Hawaii Five Uh-Oh!

Hawaii Five Uh-Oh!

Jill Marie Landis

February 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61194-672-7

Em and the Hula Maidens are on the case.
 
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Em and the Hula Maidens are on the case . . . 

Em Johnson is prepping for the biggest catering gig she’s ever booked, this time at the world famous Tiki Goddess Bar. Then she hears Kiki Godwin has just been released from the psych ward at Kukuoloko. If the unpredictable leader of the Hula Maidens isn’t completely recovered from her PTMAD (Post Traumatic Monkey Attack Disorder), Em knows all hell could break loose at the upscale event. 

But for once, Kiki isn’t the problem. When the guest of honor’s multi-million dollar paintings are stolen and a security guard turns up dead, Kiki’s convinced the best way to get her mojo back is to capture the art thieves. Kiki and the girls come up with a plan to lure the felons out by staging a grand hoax. Their bait will be a cocktail party featuring paintings by the reclusive Alphonse Cappucchino, an "up and coming artist” who is none other than Kiki’s furry nemesis.

Hawaii Five Uh-Oh is hilarious, non-stop action. So pour yourself a tropical beverage, kick back, and join Uncle Louie, Em, Sophie Chin, and the Hula Maidens at the always unpredictable, ever-entertaining, Tiki Goddess Bar. 
"Too Hot Four Hula is a fun, quick read with nary a lull in the engaging plot.”—Fresh Fiction
"This book was truly hilarious.”—Open Book Society on Too Hot Four Hula
"Smart and sassy, fun, and endearing."— Kristin Hannah, New York Times bestselling author

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.) Visit her world of tiki totems, hula maidens, and tropical fun at thetikigoddess.com.

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Excerpt

1

"DID YOU HEAR? Kiki’s out of the nuthouse.”

Em Johnson, manager of her uncle’s Tiki Goddess Bar on the North Shore of Kauai, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She ignored the mile-long things-to-do list in her hand and turned to her second-in-command, Sophie Chin, who’d shared the startling news as she climbed out of her beat-up Honda.

"What did you say?” Em prayed she’d heard wrong.

"Kiki’s out of the hospital.” Sophie shrugged.

"Already? I can’t believe it.”

"Maybe she escaped.”

"This is no time for jokes,” Em said. "We’ve got a party starting in twenty minutes, and the last thing I need is for Kiki to show up.”

The latest, and by far the biggest catering gig Em had ever booked, was about to begin. In a few minutes wealthy Hollywood A-listers would be mingling beneath a forty-by-eighty party tent on the vast lawn of Fernando’s Hideaway, an estate located a couple of miles up the road from the Tiki Goddess in Haena.

"Nope, not kidding. For reals. Kiki’s out.”

"You don’t reallythink she escaped?

"If she did, she’s not hiding. According to the coconut wireless, some­body saw her getting into her car outside the post office a couple of hours ago.”

The coconut wireless was faster than high-speed Internet, but like the web, it wasn’t always accurate. Her concentration completely blown, Em stared up at the central peak of the white open-sided tent and urged herself to keep it together. A few steps away, a mountainous stack of plastic bins recently emptied of serving utensils, water goblets, table settings, and catering supplies needed to be hauled out of sight.

So much to do. So little time. Now this.

Normally, the overly dramatic Kiki Godwin was problematic. A stark raving mad Kiki would be impossible to control.

"She surely won’t want to perform tonight.” Em stared at the bins again and absently added, "We’ve got to get this stuff loaded into the van.”

Sophie picked up three bins. This week the twenty-three-year-old hip­ster’s tinted, spiked hair sported neon pink tips. Twin rows of silver studs and rings pierced through one eyebrow kept most people from noticing her hair color.

"You know Kiki. Have you ever tried to stop her from doing what she wants?”

"Tonight I’ve got a thousand and one other things to worry about,” Em said.

Even with day-glow pink hair and piercings, Sophie cleaned up well. Em envied her cocoa-colored skin and long limbs, not to mention her athletic figure. She was wearing a little black knit dress that clung to her like a second skin.

"You look great, Soph. Really sexy. I hope you’ll be able to work with all the men who are bound to be hitting on you tonight,” Em said.

"You don’t have to worry. Not interested. I’m still in recovery from The Jerk.”

Em didn’t know The Jerk, just that he was the guy Sophie broke up with before she moved from Oahu to Kauai a couple years ago.

"I’ll get someone to help me haul these bins out of here,” Sophie said. "You’d better get cleaned up.”

"I’ll change and be good to go,” Em promised.

Before either of them walked away they surveyed the sea of white tablecloths one more time. The starched linen corners luffed on the trade wind breeze. Wine glasses and water goblets glistened at each place. Low bowls full of tropical flowers were lined up and down the center of each table. Strategically placed tiki torches flickered around the outside perimeter of the tent and were scattered around the garden beyond. On the far wall, Buzzy, an old hippie who worked for Em part time, filled the ice bin below a folding table covered with tropical fabric and transformed into a bar.

"Kiki can’t possibly be in shape to hula anyway,” Em said.

The last time she’d visited the sixty-six-year-old at Kukuoloko, the lo­cal mental rehabilitation facility, Kiki had been anxious and jittery, constantly glancing over her shoulder and rubbing the bald spots on her scalp.

Sophie shrugged. "You know Kiki. She rebounds fast.”

"She was in there what? Six weeks?” Em tried to recall.

Sophie thought for a moment. "Yep. To the day. Her insurance musta run out.”

"Kiki’s hard enough to handle when she’s not unhinged. This is defi­nitely notwhat we need tonight. This party is a really big deal for the Goddess.”

Em had gone over her schedule, crossed off everything on her to-do list. Until a moment ago, she figured there’d be smooth sailing ahead. She had no contingency plan for the very real threat of the un­hinged ringleader of the Hula Maidens showing up and losing it in the middle of the upscale event.

"Considering who the guest of honor is, this party is going to be at­tended by very, very wealthy mainland malihini and also all the part- timers who consider themselves local.”

"Yeah, I know the kind. They’re here for two weeks every year and want kama’ainadiscounts.”

"If things go well tonight, we may get a lot of referrals.”

"How about we call Kimo and have him tell Kiki to stay home?”

Kimo Godwin, Kiki’s husband, had been the Goddess’s chef for nearly twenty years. Not only was he talented, but he was as loyal to Em’s Uncle Louie as the day was long. But even Kimo couldn’t work miracles. Even now Kiki might be running loose while he was at the restaurant putting the final touches on the entrees soon to be loaded in a van and trucked up the road to the party.

"He’s so sweet. Can you imagine him getting Kiki to do anything, let alone miss a performance? If she finds out the rest of the Maidens are dancing, there’s no way she’s not going to show up,” Em said.

"They’ve managed without her leadership for six weeks.”

"They definitely haven’t been in any trouble since she’s been away.”

The Hula Maidens, a troupe of senior dancers, were still basking in notoriety due to a short-lived reality show featuring them dancing at the Tiki Goddess Bar. Their appearance tonight had been specially re­quested by the host, Wally Williams, who was throwing the party to welcome well-known film producer Cameron Delacruz to the upscale Haena neighborhood. Even before she heard Kiki was out of the hospi­tal, Em had had her doubts about involving the Hula Maidens.

"Does that dance floor look uneven to you?” Em couldn’t believe she hadn’t noticed the tongue-in-groove faux parquet floor wasn’t level. "Looks to me like it slopes downhill to the left.”

Sophie studied the dance floor and tilted her head. "It’s definitely not level. No time to move it. That’s about the flattest spot on the lawn. Besides, it’s better the tables are level than the dance floor, don’t you think?” She shrugged. "It’s not that tilted.”

"I guess.” The imperfection still bothered Em.

"Don’t look so worried,” Sophie said. "You’re gonna need major Bo­tox to get rid of those frown lines after tonight.”

Em pressed her fingers against her brow. Botox? She was only thirty-six.

"How can I not worry? The Maidens attract trouble the way dead fish draw flies.”

Sophie looked Em up and down. "You’d better go change before the guests arrive. Where’s your dress?”

"In the house. Wally told me to use one of the guest rooms.”

Sophie glanced over her shoulder and laughed.

"House? Mansion is a better word. That hulk is as big as Macy’s in Kukui Grove Center.”

"Almost.” Em finally smiled before she started jogging across the lawn toward the imposing modern home made mostly of marble, glass, and concrete. There were just enough wood elements and water features to soften the industrial big box quality of the place.

The entire side of the house that faced the garden was filled with slid­ing glass doors slid open to reveal an expansive kitchen. Em had hired a crew of four for the evening, two young women and two young men recommended by various Maidens and local patrons of the God­dess. She knew the food would be up to any island standard and be­yond—the Goddess had been named "Best of Kauai” North Shore Restaurant every year for the past ten years even though service was sporadic at best. Impatient tourists often stormed out, not caring that the food was worth the wait. Nor did they forgive the occasional surli­ness of the staff when the bar was choked with regulars, and tables were hard to come by.

Em studied her cobbled-together crew. "Motley” was a polite descrip­tion. In an effort to add a touch of professionalism, she’d asked them all to wear black knit shirts and long black pants. She gave in when they negotiated to wear rubber slippers—flip-flops, as mainlanders called them—instead of closed-toed shoes. The two young men, used to shorts, looked uncomfortable in long pants.

For a moment she hoped the entertainment would make up for the crew’s lack of polish, but who was she kidding? Guests were probably expecting an upscale staff in white aprons along with a Polynesian re­view featuring exotic, sexy young dancers, not a bunch of old, mostly haole ladies in muumuus flapping their underarm waddles while they tried to stay in step.

"There you are!” Wally Williams, the estate owner, waved to Em. He rushed up to her as she stepped inside the house. "Is everything ready, darling?”

"We’re good to go. The bar is all set up. The entrees should be here soon.” Em scanned the kitchen. Two of the wait staff were filling pupu platters. "The waiters will circulate pupus as soon as the first guests arrive. I’ve asked them to be as unobtrusive as possible. The Tiki Tones are setting up on the dance floor. As you suggested, the Maidens are using the pool cabana as their dressing room.” With any luck none of the old gals would land in the pool as they made their way to the portable dance floor.

"Did you book that handsome fire dancer? The detective? What’s his name? Ryan?”

"Roland. No, unfortunately he’s on duty tonight. I booked some­one else.”

"I hope this one looks as good all oiled up as Runyon.”

"Roland. His name is Roland Sharpe.”

"How do I look?” Wally executed an awkward pirouette. He was out­fitted in a long-sleeved white shirt and white pants with an aqua cum­merbund and matching aqua boa.

"Honestly?”

"Of course.” His smile slowly deflated. "What?”

"The boa might be a bit much,” she said.

"But...” His eyes teared up. His lower lip quivered. His right hand shook as he reached up and patted his lacquered bottle-blond hair. He ran his left hand down the boa. "This was one of Fernando’s.”

Em already guessed as much. Fernando, heir to Liberace’s Vegas fame, had been Wally’s partner until he’d been hit in the head with a rock and drowned in the koi pond at the front entrance of the house. Wally had inherited the pianist’s billion-dollar estate, including the Kauai resi­dence they’d named Fernando’s Hideaway. Tonight was the first gala Wally had held here since the memorial celebration after Fernando’s untimely death.

Em shivered despite the heat when she recalled they had also ca­tered that fateful affair.

Wally continued to absently pet the aqua boa and stare into space.

"Ignore me,” Em told him. "Go with the boa if it makes you happy.”

"Why don’t you like it?”

"You look hot.”

"Hot as in good?” He was suddenly smiling. "Or as in sexy?”

"Oh.” Em thought a second and lied. "As in good.”

"Great, then I will wear it. Thanks.”

"If you’ll excuse me, Wally, I really have to change.”

He went on as if she hadn’t spoken. "Cameron will be here any mi­nute. I told him to arrive twenty minutes before the others so I could give him a tour of the house.”

"Hasn’t he seen it yet?” Em said.

"He’s been too busy moving into his own place. He has a few things tweaked and some painting done. He also installed fancy new security. Anyone as famous as Cameron can’t be too careful.”

Delacruz had recently purchased the compound that bordered the north side of Wally’s property. After an ancient burial site had been discovered on the property, the previous owners had cut and run.

Em started to walk through the house with Wally trailing behind her, still going on about his new neighbor. "He has his own chef in LA. He’s got an extensive art collection that includes Picasso, Warhol, and Jackson Pollock. He brought the Pollocks over here, and it’s taken two weeks of working with a designer just to figure out where to hang and how to light the pieces.”

"He must be planning on spending a lot of time on Kauai,” Em mused.

"He told me he heard that people refer to my house as the bad karma house even though that old burial ground bordered both our properties. For heaven’s sake, do people really think my house has bad karma?”

A man-made stream ran through Wally’s huge living area and mean­dered out to an open-air atrium where it flowed beneath an arched bridge into a pond of exotic koi. The pond featured a faux waterfall, which unfortunately was exactly where Fernando’s body had been found. His last act was floating face up surrounded by his pampered pet fish.

"I might have heard something about bad karma, but try not to let it upset you. I’m sure the name will wear off.” She sighed. Time was slip­ping away.

He followed her into the guest room. For a minute she thought Wally was going to keep on chatting while she changed clothes, but just then, Sophie thankfully showed up.

"The guest of honor is here,” Sophie said.

"Oh! Oh, my giddy aunt!” Wally ran off, flapping his boa. "Hurry, Em! I want you to meet Cameron before things get too hectic.”

"Is everything ready?” Em asked Sophie.

"The Maidens are in the tent arguing over their lineup. It’s verging on very ugly in there.”

"What’s the problem?”

"They’ll barely all fit on the portable dance floor. Good news is Kiki isn’t anywhere in sight.”

"Shoo them away. Tell them to stay inside the pool cabana until show time. Please tell me there’s room for all of them in there. Have Pat leave the bar long enough to settle things if she needs to.”

"There’s plenty of room for them. That cabana is bigger than my apartment.”

"Good. Maybe they’ll stay out of each other’s way. I’ll be back out in a couple minutes,” Em promised.

"Take your time. I can handle for now. Just don’t disappear and leave me in charge.”

"If only.”


 

 

2

EM QUICKLY SLIPPED into a black dress, ran a brush through her hair, coiled it into a bun, and anchored it on her head. Then she touched up her lipstick and mascara. As she was heading back to the kitchen, she ran into Wally again. He was hurrying toward her with the guest of honor in tow.

"Em, this is Cameron Delacruz.” Wally introduced Em to the pro­ducer and went on to sing Em’s praises and ended with, "They’re so busy, I’m just thankful the Goddess was free to cater my little event.”

"Do you plan on spending much time here on Kauai?” Em studied Delacruz. In his late forties or early fifties—it was hard to tell with his dyed hair and the cosmetic work he’d already had done—he was not much taller than her own five foot six inches. He appeared to be physi­cally fit beneath his silk Aloha shirt and long linen pants, thanks to a personal trainer, no doubt.

Delacruz shrugged, glancing around before he turned to Em again. "I’m not really sure. Splitting time between Aspen, LA, New York, and St. Bart’s, it’s hard to say.”

"I can see where having that many choices might be a dilemma.” Em didn’t care if he’d picked up on her sarcasm, not when so many people on Kauai were hard pressed to find any housing at all.

Just then a big Hawaiian moke who looked to be in his mid-thirties, dressed in all black, carrying a two-way radio, walked up to Delacruz. His black hair was buzz cut, his tattooed biceps as big around as Em’s thighs. He wore a triple X T uniform shirt with MAHALO SECURITY embla­zoned across the front and the back. The name Leo was embroi­dered on the front over his heart.

"Got my guys set up over at your place,” he told Delacruz.

The producer nodded. Em stared at the Hawaiian. She didn’t recog­nize him, but that didn’t mean anything. He probably wasn’t one of the North Shore crowd. The man’s deep-set black-eyed gaze continually roamed the house, the grounds, the interior of the tent. He was on high alert even though there were only a handful of people moving around, and they were all Em’s staff.

"I hope you don’t mind,” Delacruz said to Wally. "I feel safer hav­ing my own security with me. Leo here will be moving back and forth between our two places. He’s got a couple of men stationed at my house. I’m sure by now word is out all over about this party. Who knows? Someone might see the diversion as an opportunity to break in.”

Wally was too bedazzled by the man’s wealth and celebrity to mind much of anything at this point.

"Of course. I’m just so happy you’re letting me host this little affair to welcome you to our island. Now, let me show you my house.” Wally tossed one end of the boa over his shoulder and gave Em an off-handed finger wave as he led Delacruz away.

Em headed to the kitchen, but half the wait staff was already out in the tent circulating among the ten or so guests who had arrived. She went outside where Pat Boggs, a.k.a. Sarge, Kiki’s second-in-command of the Hula Maidens, was stationed behind the long bar table behind open bottles of five-star red wine, assorted top-shelf bottles of the hard stuff, and mai tai ingredients. Pat wore her hair in a buzz cut and dressed like a guy.

She waved Em over.

"Need anything?” Em asked. The bar looked well stocked and orga­nized, just the way Pat liked things.

Pat rocked back on her heels, hooked her thumbs into her pants pock­ets, and winked at Em. "Not unless you got a naked gal in your pocket.”

"Sorry. Maybe one will show up.” Then Em quickly added, "No frat­ernizing with the guests, remember.”

"Fraternizing?”

"You know what I mean.”

"What about after the party’s over?”

"That’s up to you. After the party’s over.”

"Hey, I picked up some gossip about the guest of honor. Mr. Day-la-de-da-cruz.” Pat pronounced every syllable in her slow Southern drawl. "What have you heard?”

More guests were filtering in now, ambling toward the tent. In a glance Em made certain the waiters were circulating, smiling, offering pupus, and showing folks the way to the bar before she answered.

Em said, "All I know is that he’s a producer, he owns at least five homes in celebrity hot spots, and he collects very, very expensive art. He’s afraid this party is going to attract thieves to his place. Go figure. He’s got a three-man security team on duty over there. One is to patrol the perimeter. Maybe he’s even a bodyguard.”

"Yeah? See that guy over there? The short one leaning against the tent pole? The one with the bad toupee? He was already in the bag when he got here, and he’s got jabber jaw. He said De-la-cruz had not one but two big movies bomb this year. You heard of Dead and Dead Again IV, right?”

"No, but I don’t get out much,” Em admitted.

"The cast was made up of Delacruz’s ex-wife Alanna Grant and a bunch of former action-adventure stars from the eighties. Even with new facelifts and ab implants they looked like hell. Not Alanna, though. She’s still young and hot, hot, hot. Anyway, the flick went straight to DVD. Talk about rotten tomatoes. That was one of De-la-cruz’s bombs this year.”

Em glanced toward the cabana. She had more to worry about than Delacruz’s box-office disasters.

"Keep an eye on the Maidens. Sophie said they’re having lineup is­sues.”

"Oh, hell, no. That’s bad. That’s real bad. I’m tendin’ bar, n’ Kiki’s not here to keep ’em under control.”

"If you have to, and only if things get out of hand, step away from the bar and get them organized and ready to perform.”

"You got it.”

People had come filtering in, and suddenly there was a line at the bar.

"Better get to work,” Em told her. Pat nodded and hurried away.

Em spotted Buzzy. The lanky hippie only had one name as far as any­one knew. He was wandering around the perimeter of the tent looking lost in space. He’d been a fixture at the Goddess for as long as anyone could recall, and Em had hired him to show up and bus tables tonight as well as circulate and keep an eye on things in general. Besides doing electrical and building repairs, he sometimes filled in as a bus boy and waiter. Right now he was headed her way.

"Buzzy?” She tried calling to him without shouting. Apparently in a fog, he kept walking. "Buzzy!” Em said, louder this time.

He turned, blinked, and looked around until he spotted her. He waited near a tiki torch as she walked over to join him.

"Wazzup, Em?”

"Wally’s guest of honor, Mr. Delacruz, brought along his own secu­rity guard.”

"So, you want me to leave?”

Em shook her head. "No, of course not. I just wanted you to know he’s supposed to be here if you happen to see him roaming around between the two properties. You can’t miss him. He’s got a Mahalo Secu­rity logo on his shirt. I still need you to help clear tables as soon as dinner is over, and I’d like you to keep an eye out and make sure party crashers don’t try to sneak in through the hedge or come up from the beach.”

He stared at her a few seconds, digesting everything she’d said.

Slowly he nodded. "Cool. Got it. Clear tables. No crashers. Man, that’s a lot to remember.”



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