Their morning started with a room service breakfast out on the long lanai. Susan ordered for Kumai while she showered in preparation for their morning shopping. She uncovered a plate of coconut French toast with mango chunks. Susan breakfasted on papaya filled with yogurt and granola. Kumai poured one last cup of coffee in hopes of delaying the start to the day, but only a half cup remained in the carafe.
“We can get you a cup at Kai Coffee. They got good reviews on Yelp.” Susan offered.
“I’m fine,” Kumai sighed. “We might as well get to it. Where first?”
“Luggage. Then shoes. Unless you want to find outfits first. That probably makes more sense.”
“By all means, make our shopping logical.” Kumai quipped.
“You’re going to love the Pikake Boutique.”
“Love the name.” Kumai growled.
“Oh come on, this could be really fun if you’d let it.”
“Fine, take me where you want to go.” Kumai had managed to skip much of the shopping in France simply by remaining out at the farm. But now they were in a city and there was no escaping Susan’s mission to outfit her.
By the time they headed to lunch, Kumai’s feet were aching and she felt nothing but thirst. The champagne at the last boutique only made her more thirsty, and cranky. “Where are we meeting Water Boy?”
Susan laughed. “He reserved a private dining room at the Mariposa.”
“Nordstrom’s? The man can’t eat at a restaurant, he has to choose a store diner?”
“A diner? Really? You seriously hate this guy.”
“For good reason, remember. And yeah, it’s the old lunch counter turned restaurant.”
“Have you eaten at this place? Their food is amazing. And they bring fresh popovers throughout the meal.”
“What’s a popover again?”
“A brioche sort of roll.”
“Ah, that.” Kumai pointed to the restroom. “I’ll find you.”
“Don’t you dare run off on me.” Susan warned.
“I wouldn’t.” Kumai smiled. “Which direction to the diner?”
Susan laughed, “Third floor, makai side of the store.”
Kumai took her time in the restroom. She guzzled water at the drinking fountain and then browsed the housewares department just outside of the restaurant. They had a snack counter where she bought a bottle of water and some small bites to eat.
Skip Summerbourne had invited Kumai to a luncheon before, on his yacht when it was moored in Kailua Bay in Kona. That time, he kept her waiting and in the meantime, his staff had attempted to kill her with poisoned marshmallows. Now Susan was saying the staff acted on their own. The fact that the man was not in jail might be evidence of his innocence. But not necessarily, with his kind of money.
Pretending to shop Villeroy & Boch platters, she turned one over and looked at the price. She almost dropped it in horror. Then she started laughing a little hysterically. Behind all the displays, an alcove beckoned. Kumai ducked in there to regain her composure. It was a hall for elevators. She pulled a bandana from her pack and daubed at her eyes.
On the wall opposite the doors was an eight-foot tapa cloth on display. It would be worth a fortune. It appeared to be very old. The work was better than any in a museum. Kumai studied the ink motifs and the barkcloth surface, thinking about the work involved. She wondered if any of the messages here talked about the afterlife or death. Something her Tutu once said came back to her, a comment about the soul escaping from tear ducts.
Her phone buzzed.
She answered Susan’s demanding text with, “I got caught up shopping housewares. Almost there.”
As Kumai followed the hostess into the private dining room, Susan said, “Shopping.”
“You know how it is.” Kumai shrugged.
Susan chuckled. “Your seat is across from me. Find anything interesting?”
“In fact, I did.” Kumai said with enthusiasm.
“Ms. Kaimana.” Skip stood and moved to hold her chair. “Allow me.”
“I don’t think so. Thanks.” Kumai remained standing until he sat back down.
“I wish that I could somehow assure you that it was not I who treated you so poorly on my vessel.” He flapped his napkin and returned it to his lap.
Kumai sat down. “You can start by having a taster for our food here.”
“Kumai!” Susan laughed.
“Very well.” Skip smiled to a server who left the dining room.
“Have you eaten anything yet?” Kumai asked Susan.
“We were waiting for you.”
“So, what did I miss?” Kumai said cheerily.
“Skip was just telling me about water rights on the Big Island. Quite convoluted, actually.”
“Imminently.” Skip answered.
Susan smiled, “Informative. But now, onto what you found in Nordstrom’s housewares…”
“Oh!” Kumai sat up straighter, “There is a tapa cloth in an alcove behind the displays, in the elevator lobby there. It is unbelievably beautiful.”
“Is it for sale?” Skip asked.
“No, I’m sure not. It’s museum quality.” Kumai sighed. “There is something rich about the work. It makes me think it is full of meaning. I’d love to know what the motifs and symbols on it mean. I’m feeling far removed from my roots.”
“It’s a modern problem.” Susan agreed.
Skip sat in silence while two servers sat down, one beside Kumai and one beside Susan. Hot popovers were served all around. The seated workers cut theirs in half and ate.
“They’re going to be cold by the time we get to have some.” Susan complained.
“Better the popovers than us.” Kumai smiled. “Good?” She asked the blanching server, who nodded affirmatively.
“It was a slow poison that your staff used on me, Mr. Summerbourne. Did you ever learn what it was?”
“I was kept out of the investigation, as I was a suspect.”
“Oh, of course.” Kumai pulled out some of the snacks she had bought at the counter. “Maybe we’ll just nibble on these while the servers have time to process the popovers.”
The waitress beside Kumai coughed into her napkin. Kumai was pretty sure a bite of popover could be found there.
“Kumai…” Susan started.
“It’s not worth the risk.” Kumai said curtly to Susan. “I’m sorry to seem so rude, Mr. Summerbourne, but you may understand my reluctance to join you for another meal. Ever.”
“It was my mistake, Ms. Kaimana. Of course, I should have thought not to attempt a meal together so soon after those events.”
“Perhaps in time…”
“I seem to have lost my appetite as well.” He said. “Would you ladies care to join me for a walk instead?”
Susan glowered at Kumai, who handed her friend a package of wasabi peanuts and said, “Sounds good. I hear that the Ala Moana beach park is beautiful.”
Both Susan and Skip grimaced. They clearly did not wish to walk the park which housed so many people living without homes. And neither one of them wanted to say it.
“I was thinking a drive to North Shore, then a walk through Haleiwa.” Skip suggested.
“Mr. Summerbourne,” Kumai said quietly, “If I am not going to eat with you, I most certainly am not going to get into a vehicle with you.”
“Right. Right you are.” He frowned. “I’m so sorry. Perhaps we need to cancel for today.”
“Oh no.” Susan scowled at Kumai. “We can follow your car in one of our own.”
“Perfect!” Kumai smiled. Going for a drive would nicely cut into shopping time.
When they had agreed on where to meet and when, Skip excused himself and left. Kumai and Susan stood to exit the restaurant.
“Those popovers looked amazing. And the smell…” Kumai said.
“You were horrid to him.” Susan said.
“No, Susan. He was horrid to me. He tried to have me killed.”
“Well, he says it was his staff.”
“Either way, you think I should let him have another go? Ultimately he is responsible for what happened. It was his vessel, his captain, his staff. He’s not acknowledging any of that. For us to give him another chance, well, the cost is too great.”
“I suppose we ought to eat here before we go driving anywhere,” Kumai said. “Let’s see if they have a table available out on their lanai.”
Susan burst out laughing. “I have to admit that I’m more upset about missing out on popovers than about how you treated Skip.”