“NO!” Susan exclaimed. “No, no, no. This is bad.” She panicked and backed away, shaking her head.
“What?” Kumai dropped the dress she had chosen and rushed to her. “What’s wrong?”
“When I blew out my flip… uh, slippah last night?”
“It didn’t register. We Don’t Have Any Shoes for the White Benefit tonight.”
Kumai froze and watched Susan for a moment. After witnessing a murder last night could they think that shoes mattered?
But they did.
She shifted from girlfriend-mode to professional. “I know that this event is important to you.” Kumai said. “Please remember that I have many resources available. Just tell me what size and style you want and I will get you several footwear options.”
“No, really. Shoes? They’re so …individual.”
“Let’s look at styles on the web.”
“We don’t have time for mail order! We’re in the freaking middle of the Pacific Ocean!”
“Susan, please calm your breathing. I’ll be able to determine what styles you like and then take it from there.”
“But everywhere may be sold out, like with the dresses.”
“Looks like we did alright on dresses, even so.” She pointed to the Koa-framed cheval mirror that reflected Susan in elegant palazzo pants covered by a garage sale top that dripped venetian lace and a daisy scarf from HICO.
Kumai settled on a knit mesh dress with a keyhole cutout that exposed her bare back. She felt sufficiently out of place without causing people to notice her by wearing pants. “Leave the shoes to me. Let’s surf.”
While they looked at styles on the internet, Elena prepared a fragrant breakfast in the kitchen. Kumai’s stomach growled as she passed by to make shoe-finding calls.
“Elena, that smells heavenly.” Kumai said.
The woman turned away. Kumai didn’t think it was particularly rude, until later.
She went to her suite, dialed her home, and was pleased to hear Sage answer.
“Hey, Sage. Is Tom free to do some driving today?”
It took only minutes to arrange the shoe quest. Kumai returned to Susan’s room and knocked on the door frame.
“Uh oh. Trouble?” Susan asked.
“All worked out. You’ll have all the size 7 white, clear, crystal, and silver shoes from the Sandal Tree here by 3 p.m. Just call this number and ask for Kathleen. She will hold a charge on your credit card for the full selection of shoes, then charge you only for the pairs that you keep.”
“Brilliant. But what about you?”
“I have hiking boots with me.”
Susan’s face dropped.
“Maybe not my best time to joke?” Kumai asked. “I have dress shoes at home that will be delivered here with yours.”
“Oh, ha. Okay, ha, yes.”
Over breakfast, Susan and Jorge discussed ranch operations. Elena remained in the kitchen while they ate.
“Elena ate earlier because she wants to wait on you.” Jorge explained.
“That’s so sweet,” Susan gushed, “But I wish she could relax. We can serve ourselves.”
Kumai smiled because she knew what Elena had actually said. Even though her Spanish was rusty for speaking, Kumai understood perfectly thanks to her mother’s insistence that she learn the language of her family in Mexico.
“The ranch is exactly as I had hoped it would be.” Susan said, “My corporation, however, wants larger meeting facilities. So the board will meet next week to decide whether to build here or look elsewhere for a place. If we turn around and put the place right back on the market, the estate agent wants $30,000, even though they have all the work done from having sold it to me.”
A cloud of Spanish drifted out of the kitchen, “Think we are baseball trading cards…don’t care for the land…tear down paradise to put up a parking lot…we pour our sweat into a place…”
“Burned her hand.” Jorge explained.
“Careful!” Susan called out.
“Gracias.” Elena said.
Susan went on, “Tonight we’re going out again. Can you care for the dog?”
“No problem.” Jorge said. He turned to the kitchen and said in Spanish, “Good news, Honey. We got us a dog.”
Everyone waited for comment from the kitchen while acting like they were thinking. Susan broke into the pause, “Kumai, we have hair and makeup here at 4:00. That leaves us all morning to burn off some stress chemicals. After last night, and with my nerves on edge about tonight, I need an adventure. Got anything on call?”
“Yes, I do.” Kumai decompressed as she entered her element again. The past few days had been disorienting. “Give me a half hour to arrange something. Is there any activity that you don’t like? Water, hikes, dives, flying, boats?”
“Love them all.” Susan said. “It would be fun to get an aerial view of my place. Helicopter ride, maybe?”
Kumai took her plate to the kitchen. “Thank you, Elena. Breakfast was delicious.”
“You’re welcome.” Elena said, and then in Spanish, “I’ll hurry and clean up your mess so you two lovers can be alone.”
Jorge shot her daggers.
Kumai said, “Gracias.” complete with a perfect Castillian lisp.
They drove off in Lightning and turned toward Kona. Susan spoke up when they drove past the heli-port. “Where we headed?”
Kumai said, “The flying tricycle uses the runway for take-off and landing. The pilot will let you do flight and navigation as much as you want once you’re airborne.”
“An ultralight? Brilliant! Aren’t you coming?”
“There is only room for one passenger. This is your adventure.”
“Do we have time for you to have a turn?”
“Not today. Besides, I have some work to do while you’re flying.”
“Oh. Of course. I keep forgetting that I’m not your only client.”
Kumai speculated what it would be like to work for only one person. In the past, she feared getting bored or worn down by demands. Right now she liked the idea since she wanted to avoid follow-up on the lead from Annamae.
As Susan went through pre-flight training, Kumai stepped outside the hangar and dialed Bradon. At his message tone, she said, “It turns out that I will be going to the White Benefit, so I can see you there. My client has asked me to attend with her, which means I will also be working, kind of. At any rate, I’ll see you there tonight.”
Next she dialed the resort, “Annamae in guest services, please.”
“I’m sorry,” a sweet voice said, “Annamae no longer works with our association.”
“What?” Kumai asked.
“I’m sorry, Anna…”
“No, I heard you. I just don’t understand. She was working yesterday.”
“May I take a message or connect you with our new head of guest services?”
Kumai’s stomach clenched. Something was wrong. “No, thanks. I was just looking for Annamae. Did she leave a forwarding number?”
“I’m sorry, Annamae no longer has any association with our resort.”
It was clear that the resort wanted no affiliation with Annamae. Kumai thanked the woman and hung up. She needed to check with Tom on the deal he was arranging. His cell went straight to messages, and she hung up before thinking that she should have just said, “Call me.”
So she pulled up his contact to text when he rang her back. “Kumai-a-rama!”
“You sound worried. Everything okay?” Tom asked.
“I don’t know. Did that client connection work out for the dive gear?”
“Ah, no. That one fell through. Was gonna report details when I saw you, since you never know with cell phones.”
“Yes. Good. Except, it could be a while until you see me. Can you tell me anything right now?”
“Well, I’m almost to Waimea. Can’t it wait until I see you at the ranch?”
“Oh, I’m not at the ranch.”
“Oh crap! Did I get it wrong? I thought something was wrong when they put a shitload of boxes in the car, I probably got it all wrong, it seemed like a lot…”
“Tom! Don’t panic. You got it right. It’s just that I’m out running errands. What can you tell me?”
“Oh. Well, the drop got hot.”
“I’m gonna need a little more than that.”
“They almost exchanged. Heat was following my guy, he dropped the goods, uh, gear under a garment rack and walked away. Client called me with his boardshorts in a wedgy. I told them, ‘Better no dive than your time in paradise spent in jail’.”
“What’d they say to that?”
“They hung up.”
“So will they meet up again?”
“That’s the weird part, I mean, besides the customer not being chill. When my guy went back for the packet, uh, of diving gear, it was gone. He swears it was where you’d find it only if you saw it go there.”
“Okay. Here’s what I want you to do. Go ahead and take the shoes to the ranch. Call Sage and tell her you’ll be calling her with a new telephone number for yourself, not to use the old number for any reason. Go get a new phone. I’ll buy, anything under $400. Have them put your SIM card in the new phone…”
“Whoa. This sounds grim. What about your client?”
“Drop the deal. If they call, do not answer. Call your guy and tell him to lay low. In fact, after you call Sage, turn off your old phone.”
“Geez. But. Well…”
“All my games are on my phone.”
“Tom. This is serious.”
“It’s just that my bejeweled scores are epic.”