Like Grandfather, Like Father, Like Grandson

Byung Yu fidgeted with his cigarette holder. To call his father, why worry so much? Certainly not a child anymore, he helmed the business now. Why shouldn’t he call the shots?

He reached for a bottle of soju and drank the first glass down in one long swallow. After pouring another, he say back down at his desk.

Yes, from over in Korea, Kang Yu barked orders still, but Byung saw these more as advisory suggestions than as commands to be followed by an obedient son.

He downed the glass, got up, went to the liquor cabinet, and poured a third. Turning to go back to his seat, his eye caught upon a binder on the bookshelf behind the desk. Byung Yu put down his desk and took the book from the shelf. Sitting down, he placed it on the blotter and opened it to the first page.

This was his stamp collection. Well, technically it was his son Jason’s collection. When Jason was young, before his interest in the family business began to grow, he and his father had taken a great interest in stamps.

Sipping his soju, the head of Hawai‘i’s Korean syndicate slowly leafed through the pages. When he reached a certain page, he stopped.

Many of the stamps were valuable, and this one, in particular, was of greater value than any of the others. This two-cent stamp was one of only a dozen and some in existence. It was a light blue print on a white background. This was pelure paper, a very thin paper that could tear easily

Byung Yu took a magnifying glass from his desk drawer and began a closer inspection of the stamp. A thin blue line was surrounded by a thicker blue line, and the two were the frame. At the top of the frame were stacked the words ‘Hawaiian Postage.’ A very delicate and detailed blue filigree surrounded the number ‘2’, and at the bottom of the frame, on a single line, were the words ‘Two Cents’.

He took another sip and say back in his chair. When he’d acquired this stamp, he felt as if he had reached the pinnacle of stamp collecting. As he explained the importance of the stamp to Jason, the boy had become more and more excited about what they now had in their possession.

“Stamps,” whispered Byung. He thought about his son, and how far he’d come from those days of talking about famous people, geography, art, and all the topics to which stamps could lead. It had been educational, a passion that tied father and son together until it didn’t anymore.

Of course, they were tied together in business, but this wasn’t the same kind of bond. Jason had asked to take over the prostitution arm of the business, and Byung gave the appearance of enthusiasm for his son’s bold initiative. But he’d known then that the world of stamp collecting was a foreign one then.

And now Jason was living in his grandfather’s estate on Kāhala Avenue, so Byung, living in his Mānoa Valley mansion hardly ever saw the son. But that was to be accepted as part of the growing up, the growing apart.

Byung Yu picked up the phone and asked for the overseas operator. Another sip of soju steeled him for what was to come.

“Sir,” said the operator, “I have your party on the line. Please go ahead.”

“Father?” said Byung.

“Byung, I was just about to call you. This is perfect timing.”

Byung waited.

“I think it is time to kill Chan. Please take care of it.”

Byung thought soju-powered fast. “I’ll have it done as quickly as possible. I know the man. Your friend from the old days, Sung-min Wang.”

“Ah,” said the father, “an excellent choice. No one does the job better and Wang.”

“Agreed,” said the son. “And may I ask, father, because as you know well, there will be a shit storm once we take out the finest of HPD’s finest, if I can send Wang over to stay with you until Chan’s killing blows over as much as it might?”

“Of course, Byung, I will welcome him warmly. I owe him so much for taking care of so many people who irritated me over the years.”

“Very good, Father. Wang is so efficient. He’ll probably figure out quickly the best way to get the job done. Then, I’ll put him on the first flight over.”

“Good,” said the father. “I’m glad you’re doing so well for me over there. I can think of no better way for a son to thank a father than to serve him in such a superior and steadfast manner. I feel the same about my up-and-coming grandson. Jason is serving us well. You’ve done a good job raising him the right way.”

Byung Yu closed his eyes and was silent for a moment. “Yes, Father, thank you. I’m gratified that you approve of what we’ve done for you.”

He thought about Jason, how odd that he and his father had such somewhat opposing ideas about how a son should be raised, what to expect of him.

“Please be well, Father.”

Kang Yu’s response was the click of the phone as he hung it up.

Byung Yu held the receiver for a good long while. Finally, he placed the receiver in its cradle.

The good news was that jumping the gun on killing Chan was not a problem now. What was a problem was that Wang was on a flight to Seoul right now, and the flight to Wanhei was just a hop. Wang would turn up way too soon for it to appear he’d taken some time to plan the death of Chan and then execute it.

What to do? Byung Yu knocked down the rest of the soju.

Picking up the receiver, he dialed up the local office of Koreana Air. He was assured that his message would be relayed to their arrival personnel in Seoul.

Yu’s message was this:

Wang, please do not proceed to Wanhei just yet. My father is taking care of some business that precludes you from going there immediately. Please put yourself up at a hotel in Seoul and then give me a call. I’ll let you know what’s going on.

After he hung up, Yu shook his head. Lies. He was amazed at how often he had to tell lies that covered up other lies, and on and on. If there were a mountain the best liars climbed, he might be standing at the top. The king of liars. Byung shook his head and sighed.

He closed the stamp collection folder, stood, and put it back on the shelf. Yes, he had to admit, Jason was doing well, learning the business quickly. Smart. Like his grandfather.

I’ll think of something to say to Wang, Byung Yu thought. I’m good at this.

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