My Kind of Town

by Don Chapman

The Honolulu Soap Co.:
Sunday digest

>> Honolulu Soap Co.

A big wuss, that's what I am, Lily Ah Sun thought. Especially with my family. A total wuss.

She was mortally angry at her father for rejecting her proposal to restructure the Soap Co., and instead saying he was naming her younger brother Laird president. So why was Lily trying to protect her father from having to meet her youngest brother Lance's boyfriend Greg at the hospital.

And now she was trying to talk Laird out of going to Afghanistan to teach Christianity and capitalism to the Taliban because of "some stupid book." She should have been encouraging him.

"It's not stupid, Lily. 'Jesus Was a CEO -- The Gospel of Acquisitions' changed my life."

He kept saying that and it irritated her. Lily's second line chirped -- she was expecting a call from a ginger farmer. "Hold on, Laird, I have a call." Putting her brother on hold, she punched on line two. "Aloha, this is Lily."

It was her cousin Quinn, who she'd caught in his room at Queen's kissing and being fondled by some hoochie mama. That ended everything for Lily. If they went another 21 years without speaking, hey, fine with her.

And here she was, turning into a damn wuss again.

>> H-1, ewa-bound

Rosalita Resurreccion attended school in the Philippines only through high school. A "simple, typical Filipina," is how she humbly described herself. She may not have been sophisticated in the ways of the world or well-educated, but she was inherently intelligent. And she was very observant, always aware of what was happening in her immediate surroundings.

Thus she noticed that Muhammed Resurreccion spent more time looking in the van's rearview mirrors than out the front window.

How odd, Rosalita thought, sitting in the van's back seat with her daughter Elizabeth. A young woman who introduced herself as Wilhemina Orlando drove and Muhammed, the cousin of Rosalita's late husband Jesus, sat in the passenger seat. And even while asking questions about how Rosalita liked working for Miss Lily and how Elizabeth was doing in school, Muhammed studied the rearview mirrors. Rosalita had seen enough Erap action pictures to know what that meant. He suspected he was being followed.

But no, that didn't make any sense. Muhammed was a respected businessman, the owner of five Internet cafes on Mindanao, and was here to attend an electronics convention. And now, because he cared about Rosalita and Elizabeth, he was taking them to Pearl Harbor to see the Arizona Memorial for the first time. Probably Muhammed just found everything so interesting he wanted to see it both coming and going.

>> Honolulu Soap Co.

There were failures in the early days. Not many, but though they were few, they were often spectacular. And it wasn't the kind of stuff you could just pour down the drain. It would be the last time you used that drain. If the chemicals didn't corrode the pipes, the coagulating agents would clog them forever.

Sheets Ah Sun found a solution one day when he was having his car worked on, including an oil change.

"Eh, Henry," he'd said to the mechanic. "Where you dump the old oil?"

Although Henry Watanabe ran a one-man shop in Aiea and Sheets was his only customer at the moment, he still glanced around before answering. "Why you ask?"

"Remember, I mentioned about my side business, making soap?" In those days, Sheets' first job was as a waiter at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. "Well, I got a batch that didn't work so good, so we gotta dump 'em."

"Way out in the boonies," Henry said conspiratorially. "Waimanalo. Bum-by I show you."

And he did.

Sheets rocked in his office chair, its rusty squeak like a mantra, and remembered that day over 30 years ago. Towing a U-Haul trailer that carried two 50-gallon barrels of soap gone very bad, he'd followed Henry, who had a tank full of used motor oil in the back of his pickup. They turned mauka off Kalanianaole Highway, drove way back in the valley, Sheets making mental notes as they went so he could find it again if necessary.

Just off the road in a jungle thicket, Henry showed Sheets a pit, maybe 10 feet by 12, filled with bubbling, iridescent goo. On the side of the pit, 5-gallon tins of a white, crystalline power lay open on their sides. "Don't fall in," Henry said, turning the spigot on the tank, releasing a stream of black oil into the toxic stew.

Over the years, Sheets had returned to the Waimanalo site only two more times to dump mistakes. Well, three if you counted that night 21 years ago with his brother Mits and Bobo. That was the biggest mistake of all.

>> Down the hall, against her will, at the mere sound of his voice, Lily's heart was in full meltdown. She had to put a stop to it.

"Listen, Quinn," she said, switching the phone from one hand to the other. "I'm on long-distance with Laird. Can we talk later?"

"Just two questions, Lily, and you never have to talk to me again if you don't want to. No, three questions. One, who's Bobo? Two, what does he have to do with you changing your mind about me? And three, how come you left only one photocopy?"

"One, I don't know. Questions two and three, what the hell're you talking about?"

"Fair enough," Quinn said, "to the first one. After that, we really gotta talk. Things are not making sense. Call me?"

Without saying good-bye, Lily hit the button for line one. "I'm back."

"I hope you're coming up for the graduation," Laird said from Palo Alto. Actually, Lily had decided to boycott his graduation from Stanford Business. She'd use to the time do a hostile takeover of the company while her father was away. But now that Laird had confided in her that he didn't want to run the family company, that he wanted to set out on his own, well ... She wanted to be there when Laird broke the news to their father.

"If you want me there."

"I need the support, Lily."

So did Lily. "Sure, it would be nice to see you. It's been a while."

"Nearly two years since I've been home."

"By the way, you'll never believe who I ran into the other day -- our long-lost cousin Quinn."

"God, I almost forgot about him. What's he doing these days?"

"Motorcycle cop. Actually, he pulled me over for speeding."

And the meltdown began again. Lily remembered the electricity that passed between them when the handsome young cop pulled her over, the long gaze they'd shared before she handed him her license and they realized they were cousins. But by that time, it was too late. She'd already wanted him, and he wanted her.

Lily forced herself to remember walking into his hospital room just hours ago and finding him kissing and being fondled by some hoochie mama. A little ice to stop the meltdown.

>> H-1, ewa-bound

Commander Chuck Ryan of Navy intelligence accelerated the champagne Intrepid onto the freeway, then settled into the slow lane, waiting.

"Just passing the University exit," he said into his secure-line cellular's hands-free mike. "Cruising at 45."

"You can get killed that way around here," he heard Lt. Martin Luther Washington say. "We're just passing the Kapiolani exit, doing 50. It's the silver-blue van." He added the license number.

Martin was right, Ryan thought, glancing in the rearview mirror. You can get killed going 45 on this freeway. God, it was all speed and cut-throat chaos. What the hell had happened to Hawaii? Ryan had been here often over the years, pulling one tour at Pearl and another with CINCPAC at Camp Smith. Hawaii drivers were always courteous. And slow, he remembered, they always drove slower than people on the Mainland. But, whoa, not any more. Ryan didn't know what had gotten into Hawaii, but he didn't like it. A huge green pickup truck cut in front of him, forcing him to hit the brakes. On the rear of the truck was a bumper sticker, "Live Aloha." What a joker.

The truck took the Wilder exit. Ryan glanced in the rearview mirror again, saw the silver-blue van in the middle lane gaining on him.

Behind his tinted windows, Ryan could afford to check the occupants of the van as it passed him. Muhammed Resurreccion was like so many other Muslim terrorists, surrounding himself with innocent women, even a child. She was cute as can be, maybe 6 or 7.

And suddenly it was personal. Sooner or later, it always was. That's what happens when lives, including your own, are on the line. But this time there was more to it than that. Another soldier, another Army, even another cause, that he could respect, even as they did battle. But, dammit, a real man, a real warrior, just does not use innocent women and children as tools and shields. He didn't know what Muhammed was planning, but Ryan would be damned if he'd allow him to injure one hair on that little girl's head.

"Got 'em," Ryan said, gradually accelerating, but letting the van pass him and gain eight car lengths.

"I got your 6," Martin said.

"Thanks. The way people drive over here we ought to put in for combat pay."

"By the way, we have a probable ID on the woman and kid. She's a maid for a local woman out in Portlock. She and the kid live there. Been in this country just over a year. Last name Resurreccion. Probably related to Muhammed. We're checking, but going though the Philippines will take time."

The van passed the Downtown exits and Ryan breathed a sigh of relief. But if that wasn't Muhammed's target, what was?

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

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