Everything she said could have, should have, bothered him, if he were normal. But it didn’t because he wasn’t normal at all. Certainly not in any way you or I would think of as normal.
He listened to her with a kind of detached interest, saying nothing. It was almost as if she was not him mother. Almost as if she were sitting a hundred yards away.
“So what are you going to do with your life?” she asked, finally.
The tall man — he was no boy — shrugged his shoulders and stood up from the dinner table. Enough of the same old record for this morning.
“That’s all you have for an answer? Always, yeah? Just shrug your damn shoulders. Say nothing to your mother. What’s wrong with you? If your father were still alive . . .”
But he didn’t hear the rest. He didn’t care for it when she dragged his dead father into any kind of lecture. For that’s what their conversations were. Lectures. One-sided discussions. His mother, at a higher than tolerable volume, telling him to do this and wanting him to do that. Sometimes ordering him, for all the good that might do.
He turned over the engine and gunned it several times. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his mother at the dining room window. She was probably crying, but he didn’t want to check to see. He drove straight to Chinatown.
Byung Yu sat at the table next to the bar. The place stunk of cigarette smoke and stale hard liquor. Even though he left the front door and both side doors open, the smell would never be flushed out. What if, he wondered, he banned smoking in the place? Of course, the fact that he despised cigarette smoke couldn’t sway him from catering to customers almost all of whom smoked. Ban smoking in the place and he’d go out of business. But really, did he need this burlesque business to go on? All he really needed was a place with decent cover for what was now his Korean syndicate to operate.
The Beretania Follies. This was the perfect place to establish headquarters. For the foreseeable future, he liked the location. Yes, the burlesque theater was quickly becoming an archaic nod to the past, but again, this was a good place from which to run the business his father, Kang Yu, had handed down to him. Any day now, he thought, he’d bring his son on board. Jason would graduate college soon, and then it would be time to break him into the family business.
A tall man walked through the door. Byung couldn’t make out who he was, the sun behind him presenting him only as a dark mass.
“Mr. Yu,” the man said. “Is there anything for me today?”
“Ah, Sung-Min, it’s good to see you. Come, come, sit. Have something to drink.”
Cho, the bartender, let go the sawed-off 12-gauge sitting behind the counter. He knew Sung. The man was a natural-born killer, but around his boss, Byung, there would be no problems.
The tall man sat down at the bar.
“Very good work the other day,” said Byung. “I read about it in the paper. I’m curious though. I told you to get rid of the body. Why did you leave it in plain sight?”
“I’m sorry about that, Mr. Yu. The police came too quickly. I have no idea how or why. It was like they were waiting for something to happen.”
Byung Yu nodded. “Ah well, we do lose some, don’t we. That’s no matter. Chan has too many cases on his hands to worry about one little shop owner.”
“But that shop owner wasn’t just any shop owner,” said Sung-min. “Was he?”
Byung Yu laughed, picked up his Bloody Mary, and sipped. “To us, yes. But I have many cousins. It just so happens that this one was a liability. You gain a cousin, you lose a cousin. It’s the circle of life.”
“But he was an informant, you said. Surely Lieutenant Chan will want to get whoever it was who killed their pipeline to your operations.”
“Nah, I wouldn’t worry about it, Sung-min. He’s got informants aplenty. Losing one won’t cause him to rally the troops to chase down the killer.”
“I’m glad you think so,” said Sung-min. “I’m not sure how much I should show my face after that. Who knows if there were witnesses? The last thing I need is Chan on my ass.”
Again Byung Yu laughed. “Ahhh, funny you should mention that. Let me suggest a solution to your worries. You’re asking if I have anything for you? Well, what would you say to taking out David Chan himself?”
Sung-min stared at Yu. ”Ah, with all due respect, Mr. Yu. Don’t you think if you go after Chan you’ll bring the entire Honolulu police force down on you.”
Yu smiled. “Perhaps. But that man vexes me, Sung, and that irritation has grown from the size of a mosquito bite to a rash that plagues me from head to toe. I need Lieutenant Chan taken care of, and I think you’re the man to do it.”
Sung swiveled on his stool to look at the bartender. “Could I have a shot of Jack?”
Cho, expressionless, poured the drink for the tall man.
Picking it up, Sung swallowed it all. Then he swiveled to face Byung Yu again.
He nodded. “Okay, I’ll do it. But the cost has to be higher than usual. If I go after David Chan, I may need to disappear afterward. That could be expensive.”
Yu smiled the widest smile of the morning. “If you do Chan for me, Sung-min, money will be no object. Name your price.”