Jason turned back down the stairs, came into the study, and sat in front of his father’s desk.
“I wanted to show you something,” said Yu. “I acquired this today.”
He opened the top desk drawer, and took out a manilla envelope. Very carefully he withdrew a large clear plastic sheet. He laid it on the desk in front of his son. Held between what were actually two plastic sheets was a tiny blue square.
When Jason was a child, perhaps six or so, Byung Yu and he had developed a mutual interest in stamps. It began with Jason collecting the stamps that came in on letters from Korea. Byung noticed this proclivity. He encouraged it. And their collection grew. If he could bond in no other way, at least he and his son had this interest in common.
As Jason grew up, however, at the beginning of his teen years, friends, cars, and then girls had supplanted much of any interest in collecting stamps, but Byung had continued, becoming more and more enamored of rarer and rarer ones.
And though his passion for collecting had abated, Jason still perked up when his father would show him his latest find. He picked up the sheet very carefully; he knew that this one was very special. The stamp was a faded blue with the number “2” in the very center. At the top was the word “Hawaiian,” with the word “Postage” immediately below it. The border was a thicker black line, then a thinner one just inside it. There was an ornate kind of floral pattern, what is known as a “printer’s ornament” around the number “2.”
“Wow. How old is it?” Jason asked.
“Early 1850s,” said Byung. “It’s called the Hawaiian Missionary, and the two-cent one is the rarest. There are only perhaps two dozen, probably fewer, still in existence. And all of them except one, it’s believed, are unused.”
“And this one is it?”
“Yes,” said Byung, “the only pristine one in existence.”
“Wow, Dad, that’s amazing. Congrats on getting ahold of it.”
Byung Yu smiled, picked up the sheet, slid it back in the envelope, and returned it to his desk drawer.
“Jason,” he asked, folding his hands in front of him on the desk, “by the way, how’s the job hunt going?”
Jason shifted in his chair. “Well, it’s coming along. I’ve had a few interviews, but nothing so far.”
Yu nodded, surveyed his son’s face. “Do you need any money?” he asked.
Jason shook his head. “Oh, no, no. I’m doing okay. Saved a lot of the cash you sent me when I was in school. You always gave me too much. Thanks again, for being so generous. I’m doing okay.”
Byung’s heart sunk, but he showed nothing except a warm, fatherly smile. He knew his son had spent money like it was going out of style when he was at Harvard. He’d be mightily surprised if Jason had managed to save anything at all. He’s always been a spender.
“That’s good to hear,” Byung said warmly. “Make sure you let me know if I can help you. Anytime, Son. And I’m hopeful you’ll find some job you like soon.”
Jason thanked his father, stood and left the room.
The phone rang.
“Yoboseyo?” said Yu, distractedly.
“And? What is it?”
“Chan went back to the graveyard. He found a zipgun there near where the bodies were found.”
“Mister Yu, zipguns, who uses them? Whoever did this, they don’t even have a way to get their hands on real weapons. Bunch of amateurs, don’t you think? Kind of pathetic.”
“Yeah,” said Yu, “pathetic. Anything else?”
“There were no prints on the gun.”
“Pretty sophisticated for a bunch of amateurs, wouldn’t you say?”
“Well, smart, yes.”
“Yeah,” said Yu, “damn smart enough, huh. Anything else?”
“No, Sir. That’s it.”
Yu Hung up. Suddenly everything seemed secondary to whatever was going on with his son.
He took out the Hawaiian Missionary stamp and looked at it again, this time using a magnifying glass to examine the intricate filigree design. Exquisite. But it failed to take his mind off his son.
Laying the glass down, he sat back in his chair. How his daughter had grown to despise the kind of work he did. How could that be helped? He’d tried his damnedest to shield her from it, Jason as well. It was the greatest loss of his life, the loss of his daughter’s love. At least Jason hadn’t turned on him. He knew that if his son had his druthers, he’d be working as Yu’s righthand man right now. But his desire to keep his son out of his line of work was still strong.
“Where are you getting your money?” Yu said aloud. He looked up at the ceiling and felt a great chill. Getting up, he went to the liquor cabinet, selected a single malt. He poured himself a shot, sipped it, then downed the rest. Yu had a nagging suspicion. Was there really only one answer to that question, the question of what racket exactly Jason might be into?