Authors: Jill Marie Landis
“Aren’t you Kiki Godwin of
Trouble in Paradise
?” He extended his hand and introduced himself as the night manager. “I thought I recognized you ladies when you walked in. This is a real treat to have you here. What can I do to make your evening perfect?”
Kiki smiled up with the most innocent look she could muster. “We’d love to dance for you and your customers,” she said.
He looked over at the postage stamp they called a stage. “We don’t have a lot of room.”
“We’ve danced in shoe boxes before,” she laughed. “We’ll spread out around the tables.”
The trio on the stage announced they were going on break and unplugged their guitars.
“Well, that’s perfect timing,” Kiki said. Behind her, the Kamakanis were already on their feet heading toward the stage with their instruments. “How about a couple of numbers? Would that be all right?”
The manager looked around. Guests seated at nearby tables were hanging on Kiki’s every word. They nodded encouragement.
“Let them dance,” one woman encouraged. “I can’t wait to tell everybody back home I saw the Hula Maidens perform live.”
The manager glanced at the stage where the Kamakanis were already lining up chairs.
numbers would be okay. Just make sure the waitresses can get to the tables.”
Kiki jumped up. “Come on, ladies. Let’s give these folks a show they’ll never forget.”
EM WALKED INTO the sitting room of the suite. The air conditioning had to be set to forty below. The drapes were drawn and the lights were low. Louie was behind the efficiency kitchen bar humming “My Tiki Goddess,” the song he wrote in memory of his late wife, Irene Kakaulanipuakaulani Hickam Marshall. He sang it every evening at the Goddess at the end of the evening entertainment.
“Aloha, Em,” he called out. “I haven’t seen you for hours!”
“Roland and I have been busy. You sound happy.” It was good to see him smiling.
“Is it too dark in here for you? I’m trying to replicate a bar mood.”
“It’s not too dark, just cold.”
“I’m still experimenting with flaming drinks.” He waved a lighter wand around, clicking the flame off and on. “Feel free to turn up the air. Or better yet, open the sliding doors, but leave the drapes closed. Where is Roland?”
“He went to Pearl City to have dinner with one of his cousins. We ran into him today when we had lunch at the Moana. He invited me too, but I thought I’d spend a quiet night in.”
“And the girls?”
“They’re dancing at Tiki’s Grill and Bar at the other end of Kalakaua. I hope they won’t get hauled off to jail tonight.”
“If they do, just leave them in the clink. You know they let the monkey escape?”
“I know. I stopped by earlier. I also heard you gave the owner a big deposit.”
Louie waved his hand. “I did, but I’m not worried. He’ll get the monkey back. There have been plenty of sightings.”
He nodded. “The owner thinks the monkey is probably confused by all the Shriners. So many other guys in fezzes around. So far it’s having a great time on the loose, tormenting kids at the Super Pool, sneaking into a Japanese wedding reception to take advantage of all the sushi and champagne. Luckily the bride and groom got a kick out of it.”
“No one’s tried to catch it?”
“Security, but it’s small and quick. It climbs trees, leaps from one to another and up onto balconies and slips in and out of hotel rooms.”
“Food, water, drinks. That thing could live here forever,” she said. “What about your deposit?”
“I saw the owner coming out of a Shriners meeting. I told him the way I see it, he should have to catch it, not me. I told him he’s lucky Pat and Kiki aren’t suing over their attack wounds.”
“What did he say?”
“He said the monkey was in my possession when it bit Pat and attacked Kiki. He says it escaped from our suite, so it’s still my problem. Its name is Alphonse, by the way.”
Em wandered over to the bar and spotted an open bag of chocolate kisses, pulled one out, and unwrapped it.
“So, did you and Roland find out if dePesto wrote the extortion letter?”
“It’s a little more complicated than that. In fact, it’s very complicated.” She popped the kiss in her mouth.
“I need those for my recipe.” Louie grabbed the bag and rolled down the top. “Did I tell you I made the qualifying round with points to spare? After all the question and answer stuff we had to put together a mixed fruit juice concoction. I did something simple and it worked.”
“That’s wonderful. Congratulations.”
“So how do you know dePesto is innocent?”
“We found out who left the extortion letters.” Em braced herself. “It was my ex-husband.”
Phillip? Why would he? Sorry, but that’s just crazy. You never did tell me what happened. I thought you two must have had a nice lunch. Why would he hurt us like that?”
For the first time since she walked into the suite he totally ignored his bottles and glasses and stared at her. He looked so rattled she hated to go on.
“Apparently he needed money. When he read about you in the
they also mentioned the Booze Bible and how you’d been creating drinks your whole life and recording the recipes in it. He thought he could get us to pay for its return.”
“So is he behind bars?” He glanced over to the sofa where she’d set her purse. “Do you have the Booze Bible?”
For once Kiki and the others had kept quiet. He knew nothing of Phillip’s murder yet.
“By the way, you don’t look so good,” he said. “Wait. I’ve got something for you.”
He held up his index finger and turned to some bags on the counter. He pulled out a bottle of Patron. “I got this to thank you for what you tried to do last night. That was dangerous, Em. I wish you hadn’t done it on your own, but thanks for trying.”
He poured two shots. They clinked glasses in a toast. Louie sipped his. Em knocked it back and grimaced.
“Does Roland have the Booze Bible?” he asked.
“No. The police have been looking for it, but even if they find it, they’ll have to hold it as evidence in a murder investigation.”
“Murder? Who was murdered?” He looked confused, raised the Patron, and offered a refill.
She shook her head no. “Phillip. He’s dead. Someone killed him.”
“When?” Louie came around the kitchen bar and sat on a barstool beside her.
“Sometime last night. They called me to the scene this morning to identify the body. I’m so thankful Roland is here. We spent the rest of the day tracking down the extortionist’s identity and trying to figure out who killed Phillip and why.”
“Aw, Em. I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you. Even though there was no love lost between Phillip and me, I’d have never wished him dead. Not in a million years.” She blinked back tears.
“Of course not. If you want to go back to Kauai, we can leave tomorrow.”
“You’d drop out of the contest for me?”
“I’d do anything for you, honey. You came to my rescue and pulled the Goddess out of debt when I needed you. You say the word, and we’re outta here.”
Em hugged him for a moment. “I wish I could, but I can’t leave right now. The police need me to stay, and I may have to make arrangements for Phillip. His fiancée is out of the picture, and he had me listed as next of kin on an old emergency card.”
“His fiancée is out of the picture? Why?”
“She has an alibi. There are only two other suspects the police are looking at right now. One is a guy who lived next door to a seedy apartment Phillip had just rented. The other is me.”
Louie slammed his palm on the bar. “That’s nuts. I’m going down to the HPD and have a little talk with whoever is in charge of the investigation.”
Em could just imagine Louie sitting down with Bardon. “No, you are going to focus on winning that contest tomorrow. I’m going to try my darnedest to be there to cheer you on. What time do you think you’ll be mixing?”
“They’ll post the schedule in the morning. I’ll let you know.” He studied her carefully. “You must be in shock, honey. I mean, you just had lunch with Phillip yesterday, and now he’s dead.”
She nodded. “It’s pretty surreal. When we were divorced I never wanted to see him again. When he called to say he was coincidentally going to be here during the contest week and asked me to lunch, I thought it would be good to have some closure. He seemed happy and acted like he had his act together, but that was all just another lie.”
Afraid she would break down and upset Louie, Em paced over to the windows. She drew back the drapes far enough to see the water and steady herself before she let the drapes fall back into place and walked back to the bar.
“How did you find out he stole the Booze Bible?” Louie wanted to know.
“Roland and I viewed the front desk security video and saw him drop off two large envelopes like the ones that held the extortion letters. That was around the time your letter was supposedly delivered.”
“Is Roland coming back here? His overnight bag is still on the floor.”
“I hope you don’t mind if he sleeps on the sofa tonight. He can’t get a room.”
“No problem. I’ll be turning in early. Tomorrow’s a big day.”
“I think I’ll head into my room now, if you don’t mind.”
“You must be exhausted. You go right ahead and climb in bed and relax. I’m just gonna put a few ingredients together and see what happens. I shouldn’t be up long.”
She gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you. I can’t make any promises, but we’re doing everything we can to get your Booze Bible back.”
“There are far worse tragedies in life. I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but I’m over it. I’m excited about creating a brand new cocktail without any references. The challenge has revved me up. Why, if Letterman’s not careful, I may not need him to taste test anymore.”
She found herself smiling back at him. Louie would never give up his precious parrot.
“Don’t stay up late,” she advised before she headed for her room.
He picked up a wand lighter. “I won’t. And with any luck at all, I won’t blow my face off.”
AT EIGHT THE next morning, Kiki and Pat were in the hallway outside the door to Em and Louie’s suite.
“Don’t knock yet,” Kiki told Pat.
“How’m I supposed to knock? I got the boom box in my good hand, and other one is history.” She held up her bandage.
“Lower your voice. Do you know what to do?” Kiki whispered.
“You told me seventeen times. I made sure the tape is loaded and ready to roll. Once we get in there and you start asking Em stuff about the missing neighbor slash suspect, I push play, and we record the whole conversation.”
“Right.” Kiki shifted her large black leather purse higher on her shoulder. Her hands were full of grocery bags. “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” Pat said.
Kiki knocked on the door. No one answered. She knocked again, and Em opened the door.
“Whoa, Em. You look like bad road kill,” Pat said.
Em shoved her hair back off her face. Her eyes were red and bleary. There were pillow creases on her cheeks.
“Sleep in, did we?” Kiki strode in past her and looked around the sitting room. “No Roland?”
She took a few more steps and glanced into Em’s bedroom. It would have made a real nice piece of gossip for the girls if she’d caught Roland in Em’s bed.
Em looked around the sitting room. Worry etched itself onto her expression. She said, “He was going to bunk on the sofa, but his backpack’s gone. I guess he got a room.” She walked over to the bar.
Kiki followed her. Em picked up a piece of Hilton notepaper lying on the bar, read it, and smiled.
“He did manage to get his own room. He’ll call me later.”
“Bummer,” Pat said.
Kiki gave her a hard look. Pat set the boom box on the bar.
Em yawned. “What are you two doing up and around so early? How was your performance at Tiki’s?”
“The performance was fabulous as usual. We did about ten numbers, and the crowd kept yelling
. One man tipped us fifty bucks and said he’d never seen such precision. We’re here to make breakfast for you,” Kiki said. “The prices are ridiculous in this place, so we went out and bought some eggs, milk, and fruit at the ABC Store. Didn’t think you’d mind us using your kitchen. We only have a standard room.”
“Help yourself.” Em walked over to the coffee pot and stared at it.
“You go sit down. I’ll do that.” Kiki bustled around, found the coffee, filled the pot, and turned it on. Then she started unpacking sacks. “Where’s Louie?”
“He said he was going over to the convention center early. He’s presenting his entry in the contest today.”
“He finished the recipe?” Pat slipped onto a barstool next to the boom box.
Em said, “I guess so. He’s not here, and the kitchen is all cleaned up. It’s a flaming something.”
“That’s just downright scary,” Pat said.
“This place is pretty well equipped for an efficiency kitchen.” Kiki held up a frying pan and set it on the cooktop.
“So, tell us about the murder.” She turned around, caught Em staring out the front sliding windows at the beach, and signaled Pat to turn on the boom box.
Pat made a loud coughing noise to disguise the click of the play button. It wouldn’t have mattered. Em wasn’t paying attention.
“I’m sorry. What did you say?”
“Tell us about the murder. Any new developments?” Kiki opened a carton of eggs. “By the way, did you tell Louie yet?”
“Good. He would have found out sooner than later and wondered why you didn’t say anything. How’d he take it?”
“He was shocked at first, but he seemed more shocked about Phillip stealing the Booze Bible than the murder. We still haven’t found it, by the way.”
“Who are the suspects again?” Kiki found a bowl and started cracking eggs into it. “I’m making scrambled,” she told Em.
“Scrambled sounds great.” Em thought a moment. “As far as I know, the only suspects are me and the neighbor Phillip argued with.”