Chapter 31: Jeffrey Tico, David Chan, and Bobby Stillman

There were two things David Chan disliked about his job. One was being designated as the face of HPD’s Homicide Division for The Press. Whenever a murder investigation reached the point where the public needed to be informed about it, Chan was the one who had to face the reporters. It was hard enough having to deal with the murders. But then to have to report on them. It was not a favorite task.

The other aspect of Chan’s job that disturbed him most of all was having to break the news of a loved one’s death to the family. And speaking to Zelda Tico about her son’s suicide was particularly rough.

Chan, of course, had lost his daughter. Not to suicide, however. She’d been murdered by the Yus. And because he’d lost his daughter in a violent manner, he felt attuned to the kind of grief with which he had now burdened Mrs. Tico.

After speaking to her about Jeffrey Tico’s death and then trying to offer words of solace and comfort as she broke down, Chan was exhausted, but there was something else going on with him. He sat in his car and turned on the radio. A Simon and Garfunkel tune was playing.

Chan sat back in the seat and closed his eyes. Here he was, a rock on a rock. The deaths of his wife and his daughter had done their worst to him, draining much of his joy in life and leaving him desensitized to many things for which he’d once felt great passion or affection. It was as if feeling were a kind of fuel, and his tank now ran closer and closer to empty.

His son, whom he’d thought he’d lost as well, was finishing up his biology degree at Hawai‘i University, and Chan was thankful that so far it seemed highly unlikely David III would suddenly shift gears and jump into the police academy. This was the best news Chan could hope for, and although he was happy to have his son back and to know he would not be following the family into the HPD, Chan could not express anymore to his son the joy this brought to him.

If he were a rock, at least for a while, however, there was still some gas in the tank, and Chan did all he could to demonstrate his love for his son to him. The best that he could. For as long as he could.

And at this moment, sitting there in the car, Chan grieved like he’d not grieved since Sara’s death. It was his turn to break down in tears, and he did.

Eventually, Chan took note of another song. He told me that the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” made him think of me, so he drove to the nearest phone booth and called me up.

“Lanning, can you meet me at the Blue Light Bar and Grill in about an hour?”

“Sure, David, I’m just finishing up grading some papers. I’ll see you there.”

When I arrived at the Blue Light, the place was just about empty. As the hangout for both HPD and the professional wrestling community, it wasn’t surprising to see the place quiet this early in the day.

I didn’t recognize the bartender, and when I asked if the owner, Rick Yamanaha, was in, he said no, Rick would be in later.

I ordered a Primo draft and sat down in the cool dark. After 20 minutes or so, David came in looking pretty beat. He saw me, waved, grabbed a Primo draft from the bartender, came to the table, and sagged into a chair.

“You look like you’ve been through the grinder,” I said.

He shook his head. “Lanning, you would not believe what the last few days.”

“I read about that attempt on your life,” I said. “It’s not often you see news like that on the front page of both The Advertiser and the Star*Bulletin.”

David grimaced. “The only good thing about it was that for once the fourth estate was getting the story from someone else in the department. I’d hate to have to out there spilling that story about myself to them.”

I chuckled. “That’s right, David, spilling your stories is becoming my beat. I’m guessing that’s why you called.”

“You’re right, I know you’ll want to write about this one, but I need to tell you something.”


“You know how I’ve stressed that I can’t give you the details about any open cases?”


“Well, I’m going to break the seal on this one and tell you where I’ve been just now.”

David told me the story of having to tell Mrs. Tico about Jeffrey’s death.

He said, “I know you know about my past dealings with the father and the son, and I admire the way you’ve managed to come up with a theory about why I feel the way I do about that son.”

“Yes, right, I do work at using the facts I can find through public sources, trial transcripts, and the like.”

“Right,” said Chan. “I know you dig pretty hard and pretty deep, Lanning. But what I’m going to tell you, I want you to handle this in the most sensitive way you can. When you find out what you’re going to find out about Bobby Stillman, I need very badly for you to write him up in as nonjudgmental a manner as possible.”

Chan took a long swallow, and I saw his shoulders, which were usually tightly bound, relax. “I tell you, Lanning, two hours ago I don’t know what I’d have done to Bobby if I ran into him, but after talking to Mrs. Tico, and feeling so badly for her and her relationship with her son, even though you know how I feel about him, I’ve got to say for a moment I did feel sorry for him, for him and his mom, their loving bond, how that was torn apart. I mean it made me realize that the way I feel about Bobby Stillman, the life you’re going to find out he’s had to lead, I feel so, so sorry for him. It’s a sorrow so deep I can’t put it into words. No matter what he may have done, Lanning, it is the irony of ironies that my feeling for Jeffrey Tico, that moment of sympathy or empathy or whatever it was that happened when I had to tell his mother about his suicide, I feel as if it, I don’t know, somehow unblocked some dam in me. Lanning, I’ve not felt this kind of emotion since Sara was murdered . . . ”

It was as if a dam had been breached. These words came pouring out of Chan so fast and freely, I was surprised. He’d never opened up like that before. I knew him to be reserved. This was not typical behavior.

“. . . and that release, Lanning, it changed my whole attitude toward Bobby, you know? And it’s due, improbably, to Jeffrey Tico and his mother.”

At that moment, Captain Kauhane, Chin Ho Kelly, and another man I didn’t recognize came in.

When David saw them he said, “I’m sorry, Lanning, but I’m going to have to leave you now. We’re doing a debrief on the whole incident.”

“Hey, no problem,” I said. “I understand.”

David and the other three went into the back room, and I will only be able to guess at what they might have talked about.

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