This story is one of the Tales from The Shack. While this works fine as a standalone, it is a follow on to the story “Monster.” I typically don’t write graphic sex into this story line and that remains true here. Special thanks to Sbrooks and for editing and beta reading, and to Ckcppr and No1inparticular for beta reading. Any remaining errors are entirely mine -- probably added after their assistance. Thanks to everyone for the encouragement and support.
I’d heard the stories all my life. Kane, Pele, Maui, Kamapua’a; heroes and villains, impossibly beautiful women, tricksters, monsters and demons.
It’s part of growing up in the Hawaiian tradition, part of the weave of life and the ocean. They’d always been far away though; from a distant time and place, lost in the years and the encroachment of the modern world.
They’d always been distant. Distant, that is, until I found myself meeting some of those things of legend, landlocked, on the mainland; far from the ocean, far from where I’d ever have expected to hear of them, much less meet them.
As soon as the strains of Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” started, I drifted over to the wildest part of the dance floor. Just as Christina growled “sweatin’ til my clothes come off, “ I raised a hand without really looking and snagged PeeGee’s little black overshirt out of the air, then glanced to make sure she still had some kind of clothes on.
One tiny silver bandeau top, one black microskirt, her usual shiny dancing boots silver this time - and a wicked grin and wink as she spun back into the crowd. After a year, it was pretty much a ritual. She’d find me when we closed the club and retrieve her shirt. I stuffed it into a cargo pocket. It didn’t take up much room.
Sylvia, the “bar boss, “ was laughing and shaking her head, looking over the rail to the dance floor.
I scowled down at her. “What?”
She tried to suppress her laughter, and looked up at me. I pretty much towered over her hell, I pretty much tower over everything. I’m just an inch over six and a half feet tall, and just a hair under 300 pounds if you catch me on the right side of that last piece of steak.
That makes me a little small by Mom’s family standards. My two older brothers have me by a good two inches of height. Still, I’ve taken care of myself and they’ve run to fat, even though I’m the gimped up one.
My dad was a Ha’Ole, but my mom is pure native Hawaiian.
Despite being a foot and a half shorter than me, Syl failed to look impressed. “I think she loves you.”
“PeeGee loves everyone. Hell, Syl, she thinks Molly and E are part of a balanced daily breakfast.”
We did our best to keep the drugs out of the club keeping a license was tough enough without a bunch of drug busts. The Crimson had a reputation for being pretty clean and we tried to keep it that way. We’d been having more a problem lately. The police had been hammering a lot of the mid-level drug pushers and while that sounds great, for us it made a power vacuum. There were some rumors that Anthony Montage “Tony Montana” was trying to assert control over some of the clubs to use for distribution.
I’d been stopping his pushers at the door on a regular basis lately, so that rumor was probably true. Not that I was too worried about that, I’m not really afraid of much. I grew up hunting kaku barracuda and ran into far more than my share of sharks, even the big man-eaters, the Niuhi.
Tourists that bother to learn anything at all usually think the only word for shark is mano but like the Inuit have so many words for snow and ice, we have different words for different classes of sharks. Mano are the smaller, less dangerous sharks; Niuhi are the true man-killers, the big Tigers and Great Whites. Once you’ve come face to face with a few of those, not very much can scare you.
In any case, while PeeGee wasn’t exactly at the top of my list of potential would-be crime lords, she was always obviously already sailing on E before she ever hit the door. I sporadically checked her purse just to make sure; she cheerfully acquiesced, then crossed her eyes and stuck her tongue out at me when I didn’t find anything.
Sylvia grinned. “Can’t argue that. Still, she trusts you, so keep an eye on her.”
That too, right down to Sylvia’s reminder, was ritual. PeeGee short for “Party Girl” was sort of an unofficial club mascot. She was an incredible, energetic dancer who spent nearly all her time on the floor. She couldn’t stand it if people looked down or depressed. From her driver’s license, her real name was Danni - another one of those “i with a heart over it” girls - and she was really pure positive energy at the club. She’d gleefully rush a table full of morose introverts and drag them out to the floor one by one. Men, women, whatever. She was a one woman party.
She’d once mentioned that she taught at a dance studio and it showed she obviously had training and the endurance of a marathon runner. Tall and slender, runway model pretty, she was also the dirtiest dancer I’d ever seen. Dirty enough that I actually had to give her warnings, which she cheerfully apologized for with doe-eyes, fluttering lashes and a mock sad-face pout. Then she’d bring it down a notch. For a little while anyway.
PeeGee being PeeGee, she was welcome at every table. I’d had to lift her down off of more than few of them. We tried to keep an eye on her; she was everybody’s friend, but she rarely had a wing chick or a consistent group of friends, and that made her a little vulnerable, so we sort of adopted her and made sure she made it into a taxi when the club shut down.
I glanced back at her and could see she was giving impromptu “grinding lessons” to a terribly embarrassed, slightly heavy set girl who must have looked morose enough to become her latest prey. I watched long enough to make sure PeeGee’s remaining clothes stayed mostly on, and to see her victim finally give in and start dancing with abandon. PeeGee just has that effect on people.
Syl pointed back towards the back of the club. “The loading dock damn alarm is going off again. Nick says the company rep can’t figure out what’s going on with it.”
I shrugged. “It’s been doing this since I got here, so that’s at least a year. I think that tech is down here at least once a month. I’ll check it out.”
I carefully scanned the main dance floor for any problems - it’s my club on Friday and Saturday nights. Well, mine and PeeGee’s. I don’t think she’s ever missed a Friday or Saturday, ever. At least not since I started as security at the Crimson, a huge, loud, pulse pounding club in the center of the city. It’d started life as a brewery over one hundred years ago.
I started working there in my second to last year of Law School, but I only really worked two days a week most of the time, as the one man riot squad at the club. Still, I took my job damned seriously. The other guys handle most of the routine stuff, but when it really hit the fan, I was on.
After an encounter with me, most of the real problem children either reconsidered their evil ways or moved the hell on. I’d played football all thorough college not good enough to even dream about trying out for pro teams but trying to fight me was just a bad idea. Most martial arts aren’t really suitable for guys my size, but I’d boxed growing up, and even studied Sumo for a while as a kid Sumo is pretty popular in Hawaii.
Really though, there are weight class restrictions in combat sports for a reason, and there just aren’t many people in my weight class. Besides, law school is a consolation career for me. I’d been a police officer for a whole two years after college, before I took a bullet through the knee and had to make another life choice. So I have some pretty good aikido-type grips-and-throws training to go with everything else.
The floor looked pretty peaceful, so I nodded to Ron working security on the balcony “top deck” to keep an eye on things for me he had a pretty good view from there.
I warily skirted the dance floor, doing my best to discreetly sneak by not exactly the easiest feat for a guy my size. Not that it mattered, I didn’t see my bane approaching as usual. I could never figure out how she did that.
A stinging slap on my butt made me spin back around PeeGee was grinning ruefully, shaking her hand like it was broken. Her latest victim was standing in shock with her hand over her mouth, wide-eyed, along with half a dozen other women.
“Do I need to throw you out for a week, PeeGee? You can’t touch the security or you get banned. You know the rules.”
“It was an accident. Honest!”
“Like the last ten times?”
She wasn’t even trying to conceal her smirk. “Only ten? Oh, I mean yes.’ I’m just really clumsy.”
That was complete crap anybody who’d ever seen her dance knew that.
“Behave, PeeGee.” I gave her my best police-glare. It was completely wasted on her.
“I will, I promise.”
As I turned and headed back towards the loading dock, shaking my head, I could hear PeeGee’s stage whisper.
“Careful girls, you could break a tooth on that ass!”
That was answered with slightly inebriated howls of female laughter.
PeeGee was safe and she knew it. Around the club, I’m viewed as sort of the patron guardian saint of single girls. That’s no help at all when you’re in the dating scene yourself. It’s a permanent invitation to the “big brother” zone.
Not that dating has ever been all that easy for me. I heard somewhere that “androgyny” is the in thing with women these days and that sure as hell puts me outside the mainstream. There seem to be two kinds of girls in the world the ones that like guys big and dumb, and the ones that like guys who are normal size and smart. Big and smart isn’t the combination most of them are looking for. Hook-ups aren’t too hard, but relationships with the kind of girls normally attracted to guys that look like me don’t tend to work well.
Those girls are usually from that “hot-crazy” zone trifecta redheads, strippers and girls named Tiffani. And while that can be fun, I prefer women who can think and don’t spell their names with “i”s with hearts over them. And who aren’t likely to go all scissor-stabby bunny-boiling crazy.
PeeGee always struck me as flighty, and maybe a little ditzy, rather than dangerous or obsessive. She was certainly pretty enough, but it’s also against the club rules for workers to pick up customers.
So PeeGee, for all her flirting, knew she was off limits. That’s no doubt why she did it.
I’d only had a few serious dates in the last year I’d taken out the leader of my four person study group a couple times.
I’d stayed out of the lead in my main study group; when a big guy like me tries to lead, they usually end up being viewed as a bully and an asshole. A sparkly, smart little blonde named Abby quickly assumed command despite being smurfette-cute she was laser-focused, fully committed to success, and a natural born leader. She kind of amazed me; she had to fight twice as hard to get taken seriously, and worked four times as hard as anyone. The other guy in the group, Vince, listened to her because he was hoping to get into her pants, while the other woman, Jennifer, was an introvert with an eye on tax law. She was about one solid step from being a shut-in, and was happy to let anyone else lead the group. As a group, we actually hit it off pretty well, and stayed in touch even when we weren’t studying.
The only time I’d seen her falter was when her father had a stroke, then died after six weeks in the hospital, just as he seemed to be getting better. It’d happened over summer break, so she hadn’t lost her place in the program. When she’d returned, she’d buckled down even more determined and forced herself to stay upbeat.
Tough, funny, smart and cute as hell with a great personality, she was pretty much a dream-girl and it was a huge disappointment to me that we just didn’t click the right way. For whatever reason, it was like taking a sister out on a date. Abby and I made damn good friends; we just didn’t have the right chemistry. It was like finding a perfect pearl you couldn’t keep. I think she was as disappointed as I was.
At least we recognized it in time to keep our friendship.
After Abby, as far as I was concerned, any serious dating was going to be put off until after I passed the Bar.
Of course, when I had time a rare commodity for most law students there were always the women who ended their names with “i.” I had a lot more spare time than the other students for a few reasons. I’d always been good at school, and there’s a lot of memorization at law school and I’m really good at that. Mom says it’s because of the Hawaiian tradition of oral history, but both my older brothers barely passed high school, so I’m not so sure about that.
Other than my memory, I had a couple other advantages. I was a little older than the other students and I already had a bit of practice in some aspects of the law you don’t get to be a beat cop very long without learning a thing or two about how the law, lawyers and especially prosecutors work. And you can end up with a lot of courtroom time in very short order.
Those advantages gave me a lot more spare time than my peers, and once I’d recovered pretty well from being shot, I started looking for a job, mostly to prevent boredom, and buy a little better quality food it takes a hell of a lot of lean protein and greens to fuel me If I take in much in the way of carbs, I’ll end up like my brothers, so I eat lean as hell and hit the gym like a religion.
By the time I reset the alarm and got back to my normal post, I could feel a little bit of a change in the floor. Quieter, less energy and that usually meant fewer problems.
Whatever they tell you, good security takes people. And good security is critical in a large club in a big city. You can do a lot with cameras and alarms, but they don’t make decisions. They can help settle guilt after something has happened, but don’t do anything to stop the problem before it gets out of hand. They also malfunction our loading dock alarm was a great example of that.
Most importantly, real people can sense problems before they really manifest, before they are actually problems.
The floor was still quiet when PeeGee came up followed by a small mob of women.
“Hey Big Guy.”
“Working here, PeeGee.”
“I know, but I’ve been telling the girls here about your tats.”
I sighed, not even bothering to cover it. PeeGee’s weird obsession with my tattoos was another long running game. And once she was locked on she wouldn’t let go until I cooperated.
“Because they’re cool.” She turned to her followers. “His mom is real Hawaiian, those tattoos were done old-school, hand tapped into his skin with wood tools.”
I began rolling up my right sleeve. I learned when it was easier to go along with PeeGee. “It’s called kakua, and some of the tools are made from animal tusks. Hurts like hell.”
One of the women leaned over and looked at the pattern. “It’s all triangles. Really neat, decorative triangles, but triangles. Why would you choose that?”
“They’re shark teeth. Rows and rows and circles and swirls of shark teeth.” PeeGee grinned like a shark herself. “Goes all the way up his arm, half his torso and down his leg. Even covers one cheek of that rock hard ass of his.” She rolled her eyes like a teenager and gave an exasperated sigh. “Not that he’ll show that part to me.”
I scowled at PeeGee, then looked over at her friend. “I didn’t really choose them, the artist decides what you get, based on who you are and how he sees you. The sharks’ teeth are a kind of protection.”
The girl she’d been grinding with earlier reached over and timidly touched the back of my wrist. “They protect you? Like bullet proof?”
I shook my head. “Definitely not bullet proof, I can vouch for that. I used to patrol the old slaughterhouse district, the Dog Run, when I was cop. Messed up kid shot me. Three times in the back the vest stopped those, but he put bullet through my knee. That’s why I have to wear the brace; took the insurance money and hobbled over to law school.”
“What did you do to the guy that shot you?” Her voice was hushed, probably expecting some kind of epic fight story.
“I didn’t do a damn thing except try catch my breath and try to stop the bleeding. Getting shot hurts a lot. The guy who shot me ran from my partner and went right in front of a city bus.” Every time I heard the hiss of bus brakes, I had a flash of watching the strung-out seventeen year old kid folding under the bumper of that bus.
“So maybe the tattoos got vengeance for you?”
PeeGee shook her head. “They don’t work that way, Cassie.” I had no idea how PeeGee knew that, but she was right.
I studied the patterns on my wrist for a second. “They don’t. It’s hard to explain, but the tattoos kind of tell’ sharks that we have kinship, that we have an agreement. Tell them that I belong there in the ocean.”
Cassie looked puzzled. She obviously didn’t get it and probably never would. People don’t understand the ocean. The bright colors of plants and animals fool people, make them think it’s a world of emotion and feeling. Like it’s some kind of Disney-esque undersea rainforest full of funny, clever, humorous animals.
It’s a completely alien world; mammals and birds have emotions. Anger, love, sadness, all those feelings we share with our fellow air breathers are completely out of place in the ocean. We have few fellow travelers out there; the dolphins and whales, maybe the octopus and squid. But it’s really a coldly rational world. Air doesn’t belong, much less emotion.
Sharks and fish don’t get angry, and their sense of self-preservation isn’t the same as fear. The logic of survival rules everything. Kill, eat, avoid death, breed.
It’s impossible to explain to anyone who hasn’t been there, lived half on land and half in water.
Cassie shrugged. “That’s cool.” Although to be honest, she didn’t seem like she meant it.
PeeGee sent me a secretive smile and roped her temporary posse back on to the dance floor. I went back to scanning the crowd the energy was building back up as the temporary calm passed. A glance at the clock told me why. It was nine o’clock; the “dinner” part of “dinner and dancing” was coming to an end, so we were starting that heavy rush of customers.
It wasn’t long before Ron signaled to me that something was building on the floor by the time I got there, a full blown shouting and shoving match was underway. We always tried to have back up, but if I waited too long, this could blow up into a real brawl, so I waded on in and separated the two at the center of everything.
“One chance: back off and stay away from each other or you’re out.”
Each began immediately blaming the other for the commotion.
“Shut up. If I wanted to hear this kind of shit, I’d be teaching preschool.”
The glared at each other from either side of me, but stayed back just enough. Just as they started to back off, something slammed into my back, knocking me forward.
I caught myself and spun around.
“sorrysorrysorry” PeeGee was detangling herself from a heap, stepping all over a guy who was curled up gripping an obviously broken wrist.
She managed to step away from him and stop stomping all over him for a minute and stared at me wide eyed. “It wasn’t my fault! I was just dancing and he ran right into me!”
Her friend Cassie was fiercely backing her up and nobody else seemed to have an opinion. The two idiots who started the whole thing faded out before PeeGee even had a chance to finish.
Ron reached me first since Nick had been back in the office when everything happened, almost falling himself when a pen rolled under his foot. He grabbed the pen and shoved it into his cargo pocket.
Nick and Ron helped me get the guy off the floor, then we sat him down while Syl called the ambulance. Ron headed back upstairs, while I walked back to my usual station with Nick, and explained how everything had gone down.
“PeeGee said he ran into her, and that girl, Cassie, backed her up. But, hell, Ron stepped on a pen or something so he could have slipped on that too.”
Nick grimaced. “I’d better check with Ron. This could be technically our fault. I’ll have to get a statement from the guy and see if he mentions slipping on something.”
“Yeah I remember that girl claiming she busted her tailbone and hurt her back stepping on an ice cube. Good thing the cameras caught her faking it.”
He nodded. “That’s why the insurance company insists we have them, it’s the only way to cut down on shit like that.”
Nick glanced back over to our casualty. Or where our casualty had been. The chair where we’d left him was clearly empty.
“Idiot. I’ll see if Syl knows where he went.”
It turned out he’d disappeared without a trace. We talked it over until Ron came springing back down.
He pulled the “pen” out of his pocket. “It’s some kind of plastic spike.”
Nick examined it. “It’s a cut down self-defense spike. Polymer of some kind. They aren’t great tools, and they’re pretty much only useful for stabbing someone. Walk right through our metal detector with one. We need to look over that video as soon as we shut down tonight.”
From the video, it was obvious I was being set up, the two guys arguing’’ were deliberately holding my attention so the third guy could stab me. PeeGee’s stumbling arrival was the only thing that saved my ass from a trip to the hospital or the morgue.
Nick scowled at the video. “You never had a run in with these assholes?”
“Never saw them before today.”
Ron, it turned out, recognized one of the two distractions as having come in on Wednesday. Nick filed a report, but there wasn’t much to go on.
I waited and sent a snip of the video to my email after Nick went back out to talk with Syl. I’d been targeted and I had some friends who might be able to help me figure out why.
As soon as I got home, I sent the video on to Kelly. She’d been my partner, a patrol officer with over 10 years on the street. After I’d had to leave, she’d finally taken the test to become a detective and moved over into Vice. It certainly wasn’t as glorious as Homicide, but she’d worked the Dog Run for years before I joined the force and knew more about the flow of drugs and prostitution than anyone, so she was a damn good fit for it.
Maybe she could put two and two together for me.
I’d just finished showering, when someone rung up from the front door of the building. I grabbed a lavalava a man’s waist wrap used across Polynesia and pulled it around me as I keyed the intercom.
“Hey, Big Guy, it’s me. Buzz me up.”
“PeeGee? What are you doing here?”
“Freezing in the rain out here. I don’t have a coat, let me in.”
A minute later she was standing at my door. I checked through the peephole in the door I’m a big guy but if I learned anything from being shot, it was not to be overconfident. Besides, the incident at the Crimson had me a little guarded. She was still in her club clothes, soaked and shivering.
I let her in. “What are you doing?”
“Wondering if you’re gonna keep my shirt. It’s really cute, but I think it’s a little small for you.”
“Shit. I’m sorry” She followed me I walked over to my hamper and fished out my cargo pants with her scrap of clothing.
She took it from me with a quirk of a smile, then turned serious. “I wanted to apologize for causing trouble at the club today.”
“Look, uh, Danni, it’s no big deal. It wasn’t your fault and those assholes may have been up to something.”
She grinned when I said “Danni”- it was probably the first time I’d ever called her by her given name.
“So I don’t need to apologize?”
“No. We’re good.”
She glanced around. “Nice place. I love the ocean theme.” She seemed serious.
“I miss home sometimes. Some day I plan to head back to Hawaii, just not sure how that will work yet.”
She hadn’t said a word about the lavalava, which was a little odd considering her how much of a smart ass she usually was. It was basically a red skirt trimmed with orange and yellow flowers; it pretty much screamed for a comment from someone who didn’t know what it was.
She picked up a picture of me with my mom and brothers. “This is your family?”
“Yeah, that’s my mom and my older brothers.”
“I like that, family is kind of a big deal to me.”
“Me too. A lot of the time family is all you have.”
She looked up at me from under a raised eyebrow. “You’re sure you don’t blame me for the trouble at the club?”
“I’m sure, I think you may have kept it from getting a whole lot `worse.”
“Okay. That just leaves one thing.”
“I’m not leaving until I see the rest of those tattoos.”
“Danni, I’m not sure this is a good idea. The rules.”
She smiled, stepping toward me and giving me a surprisingly hard shove back toward the open door of the bedroom. “You didn’t pick me up at the club, so you’re not breaking the rules. I haven’t gotten laid in six months and I know monks that have a better social life than you do. This is just some fun. No strings attached.”
From the look in her eye, she obviously wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
Not that I was saying no
I woke up a bit confused the smell of fresh coffee was filling the house. And waking up to that smell is a bit unusual when you don’t have a programmable coffee machine.
I found Danni half curled up in my one of my big recliners. Reading a book, sipping coffee, and wearing one of my dark green “Local Motion Hawaii” T-shirts. On her, it went to her knees, even if she was pretty tall for a woman. And despite the fact that I would have always assumed she was a latte girl, it looked like she was drinking her coffee black.
She looked up when she heard me come in. “You need to wear a warning label.”
For a second I was a little concerned I’d been a little too rough. I’m usually pretty cautious with women, guys my size have to be, but she’d made it clear that she wasn’t breakable. If anything, she seemed to be encouraging me in the other direction. She’d been even stronger than I expected from her dancing; a lithe, energetic bundle of rattan and whipcord. And very aggressive. Some girls like big guys because they have a submissive streak, but there wasn’t even a hint of that with her.
She must have somehow caught my concern. She shook her head and gave a wry, humorous grimace. “Big guys like you aren’t usually in proportion’, if you know what I mean. A girl could use a little warning so she can mentally prepare. Not that I’m complaining.”
“Well, I’m glad I’m up to your standards.”
“I think we made up a whole new set of standards last night.” She smiled, a soft, bemused smile.
I walked over and poured myself a cup of coffee. “You surprised the hell out of me.”
She shrugged, looking back down at the book for a second. “It was a spur of the moment thing. I realized you had my shirt and decided to chase you down.”
“How’d you know where I live?”
“I asked Nick.”
That meant Nick would know, but it was too late to worry about that. He wouldn’t be stupid enough to think she just gone after a shirt at 2AM. Hopefully Danni’s assessment of the rules was good enough for Nick too.
She caught my expression. “He’s cool with it Derek. I told him that I wasn’t just chasing the shirt.”
I’d probably catch shit over that from Nick, but it’d be worth it. I pulled the ottoman over from the couch. “What are you reading?”
She held her book up. “He’s hilarious.”
I damn near dropped my coffee and shifted to cover my surprise. She was reading my copy of “Scalia Dissents.” I’d never really pictured her reading anything, but Party Girl reading the written dissenting opinions of a Supreme Court Justice was so surreal I wondered if I was still dreaming. “Love him or hate him, he’s never boring.”
She sat up a little. “I’ve read it before, but some parts never get old.”
I sipped my coffee to cover my shock at the hidden depths of Party Girl. Then tasted the coffee again. “You found my Kona.”
“I figured you’d think I was worth it.”
There was absolutely no way to argue that without sounding like a complete ass, and besides, if I’d have gotten up first, I would have fixed the same thing. Last night was definitely worth it. “No argument from me.”
She flashed a broad smile then carefully closed the book and put it in her lap. “So what are you doing on your day off?”
“I didn’t really plan anything, I should probably read over a couple things tonight before class tomorrow.”
“You want to meet me down on the canal and get lunch? I have to run by home; I showered, but I’m not going to wander the Canal Walk in either your t-shirt or my club clothes.” She stopped suddenly. “Unless you have another lavalava? I could just wear it as a sarong.”
I walked back into my room and dug one out a watery looking blue and green batik style with sea turtles on it - and took it back out to her.
“You have to be careful with it, my mom picked this one for me to remind me of home.”
She stood up and took it almost reverently. “It’s gorgeous.” She put it gently in the chair, whipped the t-shirt off and wrapped herself in it expertly. “See, fits like it was made for me.”
It really did fit, and somehow the color was perfect for her, even if it was a far cry from the metallics and electric neon colors I normally saw her in.
She stalked over into the bathroom to admire herself in the mirror. “I’ll have to be careful until we get down to the Walk, but I can grab a pair of flip-flops at that little drug store the one on the corner of 12th, it’s probably only a couple blocks from here.”
I showered and changed into shorts and t-shirt, then changed the t-shirt for a nicer blue one that kind of matched the sarong for some reason.
We walked down towards the canal. She refused to wear her boots, even to get to the drug store, and for about half a block she picked her way barefoot, watching for glass and rocks.
“Hold on Danni.”
I gripped her slender waist and hoisted her up sit on my shoulder. She gave a short gasp, and then easily balanced herself. She sighed. “I could get used to this.”
I’ll admit I did it to impress her I didn’t get many chances to show off that didn’t involve cracking heads at the club. I walked the two blocks to the drug store while we talked about nothing much in particular. The occasional passerby looked at us as if we were nuts.
As I set her down outside the drug store, an old grey-haired woman looked at us and laughed. She looked at Danni. “That one’s a keeper, girl. You don’t even need a car.”
Danni snickered. “I know, but I have to pay parking fees wherever we go!”
I shook my head. “Try to be a nice guy”
She reached over and put a hand on my arm, looking a bit serious. “You’re always a nice guy Derek, I’ve known you for over a year now. That’s why I showed up last night. Too many assholes out there.”
“Well, I’m glad I was at the top of your list.”
“It’s not exactly a long list. Like I said, there are way too many assholes out there.” She plucked a pair of blue flip flops off the rack and pulled a couple bills out of her tiny silver purse. “Where do you want to eat?”
“The Thai place, unless you don’t like Thai food.”
She lit up. “I love Thai food, especially spicy noodles, Pad Woon Sen.”
She really did while I ate red curry, she powered through her huge plate of the noodles.
She grinned when she caught me looking at her. “This is comfort food for me. We have a family friend who fixes the best spicy noodles and I’ve been eating it all my life.”
We talked aimlessly for a good hour, first at the restaurant, then walking up and down the Canal Walk. Danni, turned out, really was big on family. She loved her mom and her brothers, but she was a self-admitted “Daddy’s girl.”
“He’s always been about us kids, all the way. Everybody else’s dad was too busy, or not interested. Dad made every lacrosse and baseball game. He made time for us, no matter what.”
“He run off your boyfriends?”
There was flicker of something in her eyes, but whatever it was, it was gone almost instantly. “I think my brothers scared most of them off, but Dad was hit by a roadside bomb in the Army and he’s got some pretty impressive scars that scare the hell out of most of the boys. I thought I’d never get asked to Prom.”
“Seriously? As pretty as you are? That’s hard to believe.”
“My Dad’s nickname was Monster before he got blown up. He can be pretty scary.”
“Well, I’d have asked you out.”
“Says the guy who wouldn’t risk getting fired after I flirted with him for almost a year.”
“Maybe I was waiting for the right moment?”
She smiled, but it faded almost instantly. “I like you Derek, but this is just fun, okay? I’m not I can’t get into a real relationship right now.”
Even though I’d never thought of PeeGee as “relationship material, “ that just felt wrong to me. But she seemed deadly serious about it. “That’s okay, I wasn’t looking for anything serious until I pass the Bar anyway.”
Her smile seemed a little relieved, but kind of weak at the same time. “So what are your plans?”
“I’m taking the Bar, but I really want to eventually specialize in Maritime Law, get back to Hawaii if I can.”
“I love Hawaii, but I spent a lot of time growing up in Fiji. Well, near Fiji anyway.”
I couldn’t help it, I started laughing.
“I’ve been trying to figure out why you knew about the tattoos and knew what a lavalava was.”
“I can do most of the dances too. Fijian, Tahitian, and Hawaiian. I like the story telling of the Hawaiian Hula, but there’s nothing like the Fijian or Tahitian dances to tone a girl’s abs.”
“That solves one mystery. It explains those jackhammer hip movements you used last night.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s the whole point of those kinds of dances.”
“Do you teach those?”
“I’d like to, I’m trying to talk the owners of the studio into letting me teach a ‘World Dance’’ class. Polynesia, Africa, Asia, that sort of stuff. We already do a big Latin class for adults, but there are a lot of other cool ones out there that people might enjoy.”
“Where’d you learn all of them? Other than the Hulas?”
“I actually have a degree in Dance. And yes, it’s a real degree.” She gave a slight scowl.
I held my hands up defensively. “Hey, I got the benefit it. I’m a believer.”
“Sorry, I get a lot of flak for it.”
“So are you staying with the studio? Dancing professionally?”
“I like teaching kids, but trying to keep a straight face while some crazed soccer mom is planning her five year old daughter’s career in the Bolshoi Ballet is pretty tough. Especially when Mommy’s little wonderchild is standing behind her with her finger in her nose to the last knuckle. Not quite sure what I want to do in the long run. Dancers are pretty much a dime a dozen, and unless you get on with a top tier company, the pay sucks nearly as badly as the studio. I’m just not sure where I’m going to go from here. I’m working on a Master’s so when I finish that, maybe I’ll have a better idea.”
We spent the rest of the afternoon just kicking around along the Canal, talking about pretty much anything. It was amazing how much I’d underestimated her over the last year.
We stayed a little later than I planned and as I opened the door to my apartment Danni pushed past me, handing me the lavalava, wearing just flip flops and a wicked “PeeGee” grin. “Ever see a naked Tahitian Hula?”
I never did get around to re-reading the case law for the next day. Danni didn’t leave until almost 5:30 in the morning, catching a cab to rush her back to her apartment.
First thing in the morning, I got an email from Kelly telling me to meet her at the water fountain in the park next to campus after class.
She was half sitting on the rail when I got there, with a large shopping bag at her feet.
“You look like shit.”
“Thanks Kelly. Didn’t get much sleep.” I tried to suppress a smile at the thought of Danni.
Kelly studied me for a second. “I saw that smile. You got laid last night. Anyone I know?”
I should have expected that. Kelly read people better than anyone. “The only women you know are either drug dealers or hookers. Or drug-dealing hookers.”
“Yeah? So? Anyone I know?”
“No. I really don’t think you need to worry about my love life.”
She smirked. “What love life? I’m trying to decide whether it was your right or left hand. Gotta be the hand; unless Goodyear started making steel belted ones, you’re too damn big for a blow up doll.”
She settled in, a bit more serious. “I couldn’t get an ID on the three guys on the video. But it was a hit for sure. You owe that long drink of water that plowed into the guy with the spike big-time.”
I tried to catch my reaction, but around Kelly that’s almost impossible. “Holy shit. That the girl you hooked up with?”
She snickered. “Can’t fault your taste. I’d kill for legs like hers. Not much in the boob department though.”