All Hallows’ Eve: The Unmaskings of Honolulu — Chapter 14 (excerpt)

Chan’s superiors deemed it necessary, so he was assigned mandatory sessions with the department shrink.  They said they were worried about work fatigue, especially given the compounding of his daughter’s death together with the loss of his longtime partner.

Chan was fatigued, too tired in fact to raise hell about this, so he went along.  As budget would have it, there was no money for one-on-one sessions, so he and the others for whom this therapy had been prescribed met in a small conference room upstairs at the station.

“As you all know already,” the psychiatrist said, “you, as officers sworn to uphold the law, have always to deal with alleged criminals in a fair and even-handed way.  You are required to see the men and women you seek to apprehend as being just like yourselves, except for the unfortunate circumstance that they may, may have broken the law.  You, of course, must respect the fact absolutely that these alleged offenders are all innocent until proven guilty.

“Sometimes this is a tremendous burden.  At a point, some of you may quite understandably lose track of this mandated mindset, and for good reason.  Given the pressures you face on a daily basis, the fact that you place your lives in danger every time you put on your badge, you actually may shift gears, as it were, into a way of thinking where you see yourself acting more like a hunter of what you may come to regard as creatures less than human, things with different mores who exist in an environment apart from us, the law abiding citizenry, denizens of the deep and murky worlds who carry on a way of life contrary to accepted societal order and the communal good.

“The worse your fatigue, gentlemen, the more likely it becomes that you may begin to view these perpetrators as subhuman, animals, or worse, as amorphous others, beings so foreign to the concept of community and its well-being that you believe you are left with no alternative other than to excise these things from our misery in the most expeditious manner possible.

“Gentlemen, I have seen your fellow-officers reach this mental state, and I hope that you, here, if you have come to this point in your lives, will not fall over at this tipping point.  What I am here to do is gently walk you back from the edge of this abyss and –

Chan interrupted him.  “Whoa, Doc, whoa.  I don’t about the rest of the guys here, but I don’t think I’m there.  I don’t even know, really, why I was told I had to be here.”

He stood up.

“I mean, right now, on the spectrum, I’m, well, hmmm . . .  Now that I think about, ah, I was actually thinking . . .”

He ran his palm over the butt of his revolver.

“Hah!  To tell you the truth, I was thinking of printing up departmental T-shirts and bumper stickers with the slogan:

Do Good Work, Pop a Perp.

So hey, Doc, hey, maybe, maybe I’m in a little worse shape than I thought.”

Everyone in the room stared at Chan.  The expressions on their faces were a sweeping collage of contorted horror.  But then he noticed that they weren’t staring at his face.  Chan glanced down and saw he was bleeding.  He grabbed for the wound and cried out . . .

Chan bolted awake in his chair.  He’d dozed off at the dining room table.  Glancing at his watch, he saw it was 11:30. “Jesus.”  He walked over to the small safe installed in his bedroom closet, opened it, and pulled out his service revolver.

He thought, “You know, I am there already.  And while I’m here, maybe there’s just one more creature I can think of off the top of my head. Ah yes, Grampa, hope really is the sunshine that illuminates the darkest path.” He smiled a brief wicked smile.

Checking that the gun wasn’t loaded, he sniffed at the barrel.  For a second he thought he could smell the last firing.  Impossible.  It was a fact that most officers, by the time they retired, would have never discharged their service revolver in the line of duty even once.

Fired or not, Chan cleaned his gun religiously.  It was a ritual with him.  He sniffed at it again.  Nothing.  Some kind of sense memory, undoubtedly.

He set a pot of coffee to brew while he took a quick shower and shave.  Wiping away the steam from the mirror, for a moment he leaned his head against it, closed his eyes, thought, “You were just here a moment ago.”

He pulled his head back, opened his eyes, examined them.  They were red, bloodshot to the point of looking almost as if they were bleeding.  “Jack Daniel’s, you are killing me, man.”

He stood up straight, noticed his hair.  “It’s amazing my whole head isn’t gray, but hey, a touch of white, who cares.  I’ve still got hair.”

Armed with a cup of coffee, he stepped out on his lānai overlooking the bright lights of downtown Honolulu.  Nearly the witching hour.  All Hallows’ Eve.  He thought about the dead, all the ghosts.

Chan paused a second to look the scene over, how bright and clean the place looked at night.  We’re getting there, he thought.  He whispered, “And from Pacific Heights, I seem to see the lights, of a city that is very dear to me.”

Taking a seat at the picnic table, he put down the coffee and opened the cleaning kit.  As he began working on the gun, he was humming.  “My Kind of Town,” imagining Sinatra strutting the stage, hand extended to encompass the audience.

“Honolulu is my kind of town,” he sang softly, substituting freely . . . is the Aloha Tower . . . is the Dole Cannery . . . is the Termite Palace . . .  is Diamond Head . . . is –

He stopped.  “Is too much Yu Kang-ho.  Will that parasite never leave?”

After the funeral, Chan had assumed that Yu would knock some blocks together, pit-pat his house in order, and then get the hell back to Korea.  But he kept popping up, like a Whack-a-Mole, lingering, like a bad stink, casting a fetid pall over the entire State of Hawai’i.

Out of nowhere, a line jumped into his head, how if you want to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.

Next door, the Taniguchi’s dog began to bark. Chan looked up and over toward their house. The lights were dark. The intensity of the dog’s barking increased. Chan stood up, walked swiftly back into his bedroom and loaded his revolver.

A bead of sweat tickled down his back (snip)

* * * * *

Today’s word is

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