[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 26: Plotting
For weeks after my revealing ‘talk’ with the Caos I mull over my next step. I won’t let them off, either for the murder of their daughter I am now convinced beyond any doubt they committed or for letting me dangle for eight months and expend over a million dollars to prove my innocence. When I keep coming back to the idea that Mr. Cao was in that courtroom watching me putting my life on the line while he knew what had really happened I get so furious I almost scare myself. I am wondering for whom this Old Testament revenge I want is the more salient in my mind: me or Trinh. Honestly, for me. I grant that much.
But how can I find a handle on this seething anger to grab it and use it as the blunt instrument required to impose my own form of traumatic accountability on the well-deserving guilty? Before it consumes me? Yes, I have read the Bible. Not the whole thing, but large parts of it. I have studied it – the New Testament in the original koinē Greek. Although I find its usefulness as a theological enchiridion for understanding the mysterious ways of the Lord terribly confusing, its very human characters, its elaborate narratives, its King James poetic diction, and its many moral and ethical constructs make it a bracing document in my mind. One of the latter that currently is an unwelcome but importunate guest in my head comes, I recall, from Romans 12:19 and contains the famous admonition that it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. But lordy lordy I am impatient, saith I, still filled with a roiling rage that needs outlet. Somehow. In other words, my patience is running thin.
It’s clear from my sit-down last month with Detective Light that, aside from the practical advice that I do ‘nothing foolish’ she, as representative of the police, would and could do nothing. I can see that, intellectually. But such are the fine machinations of this my temporary lunacy that they slip right through the grosser mesh of my better counsel. I cannot rest. I remind myself, constantly, obsessively, that right now, right this very minute as I, a person juridically speaking free, walk the balmy streets of the city, I could in fact have been sitting in some gloomy prison listening to the private babblings and meaningless shrieks of older women unhinged by lengthy days of intramural life, present prefigurings of a future me. Despite the lingering warmth of the last days of summer, I shiver.
In the traditional sense I am caught on the sharpened horns of a dilemma. A dilemma in the etymologically primitive sense addresses through its semantic instantiating the harsh notion of two alternative courses of action neither of which is entirely satisfactory. For it is not satisfactory that I should myself do what I wish to do in punishment, commit the murder of another human being; nor, surely, is it satisfactory for me to sit back and play some duck of forgiveness off whose iridescent back stream the waters of my personal outrage. There must be some compromise, some middle ground, some aurea via media that will not shred my human dignity.
In the effort to find a thread to lead me out of the labyrinth of my dead-end musings before some Minotaur of madness should do me in, a week or so ago I even sought out a lawyer – not, to be sure, anyone associate with Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar but, I confess, with some less scrupled firm. There were many choices, bewildering in the diversity of their pricing structures, putative expertise, and services proffered. But in spite of my strip-mining here and there throughout the city’s vast legal landscape I hit no vein worthy of further tapping. Price was no object. Expertise was indeed more often putative than plausibly credible. And the range of services covered an utterly astonishing spectrum that began at one end with toughly worded letters, centered in the fuzzy area of legal harassment by means of continual servings of papers, and finished on the other end in veiled suggestions that murder for fee should, in extremis, never be excluded as a discreet option.
With police and lawyers out of the running, I thought at one point that if I had some kind of in with the Vietnamese community in the city I might be able not only to find out more about the specifics of what I believed beyond question had happened but even engage in some more concrete and as it were indigenous means for achieving closure. This plan, born of my growing frustration, was of course idiotic in its first assumption and probably racist in its second.
In the course of worrying this issue for all these many weeks I came to a conclusion about an aspect of myself that I had not given much consideration to earlier. I mean, why should I have? I’ve always been a pretty laid-back person, and Christy had always said I was like that almost from the moment of birth. Live and let live. Let bygones be bygones. It’s O.K. – forget it. Maybe this yielding quality shone forth in some fashion in my professional life and constituted at least part of my attraction for exhausted husbands and disillusioned boyfriends inured to the sullen resentments and cascades of recriminations that cluttered and often clogged their relationships with wives and girlfriends. If they drank too much, I never told them they’d had enough; if they were overweight, I never had headaches or mocked them; if they talked and talked and talked, I never told them to shut up; if they were weary, I babied them.
Perhaps there was a disingenuousness to me.
In any event, what I concluded about myself was that I wasn’t very good at scheming. My killer instinct had been sterilized somewhere along the way. Yet, the deep transformations of the past year had stirred inchoate needs and urgings in me of the sort I had always believed nice girls should not have and if they did should suppress, and it left me, like some Darwinian loser, poorly equipped to handle the more nuanced contour of my present life.
Of course, getting back to that dilemma, there was always that second of its two horns: just walk away from everything, be done with it once and for all, douse my inner fires.
And, finally, there was compromise. That would still give satisfaction. If I couldn’t do anything personally, if I could not see my way clear to any self-generated resolution, well, I could seek outside help. Farm it out, rely on experts, savor the deed done rather than the doing of it.
But what kinds of experts did I know? That wretched little worm Kerzy who prosecuted my case had tried to foist off on the jury that idea that I had so many low-lives as clients that surely among them were just any number of hitmen I could just call up and ask to get rid of Trinh for me. Maybe he had unwittingly sown a seed, so to speak. Not that the men who hired me were exactly from the lower orders of the social hierarchy, and not a single one was to my knowledge a hitter. I couldn’t imagine kind old Walter, for example, freelancing as a rubout, nor the elegant and socially prominent Dr. Hoacman. That Hooper guy, the broker, was an imploding mess even a year ago, and I couldn’t see him stop trembling long enough to do wet work. My consultant gig, Nathan Hoe, though a looker and suave enough, was as fake as loaded dice. I just didn’t see it. Well, there are scores of others I could mention, but it just didn’t click with any of them. Maybe some of the working girls down on River Street traffic with that kind of trash, but it would really have surprised me if one of my guys turned out to be a stringer. But, you never really know.
The point is that I wouldn’t know where to begin looking, or asking. There was always the possibility of talking to some creep the cops had dangling on a heavy beef, somebody who would just love to trade himself a dismissal of charges in exchange for entrapping me in a solicitation for murder. Wouldn’t Kerzy micro-cream in his pants at that prospect! No, these days I just didn’t have enough faith – oxymoronic as that may sound — in the integrity of the criminal population to expose myself in such reckless fashion.
I turned into a fugitive and vagabond afoot in the city trying to plot foul and murderous revenge. I went round and round in my head and up and down on the crowded streets, plots, schemes, scenarios, each more implausible than the previous one racing all the time like desperate shit-house rats in the sealed coffee-can of my perfervid mind.
If, instead, I could just teach myself how to forget to think!
I seriously began to entertain doubts if my journey to vengeance was worth the cost of the ticket there. Some days as I dragged myself back into my apartment just before dusk, I gratefully flopped down in the dark seclusion of its quiet solitude and nursed a double shot of Grand Marnier in my big cognac snifter, watching the convex sides coat themselves with the russet liquid I swilled about with my hand. A feeling of infinite lassitude hovered in the room like a patient temporizer awaiting a decision on my part to yield to necessity, succumb to reality, capitulate.
My draining thoughts drift – God forgive me – to Yukiko. Even though she lied about me under oath and trashed my reputation, she is still there. I can’t forget her. I try to imagine what she is up to right now. Chatting up somebody new in a bar somewhere in the city? Sitting at home like me contemplating – or, more accurately, brooding about — real and imagined wrongs done to her, disturbing incursions against carefully constructed illusions about self? Ever thinking about me?
Maybe I should give Ojiro a call. I don’t think he disliked me. And he was a link to his sister. At least I could get around to asking him where she was and what she was up to these days. Is she still the candle and I the moth that thus gets singed?
I sit a while longer, and then get up to dig out Ojiro’s number from my address book. It’s been over a month since I talked with him at the restaurant. About now he’ll be in the middle of the dinner rush, and I decide to pour a refill and uncouple from the day some more. I’ll call him later.
When I do, towards ten o’clock, he’s winding up the evening’s work and seems glad to have me call him. Our chat flows like two rivulets seeking usable channels in a sere landscape, hesitantly, probing, finally moving forward. I ask him about Yukiko, and he skips a beat before coming back at me.
“She’s not here any more?”
“Oh? What happened?”
“She wasn’t too specific with me, but a couple of weeks after you were here she up and left the city. Said she was going back to Los Angeles.”
“Have you heard from her since?”
“Yeah, she sent a postcard the day she got home, but she didn’t stay long.” His windy sighs translate well across the wire. “That old family thing, again. I think she just couldn’t take it again. She’s fond of the geographical escape.”
“Meaning she took off again. My mother didn’t know where,” he reported.
“But you do, don’t you?”
“That’s true, I do.”
“And? Do you know where she went after that?”
“If you can believe it, she went back to Japan.”
“That’s right. Japan. I guess she thinks she can find something there that has eluded her here. I wish her luck, but I think she’s chasing phantoms of her own making.”
Chef Ojiro wasn’t as dense, or lacking in insight, as his taciturn demeanor might at first lead one to suspect. I think his money was probably on the right horse in this race.
“She went back to Osaka?”
“No. Too many bad memories there, too, I guess. She’s in Tokyo. I got a call a few days ago, and she’s found a place to stay she can afford, and she says she likes being there.”
“Did she say how long she would be there?”
I know it’s crazier than crazy, but suddenly I’m asking myself how much it could cost to fly to Tokyo? It’s a madness as sweet as choking gall. But my current project is hardly sounder, is it?
Ojiro, familiar with his sister, is way ahead of me. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“I’m just asking,” I say, a little too indignantly.
“Whatever,” he deflects my injured pride. “She’s staying through January. At least that’s what she told me.”
“I don’t suppose you have an address or a phone number, do you?”
He says nothing at first. “I do,” he admits at last. “And I repeat: is this what you want to do?”
“Please,” I grovel.
He gives it to me and urges me to come by for the free dinner he had promised me.
“I’ll do that,” I say. “This weekend. I promise.”
“You take care, Mazarine, and be careful,” he urges in an amicable tone. “You’re a nice lady.” And he hangs up.
I am moved by his concern, by his basic decency.
The call, abetted by the fumes of Grand Marnier, has me lapse into silent tears.
TO BE CONTINUED