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

Chan finished interviewing the residents. Of course they were all just honest, hard-working women. Every one of them was employed at Arirang, or one of the growing number of Korean bars around town. None of them had seen or heard anything. Chan knew well that Korean syndicate boss Yu Byung Ki was the owner and operator of this quaint little boarding house.

Most barmaids now were Korean nationals, promised the American Dream by Yu and his people. Once they arrived, they found that the dream turned out to be pushing cocktails in bars for horny men who liked younger women. Their real money came not from being bought expensive drinks and tips, but from bringing these Johns back to places like this.

One day, if they were lucky, some of these girls would find a man to marry them. Most were not lucky. It made Chan ill to think of girls not much older than his daughter being doomed to a life of selling themselves for assholes like Yu.

The Mama San who ran the house was Korean as well. Chan always thought it odd that these women were called Mama Sans since none of them were Japanese.

Mina Yang, this house’s Mama, proclaimed herself merely the humble landlady of this boarding house, and she swore that she too had no idea what might have gone on. That particular apartment where the murder took place? It was currently unoccupied. She had no idea why someone would be in there, let alone someone who would end up dead.

Chan was pretty sure the room had been occupied by some girl, and he figured his chances of finding out who it was were slim to none now. For all he knew, she might be on a plane back to Korea. Or she might be dead as well, silenced to prevent her from ever talking about what she knew.

It seemed very unlikely to him that a woman, unless she were very strong, strong enough to carry a body away, could have been the killer anyway. But she could very well have been a key witness who would never be found.

Rather than wait in the parlor for Yamamoto to return, Chan decided to go out and look for his partner. He stopped into shops along the street but did not find his partner.

When he reached the end of the block, Chan decided it would be better to wait for Yamamoto at Deena’s Diner, just a couple doors down from Mrs. Yang’s house of vestal virgins.

A little bell above the door greeted him, and he mused momentarily about the line at the end of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, where Jimmy Stewart says that every time a bell rings it means that an angel’s received its wings.

He sat down at a table facing the window so he could watch out for the Sergeant, then ordered a cup of coffee from a rather large and imposing woman.

Why, he wondered, do you remove the body of someone you’ve just killed? It certainly couldn’t be to conceal the crime, what with blood all over the place .

No, the reason to get rid of the body would be perhaps because you didn’t want the victim recognized. If he or she were found, then everyone would know . . . Would know what? Well, they’d possibly recognize the person, someone who must be well-known, a celebrity, or some kind of public figure, like a politician.

But if a vic were that familiar to the public, surely by now there’d be some kind of alarm raised, some inquiries about a missing person. Wouldn’t there be?

So what if the person weren’t well-known? What then? Why get rid of the body? There must be some other reason to remove the body.

Just as Chan finished his coffee, a young Hawaiian looking kid banged in through the door. The tiny bell blew up, and Chan noted a very worried look on the kid’s face as he hurried straight to the back of the room and disappeared into the kitchen. A moment later two more young men came in scanning the place, pausing briefly before they too headed back into the kitchen.

Chan got up and moved toward the kitchen. The two who’d just come in came back out, pushing past him toward the front door. Chan stepped aside. The woman who’d served him his coffee came out of the kitchen carrying a meat cleaver.

“Excuse me,” Chan said. “Those two who just left, they work here?”

The waitress shook her head. “No. Not them. Punks. One live around here somewhere. The other, I never seen um. I tell what they doing coming inside my kitchen. They say they looking for my dishwasher. I tell them I don’t know where he stay. I nevah say my dishwasher came in right before them and went out the back door.”

Chan showed her his badge. “Your dishwasher, what’s his name.”

“Sniffen,” she said, “Bobby Sniffen.”

Chan went through the doorway to the rear of the kitchen and opened the door. Stepping out, he looked down the alley both ways. Nothing.

Then he walked all the way to the place in the alley where they’d found the sliced and diced body. The pool of blood sat there, drying in the late afternoon sun.

Chan stopped and looked back toward the rear entrance of the coffee shop. Something seemed odd, something was wrong, but he couldn’t say what. A gut feeling. He stared at the blood again.

Where the hell was Yamamoto?

Walking back out to Beretania Street, he went over to a phonebooth by the car. He dialed the department. It was quite a ways away now, all the way down Beretania at the top of Kalakaua. He missed being in downtown, but the old Sears building served the purposes of an expanding department. As crime rose over the years, so grew the force.

One of the younger officers answered. “Hey, Bobby,” Chan said, “this is David. By any chance, is Victor there?”

“Ah . . . well no, Lieutenant. He couldn’t . . . Sorry, no, he sure isn’t here.”

Chan hung up. They’d better start up a short course at the academy on how to talk on the phone, he thought. It’s like the kid didn’t know how to answer even a simple question.

Stepping back inside the boarding house, he found several of the ladies lounging in the parlor watching TV.

Chan asked, “Has Detective Yamamoto come back in here?”

They looked at each other then at him, all of them shaking their heads No or shrugging their shoulders.

Chan went back out to the car. He felt a headache coming on. He leaned his forehead against the roof.

Where was his partner?

Maybe another cup of coffee would help. He walked down the block and went through the door of Deena’s.

The little bell sounded like a gong as he opened the door. Big angel, he thought. His head pounded. Maybe he was coming down with something.

The crowd had evaporated; he was the only one in the place. He sat at the same table he’d occupied earlier.

After waiting a few minutes with no sign of the large woman, he walked back to the kitchen. Sticking his head through the swinging door he called out, “Excuse me.”

No answer. “Hello, could I get some coffee please?” Nothing.

He stepped all the way in and looked around. No one. Besides the back exit, there was only one other door. Chan assumed it was the toilet. He went to the door and knocked. No answer. Opening the door, he saw <snip>

* * * * *

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