The House of Missing Keys, Part 13

David Chan had been a very happy only child. More than five years into that blissful solo childhood, however, his joyful solitude had been interrupted by the arrival of his sister, Denise. At first, Chan had been entertained some by the baby’s presence, but he was old enough at the time to sense that his parents were a little more than merely entertained by his sister. His mother had made him feel sometimes as if he were fading away, disappearing like a little soon-to-be invisible man.

But Chan’s perceptions could be nothing further from actuality. His parents, true enough, loved their little girl immensely, but they were not parents who could only dote upon a single child. They loved both their children and eventually Chan became used to the idea that love was not a question of only having so much to spread around. Love turned out to be a wellspring, and had his parents chosen to have more children, Chan knew that they would have loved all of them equally no matter how many there were to love.

David and Denise Chan, as far as David could remember, had never had a single serious fight. Sure, they’d nag each other about whose turn it was to do the dishes or other chores, but there was never any kind of violent confrontation. It would amaze Chan when a friend might talk about a fistfight he’d had with a sibling, or any other kind of truly heated confrontation. This was all foreign to him and his relationship with his sister.

Even more amazing would be a friend’s threat to kill a sibling. If a friend said he’d had a fight with a brother say, and if that feud had not been resolved, the friend might sometimes say something amounting to, “I’m going to kill so-and-so.” How could this be, Chan would think. When he was younger, he would worry that something like this might actually happen, that a sibling might try to kill another one, but as he grew up, he realized that this was all heated rhetoric. None of his friends who’d ever talked about killing a brother or sister had ever actually done it.

Chan sat quietly in the car while Yamamoto drove them back from Kailua to police headquarters on the edge of Chinatown.
When the two sat down at their desks, Chan still said nothing and faded into looking at some forms he had to fill out. Paperwork. It was never finished. You could count on it, always, to be there to occupy your idle hours. Yamamoto continued with his paper shuffling as well.

Finally, Chan spoke. “You know,” he said, “there were fourteen brothers and sisters in my dad’s family. Before most of them moved out of our house up on Punchbowl, it was like living in Grand Central station. Between all those aunts and uncles, some of them not a lot older than I, there was a lot of tension. Nothing violent, but arguments happened. A whole lot of people, a few spouses, and a few of my cousins jammed in there together, it’s a wonder no one actually did kill someone else.”

Yamamoto stared across the desk at his partner. Then, “Yeah, I don’t envy you. I know the space was tight up there. Me, like you, I only have a sister, so there was a lotta elbow room growing up. We had our arguments, but all minor kine-a stuff.”

Chan shook his head. “Let’s get Harumi McDonald’s address and go bring her in for questioning.” He shook his head. “I’m still trying to imagine what would bring a sister to the point of killing her brother.”

“Really?” said Yamamoto. “You think that having a queer brother in a traditional Japanese family isn’t enough of a problem? The kind of shame a family like that feels is huge, boss. It’s the kind of thing, if you don’t hide it, if you are openly queer, I can see why that might lead a family so ashamed of you to some kind of violence like this. It could happen pretty easily.”

Chan nodded. He understood this. But he also thought about a day, he was only ten or so, when his grandfather had called everyone together up at the Punchbowl home to talk to them about why his third-to-youngest son had suddenly up and moved to New York. His grandfather, the great detective, always a pillar of strength in Chan’s eyes, had come to tears over his grief and his anger at his 11th child being forced to leave Hawai‘i because he believed he could not live his life fully there in the islands anymore.

He remembered his grandfather saying, “I know some of you are too young to understand all that I am telling you today, but I want you to listen and remember my words for the time when you will come to know what I mean.”

The old man had stopped to wipe his eyes with the large white handkerchief he’d always carried with him.

He continued, “We live in a place that some have referred to as a melting pot. By this they mean that Hawai‘i is a place where people of different races from many different nations have come together. But this place is not a true melting pot. We may be stirred together, but we are not truly blended together. If that were true, for one there would be no need of a police force, and I’d be working somewhere else. The sad fact is that there is crime, and some of that crime is spurred by hatred and by prejudice. Hatred and prejudice will always be with us, and I want all of you to remember that you must strive to be people who try by all means to love your fellow human beings. Never give in to hatred and to prejudice. It is hatred and prejudice that have forced my son Matthew, your brother, your uncle, to leave this homeland of his.”

David Chan had not understood all of what his grandfather had meant at the time, but he grew to know that it had been because his Uncle Matthew was a homosexual that he’d been forced to move he thought large enough to try to lose himself in a crowd perhaps not more tolerant of his lifestyle, but at least where there were more people who lived the life he lived. New York was no more a melting pot than Hawai’i, but it was a much bigger pot, and mathematically speaking, there were a lot more people who were empathetic to people like him, and there were a lot more people who were like him.

“You know,” said Yamamoto, as they drove to Mrs. McDonald’s home in Palolo Valley, “she’s obviously too small to hold someone like Keola Waioli underwater long enough to drown him.”

Chan nodded. “I realize that, Vic. Yeah, so if she did kill her brother, then, yes, I grant you she’s not going to be Waioli’s killer.”

“So we’re possibly looking at murders that may not be connected, right?” said Yamamoto.

“I see that possibility,” said Chan blankly. “But grant me this, Vic. They could still be related somehow, even if there’s more than one killer involved.”

It was Yamamoto’s turn to nod. “Okay, David, I’ll give you that.”

Yamamoto knocked on Harumi McDonald’s front door and it swung open. The two looked at each other and then stepped inside. They stood still, staring at the body of Kazu Hatanaka’s sister slumped over on the living room couch. She still gripped the gun in her right hand.

“We should never have let her go,” said Chan. “You were right, Vic. We should have gone after her right then.”

“Maybe, David, but hold on,” said Yamamoto. “What if this one’s another fake suicide?”

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