Too Hot Four Hula: 4 (The Tiki Goddess Mystery Series) (9 page)

BOOK: Too Hot Four Hula: 4 (The Tiki Goddess Mystery Series)
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Em couldn’t decide if Phillip looked more like a proud father than a man in love. He was beaming as he watched Felicity Duncan cross the room.

Felicity, who couldn’t be a day over twenty-five, was sporting a perky pair of implants.

“Darling,” she said as she lifted her face to give Phillip what amounted to some quick air kisses with fully enhanced lips. Then she slid into a chair and piled her shopping bags on the floor around her Gucci wedges. She adjusted the plunging neckline of her designer sundress.

Then she finally looked Em’s way and gave a breathless, “Hi.”

“You found some things you liked?” Phillip asked.

Felicity shrugged. “A few.”

The waiter sidled up again and asked if she’d like something to drink.

“A Diva martini,” Felicity smiled.

Em stared.

“Sorry, we’re out of Diva at the moment.” The waiter didn’t bat an eye. “How about Grey Goose?”

Starting at $3800, Em wondered how many restaurant bars in Honolulu kept a bottle of Diva vodka on the top shelf.

Felicity pursed her ample lips and shrugged. “That’s fine. No olives.”

An awkward silence ensued. Phillip filled it with talk about the advantages of living in Marina del Rey over Newport Beach until the waiter returned with Em’s dessert and Felicity’s martini.

“How about lunch?” Phillip asked his fiancée before the waiter left.

“You know I don’t eat lunch. Ev-ver.” Felicity rolled her eyes.

Em looked down at four layers of sliced chiffon cake layered with coconut Amaretto cream, whipped cream, and shredded coconut. She picked up her fork and sectioned off a mouthful.

Once she’d swallowed, Em asked with all the syrup she could muster, “So when is the big wedding?”

Felicity looked out the window.

Em took another bite. She was more than ready to go but wasn’t about to leave one morsel of her dessert.

“Two months,” Phillip said. “We can’t wait.”

As she polished off the last of the coconut cake, Em decided Felicity looked like she could wait forever. Phillip couldn’t take his eyes off of his fiancée.

Finally Em folded her napkin and sat back.

“That was a wonderful meal, Phillip. Thank you so much. I’m glad we caught up and
so
happy for the two of you.” She scooted her chair back before he could stand. “Right now I’d better get back to the Hilton. Uncle Louie probably needs me.”

She grabbed her purse and slipped the strap over her shoulder. Phillip stood and rested his hand on Felicity’s shoulder, making sure anyone who was paying attention could tell he was with the younger of the two women.

14

WHEN EM WALKED back into their suite, Louie was still trying to recreate his contest recipe.

“How was your lunch?” he called out from across the room.

“It was okay. I’ll tell you about it later.”

No one was paying attention. Em was relieved none of them asked who she had lunch with.

Kiki, Suzi, and Trish were lounging in the sitting area channel surfing. Kiki’s waist-length hair, whether she wore it up or down, was always artfully combed. Right now it looked like a hurricane had hit it. Not only that, but bits of leaves and flowers were scattered all over the sofa and the carpet.

Em was about to ask what happened when she heard a loud thud and a scream come from the vicinity of Louie’s bathroom.

“Who
was
that?” she asked.

No one responded.

She walked across the suite into his room, knocked, and then opened the bathroom door. A small bar of hotel soap sailed past her head and she ducked. She took one quick look inside and slammed the door shut. She walked back into the sitting room.

“What is a monkey on a leash doing in the bathroom?” she wanted to know.

Suzi yawned and stretched. “He hates women.”

“He tore Kiki’s lei off her head and tried to rip her hair out.” Trish looked over her shoulder at Em. “Did you bring home any snacks? Chips or anything? I could sure use some Pirate’s Booty.”

“I could use a pirate’s booty, too,” Suzi laughed. “Seen any around?”

“Just the pirate ship that takes tourists out.”

“The contest committee is throwing a party tonight with a pirate theme. It’s open to the public,” Louie said.

“Excuse me, but maybe I should have asked
why
is there a monkey in the bathroom?” Em said.

Louie put down his jigger and wiped his hands on a towel.

“He’s on loan,” he said. “I was chatting with some of the other contestants, and one of the guys asked if I had brought my taste-testing parrot along—they had all seen Letterman on the reality show. I told him no and added that I sure wish I had. Nothing like a taste-testing parrot, I said.”

“Otherwise, all he has is us.” Kiki waved her hand. “But I have to pace myself.”

“I’m not a fan of flaming drinks,” Suzi said. “Louie says his entry is a flaming shot, but that’s a secret.”

“No tasting for me. My stomach’s been off since we got arrested,” Trish added.

“They’ve been no help at all,” Louie said.

“About the monkey, Uncle.” Em winced the minute she said it.

Louie ran his fingers through his hair. “So the guy says he has a friend who owns a monkey with a knack for knowing when a drink is absolutely great. I asked if I could maybe rent it for a few days, and he set it all up. The monkey was delivered about an hour ago.”

“Is he a good taste tester?” Em asked.

“I don’t know yet. He’s way more temperamental than Dave. If he hates a drink, he gets pissed and throws it against the wall. He’s already busted four glasses. I’m working on a flaming drink, so I can’t very well set fire to it in a plastic cup.”

“Melts,” Kiki said.

“No doubt.” Em nodded. Suddenly even dining with Phillip and Felicity seemed preferable to this insanity.

“What’s its name, Louie?” Trish asked.

“I forgot to ask,” Louie said.

The phone rang and Em answered. When it was the front desk for Louie, she expected someone had complained about the shrieks sporadically emanating from the bathroom. Em handed him the phone.

“Please send it up with a porter,” Louie told whoever was on the line.

Kiki roused herself but didn’t leave the sofa.

“We really should go. We’ve got to get Big Estelle on her feet before four thirty. We’re dancing in the main lobby.”

“If you get arrested again I’m leaving you all in jail.”

“I cleared it with the hotel manager. We’re dancing from four to four thirty in the main lobby area near the front desk.”

“You really have permission?” Em folded her arms.

“Would I lie?” Kiki tried to pat her hair back into place with her hands.

“With or without a polygraph?” Em said.

Louie said, “There’s a press conference for the contest in the lobby after the dancing.”

Em asked, “Has anyone seen Little Estelle?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Suzi told her. “She won’t say what she was doing or where she was last night, but she’s positively radiant.”

“For someone her age,” Trish added.

“And she’s into rap music now. Writing rap music, actually,” Kiki said.

“Rap?”

Suzi put her feet up on the coffee table. “Last I saw she was on her scooter headed to the sundry shop for a notebook and some pens.”

Trish walked over and looked at the snack basket on top of the mini bar. “She was singing ‘Swing that wood. Swing that wood’ over and over. I thought maybe she’d met a baseball player, but she winked at me, and she wasn’t talking about a wooden bat or wood from a tree. She winked and said, ‘You know, like when a guy gets a
woody
.’”

Em rubbed her temples.

There was a knock on the door. Before Louie answered, he whispered not to mention the monkey. He opened the door to the porter holding a manila envelope. Louie thanked the young man, and Em quickly scrambled to get him a tip before Louie closed the door again.

“Must be from the contest committee.” Louie started opening it.

Something crashed in the bathroom.

“Maybe someone should check on the monkey,” Em suggested.

Kiki held up both hands and shook her head. “Not me. He almost scalped me. He’s
really
pissed off.”

Louie pulled two sheets of paper out of the envelope, perused them, lost all color in his face, and sat down at the dining table.

“What is it?” Em rushed over.

“A ransom note.”

“Ransom?” Suzi hollered. “Who got kidnapped?”

“The Booze Bible,” Em said.

Kiki threw her hands in the air and yelled, “Louie’s recipes have been kidnapped? Armageddon!”

The women were on their feet and crowded around Louie so they could read over his shoulder.

“I have twenty-four hours to come up with one hundred thousand dollars before they destroy it. If we go to the police, they’ll destroy it.” His hand shook as he held up the second page. The paper was yellowed, and it had three holes along the left side.

“This is page one. The first recipe I ever mixed. I named it ‘The Panty Dropper.’ One sip, and panties start dropping.”

Kiki laughed. “I remember Irene always turned three shades of red after you put that one on the menu. Everyone wanted to hear how you came up with the name.”

“It started out as a private joke between us.” Louie’s eyes would glisten whenever he spoke of his late wife, Irene Kakaulanipuakaulani Hickam Marshall, co-founder of the bar and his very own Tiki Goddess. “After one drink she dropped her drawers.”

“Maybe you should use that for the contest,” Em suggested.

Louie got up and handed her a fruit basket that was on the coffee table.

“Feed the monkey, would you? All he’s had so far is Kiki’s lei.”

“Not to mention some of my hair and scalp.” Kiki sniffed.

“Where are you going?” Em noticed Louie was headed for the door.

“To the bank to see about a loan. I’m going to put the Goddess up as collateral.”

Em set the fruit basket down and hurried after him.

“You can’t do that. The Goddess is free and clear, and it’s all you have. It would take forever to pay off a hundred thousand dollars. Now we have some evidence the notebook was actually stolen. We can take it to the police.”

“We can’t go to the police,” he protested. “The letter says that if we do, the Booze Bible will be destroyed. They’ve already torn out the first page.”

Kiki said, “Now that we know it’s been stolen, we can all start hunting for the thief. We’ve called the airlines every two hours since we landed, and our cooler full of
poi
and flowers and stuff is still missing. Maybe the notebook was stolen by the same creep. Next time we call we’ll ask if they found anything like it.”

“Kiki, that’s
not
a good idea,” Em said.

“It won’t hurt to ask.”

“Not that. I meant all of you running around looking for the thief,” Em said. “It’s better if none of you say a word. Don’t tell the others.”

“We didn’t receive a proclamation from the Mayor and a commendation from the Kauai Police Department for nothing. We’re the number one volunteer crime solving squad on the island,” Kiki reminded her.

“You’re the only volunteer crime solving squad on the island. This isn’t Kauai,” Em reminded her.

“It won’t hurt for us to keep our ears and eyes open,” Suzi chimed in.

Kiki rubbed her head and winced. “Let’s go get dressed.”

“Walk between us,” Suzi suggested. “If those Miracle Cream women get a load of you now you’ll never shake ’em.”

Kiki and the others left, and Em turned around and saw Louie sitting on the sofa staring down at the letter in his hands.

“Let me have that,” she said. “You focus on mixing up a winning drink and this afternoon’s press conference. I’ll think about what we should do. We have twenty-four hours to come up with something. Even if we pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your notebook back at all, let alone in time for the final contest round.”

Louie looked uncertain and confused. The monkey was shrieking and pounding on the bathroom door again.

“Maybe you’re right. Let’s think this through. Kiki and the girls might be able to help.”

Em opened her mouth to protest and then snapped it shut. The last thing she wanted was to have to deal with the Maidens while they were playing detective again.

He glanced at the clock on the bedside table. “I’d like to go down to the lobby early. Chat up some of the others. Who’s to say one of my competitors didn’t steal it like you thought originally? I wouldn’t put it past any of them.”

“You might be on to something, but tread lightly. Someone crazy enough to do that could be dangerous.”

“I’ll be careful.”

“Let me just freshen up, and I’ll walk down with you.”

Louie nodded. “Great. I’ll be ready to go as soon as I mix the monkey a Singapore Sling. His owner said he’s into classics.”

BOOK: Too Hot Four Hula: 4 (The Tiki Goddess Mystery Series)
5.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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