Excerpt for Primitive Secrets

Miles Hamasaki stood at his picture window and looked, unseeing, over the azure depths of Honolulu Harbor where graceful Coast Guard cutters passed like swans and tugs pushed squat freighters from the Orient. He thought about two big problems. One was business and he would squash the greedy sonofabitch like a cockroach in the next forty-eight hours. A smile twitched at the corner of his mouth, then faded. The other was personal, and would be much more difficult to resolve.

Hamasaki walked back to his desk, sank into his big leather chair, and ruffled through the legal contract he was preparing. Age had taught him to put aside worries he couldn’t solve until he had the information he needed.

Patience was a formidable ally. Right now, he wanted to get this contract ready to review with Storm in the morning. His eyes crinkled with pleasure as he thought about how she, the adopted daughter of a dead friend, was turning into a terrific lawyer. If only his own sons were as promising. Sadness passed briefly over his features and was replaced almost immediately with resolve.

Hamasaki’s secretary knocked lightly on the door, then pushed it open. “Dr. O’Toole on line two. Boss. I’m pau work, so I’ll put your calls through to the office.”

“Thanks for coming in on a Sunday afternoon, Lorraine. Hey, if you and Ben go to that Keanu Reeves movie tonight, I want a review tomorrow.” He grinned at her.

Lorraine’s gray hair shook with laughter as she set a cup of tea on Hamasaki’s desk. “Yeah, sure. When Bitsy gets back from visiting her sister on the Big Island, go yourself.”

Even though he’d slowed his practice, he and Lorraine still spent thirty hours a week together. When they’d first opened the law firm, she’d stood by sixty to eighty hours a week. They knew each other better than they knew their own spouses.

Hamasaki picked up the phone and spoke soothing words to his old friend O’Toole. A few minutes after he hung up, the managing partner, Edwin Wang, tiptoed into the office. Hamasaki stifled a sigh at the interruption and looked up. “How’s your mother?”

“I’m trying to keep her out of a nursing home. It’s difficult right now.”

Hamasaki glanced at his watch, made a note on the contract, let a few seconds elapse. “Alzheimer’s is a tragic disease. We should all worry.”

“I’d like to speak to you about some things.”

“It’ll have to be tomorrow morning. Nine o’clock.”

Wang nodded and backed toward the door. “Thank you.”

Hamasaki watched the door close. Frowning at both his old man’s need for the toilet and Wang’s obsequiousness, he stood up and headed for the washroom. Hamasaki knew Wang’s behavior had nothing to do with his mother’s illness. He wasn’t ready to talk to Wang yet, though. The managing partner would be as malleable as a child if he had to stew in his anxieties a little longer, plus Hamasaki wanted to check on one more detail before tomorrow’s meeting.

A half-hour later, Hamasaki didn’t look up from his papers when he heard footsteps in the hall. O’Toole had said he’d try to drop by to talk. Hamasaki was a little surprised when the door opened without a knock. It was unlike O’Toole, but these weren’t normal circumstances. He finished the note to Storm in the margin of the contract.

Hamasaki glanced up, then sat back hard in his chair with a sharp intake of breath. His eyes narrowed.

“You have to listen to me.”

“What do you mean, have to?” Hamasaki threw down his pen. “What excuses can be made for degeneracy, dishonesty, and preying on the… the…” he gritted his teeth, “naive!”

“I told you, you misunderstand.”

Hamasaki watched the depraved wretch struggle with what he wanted to say. He began to pace before Hamasaki’s desk. Rings of sweat blackened the purple of an orchid-patterned shirt. Hamasaki found it hard to hide his disgust. He unclenched his teeth and took a sip of his tea and a deep breath, which he stifled midway.

“Okay, you’ve got my attention. If you’re going to attempt to justify yourself, at least sit down.” He waved his hand at the chair facing the desk. Maybe the locker room aroma would stay confined to the other side.

The visitor sat on the edge of the chair and sputtered a string of self-justifications. Hamasaki took another couple of swallows of tea and leaned back in his chair. Total bullshit. Time to end this pretentious monologue. He tried to stand and dismiss the moron, but felt his gaze slipping. He was so tired, so damned tired.

***

Storm Kayama struggled with the doorknob. She gripped a steaming mug of dark tea in each hand and had a bag filled with two fat cherry turnovers clamped in her teeth. She was trying very hard not to drool down the side of the pastry bag. A client folder clasped under one elbow inched along the silky fabric of her blouse.

She was early, but it looked like Uncle Miles, as she still called him in private, was here. Her father and Miles Hamasaki had been boyhood friends on Maui, fought in the 442nd Infantry together, and had vowed to take care of each other’s families in the event that one didn’t return. Decades later. Uncle Miles had kept his word.

Storm got the knob turned and kept her eyes on the swaying surface of the tea. A big drop had already splatted, fortunately onto the toe of her shoe instead of the plush beige carpet. She kept going, though; she had a great joke for him this morning. Uncle Miles said lawyers needed to start the day with a laugh because few people visit their attorneys with a smile.

Storm let the pastry bag slide from her mouth into the crook of the arm that did not hold the slipping file folder. “Uncle Miles, did you hear about the guy who went into the psychiatrist’s office wearing only cellophane shorts?”

Storm chuckled and kept her eyes on the mugs. He was going to love this. “The shrink said, ‘Well, we can clearly see you’re nuts!'”

She stopped sliding her feet across the carpet and looked up. He should have been hooting.

But he had his head down on the desk and his fingers entwined in the handle of one of his brightly colored mugs. Storm had never seen him nap in the office.

“Uncle Miles? Uncle Miles?”

© Deborah Turrell Atkinson