“This is bullshit! Bullshit!”
The sound passed through the thick wooden door as if it wasn’t
even there. It was an angry, hostile voice that rolled out over the fifth floor
of the state capitol, followed a moment later by the muffled sound of something
being knocked to the ground.
Walter Tseng paused a moment outside the side entrance to the
governor’s office and took a deep breath, letting his shoulders rise and fall
with the effort. Already he could feel the prickly sensation of heat and
perspiration rising on his scalp, his body’s natural defense to what waited on
the other side.
Despite every particle of his being telling him not to, he
raised his fist and wrapped his knuckles against the door.
“Get in here!” the same voice snapped.
Tseng shook his head in disgust and pushed inside, the
floor-to-ceiling door heavy as he pressed his forearm against it and forced it
into the room. Light spilled out into the darkened fifth floor, throwing his
shadow against the ground as he entered, the image swallowed back up as it
swung closed behind him.
Despite being the Chief of Honolulu police, it was only the
third time Tseng had ever been inside the office. The first was a photo
opportunity with the newly-elected governor three years before, the kind of
event where everybody smiles through gritted teeth and shakes hands a little
harder than necessary.
The standard round of dick-measuring exercises that politicians
feel the need to perform as often as possible.
The second time was a year and a half before, a perfunctory
briefing about an outbreak of food poisoning in the local school systems. The
governor had handled the entire thing with as much disdain and boredom as he
could manage, making it quite clear that the event was nothing more than
checking off a box in case somebody ever asked what he had done to help the
What he also managed to do was earn himself the ire of Tseng and
every other person in the room that wasn’t paid to kiss his ass.
The office was exactly the same as Tseng remembered it from his
previous two encounters. The carpet underfoot was thick, cream in color, not a
stray mark of any kind visible. An oversized desk sat to the right, so large it
resembled a conference table more than a workspace for a single man.
Across from it was a pair of plush leather sofas, facing each
other with a coffee table splitting the space between them. Glass cases lined
the outside of the room, all featuring relics of Native Hawaiian culture
ranging from baskets woven from the stalks of Ti leafs to handheld weapons from
centuries past, their wood polished to a gleam, lined with razor-sharp shark’s teeth.
Inside the room were four men, all standing, all staring back at
Tseng. In the corner was another of Duke’s security detail, wearing sunglasses
with his hands clasped in front of him. Approaching six feet in height, he was
a little thinner than the others downstairs, but no less imposing.
To the far left was Tim Hall, the governor’s Chief-of-Staff that
had called Tseng forty-five minutes earlier. He too was dressed in an Aloha
shirt and chinos, his thinning red hair combed straight back. Freckles dotted
his thin arms and face, a veneer of sweat visible beneath the overhead lights.
Despite being just over forty years in age, he seemed to be
trembling like a frightened child.
In the middle of the room was Allen Wong, a man Tseng had only
met once before but knew to be the governor’s Senior Policy Advisor. He stood
with his hands thrust into the front pockets of his grey slacks, accentuating
the stomach that protruded before him. His face was round and puffy, forcing
his eyes down to almost slits. Thick dark sat in a loose tangle atop his head,
streaks of grey just starting to show.
He nodded to Tseng in recognition, the movement devoid of any
emotion one way or another.
Completing his sweep of the room, Tseng settled his gaze on the
governor, alone behind his desk.
Even if they had never met before, two things would have
immediately made it clear who he was as Tseng entered. The first was that while
everybody else was dressed in work attire, the governor still looked no more
than two minutes removed from bed. A ragged grey bathrobe hung from his
shoulders, swinging free atop a pair of blue boxer shorts and plain white t-shirt.
The few remaining tufts of white hair he had stuck up in various
directions above a pinched face with a pointed nose and chin. His cheeks glowed
bright red, taking his usual ruddy complexion and enhancing it with a healthy
dose of anger.
The second indicator that he was The Honorable Governor Dwight
Randle was that no less than three portraits around them proclaiming as much.
As Tseng cast a quick glance around the room, he couldn’t help
but notice they were in fact the only décor of any kind on the walls.
Randle stood in silence a moment, his breath coming in heavy
pants. His desk chair sat upside down on the floor beside him, no doubt the
source of the noise Tseng heard just before entering. “What took you so long?”
The animosity Tseng felt for the man ratcheted up another notch,
but he managed to swallow down the retort in his mind. He paused a full beat
before deciding to ignore the question and pose one of his own. “Who is she?”
He positioned himself so he could see all three men in his
periphery, though it took only a moment to realize that wouldn’t be necessary.
Hall’s eyes never left his shoes and while Wong made eye contact, it was
apparent he had no intention of speaking.
This was the governor’s show. They had just been called in to
“How the hell should I know?” Randle snapped. “Forty-five
minutes ago I was asleep in my specially-designed Posturpedic bed. Now I’m
standing here at two in the morning talking to you twits.”
The itching sensation returned to Tseng’s skin, this time a
product of animosity more than trepidation. Once more he forced back the vitriol
fighting its way to the surface. “Why haven’t the police been called?”
The governor made an exaggerated expression and shook his hand
at Tseng. “They have been. Who the hell do you think you work for?”
Moisture formed along Tseng’s lower back and across his lip. “I
mean, why weren’t officers called to secure the area? Why isn’t a crime scene
unit going over everything as we speak?”
The governor looked at Tseng in disbelief a moment before
sighing and bending at the waist. With a low wheeze of exertion he right his
desk chair and flopped himself down into it, the force pushing it several
inches across the floor.
“Christ, you don’t know anything about politics do you?”
Tseng cast a glance to Hall before moving back to Randle.
“Apparently I don’t, but I assume I was called here about a murder, not
At the mention of the word murder, Randle winced and leaned
forward in his chair. He extended a finger straight out at Tseng and said,
“That’ll be enough of that, in this office or anywhere else. For all we know,
that is a suicide down there.”
Tseng’s head rose an inch as he smirked, trying to keep his face
from breaking into a full smile. “A suicide? Really?”
The governor opened his mouth to respond, but Wong interjected
with a question first, drawing the attention of the other three men in the
“What makes you say it was a murder?”
“Given the thirty seconds I had to examine the scene?” Tseng
asked, cutting his gaze to Randle so there was no mistaking where his
frustration was aimed.
“See,” the governor snapped, waving dismissively at Tseng, “he
already admits he’s had less than a minute to review things. He has no idea
what’s down there. That girl committed suicide, plain and simple.”
Tseng pushed forward without even acknowledging the statement.
“Based on my preliminary assessment, she had to have been
murdered somewhere else and the body dumped here.”
“Reason being?” Wong asked again.
“Simply put, there’s no blood,” Tseng replied. “There are two
vicious slashes to that girl’s body, one across her throat and another across
abdomen. Those are two of the heaviest blood-flow areas in the body. Had those
wounds been inflicted on sight, there would literally be liters of blood on the
ground around her.”
“You don’t know those wounds were the cause of death,” Randle
snapped. “She could have been a jumper.”
Tseng rolled his eyes, letting the momentum of the movement
carry his attention back to the governor.
“Ignoring the fact that every possible route to the fifth floor
is locked at this time of night, save the broken leg there are no signs of
impact. A fall from five floors onto concrete would have split her head like a
melon and snapped most of the bones in her body.
“I’m sorry Governor, but this was a murder and needs to be
treated as such.”
Randle leaned back in his chair and stared across Tseng, the anger receded from his features,
taking a bit of the red hue with it. He rested his head back against the chair
behind him and closed his eyes, shaking his head from side to side.
Tseng watched him a moment before shifting his attention back to
Wong. “But what does that have to do with politics? And why isn’t a tech unit
on site yet?”
“It has everything to do with politics,” Randle said from across the room without opening his eyes.
“And there will be no tech unit. You have the next few hours to ascertain
everything you can, and after that the scene will be scrubbed clean in time for
a new day here at the capitol.”
“What?” Tseng spat, incredulity permeating the word.
When the governor made no movement of any kind, Tseng looked to
Wong and then Hall and back again. “What do you mean there will be no
investigation? No processing the scene?”
Tseng added as much venom as he could to the tone of his voice,
finally drawing Randle’s attention enough to open his eyes.
“What you don’t seem to understand is that this is the state
capitol building, in the middle of a legislative session, three weeks away from
a very heated gubernatorial primary election.”
Tseng’s eyes bulged. “You think that down there was done because
it is election season?”
“Of course it was,” Randle said, his own voice rising. He pushed
himself from his chair and walked forward, putting his fists down on his desk.
He leaned forward onto them, staring at Tseng, the bathrobe hanging down on
other side of him.
“So here’s how this is going to go. You, and you alone, are
going to go back downstairs and get everything you can from that scene. You can
take notes, but I get copies of everything, and they are to be shared with
nobody in HPD, FBI, CIA, anybody.”
Tseng sighed and rolled his head to the side. The odds of that
young girl being anything that any of the alphabet agencies would be interested
in just one more example of Randle’s extreme overestimation of his own
“And then what?” Tseng asked. “I wage a one-man
“No,” Randle said, his gaze boring down on Tseng. “You go back
to doing exactly what you always do, but when you’re not on the clock, when
nobody is around, you monitor it. You keep close tabs on everything, and you
report back to me.”
Disbelief roiled through Tseng. His jaw dropped open as once
more he examined each of the faces in the room, trying to make sense of the
madness he was hearing.
“Keep tabs on what?” he asked. “There’s no going over the scene,
nobody on the force is allowed to know about this, I’m not allowed to touch it.”
“We’ve got someone in mind for that,” Wong said, drawing Tseng’s
attention to the side.
“But we’ll get to that,” Randle said. “In the meantime, we have
to know you’re onboard with us. After you leave this room, this conversation
never took place. Come morning, that girl was never here.”
“You think you can just make this disappear?” Tseng asked.“There
is a young girl murdered downstairs. She had a life, a family, she deserves to
be investigated. Her killer must be brought to justice.”
“She will, and they will,” Randle said, his voice as even as if
he were reporting the score of the previous night’s University of Hawaii
baseball game. “But it will be done quietly and with discretion.”
Tseng drew his mouth into a tight line to keep himself from
snapping back and began pacing. He thrust one hand into his slacks and other he
drew into a fist, pressing it against his chin.
“And if I don’t? You realize I have the beat reporters from KHNL
and KHON on speed dial, right? I could have crews here in minutes,
“But you won’t,” Randle said, same deadpan voice, now bearing a
hint of condescension.
“Why won’t I?” Tseng said. “What’s to stop me? You?”
“No,” Randle said, shaking his head, “though I could.” He
pressed himself up and walked back over to his chair. He folded the robe across
torso and sat down, crossing his right leg across his left. “No, the person
stopping you will be you.”
“Me?” Tseng asked.
“Yes, you,” Randle said. “Self-preservation will keep you from
doing any of that, because if you did, I would have you removed from Honolulu
Police Department. No pension, no letter of recommendation. Good luck ever
getting a job again after that.”
Tseng’s face twisted into anger. “Are you threatening me?”
“Not just you,” Randle said. “I know all about your wife Sharon.
Be awful hard for a school teacher to ever work again after an accusation of
being a child molester.
“Or your son, Walt Jr. You must have been so proud when he got
that scholarship to UH. Can you imagine how damaging it would be if that got
Tseng took three quick steps across the room and slammed his
hands down on the desk. “You lowdown son of a bitch.”
From the corner, the security agent matched Tseng’s movements,
coming to a stop just inches from the governor’s shoulder. Randle glanced over
his shoulder at the backup and smirked.
“Because of the situation, I will allow you one outburst, Chief
Tseng, but you would be well served to remember where you are and who you’re
Tseng kept his hands against the door wood of the desk for
several seconds before pushing himself back. Again he returned to pacing,
running a hand back over his hair.
“So you’ve got me over a barrel here. You’ve drawn me into
something I had no part in, no choice on, and now I have to participate?”
The guard receded back into the corner as Randle shook a hand at
Tseng. “Oh, don’t be so dramatic, it’s not like this comes without benefit to
you. Help me take of this and when we get through this election, the favor will
be repaid in kind.”
Tseng stopped pacing and again glared at the governor. “What?”
Randle smiled. “Do you have any idea how much discretionary
funding I have access to every year? How easy it is for me to pay out a bonus
to a civil servant doing a good job? Provide scholarship monies for a student
“You’re going to bribe me into being complicit?” Tseng said, his
face contorted, the word tasting nasty on his tongue.
“No, I’m not going to blackmail you into helping me,” Randle said.
“I’m just going to pay you for your service so we both sleep better at night
once it’s done.”
Tseng kept his gazed aimed towards the floor, watching the cream
carpet pass beneath his feet as he paced back and forth. He could feel four
sets of eyes watching him as he went, but made no effort to speed up his
thoughts or let them press him before he was ready.
It was clearly the most amoral, unethical thing he had ever
heard of, let alone participated in. The mere thought of taking part made his
At the same time, he thought of Sharon and how much she adored
those children. Of Walt and the time he spent working in the library to
maintain his grades.
The truth was there was no way he couldn’t go along with this
scheme. And the worst part was that everybody in the room knew
Tseng paced a full five minutes before coming to a stop, his
face ashen and disgusted. He looked at every person in the room in turn,
letting them register his disapproval, before asking, “So who’s this
investigator you have in mind?”