Chan and Yamamoto sat across from one another at their desks. Chan, bleary-eyed, watched his partner munch on a donut.
Taking a sip of his coffee, Chan wondered if he should mention it. Ah, why not.
“Vic, when’s the last time you went to Kailua Drive-In?”
Yamamoto looked up from his donut. “Geez, not since high school Great times, man. Lotta action back then. Can’t remember much about the movies, though.”
“Yeah, that’s great, Vic. But, ah, you been by there lately?”
“Sure, David, I drove by last week.”
David eyed him. “And what did you see?”
“No, not a movie. I mean I saw the place while I was driving past it.”
“Right, right,” said Chan, “I understand that. What I mean is did you see the Drive-In itself? Is it still standing there?”
Victor dunked the donut in his coffee. “What do you mean, is it there? Don’t tell me you think someone stole it?”
“No no no. I mean the place is still standing, isn’t it? It’s not, ah, it hasn’t been turned into a landfill or something?”
Yamamoto laughed. “You mean like a dump?”
“Yeah, a place to dump stuff, junk, garbage, you know.”
Yamamoto laughed again. “David, what the hell gave you an idea like that? You know how valuable that land is? First of all, why would anybody tear the place down? Second, if they did, why would they do something as stupid as wasting all that prime real estate for a dump? Only an idiot would do that.”
Chan nodded. “Yes, right, I just wanted to make sure it was still there.”
“Boss, what the hell? Why did you think it would be gone?”
Chan laughed. “I had this dream last night. Actually a nightmare. You called me up in the middle of the night, told me to come out there, that it was a landfill now. There were a couple dozen Tong piled up in there. Executed. We both knew it was Byung Yu, went to his home in Mānoa. When we confronted him about it, instead of claiming no knowledge of it, he said he knew all about it.”
Victor shook his head. “Damn, did he confess? Did we take him in or did we execute him on the spot?”
Chan did find this amusing. He was opposed to Hawai‘i’s death penalty, didn’t like the possibility of hanging someone who might actually be innocent. He hoped defense lawyers did their jobs well, always, and even though it was his job to collect the evidence to present to the city prosecutor’s office, help them develop an ironclad case, he believed that there were times when a case might not be a hundred percent certain lock. There was strong sentiment building to do away with the death penalty, a vote in the legislature would happen any day, and Chan hoped to see it gone as soon as possible.
Still, as far as Byung Yu, the whole Yu clan went, well, in his mind, Chan tied the nooses.
“No,” said Chan, “he didn’t confess. When I asked him how he knew about it, I woke up before he answered the question.”
Yamamoto finished up his donut. “Too bad. Maybe if we’d shot him in your dream, it would have killed him in real life.”
Chan laid his hand on the stack of case files in the basket between their desks. It would sure lighten up this pile, take care of a lot of cases, he thought.
Just then Captain Kimo Kauhane, Chief of Detectives, emerged from his office.
“Everyone,” he announced. “I wanted to let you know that what we suspected would happen has. They voted last night to abolish the death penalty. Effective immediately, the maximum penalty in this state will be life without parole.”
There were some groans.
“What about the guys who’re supposed to swing now,” asked Detective Marvin Santos. “They get a reprieve?”
“Yes, that is the case so far as I understand it. This is retroactive. They’ll be no more hangings.”
The Chief of Ds turned and went back into his office.
Yamamoto knew how Chan felt about this. Yamamoto had similar feelings, feelings he’d not expressed to anyone. But he was no fan of the idea that everyone on death row perhaps was innocent. There were a couple of stone cold killers, even Chan knew that, whose necks Yamamoto would like to have witnessed being stretched.
But he said nothing. He knew Chan would argue about it with him, and it was a battle not worth fighting.
The phone rang. Chan picked it up. It was Sergeant Calvin Kukui at the front desk.
“Lieutenant, someone just dropped off a package for you.”
Chan hung up and headed out to the front. Headquarters here at the corner of Merchant and Bethel looked overcrowded. Soon the Department would have to find new accommodations. The question was where. The downtown area didn’t hold a whole lot of promise for a big enough space to deal with a force expanding as quickly as they were.
The package was small, wrapped in plain brown paper with white twine tied around it. Chan carried it back to the squad room and sat down, placing the parcel in front of him.
Yamamoto, who was working on another donut, showed some interest in the package’s contents.
“Who’s it from?” he asked.
Yamamoto chuckled. “Well hurry up and open it, Boss. If it’s a bomb, we’ll want to know about it quick. You know, so we can run over and toss it in the harbor.”
Actually, the idea of this being a bomb had not even occurred to Chan. The bad sleep had him in a fog. Very carefully, he cut the string and undid the wrapping.
It was a simple, unmarked cardboard box. Chan carefully lifted the lid. He stared at the contents.
“What?” said Yamamoto. “What is it?”
Chan reached in and pulled out a short length of rope. It was a hangman’s noose. He reached in again and pulled out a note. He scanned it.
“Come on, what’s it say, David?”
Chan read: “What a shame, Mr. Chan. Even if you get me now, you won’t be able to kill me. Have a noose day.”
There was no signature.
“Well who the hell else would it be?” said Yamamoto. “Have a noose day. Only that asshole Yobo* would be that cool a cucumber.”
Chan ignored the slur. Yamamoto knew full well that Chan’s wife was Korean, but Chan long ago had learned to ignore his partner’s racist comments. Yamamoto really didn’t like anyone. Not even most Japanese.
Chan continued to look at the note. Byung Yu had an ego the size of North and South Korea combined, but really, would he send this? Somehow Chan, the English major, had never pictured the son of Kang Yu as much of a punster.
“Yeah,” said Yamamoto, reading Chan’s mind, “he would send it. Of course he would send it. Who else would send it? That dick.”
“Right,” said Chan. “Only him. Yes, I guess that’s true.”
*Yobo, here, a derogatory term for a Korean.