My Kind of Town

by Don Chapman

Missing persons

>> Aina Haina

The bare shelves on either side of the TV in the home entertainment cabinet were, HPD Detective Sherlock Gomes had to admit, about the saddest things he'd ever seen. The Toyamas -- Tom was retired from Hawaiian Electric, Lois from Hawaiian Tel -- had come home from their usual walk with the Dawn Patrol at Ala Moana Beach Park and found that someone had broken in and stolen all their framed family photographs. Left behind were those two bare shelves, and a matching hole in Lois and Tom's hearts.

Tom showed Gomes where the burglar had broken in through the kitchen window -- they'd left it open -- and explained that they hadn't called HPD because it just didn't seem like a real crime. Lois had plenty of jewelry in the bedroom that wasn't touched. Neither was Tom's set of Big Bopper golf clubs nor their new i-Book laptop. The only thing missing were the family photographs --their wedding and 40th anniversary photos, their children's graduation and wedding photos, their grandson Shawn and granddaughter Suzi's school pictures, and more recent shots of Shawn in his Pop Warner uniform and Suzi in her ballet outfit.

Gomes could imagine the photos, and the pride and comfort they brought. Every time Lois and Tom saw those photos, their greatest accomplishments in life smiled back at them, reinforcing who they were and what they had done, and it was good.

"Why would anyone do such a thing?" Lois implored.

Putting away his notepad, Gomes said, "Hard to say, but this is the second case like this I've seen."

Lois gasped and covered her lips. "I just can't understand it." Gomes was beginning to get a picture of a lonely person with no family, no love, no support, and a brain so twisted that they could "adopt" other people's family photos as their own. A male? Female? Also hard to say. Loneliness and madness don't have genders.

The burglar's ethnicity was also a puzzle. The Toyamas were both Japanese. In his first case, Sheila Fernandez of Pearl City and her late husband Joseph were both Portuguese.

Back behind the wheel of his 1971 Barracuda, Gomes called Detective Leitha DeCaires, who ran CrimeStoppers, and asked her to put out an alert for the Family Photo Burglar.

And then it was time to check out the driver of a white Cadillac who was more interested than most in the illegal chemical dumpsite in Waimanalo. Last name was Ah Sun. Gomes wondered if this guy was related to Grace Ah Sun, who'd told him about her friends the Toyamas. Or the HPD sergeant from Pearl City, Mits Ah Sun? Had to be. Not many Ah Suns in the phone book.

Don Chapman is editor of MidWeek.
His serialized novel runs daily in the Star-Bulletin
with weekly summaries on Sunday.
He can be e-mailed at

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