THE DUKE

Part XXXV

In the short time that it took for the Duke to isolate and pull Star aside, and Judy and her sister were treated like they didn’t exist on the planet, Darren considered what had happened, and what had almost happened.  His mind ran at light speed, going back and forth from the short visit Star had with the Colonel and what was occurring on the set of "Girls, Girls, Girls".  The insidious intellect of the Colonel became totally obvious in those seconds.  Elvis would not want to be bothered while working on the set, his mind on his lines, and taking directions about what to do and how to do it from almost everyone.  Star’s proposition would not have been heard much less acted upon, and the Colonel had to know that.  He himself hardly ever appeared at the Moana or on the set, Darren was certain.  He had no place there, just like they had no place here, other than to gawk and be supporting fans.  Without Mrs. Levy they’d have walked right into the trap the Colonel had set and that would have been it.  As it was, he realized, they were back to the hundred-thousand-dollar problem.  Just as the Colonel had coldly jettisoned Star from the Bentley on Kalakaua and plotted the movie set trap, so he would have a backup plan just in case Elvis really did attend Mrs. Levy’s dinner.

“We’re in trouble,” Darren whispered to Jimmy.

“Yeah, this isn’t working at all, and I don’t much care for being on the set either,” Jimmy replied, craning his neck around to take in the whole surreal scene in front and around them.

“No, about the dinner tomorrow night,” Darren said.

“What do you mean?” Jimmy asked.

“I mean that Star blabbed our whole plan to the Colonel,” Darren replied, speaking low and fast.  “If the hundred-thousand-dollar comment he supposedly made is real, then there’s no way he’s going to let us pull off getting Elvis to agree to the party at the club.  Look how clever he was in leading us into this snake pit trap, and Star’s no dummy.”

Darren looked out past the security guard when the canvas was pulled back to let someone else in.  He spotted Mrs. Levy, standing very still, staring back at him through the small crack that opened and closed very quickly.  Her eyes, in those few seconds, bored right into him.  Star was smart, Darren realized, but Mrs. Levy was smart and had a lot of life experience, as well.  He needed her advice on how to proceed, and he was coming to believe more and more, that she already knew.  She waited outside the set and Darren understood. She was waiting to see if he’d gotten the message she was trying to convey and stopped the potential disaster from happening.

Darren walked back toward the canvas slit, pulled it open, and went through.  Mrs. Levy still stood, leaning her left shoulder against the ‘Treasure Island’ banyan tree, waiting.

“Okay, you were right,” Darren said when he was close enough for her to hear.

“Anybody talk to him?  Mrs. Levy asked.

“If you mean Star, then no,” Darren replied.  “The Duke stepped in and pulled her away.”

“I’m afraid of what the Colonel will do next,” I said, getting as close to her as I felt safe.  The woman was very attractive, and Darren had become fully aware that a lot of her attractiveness wasn’t physical.  She was brilliant like Jimmy and Star were brilliant, but in a different and deeper way.

“He’s a good one to fear, but I think we’re looking pretty good at this point,” she said.  “It’s about fifty-fifty that Elvis will show for dinner tomorrow.  Then, it’s about fifty-fifty, if he shows, that he’ll accept the invitation to the big party at the club.  After that, I can’t figure the odds on whether he’ll show up for the party, even if he promises to appear.

Darren told her about the $100,000 comment the Colonel had made to Star inside the Bentley.

“A hundred thousand to these people is peanuts,” Mrs. Levy laughed.  “No, it wouldn’t be about that kind of money.  It’s all about control, which is where the really big money is.”

Darren thought about what the woman was saying, and couldn’t help but agree.

“It’s only fifty-fifty that he’ll come tomorrow night?” he asked, finally occurring to him that those were not the best of odds.

“As you said, the Colonel is a very capable player and he’s going to do what he can to make sure that the hand he’s dealt himself in this game is well and fully played.  If Elvis doesn’t come then it will be because the Colonel was able to steer him clear, and part of that’s because Star Black has no clue about what she’s dealing with here and you shouldn’t be listening to her.”

“What time should Jimmy and I come by,” Darren asked, purposely leaving out Star, and knowing that there might be problems over that omission.

Star had said that ‘we’ would be attending the dinner, or at least breaking in on it, and keeping her from attending might be problematic, to say the least, which, with Jimmy’s infatuation with her would likely add fuel to the fire.  In his heart of hearts, however, Darren knew that Mrs. Levy was right.

Darren made a promise he would contact Mrs. Levy the next day, well prior to the dinner, although he was fast coming to the belief that there was no place for him, Jimmy, or Star, for that matter, at that dinner.  Mrs. Levy was going to make the Cannon Club Party happen or not on her end.  The only real concern was in adding more of a group adulation thing to the event at her home, so Elvis would be totally comfortable.  The only time Darren had met the man, however, he’d seemed a long way from really wanting that kind of thing.  He’d seemed most happy just to be in a rather normal environment with normal people.

With Jimmy’s car parked where it was, right in front of Lewis of Hollywood, Darren couldn’t exactly hang out waiting for Jimmy and Star.  In no time his mom would be notified, no doubt, that he was out there ‘loitering,’ if he was seen.  Instead of doing that sat in one of chairs up on the slim lanai that jutted out on both sides of the Moana’s main entrance.  The koa rocking chairs were very comfortable and there was nobody else around, as it was too early for the tourists to begin packing the lobby and everything nearby.

He sat for half an hour before Jimmy and Star finally showed up.

Darren waited for a few minutes, watching them stand near the Corvair looking for him.  They were very comfortable with one another, which surprised him.  Obviously, there was more to their relationship than simple coy flirting and verbal carrying on.  Darren walked down to meet them.

“Did the Duke wave you off too?” Star asked, as soon as he got within earshot.

“Yes, in a way, except it was Mrs. Levy, really,” Darren replied, climbing over the convertible’s door edge and into the backseat of the car.

“The set was a mess,” Star replied, opening the door to get in.  “The Duke was right.”

“Seems like this is a whole lot more complicated than we thought,” Darren offered, and then waited.

“Yeah, no question about that,” Star said.  “I was wrong.  We’re totally out of our element here.  Should I not go to the dinner and just let you two carry the ball?”

The question took Darren by surprise.  His opinion of Star was one of arrogance and competent selfishness.  The competent part seemed to be taking over, he surmised.  Maybe there was more to Star than he’d previously thought.  It was obvious that she wanted to be at the dinner operation but was willing to forego attending if it interfered with the mission.  That spoke of intellect and having a heart.

“No,” Darren replied, almost involuntarily.  Star was as beautiful as Judy or her sister, if not more so, and that alone could not possibly hurt when it came to surrounding Elvis with glowing followers, and thereby hoping to make him more agreeable and comfortable.  It was apparent from the Colonel’s last move that he either could not, or would not, order Elvis, not when it came to his star attending personal events.  Darren didn’t know what the Colonel’s next trick would be, but he was certain there would be one.

Jimmy dropped Darren off at home after an unusually silent ride, so he could get ready for work; work that Darren hoped would be like it had been before, without special treatment, either positive or negative.

With one month to go before he went off to St. Norbert it was still vital that he pick up two more paychecks, his share of the tips, and hopefully, the bonus Cross had promised.  It was hard to believe that the Elvis party was more than a week ahead of him, although that could change abruptly at Mrs. Levy’s dinner.  If Elvis didn’t show for that then there would likely be no party.  If he showed and said no, then there’d be no party.  The chance of the party occurring at all, except for the attendance of all those notables invited, was fast becoming a choice between slim and none.

For some reason work that night was not only a relief, but was like the Elvis party had been forgotten, even though it was tentatively scheduled for a week and a day from the following night.  Saturday was the busiest time for the club, except for early morning Sunday breakfast.  It would be difficult to allow for a private party of the size that was necessary to serve Elvis, his retinue of currently unknown size, and then the admirals and other higher officers who would have the proper amount of pull to secure entry.

The waitresses were treating him well, Sergeant Cross was nowhere to be found, Wu was deep into his cooking, and the pot washer had showed up.  Darren could have worked at anything he wanted, but the simplicity and service of being nothing more or less than a busboy, carrying trays of food one way and dirty dishes the other, suited him just fine.

But that all changed when the Duke came through the front door of the club.  His military escort was the Rear Admiral of Pearl Harbor along with an Air Force General in full uniform.  He caught a glimpse of them coming through the club’s big double doors, and swallowed hard, before trying to disappear into the kitchen.  He didn’t get far, as the hostess found him in no time at all.  Josephine was from the Philippines and tough as nails.

“You are now waiter,” she said, her voice low and hard, “so you will take care of your friends, who have come in here to sew discord among the patrons and staff of this wonderful establishment.”  Her English, since she’d also been through the Maryknoll Academy, was local but nearly flawless in its meaning.

Darren went into the locker area and pulled out his formal red coat with gold buttons that made him look like he was in some really old Bogart movie hawking Pall Mall cigarettes from a shelf hanging out in front of his belly.

He went out to wait the table, and was a bit buoyed up by the two waitresses who came right along with him, except for staying a few paces back.  Darren had an ironed white linen towel over one arm, bent and extended before him.   Everything was as it was supposed to be until he saw the Colonel.  His smile was so big, as he stood with his companions, that his super white teeth gleamed, and appeared to glint a bit from the light shining down from the illumination installed along the top edge of the dance floor.

Darren knew at that precise moment; the Elvis party would only happen if the Colonel made it happen.  He was like a force of nature, as well as smart as could be and soaked in Hollywood and show business life experience so deeply that no group of teenagers, stuck out on an island,  could ever come close to being.

The table had been set well before the group arrived.  Darren waited, respectfully standing a few feet away from the head of the table.

“Saw you at the Moana,” the Colonel said, as he passed by, smiling his giant smile over at Darren.

Darren was shocked. The man hadn’t even been that close to Darren at the Moana, and certainly not close enough to be so easily recognizable in his waiter costume.

“Yes, sir,” Darren replied, stepping forward with his order notepad. “Can I get you some drinks?”  They made their drink orders.  Darren wrote them down and then gave them to the two waitresses, his mind racing to figure out how the Colonel could not only recognize Darren on sight but be there at all.

Prime rib was the special, which all the men at the table ordered, while all the women, the few that were there, ordered the lobster.  Darren was quite used to the mix, although on lobster special nights everyone who showed ordered the lobster, since the three tail Australian cold-water lobster tail special was the largest, best and cheapest on the entire island.

Midway through the meal, Darren checked on the group’s progress, as was required.  He asked if their meals were satisfactory and got the usual positive answer from everyone.  It was hard to argue with a pound-and-a-half prime rib serving or the three giant lobster tails.  The Colonel waved him over.

A shiver instantly quivered its way up and down Darren’s spine.  He moved toward the man, seated at the far end of the table.  The Colonel motioned for him to lean down.  The Colonel whispered into his left ear.

“See me when we’re done here, right outside,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” Darren answered, not knowing what else to say, although all he really wanted to do was run home and hide.

The group stayed for a full hour after finishing the meals. The Air Force general took the bill Darren presented him, signed it and then everyone at the table got up to leave.

“What do I do with this?” Darren asked over near the dance floor, extending the signed bill out in his hand to one of the long-time waitresses.

“Never seen nothing like that before,” she replied, looking at the bill, “but I guess he’s the commander of the base here too, which means he’s our big boss, which means its Sergeant Cross's problem, not ours.”

“What about the tip?” Darren asked since the bill was pretty large, by normal standards.

The waitress began to laugh softly, walking away toward the kitchen.

There was no time to bus the table, as the group was heading toward the front double doors to leave. Darren followed them, so nervous that he had trouble breathing right.  Short gasps came to him noticeably instead of the smooth movement of his lungs he usually experienced, and seldom conscious of.

The Colonel stood alone, off to one side, near the doors, while the others in his party either waited for their cars or were making their way down through the full expanse of asphalt where customers parked.

Darren walked to where the Colonel stood, a lit cigar in his mouth.  When Darren was six feet away, he stopped and waited.

“Closer,” the Colonel said, holding out one hand.

Darren stepped a few feet closer.

The Colonel unfurled his fingers and a five-dollar bill and extended it out toward Darren.

Darren gingerly took the crisp new bill in his hand, not looking at it as his eyes were glued to those of the Colonel.

“Now, that’s for your tip, and let me give you another tip.  Stay out of it from here on in.”

The Bentley showed up in front of them, as if on command.  The driver quickly exited the vehicle and opened its rear door.  The Colonel tossed his unfinished cigar into a nearby bush and crawled into the back seat of the Bentley.  The driver closed the door and got in and the stately vehicle and slowly crept away.

Darren looked at the new bill he held in his hand.  He almost recoiled. It was a fifty-dollar bill, not a five. Darren had never handled a bill bigger than a twenty before.   He held it up close to his eyes, trying to figure out if it was real, but then realized that he wouldn’t know if it wasn’t.

What had the Colonel meant with his ‘stay out of it’ comment?  Stay out of what?  The tip was more than a tip for dinner, as it was extremely unusual for any of the staff to get a tip of more than ten bucks.  Darren wished he could keep the whole fifty but he had to turn it in for the split with the other wait staff.  It was their deal and it required honor for the deal to work.  Worse than turning it in would be trying to explain to the other staff members about why it had been given to him in the first place.

<<<<<< The Beginning | Next Chapter >>>>>>