‘We know that Van Grossman hired you to investigate alleged fraud by Kandoo, right?’
‘Tell me as much as you can recall. Focus on names.’
‘Detective Hennessey told me the dead woman was Ms. Swain. That’s it.’
Janet frowned. ‘Was this Ms. Swain your appointment?’
I wiped a hand across my face. ‘I didn’t have one. Hey wait a minute. The guard on the door dropped a name. What was it? …Err … can’t remember.’
‘Think. A local name?’
‘Local … Lo … that’s it. Mr. Lo.’
It was Janet’s turn to gaze out of the window; the name seemed to have struck a chord. I went through the permutations of Lo in my head — Loh, Low, and Lowe — for a start.
She turned back to me.
‘That’s what the guard said. ‘Mr. Lo isn’t here.’
Janet rubbed her eyes. ‘If he’s who I think he is … you’re in the deepest shit you could ever imagine.’
‘Mr. Lo is a Chinese racketeer with an IQ that’s off the scale, heavily into recreational drugs for the Hawaiian elite.’ She frowned. ‘Could be that Kandoo is a front for his operations. Poke a finger into his pie, you’ll end up being shark bait.’
She gripped my hand. ‘And me.’
That put a different complexion on things. My life I could risk, but not Janet’s again.
She was having none of it.
‘I’ll carry out some background checks. Call me tomorrow. We’ll go from there.’
‘And what do I do?’
She laughed, brushed fingertips along my arm. ‘Keep a low profile. Try and figure out why they set you up.’
All I could think about right then was her closeness; how my skin tingled. The moment passed when Janet fired up the Chevy and engaged the gears.
‘Time to go, mister. I’ve a long night ahead.’
I sighed, sat back in my seat, and watched Highway 11 slip by; past Sea View resort, past La Bastille, the French restaurant, and back to Kona.
After parting with Janet, I parked in a vacant lot a few blocks from my hole. Mollie was waiting up for me, in her nightgown, with a drink in her hand. Her gown smelled of whiskey; so did her breath.
She took a slug from the tumbler. ‘Had a visit from the cops,’ she said. ‘First Lady Mauve Hennessey, all high and mighty.’ Her body swayed; she leaned against a wall. ‘What did you say your name was?’
Mollie snorted a spray of saliva, swiped her nose with the back of her hand. Leered at me. ‘I’ve had a few sodas.’
‘Bought a couple of bottles at mom & pop’s store.’ She gulped another draught and stared at the empty glass. ‘Need another one.’
I took the glass from her hand. ‘Mollie … what did you tell her?’
‘Err … fill her up, Mickey.’
I tried once more. ‘The First Lady.’
‘You want to screw around with Mollie, then, Mickey?’ She started to cackle. ‘Mollie and Mickey Mouse.’
I’d had enough. Too dangerous to hang around. I heard, “Where you going, Mickey?” behind me as I shut the door.
I didn’t know.
And I had another problem. Just the clothes on my back, a few personal belongings, and my cell phone had run out of juice.
It started to rain.
I got soaked trudging back to my rented Chevy. I racked my brains; where could I hole up safely?
I had made a big mistake staying at Mollie’s; with her kid’s criminal record, it was one of the first rat holes cops would check out. I had to think smarter than Hennessey.
Plenty of 5-star hotels and resorts offered sanctuary for a beach bum fugitive; I figured these would be the last places to be checked. One of Sandy’s regulars was a gay bellhop with a tobacco habit who worked at the King’s Royal Palace. He’d hit on me once or twice when he was drunk even though he knew I didn’t smoke. Sometimes Billy worked alternate night shifts.
A gamble I had to take.
For once, it paid off. When I pulled up outside the covered front entrance, if he or any of the other guys were amazed at seeing a drowned rat clambering out and dripping water all over their shag-pile welcome carpet, they didn’t show it.
Maybe I wasn’t the first, that night.
As if on cue, Billy coughed, plucked a towel from a rail, and started to rub me down. ‘Well, hello, Mr. Reeves. Good to see you again, sir.’
I suspect he enjoyed giving me the once-over; I wasn’t about to spoil his night by complaining. Not that night.
I took hold of his arm and moved him to one side, away from snooping ears. He was a pint-sized guy with a wheezing voice; I had to bend my head to whisper. ‘Billy, I need to crash out here tonight, maybe more.’ I swallowed. ‘No credit card; Franklins up front.’
I explained I needed top-dollar discretion and privacy. He smiled a lopsided grin. ‘I’m sure that can be arranged, Mr. err…’
‘Miller,’ I said.
‘Follow me, Mr. Miller.’
I looked over my shoulder. One bellhop was attending to my Chevy. ‘My car?’
‘Valet parking, sir.’
We sidestepped reception procedure; he gave me a card key for a room with a john on the eighth floor, and a suicidal view over the parking lot and dump trucks, in return for two big bills. He walked me over to the closet, next to the fifty-channel TV on a dresser. Inside hung a set of freshly laundered coveralls with the hotel logo across the top pocket.
‘Workers sleep over, sometimes,’ he said, edging towards the door. ‘No one will disturb you. Dress in those, and breakfast is on the house.’
I gave him another twenty bucks to bring me a Nokia recharger, and tuned into the local NBC news channel. It wasn’t good. Top story at ten.