Too Hot Four Hula

Too Hot Four Hula

Jill Marie Landis

June 2014 $13.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-460-0

Book 4 of The Tiki Goddess Mystery series

 
Our PriceUS$13.95
Code978-1-61194-460-0
 
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

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A marauding monkey, a mysterious murder, middle-aged hula maidens, and mugs full of Mai Tai’s. Just another day in Tiki Goddess Paradise . . . 

Crime-solving sleuth Em Johnson and her Uncle Louie, owner of the famous Tiki Goddess Bar on Kauai, head for the Cocktail Shake Off Competition in Honolulu. What is supposed to be a fun trip to a mixology contest turns weird when Louie’s legendary "Booze Bible” is stolen, and Em’s ex-husband winds up dead—with Em the number-one suspect. Sexy Kauai detective and part-time fire dancer Roland Sharpe rushes to Em’s side along with the unpredictable Hula Maidens, whose detective skills are even more haphazard than their dance routine at the island tiki bars. Toss in an escaped monkey and a killer who wants to make this the last call for someone’s honky-tonk, tiki-tossing night out, and it’s going to be another wild escapade for Em and her Hula Maidens.

A seven-time Romance Writers of America finalist for the RITA Award, Jill Marie Landis also now writes The Tiki Goddess Mysteries (set on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, where she lives with her husband, actor Steve Landis.) Her books are not only known for their intense emotion, but for characters you’ll remember long after you turn the last page. Visit her world of tiki totems, hula maidens and tropical fun at thetikigoddess.com.

 


Reviews

"The Maidens stand out in TOO HOT FOUR HULA with their quick thinking at every challenge that comes their way. Their antics at the Aloha Stadium Flea Market is pure pleasure. The icing on top is Em's reward for watching out for Uncle Louis and the Hula Maidens…”
"Recommended read for fans of cozy mysteries, laugh-out-loud adventure, and Hawaiian culture. TOO HOT FOUR HULA is outrageously funny, just as Jill Marie Landis intended.”
--Kim from SOS Aloha Blogs


Excerpt

 

1

Hilton Hawaiian Village

Waikiki, Island of Oahu, Hawaii

I’D RATHER DRINK soy sauce.

Em Johnson, manager of the Tiki Goddess Bar on Kauai’s North Shore considered herself a people person, but she’d rather be talking to anybody other than her ex, Phillip.

"Thursday at eleven thirty is fine,” she said into her cell. "I’ll see you then.”

She slipped her cell in the pocket of her capris and turned to admire the view of Diamond Head and the skyscrapers of Waikiki spread out along the crescent of white sand. Breakers rolled in slow and easy, the perfect size for a multitude of fledgling surfers and their beach boy instructors.

From the twentieth story of the Ali’i Tower at Hilton Hawaiian Village, the surfers on their boards looked like matchsticks bobbing on the water. The ocean was crystal clear and aquamarine blue, the coral reefs shadowy stains beneath shimmering blue-green glassy water. If you knew what to look for, it was easy to spot the occasional sea turtle, even from this height.

She turned away from the luscious view to continue unpacking. She’d accompanied her uncle Louie Marshall, owner of the Tiki God­dess Bar on Kauai to the Western Regional Division of the National Cocktail Shake Off competition.

The mixologist who concocted the winning cocktail would go on to compete in the nationals in St. Louis. Anyone who’d ever visited Louie’s famous Tiki Goddess watering hole figured he had the contest in the bag. Not only had he been concocting outstanding cocktails for at least half a century, but he’d written a legend about his inspiration for each and every one.

She’d just tucked her cosmetic bag into the top dresser drawer when the connecting door to the sitting room in the suite she shared with her uncle banged open. Louie Marshall came rushing in.

"It’s gone!” he shouted.

Louie’s thick, silver-white hair was always perfectly combed, but not now. It stood out as if he’d been pulling on it. His face was florid. Her uncle wasn’t given to high drama, so Em was immediately alarmed.

"What’s gone?” Em turned, took one look at his florid face and said, "Maybe you’d better sit down.”

Until now, her uncle had been riding the crest of a wave of fame ever since the reality show Trouble in Paradisespotlighted his bar and the Hula Maidens, a group of enthusiastic, if not talented, mostly senior aged dancers. Now he looked like he was going to stroke out.

"My Booze Bible! I just finished unpacking my stuff, my lucky cocktail shaker and my promotional swizzle sticks. I picked up my satchel and thought it felt kinda empty. Because it is empty! My notebook is gone.”

Em reached for her cell. "Stay calm, okay? I’ll call Sophie and tell her to FedEx your copy over. It’ll be here tomorrow.” As she started to hit the number for the Goddess, he whispered something.

"What did you say?”

"There is no copy.”

"What?” Em realized he’d never definitively answered her when she’d asked about making a copy of his recipe notebook before they left Kauai.

Her uncle sank into a chair, rested his elbows on the nearby desk, and cradled his head in his hands.

"I never had a copy made.” He gazed up at her, looking sheepish. "I was afraid to take it to the business center. I thought someone might steal my recipes now that we’re all so famous.”

"And now they have. The whole notebook.” It was all handwritten. There was no file on a computer, no back up.

"Who would do such a thing?” he moaned.

"Your competition for one.”

"You think so? I haven’t even gone down to the registration area yet. How would they even know I’m here?”

"Well, there was that minor ruckus in the lobby when we checked in. Who doesn’t know we’re here?”

2

Sixteen Hours Earlier

Tiki Goddess Bar, Island of Kauai, Hawaii

"TOO HOT FOR hula? Are you kidding me? It’s never too hot for hula, Em. Never.”

"Sorry, Kiki.” Em added a shrug to her apology. She should have known she’d hit a nerve when she casually asked Kiki Godwin, the overenthusiastic, self-appointed leader of a troupe of senior hula dancers, if it was too hot for the old gals to dance tonight.

"I don’t want any of you passing out on stage,” Em added.

"As if.”

Em knew Kiki would never call off a Hula Maiden performance even if Kauai was in the middle of a Category Five hurricane and especially not tonight when they were giving Uncle Louie a big send off to the Western Regional Shake Off Competition.

Em lingered with Kiki in the open doorway to the ladies’ room the Maidens used as a dressing room. Kiki was encased in red faux-velvet from the neck of her ruffled muumuu to her bare toes. She pulled a wet paper towel out of her low-cut bodice and blotted a bead of perspiration headed down her temple. Her neck was wreathed in three thick strands of colorful plumeria lei, and clusters of plumeria and various varieties of ferns covered the entire left side of her head.

"That heavy dress must be murder.” Em regretted uttering the word murder aloud. The bar had become as famous for its connection to homicides as it was for the outstanding food and beverages they served.

"Okay, I’ll admit, it is hotter than Hades under this dress.” Kiki fanned herself with the crumpled towel. "But the show must go on. Besides, this isn’t tonight’s performance costume. I wouldn’t dare parade around in that before we take the stage.”

"Of course not.”

Em followed Kiki’s gaze and checked out the bar. Every table was full to overflowing. One man seated near the stage had been forced to balance his dinner plate on his knees, but he was still chatting and smiling away. Every carved tiki barstool was occupied. A standing room only crowd filled tables and milled around on the outdoor lanai.

"Looks like the entire North Shore is in the house,” Kiki noted with smile.

"Along with any tourists who talked their way into a reservation,” Em added.

"Nothing like a party to bring all kinds of folks together. What a tribute to Louie. Everyone expects him to win, you know.”

"I hope so,” Em said. Especially since she was going to go with him and would be there to see it.

Kiki reached up and gingerly patted her floral hair adornments.

"I think I’d better go put a couple more bobby pins in my flowers. See you after the show.” She hurried back into the ladies’ room where the other dancers were busy with their own last minute primping.

Em would have said break a leg, but where the Hula Maidens were concerned, anything could happen and usually did.

Thankfully things had been pretty calm over the last few weeks. The bar was in the black financially for the first time in years, and business showed no signs of slowing down.

Em left the small alcove near the ladies’ room, and deciding she’d never make it through the throng to the table where Louie was presently holding court, she slipped behind the long koa wood bar where bar­tender Sophie Chin was a symphony in motion.

The young woman automatically grabbed glasses, lined them up on a waiting tray and filled them with ice. Not once since she started working at the Goddess had the twenty-three-year-old lost her cool. Even the overflow crowd lined up three deep around the bar didn’t fluster Sophie. She had come in early that morning to help set up, and she was still going strong.

"How are you doing?” Em asked her.

She looked up at Em. Her right brow was studded with silver rings.

"I’m hanging in. I don’t think one more person can squeeze into this place. I hope the fire marshal doesn’t stop by.”

Em laughed. "He’s already here with his entire ohana. They got here two hours ago to score a table together. He doesn’t look concerned.”

"He and Louie must go way back, I hear.”

"Who doesn’t go way back with my uncle? He never met a stranger.”

Seated up front near the stage, the still handsome seventy-two- year-old Louie laughed along with a couple seated at his table. The middle-aged snowbirds from New York called Kauai home when their home state was buried in snow.

"How is the drink special going over?” she asked Sophie.

The two-for-one they were featuring was Louie’s famous "Great Balls of Fire,” the cocktail created in honor of a neighbor whose body ended up in the pit where they roasted luau pigs behind the building.

Sophie shrugged. "What’s not to like about two kinds of rum and Triple Sec mixed together with ginger syrup infused with Tabasco?”

Em watched her assemble an order for ten more Great Balls. "You’re not using paper umbrellas?”

"We ran out twenty minutes ago,” Sophie said.

"Flora may have some in stock, but if we get them from her shop we’ll have to pay retail. She doesn’t give kama’ainadiscounts.” Flora Carillo, one of the Hula Maidens, owned a trinket shop in the little town of Hanalei a few miles down the road.

"True dat.” Sophie picked up an open bottle of Tabasco and shook it over the glasses lined up on the tray. After she set the bottle down she took a second to glance over at Em.

"Mahalo again for trusting me to run this place while you and Louie are off island.”

"You’ve thanked me enough.” Em smiled.

Sophie shrugged. "I never thought I’d be assistant manager of anything, let alone a place as popular as the Goddess. I can sure use the raise.”

"There’s no one else we trust more, believe me. The downside is that you’ll have to stay at the house while we’re gone and bird-sit David Letterman.”

"Funny”—Sophie shook her head—"I don’t see a downside to housesitting on the beach, listening to the sound of the waves hitting the reef out front, lying in the sand looking up at the stars after work, feeling the trades drifting in off the water. All I have to put up with is one very spoiled macaw.”

"Spoiled? Dave’s worse than spoiled. Just remember not to put your fingers anywhere near the cage.”

"Louie left me some tongs for putting food into the feeder.”

"Did he leave a list of Dave’s favorite drinks?”

"Yep.”

Once the reality show centered around the Goddess, Trouble in Paradise, hit the air, "David Letterman,” Louie’s taste-testing macaw, became as famous as the rest of the Goddess ohana. Louie depended on David Letterman to help him tweak his recipes until perfected. The sight of the parrot passed out on the floor of his cage assured Louie that another legendary cocktail had been born. The parrot was so popular Flora couldn’t keep plush Letterman toys in stock in her gift shop.

Sophie signaled to a tall, thin man with a gray ponytail. Buzzy, the waiter with no last name, had to squeeze his way thought the crowd to get to the bar and pick up the tray of drinks. When he finally made it to the bar, Buzzy fumbled his notepad and finally tore off three more pages of orders for Sophie to fill. He smiled at Em then concentrated on lifting the heavy tray to his shoulder.

She’d hired the aging hippie to officially wait tables until their return when she promoted Sophie last week. Buzzy was always around, though not always sober, but he was trustworthy and always voluntarily pitched in bussing tables whenever they were slammed. Em was confident Buzzy would stay on the wagon until the end of his shifts. If not, Sophie would fire him.

"If you can juggle this place while we’re gone, I’m sure you can handle Letterman.” Em watched Buzzy scan the room with a befuddled expression. "I hope he can get those to the right table,” Em said. "I’m not so sure he’s cut out for official employment.”

"Not to worry. Tiko will be full time until you get back.”

The diminutive local gal from Wailua was scooting through the crowd with a megawatt smile that never dimmed. Tiko usually filled in part-time but with Em leaving, there was no way Sophie and Buzzy could handle busy nights without another waitress on the floor.

"How are you doing?” Sophie glanced at the next order and grabbed some rocks glasses.

"I’m baking in here.” Em picked up a napkin and dabbed perspiration from her brow and her throat.

Sophie reached over and pulled a scrap of paper napkin off Em’s neck. "You know you’re having fun when you’ve got a napkin stuck to your neck. Louie said this is your first trip off island since you moved over from the mainland. You excited?”

"I was until I got a phone call from my ex. Phillip read about the Regional Shake Off in the LA Times. Louie was featured prominently, of course. It turns out Phillip’s going to be in Waikiki when we’re there and wants to see me. He has something to tell me.”

Ever since the reality show aired they’d all had more time in the spotlight than Em wanted or needed, but unlike her, the Maidens thrived on celebrity and so did Louie in a more casual way.

"So are you going to meet up with him?”

"My gut reaction was to say no, but things ended so badly between us that it would probably be a good idea to have some closure. Hopefully things are looking up for him. He was broke when we divorced. We both were. So I agreed to meet him for lunch, put the past to rest.”

"Good luck.”

"I’ll take it, but I hope I won’t need it.”

"Maybe if you settle the past, you’ll be able to heat things up with your detective.” Sophie winked.

"He’s not my detective,” Em said.

"So you say. Seems like it to me.”

Em couldn’t deny sparks flew whenever she was around Roland Sharpe, the tall, dark, and handsome hapa-Hawaiian detective who moonlighted as a fire knife dancer at luau shows. But it was too soon after a messy divorce to ride that wave again.

"Where is he? I thought he’d be here tonight,” Sophie said.

"He ended up on a case.”

"Wonder if it had anything to do with all the cop cars that raced by headed north a few minutes ago?”

"Probably. He called about forty minutes before. That would have given him time to drive out here.”

"Too bad he won’t be here.” Sophie nodded toward the ladies’ room door. "Looks like the old girls are good to go. Kiki said she has a special number planned.”

"When doesn’t she plan something special?”

"Hopefully they won’t set the place on fire tonight.”

"I told her all dances that involve flaming coconuts or anything to do with fire are kapu. Don’t let them try anything dangerous while we’re gone.”

The last time Kiki and the Maidens performed a "special” number they’d nearly burned the place down, though the incident inspired the flaming cocktail that Louie entered into the regionals.

"How much damage can they do in a week?” Sophie wondered.

"Don’t even go there.” Em saw Louie waving her over to the table and waved back.

"I’ve got this,” Sophie said. "Go join Louie. The show’s about to start.”

"You sure?”

"Go. Your dinner is probably cold by now.”

"No worries. Kimo’s macadamia nut-crusted seared ahi is perfect hot or cold.”

Em left the bar and threaded her way across the room to a table right in front of the stage. Her uncle was holding court wearing a pile of lei from well-wishers. They were so thick around his neck they nearly reached his chin.

Completely oblivious of the humidity, he looked as dashing and debonair as ever in one of the colorful silk aloha shirts from his vast collection of originals made in the forties. Loose white linen pants completed his outfit. His thick white hair and golden tan accentuated his deep blue eyes. Six foot two and in great shape, Louie could command a room with his megawatt smile.

"Here she is.” He rose and pulled out Em’s chair with a flourish and remained standing until she was seated. "Em, you know everyone, don’t you?”

She smiled at the people gathered the table and nodded.

"Of course. Thank you all for coming.”

"Are you kidding me?” Jack Robbins, the part-timer from New York, had to yell to be heard over the din. The crowd nearly drowned out the Tiki Tones, the three-pieced combo playing old retro Hawaiian tunes on stage. "We’re delighted to be here!” Jack pounded Louie on the back with one hand and fanned himself with a dessert menu with the other. "Louie and Irene were the first people we ever met when we bought our condo here thirty years ago. Never saw two people as full of aloha, that’s for sure.”

"They were quite a team,” Em agreed.

A life-sized portrait of Louie’s deceased wife, Irene Kakaul­anipuakaulani Hickam Marshall graced the wall above the stage. Irene appeared to be smiling her regal Hawaiian smile down on the revelers. Each evening Louie wrapped up the nightly entertainment with a song he had written especially for Irene, his Tiki Goddess. All the old timers, the kama’aina, and the newcomers, malihini, joined in to help Louie salute the one true love of his life.

Em took a bite of her ahi. It was so delicious she stifled a moan of delight. Kimo, their chef, was Kiki’s husband. He had outdone himself tonight. The thick fillet of ahi was seared to perfection. His aioli sauce to die for, and the ahi was nestled on a creamy bed of whipped purple sweet potatoes.

"Aren’t you having a Great Ball of Fire?” Annette Robbins, Jack’s wife, was a blonde. She was seated across from Em. She held up her glass for a toast.

"I’m fine with water.” Em figured it best to stay clearheaded while the Hula Maidens were on stage. She picked up her water glass. "Plenty of time for a drink later. Cheers, though.”

Just then Brandon, one of the Tiki Tones, executed a drumroll, and the leader of the band Danny Cook slipped into MC mode.

"A-looo-ha!” he shouted.

"A-looo-ha!” The crowd called back. Cheering and whistling commenced. Danny waited until the audience died down then said, "You all know why we’re here.”

"Eo!” someone yelled in Hawaiian.

"Well, just in case you maybe stumbled in here off the cruise ship and have no idea whazzup, we’re here to give Uncle Louie Marshall, owner of the Tiki Goddess, a big send off. As most of you know, tomorrow he’s going to Oahu to do us all proud at the Western Regionals of the National Cocktail Shake Off competition.”

Brandon hit a drumroll again. The crowd roared. Beaming from ear to ear, Louie got to his feet and waved to the assemblage. He stepped on stage, his eyes suspiciously bright when he took the mic. He let his gaze roam the room before he spoke.

Em knew Louie loved nothing more than packing the place full of people from all walks of life to share a few hours of fun. He truly was the ambassador of aloha and good times.

"Thank you all for being here tonight to celebrate with us. I’m so thankful for all of your support and aloha. I’m really looking forward to heading to the contest even though I’m never anxious to leave Kauai. As you all know, Kauai no ka ‘oi. Kauai is da best!”

He waited for the thunderous applause and wolf whistles to die down.

"I’m excited that my niece, Em, is accompanying me to Waikiki. She’s been such a big help that she deserves a little holoholo too.” He paused and chuckled. "For those of you who don’t know, holoholo means to take a pleasurable trip. Hopefully, it’ll be really pleasurable, and I’ll be bringing home a trophy to share with all of you.”

Louie opened his arms to include the whole room and made a gracious bow before he turned the mic back over to Danny.

Danny glanced toward the small alcove between the ladies’ room and the bar where Kiki and the others waited just out of sight.

"The Hula Maidens are anxious to perform for you tonight, so without further ado, here’s their leader, Kiki Godwin!”

A hush fell over the room. Fans of the reality television series Trouble in Paradise knew Kiki was the outspoken leader of the troupe of aging dancers. The minute she appeared the crowd went wild. Cameras and cell phones came out, and people jockeyed to get a better shot of her in her full performance regalia.

Her faux-leopard, off-the-shoulder full length sarong was so tight it forced her to take mincing steps. When she reached the stage, Danny offered his hand. She smiled at the crowd, shrugged, winked, and hiked up her skirt in order to manage the steps.

Her hair was swept into a tight bun on the crown of her head and held in place with a pair of long ebony chopsticks. Small golden tikis dangled from the ends. Kohl eyeliner swept almost all the way to her temple to give her an exotic Asian look. Her false eyelashes were so thick they looked like fans flapping up and down when she blinked. Her lips were bright crimson outlined in deep magenta.

She waited in silence, drinking in the applause while the crowd cheered and continued to snap photos. Kiki turned left and right, striking poses that would have been sexy if she were thirty years younger. Now they were just odd. With her heavy lashes flapping and golden tikis bobbing, she was a sight to behold, and she milked every minute.

Finally Danny waved his arms and motioned for everyone to sit. As people settled back into their chairs, Kiki blew into the mic to test it.

In a low, seductive voice she began, "You’ve all seen the movie South Pacific, haven’t you?”

There was scattered applause, and some folks even answered back.

"Well, if you haven’t, you should. It was filmed right here on Kauai in 1957, back when folks on the mainland were working hard to buy their first homes and nice cars in the suburbs. But every once in a while some of those hardworking folks dared to dream of traveling somewhere that was still primitive, somewhere forbidden, somewhere that spoke to the savage in all of them.

"So they gathered around barbecues in their backyards, mixed up cocktails with exotic names like Mai Tais and Singapore Slings, and after couple of sips they were dreaming of hot tropic nights, trade winds, and palm trees. They dreamed of tearing off their neckties and aprons and sailing away to distant shores where they could dance to the beat of native drums and either chase pagan goddesses or become one.”

She paused and took a long, slow breath and let the crowd imagine. Then in just above a whisper she said, "Tonight we will present what we call our Dance of the Pagan Goddesses just for you. This dance is dedicated to Uncle Louie, and we sincerely hope it brings him luck at the Shake Off. So now, without further ado, the Hula Maidens are proud to present our rendition of ‘Bali Hai,’ from the movie South Pacific.”

 


 

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