David Chan tiptoed to the front door and peered out the peephole. Not wanting to turn on the porch light and possibly attract candy seekers, he strained to see who it was. With what little he could make out thanks to the nearby streetlight, he could see it was not a child, but a man with his back turned toward the door.
The man turned toward him, but he was holding a handkerchief to his face. He sneezed.
That sounded familiar. The man blew his nose, then said, “It’s no good, David, I can hear you breathing behind this door.”
Chan swung the door open. “Uncle Snuff,” he said, “is that you?”
His godfather blew his nose again, then came through the doorway as Chan stepped aside. He folded his handkerchief and stuffed it in his back pocket. David was glad the habit of carrying these snot-rags around was dying out. Handkerchiefs always grossed him out a bit. He closed the door.
Uncle Snuffy stuck out his hand. David, a bit hesitantly, reached out and shook it.
“Uncle, how are you? What brings you by?”
David Chan’s godfather, Wilbur “Snuffy” Apana, had been David’s father’s partner at HPD. David Senior had dubbed Wilbur “Snuffy” because of allergies that seemed to plague him constantly.
“I wanted to see how you were doing,” the old man answered.
Wilbur Apana’s father, Chang, had been a living legend while at the Honolulu Police Department. A man short of stature but built like the proverbial fireplug, Apana had policed the seamiest parts of Honolulu with nothing but his huge courage and a bullwhip. Never carrying a gun, he used the whip he’d learned to wield as a paniolo to round up the worst criminals of his day. After David’s grandfather joined the police department, he and Chang Apana had become the most successful crime team the department had ever known.
Both men had had sons who joined the department after them. Wilbur, who would become David Chan Junior’s godfather, and David Senior. They in their turn had risen to be the stars of HPD.
“It’s rather dark in here,” Uncle Snuffy said.
“Yes, sorry,” Chan said, “I’m trying not to attract kids. Come on down into the dining room.”
The two men walked downstairs and around to the back. Chan pulled out a chair and Uncle Snuffy sat down in the faint light filtering through the picture window. Chan lit a candle at the sideboard and brought it to the table.
“Uncle, how about some Jack Daniel’s?”
“That would be good,” the old man said.
Chan poured two shots and sat down opposite his godfather.
“So Uncle Snuff, what brings you by tonight?”
“I wanted to offer my condolences, David. As you probably know, Yujing and I have been in China for nearly a year, visiting all of our family. We finally returned home just this past week, and when I went by the department to see how all you boys were doing, you were out. They told me about Sarah. I was terribly saddened, David, to hear about her death.”
Chan nodded. “Thank you, Uncle, thank you. I appreciate that.” He knocked down his Jack, but had brought the bottle with him and poured another.
“I was also sorry to hear about Victor Yamamoto. Your partner was one of the best detectives.”
“Yes,” Chan said. “Victor may have hated pretty much everybody except his daughters, but he hated by degrees. At the top, he hated criminals most of all. And in our line, Uncle, that’s really all that counts, right?”
Snuffy nodded, raised his glass. “To Victor,” he said, sipped. “I was also surprised to hear that both Byung-ki Yu and his son, Jason, have suddenly become, uh, much less of a problem. I’m guessing from what the boys say, that there were never any arrests for their murders?”
Chan stared at the candle flame. “Yes, that’s right.” He shifted in his seat. “I took on both cases, and I was unable to find any leads in either.”
“Huh,” the old man said. “Well, if our best detective is unable to get traction on these cases, then I’m guessing they will probably go cold. Especially now that you’ve moved from Homicide to the Records Division.” He downed the rest of his shot.
Chan ran his index finger around the rim of the glass. He could hear his godfather’s disapproval. “More Uncle?”
The old man smiled. “You are a most kind and persuasive host. It would be ungracious of me to refuse. Twist my arm no more, for I am an old man and cannot defend myself easily.”
David managed to laugh. “Geez, are you trying to do your worst imitation of my Hollywood Haole Grandfather?”
Apana laughed. “You know, David, my father told me that your grandfather really didn’t mind the way he was portrayed in those movies. Apparently he just wished that they’d also showcased his Pidgin English prowess.”
“Yeah,” Chan said, “my grandfather learned Pidgin from the master. Your dad’s Pidgin was stunning.” He laughed. “Your dad was like Henry Higgins, and my Grandpa was his Eliza Doolittle.”
The two laughed and drank more. After a moment’s silence, Snuffy said, “And speaking of moving from Homicide to Records, what,” he paused, “what you were thinking? They need you on the front line, David. You and Yamamoto, you were the master murder men.”
David said, “Like your father and my grandfather, then like you and my dad. What a tradition.” Chan shook his head and leaned his forehead on his palms. “But it’s the blood, Uncle. All the blood. I’m sick of it.”
“Well,” the old man said, “you’re still seeing blood working in Records, right? I mean you’re dealing with the photos, and you have to go down the morgue sometimes verify identities, sometimes.”
David, still holding his head in his hands, said, “Yeah, yeah. But it’s not the same. It’s not coming on a fresh scene, you know. It’s cleaner.”
His uncle nodded. “Yes, yes, that’s true, I suppose.” He sipped. “So interfiling and alphabetizing, that’s your strong suit now, huh?”
Chan sat up and looked at him. “There’s more to it than that, Uncle. You know that.”
“Not much, David, not too much. With your talents, though, the Records Division could become something else. Something more interesting.”
“Huh. How so?”
“Well,” the old man said, “in between cups of coffee and donuts and dotting Is and crossing Ts, and all the other excitement, you could be putting your sleuthing to better use.”
Chan was listening, curious.
The old man went on. “There are two kinds of cases down there, right? The ones we’ve solved, and the ones we haven’t. The cold cases, David, the ones that are pretty much doomed to a new ice age. You could warm them up.”
Chan winced. Good detective that he was, he knew where this was headed.
“David, some cases are colder than others. You could look through the files, weigh evidence, you know. And then, with your ability put to good use, some of those cases could warm up.”
David Chan Junior knew well the greatest regret of Wilbur Apana’s life, professional or personal. Had he not finally been forced to retire, Wilbur Apana would have (snip)
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Today’s word is
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