As it was now evening, I wandered into the courtyard of the hotel and headed for the restaurant. It was already becoming crowded, with many tables on the veranda also filled.
I suppose it was a bit unusual for a single individual to be seeking seating at dinner as virtually all the hotel guests were either couples or families. But here I was, waiting to be seated by the receptionist and scanning the room for a familiar face.
The receptionist, a matronly but pleasant-looking lady asked if I would prefer to be seated by myself or with others. Realizing that being seated with other people would offer me some cover as I surveyed the room I told her that I would prefer seating with others if she could find someone willing to accommodate a stranger at their table.
I waited as she approached a couple some distance into the dining room and apparently inquired of them if they would mind allowing someone to sit with them. I saw them look in my direction and nod affirmatively to the receptionist who laid the menu she was carrying on the table and headed back toward me.
Approaching, she smiled and said, “The couple at that table said they would be happy to have you as a dinner companion,” and she left me to find my way to the table.
“Good evening,” I said, arriving at the table where a middle-aged couple was awaiting with friendly smiles. “I’m Michael Tate. I appreciate you allowing me to dine with you. I’m here on my own and it is so much more pleasant to have a friendly conversation during dinner than to be by oneself.”
“Happy to have you join us,” was the reply from the gentleman there as he rose and extended his hand in greeting. “I’m Bill Jordan and this is my wife, Goldie. Please. Be seated.”
Since the two of them were sitting opposite one another, I settled into the chair next to Goldie and began the conversation.
“Where are you from?” I inquired. “I assume you’re visiting the islands as am I.”
“Yes,” responded Bill. “We’re from Oregon. Medford. Just north of the California border. You?”
“I’m from a small town in Kentucky called Winchester. It’s just east of Lexington in central Kentucky. Have you been here long?”
“Just a couple of days,” chimed in Goldie. “It’s really beautiful here. We’ve been to the islands several times before but this is the first time we’ve stayed here.”
“This is my first time on the island and I just arrived today. I’m quite impressed with the hotel. It seems to have everything one needs for a pleasant stay,” I said as I scanned the menu.
“I think I’ll have a glass of wine before dinner. I’d be pleased if you’d let me buy each of you a glass for letting me join you. Have you ordered dinner yet?”
“No,” said Bill. “There are so many interesting selections we haven’t been able to decide yet on what we want. And you don’t owe us anything for offering to share our table, but we’ll accept your kind offer if you promise to let us buy the next round.”
“Done,” I replied, and waved the waiter over to order a glass of plum wine for myself while Bill ordered two glasses of Chardonnay for himself and Goldie.
Our conversation continued in a light vein as we enjoyed our wine and eventually ordered dinner. As we ate and talked, I continued to scan the room as surreptitiously as I could without making my hosts think I was more interested in my surroundings than in them.
After dinner, we all shared in a bottle of Pinot Noir and listened to a local band playing Hawaiian music as the sun threw a golden shaft of light across the ocean and twilight turned to night. The gently moving palm trees became wispy shadows against a night sky lit by a half-moon.
The setting was so calm and peaceful that it was possible for me to forget, just for a moment, why I was here in this lovely place.
I thanked my hosts for a lovely dinner and we parted, vowing that we would see one another again before our stays were completed and I set off to wander the grounds for a while. I passed the shops located within the hotel, all now closed for the evening except the sundries shop where one could purchase liquor, toiletries, snacks, souvenirs, and numerous other items.
I selected a small container of mango/pineapple juice and a croissant breakfast sandwich which I planned to have in the morning. Coffee was provided in the room along with a coffee maker so a small breakfast for tomorrow was in the offing.
L.T. had informed me that Herschel always reserved an executive suite when he stayed at the Shores. Those were on the ninth floor, one floor above me, so I decided to punch in “nine” when I entered the elevator so that I could check out that floor briefly.
If someone questioned me — which seemed unlikely — I would simply say that I had probably had too much wine with dinner and had accidentally punched in a nine instead of an eight.
No harm, no foul. At least that was my hope.