Set ‘em up, Sandy … and one for the kid,’ said the fat one.
I gazed around Sandy’s bar in the light of a setting sun, an empty Bud bottle beside me. The bar, my home on the Big Island near Napoopoo beach; I had a utility room with a mattress at the back. Two gays eyed me up — one thin one with a hooked nose and one fat one wearing an outsize shirt with a picture of a shark on the front.
The fat one grinned at me; extended a manicured hand, with a gold ring on his index finger. I could smell a mixture of his sweat and classy cologne wafting closer.
‘Hi kid. Want to fuck around?’
I ignored his hand. Sandy shrugged, but opened another Bud and slid it along the counter towards me. I picked it up and took a slug.
I turned and eyed him up. ‘Robert, I’m not going anywhere near that palace of yours, ever again.’
Robert Van Grossman and his new partner — I assumed the thin stick was his partner, lived in a purpose-built paradise with a spectacular view over the Pacific that even Johnny Depp would be proud to own.
It was there by the Olympic-sized swimming pool where Linda Adams was killed, and I was fingered as the fall guy by a corrupt detective, Carl Patterson. Linda had been Van Grossman’s cover until he “came out”, proud of being gay.
‘Just kidding, kid.’
I glared at him. ‘And another thing ... don’t ever call me kid, again. ‘My name’s Shayne Reeves. Take your pick.’
He laughed, and changed the subject. ‘I need someone I can trust. Ten grand up front and a bonus after.’
Chump change for him, but my bank balance had crept into the red. Despite my misgivings, I was intrigued.
He glanced at his partner, turned, and I figured he gave me a smile reserved for big-game fishermen who’d hooked a blue marlin. ‘You still got that P.I. badge?’
A long story. In trying to prove my innocence I had some serious help from an attorney and his gumshoe sister; part of which was my own private investigator’s badge.
‘Kandoo are billing me for services I never authorized. Five thousand bucks a week security, three grand regular ground and pool maintenance, and another two grand for domestic duties. That’s the basics. Then there are extras … always extras. Overtime payments, new this, replacement that … even workforce training gets charged to my account.’
I blinked; shrugged as if no big deal, which seemed to irritate him. He slapped a hand on the bar.
‘I’ve got principles. Someone’s skimming, and I don’t like it.’
I glanced out of the patio window and watched the sun slip beneath the horizon; swaying palm trees cast dark shadows across the rocks as night closed in. I swiveled on my stool and faced him.
‘You want me to audit their books?’
He shook his head. ‘No … I want you to find out who’s responsible, and put the heat on them.’
‘Not interested,’ I said, trusting my instincts.
Van Grossman wasn’t impressed. To tell the truth, he had balls; gambled his life — and mine — with a gun pointing at him. We had both survived and nailed Patterson, who was now facing a twenty-year stretch.
‘I’ll sweeten the deal,’ he said, tossing car keys at me. ‘Go take a look. If you like her, that’s the bonus.’
He had me hooked and he wasn’t about to lose me. I shrugged and skipped out the back. Parked under a light next to Sandy’s Honda and my beaten-up Dodge sat the coolest car I’d seen on the Big Island.
Subaru Impreza WRX STI.
Bonus? Forty grand’s worth of attitude.
I pressed the keyless remote and slid into the driver’s seat. Just over one thousand miles on the clock. On the passenger seat was a marketing brochure. Once I had played around with the controls and locked up, I took it back with me. I tossed it on the bar, open at the color page.
‘I prefer the Black one,’ I said. Sandy shook his head and grimaced, but it had the desired effect.
Van Grossman opened his mouth but no words came out. He stared at me. I held his gaze. He twitched, I smiled. He sipped his drink, so did I. After several agonizing moments that seemed to last forever, he cracked.
‘I guess I misread you,’ he said.
I laughed, raised my bottle. ‘Robert, I was bluffing. Lightening Red Pearl is right up my alley.’ It was an easy assignment. I knew Kandoo and I knew the Swamp Donkey of a bitch who managed the front desk. This time, I had nothing to lose.
‘When do I start?’
A moment of silence hung between us before Van Grossman’s chins began wobbling and his face creased into smiles. He gave his partner a hug as if to say, “told you”.
‘If it’s all right with you, Mr. Reeves … or should I say Revs?’ He laughed, but then pointed a chubby finger at me as if to hammer home he was the main man.
‘Tomorrow morning, first thing.’
I slept like a baby.
The next morning found me waiting outside the front entrance of Kandoo at 7:20, shivering in the cool morning air, glancing back at my Dodge, and wishing it was the red Impreza in the parking lot, when a uniformed guard unlocked the door and peered out.
‘Closed today,’ he said. ‘It’s Saturday. Come back Monday.’
‘I need to talk to whoever’s in charge, I said. ‘It’s important.
‘Mr. Lo isn’t here.’
I turned and pointed at a couple of SUV 4-wheelers and three big white trucks with their engines idling. Men, wearing coveralls, lounged around, smoking. They appeared to be waiting.
‘Doesn’t seem closed to me. What’s happening?’
I sensed a movement behind me, and I felt a sledge hammer blow to the back of my skull; my neck snapped forward, waves of pain seared through my head, and I started to fall.