All Hallows' Eve: The Unmaskings of Honolulu — Chapter 21 (excerpt)

David Chan thought his partner might make and interesting tour guide.

“This guy, this neighborhood, what a frickin bunch of assholes.”

This was Victor Yamamoto’s verdict regarding the upscale neighborhood of Wai‘alae-Kāhala.

“Let’s face it,” Yamamoto said.  “If you live Kāhala, it’s only Kāhala.  Screw the Wai‘alae peasants.  If they could rename the golf club Kāhala Country Club, you know they would.  If they could break away from City and County of Honolulu and make themselves their own county, like the City and County of Money, you know they would do it.”

“And,” said Chan, “anytime Kang Yu, and then his grandson Jason, are two of your more prominent neighborhood residents, well then you know you’re living the gracious life.”

“So what’s the beef with this guy?”  Yamamoto asked.

The two were on their way to Kāhala to interview a person of interest in a series of murders that were obviously related.  The victims came from disparate locations, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, London, and Bogota, but all four had been killed within 72 hours of their individual arrival times.  All four had declared they were in the U.S. for pleasure, all four claimed to be in the import-export business.

Dr. Philip Tico had become a blip on David Chan’s radar because his business card had been found in the wallet of the man from London.  And truth be told, Tico’s son, and Tico too, had been persons of interest to Chan for several years now.

“So what’s this fool Haole’s business again?”  Yamamoto asked.

“He’s also in the import-export business.  He calls himself a doctor, of what I don’t know.”

Yamamoto snorted derisively.  “Import, export.  Das already like two strikes.  When these dicks say that’s their business, I always think it’s just advertising to the world that you’re moving around illegal shit of some kind.”

“Well, with Tico it’s high quality ceramic pieces from around the world,” said Chan.

“Right there,” Yamamoto said, “we should be getting warrants to inspect every one of his shipments. Stinks already like black market from the get go. Maybe these four guys were part of some international robbery or high-jacking syndicate, shipping Tico the stolen goods to wash Stateside.”

“Good job, Vic.  You’ve solved the case and we’re not ever there yet.”

Yamamoto laughed.  “Eh, a cop can dream, can’t he?”

“I have to say, though, seriously, your idea sounds pretty solid.  And for sure we better work on getting warrants to search his warehouses.”

“That right there stinks,” said Yamamoto.  “How many warehouses somebody gotta have?”

Chan parked by the curb in front of Tico’s house on ‘Ama‘u, just off of Hunakai.  Chan knew that if you took Hunakai straight down to Kāhala Avenue, you’d be smack up against Kang and Jason Yu’s estate.  The proximity alone was gut-level suspicious.

The two detectives made their way up the winding walk.  One middle-aged Filipino man was trimming the hedges, while another was mowing the grass behind the house.

Yamamoto shook his head.  “These guys who live out here who canna do their own yardwork.  Lunas with coolies.  They should all be wearing white suits and black string ties.  Bus out da mint juleps, why not?”

Chan rang the doorbell.  The chime was the opening to Beethoven’s “Für Elise.”

Yamamoto just shook his head.

An oldish Japanese woman, dressed in a maid’s uniform, her gray hair done up in a white cap, opened the door.  “Can I help you?”

Chan showed his badge.  “I’d like to speak to Mr. Tico if he’s available.”

“Please come in,” she said, standing aside and bowing, beckoning them to enter.

The two walked into the antechamber.  Everything was koa wood.  It was almost breathtaking.

“Please to wait in the living room,” the elderly maid said, gesturing the way.  “I will let Mr. Tico know you are here.”

Chan and Yamamoto stepped into and looked around the enormous living room with its vaulted ceilings.  It was all paintings, sculpture, and other expensive looking objet d’arte.

“Sometimes when I’m waiting for the master in plantation homesteads like this one,”  Yamamoto said, “I wonder what it might be like to pocket an item, just to see if he can even figure out he missing something.  I mean, look at all the shit this guy has.  How you gonna keep track?”

Just then a youngish looking man walked in.  Chan was not pleased with what he saw.  He’d not cared for his daughter dating this guy to begin with, and had warned her off.

“Sara,” he’d said, “there’s something not right about that family.  Maybe not him, okay, but his father looks suspicious to me.”

His daughter was taken aback.  Chan had shown so little interest in her life after her mother had died that Sara wondered why he even bothered to say anything.

“You’ve arrested his dad before?”

“Well, no.”

“Then why do you say that about him?”

“Because I’ve had my suspicions.  His business looks dirty to me.”

“Dad, even if he were a criminal, would you automatically assume that his son is too?”

Chan had no comeback for this.  “I’m just saying, Sara.  It would be best, in my opinion, if you stayed away from that family altogether.”

“Dad, I don’t judge people the way you do.  Jeffrey’s a nice boy and a good student.  I don’t care about his father or what his father does.  If you do, okay, but please don’t tell me to live my life based on things you aren’t even sure are true.  That’s not you, Dad.  That’s not the way police do things, is it?  You want the facts, right?  You act on facts, Dad.”

Chan stared at his daughter.  So this is what a high-priced Punahou education got him.  A daughter who could tell him what his own business was.  Chan and his wife had been perfectly happy with the public-school education that Sara was receiving going the Pauoa Elementary, Kawānanakoa Intermediate, Roosevelt High School route.

But after Sara had taken up ballet in elementary school, and as her love of it grew through intermediate school, she had finally begged her parents to send her to Punahou, the most expensive school in the State, because all of her ballet buddies went to school there.  Punahou had begun as a school for the elite, and it remained so.

At first Elaine and David had tried to dissuade her, but the pitch of Sara’s arguments grew stronger and higher, and her obvious unhappiness grew accordingly.  Finally, they’d given in, taken out a loan to help finance the tuition.

She was a high-school senior then, when Jeffrey Tico asked her out, a big girl, and Chan really had no more fight in him.

“Okay, okay.  Go ahead and date this boy.  But just keep an eyeball peeled for trouble, is all I’m saying.”

Sara’s angry look and tone evaporated.  “Thanks, Dad, you know I will.  I’m your daughter.  I’m always on the lookout for trouble.”  She smiled.  “I’m a Chan.”

Chan nodded, turned away.

“Dad,” Sara said, “I miss mom too.”

He turned back.  Not one for great displays of affection, he hugged her tight.  “Sara, I don’t know what I would do if you were to get hurt.  Not just by this boy, but by any boy, anyone.”

“I know, dad.”  She smiled.  “I promise I’ll be home early.”

Chan had sat there waiting every night of every date Sara had ever had.  He remembered those hours and hours.  Now she lived away from home, the distance between them seeming to grow and grow.

Chan was still paying off that Punahou loan, even though Sara was at the University of Hawai’i now.  She’d loved it at Punahou, though, so he was happy for her.

“Mister Chan,” Jefferey Tico said, stopping just inside the entrance from the hall into the living room.  “It’s good to see you again.  Are you, ah, looking for me?”

Yamamoto looked over to his partner.  He’d not known that Chan knew this young man so well.

“Actually, I’m looking for your father.  I should have been clearer with your maid.”

Chan heard Yamamoto give a small derisive snort.

“Oh, he’s not home right now.  Did you try his office?”

“Yes, Jefferey, we did try his office.  We were just there.  His secretary said he’d gone home.  I’m guessing that’s not the case, given that we get to see you when we ask for Mister Tico.”

Yamamoto sensed some heat.  David was generally a calm and cool-headed person.  Yamamoto loved it when he flared a little.

“Well, I,” Jefferey said, apparently sensing the heat as well, “I mean he must have stopped off somewhere.”

“Right,” Chan said.  “right.  Well, may we wait here and wait for him?”

“I, uh, sure, yes, of course. I’m headed out to school, but Setsuko can fix you up with something to eat or drink.”

Yamamoto spoke up abruptly.  “We don’t need anything.  Thank you.”

Tico looked at Yamamoto’s face, pictured Mount Fuji erupting.  Decided to step up his exit.

“Well then, please have a seat and wait.”

He turned around and left the room.

“What a dick,” Yamamoto said.

“Yeah,” Chan said.

“So, you know him pretty well, or what?”

“He dated Sara when they were seniors at Punahou.  He’s at UH now too.”

“I’m guessing from the way you were talking that he’s not your all-time favorite date for Sara, huh?”

Chan turned to him.  “Vic, if I could prove it, I know that little shit raped Sara.”

Yamamoto’s face turned to stone.  “She told you that?”

“No,” Chan said, “she didn’t tell me anything.  I just know that one night she came home and she was different.  I don’t know.  Confused, crying, flustered, rambling, distracted, all over the place.  I tried to talk to her, but she didn’t want to talk.  And that’s the last time she went out with Jefferey Tico.”

“Fucker,” said Yamamoto.  “If we figure this case, I hope the little bastard is in on whatever’s going on.  I’ll take care of him for you, David.  Old school.”

“Vic, hey, you how I feel about old school.”

“Yeah, David, I do.  That’s why you won’t have to worry about it.  It’s me.  I’m there already.”

An hour passed.  Setsuko came in several times offering them something to eat or drink.  Each time she exited the room, Victor Yamamoto cursed.

“She could be my mother,” Yamamoto said.  “And serving these crooked Haoles.  Shit.  Let’s get outta here already.  Dis whole place makes me kinea sick.”

Chan agreed.  They stood up and went into the hall.  Setsuko appeared.  They told her they couldn’t wait anymore, but to let Mr. Tico know they wanted to speak to him.  It would be good if he could call Lieutenant David Chan at HPD.

Setsuko bowed them out of the house.  All the way down the walk Victor was mumbling.  Chan noted how crisp and clean the lawn looked.

When they reached the car, Victor jumped in and slammed the door.  Chan turned to take in the full picture of the house and the garden.

And that picture.  That’s the picture Sara had taken.  That’s the photo Chan was looking at right now.  And his father’s abandoned car had been found right there.  He compared his daughter’s photo to the forensics one.  Minus the car, it was the exact same shot.

So, he wondered, had Tico owned the house when his father had disappeared.And what if the car hadn’t been abandoned at all?  What if (snip)

* * * * *

Today’s trigger is

money

Use it in a piece of writing, and then post that piece as a comment below. I’d love to read it : )

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