The two met at Kang Yu’s Kahala Beach estate. They sat out back, under a nearly full moon, sipping whiskey.
“In Pusan,” Yu said, “I miss not being this close to the water. This lapping of the waves on the beach is very soothing, don’t you agree? I miss that.” He held out his glass. “As I’ve missed you, my old friend.”
“This is a truly beautiful place, Mister Yu, are you planning to keep it?”
“For the time being I will hold onto both this place and my son’s place in Mānoa. I am giving my daughter her choice of home, should she choose to move into either. I’ve asked her to move back from the coast at her earliest convenience. Should she choose not to live at either house, I’ll buy her a place. Regardless, I’ll hold on to these two.”
“It’s been many years since I saw your daughter. I’m assuming she’ll be here for the funerals?”
“Yes, as we speak she’s flying in. I was wondering if you might pick her up. Her flight arrives from Los Angeles at 10:30.”
“I’d be happy to do that.”
“Thank you. My wife is quite indisposed. Her grief over the death of Byung and Jason is great, otherwise I think she’d probably have gone to meet Gi in person.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that, Mr. Yu, but it’s quite understandable. I assure you it’s my pleasure to pick up Gi.”
“Thank you, old friend. And thank you too for taking care of our two employees. Did you manage that personally?”
“Ah, no, I requested the services of Red to handle them.”
No one knew his real name. He was known only as Red, the only red-headed Korean any of them had ever met. He was huge, too, muscular and very tall. You knew people like Red existed. They lived somewhere in a very dark, distant netherworld, and when you needed them, they would materialize out of thin air, do what they’d been hired to do, then disappear until they were needed again. It was highly unlikely that you would bump into Red while Christmas shopping at Ala Moana Center, and if you did, you’d know it would be suddenly best to turn and run as fast and as far as you could go, to Antarctica or to the Moon if possible.
There was no phone number, no postal address. The only way to contact Red was to sit on a bench near the Honolulu Zoo and wait for him. He would know you were looking for him if you wore a red carnation lei. You might wait for an hour or two or more, then all of a sudden, someone would slip in to sit beside you. The two of you would then get up and walk. Red did not like to sit still. You would detail the job, he would take the envelope from you, and you would keep walking while he disappeared.
“Ah,” said Yu, “Red, that’s good. A fine fellow, that one. Very good at his job. I admire that.”
“Yes, Sir. None better.”
“And thank you too, for arranging the funeral for Byung and Jason. I’m sorry it took me longer than expected to come back, so thank you as well for postponing the service.”
“Not at all.”
“Still no word on who might have murdered my son?”
“No, Sir, nothing. It’s a tough case, but they assigned it to Chan. You can be sure, if it’s at all possible, that he’ll get to the bottom of it.”
Yu looked far out to sea. “Yes, it would be Chan. That bastard. Him and his whole bastard clan. Well,” he said, “I suppose if he can do it, then . . .
“You know, my friend, the last time Byung and I spoke, he mentioned that he was having some difficulty with our opium supply chain. Had he lived, he was ready to travel to China to unclog the line. Jason, even if he were alive, would have been a bit green to be stepping up from the prostitution side, so I needed to go. The job required my personal touch.”
“And is the problem resolved, Sir?”
Yu cleared his throat. “Ah, let’s say I’ve arranged a temporary fix at Shanghai. But as you well know, my friend, Shanghai is the last stop before Honolulu. It’s the supply network behind Shanghai that needs to be unclogged.”
“But with the rise of the heroin market, why not just forget about opium already? Don’t you think it’s falling by the wayside, anyway, becoming sort of an antique drug almost?”
“Ah, my friend, antiques are valuable depending on the desire of the right collector. And there are still those here in Hawai’i who will pay us very good money to supply their desires.” He sipped his whiskey. “Very, very good money.”
“Will you return to China then?”
“No, my friend. For the time being, until I can pick a successor here that I can depend upon, I will remain in Honolulu to make sure everything runs smoothly.”
“But then the opium supply problem will never get cleared up.”
“Ah, that is where I need to entrust my work to someone reliable. Someone like you.”
“At this point, you are the only person I feel I can trust. And, conveniently, you have connections in China, do you not?”
“Well, I have many relatives scattered about, as does my wife, but . . . “
“Yes?” Yu asked.
“How long do you think this job might take?”
“I don’t know. But I know you are the only man in whom I have enough faith to see this through on my behalf.”
“But, Sir, my job here. What if clearing up the problems in China takes a while. I can’t just up and leave my job.”
“My friend, you have worked that job long and well. You have served more than enough years to meet retirement requirements, and you most certainly have reached an age where you need to think about spending your time doing things you’ve earned the right to do. Time to enjoy life, don’t you agree?”
“Well, ah, when would you want me to leave?”
“I was thinking maybe tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow? I, how, but even if I were retiring, they’d expect notice. I can’t just up and leave tomorrow.”
Yu turned and looked at the man. “I need you to do this, and I need you to get on it immediately. You will go to China tomorrow. You will say that there is a family emergency. You will take your wife with you to make it seem all the more of an important family matter. Should this business take you only a short while to conclude, you can come home and return to that precious job of yours. Should it take longer, you will let them know that you must retire in order to be with your family in their time of great need.”
Kang Yu paused. “Is everything that I’ve said very clear to you now, sitting under this beautiful moon?” he asked.
“I, I, yes, Sir, it is. It’s clear. I’d better get home and let my wife know that we need to go. But she may want to know why such an abrupt trip is necessary. I can’t very well tell her it’s a family emergency, can I. I mean, there’s no family emergency. She would know if there were a family emergency. I can’t simply make one up.”
Yu returned to watching the calming Kahala waves. He sipped his whiskey. “Tell me the name of one of your relatives in China whom you’d consider a good candidate for ill health. You can assume that by tomorrow morning, someone will call you at home to tell you about how that person is desperately ailing.”
There was a good long silence.
“This is hard for me to do.”
Yu laughed. “Believe me, friend, there are much harder things that could happen.”
“Okay, yes. I have a cousin, Da Wei Ah Ping in Shanghai.” He pulled a pad and pen from his pocket. “Here’s his address.”
He rose, tore the paper from the pad, laid it on the table, turned and headed a bit shakily for the house.
“Please be prompt, my old friend, in picking up my daughter,” Yu called out.
“I will, Sir.”
“And if I don’t see you, have a wonderful trip.”
When he was alone, Yu went to his study and called a friend in Shanghai. After that piece of business was arranged, he (snip)
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