OK[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Prologue 001-002 Chap 1 003-005 Chap 2 006 Chap 3 007-008
Chap 4 009-010 Chap 5 011-013 Chap 6 014-017 Chap 7 018-019
Chap 8 020-023 Chap 9 024-027 Chap 10 028-031 Chap 11 032-041
Chap 12 042-048 Chap 13 049-055 Chap 14 056-063 Chap 15 064-074
Chap 16 075-084 Chap 17 85-95 Chap 18 96-110 Chap 19 111-123
Chap 20 124-131 Chap 21 132-133 Chap 22 Chap 23 Chap 24
Revenge Should Have No Bounds
Chapter 25: Revisiting
Since my meeting with Detective Light about a week ago I have been walking the streets of August aimlessly, one day disappointed or depressed, the next, enthusiastic and optimistic. What should I do? Should I do anything?
Biologists have recently discussed the possibility of a genetic heritage favoring optimism in human beings. Perhaps the species could not have survived in the face of crushing reversals along its developmental course if it had not had that little spark of hope for the future to draw on.
Is there anyone who does not from time to time feel disappointments?
At what stage does disappointment cease to be a minor disagreeableness and start to become a depression? As long as we feel that we have some opportunity to affect the outcomes of our involvements, be they with people or with tasks that are set us by ourselves or others, we entertain hope. Only when circumstances dictate to us a course of action or a state that we feel powerless to alter do we begin that fearful descent into the pit of exaggerated disappointments. The journey back is not without its difficulties.
We shrug off the small failures because no single one of them is individually important. We have had other successes by way of compensation, we know that we can come back next time, we feel reassured about intrinsic worth. Regrettably, our next effort is likewise met with less than spectacular results, and a tremulous shiver of doubt scuttles down our back. Is this the way it’s going to be from here on in? Has the ‘touch’ gone?
Now we are moving beyond the borders of disappointment into the hostile country of depression, and there seems to be no way for us to stop or even slow down the frantic pace of the ride. We no longer have the power to regulate speed or direction, nor – what is worse! – do we seem to care a great deal about our enfeeblement of will. Our mistake lies in not heeding repeated disappointments, for these are like signals to us that we are doing something wrong.
The disappointment itself is a valuable thing. That which causes it may or may not be important. We must, however, attend to the disappointment itself, account for it, question what it is telling us. When repeated, these disappointments suggest that we should perhaps change the direction of our journey before it takes us onto seas we can no longer navigate, and that at speeds too great for us to steer. Disappointments make that alteration possible, and therefore they make possible optimism: there are other enterprises that we should take up, and there are other ways that we should approach life.
At the same time, however, we must always consider that maybe our disappointments are saying that we have not gone fast enough on our trip, nor have we gone to all the lands we could. We must be world travelers!
It is between this haunting either-or that I am now caught.
As I am further distanced in time from the indignity of indictment and the anxiety of trial to the relief of acquittal, there is a part of me that wants to drop the whole thing. Is it really my business to be spending revenge on myself? Yet, how can I just walk away from it? I cannot in full honesty claim that I would be pursuing the matter because of my great love for Trinh, whom, truthfully, I did not get to know that well, nor can I any longer focus an unwarranted yearning for payback for my recent troubles on Yukiko, who by all indications had nothing to do with Trinh’s murder.
Again, walk away? Or full speed ahead?
It is this dilemma that I am trying to resolve, but after a week of ‘searching’ on the hot streets and in the air-conditioned coffee shops of the city I feel no closer to a decision. Detective Light’s suggestion that I do ‘nothing foolish’ seemed eloquent in the context of her office. Out here on the streets it appears almost craven. Or is this hot temper in my heart foolishly ignoring the cold decrees of my head? The vacillation itself is driving me crazy.
A week Tuesday after seeing the detective I am sitting in the evening darkness of my apartment nursing a heavily creamed coffee and a snifter of Grand Marnier and finally come to a decision. I am not going to drop my pursuit, my quest, if you will. I have to see this thing through, get some kind of closure for myself. Fine, I may not end up doing anything, but I have to confront my wavering dubiety. I’ve put aside the recurring thought of involving Yukiko in my actions, for her state of mind and reliability are still brittle and bothersome question marks in my mind.
On Wednesday I grab this bull by the horn and begin the distasteful task of wrestling it into the dust. I take a slow walk up to the university district and have something breakfasty at one of my favorite little nooks. It is as though I need the energy in order to get started.
Then I flag down a cab and have the turbaned driver take me up to the affluent Blaylock enclave on the city’s northwest side. I ask the man to drop me off at an attractive galleria located in a large upscale shopping plaza. I take a lazy walk though the interior of the galleria and window-shop. I suppose I am trying somehow to defer the action I have resolved on: paying a visit to the Caos. Now that I am physically closer to their home, I wonder about my steadfastness. I’ve been to their house once, and I have some vague notion of where in Blaylock the street is located in relation to this centralized plaza. A walk of about fifteen minutes or so, I should think.
The weather seems less oppressive up here. Blaylock lies on a rise, and I can see the core part of the city in the haze towards the southeast. Maybe the light breezes have more space in which to move up here, and the traffic and pavements with their crowded heat that characterize the downtown are represented here by almost empty streets lined with leaf-filled trees and immaculate lawns shimmering in the water sprayed out by automatic sprinklers. The sound of downtown is a mere murmur up here amid the song of birds and the creaking stridency from the insects of late summer. It is almost like another world, and it is hard to imagine that these elegant exteriors I am walking past might house horrors.
After a while I come to the corner where the street I am walking on runs into Hyacinth Lane, where the Caos live. I can see the house here from the corner. A woman driving a station wagon filled with kids comes by and waves at me. Friendly place.
I walk up the street slowly and turn off at the Cao home. It is exquisite, and the lawn is smooth as a green carpet. A profusion of flowers in well-kept beds line both sides of the walk up to the front door, and blooming roses are mulched down the entire length of the side of the house facing the street. It is all so calm, so peaceful, so … perfect – on the outside. What does the interior contain?
I push the button recessed in the door jamb and hear a muted tinkling from within. The door opens and Mrs. Cao is before me.
“Hello,” I say. “You probably don’t remember me,” I say.
Mrs. Cao is peering at me, and I think she does recognize me but is not certain what the connection is. After all, I saw her for only a couple of hours and that was eight months ago. I imagine she has not been following the trial on television.
“Ah, Ms. Cape,” her husband says, coming up suddenly behind his wife.
And as he says it, she remembers. “Yes,” she says. “You … you were the woman who came here with our daughter.”
“Yes, that’s correct,” I say. I smile. Nervously.
“I was at your trial,” Mr. Cao reports to me. “All the time. The prosecutor has failed in his duty,” he added sourly.
Nobody has invited me to step into the house. The husband and wife have positioned themselves in the open doorway in such a way that a hostile understanding of their stance might suggest blockage: we don’t want you here.
“What is the purpose of this visit?” Mr. Cao asks. He sticks out his head and takes a sweeping glance of the neighborhood as if checking for my car or possible companions I may have brought along. When he sees nothing and no one he fixes his gaze on me with a quizzical look on his face. In my fevered imagination about this ‘monster’ this look indicates an arrogant contempt that will brook no discussion of his daughter’s demise, much less anything remotely resembling a self-convicting confession. Here I sense only resolute contumacy against outsiders and an unbreachable rampart of silence.
I hold his gaze. “I wonder if I could talk to you and your wife about your daughter. About Trinh.”
“We have no daughter,” the wife says.
“Because she is dead, is what my wife means,” the husband explains. “What more is there to say?”
“You do know, don’t you, that I was put on trial for murdering her?”
“Yes.” He is not going to make this easy for me.
“And you know that I did not kill her, don’t you?”
Mrs. Cao’s eyes go big and a hand flies up to her mouth. Her husband sweeps her back into the house, closes the door some, and himself fills the remaining gap.
“We know no such thing,” he says indignantly. “Why are you here bothering us. Harassing us, is what it is. Isn’t that the word?”
“I apologize for bringing up a sensitive issue, but I think you know what I am here to talk about.”
“I have no such knowledge. Now please leave us. We wish to be left alone. You are not welcome here. Do you understand?” He starts to close the door, but I have put my foot in the way.
“You are blocking my door.”
“I’m not finished yet,” I said. It is hard to remain polite, for now I suspect the worst.
“What is it you want?”
“Was it shame?” I asked.
“Shame? What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about your dead daughter, Trinh, who was murdered. Were you ashamed of her?”
I hear a low keening from the other side of the door but cannot see Mrs. Cao.
Her husband puts his head behind the door and barks something in Vietnamese to her, and, like a beaten dog, she whimpers. There is the sound as of something heavy falling or someone sitting straight down on the floor.
“You upset my wife,” he chides me.
“What’s upset her?”
“Your suggestions, your horrible suggestions. It is intolerable.”
“Was it the American boyfriend?”
“Of course not. Many in our community marry Americans and have good lives.”
“Was it what her friend Yukiko wanted her to do?”
I can tell from the narrowing of his eyes and the thinning of his lips that I am getting warm. And the wife has come to life behind the door. A stream of Vietnamese is pouring out of her. Mr. Cao just shakes his head. “Crazy women,” he mutters. And then adds, “You, too, Madame Cape.” He shakes his head in disgust.
“Mui-mui! Putain! Mui-mui!” Mrs. Cao snarled from within the house. She had gotten up from the floor and poked head around the edge of the door her husband was holding on to. I understood the second term – the French were not without influence in Indo-China – and assumed its flankers were the Vietnamese equivalent. What could I say? The woman was right!
She was struggling with her husband to come around the door and face me. She was enraged by now. “You, you,” she frothed. “You corrupt my daughter!” She stamped her foot on the soft carpeting. “Gouine, gouine!” she shrieked. My French – or maybe it was Vietnamese – didn’t stretch that far, but I had a pretty good idea what she was trying to say.
“That Japanese woman, she makes Trinh crazy,” Mr. Cao says.
“How?” I asked. “Please. I need to know.”
“She was married to the man, then she goes with women. Like you! She wants her to … to … I cannot even say the word. It sickens me Both of us.”
“But you don’t understand,” I hurried to say. “Your daughter did not want to do what Yukiko asked her to. She refused.”
Mrs. Cao was out of it, but Mr. Cao just kept shaking his head. “No, it is you who do not understand. She is … she was like that Japanese woman. She thinks she can have that man who was married to her because he understands her. She is like the Japanese woman.”
Suddenly it dawns on me, and shakes me. Trinh was bi too!
“No, it was not the Japanese woman she objects to. It is you. You are not like her. You are a prostitute. She will not … go with a prostitute. That is why the Japanese woman make her crazy, for making such a suggestion. Yes, she was ashamed. She was ashamed the Japanese woman does not respect her. You,” and here he pushed his face up against mine, “you are the one who bring everything out.”
“Bring everything out?”
“When she comes home that evening, late, with Japanese woman, she is crying. Her face is wet and her eyes are red. She cannot stop crying. My wife and I insist that she must speak to us, to tell us what is happening. We are concerned.”
Mrs. Cao now came alive again. “And that is when she tells us that she is … she is like that other woman. I cannot believe what she says.”
“She disgraces us. She makes us want to throw up. It is wicked.”
Same melody, different words.
I really didn’t know what to say, much less do.
“So what happened after she told you?” I was determined to push this thing to the end.
There is suddenly a dazed silence at the door, so silent I can hear dogs barking down the street and birds chirping away in the beautiful trees. The two of them glance at each other in bewilderment, as if taken by surprise, not knowing just how to respond. Their faces fluctuate from agony through fear to haughtiness and back to agony. It is clear to me that something dreadful happened that evening after Trinh had told them about herself.
“Did your daughter stay here? Did she leave? What happened to her?” I am almost screaming now.
The parents are mute as stones.
“You were ashamed of her! What if others found out what you had just found out. You would be in disgrace. You were ashamed, weren’t you?”
“What do you know of shame?” Mr. Cao asks, his eyebrows arching in contempt. “You who are without shame? What can you possibly know of shame, a shameless one, la prostituée, une putain, une gouine.” He spit on the lawn just to the right of the stoop I was standing on and wiped his fastidious lips with the back of his hand.
“What your daughter did, what she was, is not wicked. She was human.”
Even as I utter the words they sound alien to me. I am trying to explain red and blue to people who are color-blind. It is hopeless and I sense it. As does Mr. Cao, who has had more than enough of me on several counts. But it is shame that is eating at both of them. I think he wants to say something, but he holds back. He speaks to his wife, now in a kindly tone, in Vietnamese, and she merely nods, agreeing to whatever he said.
“No, no, no!” he said vehemently. “She was … after all we have done for that ungrateful child … no, we … it is you who made us …”
“Who made you do what?” I asked, my heart in my throat.
He glared at me with hard hatred glittering in his dark eyes.
“You must leave now. You are not welcome here. You must leave.”
Why shouldn’t I go for it? “Did you kill your daughter?”
Mr. Cao kicked my foot off the sill and slammed the door in my face.
I was panting, as worked up in my way as they were. It took me a minute to calm down, and then I began a slow walk towards the sidewalk and turned in the direction of the galleria plaza. It would be good to walk and digest my thoughts about what had transpired.
I felt morally and intellectually certain that the parents had been directly involved in the death of their daughter, maybe even to the point of having killed her themselves. It was a horrifying thought, almost too bizarre to get a handle on. But, as my prior musings on myth and modern media had made me realize, it wouldn’t have been the first time such a deed was done, nor would it be the last.
It has turned into a gorgeous August day, but there is a sense of ugliness within me.
TO BE CONTINUED