My Kind of Town
>> Queen's Medical Center
The Honolulu Soap Co.:
HPD Sgt. Mits Ah Sun picked up a photocopy of an old news story from the table beside his son Quinn's bed. Glancing at the paper, Mits saw that it was a Star-Bulletin Police Blotter item from 1981, about the disappearance of "popular entertainer Clarence 'Bobo' Ah Sun."
"What the hell is this?" Mits said, already knowing the answer. And the answer gave him a sore stomach.
"You got me," Quinn said. "The nurse, the one who just left, found it under the chair over there."
"I think somebody is playing games with you," his father said.
But no sooner had Quinn asked the question than the answer hit him in the heart. His cousin Lily, that's who. He'd asked her to research their family name at the State Library, focusing on 21 years ago when their fathers quit speaking and tore the family apart. This lone piece of paper was apparently the result. And then just minutes ago he'd called her home and heard Lily telling her maid to tell Quinn he could "go straight to hell." Quinn could only guess that the mysterious Bobo had something to do with her dramatic reversal of affection.
Mits saw the doubt on his son's face, and was glad. That was his reason for sending Gwen Roselovich to visit Quinn, to interfere with Quinn and Lily's rekindled relationship. And it worked. Gwen had reported back to Mits with a stack of similar photocopies, which she'd gathered up after Lily threw them at Gwen when she found her with Quinn. Obviously Gwen missed this crucial sheet. But on the upside, it only added further doubt to Quinn's mind. Mits was sorry for the hurt that he also saw in his son's eyes. But he was a big boy. And the last thing Mits and his brother Sheets needed was their kids snooping around in ancient family history.
"Makes no sense," Mits said and crumpled the photocopy into a ball, then tossed it in the wastebasket.
"Three-pointer," Quinn said. "But, hey, Pops, who's Bobo Ah Sun? I never heard of him."
Mits paused a heartbeat too long before answering. "Me neither."
He's lying, Quinn thought. In that moment, he knew that his father had been lying for 21 years about why he and his brother Sheets quit speaking. And he was right.
Muhammed Resurreccion was gracious, polite, well-spoken -- the perfect guest. But out on the lanai, watching him speaking with her maid Rosalita -- his cousin-in-law -- and playing with Rosalita's little daughter Elizabeth, Lily Ah Sun suddenly knew what bothered her about the visitor from Zamboanga. Lily didn't trust him, and it had to do with more than just his Muslim first name. She didn't trust him because watching Muhammed was like watching an accomplished method actor.
The little arrow on her internal B.S. Meter moved into the red zone. Lily had a very low tolerance for B.S. and a keen sense for its presence. Maybe it was her business training, maybe her experiences with men. She was a fast learner.
Lily certainly learned about her cousin Quinn's womanizing ways in a hurry. Her B.S. Meter had missed on him at first, but love and hormones will throw it off every time.
Or maybe, Lily thought, her anger and hurt were now throwing her meter out of kilter. Maybe what she didn't like about Muhammed was that, like Quinn, he was man, a breed that simply cannot be trusted.
The phone rang and Rosalita stood to answer it, but Lily waved her off. The perfect hostess.
"Hey, Lil, me!" Her friend Shauny Nakamura.
"Hey, Shauny," Lily said, taking the phone inside.
"Great news!" Shauny almost always spoke in exclamation points.
"I could use some."
"After you told me about falling for your cousin Quinn, I went online and did a little research! And you're in luck! Hawaii Revised Statute 572-1 makes it perfectly lawful for first cousins to marry! Cool, huh?!"
"Sorry to have wasted your time," Lily said, slumping into the big white leather couch in the living area.
"That's a world record!"
"Yeah, I was about to call Guinness."
"I stopped by his room at Queen's and caught him with another woman, kissing, and she was touching him."
"What a creep!"
"Totally. If we go another 21 years without talking, it's fine with me."
"Well, if you ever make up, you can marry him!" Shauny the optimist.
"Not a chance."
Shauny knew what that meant. "You already burned that bridge?"
"Nuked it, completely." And now there was another relationship that needed nuking too, Lily thought. With the other man in her life.
>> Queen's Medical Center
Quinn was going crazy lying in this damn hospital bed. He was an active guy -- an HPD solo bike officer, a weightlifter, runner, surfer -- but his body was forced to lie here, immobile, to heal from a gunshot wound to his leg. And so his mind was working overtime.
His focus was the wadded up photocopy his father had tossed in the wastebasket across the room before leaving. Quinn was dying to get his hands on it again, to see if there was something he missed the first time when he'd really just skimmed the story.
That's when his Auntie Grace walked in, the first time he'd seen her in 21 years, since he was 6.
"Oh, Quinn, I was so sorry to hear what happened," she said, leaned down and kissed his cheek, squeezed his hand. Same old Auntie Grace, full of hugs and kisses for her family.
"Thanks for coming, Auntie, it's great to see you!"
"It's been too long, Quinn."
There was a silence until Grace said, "Lily told us about meeting you."
"Mm," Quinn said, not wanting to talk about Lily suddenly refusing to speak with him. "My dad told me about Lance -- is that his name?" Yesterday was the first time he knew he had a cousin who was born after his father and his Uncle Sheets quit speaking.
"Yes, it was awful, at the State Capitol, he was attacked during a march, and fell and hit his head and ..."
"That was Lance?!"
Grace frowned, not understanding the question.
"I was there, Auntie, for extra security at the hate crimes bill rally. I saw it happen. Oh my God, I'm so sorry! I saw this skinhead moving toward the marchers, and I was moving to intercept him, but he ... I didn't get there in time. I had no idea the poor kid was my cousin." The poor little flaming gay boy, he didn't add.
Grace patted Quinn's hand. "The good news is that Lance is coming back to us. The doctors are calling it a miracle."
"That's great news."
Another moment of silence, broken this time by Quinn. "Auntie, can I ask you a favor? There's a wadded up piece of paper in the wastebasket over there. Could you get it for me, please?"
Grace retrieved it, watched Quinn un-wad the ball, smooth it out. He turned the paper to show her and said: "Auntie, who is Bobo Ah Sun?"
The name, anathema in the Ah Sun clan for many years, rocked her back on her heels.
"How did you ...? Where ...?"
Her reaction told him he'd asked the right question.
>> H-1, ewa-bound
Thank God for work, Lily thought, accelerating her teal BMW as Kalanianaole Highway turned into the H-1. Through times of personal turmoil -- meaning men, usually -- work was her saving grace. At work, Lily was in control. In the rest of her life, well, life was in control.
But don't take her wrong. On most days Lily loved life. That's why she named her company Ola Essences, because life was the essence of the company and its products. From the start Lily wanted to create perfumes and cosmetics that came from real plants and flowers, products that were full of life, not petroleum- or animal-based chemical gunk. And with a friend who was majoring in chemical biology, they'd found a way to remove the very essence of a plant, preserve its nutrients and its power, and bottle it up. Face creams that came straight from real cucumber and papaya and aloe, a pineapple astringent, perfumes that were practically fresh-squeezed from ginger and gardenia and roses. Phyto-cosmetics. And the world loved them. Neiman's, Macy's, Bloomingdale's, even Harrod's were carrying products from Ola Essences. Which was now outperforming the parent company, her father's Honolulu Soap Co.
Lily needed to get back to work, not just for her mental health, but also because she'd been out of the office for 24 hours now. Ola was her life. And Ola needed her. And both of them needed to be free of her father and the parent company.
Don Chapman is editor of MidWeek.
His serialized novel runs daily in the Star-Bulletin
with weekly summaries on Sunday.
He can be emailed at email@example.com