Too Hot Four Hula: 4 (The Tiki Goddess Mystery Series) (3 page)

BOOK: Too Hot Four Hula: 4 (The Tiki Goddess Mystery Series)
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Little Estelle had been a bit down ever since her break up with Lars, the twenty-year-old boy toy she’d hooked up with through iLoveCougars.com. She bemoaned the fact that after she made the mistake of telling him if he ever left her she’d have him neutered by one of the local pig hunters, Lars escaped and fled back to Finland, or Iceland, or somewhere in Scandinavia.

At the moment Little Estelle was parked as close to the front door as she could get and still see the show. The tray on the front of her Gadabout was already lined with empty cocktail glasses.

“Bali Hai will call you . . .”

The band started the haunting melody and lyrics in fits and starts. The Hula Maidens began to dance, and things were a bit uneven until finally they were all sort of moving as one. The crowd went wild with applause. The din nearly drowned out the band.

Louie leaned close again and yelled in Em’s ear. “Where’s Pat Boggs?”

Em glanced around, afraid to take her gaze off the stage. She didn’t see the Maidens’ Sergeant-at-Arms anywhere.

She shrugged at Louie and mouthed, “I don’t know. She should be around.”

The number went on and on, repeating the verses and the chorus until everyone in the room was bellowing, “Baaaaliiiii Haiiiii will call you,” along with the band until there was a collective gasp. The single strap holding up Precious’s sarong had suddenly snapped, and it dipped low, exposing her left breast.

Trying to avoid a complete wardrobe malfunction, she grabbed the strap and clamped it between her teeth. The move saved her from further exposure, but she lost her timing just as the Maidens were nearing their big finale.

The women were whirling their arms like windmills when Precious fell out of step. She moved left when she should have gone right and crashed into Big Estelle who rammed into Flora. Flora whipped around, and her wrist ended up slapping Lillian smack in the mouth. Precious ricocheted off of Big Estelle and rolled off the stage then bounced down the steps.

Lillian burst into tears. Em expected her to run off the stage, but to her credit, Lil kept dancing until the final strains of “Bali Hai” drifted away. Then, covering her injured lip with her hand, Lillian ran down the steps and stumbled over Precious, who had just managed to get to her feet. Thankfully there were so many people jammed around the stage Lillian wasn’t launched across the room. She then crashed into a male tourist wearing an “I Love Kauai” T-shirt. He grabbed her and kept her from toppling over.

“So far this is not as bad as last time,” Louie said.

“What happened last time?” Annette from New York wanted to know.

“See the woman with the pink hair who just ran off stage?” He nodded toward Lillian.

“Yes?”

“Last time they performed a special number she set her hair on fire.”

“Oh no!” Annette stared at Lil.

“Thankfully it was a wig,” Em added.

“Still, it was pretty darned memorable,” Louie said.

On stage, Kiki had the mic in her hand again. She turned to her squad.

“Maidens, please stay in place for the presentation,” she said.

“Uh oh.” Louie looked at Em. “What’s up?”

“I have no idea,” she whispered.

“Probably giving me a going away gift.” Louie straightened in his chair and looked up expectantly.

Precious had dusted herself off and was back on stage. Lillian was still sniffling, but no one was paying any attention. The tourist who had caught her patted her on the back until her husband MyBob took over. When Kiki shot a glare in their direction, Lillian pulled herself together and sulked back up to the stage to join the others.

Kiki slowly surveyed the crowd, waiting for everyone to settle down. The Maidens, lined up in very wide faux-leopard behind her, smiled and waved at the audience.

“Drumroll, please Brandon,” Kiki urged.

Brandon hit the drum. Pat Boggs, Kiki’s second in command, appeared around the back of the bar carrying a large manila envelope. She wore a casual shirt made of leopard print, blue jeans, and cowboy boots.

“He looks like a woman,” Jack Robbins said.

“You mean she looks like a man,” Annette corrected.

“That’s Pat,” Uncle Louie informed them. “Pat keeps the Maidens in line for Kiki. Used to be a sergeant in the Army or a Marine or something bad-assed.”

Pat waved at the crowd as she bounded onto the stage.

“The ahhhn-velope please.” A ripple of laughter followed Kiki’s dramatics.

Pat handed it over. Kiki looked at Louie.

“We love you
so
much, Uncle Louie. We’re
so
proud
that you’ve entered the Shake Off Regional competition. We just know you’ll win.”

Her gaze shifted as she took in the crowd. “What an
exciting
time for the Goddess and everyone here on Kauai, to think one of our very own is going to be in the spotlight.”

“Did she forget you all starred in that TV show?” Annette asked Em.

Em shrugged. Not knowing what Kiki had conjured up had her holding her breath. She reminded herself to breathe.

Kiki was still at the mic. “Louie, we pictured you in Waikiki
all
alone, and we could hardly bear it.”

“All alone?” Em mumbled. “What am I? Chopped liver?”

Kiki held a long dramatic pause and let her gaze roam the audience before she turned to the other Maidens and yelled into the mic. “One, two, three!”

“We’re going with you!” the Maidens yelled, and then they started clapping and jumping up and down.

Tears streamed down Lillian’s face. It flushed as pink as her hair. Her upper lip was swelling. Kiki’s eyes were suspiciously bright, though probably from the martinis she’d downed earlier and not actual tears.

In shock, Em glanced at her uncle. Louie’s smile faltered for a nanosecond, but he quickly recovered his suave demeanor. On stage, the Maidens were still clapping and hugging each other. Still parked by the door at the other side of the bar, Little Estelle passed out. Her head flopped forward onto her scooter horn, and the constant shrill beep added to the din. Finally someone gently nudged her head off the horn.

Kiki held up the large manila envelope. “This contains our tickets to Oahu. Not only were we able to raise enough money for new costumes, but by some complete miracle, all of us were able to get on the same flight with Louie and Em. We’ll meet you at Lihue airport tomorrow morning, and away we go!”

Louie elbowed Em and winked. “Smile. Like you mean it.”

“Did you know?” she asked.

“Of course not. Did you?”

“Do you think I’d have let things get this far if I’d known?”

When the ruckus finally died down, Kiki managed to talk someone out of a chair and dragged it over to join them at the front table. Suzi, Trish, and Big Estelle were still dancing. Lillian was sniveling in the corner. MyBob awkwardly patted her shoulder.

Someone had hoisted Precious onto a tiki barstool where she was intent on downing a Great Ball of Fire while Sophie pinned up her gown. Little Estelle was still face down on the scooter tray.

Kiki leaned toward Louie. “Are you surprised? Did anyone let the cat out of the bag?”

“No, they didn’t, and yes, I’m surprised.”

“Shocked is more like it,” Em said.

“You won’t have to worry about us at all,” Kiki went on. “We rented an extra-long van. I researched all the tiki bars on Oahu and managed to book the girls some gigs almost every night. We’ll start at the Hau Tree Bar on the beach at the Hilton. Flora’s cousin works there, and she got us great rates. We won’t miss a minute of the Shake Off, and we’ll all be together!”

“Whoohoo.” Em picked up her empty glass and set it down again.

“Exactly. Nothing like taking the show on the road.”

“What about Little Estelle?” Em asked.

“She’s coming, of course.”

“Of course.”

“Big Estelle found a place to rent her mother a scooter. Precious even cancelled all her salon clients for the week.”

Em noticed Precious was still perched on the barstool and now surrounded by people.

“That gal could be a stand-up comic, you know?” Kiki said.

“What are you thinking?” Em caught the gleam in Kiki’s eye.

“Maybe we can work Precious into the hula show. Let her have the mic once in a while to tell jokes.”

Em glanced over at Louie. He’d already lost interest and was talking to Jack again.

“Don’t forget the real focus is on Uncle Louie this week,” Em reminded Kiki.

Kiki turned and stared at Em and then fluttered her lashes. “Why, of course it is. What did you mean by that?”

Em shrugged. “Just that trouble seems to follow the Hula Maidens like big stink on poo.”

Kiki threw back her head and roared. “Stink on poo?” Still chuckling, she carefully pressed her false eyelash back into place. “Don’t worry, Em. What harm could we possibly do on Oahu?”

4

EM HAD JUST started walking across the parking lot toward the beach house she shared with her uncle when she passed Sophie leaving in her clunker Honda. Em waved as Sophie drove out of the driveway. Louie had been on hyperdrive with excitement when he left the bar. As she walked through the balmy night air, Em heard David Letterman squawking, “Nightcap! Nightcap! David wants a nightcap!”

She hoped Sophie was up to the parrot-sitting challenge.

Tires crunched on the gravel behind her as an unmarked Kauai Police Department cruiser crept into the lot. The utilitarian vehicle wouldn’t fool anyone. It had no hubcaps, just black wheel rims, and it already looked beat to death despite being a newer model.

When Detective Roland Sharpe parked and stepped out of the vehicle, Em’s pulse jumped a notch. She watched him walk across the lot until he paused a couple of feet away and looked down at her.

“Ms. Johnson.”

Apparently he was in one of his official cop moods.

“Detective.” She liked calling him detective. It made her feel like a character on a cops and bad guys show on TV.

“Beach?” He nodded in the direction of the ocean.

She really should be inside checking her suitcase for the last time and printing out boarding passes.

“Sure.” As if any woman would turn him down.

They walked side by side across the lawn in front of Louie’s beach cottage. When they reached the edge where grass became sand, she stepped out of her slippers and left them behind.

“Were you out detecting tonight?” She raised her voice over the sound of the waves rushing over the coral reef.

“Not sure you could call it that. A 911 came in from some folks out in Haena staying in a vacation rental. A guy was yelling something about being trapped in the house. Lots of screaming in the background before the call was dropped. The dispatcher thought it was a home invasion robbery.”

“Has there ever been one here?”

“No, but it’s not impossible.”

“I heard a lot of sirens earlier.”

“Yeah. Five car alert. We pulled in units all the way from Lihue.” He sighed.

“No invasion?”

“Bull.”

“I can see how you’d feel that way.”

“Huh?”

“Like it was a bunch of bull.”

Roland shook his head. “Actually, it was a bull. Walked right down the middle of their cul-de-sac and stopped outside the front lanai and started munching all the
ti
plants. Wiped out most of the landscaping. The thing had three-foot horns, and the tourists were afraid to go out and shoo it away.”

“So how many officers did it take to round up one bull?” She hid a smile.

He shrugged. “I have to admit it was a big, ugly dude. Nobody wanted to go near it, so the guys went door to door up and down the highway. It didn’t take long to find the owner. A little old Japanese lady came toddling down the road in a cotton bathrobe and curlers in her hair, carrying a piece of rope. Walked right up to the bull, slipped the rope around his neck, and led him away.”

“Another major crisis averted.”

“KPD to the rescue again.” He stared out at the waves. The foam riding the surf was illuminated blue-white by a bright sliver of moonlight. He turned back to Em. “How was Louie’s send-off party?”

It was her turn to sigh.

“What happened?” he asked. “No, don’t tell me. The Hula Maidens pulled one of their stunts?”

Em nodded.

“Another fire?”

“Not this time. They’re restricted from using fire. Besides, that we could put out. In a way this is worse. They surprised Louie by announcing they are all going with us to Oahu to support him at the Shake Off.”

“All of them?”

“Right down to Little Estelle and Precious.”

“Maybe I should issue an APB to the Chief on Oahu. Warn the HPD to be on the lookout. Have some riot gear ready.”

“Call Hawaii 5-0. I’d rather run into that cute McGarrett guy.”

“He’s not real, you know.”

“They might be filming at our hotel.”

“I’m sure your neighbor could tell you. Isn’t he working over there right now?”

“Nat? Yeah. Working on his new show. They’re filming eleven episodes. Said he’s slammed with work.”

“Good. Then he’ll be too busy to see you.”

“Are you jealous, Detective?”

He took a step closer. “No need. Maybe Nat Clark can write television scripts, but can he fire dance?”

Em tried to picture their part-time next door neighbor, the successful prime time television writer, fire dancing in his Tommy Bahama shorts and tortoise shell glasses. He was smart, good looking, and interested in her, but he didn’t hold a candle to Roland’s flaming sword.

“When are you coming back?” Roland asked.

“Next Monday. Early flight.”

“Long time.”

“Six nights.”

Without warning he leaned close enough to kiss her. Em held her breath. Her toes curled into the cool sand. The kiss was short but sweet.

“Stay out of trouble,” he said as they walked back toward the lawn. “Don’t let those women drive you crazy.”

“I plan to book a massage at the hotel spa. That should help.”

“If you’re lucky the place has an in-house shrink.”

BOOK: Too Hot Four Hula: 4 (The Tiki Goddess Mystery Series)
4.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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