THE DUKE

Part XXV

 

Sergeant Cross looked up at both he and Jimmy, but made no comment about why the other boy was there.  He simply waited, his tiny office filled by the three of them, two smallish chairs and the desk the sergeant sat behind.  There was no room for him to lean back, so he simply sat straight and waited.

Darren gushed forth the new plan, again alluding to the fact that he was in direct contact with the general at Hickam.  When he was done, he looked quickly over at Jimmy, but his friend neither looked back at him or made any comment.

“That explains this,” Sergeant Cross said, holding out a simple eight and a half by eleven sheet of white typing paper.

Darren took the extended sheet, turned it and then read what it said, before falling into an even deeper silence than the one he’d planned he would have to apply to await the sergeant’s response.

“Four hundred and forty dollars,” came out of the silence, when neither Sergeant Cross nor Jimmy made any move to add anything orally to the exchange.

“Apparently, you have the kind of power no high school kid should have, no offense,” the sergeant said.

The ‘no offense’ comment completely threw Darren.  The sergeant was trying not to offend him.  For some reason that short comment created fear and not satisfaction inside him.

His mind raced at what else the letter said.  It was quite simple and clear. If the dinner, or party, with Elvis went down then he, Darren, would receive a bonus from the Air Force in the amount of Four Hundred and Forty dollars.  That amount was almost exactly half what the tuition to St. Norbert’s was for the entire freshman year he was about to enter into.  It was more money than he’d earned, net, all summer by working for the club almost non-stop.  That amount would secure his first year of tuition, room and board and books.  He could get a job at the college to begin saving for his second year. Suddenly there was light at the end of his tunnel of depression.

He handed the paper back to the sergeant without further comment.

Jimmy looked at him, but Darren wasn’t about to comment about anything the letter had said, not until they were alone.

The party had to happen.  There was now no choice, Darren decided.  How could any of the impossible details be brought together to make that happen.  How had his college future become intertwined by the comings and goings of a nationally famed superstar of music?

“I presume you will have a report for me soon, about all this,” the sergeant said, calmly, while taking the communication from Darren’s hand and placing it carefully, facedown upon his desk.

Darren could tell that Jimmy was almost beside himself, fidgeting and trying not to look into Darren’s eyes.

“Yes, sergeant, that will certainly be the case,” Darren replied to Cross.  “I’ll get the work done now to ready the club for serving dinner,” he continued, not knowing what else to say.

“Oh, you can leave that to the other wait staff,” Cross said.  “Go do what you need to do to make all this happen.  I presume that this person,” Cross nodded up and over at Jimmy, “is your confidant and assistant.  I suppose you’ll want him here on that night, which is fine with me.  Give him any title you want.  Just make all this happen.”

Darren backed out of the room, getting stuck in the door as Jimmy did the same thing.  Finally, both of them turned toward one another and sort of bolted and ran down the narrow hall to where the door to the outside stood gaping open.  Once outside, the closed door, Darren raced to the parking lot and then sat down heavily on one of the concrete parking slabs, set down to make sure cars didn’t slam into the side of the club when they parked.

Jimmy sat down beside him.

“Okay, that was something,’ Jimmy said.  “What did it say?”

Darren told him.

“Who was the letter from and what authority was listed for the payment?” Jimmy asked.

Darren looked at his friend for a few seconds before replying.

“I don’t know,” he finally said, his tone sheepish.  “I didn't bother to read that part.  Four hundred dollars,” he breathed out.

“Four hundred and forty dollars,” Jimmy corrected.  That’s one fifth of the total my dad paid for the Monza, and one fourth of what your dad had to pay for the 57 Ford.”

“Why does it matter about who the letter was from?” Darren asked.

“To make sure that Cross isn’t playing a game of his own here,” Jimmy quickly responded.  “He’s only a sergeant but he’s one clever individual and he’s trying to survive this Elvis thing, the way he probably sees it.  He’ll likely pull whatever trick he can to make sure he doesn’t lose his place in the military over this.  We need Star Black.”

“What?” Darren almost yelled.

“Star Black,” Jimmy replied, his voice silk and smooth, like the pronunciation of the girl’s name was something magical and special.

“We need her because this is a man thing and she’s really good at working through the man stuff,” Jimmy said. “Whether we like it or not or are afraid to do, we have to reach the general.  Only he will have the kind of power we need to get through to Elvis or convince his entourage that it’s in his interest to attend the party.”

“I can’t figure out anything that could influence Elvis,” Darren replied, shaking his head.

“How about permission to fly out of the air field?” Jimmy said, his voice soft, like he was just coming up with a concrete idea about what it might take. “All aircraft entering or departing Honolulu Airport require Hickam permission.  Ever since the war.”

“Oh great,” Darren gasped out.  “We’re going to deny, or try to get the commanding general to deny, Elvis Presley leaving Hawaii.  Now what part of crazy is not apparent to you in that statement?”

“I didn’t say exactly that, and that’s why we need Star Black,” Jimmy shot back, getting up and heading for the Corvair.  “She understands stuff like this.”

“She doesn’t care about stuff like this,” Darren yelled after him, but grudgingly getting up himself to race to the Spyder before Jimmy blasted off.

Jimmy drove straight to the quarters that Star and her family occupied.  Darren thought about the young woman while Jimmy careened the convertible along the narrow roads of the base.  They knew nothing about Star’s family.  She never spoke about anyone else in her household, ever.  Her strangeness extended into every facet of their distant relationship with her.

Jimmy turned the key, the Corvair’s motor died, and he jumped out.

Star was not home, the woman both boys presumed to be her mother told Jimmy.

They sat in the car for a few minutes, not talking, until Jimmy broke the silence.

“Where would she be?” he asked, more to himself than to Darren.

“Where’s she always?” Darren asked back.

“The club, we just left the club,” Jimmy said, a great smile crossing his face.

“She’s always at the pool, when she’s not out climbing with us,” Jimmy followed up, twisting the key in the Spyder’s ignition and bringing the car’s turbo-powered engine to life.

They headed back to the club, neither having thought to check to see if she was there before they’d left earlier.

Once more, Jimmy approached the club, but instead of parking distant from the back entrance, he slipped the Corvair into the slot reserved, but almost never occupied, for a general officer.

“Are you crazy?” Darren asked his friend, as the engine died once again.

“You’re a big deal now, or at least until Elvis doesn’t show up for the party,” Jimmy laughed, leaping from the car and heading around the side of the club to get directly to the pool area.

Filled, once again with a good measure of fear and trepidation, Darren followed Jimmy around the front side of the club until they arrived at the pool area.  Star was there, laying back on a chaise lounge, this time wearing a pure white one-piece bathing suit, making Darren wonder just how many she had.

“Well, well, well, it’s the two climbers, just down from their assault on Everest,” she said, as if she’d been preparing the line while awaiting their arrival.

“We’ve got a problem,” Jimmy said, looking over at Darren when he spoke.

Darren remained silent, getting the message that Jimmy was sending him.

“We have to put on the party and Elvis has to come,” Jimmy said, avoiding all the blabbing Darren would have done to explain everything that had happened.

“Hmmm,” Star said, not looking at either of the boys, instead peering intently down into the clear unruffled pool water.

“Motivational change somewhere in there, I suppose,” Starr replied.

“The Air Force is giving Darren a big bonus in cash if the party goes on as planned,” Jimmy explained.

“I doubt if the Air Force has much to do with that, if its true, but no matter,” Starr said.  “There’s only one way you might get to Elvis himself, cause there’s no way the Colonel is going to either let you talk to him or want him involved at all.”

“The Duke?” Darren offered.

“The Duke’s only a big deal out here,” Starr replied.  “Back on the Mainland he’s nobody.  Aging Olympic Stars and surfers get no notice at all.’

“Judy,” Jimmy said, shaking his head after saying her name.

“That’s close,” Starr replied.  “Actually, it’s Judy’s mom.  Mrs. Levy is beautiful in her own right and I have it on good authority that Elvis really likes her.  She’s got to invite him back.  She’s also dependable and smart, unlike Judy’s sister.  “Only you guys breaking in on another home visit will have any chance at all.  Elvis does things all the time that the Colonel doesn’t want him to do, and this might fit that bill.”

Darren sat down on the concrete edge of the pool, a great sigh coming out of him.  Starr automatically repositioned her chaise lounge in order to place Darren at her feet, like up on the mountain. Darren wondered, absently, whether she did things like that on purpose or simply out of habit.  Somehow, no matter what, his school picture was going to end up on Judy’s mirror and he was going to visit that bedroom at least one more time.

“Okay, that’s a great plan,” Jimmy concluded, taking a place next to Darren at the pool’s edge.  “All you have to do,” he said to his friend in an excited tone, “is have a short talk with Judy to set up a meeting with her mom.”

“I don’t have to talk to Judy to talk to her mother,” Darren said, his voice low and depressive.  “She thinks I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to Judy, but I’m not sure she’ll have enough power to reach Elvis, although her daughter might be willing to help there.”

“You know, before the summer’s over, you’re going to have to deal with the Judy thing,” Starr said.

“What Judy thing?” Darren replied, turning to face Starr.

“Unrequited love, wounded hearts, damaged egos and latent unsatisfied sexual undertones,” Starr said.

“Oh my God,” Jimmy gushed out.  “How do you do that?  You just hit it right on the head.  I couldn’t put all that together if I tried, especially the under table sex stuff.”

“Undertones,” Darren corrected, but his voice so low it was hard to understand what he said.

“Think Mrs. Levy is home?”  Jimmy asked.

“She doesn’t work, her husband’s a colonel, so they have enough money and those great quarters,” Starr said.

“Let’s go,” Jimmy said to Darren, jumping up and taking the Corvair keys out of his pocket.

Darren got up more slowly, knowing there was no other way and that he had no other choices if he wanted to have a real shot at getting the bonus money.

The ride to the Levy home was short and quick, although Jimmy pulled up to the curb near the front door more slowly than he usually did.

Darren got out of the car and walked right into the house without knocking, as he normally did.  He’d asked Jimmy to wait in the car, as he wanted to plead with the older woman alone after checking to make sure nobody else was in the house.

“Darren,” Mrs. Levy said, from down the hall and around a corner that led into the kitchen.

Darren walked slowly to the end of the hall, turned and looked at Mrs. Levy.  He stopped suddenly.  The older, but very attractive woman, was wearing a white slip, which was transparent enough to vaguely show here bra and panties underneath.

“Ah,” was all he could get out, wishing he’d had Jimmy come in with him. Mrs. Levy had a very expressive personality but he’d never seen her wear anything like what she had on.

“Sit down,” Mrs. Levy instructed, her back to him while she worked doing something over the stove.

“I’m making some tomato and cheese sandwiches,” Mrs. Levy said. “Is there something you want?”

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