On the way back, we hashed out a plan; first was locating Le Chef before Patterson found him. I was pretty sure Le Chef called Linda from Kandoo, the service company, to set me up. I’d pay them a visit; see if I could flush him out.
I had one advantage, Linda’s cell phone and the bank statements that could implicate Van Grossman.
Now that both Linda and Stern were dead, Grossman had to be the mastermind behind the killings – what I didn’t know was, why?
Greed, envy, revenge - all were possibilities.
But I remembered what Janet had told me. Follow the money, and that would be the second part of our plan…
…To hook Le Chef, the spearfish predator, I would be the baited skipjack tuna, and Smokin’ Joe, the big-daddy Blue Marlin, would be right up his tail.
I put it into action. I left Smokin’ Joe at Sandy’s bar just in case Le Chef came out hunting for me. My first stop; Lighthaus cameras where I chose a -“point and shoot”- Canon S95 compact that slipped into my jeans pocket.
Next, I drove over to Kandoo, a fashionable villa set in spacious grounds, with panoramic views over the Pacific. The reception area: open-plan, comfortable leather loungers - and eye candy. I clicked with the young receptionist, straight off. Could have been my new surfer’s shirt from Kahala - it hung loose on my frame - I must have dropped a few pounds on the jail diet plan. Or it could have been the worry.
‘Hi,’ she said, rising up from her chair to greet me. Slim chick with blonde hair. She gave me the once-over that was more than a glance. ‘How can I help?’
I wasn’t interested; my emotions were still raw with nearly losing Janet, but I held eye contact while I moved over to stand next to her desk. ‘I hear you organize catering services.’
She gave me a sparkling, spearmint smile. ‘You’re in the right place. What did you have in mind?’
I ignored the twinkle in her eyes. ‘Before we get into all that, I’m looking for a cordonbleu chef. Do you have any on your books?’
Her smile slipped. ‘I’m sure you will find all of our chefs’ excellent.’
I kept it simple; hoped she’d come up with the goods. ‘Van Grossman recommended his … Le Chef.’
She gave me a look as if to say Grossman – and probably his chef - was out of my league.
‘Who are you?’
Taylor had given me a bank-roll; a thick wad of hundred buck bills. ‘Use it for effect,’ he had said.
‘I’m Shayne Reeves, private investigator.’ When I showed the badge, her mouth opened. When I flashed the Franklins, and slipped one her way, her smile returned.
‘Ahh, yes,’ she said, her purple painted fingernails caressing the bill. ‘Le Chef … you must mean Alec … Alec Czerwinski.’
I peeled off another one; drifted it across. ‘Between you and me … do you have a contact number and address?’
‘What are you doing, Clarissa?’
A sharp voice behind me. I swiveled around to confront an obese woman wearing a purple jump suit. She looked like she hadn’t been fed that day the way her rubbery lips were slobbering around her double chin, and I was prime steak.
I showed her my badge. ‘Clarissa is helping me,’ I said.
A haughty look - her steak dinner was contaminated. She sniffed, turned, and pointed towards the door. ‘Not any more, she isn’t. Get out.’
While she had her back to me, Clarissa’s hand slipped into mine and palmed a card. It was enough; I didn’t want to cause a scene, nor have the cops called out.
I gave a friendly wave and a smile as I made for the exit, but I couldn’t resist hollering at her. ‘McDonalds has better service!’
I could feel daggers plunging into my back. I shivered.
I cruised back to Sandy’s, rejoined Smokin’ Joe at the bar, and pulled out the Kandoo card. On the back was a scribbled cell number.
Le Chef’s or Clarissa’s?
I phoned Kandoo instead, hoping that she would answer, but it went to voicemail.
We sat there and had one more Bud.
Smokin’ Joe said what was on my mind. ‘Brah … if this number is his, we might only get one punch at it.’
And I was the skipjack bait with evidence that Van Grossman wanted destroyed.
I called the number.
It wasn’t Le Chef who answered. The voice was female but it wasn’t Clarissa, either.
‘Hello, Kona beach shack.’
I blinked at Smokin’ Joe, pointed to the cell and shrugged. ‘I’m Shayne Reeves. Clarissa from Kandoo gave me this number.’
A peal of laughter echoed in my eardrum. ‘You the poser wearing a Kahala shirt?’
I spluttered. ‘So she thinks I’m a dork, huh?’
She laughed again. ‘Wanna look awesome? Drop by at six. Clarissa will meet you here.’
It could have been a super-spy scene; undercover chicks and coded messages – completely surreal. ‘Okay,’ I said, but I was listening to a dialing tone.
It was three-thirty by my Nixon watch; Kona beach shack was about twenty minutes drive from Sandy’s. I peered outside; the late afternoon sunshine glimmered off the rocks, the breakers beckoned; I could handle an hour’s ride on my board.
Smokin’ Joe was studying the menu. ‘You hungry?’ I asked. He nodded and while he made up his mind I brought him up to speed.
Didn’t take long.
He ordered a double cheeseburger and fries while I headed off to take a few snapshots of Van Grossman’s documents, and change into my wetsuit.
All we could do was kill time.