Craig and Andrea Carroll were embarked upon their dream honeymoon. On route from O’Hare to LAX, they’d joined the Mile High Club, and they’d renewed their membership dues on the flight from L.A. to Honolulu.
Once they’d settled into their room at the Moana Hotel, they took a long walk to their dinner destination. The La Ronde Restaurant sat on top the Ala Moana Building tower, the beacon of the Ala Moana Shopping Center. Their friends had recommended the view in order to get the lay of the land. The La Ronde rotated 360 degrees every hour. Of course the Caroll’s wanted to do the full revolution. Everybody did. They only managed to observe 300 degrees, however, as they spent the other 60 in the restroom joining the La Ronde High Club.
The next day their first stop was Mānoa Falls. The trail at the back of the valley was not much of a challenge, and they arrived at the falls with plenty of energy. There were very few other people around. The couple sat for a bit until they were alone, then moved off into the shady vegetation. When they thought they far enough away from being accidentally stumbled upon, they spread out a blanket and proceeded to plant another thumbtack in their map of romance.
Mission accomplished, Craig excused himself and ventured farther on into the trees to relieve himself. After a few minutes, Andrea heard him call to her, requesting that she follow him. It’s good to be young, she thought, as she too was not averse to a second session.
“Look,” Craig said, pointing to what appeared to be a pile of leaves.
“There?” she asked, ready to spread the blanket again.
“No, I mean, take a look there.”
Craig stepped forward, squatted, and pointed again. Andrea stepped forward squatted and followed his finger.
“What is that?” she asked.
“I,” he said, “I think it’s a skull.”
To make sure, Craig stood up and walked to the object. He stooped and brushed the leaves aside.
David Chan listened to Officer Stillman talk about the frantic call from the tourist who’d discovered the body. Chan did not believe in coincidence, but in his post-several-Jack Daniel’s-shots-haze, and staring at the missing person file in front of him, he felt the adrenaline kick in.
“And both hands were missing,” Stillman said. “I wonder if maybe he stole something.”
Chan closed his eyes, pictured a human figure waiting as a flashing machete swooped down. The hands separated from the arms. The blood flowed. He thought about parts of the world where this could be a punishment for theft, just as there were places where you could have your eyes gouged out for looking at the wrong thing, lose your tongue for saying the wrong thing, or have you genitals cut off for having intercourse with the wrong person. But Mānoa Valley?
He opened his eyes. “Bobby, was it a male?”
“I couldn’t tell you off-hand. Not enough left of the body to just say.”
“Was there any kind of identification?”
“No, Lieutenant, the body, what was left of it, was stripped.”
Stillman turned and left. Chan checked his watch. Half-past nine. He wondered if Dr. Lee were still in. He dialed. The ME picked up.
“Hank, this is Chan. Have you had a chance to look at the body that came in from Mānoa Falls today?”
“I’m working on it right now.”
“Know if it’s a male?”
“Yes, it is.”
David Chan’s heart rate shot up a bit. “Asian?”
“That I can’t say yet.”
Chan laid his right hand on the file before him. “You think it’s been out there long?”
Lee said, “Hard to say right at the moment. You know Mānoa, way in the back, all the rain, that whole waterfall area. Loads of moisture, not to mention the rats and other animals feeding on it. There’s not a lot of flesh left, but I’d guess . . . “
Chan’s heart rate went up another notch.
“You know, given the condition of the bones, ah . . .”
Chan ran his hand over the folder.
“Maybe nine months, maybe closer to a year.”
Chan’s heart sank. “That recent?”
“Yeah, definitely no more than a year. The bones are in excellent condition, cleaned off mostly by animals and insects. Not much deterioration.”
Chan closed his eyes.
“David? David, you still there?”
“Yes, sorry, I don’t believe in coincidence anyway.”
“Ah, sorry, nothing. Hey, I understand the hands were missing.”
“Yeah, they were. Wonder if it’s a sign he stole something?”
Chan leaned way back in his chair. “That’s the same thing Bobby Stillman, the responding officer, said. Why do you think that, Hank?”
“I don’t. Just a passing thought. I leave the ‘why’ to you guys. I’m more the ‘how’ guy.”
“Speaking of how, do you have a cause of death?”
“With so little except the skeletal remains, it’s tough to say. The skull is intact, so clearly no trauma or shot to the head. It could just be that he bled out due to the amputations. I’ll let you know more once I’m done.”
Chan thanked him and hung up. His heart sank, as if all the adrenaline were being pumped out of his body, along with all his blood, all the air in his lungs being sucked out too.
“Huh?” he said, suddenly sitting up. “Of course.”
He stood and walked back into the vault. He was looking for the missing person files going a year back, October.
Here. He rolled open the drawer. “What I’m looking for,” he said aloud, “is I’m looking for a missing person with any kind of criminal record. They took the hands, because they knew we’d get a hit on the fingerprints. We must have the prints on file.”
Chan flipped slowly through the folders. Nothing. November last year. Nothing. December. Yes, there. Filed December 27th. Joon-ho “Richard” Han. What a coincidence. Byung-ho Yu’s right-hand man.
Not even his left-hand man now, Chan thought.
Chan walked the file back to his desk. Of course. With that Daddy Yu and his son dead, there was no blood inheritor. That would mean a struggle for power. Han for sure had lost. Who’d won?
Chan picked up the other file, the one sitting on his desk, and walked out of the office. Taking a file out of the station was strictly prohibited. Taking two? Who says two wrongs don’t make a right? This, he thought, isn’t just right. It’s righteous.
On the drive home, Chan contemplated the possible suspects. There was Woo-kyun “Tom” Seo, Yu’s third in command, but dealing with him in the past, Chan always thought of Tom Seo as more of a thinker than a hand-amputating killer. Richard Han, well he would kill his own mother if Yu asked him to. Tom Seo, he would probably sit his mom down and have a nice long talk with her. While they sipped tea. But Tom Seo would be the one to check out first, for sure. In fact, Chan thought, hadn’t whoever’d been assigned the case done that? He’d check that in the file when he got home.
It was late now, nearly 11:00. Chan could see that all the princesses and ghosts had gone home. Well, except in Waikīkī. They’d just be heating up down there. His son probably one of the revelers.
Chan parked in his garage and grabbed the two files. The thought suddenly crossed through his mind that his house might be bugged. How else could the anonymous phone caller know what he was up to?
As he moved up the walkway to his house, he stopped. Someone was sitting on the porch. “Dave?” he said. “Dave, is that you, son?”
The dark figure sat up, or tried to, grabbing onto the stair railing. “David, you, you come home,” said his Uncle Snuffy, his speech slurred.
Chan looked back at the street. Apana’s car was there. “Uncle, you drove like this?”
“Hah!” Apana said. “I din’t just drive, David, I fuh-lew.”
“Aw geez, Uncle. Not good, man, not good, you.” David reached for him and gave him a hand up. Apana had trouble standing, but made it. Chan supported him into the house and onto the couch. He switched on a floor lamp next to the chair, set the two files on the coffee table, and sat in a rocker opposite his father’s ex-partner.
“Uncle Snuff, why’d you take the chance coming back tonight?”
“I went to see my dad, David. He said to come back.”
David Chan looked at the man. Apana’s father, Chang, was buried in the Chinese graveyard at the back of Mānoa Valley. He’d been there for some 30 years. “You went to see your dad? You went to the graveyard?”
“Yeah yeah yeah. I wanted to have a few with Pop. You know what I mean, yeah, when I say have a few.”
“Yeah yeah yeah, I know,” Chan said. “Looks like you drank his few too.”
Apana laughed. Then pulled out his handkerchief with great effort. Chan watched the man wipe his eyes, then blow his nose.
“So, Uncle, you had a few with your dad and you had a talk with him?”
Two years ago Chan would have laughed at this idea. Now, thinking about his own strange interactions with his dead partner, Victor Yamamoto, he was paying attention.
“Ah, yeah, well, no. He had a talk with me.”
Chan was serious. “What’d he say?”
“Shit,” Apana said, “he told me I had to come back here, here,” he pointed emphatically at the floor, “tell you something.”
All of a sudden, the old detective noticed the files on the table. “Is that it?”
“You mean my promise to you?”
“Yes, David, yes, your promise.”
“Yes,” Chan said. “I’m going to look at it tonight. I also have the file of another missing person. Byung-hi Yu’s right-hand man, Richard Han.”
Apana’s eyes opened wide.
“You know him, Uncle? I think (snip)
* * * * *
Today’s word is
Use it to inspire a piece of writing and then post that piece as a comment below. I’d love to read it : )