THE DUKE

Part XXXIII

Jimmy and Darren climbed the steps onto the small long lanai that ran out from the center of the main building, and a low white fence made of what looked like narrow bowling pins.  There were Koa wood chairs, of the most expensive sort, lined along, just inside the railing.  They took the two near the entrance which generally has nobody sitting in them because people in crowds with luggage and everything else required to stay in a hotel were too busy moving things from their rental cars into the hotel or vice-versa.  It was from there that they could keep their eyes on the brilliantly painted car, see part of the driver’s arm sticking out the window and also Star, who wasn’t sitting at all.  She’d left the area near the car and then walked over to lean against the white alabaster of the hotels outside the façade.  There was no way that Colonel Parker or anybody else headed for the Bentley, was going to evade her.

“There he is,” Jimmy said, grabbing Darren’s left forearm very quickly and very hard.”  I don’t believe it,” he went on, as Star darted forward like a striking snake.  “She was right.  How does she know things like that?”

“The big deal is if he’ll talk to her,” Darren said, as both boys rose to our feet together, almost involuntarily.

“There’s nothing we can do,” Darren said to Jimmy, neither boy moving toward the car.

The older gentleman in a strange Panama hat was fatter than Darren would have imagined.

Star approached him just as the Colonel got to the car, where the driver had already gotten out to open the rear door.  The driver was dressed in a totally non-Hawaiian outfit that looked more like a tuxedo than anything else, except the material seemed to be made of light blue wool.

“Wool in Hawaii?” Jimmy asked out loud, echoing Darren’s thoughts.

“Star spoke to the side of the Colonel that was visible once he got in and the driver was about to close the door.

They were too far away to hear what was said, or if the Colonel even answered.

To the shock of both boys, the Colonel slide deeper into the car and Star climbed in.  The driver slammed the door, which sounded more like a bank vault door than a regular car door.

The driver stepped through his own door and suddenly the Bentley was slowly moving, feeding itself neatly into the traffic and headed toward Diamond Head.

“Come on,” Jimmy yelled and raced toward the Corvair, parked not thirty feet from where the Bentley had been parked.

The car started even before Darren had leaped over the passenger door.

“What are we doing?” he asked, hanging on to the top edge of the door with both hands.

“I don’t know,” Jimmy roared back, his neck craning around and back to launch the Spyder into the traffic, “We’re rescuing her, or following her or spying on her, I’m not sure.”

“The Bentley parted the traffic ahead of them as if it was a ship out on the sea among small boats.  The car was so big, ungainly but dignified in its frightfully expensive presentation.  But the Corvair turbo howled at high RPM.  The Bentley was probably way above the Corvair in both top speed and acceleration, but somehow the stately car seemed like it would never lower itself to race something as low cost or small as a Corvair.

The Bentley eased its way toward the Natatorium, slowing when it was just outside the huge concrete arch that was the pool’s entrance.  Jimmy inserted the Corvair in right behind the big car. There was no way to see inside the big Bentley without pulling up next to it, which became impossible once the thing passed the Natatorium without stopping and Kalakaua become a one-lane asphalt road.

“Give them some room,” Darren advised.  “They’ll see us, and we’ll blow the whole thing.”

“What ‘whole thing’ are you thinking about?” Jimmy replied, letting off on the gas and letting the red convertible slip back a few car lengths.  “We’ve no idea what’s going on in that thing.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Jimmy said, a small bit of worry creeping into his tone.  “My dad said that powerful men don’t always treat attractive women very nicely.”

“I’d be a helluva lot more worried about the Colonel than Star Black,” if I were you.

“She’s only eighteen, maybe nineteen, tops,” Jimmy replied.

“You don’t even know her birthday or her age even though she’s basically your girlfriend,” Darren shot back.

“She doesn’t think in terms of boyfriends and girlfriends,” Jimmy said as if such a concept was some sort of alchemy or black magic, or, at the very least, something Albert Einstein might have said.

“Where do you think they’re going?” Jimmy asked, frustration written all over his face and even his driving, which had slowed to a crawl behind the big Bentley.

Finally, he had to brake to a halt, as the car stopped. The driver slid out the door, removing and then replacing his flat blue cap back on his head. He opened the back door and Star stepped out. The driver said nothing, closing the door and getting back in the vehicle himself. The Bentley pulled off. Three cars started beeping horns behind the stopped Corvair.  Star laughed out loud and ran to the side of the Monza, stopped at the passenger door, and stared into Darren’s eyes for just a few seconds.  The cars continued to complain behind them.  Darren couldn’t take it anymore.  He squeezed over the bench seat back and dropped onto the back seat.  Star was in, up and over the door, and the car took off at maximum acceleration.  Darren was pinned to the flat back of the seat, wondering if the big powerful looking Bentley really could have beaten the Spyder in a flat-out race, not that any of them would ever know.  The car had appeared in Waikiki out of seeming nowhere and very probably would be returned to wherever it was stored when people like the Colonel were not visiting.

By the time the Monza was up through second gear the Bentley was gone, either having accelerated up and around Diamond Head Road or turning off into one of the few mansions being constructed below and around the Coast Guard Station. The car finally came to rest at Diamond Head Beach Park, just down from the Lighthouse.

“What happened?” Jimmy said instantly, as soon as the engine died.

Darren waited, knowing that whatever Star waited so patiently to say would somehow deeply affect his life again.

“Actually, nothing,” Star said, stopping both boys in their tracks. “I told him what we needed and why and the planning that had gone into it. He said that normally he would charge a private party about a hundred thousand dollars for a special appearance by Elvis, but that we seemed to have a special relationship with him because of Judy’s sister.”

“We don’t have a hundred thousand dollars,” Darren whispered, his thoughts of getting the extra four hundred disappearing into some tiny hole never to be seen or discussed again.

“But he did give us something,” Star replied.

Neither Jimmy nor Darren spoke a word, too busy holding their breaths.

“We can go on the set tomorrow afternoon, as long as we are with the Duke, and then, even if Elvis can’t make the dinner, which the Colonel is not going to stop him from doing, he might do something else less time consuming and spectacular to help us out.”

“And then he basically threw you out of the car,” Darren added while trying to take in everything Star had gasped out.  “What did he say when he stopped the car like that?”

“He didn’t talk to me anymore,” Star said. “He talked to his driver, whose name is Aoki, like the Japanese bean.”’

Jimmy and Darren waited again.

“He told the driver that we were done and to stop the car and let me out, and then he puffed on his cigar and I got out.”

“I wonder if there are more like the Colonel in Hollywood?” Jimmy asked, slowly turning over the Monza’s engine until it caught. “They kind of don’t act like regular human beings at all, do they?”

Jimmy pulled the Corvair back up onto Diamond Head Road, once again, this time turning it to point back at Waikiki.

“Where are we going now?” Darren asked.

“We can’t get onto the set without the Duke, for reasons the Colonel didn’t say,” Star replied, “but he was very serious about that point.”

“So, we’re back to the Duke,” Darren replied, shaking his head at the strange unpredictable turns their lives had taken since meeting Elvis.

“The Natatorium,” Star said.  “It’s morning.  The part there, where you got hit, that’s where he usually hangs out with his friends.”

“What about the dinner Mrs. Levy’s putting on?” Darren asked, a plaintive note coming through in his voice, as he leaned forward to be heard against the wind.

There was nobody on Monsarrat so Jimmy held the Corvair to about fifty miles per hour, which was twenty over the speed limit.

“You know,” Star came back, “most of this has all been to help you out, so we’re trying everything we’ve got.  Going on the set may do nothing, with or without the Duke, just as Mrs. Levy’s party, where somehow Elvis is supposed to show, and then we are to make some sort of weird Robin Hood kind of entry.  It’s bizarre, to say the least.  Maybe the best thing, if nothing pans out, is that you’ve secured yourself in a position to complete your tenure at the Cannon Club and get off to college without going to prison first.”

Darren wondered how the woman could sound so rational but so very cold at the same time like he was some sort of Machiavellian manipulator of everyone’s life.  He decided not to tell her the truth, that he was just a high school kid who was trying to survive in situations he had little understanding about.

“I guess so,” he settled on.

Jimmy decided to come around into the downtown strip by racing down Ala Wai Boulevard that ran next to the Ala Wai Canal, the canal the Army Corps of Engineers had dug, dredged, and built-in the nineteen twenties.  Without the canal, the development of the entire Waikiki strip would have been impossible, as the entire area had remained a deep swamp since before the island was inhabited.

The two-mile run took about one minute, or so it seemed.  He pulled the Monza left, across traffic to head toward the beach on Lewers, before heading toward the hotel on Kalakaua once more.  Why Jimmy took the different directions to get to the same hotel they’d been driving to for years always surprised Darren, but they never discussed it.  Lots were selling along the course of their travel, and Darren liked to read the homemade things.  Fifteen thousand seemed like a lot of money for a rather small lot on Kalakaua Avenue but real estate value wasn’t something he had much of any knowledge about.

Jimmy’s parking spot was open. He dived the Monza into it, and they got out of the car and started walking toward the Natatorium.  Once they got to Kuhio Beach they went down onto the sand, down to where the water lapped, and the sand was harder and easier for walking. The entire stretch in front of the Moana was closed, not just to beachgoers but to anyone trying to pass by that portion of the sandy part of the beach. The Elvis movie set had taken it all over, with big giant canvas tent-like structures to keep anyone for seeing inside the huge set.

A small group of locals was gathered at the collection of five tables just off the sand at Kaimana beach, where Jimmy had had his altercation.

“The Duke?” Star asked, walking right up the table. Jimmy and Darren hung back a bit.

“Outrigger Canoe Club,” one of the men said, pointing toward Diamond Head.

Jimmy looked over at Darren, rolling his eyes.  The Outrigger Canoe Club was about the classiest private restaurant and club on the island. The membership was astronomical in price and selective to the maximum.

Star set off, back through the park to Kalakaua, since the beach area ended at the Natatorium. The Canoe Club could only be reached from the street.

“We’ll never get in there, so why are we bothering,” Darren asked, catching up to the fast-moving Star.

“Like we have something better to do,” Star replied, with a snort.  “Besides, I am not you and, in this case, there is no we.  I’ll get in and bring him out. You can’t go inside without proper shoes, and neither one of you has a shirt on that could get you inside much of anywhere, even on Oahu.”

Darren noted Star’s attire, which was much more qualitative in the material than either Jimmy or Darren ever wore, but still, she too had go-aheads, or flip flops on her own feet.  He said nothing as they approached the attendant at the entrance to the impressive-looking rock wall that served as the entrance to the place.  He secretly hoped that she’d be denied entry, but she merely smiled and walked right by the big uniformed man.  The man looked intently at Jimmy and Darren, stopping them as effectively as if he’d put a hand on each of their chests.  They made no effort to enter, instead, walked further down the wall to where a low number of big rocks surrounded a palm tree base.  They sat down and waited, not looking back at the doorman for fear he would drive them further away with one of his poison stares.  The term for the look in Hawaii was ‘stink-eye.’  The term fit the description of the man’s gaze perfectly.

It only took Star a few minutes to return. Darren’s stomach fell inches within his abdominal cavity when he saw her coming. The Duke, with Judy Levy, her mom and sister surrounded him, all laughing. Jimmy wanted to run but there was no place to go.