Benny liked to be called Benny. He didn’t care for his real name, Bayani.
Rollie could take or leave Roland. It made no difference to him. His dad would call him Roland if he was angry, Roll if he wasn’t. Usually his dad wasn’t mad. Usually his dad was relaxed and funny. Especially since he retired from work at HonIron.
Rollie and Benny had been friends since their coin diving days when the Matson cruise ships docked at Honolulu Harbor. The Haole tourists had kept the two in plate lunches and cigarettes through their teen years.
Rollie had also swept the Chun Hoon Market parking lot up on North School Street at Nuʻuanu on Sundays when the store was closed. Every little bit helped.
Benny had delivered the Advertiser newspaper early every morning and was usually late for school, if he went at all.
Rollie was a good student. He still thought about going to college to major in engineering one of these days, but for now he’d followed Benny’s lead and was minoring in criminal activity.
Like an idiot, Rollie thought sometimes.
Breaking into places and stealing only. Up until now, they’d never wanted anything to do with people. Confronting them, hurting them. They’d been strictly for going into unoccupied homes and grabbing items they thought they could unload around town with various fences who specialized in particular types of merchandise.
You wouldn’t be able to say who was the brains of the operation. Benny could get into anyplace he wanted to. Sometimes Rollie thought of Benny as smoke or air. A magician.
But Rollie had the better eye. On their last job, he’d assured Benny that the album of stamps was worth taking. Benny went for the shiny stuff. Like a fish following a lure. Rollie looked for the interesting stuff, like a guy who should have been studying over at the University of Hawai’i, but wasn’t.
Benny was definitely the brawn. He practiced Kali like a religion and was dangerous for it. Doubly so, since he always had a Bolisong, or butterfly knife, down his sock that he liked to flip in idle moments. He could manipulate the knife like a master. Benny liked to joke about himself as being the Flip King of flipping.
That stamp collection had been the biggest single score for them so far. Rollie knew that old man Po had low-balled them, but he and Benny knew Po was the only one who would touch something like the stamps, and $300 bucks was the most they’d ever made off a single item.
And after all, Po Tai, owner of Luck Chop Suey down on the waterfront, fed them dinner for free regularly, because, after all, they were such good customers he valued for their productive criminal endeavors.
Rollie still held his day job at Uptown Hardware. Benny lived off their take only. Some months were better than others.
The two young men were coming up near Rollie’s home. Rollie was sweating, but not because he was nearing the apartment he shared with his father.
He looked up the street and he could see Mr. Santos sitting with his back to them on the second-floor door stoop. He remembered he’d forgotten to bring the two fans from the hardware store. The employee discount was good. Two fans for his dad were a small gift to give him. Once Rollie’s mom had died, he’d been raised by Mr. Santos as if he were both father and mother to him. His dad had been the the very best of fathers.
Benny had the pistol Po had given them in his jacket pocket. Rollie had asked Po if it was really necessary. Po assured them that the gun was purely for show. If they even needed it at all.
“No worry,” he’d said to the young men. “Flores will roll over like a little dog. Which is what he is. He will give it to you because he know you there for me. He no like cross Po. Never.”
When they’d left the restaurant last night, Rollie had wondered aloud if [snip]
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