Byung Yu sat open-mouthed, apparently nonplussed by this strange statement.
Victor Yamamoto barely suppressed bursting out laughing.
David Chan observed Yu’s gold glittering cufflinks, then the perfectly manicured fingers of his clasped hands sitting perfectly still on the green desk blotter.
After a long moment Yu said, “Excuse me?”
Chan looked him in the eye. “Well, you actually only said you knew about it, not that you’d done it. I woke up before you had a chance to admit you were guilty.”
Yamamoto, unable to control himself completely, let go a small, smirking chuckle.
Yu looked disdainfully at Yamamoto. Yamamoto remained smiling.
Clearing his throat, Yu unclasped his hands and rose from his seat. Standing there, looking down at Chan, he said, “I’m sorry, Mister Chan, but in this dream of yours, since I didn’t admit my guilt, I imagine what I was actually going to do, had your slumber not been interrupted, was ask you and Mr. Yamamoto to leave.”
“Please, Mister Yu,” said Chan, “please have a seat. At least do me the courtesy of listening to my theory.”
Yu looked askance at Chan. “Theory? Your theory about what?”
“Please,” encouraged Chan. “Please sit.”
Yu, begrudgingly, sat. He resumed his clasped-hand pose, leaning forward with a snear close to breaking on his face.
Chan continued. “In my dream –”
“Stop!” said Byung Yu. “Enough about your dream. What’s this theory?”
“In my dream,” Chan began again, “you didn’t admit to the killings. I believe if the dream had gone on –”
Now Yamamoto chuckled. Yu ignored him.
“If the dream had gone on,” said Chan, flashing a quick side-glance at his partner, “I believe you would indeed have denied doing the killings yourself. What you said, before I woke up, was only that you were aware of them.”
Yu said nothing.
“I believe that if you really are not already aware of them then you should be aware of the killings, Mister Yu. I’m worried for you. You tolerate no rivals, Mister Yu. We all know what you do about anyone who would attempt to usurp your position, the position of your family here in Hawai‘i. If you do not already know who these people are, I believe you’d best be finding out about them fast.”
Chan stopped talking. He waited for some kind of reaction from Yu. Yu settled back in his chair. “Hmmm,” he finally said, “that’s an interesting little dream, Mister Chan. I’m glad I escaped the gallows.”
At this, Yamamoto spoke up. “Yeah, that’s right, Yu. No gallows for you. You think you’re pretty funny, yeah? We got your damn gift.”
“My what?” said Yu.
“Your little gift, brah. The noose. You know there’s no more hanging in this state as of yesterday. You lucky you sidestepped us long enough. If we catch you now, you right. You know there’s no chance you’re gonna swing.”
Yu gave a puzzled look. “What, pray tell, are you babbling on about?”
Chan, anticipating Yamamoto flying across the desk, laid his hand on his partner’s shoulder again.
“Mister Yu, did you know that the legislature voted last night to do away with the death penalty? There will be no more hangings in Hawai‘i. From now on, the maximum penalty will be life without parole.”
Yu nodded in a way that made it appear this truly was news to him. “Wonderful news for the wrongly convicted,” he said. “And so you thought I knew this and did what again?”
“Sent me a hangman’s noose,” said Chan. “And a card. The card read that quote, even if you catch me now you won’t be able to kill me, unquote.”
Yu laughed out loud, shook his head merrily. “My friends,” he said, his snake shimmering demeanor in full slippery slither again, the lubrication oozing in his voice, “since I have never in my life done anything even slightly illegal, and certainly never ever entertained the idea of taking someone’s life, you would be absolutely correct in assuming that I would never send you such a gift.”
Yamamoto let go a loud guffaw. Chan patted his partner’s shoulder.
“Innocent as I am, no matter how many times you see fit to drag me into court, you know how the scales of justice have always swung in my favor. You both know this very, very well. There is no conceivable way on earth that I would ever send you something like that, since there never has been, nor will there ever be, a need for you to catch me doing anything.” He smiled, “Except for the occasional jaywalking infraction, perhaps.”
Chan was on slow boil. Facing a stone cold killer, the murderer of his father, Chan was quite sure, much to his disgust, that Yu was not the one who’d sanctioned the murders, just as he’d been near certain that Yu had not sent the package.
“Why we’re here then,” said Chan, “is to pick your brain about who you believe might be behind this.”
Yu again gave a hearty laugh. “How on earth would I have any idea about such things, Mister Chan. I am a simple, honest, humble business man.”
Yamamoto’s guffaw might have rattled the crystal chandelier overhead.
Yu shot him a cool look, one step shy of a nasty snear, but kept practiced control.
Chan had nearly reacted in the same way, but held any disgusted laughter back with the same kind of practiced control.
“Mister Yu,” Chan said, “your innocence aside, I want you to know that I believe someone is acting in such a way that may lead to implicating you in a crime you did not commit. More to the point, Mister Yu, I think someone may be in the process of trying to frame you for this crime or to supplant you and take over your family business.”
Yamamoto leaned forward and swiveled to peer into his partner’s face. The look of absolute surprise made Chan wince. He never wished to throw his partner curves and sliders like this, but he’d been moved to make this statement in a moment dictated entirely by his gut. He was free-wheeling a course of action now, one emanating from deep down inside himself. It was the police gene talking. The one that sensed he was steering this whole case in the right direction.
Byung Yu rose again. He extended his arm across the desk, not to shake any hands, but to indicate the way out. “Thank you so much for your concern, Mister Chan. I find your concern and your instincts hardly amusing, and I do not like, and have never liked, the ways in which you try to tie me to any kind of dastardly activities.”
Yamamoto and Chan rose, turned, and headed for the door. Chan stopped, pivoted, and said, “For all you protestations of ignorance and innocence, Mister Yu, I’m telling you someone may be out to get you. You had best hope we catch them before they do you in.”
He turned away. Yamamoto added, “We’re the ones who definitely want to do you in, Yu. Maybe better for you that they get you instead of us. Cause when we do catch to you, brah, you better drop down on your knees and start praying.”
Yu stood stone-faced.
Yamamoto and Chan sat in the car.
“David, what the hell, man? What were you trying to pull in there? Help him? Screw that. Let anybody and their grandmothers implicate this asshole. Give um all guns and a license to kill that bastard. Bring it on.”
Chan sat coolly, shook his head. “Sorry, Vic, I just went with what I was feeling. If they aren’t trying to frame him in some way, they’re doing a really good job of imitating him. One guy in town as dangerous as Yu is bad news. Two of them? I hate to think. If it’s not a war to destroy Yu, then it’s like we’re now looking down the twin barrels of a shotgun.”
“But, David,” said Yamamoto, “why not just let whoever frame him, or kill him, or whatever?”
Chan was silent for a while. Finally he said, “First, Vic, you know we are sworn to uphold the law. That means we’re obligated to protect everyone, and we are to assume no one is guilty until proven so.”
Yamamoto snorted. “Yeah, so I heard.”
Chan went on. “Second, if we don’t spur Yu on, and if he doesn’t eliminate these rivals quickly on his own, if rivals is what they are, then we’ve got two groups of maniacal killers on our hands, harming maybe twice as many innocent people.”
“Yeah, I get that,” said Yamamoto.
“And third, if anyone, in the course of things going as they do in this life, if anyone is going to be doing any harm to that man, it’s going to be us. The law and the courts be damned.”
Yamamoto turned and looked at his partner. He had never heard Chan say anything like this outright. Had it been him, and had the man murdered his father, Yamamoto was not sure how he would act in his course of revenge, but he knew he’d be unable to control his rage in the same way David Chan could. This newly observed side of Chan, this amazed Yamamoto.
“So, David,” he said, “seriously, why give him a heads-up at all?”
Chan laughed and turned to his partner. “Vic, you’re the one who dragged us over here. Really, buddy, it’s you who was giving him a heads-up.”
Yamamoto had to laugh. “Yeah, me and my hot head, uh? So I forced our hand. Well, Boss, it’s not the first time I blew a hole in the line for you to run the ball through.”
Chan nodded. “Agreed, Vic, I’ve followed your butt though the line a whole lot of times. We make a good team.”
They both laughed. Chan started up the engine, and they drove down the long circular driveway. Chan imagined Byung Yu sitting at his koa desk, fuming as he made calls to all his criminal cohorts, wanting to know how their guard had lapsed, seeking out the person or persons who might be trying to do him in.