Aside from a couple business trips, Hobby and I had been hanging around Palm Springs. This time of year there's an excitement generated by the snowbirds that buoys up the otherwise winter doldrums. Getting into April, however, the decline in population is noticeable and local folks savor what moderate weather is left before the brain-boiling season.
There are two Indian casinos nearby, one downtown and the other out by I-10. Within a few more miles on the freeway there's Spotlight 29 and Fantasy Springs. We made the rounds and played in many open table games and a few small tournaments.
Hobby said, "Did you notice I've been cutting back on my spending, Joe?"
"No, I haven't. Are your funds drying up?"
"Far from it, but I set an annual budget for myself and with the money I'm spending on refurbishing my new yacht, I'm being more economical."
"I'm sure that's prudent of you, Hobby. Would you like me to kick in some gas money?"
"No, wise guy, but you can help me plan my new yacht coming out party. Lazybuns II will be ready in two weeks. I have about sixty on the guest list. You're included, Joe."
"Well, thanks a lot. So what's to plan?"
"There's food, drinks, entertainment, and poker of course. Most of the guests will be players. I think we'll probably seat about 40 or more for poker after dinner."
"Nice intimate group. What about the food and entertainment. Any ideas?"
"Well, I thought of Mexican with a mariachi band, but that's old hat; maybe it should be something more exciting. What do you think?"
"Mexican is good, but how about Hawaiian? You could have a luau feast, maybe bring in some hula dancers and everyone could dress in Hawaiian shirts and sarongs."
"Yeah, that's better. I think people are tapped out on Mexican food. With the luau we could have a bunch of exotic dishes. My mouth's watering already."
Later, I was out by Hobby's pool sipping a Corona when my friend came out with a querulous look on his face. "I just got a call from our sleuth Eddie. He got word that Gomez, the guy I won the yacht from, was making inquiries about me."
"Maybe he's anticipating your yacht warming party and wants an invitation?"
"Get serious, Joe. He would have dumped us in the Pacific for fish food if the Coast Guard hadn't intercepted us. I told Eddie to dig into it."
"I was just kidding; you're right to be concerned. There's no way he's going to get his yacht back, but he might want to hurt you. We'll have to be on the alert."
During the next week we were busy organizing the luau party. It would be a gala affair with sumptuous eats, hula dancers, and a band that included a Don Ho look-alike and sound-alike, singing familiar Hawaiian songs. Hobby was all fired up. He loves to entertain and was excited to show off his new yacht.
We went to the San Pedro shipyard for a final inspection and trial cruise, which was most satisfactory. Hobby signed off and would sail Lazybuns II to Marina del Rey while I drove his Rolls. I was cruising up I-405 when my cell sounded. "Joe, I just had a call from Eddie. He's been paying a snitch who knows Gomez. The guy is planning to blow up Lazybuns. I don't know how reliable the information, but I'm not taking any chances. I'm setting up a 24-hour watch. I've got an ex-military outfit that specializes in covert security. They're going to meet us at the marina."
After parking the Rolls I was greeted by a hard looking guy sporting a crew cut and aviator sun glasses. "Are you Mr. Crest?" he asked. When I nodded he said "My name is McNeal, Mr. Newton told me to expect you."
It was an awesome sight watching Lazybuns-II slip up to the dock. After we settled aboard Hobby greeted McNeal and outlined our experience with Gomez and what he learned from Eddie about the plot to blow up the yacht. "I want thorough security, protection from land and sea, but nothing conspicuous. I want to catch the bastards so we can prevent it from ever happening. I'm especially concerned about this Friday night when I'm having a big party."
McNeal said, "I'll survey the marina and outgoing waterways and prepare a plan which I should have for you by five-o'clock."
For two days we didn't see much of McNeal or his men, but he reported spotting two suspicious looking Hispanics who had been snooping around. His men trailed them to an export office near LAX. They would keep the place under surveillance.
Party plans went full speed ahead. Friday night was thankfully balmy for the colorfully garbed guests who swarmed about the decks. Hobby regaled them with the story of his acquisition as waiters and bartenders plied them with drinks and pupus. Lilting Hawaiian music softened the background of chatter creating a mood of the islands. I never saw so many rum drinks sporting mini-umbrellas. Hobby was being the grandest of hosts as he wended his way through the crowd, glad-handing the men and kissing the ladies.
Just when I had forgotten the threat of danger, McNeal showed up. "Two guys came with a bomb. My men grabbed them before they got close to the ship."
"That bastard, Gomez, he was really serious. Now what?" Hobby asked.
"We called the police; we'll take care of it. We'll also have the cops round up whoever might be involved at the export place. We had trailed the guys from there about an hour ago."
The party was a grand success. The last of the guests, mostly poker players, left about two a.m. Earlier in the evening we learned the cops rounded up two men at the LAX office; Gomez was one of them. "Great!" Hobby said. "I hope he rots in jail; I can't stand a sore loser."
Write to author David Valley at: firstname.lastname@example.org