now you need to see the feed so that you can write somebody a thank you note?”
She was a nanosecond from telling him about the ransom demand, but she thought of how upset Louie would be if she did anything to jeopardize the Booze Bible.
“I know it sounds ridiculous,” she said. “How about a bribe? We’ve got twenty pounds of Hanalei
on its way over from Kauai,” she said.
“No bribes. I’ll even forget you offered.” He shook his head, but he was smiling. “Even if I could take the time to run the playback for you right now, the whole system is down at the moment. We’ve got a tech team on the way. Looks like you’re out of luck.”
KIKI SURVEYED THE open air reception lobby like a general weighing her options before battle. The Maidens, outfitted in casual floral sheath dresses with faux white gardenia hairpieces, were gathered in an alcove by the ladies’ room.
As yet there was no sign of Pat. Though no one had actually worked up the courage to approach them, people were staring and whispering in anticipation.
Trouble in Paradise
fans were well aware that whenever the Maidens gathered, catastrophe was just around the corner.
Little Estelle was parked off in an out of the way spot. Wearing earbuds, she was frenetically writing on a yellow legal pad, her head bobbing to whatever streamed through her iPod.
Back toward the Tapa Bar, the Shake Off conference coordinators had set up a press conference area where they were offering free Mai Tais to anyone over twenty-one as well as selling an array of official Waikiki Western Regional Shake Off T-shirts, visors, and beer cozies. Kiki was thrilled about the press conference, giddy with all the possibilities that might come of it. Aside from hula, there was nothing she liked better than notoriety.
A potbellied man dressed like an oversized pirate’s cabin boy walked up with an armload of flyers.
“Arrrggghhh!” he yelled.
“Arrrggghhh!” Kiki yelled back.
“That’s the spirit.” He tried to hand her a flyer. “How about coming to our Shake Off pirate party tonight? Only sixty dollars for dinner, all the grog you can drink, live music, and fun.”
She waved away the flyer. “We make our own fun. Move along, buddy.”
She finally relaxed when she spotted Pat toting the boom box, weaving her way through the gathering crowd.
“Did you hear about the pirate party tonight?” Pat asked.
“Yeah, I heard, but we’re not going.”
“It sounds kinda fun.”
“We’re all going bar crawling down Kalakaua. We’ll have a drink in every hotel bar. Depending on what entertainment they have going, we might have a chance to dance.”
“Sounds okay, but I’d love to dress up like a pirate.” Pat surveyed the area. “Where do ya want me to plug in?”
“We’ll be dancing between those two columns flanked by potted palms,” Kiki said. That put them smack in the middle of the reception area. “We’ll have to go with batteries.”
“I’ll see if there’s a plug behind one of those big cement pots. We could get lucky.” Pat walked off.
A couple of tourists spotted her and yelled, “Hey Pat! Is that really you?”
“Who the heck you think I am? A Pat Boggs impersonator?” Pat snorted a laugh and said, “Catch ya’all later. We’ll be sellin’ T-shirts right after some dancin’.”
The tourists made the okay sign and walked off to sample free Mai Tais.
When Kiki thought she heard masculine voices speaking thick Pidgin English, she turned around and saw five older Hawaiian men who had just piled out of a van parked at the curb. They started pulling guitar and ukulele cases out of the vehicle. They were wearing matching aloha shirts, kukui nut necklaces, and white pants.
The balding, heavyset man apparently leading the pack reminded her of her husband, Kimo. He headed straight toward her with a huge smile on his face while carrying a guitar case and music stand in his beefy hands.
“You’re Kiki, the leader of the Hula Maidens, yeah?”
“For sure,” she smiled back. “I’m Kiki.”
“I’m Byron. We’re the Kamakanis. We saw you folks on the news last night and thought we’d come down and help you out while you’re here.”
“Help us out?”
“Play music for you. We know pretty much all the songs you dance.”
By now the other four musicians had joined them.
“I seen all your shows on TV,” one of them said.
“You ladies got it goin’
,” the eldest of them added.
Kiki was so beside herself she clapped her hands. “Live music! I can’t believe it.”
Byron laughed. “Far as I know we’re still alive. So it’s okay we play for you?”
“Okay? Of course it’s okay. Better than okay. We’re dancing in about five minutes.” She motioned Pat over from where she’d been keeping an open space between the palms and columns.
“Three minutes and forty-five seconds,” Pat said.
“We bettah go tune up,” Byron winked.
“Show these gentlemen where to set up,” Kiki told Pat.
Pat hollered at a porter watching from the bellman’s podium. “How ’bout some foldin’ chairs for these boys?” She clapped her hands twice and added, “
Kiki gathered the dancers and lined them up so they’d be ready to walk in with some semblance of order and decorum. The crowd began to swell in the reception area. New arrivals waiting to check into their rooms were forced to line up off to one side of the reception desk or the other.
A thirty-something guy wearing a T-shirt with a tiki mug surrounded by the words Official Shake Off Official on it, a goatee, and a black fedora walked up to Kiki. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he said.
“Kiki. It’s Kiki.” Not far away, a cooler had mysteriously appeared beside the Kamakanis, and the guys were apparently tuning up with beers.
“Kiki, how long is your show?” He scanned the crowd. Phones and cameras were snapping. “We’ve got a press conference scheduled for half an hour from now.”
“No worries,” Kiki tried to assure him. “We’ll be done by then.”
“I caught you on the news last night and heard about what happened at the Hau Tree Bar. We don’t want our press party delayed or interrupted.”
Kiki tossed her hair over her shoulder and smiled what she hoped was her most winning smile. “Of course not. We’ll finish on time.”
As the hipster started to walk away, Kiki added under her breath, “Unless the crowd goes wild and we’re forced to keep dancing.”
“UNBELIEVABLE.” EM raised her voice so Louie could hear her over the quintet of older Hawaiians singing and playing ukes and guitars. She’d just re-joined her uncle near the lobby.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Kiki managed to find some musicians.”
Kiki and the Maidens were spread out across the huge open reception area in front of the driveway where cabs and vans pulled into the Hilton. Miraculously, there was no sign of trouble. No security rushed in to stop them. There was no police presence to speak of.
Em wished she felt more relieved.
“Kiki gets what Kiki wants.” Louie was distracted by his own problem. He barely gave the Maidens a glance as he headed for the competition press area. He was wearing his official entrant’s lanyard and badge, but there was little need for her uncle to identify himself. With his thick silver hair, deep bronze tan, not to mention his height and classic aloha shirt, he was easy to spot.
Em watched as fans of the cancelled reality show stopped him and asked for his autograph. He was every bit as famous as the Hula Maidens but oblivious to his notoriety at the moment. He had bigger fish to fry.
She considered herself lucky. Of average height, wearing a nondescript blond ponytail and sunglasses, she wasn’t as recognizable as Louie and the Maidens. Not only that, but during the
Trouble in Paradise
shoots she stayed off camera as much as possible. If people looked twice at her in public now they thought she looked familiar, but most of the time didn’t make the connection.
“Looks like the Maidens decided to take their show on the road.”
Em turned when she recognized Nat Clark’s voice. Her part-time next door neighbor was standing right behind her. She was so glad to see someone sane that she hugged him without thinking.
“Hey, Nat. I’m so glad to see you. How’s it? You’re not filming this afternoon?”
“Early wrap,” he said. “I’ve got to fly to California tomorrow after shooting. If I’d have known I’d get that kind of a reception, I’d have shown up earlier.”
“I’m glad you found me. I just came down from the room. Louie has a press conference in about thirty minutes.”
Nat had on sunglasses, but he wasn’t wearing them just to look cool or anonymous. His prescription tortoiseshell glasses somehow added to his easygoing charm, in a Clark Kent sort of way.
“Do the Maidens have anything to do with that warm welcome? Are they driving you nuts already?” He glanced over at the dancers. “I didn’t know they were coming.”
“Louie and I didn’t know either until the night before we left. Did you catch the news last night?”
He shook his head no. “We had a late call time.”
“You’re the writer. Do you really have to be there?”
“Until this thing really gets off the ground, I like to be on the set in case they need any last minute re-writes.”
“We were only here a few hours when the girls were hauled off to jail.”
“Why am I not surprised?” His gaze strayed back over to the performance. “You want to stay and watch this? Or would you like to get away for a few minutes? I’m starving.”
“Are you kidding? I can see them dance every night. I’d like to be back for the Shake Off press conference, though.”
“Then let’s go to CJ’s. It’s a New York style deli right here in the hotel.”
“Lead the way,” Em said.
Once they were seated Nat changed his glasses and leaned back. “Better?” He handed Em a menu.
“Much. Nothing to eat though, thanks. I’d love an iced tea.”
Nat ordered two iced teas and a kalua pig Reuben sandwich with grilled onions and barbecue sauce. When the waiter walked away, Nat gave Em his full attention.
“So aside from the crazy makers showing up, howzit going? Is Louie excited?”
“I’m afraid the Maidens aren’t our only problem. We weren’t here an hour when Louie announced his Booze Bible had been stolen.”
“That’s terrible. I know what that notebook means to Louie. I’ve always thought he should have it published. Are you sure it’s not misplaced?”