So no one heard any screaming. None. Not upstairs, not downstairs, not out on the street. All this silence while someone was being slaughtered upstairs and someone was being turned into sashimi just outside.
Chan ordered another cup of coffee. Elaine had hated coffee. Not only the taste, but the smell. She wouldn’t even kiss him, let him come to bed without making him brush his teeth.
If I’d loved her enough, shouldn’t I have given up coffee? he thought.
The large woman brought the pot over and asked him if he’d like anything to eat. He declined.
Screaming. There couldn’t be anything worse than the kind of pain that cancer brings with it near the end. And in those last few days, the pain is so intense that all the morphine in the world can’t ease it. All that screaming. The neighbors asking what was going on.
A little thing like coffee. Why?
He could still hear Elaine begging him, telling him she wanted to die. Die. All he could do was watch her, listen to her screaming. There was no question he’d not be able to help her out of living, could only wait for her to get through the ordeal. Get to the end of pain.
And I couldn’t even stop drinking coffee for her, he thought.
Chan stood up and went out to the payphone again. His head pounded. He dialed Yamamoto’s home number. Not that he thought his partner would be there, but he might as well rule it out.
While the phone kept ringing, Chan stared down Beretania Street. An approaching squad car came into focus and pulled up behind his car.
Chan hung up and stepped out of the booth. It was Bobby Stillman, the young officer who’d told him over the phone that Yamamoto wasn’t at the station.
“Lieutenant, are you okay?”
Chan gave him an irritated look. “Okay? Yeah. Why?”
“When you called, you didn’t sound so good.”
“What?” Chan asked, perplexed. Was this kid psychic? It was a pretty mean headache, but really, was it screaming out so loudly you could hear it over the phone?
“You know, Lieutenant,” Stillman said. “How you were asking about Sergeant Yamamoto. If he was at the station.”
Chan looked at the young man. This was one of Honolulu’s finest. Really? Communication skills. Wow. Come on. “What the hell are you talking about, Bobby?”
The officer said nothing for a moment. Then, “Lieutenant, you were the one who found him. That’s right, isn’t it? You called it in, said you’d found him in the alley.”
“Found him who? Sergeant Yamamoto? You talking about Victor?”
“Yes, of course I am. You found him. You found him here. Back there in the alley.”
Chan took a faltering step backward. He was suddenly aware he was swaying, his head exploding. He reached out weakly for the car. Stillman stepped forward and caught him falling just in time.
The large proprietress, who’d been watching from the window of the coffee shop, came rumbling out. “Bring him in here,” she said, and she helped Stillman get Chan inside and seated. She brought him a glass of water.
“You all right or what?”
“Yes,” Chan said, “yes. I’m good. Fine. I’ll be fine. It’s this heat.”
Stillman sat opposite him. “Should I get you to Queen’s,” he asked. “You look like shit, if you don’t mind my saying so, sir.”
Chan sipped at the water. “That body, the one that was cut to ribbons, you’re telling me that was Yamamoto.”
The young officer nodded, said nothing, just watched Chan.
How could it be? Chan wondered. If he’d found Yamamoto first, how was it that Yamamoto had led him upstairs to where the missing body had, no, where it hadn’t been found?
Chan said, “But Yamamoto, Bobby, he was the one who discovered the scene upstairs. He’s the one who led me up there after I found the body in the alley.”
The officer said nothing.
“So what? We’re saying that I was being led around by my partner’s ghost?” That was about as easy for Chan to believe as no one hearing any screaming from either victim.
But some of it was coming back to him, slowly now. That was right. He’d found Yamamoto, had only really been able to definitely identify him by looking in his wallet, there in the darkened alley.
Yamamoto had called him, told him to get down there. That he’d found something Chan needed to see. That he didn’t want to tell him over the phone.
Something I would want to see, Chan thought.
“Where’s his car,” Chan asked. “If he was already here, where’s his car?”
“We didn’t find it around here, sir. We’re still looking.”
Chan didn’t know what to say. But with some of the story coming clearer, his headache began to lift a bit. And the air conditioning in this heat helped.
The sight had made him sick. Perhaps. Perhaps so sick he’d not been able to stand it. No matter what kind man his partner had been, he’d always had Chan’s back, never a doubt about that. And that stood for plenty, for everything in this job. If you couldn’t depend on your partner, everything else would crumble on that rotten foundation.
“Should I take you to Queen’s?” the officer asked, breaking into Chan’s train of thought.
“No,” Chan said, “I don’t need to go to the hospital. Right now, what I think I need is a little sleep. I’m going home for a couple hours.”
On the drive home to Pacific Heights, Chan kept picturing his partner. Already dead. Leading him upstairs. A ghost? Can’t be, Chan thought. But. Huh. It would be as if Yamamoto had Chan’s back both in this world and the next.
He parked his car in the garage and went inside. It wasn’t his usual choice coming home, but he poured himself a double shot of Jack Daniel’s. Elaine liked to cook with it. Chan could still feel her warm hand grasping the cold bottle.
He sat down at the dining room table. Took several sips. Closed his eyes. Saw Yamamoto’s slivered body. Shuttered. Took another sip. Rested in the slight bourbon buzz.
And then he froze. Victor Yamamoto was sitting right across the table from him.
“Victor,” Chan whispered. “Victor? Is that you?”
His dead partner <snip>
* * * * *
The word for today is
Use it in a piece of writing, or to inspire a piece of writing, and then post that piece as a comment below. I would love to read what you write. Happy Aloha Friday : )