Chapter 14: For a Daughter and a Father

David Chan had difficulty focusing on the case file. He kept reading through the evidence and the witness reports, but by the time he’d struggled through each page, he’d forgotten what he’d just read.

The image of his father’s abandoned car sitting on the street outside Philip Tico’s Kāhala home kept interfering with his train of thought. He wondered what Bobby Stillman might be doing right then. Was he at Tico’s house questioning him? Was the son Jeffrey there, too?

Chan recalled the night his daughter Sarah had come home from the Lualuna Academy senior prom. As any father with a daughter might do, he’d waited up for her. He didn’t own a shotgun, but he did have his service revolver and his backup piece in the safe in his bedroom closet.

Sarah had come home at midnight, just as Chan had requested, but there was something about her demeanor that seemed off, odd.

“Sarah, honey, are you okay?” he’d asked her.

Her terse, matter-of-fact reply of “I’m fine” was uncharacteristic.

Chan the father and Chan the policeman both kicked into high gear, his gut telling him almost all he needed to know.

“Did something happen to you?”

Sarah hadn’t answered, had practically run downstairs to her room and slammed the door behind her.

Chan remembered how he sat riveted in the chair wondering if he should press the matter. As a father, he wanted to go down and pound on his daughter’s door. As a policeman, he wanted to go to the Tico home and pound on Jeffrey.

If Chan’s wife, Elaine, had still been alive, she would have gone down and knocked on Sarah’s door, then sat with her on the bed and rocked Sarah in her arms.

This might have been Chan’s way once as well. Chan the English major. But this was the Chan who sat by as his wife wasted away slowly, too slowly, the cancer taking its fine old time eating her alive. Chan, who administered the morphine as prescribed, and as the end appeared near, wanted to give Elaine more and more and then that one too much. To stop the screaming. But he couldn’t do it. And he blamed himself still for allowing her pain to drag on and on, the screaming to grow louder and louder. If only he’d been strong enough to administer that lethal dose. But he wasn’t that kind of man. Not then.

Well, now he’d become that kind of man. Knowing what he did now, having gone through all that suffering with Elaine, the summing of it all had hardened him rock hard. He no longer was the kind of man who would rock his daughter in his arms. And he did not long to return to being that kind of man. It was impossible. No use dwelling on it. He’d accepted the way life had steered him, and how it had reined in his heart.

No, he was the kind of man now who leaned hard toward driving out to Kāhala for a confrontation.

Chan read through the case file again. A college student, a 20-year-old female, had been found dead outside O‘ahu Hall, the oldest building on the Hawai‘i University campus in Mānoa. She had been discovered by a groundskeeper at first light the previous Monday. Hank Lee, the ME, had determined she’d been dead for at least 24 hours, which meant she’d been killed, strangled in this case, sometime early Sunday morning.

Who would be on campus on a Sunday morning? Chan had been leaning toward a faculty member having a meeting with the woman.

Closing the folder, Chan laid it carefully aside and began drumming on the blotter, picking out the beat of an Art Blakey tune he’d been listening to the night before. It was on his latest album, the song entitled “Just Knock on My Door.”

Where was Bobby Stillman now? His fingers drummed louder and louder. Suddenly, Chan slammed his palms on the desktop. Everyone turned to look at him as he stood up and strode toward the door.

“If Bobby comes back,” he said to everyone, “let him know that I’ll be talking to a suspect in Kāhala.”

Amazingly, the frosted glass with the words Detective Squad Room lettered in gold didn’t shatter when Chan slammed the door behind him.

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