Follie: The Disappearances of Honolulu — Chapter Four (excerpt)

As far as Sniffen was concerned, Po was a fat old Chinaman who thought too much of himself. If the stupid fool had been connected, he might be dangerous, but he was just a small-time fence who ran a lousy little Chinese restaurant.

Sniffen, on the other hand, saw himself as an up-and-coming super crook who was moving up the crime ladder. He was going to be somebody.  Soon.  Right now he was content as a numbers runner for Yu Byung Ki, the Korean syndicate boss who controlled prostitution and gambling operations on the island.  Sniffen had heard that Yu would soon move into a quickly growing drug market, heroin in particular, and Sniffen saw that kind of expansion to mean that Yu would need more competent manpower to step up in their roles. 

He’d heard about Po’s fencing operation just recently.  For several nights he’d followed Po to his home in Pauoa.  It seemed unlikely to Sniffen that Po would keep his stolen goods there, but if he did, Sniffen was ready to figure out a way to get into Po’s house. 

And then the night before last Po had driven into Kaka’ako instead. Sniffen had tailed him to a run-down area on Queen Street. The old man parked, then got out carrying a bag, and waddled down an alleyway. Sniffen followed quietly. He watched the old man let himself into what had to be a small warehouse.

After carefully stacking a couple empty crates to get up high enough to look in the only window, Sniffen boosted himself to see what he could see.

And what he saw made him almost laugh out loud. In this crappy little warehouse that must have had the security level of a public toilet, the stupid Paké, besides a load of supplies for his restaurant had a large cabinet. Sniffen watched the old man unlock it.

As Sniffen suspected, the contents weren’t chopsticks and MSG. There looked to be a treasure trove of what had to be stolen property. The shelves were loaded with stuff. Through the dirty window, Sniffen could just make out some silver bowls and pitchers, what looked to be watches or bracelets, and other kinds of jewelry maybe. It was difficult to see exacty what all was there through the filthy glass.

The old man carried the sack he’d brought with him to a small desk and sat down, turning on a lamp.  He pulled out what looked like a book from the sack.  A kind of thick folder.  He opened it, and Sniffen could see that it was filled with pages of some kind. Each page seemed to have little squares attached to it.  He squinted hard, but he couldn’t make out what the squares were.

Po opened the desk drawer, pulled out a magnifying glass, and began to examine the little squares closely, moving slowly through the folder, page by page.  When he reached the end of the folder, he closed it, sat back, and laughed out loud, clapping his hands together with great glee.

Sniffen still couldn’t figure out what the folder was, but he could tell that the Chinaman liked whatever it was a lot.  And if it made him that happy, well, then Sniffen knew that folder would make him very happy as well.

Po switched off the lamp, stood up, and returned to the cabinet.  He put the folder back in the sack and laid it on the top shelf, then closed and locked the cabinet.  Walking to the front door, he reached for the light switch.  Instead he stopped. Turning around, Po walked back to the cabinet, unlocked it, and pulled out the bag.  He carried it with him to the door, swiched off the light, and exited.

Damn, Sniffen thought.  If it’s too good to leave in this tin can dump it must be really good stuff. He decided right then he’d come back to clean out the rest of the stolen goods later.  Right now he wanted that folder.

Sniffen jumped down and ran as quickly and as quietly as he could toward the front of the warehouse.  Po hadn’t reached the street yet, being a slow-moving old man waddling along.  Sniffen easily came right up behind him and hit him across the back of the head with his blackjack.

The blackjack was a kind of good-luck charm for him.  His dad had been a police officer, and when he’d bought a new sap one time, he’d given the old one to his number-one son.  “Use it in good health,” he’d joked.  Sniffen carried it with him all the time.  You never could tell when you’d need a good blackjack.  Like right at that moment, for instance.

The old man went down, crumpling to the ground.  Sniffen picked up the bag.

But instead of getting away, Sniffen stood there for a moment, wondering if he should try to clean out everything from the warehouse right then and there.

Po was down, but he wasn’t out. Sniffen stood there a little too long. He’d committed the worst Checker’s and Pogo Show, Very Merry Un-Birthday penny jar mistake. If you were the lucky kid picked from the studio audience to have an Un-Birthday, you got to stick your hand in the big jar of coins, mostly pennies, and pull out as many as you could. The not too akamai kids who tried to take all they could grab always ended up dropping most of the coins when they couldn’t get their hands out of the jar. The kids with some smarts tried for fewer coins, so that they would have an easy time pulling out their hands.

In that pause to think about taking more, Sniffen had made his hand too full to pull out of the jar. Peering up from the ground, Po saw Sniffen and recognized him as the Hawaiian-Portuguese kid who [snip]

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