Chapter 24: A Passage to Paradise

From that day on, Kang Yu took Sung-min Kwon under his wing. “The young man,” he often noted with great pride, “grew into a natural born killer.”

When Chul-soo Moon, Yu’s second in command, first heard Yu say that, he asked, “How does someone grow into being a natural-born killer? If you’re born to kill, haven’t you automatically stepped into that role?”

“My goodness, Chul-soo, you’re such a literalist,” said Yu. “Do you not agree that he’s a master craftsman when it comes to handling problems that need to be solved for the sake of our little enterprise?”

Moon, an accomplished strong-arm man and killer himself, had to agree. “He sure loves it, yeah, I know. It’s a real taste for blood with him. I wouldn’t want to cross him.”

This admission gave Yu pause. “It’s interesting to hear you say that, Chul-soo. I know you fear no man, so to admit that Sung-min is someone of whom to be wary is quite high praise. I wonder. Do you believe that he might best you in a contest?”

Moon laughed. “I don’t know about that, sir. I’m saying he’s deadly, and he’s someone to keep a watchful eye on.”

“Do you ever wonder if one day he might betray me, perhaps seek to usurp me?” asked Yu.

Shaking his head, Moon said, “No, sir, never. From what I see and know of him now, I’d say he’d defend you to the death.”

At this moment, Sung-min knocked at the office door, then stepped in and bowed. “Sir,” he said, “I was told that you wish to see me.”

“Yes, please come in and have a seat. Moon and I were just discussing business, and it’s time to include you in the discussion, son. This one, in particular, may be of interest to you.”

Sung-min sat. “Sir, I’m humbled by your willingness to include me. I’m honored that you put such trust in me.”

“Of course, Sung-min. I – we both – trust you absolutely.”

Moon nodded and smiled his agreement.

“So here’s what is, son. Today is the one-year anniversary of my grandson’s death. Tomorrow will be the one-year anniversary of my son’s death. The policeman who killed my grandson died at the hands of my son, this I know. But whoever it was who killed my son has never been discovered, and even the efforts of Lieutenant Chan have not produced any likely suspects.”

“Lieutenant David Chan?” said Sung-min. “I thought that my father had killed him.”

“Your father did kill David Chan. But that was the father of this one. Unfortunately for us, we have David Chan number two, and he is a problem.”

Yu sat back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling. Sung-min wasn’t sure, but he thought the old man’s eyes had watered a little. He waited for Yu to continue.

Still looking at the ceiling and then closing his eyes, Yu said, “I, for better or worse, do not oversee my Hawai‘i operations anymore. That duty has been taken over by my granddaughter, a bit of a highfalutin Harvard-trained lawyer who has seen fit to steer our business interests into buying up and developing the entire state of Hawai‘i.”

Returning his gaze to Sung-min, Yu sat forward and said, “This is not to say that I disapprove of her direction. She is, in fact, turning an excellent profit on our investments. Kudos to her, really, but because of this goodie-two-shoes focus of hers, my other business interests are hurting like orphans turned out to the wind and weather.”

“I’m sorry, sir, even though you’re here, you do still have business interests there other than what she’s doing?”

“Oh yes. My son’s two trusted colleagues, Richard Han and Kyun-woo Choi, are still trying to handle my gambling, drug, and prostitution concerns. I am too old to go back to Honolulu and resume leadership. And as long as Han and Choi do what I want them to do, we will stay afloat.”

Yu paused to light a cigarette. “But to be afloat is not the same thing as sailing full speed ahead. Full speed ahead is the way my business ran when I was there. Full speed ahead is what I want to captain again.”

Yu exhaled a long stream of smoke. “A little history,” he said, examining the smoking end of the cigarette. “After I arrived in Honolulu, back in 1905, I immediately began to build my business. But while I did this, I was plagued by interference from the infernal father of David Chan senior. When the son joined the force, I then had to deal with both of them constantly harassing me, always trying to shut me down, and even find a way to hang me if they could. But they never succeeded because I was always two steps ahead of them. I owned so many judges and lawyers and other pillars of the community that those two could not destroy me. They may have been the best cops in town, but they could never pin even a single crime on me.”

Yu took a long drag and exhaled. “When the old man retired, it was easier to deal with just one Chan, but not only did he keep after me, but he doubled his attack since his father was no longer around to help. When it came to the point where I felt I could no longer lead with one hundred percent surety, I was fortunate that both my son and grandson had grown into our business, had matured enough to run the enterprise. So I moved home. Here. To Wanhei. And, of course, I intended to keep my hand in. A big hand. With an arm that stretched all the way across the Pacific to stir my pot.”

Stamping out his cigarette, Yu shook his head. “But this Chan was rabidly relentless. So, as you know, my son had your father eliminate him. And wouldn’t you know it, voila, a third Chan appeared on the scene. They keep coming, Sung-min, like an incurable cancer. For all I know, if we killed this one, another would pop up. He does have a son, David the Third. But this one seems settled on a different track. Still, you never know. The current incarnation was an English major. We know that the day he realized his father was gone, he did an about-face and gave up a future teaching English to snot-nosed teenagers to become a policeman and seek out his father’s killer.”

“Which is why you would like me to go to Honolulu to kill him?” asked Sung-min, the idea instantly appealing to him.

“What?” said Yu. “Oh, no no no, Sung-min, it’s not that at all. The last thing we need, especially since I’m not over there, is for the Honolulu Police Department to triple the intensity of their mission to destroy me. What Moon and I are discussing, is the best strategy for handling my business from here. We need someone to be a little more hands-on, to help steer Han and Choi more forcefully, more productively, in the direction I wish them to go. And that’s where you come in. How would you like to live in the land of aloha?”

Sung-min nodded. “I’d be honored to do this for you, sir.”

Yu smiled. “I will miss having you here to smooth out the bumps in the road, but we will soldier on, right, Chul-soo?”

Moon smiled. “Of course. And I know you’ll do a good job there, Sung-min. You’re a natural.”

“I will let my daughter and both Han and Choi know that you are coming,” said Yu.

Sung-min stood and bowed to both men. “I’ll pack and be off for Honolulu in the morning.”

And with that, Sung-min Kwon became the crime lord of the Yu Korean syndicate in Hawai‘i.

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