Chapter 25: A Little More About Bobby Stillman

Jumping in his car, Chan again cursed the fact that HPD allowed detectives to use their own cars, but they’d still not budgeted to equip them with radios. Unable to find a pay phone on campus while running to his car, he drove to the nearest one he could find on University Avenue.

Chin Ho Kelly took the call.

“Chin, I was just on campus and Jeffrey Tico jumped from the Chemistry building. He’s dead, and we need to send the ME there. Please keep this under your hat, and ask Hank Lee to keep quiet as well. I don’t want this information to get out until I’ve been to Philip Tico’s home.”

“Got it, David, but you may be interested to know that Bobby’s back from talking to Tico. I can confirm that he was there and drove straight back.”

Chan thought for a minute. The son had told Chan that the father had taken part in the killing of Chan’s father. Chan wanted, badly, to confront Tico with the information, but he was also curious to hear what his partner had gleaned from the interview. He’d tried this long to solve his father’s murder. Taking down Tico could wait an hour or two.

“Okay, thanks,” said Chan. “I’m coming back to the office right now. Remember, Chin, please do not under any circumstances let out that Jeffrey Tico is dead. And tell Hank Lee as well that it’s critical this must not get out. We all know there are ears everywhere.”

Chan drove with his light flashing as he streaked down Beretania to the old Sears building that was now home to HPD. He took the escalator stairs two at a time to get to the squad room. Running in, he could see that Bobby Stillman was still with the Captain.

Kauhane saw Chan rush in and signaled him to join the two of them. Chan, breathless, his heart beating as much from racing up the escalator as from his immanent arrest of Dr. Tico, dropped into a seat.

“Bobby’s been briefing me about his meeting with the Ticos,” said Kauhane.

The picture of Philip Tico’s wife, Jeffrey Tico’s mother, entered Chan’s consciousness, sharing space with the body of her son, and her watching Chan cuff the husband. She seemed a good woman. It hurt to imagine all the pain that would come her way, an innocent woman, the unfairness of collateral damage.

Chan said, “I’m sorry Mrs. Tico had to listen to you interview her husband. I’m guessing you were confident he could speak freely with her in the room?”

“Oh,” said Bobby Stilman, “Missus Tico wasn’t there. She was out. I only spoke to the father and the son.”

Chan did a doubletake. “Ah, just now, Bobby, when you were there. You talked to both the father and the son?”

“Yeah, I figured it was fine to talk to both of them at once. Kill two birds with one stone, right, David?”

Trying not to allow his face to show what he was thinking, Chan couldn’t help himself and blurted out, “I prefer to say ‘feed two birds with one seed’, Bobby, if you don’t mind. But anyway, this is all very interesting to me. So, ah, tell me, partner, what did the father and the son say to you?”

“Well, it’s all pretty routine. As I was telling the Captain, Tico denied having anything to do with an attempt on your life, said he would never even think of hiring a killer to attempt it. That he wouldn’t even know how to do that.”

“Uh-huh, yeah,” said Chan. “And, ah, you’re saying that you asked that question of the son as well? Just now, right?”

“Right, right,” said Stillman. “Of course, he denied it, too. Said he couldn’t understand why he might even be a suspect.”

“I see,” said Chan. “Anything else you’d like to share with the Captain and me?”

“Yeah,” said Stillman, “I was just into the interesting part when you came in. Doctor Tico seems to think that the Yus have to be behind it. He says he’s met Byung’s daughter a couple times, says she suggested that you, David, were an obstruction for her business. She said to Tico, he says, that even though she’s trying to go legit, you can’t get it out of your head that she’s a Yu so she must be into syndicate activity.”

Chan took a deep breath to calm himself down. “That’s great, Bobby. So there seems to be a pretty strong connection between Gi Yu and Philip Tico, huh? And I’m obstructing her business. Any personal insights into who might be telling the truth and who might be lying?”

Those final words were delivered in a manner that froze Stillman. Kauhane observed the two with growing curiosity.

After a pause, undoubtedly to collect himself under Chan’s laser-like gaze, Stillman said, “Ah, well, no, David. I just don’t see anything connecting either of them to the whole thing. They feel pretty harmless to me.”

Chan said nothing, just sat staring at the man who supposedly had his back.

“Is that it then?” asked Kauhane.

“Pretty much, boss,” said Stillman.

“Okay, guys,” said Kauhane, “let’s all go back to the beginning and figure out who on earth is behind this.”

“Yes, sir,” said Stillman, “rising and heading for the door.”

“Good work, Bobby,” said Chan, his voice sounding as sarcastic as it could without being so.

“What the hell?” said Kauhane, after Stillman closed the door. “What is up with you?”

Chan, keeping his voice as low as he could, given the mix of churning anger and anguish, told the whole story to Kauhane, except the part about the son saying Tico had participated in the killing of Chan’s father. That would be Chan’s raging secret for now.

The Chief of Detectives grew angrier as the details came out. “First, David, we’re going to have to go back and check on any open cases with female victims. I’ll have Chin start in on that.”

Kauhane shook his head disgustedly. “So Bobby’s flat out lying to us. Why on earth would he do that?”

“You know,” said Chan, “Victor always used to say that if someone runs an import-export business it’s as good as advertising that he’s a criminal. Vic also used to say that the more warehouses an import-export company has, the dirtier it is.”

This made Kauhane smile. “Yeah, Yamamoto had some great theories. I like that one. How many warehouses does Tico have, by the way?”

“Seven,” said Chan. “I’ve looked into it.”

“You’ve looked into a lot with Tico,” said Kauhane.

“Hey,” said Chan, “once I saw that the reports about my dad’s death had been altered, Philip Tico loomed large as a suspect in his killing. That whole thing about verifying the car had been found out on the West side when it was actually found on the street in front of Tico’s house in Kāhala, what a bunch of shibai. And when I figure out who in this department was screwing with those records, that person is going to pay big time for anything he had to do with my dad’s murder.”

“Yes, David, okay. But right now I want to figure out why Bobby’s lying. I know we’ve tossed this idea around, but do you think he had anything to do with hiring that killer?”

“As Chin pointed out, boss,” said Chan, “it was so convenient not only that Bobby immediately killed the guy, but that he blew his face apart so we couldn’t tell what he looked like. And just as Chin said, Bobby lucked out on the fingerprints since the guy’s weren’t on file. Yeah, if he didn’t hire the guy himself, then I’m sure he knew about the whole thing.”

Kauhane seemed distracted. Chan followed his line of sight out the window into the squad room. Bobby Stillman was on the phone.

“I wonder who he’s talking to?” said Kauhane.

“Yeah,” agreed Chan. “I wonder if it’s Philip Tico.”

“Hey,” said Kauhane. “He calls himself Doctor Tico. What’s he a doctor of, do we know?”

“He was a psychiatrist,” said Chan, “but his import-export business ended up depriving the medical community of his brilliance.”

Kauhane laughed, then turned serious. “Hey, David, let’s nail Bobby before he can do any more harm to us. And, David, let’s be sure to do it by the book, right?”

“Don’t worry, Del,” said Chan. “I’m going to very calmly tell Bobby the tragic tale of Jeffery Tico. And I for sure, very calmly, will make certain he gets the moral of the story.”

And right after that, thought Chan as he walked toward Bobby Stillman’s desk, I’m going to throw Dr. Philip Tico’s ass in jail.

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