All Hallows’ Eve: The Unmaskings of Honolulu — Chapter 7 (excerpt)

With the war ending and the threat of a nuclear holocaust dancing in their heads as the Cold War came on, the powers-that-be put their collective brains together and decided to scare the hell out of the public by proclaiming that the Commies were coming any day now.  In Hawai’i, martial law becoming history after 1944 and the beaches being cleared of barbed wire, the notion that the Reds could be paddling ashore any time of day or night and waltzing into your bedroom had not just a few citizens alarmed.

Amidst this Red Scare hype, the powers-that-be also saw a good reason to step up the kind of vigilance that had been provided by a U.S. military that was stepping down its intensity now.

The plan devised was to create an elite law enforcement unit of four police officers who had proven themselves to be particularly good at their work.  This group, while they still worked their full-time positions for the Police Department, would now have the honor of putting in overtime, at no additional salary, to be at the beck-and-call of anyone from the Governor, to the Mayor, to the Chief of Police.  Their mission, to stem the Red Tide.  If there was even the hint of a Communist surfacing, this crack unit would be unleashed on them, and the latitude they were given for investigation and, particularly, for interrogation, was, well, liberal, to say the least.

Now they needed to decide on a name for this unit.  Several possibilities were tossed around, but in the end all the ornate and obtuse suggestions were rejected.  A Stiff Right to the Left Squad was deemed too long, Reds Are Dead, too strong, and The Commie Busters sounded like something out of a bad Hollywood movie.

At this point in history, what many suspected, was that Hawai’i would become the 49th United State.  With this in mind, in an aha-moment the new unit was christened The 49ers, or more succinctly, Hawai’i 4-9.

Armed with a new name, the next task was to recruit the four men who would serve as Hawai’i’s shield against the godless throng.

The first two to be asked and to accept were hard-nosed veterans Detective Lieutenant Wilbur Apana and Sergeant Kimo Kauhane, who would eventually rise to the position of Chief of Detectives.  Third and fourth were up-and-coming officers Victor Yamamoto and David Chan Jr.

Victor’s response was, “Shit.  I’ll do it if David does it.”

David’s response was, “I really would rather spend that time with my family.”  Chan was then informed that this was less a job offer than a job order. Thus, David Chan and Victor Yamamoto rounded out the group.

As the days wore on, the fantastic 49ers found that their overtime obligation pretty much boiled down to attending double the number of departmental meetings.  With no rowboats full of Communists paddling up on the shore of Waikīkī Beach, the four were mostly engaged to hassle union organizers and rabble-rousing laborers.  This did not sit well with any of the four, since most of these targets of their scrutiny were either relatives or friends. Hence there was a lot of hemming and hawing, paper shuffling, and other smokescreen devices employed to make Hawai’i 4-9 look like they were dealing most seriously with their Cold War adversaries, when in fact these encounters were usually meetings over a few beers and pupus with the interrogation amounting to questions about how family was doing, and did so-and-so remember some event from long ago, be it stealing lychee or mangos, winning the big game, or dating whatever-happened-to-her-anyway.

The powers-that-be eventually relaxed their paranoid vigilance and turned their sights in another, more actually pressing direction. If organized gambling and the drug trade under Yu Kang-ho had been just a blip on the radar before the war, it was now becoming a big problem. Rather than focus on a nebulous propagandized threat, the braintrust decided what was really needed was some pressure put on this accelerating influx of mostly Japanese and Chinese gangs.

There was a growing battle over who would control the gambling, drug – still primarily opium, and suddenly burgeoning prostitution markets, and the bodies were beginning to pile up.  Since the deregulation of prostitution by the military during the war, Hotel Street, as it was generally referred to, although there were whorehouses all over Chinatown, had become a big money racket.

Now at least, for the four men of 4-9, their “special” assignments made a little more sense.  The overtime they began to put in was all part of their ongoing police work, and even if they were assigned a special case, it very probably had something to do with whatever investigation they would have been involved in anyway.

One such special case had the four looking into why it was that a particular judge seemed to be amassing a track record that went counter to the solid work the police department had done in order to bring a perpetrator to trial.  Upon looking into the goings-on of Judge Judson, the four determined that his enthusiastic adherence to the idea of blind justice was somewhat of a bigger problem than suspected, as a perceived pattern surfaced pairing Stevens and Prosecutor Lyle Tinderman in the coincidence of reduced sentences compared to expectations, and outright verdicts of innocence flying in the face of all facts.

With very little effort, 4-9 discovered all manner of payoffs, including massive jury tampering, and as a result of these discoveries, the good judge and prosecutor ended up missing persons.

The question was, had they successfully fled the territory, or had they been happily “disappeared,” as Victor Yamamoto like to term it.

One day at an impromptu 4-9 dinner meeting in the conference room, Kimo Kauhane advanced the idea that the two must have been killed because whoever took them out somehow knew that 4-9 was closing in on them.

“But is isn’t so cut-and-dried,” David Chan said.  “It’s not, for instance, like they’re all Chinese, or all Asians, for that matter. If we could tie them all to a particular gang, we’d be better able narrow down the suspects, but it’s hard.”

“Yeah,” Yamamoto said, “get Haoles getting off free, too, besides da Yobo, Chink, and Nip fuck-heads.  We can hook’um all together?  I don’t know about that.”

The others were long immune to Yamamoto’s language.  They munched their hamburgers for a bit in silence, thinking about this possible tie-in.

Finally Wilbur Apana said, “Well, for me, I think they just up and took in on the lam.  I have a feeling they’re spending all their money in some far-off place.”

He took out his handkerchief, used it blow a prodigious load from his nose, then returned it to his pocket.  David Chan lost his appetite and put down his burger.

“And even if it were that they were killed,” Apana continued, “what idiot would bury, and certainly not dump, a body on land when we’re living on an island?  Organized crime bosses would have the body taken out to sea and sunk it to the bottom of the ocean.  I’m all for telling the Chief that this case is closed.  I say any more energy spent speculating about it would be a big waste of time deal.”

Chan said, “I totally agree with that.  Look, one way or another, these guys are history.  They won’t be getting away with anything anymore, and neither will the folks who were paying them, be it one person or however many.  We drove them out of Dodge.  Let’s move on.”

“Roger that,” Victor said. “Guys, I gotta take off.  Got some family business to take care of.”

The meeting of the 4-9 four broke up, and everyone except Victor returned to their desks to deal with all their other cases.

Yamamoto got into his car and immediately left the office at the office.  He turned 100% of his mental focus to his wife.  His mysteriously pregnant wife.

Parking on Maunakea Street in Chinatown, Yamamoto headed for Sheena’s Barbershop on Hotel Street.  Sheena’s place sat directly across the street from The Swing Club, the nightclub where his wife, Chieko, worked as a cocktail waitress.

“Jane,” he said to Mrs. Sheena, entering the shop,  “Can you take me now?  And can I get a facial and a shave?”

“Sure, Victor, take a seat.”

“Hey ladies,” Yamamoto said to the others who were all hard at their jobs.  He took a seat on the high chair nearest the door.  There were three other customers in various phases of tonsureal procedure .  He recognized none of them.  Yamamoto always made sure he knew how many people were in a room.

He checked his watch.  Chieko had just over an hour to go on her shift.  This was just about perfect timing.

When Jane had finished him up, Victor, who was sitting staring out the big plate-glass window fronting the shop, said, “Jane, you mind if I just sit here?  I’m waiting for someone.”

“No, not at all.”  Victor was a loyal customer.  Of course he could sit there.  She was actually a little afraid of the large detective.  It was, so to speak, a club she’d joined. He could do anything he wanted to do.

Victor sat, his attention riveted on the entrance to the club.  He glanced at his watch.  It was just past 9:00 p.m.  Chieko should be coming out at any time now.  Sure enough, five minutes later his wife walked out the door.  And just as Victor had predicted, she was not alone.

What he had not predicted was that the gentleman with his arm wrapped around her waist would be (snip)

* * * * *

Today’s word is


Use it to inspire some kind of writing, and then post your piece as a comment below. I’d love to read it : )

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