The floating resort looked like a different place in daylight. As Kumai worked her way aboveboard, muffled conversations filled the common areas making the ship seem less hollow and vast.
Up top, plantings covered the ship deck in beautifully landscaped paths and grassy knolls. Flowers proliferated from every side. Swimmers surrounded the pool and a few bobbed in the gentle waves, chatting. Kumai noted to herself to swim only in the early morning hours.
“How do I communicate with the outside world?” Kumai asked a passing waiter, his tray already filled with emptied umbrella drinks.
“Oh, your phone doesn’t work here?” He had a slight Thai accent and flashed her an impossibly perfect smile.
“Well, no, but I do all of my personal calls when we’re in town. There is a satellite phone here, just dial 9 from your room, then the telephone number. The charges are applied to your room. Incoming calls are restricted since guests don’t usually want to have to decide who to talk to. This is a place for you to be able to get away. In fact, can I get you a drink?”
“I’m good, thanks. So, no texting either. What about email?”
“There’s a computer at the concierge desk. I’m sorry to say that we do not have a concierge at the moment.” The waiter grimaced.
“Okay.” Kumai decided not to kill the messenger. However, she now planned to kill Annamae. This time for real. That woman had tricked her into more tricky positions than an acrobatics coach.
She decided to take her time going back to the elevator to wait for Annamae. She strolled to the area of the jungle on the deck behind the pool. Palm trees grew to heights that brushed the sky netting. She looked for freshly-turned soil and was pleased to see that these trees looked well-established.
Did she want to work here? The income made any inconvenience worth it. She wished that she could check-in with Susan. And she did not trust Annamae. Not that she would have to work directly with her that much.
The edge of the deck came into view as she rounded a bend in the path. She walked to the railing and looked down, surprised to see how high out of the water they sailed. Many of the rooms would look out on the surface of the seas. This was an old ship. No wonder they outfitted it in Art Nouveau decor. She liked it, good bones, good lines.
Kumai wondered what exactly Annamae did here. She walked back to the elevator to ask her.
“Couldn’t get a signal,” Kumai said first thing. She watched Annamae’s expression.
“Oh? Some phones have reception. Well, you can use the telephone in your room. It’s spendy, but we’ll cover the cost of this call if you like.”
“Gee, thanks,” Kumai said.
“Why are you grumbling at me?” Annamae asked. “You’ve just been offered a cherry job and you’re acting all put out.”
“I also care about how my friends are treated. I can’t reach Susan. By the way, if I’m the concierge, what is your job?”
“I’m like the cruise director on the Love Boat.”
Kumai raised her eyebrows. “That tells me nothing. You plan activities?”
“Amongst other things. I’m kinda HR too, with final approval from higher up.”
“Who’s your boss?”
“The corporation.” Annamae pushed the down button on the elevator again. “Let’s take a stroll around the place, see what you think after that.”
“I seriously need to get ahold of Susan. I’ll just go back to my room and call her. Or I can email, if there’s somewhere I can do that?”
“Oh, your concierge desk has internet. There’s a wifi password there. They ask that we don’t watch videos and YouTube, that sort of thing, no streaming, no gaming. It’s too costly.” Annamae held the elevator door open for Kumai.
“Okay. So, my friend Susan? I haven’t communicated with her. Do you know when she will arrive?”
“Oh, sorry, meant to tell you. She landed on Lanai, asked about this resort, then left.”
“Yeah. Flew away.”
“I know. Sometimes you have to escort clientele personally. It’s all so mysterious.”
“Geez.” Kumai made herself stop and breathe before she said something impulsive to Annamae that might damage the potential for this job. “That’s not a good way to work with clientele.”
“Right?! That’s why we need you here! To make our customer experience smoother.”
Kumai raised one eyebrow. She needed to get to that concierge desk and email Susan. The Oahu snafu plus this misadventure equaled two nails in the career coffin. But then, maybe she no longer needed to scrounge for a career. It bothered her, however, to leave a friend hanging like that. “Can the tour wait?”
“Below the twentieth floor is an industrial section. I think you might be interested in the dive operation going out from there.”
“Wait, below the twentieth floor. So why not just say the nineteenth floor?”
Annamae pointed to the elevator buttons as they descended. “The top of the resort is the first floor, not the twentieth.” The first-floor button at the top stood alone like a penthouse. The rest of the floor numbers followed down to twenty at the bottom.
Kumai’s head did some quick math. Twenty floors times approximately ten feet per floor, no, probably more, but at least 200 feet to the last guest floor. “How deep underwater is the first floor, um, last floor on the bottom?” Kumai asked.
“Actually, a lot of people ask that. I don’t know, but it would be a fun fact for you to know so you can share it.” Annamae punched the button for the fourteenth floor. “I told them you were perfect for the job. So curious.”
Kumai thought about how well a curious employee might fit with privacy freaks. “Who are they?”
“Oh no. Not that kind of curious. That’s not how it works and you know it.” Annamae laughed.
“Curious within reason. Back to my room?”
“Yes, I need a bathroom,” Annamae said. “And before you see our login information, you’ll need to decide whether you want to sign that contract.”
“Oh.” Kumai thought about what she had seen so far. Nothing indicated foul play. Just exclusivity. If she worked only six months here, she could afford a boat and the future of her dreams. She pictured a simple life in her house, scuba diving at her leisure, and getting back into practice with freediving. Why not sign on?
Several reasons not to stay here came to mind: Kirby. Susan. Her parents with Kane’s threat hanging over them. There were many pulls for her to remain on the Big Island and take care of important relationships. But maybe now was the time to focus on Kumai. She could email everyone, explain, and gently warn her parents about the threat from Kane. Maybe she would sign that contract. “I would need permission to use the computer for regular meetings that I join during the week.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Annamae sounded worried. “It sounds like something they would not like. Do you require a video feed? What are the meetings?”
“No video. Just forum meetings. Their nature is private.” Kumai started, and then changed her tactic, “But it has to do with my heritage.” She decided to pull the culture card rather than admit to an addiction to narcotics. Besides, addiction was part of the human condition, and she was human, so it had everything to do with her heritage.
“Oh, oh. That might be fine. Let me just check.” Annamae followed Kumai into her room and used the restroom.
Kumai had to use her phone to find Susan’s number. She dialed 9 on the room telephone, then Susan’s number and waited. It went to voicemail. “Hey, Susan, it’s me. I’m so sorry about all of this. I’m fine. I don’t like how they have treated you, though. If I’d known this was what you would experience, I would never have suggested you fly over. I’m sorry. I’ll email you as well. I guess I have no cell reception here, and no real way for you to call me back, but we can email. Did I mention that I’m sorry?”
Annamae came out of the bathroom and then while Kumai took her turn in there, dialed somewhere on the house phone to see if weekly online meetings could be accommodated.
Kumai mulled over signing the contract. She really did not know enough about the place to commit to it. Normally, that small detail would not stop her from jumping in. She smiled. At least she was learning to pause. Was there another way she could delay signing anything?
She thought about using a false name. Except that she never came up with good fake names. At someone’s wedding shower years ago, she learned about how to find her stage name by using the name of her childhood pet combined with her mother’s maiden name. Her stage name ended up being Jolie de Lafuente. Her mother was born in Mexico, and their dog had a French name. No K’s in that name. Kumai felt sure that Annamae would look at the first initials of the signature if nothing else. She came out of the bathroom thinking.
“They say it’s okay to do your online meetings as long as you don’t exceed one hour per meeting, disable the camera and microphone on the computer, and make sure location services are turned off.”
“Whoa,” Kumai said. “I might need help with those settings.”
“They are reconfiguring your computer for you now.”
“When will I get to use the computer?”
“As soon as you sign the contract!” Annamae beamed. “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.” Kumai walked over to the desk, flipped to the last page of the contract and scribbled a signature Kolie Kafuente as illegibly as possible.
“Here are a few other documents.” Annamae walked over and picked up the signed contract, replacing it with a small stack of papers of various sizes. “The usual K-1, mail forwarding…”
“Snail mail? You guys think of everything.”
“Some personnel use only the Postal Service. Can you imagine?”
“Old school.” Kumai agreed while signing the K-1 and the mail forwarding requests with her real name.
Annamae gathered up the papers as if they might blow away and trotted to her Coach bag to stuff them in there. “Let’s go see some more of your new home!”
Kumai thought about that word. Home. She suddenly longed for sunlight. “What do people do for sun and vitamin D here?”
“Supplements are available in the mess hall. And tanning beds are provided for staff after guest hours. Not that you’ll need to worry about getting pale.”
Kumai ignored the comment. It was right up there with people’s ideas that black skin needs no sunscreen. She wondered what she said sometimes about white skin that had nothing to do with anything.
Kumai’s new desk occupied a curve of the lobby where they had entered the ship. The location felt exposed, with no real corners or back area. Clanks sounded as a tender to the Dusky Maiden pulled up to the port hatches and attached.
Kumai logged into the computer and composed a group email stating that she had taken a job off-island for a few months. She saved it as a draft, wondering who needed a more personal email. She composed a quick note to Susan saying the same thing she had said in the voicemail and asking how things were going. The other recipients could wait until she was on duty tomorrow and had seen more of the situation here.
“Where’s the nearest restroom?” Kumai asked.
“You think of everything.” Annamae said in singsong, “But so do we!” She pushed on one of the Koa wood wall panels behind Kumai’s counter and the panel pushed back out slightly toward Annamae. She pulled on the loose edge of the hidden door, gestured like a game show host, and said, “Madam.”
A small lavatory hid behind the wall, providing Kumai with a sink, commode, bidet, and blow dryer. She wondered why the blow dryer. “Perfect.”
She checked her reflection and smoothed down her hair. In the mirror, she saw a group of arrivals mill through the lobby. She finished primping and looked for a switch to turn off the lights.
“They’re automatic. Motion activated.” Annamae answered the search. “Time to see the guts of the resort.”
Kumai checked the mirror once more before closing the door, and in the reflection saw a man pass through the lobby who looked just like her former boyfriend, Bradon McCandless. An antiques dealer from Waimea, he fit here like an old cowboy boot in a ballroom. Kumai could not imagine him being here. It must be someone else.
“And where is the nearest guest bathroom?” Kumai asked.
“Oh, is that what you meant?”
“You always were good about thinking of others,” Annamae said.
Kumai thought about that. Maybe signing the contract was the wrong thing to do. Her parents might be in danger. And what had happened with Susan? And Kirby? “How often does the transport vessel sail?”
“As-needed. The clientele can use it for private parties or joy rides as well. You will be coordinating all of that. The guest restrooms are down there.” Annamae pointed to another curved wall on the opposite side of the lobby.
“How do employees book trips to the islands?”
Annamae laughed, “Oh you!” And hurried to catch the elevator when it opened.
Kumai followed in silence.
“Let’s check out the industrial landing,” She pressed the button for the twentieth floor, or the first if you were normal. Annamae grinned at Kumai like she had another secret.
“What?” Kumai asked.
They exited the elevator onto a small landing. Instead of the elevator tube continuing to the bottom of the floor, they descended a metal ladder that spiraled below the bottom of the elevator. Expanded metal served as a floor.
The large area was sectioned into rectangles, all open and visible from the landing. Annamae entered a section filled with dive equipment and made her ta-da gesture to Kumai.
“How?” Kumai asked. “People dive from down here?”
“Yup.” Annamae bustled to a round hatch cover, “They pressurize this chamber, open it down to the ocean, and you’re out in open water.”
“Cool.” Kumai had to admit. This set-up provided simpler access to deep water. “Decompression?”
“All of it. PADI calibrated.”
“Who can dive?”
“Anyone certified. We’re too deep for novices. I just knew you’d love this!”
Kumai loved the opportunity to have deep water access. “Pretty fancy. What else is down here?”
“Most of it I don’t really understand. But you might be interested in the fishing arena. Follow me.” They walked back through to the center and took a ladderwell down several levels.
Annamae punched a code on a door that sealed this section from the next and it opened with a hiss of air.
“Do all of the bulkheads seal?”
“Oh my god! You ask all the right questions! Everyone asks that too. Check out this view of sea life…”
“Well?” Kumai walked to the wall of curved windows in the chamber.
“I don’t know.”
Kumai noticed the yellow tangs swimming by first, catching the light like autumn leaves above and more muted down at her level. Then a large wrasse passed by. An octopus worked its way across the glass wall. She wondered if it was the one from her window last night. Small silver fish shimmered by as if pursued, then changed course and turned dark grey, almost disappearing in plain sight. They shifted again and moved like a cloud.
“What’s below us?” Kumai asked.
“I really need to get someone who knows things to tell you about this place, huh?” Annamae grimaced. “I’ve got the get the new arrivals settled. Let’s get back to work, shall we? All I know about down there is a fishing area.”
“Yeah, they have a way to spear fish from the bottom of the resort. It’s automated.” Annamae shuddered.
Annamae pointed in the direction of the staircase to the elevator. “Oh, just stories.”