I tuned her out when Janet answered.
‘Did you catch the local news?’ I asked. ‘Seems like I’m the Big Island’s most wanted.’
‘Don’t shave,’ she replied. She didn’t laugh.
I rubbed my chin, not sure if she was joking or not. ‘And how else do I disguise I’m a blond, six foot three, one eighty pounds, cool surf dude?’
‘They’ve only shown your mugshot so far.’
True, but I could imagine Detective Hennessey issuing a crime alert, complete with my latest photo and description to every patrol cop on the island.
She interrupted. ‘That’s why we need to get the hell out of here. Where are you?’
Forty minutes later, I heard a knock on my door. I peered through the peephole, opened the door to greet Janet. She was carrying a large gym bag in one hand and a takeout sack in the other.
‘Breakfast,’ she said. ‘Scrambled eggs and bacon on whole wheat. And fries.’
It smelled delicious, and I needed comfort food right then. I squeezed out a packet of ketchup over the fries, and we munched away while she updated me.
‘I’ll dye your hair and brows for a start.’ She pointed to the bag. ‘Under the makeover kit there’s a Country Club jacket, two pairs of pants and polo shirts; should fit from what you told me.’
I was amazed. ‘Where … how…?’
‘Jameson,’ she said.
Her lawyer brother — used to be a college athlete, and still kept in shape. He’d represented me last time against Patterson, got me freed from my false murder rap.
I owed him as well.
Janet’s plan made sense. Once I had changed my complexion, lost the baby face, and dressed in designer gear, no one would give me a second glance as being the same beach bum runaway.
Janet wiped a splash of ketchup from her mouth with a Kleenex. ‘But we need to move fast,’ she said. ‘Jameson got a call from the precinct, while I was packing your clothes. Smokin’ Joe arrested …needed a lawyer ... seemed it had something to do with your escape. And assaulting a cop in the process.’
I groaned; felt the noose tighten.
‘It’s not all bad news,’ she said. ‘Background check on Kandoo shareholders came up with a nugget. Guess what? A certain Lo Corporation has a stake.’
I had no idea if the nugget was the real McCoy or Fools Gold, but Janet’s crime-solving mantra was “follow the money”.
‘Better still,’ she said. ‘The late Paula Swain also had a stake. A bigger one.’
I frowned; couldn’t grasp the significance, and Janet dumbed it down.
‘The late Ms. Swain controlled Kandoo … could be motivation enough.’
I brushed loose crumbs off my mouth. I needed a coffee. ‘What? To kill her?’
‘Maybe, maybe not. How about this, then? What if Ms Swain had some sort of hold over Mr. Lo?’
‘Blackmail, you mean?’
She bent down and pulled out her cosmetic bag, stood up, and motioned me towards the bathroom. I followed her; kneeled on the bathmat and bent my head over the basin, while she slipped on laytex gloves. She pushed my head back into the basin and started to massage dye into my hair. It felt good, and I started to loosen up.
We batted around a few other theories while she transformed my looks; dark hair with a five o’clock shadow on my cheeks, penciled in with makeup. I hadn’t come up with any explanation why I’d been framed for the Swamp Donkey’s death, but Janet thought it was the key.
‘Lo is smart. He had a reason. Crack this, and we’d crack the case wide open.’
I wasn’t really listening; I’d been close to Janet for nearly an hour. I could smell her; feel her hands touching my face — a fingertip away from being able to hold her, to kiss her.
‘What?’ I said.
I’m sure Janet sensed it, too, and she slapped my arm.
‘Don’t get any ideas, mister. I’m gay.’
Her eyes twinkled as she laughed. ‘Shocked, huh?’
I couldn’t quite tell if she was making fun of me or not, but it had the same effect as a cold shower. I brushed it off, I could handle rejection.
‘Not even first base, then?’
She shook her head, but touched my arm. ‘We need to go.’
I guessed she was letting me down gently, and she needed me to focus on Lo. Or, she had some other reason. Whatever it was, I was still in deep shit.
The bathroom mirror showed a new dude; it was remarkable. I hopped out to change into my fresh clothes while Janet tidied up the john.
The image in the full length closet mirror told a story; I could have passed for a top-dollar celebrity, possibly as big as Smokin’ Joe.
I smiled and turned to Janet.
‘I think I know why Lo set me up.’