Jimmy pulled the Corvair Monza Spyder up to the curb, parking parallel, right in front of the steps that led into the Lewis of Hollywood hairstyling salon where Darren’s mom worked. Jimmy jumped out of the car without opening the door, one of his signature moves that Darren hated because the only time he’d tried the move he’d spent four days healing the big muscle in his upper right thigh. Darren breathed in and out deeply before opening the door and getting out.
Kalakaua traffic was high with the cars passing by slowly all doing the same thing; trying to get a glimpse of the rock and roll king himself who might be entering or leaving the Moana Hotel.
“Like we’re going to get in there this time,” Darren whispered to himself, as Jimmy’s enthusiasm was simply too over the top to attempt to deal with.
“Fame is just a few feet away,” Jimmy laughed, doing some sort of two-step dance as he waited patiently for Darren to slowly move toward the main entrance of the hotel behind him.
The lobby was disconcertingly empty, totally unlike the day before when it had been a hotbed of activity. The big screens blocking all views of the back patio and the beach were gone, and people walked about under and around the giant banyan tree that was the sole overwhelming and single massive piece of flora in the very center of the bar area. Darren looked up at it with some hope. Maybe Elvis was gone and life could return to normal. The glint of the brass plaque cut into the side of the great tree trunk sparkled back at him, as if to tell him that everything was going to be alright. The plaque he’d read many times over. It was a solid chunk of thick brass with letters carved deeply into it. The letters informed any reader that Robert Louis Stevenson had spent his days writing the book Treasure Island under it. There was no date on the brass plate but it was all grown over and so deeply embedded in the tree’s thick bark that the fact that Stevenson had lived so long ago made the data carved into almost believable.
Jimmy had just laughed when Darren had proudly pointed the plaque out to him more than a year before.
“Stevenson wrote that book in 1882 and the Moana wasn’t even built until 1901, so how can that be?” he’d said, rubbing his chin with one hand while staring at the brass plate and trying to look like he was serious.
“Oh,” was all Darren had managed to say in reply. Jimmy knew things regular kids had no idea about. Darren wanted to point out that Stevenson still could have written the book under the banyan tree because the tree itself had to be at least hundreds of years old, but he’d chosen to say nothing.
“Don’t even think it,” Jimmy had gone on, as if Darren had added what he was thinking. “The tree was planted in 1904. My dad has a book about the hotel at home. I’ll let you borrow it, but it can’t leave the house.
Darren moved past the tree, giving one last wistful look at the authentic-looking plate. He’d liked it better when he’d believed that Stevenson had been there and written the book, as the bogus plate indicated.
A small group of people stood down by the low stone wall that separated the veranda and flat serving area from the sandy beach. An elegant tall man of some age stood in the middle of them.
“It’s the Duke,” Jimmy whispered, as they walked in that direction, his expressive behavior diminishing the closer they got to the group. The Duke was looking toward Diamond Head and the others with him followed suit, to the point where they didn’t notice two young men approaching.
“Hi,” Darren said, suddenly getting the attention of everyone there. Nobody replied; all, including the Duke, simply turning their heads to stare.
“Where’s Elvis?” Jimmy asked.
Darren could have kicked him. The question was too direct and way out of place. The look on everyone’s face changed into the same expression. Darren knew that just asking the question made them look like every other rubber-necking bunch of tourists in search of getting an autograph, or more.
“You’re the kids who broke my board,” the Duke blurted out, although his voice was as soft as his verbal delivery, and seemed to hold no tone of accusation.
“Yes, sir,” Jimmy replied before Darren could say anything. “That’s us, and we’re here to find Judy Levy and her sister so she can get us back in front of Elvis Presley. We’ve got something for him.”
Darren cringed. All they needed was to find out where Elvis had gone. It seemed obvious that the movie was likely still being filmed and that there was some other place that filming was taking place.
“They’re filming at the Natatorium up the beach,” the Duke replied, glancing toward Diamond Head with a nod when he said the words.
Darren knew the Natatorium well, and the Duke’s involvement with it.
Darren swam there every chance he got if he could find anybody at the club or from school to go with him. Swimming in the huge salt-water swimming pool was great fun but very intimidating to do alone as the open ocean swept in under everyone’s body as they swam, and then swept back out. The Duke, a gold medalist in previous Olympics, had dived into open the vast swimming pool for the opening ceremony in 1927 and then practiced there with Johnny Weissmuller until his swimming career was over.
“What do you have for Elvis that seems so pressing?” The Duke asked, before going on, “something broken and glued back together?”
Nobody in his small group laughed. Only Jimmy did.
“Come on, we’ll show you if you want,” Jimmy said, turning to head back to the Corvair, “it’s an artifact from Pearl Harbor that is going to blow him away.”
“I’ll be right back,” the Duke said to his group in his soft but very penetrating voice. “I have to see whatever these two have come up with.”
Darren followed Jimmy, who surged toward the hotel lobby. The Duke came along behind him at a leisurely pace. Darren was surprised at the man’s attire. The great swimmer and surfer wore white trousers, a white shirt and a white sport-jacket over that. Almost nobody in the islands wore such clothing unless they were attorneys, politicians or military in civilian attire.
By the time Darren caught up with Jimmy he was opening the hood of the Spyder and peering down inside. Darren rushed to his side, hoping to stop Jimmy from pulling the Bofors rounds out in front of the whole world.
Jimmy didn’t do that though. He remained where he was, waiting, and not commenting until the Duke moved close, stepped down from the curb, and leaned over at his side.
“Know what those are?” Jimmy asked proudly, a great smile on his face.
“I was the Sheriff of Hawaii until last year,” the Duke said, leaning his thin frame over the lip of the trunk and staring down.
A shiver went through Darren’s body on hearing the ominous words, but he said nothing, waiting for Jimmy to do whatever Jimmy was going to do.
“Yes, that’s nice,” Jimmy replied, looking at the side of the Duke’s face from only inches away.
A moment went by before the Duke stood straight and backed a few inches from the rear bumper of the car.
“As sheriff, I would have had to arrest you for possessing this stuff but I don’t have to do that since I don’t have that job anymore,” the Duke said.
“Oh,” was all Jimmy could manage to say in reply.
“Ah, what can we do?” Darren added, sensing trouble, before moving closer, slowly working his body between that of Jimmy and the Duke.
“You can get rid of these as quickly as you can,” the Duke said, pointing toward Diamond Head. “The ocean, deep or someplace like that. Is that ammunition live?”
“Not anymore,” Jimmy responded, from behind Darren’s back. “I took all the powder out. We’re going to make a rocket from that stuff.”
The Duke shook his aging head slowly back and forth. “No, I meant the warheads. Each one has a couple of ounces of high explosive at the tip.”
“Oh gee,” Jimmy replied. “I didn’t think of that.”
“No, I can see that that kind of thing might be a problem for you,” the Duke said. “Well, you’ve gotten this far with them, and handled the hell out of them it would appear. You’ve been lucky. Very gently drop these into the sea or someplace with deep water where they’ll never be found.”
“We can’t give them to Elvis?” Jimmy asked, his voice crestfallen in tone.
Darren looked over his shoulder at his friend. Until the Duke had begun speaking Darren hadn’t thought for a minute about the danger the live rounds might present or the now apparent fact that even possessing the things might be highly illegal.
“Forget Elvis,” Darren hissed. “Forget Judy. Forget all of that. We’ve got to get rid of these.
Thanks Duke…again,” Darren said, turning back to the Duke, “is there anything we can do for you?”
“They tell me you work at that club on Fort Ruger, where that special chef runs the place,” the Duke replied.
Darren was dumbfounded. The Duke knew where he worked and Wu, the awful chef, was famous in some way?
“Ah, yes,” was all he could say.
“Maybe you could get my party, and maybe Mr. Presley, in there for dinner since it’s military and we’re not,” the Duke said, his eyes moving back toward Diamond Head, as if the club was somehow visible from where they were on the street. “The view is the best on this island, for that sort of thing, and dinner on the beach has its disadvantages, what with Mr. Presley’s popularity.”
Darren was shocked. The Duke sounded almost like he resented the fame Elvis had.
“I’ll talk to Sergeant Cross, but I don’t know,” Darren replied, his mind churning away. There would be no hiding Elvis Presley, and why wouldn’t the Duke, if they wanted such a thing simply go way up the Air Force chain of command to make the request?
The Duke didn’t reply, the same small smile appearing on his face that had been there when he’d signed the broken surfboard before. He turned and walked back into the hotel, not looking back as they watched him go.
“What do you make of that?” Jimmy gasped out, slamming the hood down.
“I think we just got very lucky, is what I think of that,” Darren replied.
“What do we do with these?” Jimmy said. “The tips are explosive. Who would have thought?”
Darren wondered just what handling Jimmy had put the rounds through as he’d scraped them clean and then polished them for hours. The Duke’s comment about luck had been a vast understatement.
“Where?” Darren asked, moving toward the steps leading up to Lewis of Hollywood before turning and taking a seat on the third one. Jimmy sat down beside him, his physical expressiveness a thing of the recent past.
“Where?” Jimmy repeated.
“Where, indeed?” Darren asked. “We’re a long way from dead about seeing Elvis again. Neither Judy, nor her sister, can get Elvis and the Duke into the Cannon Club for dinner, but I bet I can.”
“You mean my dad and your dad might be able to, but not you,” Jimmy said. “You’re just a busboy, or whatever you are there, and Sergeant Cross is just a sergeant, and Wu is just a civilian chef working on a military base.”
“We’ll see,” Darren replied, beginning to work out a plan that might even surprise someone as smart as Jimmy.
“We got nothing now,” Jimmy sniffed. “We’ll never get to see Elvis again and nobody’s going to believe we saw him in the first place.” Upon saying the words he pulled a small tape recorder, a little bigger than his hand, from his back pocket.
Darren had never seen a tape recorder that small. “Where did you get that?” he asked Jimmy, in surprise,” and what were you going to do with it?”
“It’s a mini-recorder, just invented,” Jimmy replied, playing with the buttons on the machines side. “My dad has it on loan from the Army. He said that someday everyone would have one.”
“What would anybody do with one?” Darren asked.
“What would anybody do with one?” came back at him in his own voice.
“That,” Jimmy replied, putting the machine into his pocket again.
“You were going to record Elvis without his knowing it?” Darren said, in shock. “Are you crazy? You can’t record an entertainer without his permission.”
Doesn’t matter now,” Jimmy replied, wistfully. “What do we do with the Bofors stuff?”
An idea came into Jimmy’s head that would incorporate the disposal of the Bofors rounds, using the debt Wu thought he owed, the relationship Sergeant Cross had tried to build with him, Elvis Presley, the Duke and both their parents. Only hours earlier he had been on the bottom of a depressive pit looking down but now he rose up to his feet, energy suffusing every cell in his body.
“This is going to work,” he said as if speaking out to the passing traffic on Kalakaua.
“What will work?” Jimmy asked, rising behind him
“Life,” Darren replied. “Maybe we get to live.”