Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jul 24, 2018

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down to Halloween 2018! #99


John Cummings was murdered in the most brutal fashion, and his body was expected to sink into the dark mire beneath the waters of River Street.
The killer had no idea that the mountains in the back of Honolulu were soaked by a rainstorm that fed the Waolani and Nu'uanu streams earlier that day. As a result, the collective rushing current from both streams met at the mouth of the Lili'uokalani Botanical Garden and swept through the canal at River Street. It lifted and floated John's body out into the basin of Honolulu harbor, where it languished for a few days before finally being carried out to the ocean. Was it happenstance, or was it merely mother nature functioning as she always does, or was it John Cummings' ghost waiting for the opportune moment to revenge himself upon his own murderer? If so, how strange that his body could take such a circuitous route against the shoreline currents only to wash up on the very beach where his killer, Mark Lidstone, was about to be baptized in the waters at the Ala Moana beach park?


Time was not a series of dates but a succession of memories for Loretta, who had not been home since 1978. Time and progress changed the 'O'ahu skyline into a growing metropolis city like any other. Its unique, one-of-a-kind soul was gone, and if there were any sort of nostalgia left for Loretta to revisit, she would have to go through the town with a fine-toothed comb. Unfortunately, Honolulu was not stuck at a reminiscent impasse for Loretta to thumb through as if she were perusing an old photo album. The small airport of her youth, which was always filled with the fragrance of ginger lei that was sold by a collective of flower lei vendors, was gone. The Honolulu airport was now a larger complex than it was forty years ago. The row of lei sellers she recalled were now muted by a monster-sized parking garage that hid them from the customers who could have potentially given them business. Save for the locals, no one else would know they existed. An hour after her arrival, Loretta was able to procure a rental car and thought that she might enjoy lunch at Bob's Big Boy, but to her disappointment, the parking lot to the establishment was an empty shell of its former self. The only location still the same and somewhat unchanged was the Zippys dine-in on McCully. It had been there since 1966 and was a mainstay in the community.


The place was much different because it now had a full dining room in the back. After being seated and placing the order for her food, Loretta called a number she hadn't dialed in a while. The ring startled her, and she nearly hung up, but it was too late. Someone answered on the other end.

"Aloha, this is Aunty Pua," the woman's voice was purposeful and intense as it had always been. It was an inherent trait with all the women in the family.

"Mom," Loretta found herself hesitating for a second. "It's me."

"Loretta? You're home?" Pua's question was not one of concern but intense irritation.

"Yes. I'm here at Zippy's getting a bite to eat, but I'm home," Loretta answered with a hint of exhaustion.

"Home for what?" And why are you telling me?" Loretta could hear and feel the ire right through the phone.

"I'm here for Johanna's services." Over the years, Loretta's countenance evolved beyond simply reacting to someone's negativity because reacting was the easy way out. Instead, she had learned to counter and parry the apparent thrust of words meant to hurt. Loretta became a seasoned strategist in the war of words, but right now, she was too exhausted for strategy.

"Oh, you mean John Cummings, your Mary Alice mahū friend from the glades? The one when disappeared?" Pua's disgust for Loretta's lifestyle was no secret. "Forty years you stay away from home, but oh goodness, you're mahū friend went missing, and youʻre home in a flash, yeah? But that's how when you like to live that kine lifestyle! Youʻre begging God to kill you!"

"Mom, I saw the procession in Chicago, and Johanna was in it," Loretta exhaled. "You were in it too."

"You know what?" TPua's bile of disgust for her own child was only too obvious. "Fuck you! No, call me and tell me that kine shit! That's only the devil working through you, and he will take you straight to hell with him!"

"I just thought I'd let you know I was home. I love you," Loretta said, turning her phone off as her meal arrived. The food was like heaven; it was something she hadn't tasted in a lifetime. She inhaled and let out a quiet sigh of satisfaction.


                                                       MAYBE I'M JUST LIKE MY MOTHER

Pua's attempt at eviscerating Loretta over the phone fell short when the person she considered to no longer be her child suddenly told her that she loved her and then hung up. Her seething volcanic balloon seemed to burst once Loretta replied with the dousing waters of aloha. Throwing her phone down on the couch, Pua got up and made her way to the kitchen to find something to drink when she was suddenly startled by the appearance of her younger sister and her nephew standing near the refrigerator.

"Rhonda, Khash, who said you could come into my house?" Pua barked.

"Where's Delano Pua?" Rhonda had one of those naturally deep, raspy voices. Pua had tortured her about it since they were kids.

"Where's Delano Pua?" Pua replied in a mocking tone to her younger sister and laughed at her as she pushed Rhonda aside and retrieved a drink from her fridge.

"Aunty Pua, please," Khash pleaded. "Please tell us where Delano is?"

"How the fuck should I know Khash? He's your kid! Don't you know where your own son is?" Pua's eyes bulged from her head, and like her sister Rhonda, she had no patience for Khash's whining.

"Pua, when you left our house this morning, you had Delano's blanket and baby wipes on your front seat. After that, we couldn't find Delano anywhere! Just give him back, Pua, and stop being a fucking bitch before I hurt you!" Rhonda demanded more than she asked, and she had no intention of leaving her sister's house without her grandson.

"You're the only bitch in this kitchen, Rhonda, you and your son! Get out of my house before I call the cops." Rhonda suddenly noticed that all the sounds were gone and couldn't hear anything. Then, everything around her moved in slow motion. Khash was unprepared for his mother to follow through on her threat. His mouth and eyes were wide open as his hands reached for Rhonda to stop her. Then there was Pua, being stabbed with the serrated steak knife that Rhonda grabbed from the dish rack and plunged into the side of her neck. It happened so suddenly that there were a few seconds of normalcy on Pua's face before the pain kicked in and before the blood began squirting out of the side of her neck. Pua's gurgled scream was cut short by the subsequent several plunges of the blade into the same spot, but it was the stab to her spinal cord that finished the job. There was blood everywhere and a high-pitched ringing sound that wouldn't go away. Once everything returned to focus, Rhonda realized that the sound was Khash screaming at the top of his lungs. She slapped her son with her bloodied hand so hard that it caused a splatter of it to stain her face and shirt.

"Shut the fuck up and stop screaming like a fucking girl! You want somebody to hear you and call the cops?" Khash's form recoiled and shrunk from the blow, and he seemed to be a scared little child rather than a full-grown man of six feet two who towered over his mother of five feet four inches. "We have to get out of here; hurry up and get your son so we can go!'

A full search of Pua's house yielded nothing; Delano was nowhere to be found. They would have to look for him another time. Right now, mother and son have to leave!



 Rhonda's grunting sounds of disgust muted the blaring rap music on the car radio. Using Delano's handy wipes, she cleaned as much of Pua's blood from her hands and face as she could. On the other hand, Khash needed to feel the driving beat and the cadence of the lyric hip-hop music to calm himself down.

 "Turn that shit off, Khash; I can't hear myself think," Rhonda's voice was calm and did not seem to be at all affected by the murder that she had committed just ten minutes ago.

"I have to calm down, Ma, I need the music," Khash replied nervously.

"What about a slap Khash? How about a slap to calm you down?" Rhonda's voice had a nocuous tone that told Khash that his mother meant to make good on what she said even though she was not yelling or threatening him.

"Ma," Khash began to protest, but just then, his mother blindsided him with a stinging slap on his right ear and cheek.

"Turn it off," Rhonda growled through her teeth.

The Chevy SUV navigated its way through the small side lanes in the dense Kalihi neighborhood until it reached Rhonda's house, one of the few structures from 1925 still in good condition. Even rarer was that Rhonda's property had a big yard surrounding her home. Khash stayed in the car and collected all of the bloody handy wipes to throw away when he looked up and saw his mother stop dead in her tracks at the foot of the back steps. She suddenly let out a high, shrill scream while simultaneously kneeling down on the grass. She had something in her arms, but what was it? Rhonda stood up slowly, and as she turned around, she began walking toward Khash's SUV. In her arms was Delano, his son. Khash's blood ran cold, and his eyes were now watering. "Khash, Delano played alone under the back stairs the whole time. If he didn't make any noise when I was about to go up the steps, I wouldn't know he was there," Rhonda said.

"Oh my god……oh my god…my god Ma," Khash was beside himself. "You killed Aunty Pua for nothing! Delano was here the whole time!"


                                                                  AT THE SAME TIME

It was a blessing in disguise that the main thoroughfare of Hotel Street was no longer open to ordinary vehicular traffic. The city buses were the only kind of transit allowed on the path of North Hotel Street, where River Street begins and sees it to its conclusion at the corner of South Hotel Street and Richard. Loretta found a parking space at a meter on the corner of Mauna Kea and Hotel Street, where the old Glades show lounge was once located. Loretta wanted to take it all in again before Johanna's services. The last time Loretta spoke with Johanna on the phone, they somehow broached the subject of their own mortality. Loretta specified that she wanted a party for her funeral, no grieving or crying, just a party with her favorite songs being played and lots of dancing and laughter. Johanna just wanted to save up enough money for the entire transitional operation. She didn't want to suddenly die one day and still have her last remaining male parts. A month later she went missing, the last that anyone might have seen of her was when she got into a dark-colored car on river street. She was never seen alive again.

But Loretta would see her the way she'd seen many of her family and friends before they died. An unending spectral procession of her deceased loved ones would file past the foot of her bed from the time that she was a child. At the end of the procession, she would see the ghost of someone who would soon die and join the line. Her visions never failed her, and her mother's siblings slowly began to forget an invitation to Pua for family holidays and birthday parties because they were afraid of what little Loretta, or Jasper, as she was once known, would say regarding her visions. The rejection became complete once Loretta, in her original incarnation as a boy, realized that he should have been born a girl and then proceeded to dress and live as one. Undeterred, Loretta worked three jobs and saved money for school. One of those jobs was working at the old Glades showroom as a waitress, where Loretta flourished among a community of like-minded and like-hearted people like herself. Soon, she would have enough money to move to the mainland and live her own life, but the visions never stopped. The night that Loretta saw Johanna's ghost was when she had special company over for a drink. He was a banquet manager from a local hotel in the Chicago area that she'd met while taking a cab ride home. They agreed to split the fare but ended up talking until the following day at his place. It was a relationship that Loretta enjoyed cultivating until it felt right to go further. It was like the twenty-five-year-old scotch they shared, which was appropriately aged in the right environment to separate the unwanted elements so that what was left was the perfect flavor. The flavor was perfect for Loretta and her friend. The passionate night they shared exhausted the both of them. However, Loretta's passion was short-lived when she suddenly went from a dead slumber to sitting bolt upright in her bed as yet another procession passed the foot of her bed. At the end of the line was Johanna wearing her favorite green sequinned gown, which was covered by a dark stain that turned out to be her own blood. She was sliced open from her throat all the way down to her pubic hairline, and there were rocks stuffed into her chest cavity. 

She looked at Loretta as if to say, "Look at what happened."

Loretta doesn't remember when she started screaming, she only knew that her bed companion was dead to the world leaving her alone with her vision.


                                                            WALKING THE MEMORIES

The old mahjong tables near the Chinese Cultural plaza were gone, no more elderly people, no more homeless, and no more drug dealers. It was an empty hollow breezeway now with no trace of the existing teaming activity; Loretta didn't miss it all. She'd spent many nights there in the past entertaining a potential love interest, but it was always for the novelty of the experience, and it was a lesson that Loretta had to learn the hard way. She met a lovely local Chinese man who took in a few of the shows now and again, and Loretta happened to be the man's waitress each time he appeared. His name was Wilford Wu, and he lived in Pearl City. His full-time job was teaching band at the high school; it was something Wilford loved to do, but sometimes, he even needed a break from the monotony of the job. One night, Wilford was perusing the streets in Chinatown when he stepped into the Glades to escape the rain. Once the deluge passed, he left. He returned a few nights later, sat, ordered a drink, and stayed for the entire review. At first, he and Loretta made small talk, but a week later, they were having sex in the back of Wilford's Oldsmobile Cutlass. Their meetings continued for several months until Loretta stood just outside the ordering window of Rada's Piroshki when she noticed Wilford leaving King's Magazine Bookstore with a woman and three children in tow. Two girls and one little boy. They both made eye contact as the traffic of people passed between them. Wilford simply looked away and put his arms around the woman's shoulders, thus ignoring Loretta as if he'd never seen her.

 Before that moment, Loretta daydreamed of a scenario where Wilford would tell her that he'd grown tired of their lovemaking in the back seat of his car and that he wanted to make it official by bringing her home to meet his family. She imagined that his parents were an elderly couple who clung to each other in their dotage and seemed to smile more out of senility rather than bliss. They would readily accept her once Wilford made the introduction and would treat her like one of their own. However, the reality of what just happened shattered her completely. An hour later, she found herself sitting at a mahjong table, crying her heart out while a group of smelly old men sat at a nearby table, staring at her as if she had just walked off of a spaceship.

 "Fag," one of the old men growled. "Dey cry cause dey fag and da family no like take dem back."

Under any other circumstance, Loretta would have pummelled the ancient wino, but her heartbreak crippled her facilities and rendered her weak and vulnerable. Today, she sits on a wall on the corner of River Street and Beretania, reliving an old memory like a scar from an ancient wound you trace over with your fingers, suddenly remembering that it's still there.


The Lidstone family was very well known in Honolulu, although not Kama'aina. They'd been here long enough to establish a political foothold once Mark Lidstone was elected a state representative. He was the young, up-and-coming hope for a new brand of inclusive politics. With his Ivy League good looks and natural charm, it was easy for people with deep pockets to get behind him to help build his war chest. Where women were concerned, he had the pick of the crop; pageant winners, daughters and sisters of powerful politicians, and a few wives here and there. The temptation was available for the offering but Mark Lidstone never indulged, the reputation of his family meant everything to him, and never would he outwardly do anything to disappoint his parents. People in the political circles in Honolulu knew this, and when the word spread, everyone loved him even more. It wouldn't be long before Mark would become the next governor of the state of Hawaii.


The 1992 Honda Civic coupe was an olive drab color, which people wouldn't give a second look to or notice even if it was parked right in front of them. It's precisely why Mark Lidstone chose it when he saw the ad for it on Craigslist. When he'd arranged to meet with the previous owner to purchase the vehicle, he paid in cash and wore a wig and dark glasses. The registration and safety were up to date and that's all he needed, he had no intention of keeping the vehicle for more than a week. This is why he never bothered to purchase the insurance for it.


1:30 pm

Sitting in the coupe, Mark spied Loretta from the rearview mirror just as she sat on the white-painted wall fronting the intersection of Beretania and River Street. No one could tell right away when someone was a transitioned man who became a woman. Some surgeries were so flawless that it was tough to discern, but Mark knew, not by sight or by feel, but by a particular aroma that emanated through their pores. It was an overpowering musk, and it drove him to madness. The same musk overwhelmed Mark as a little boy when he first inhaled the aroma as his uncle Johnson walked past him one afternoon at the family estate. Mark made an immediate U-turn and followed his uncle to his bedroom. Mark was 10 years old, and his uncle was twice his size, but the scent had already caused some kind of tripwire within him to snap and attack his uncle Johnson. Johnson Lidstone was taken aback by Mark's sudden strength and ferocity and was left with no choice but to defend himself. Johnson caught his nephew with a stinging backhand across his face that knocked him silly. Fortunately, Johnson didn't have to explain himself as the Lidstone house servants witnessed everything. No one knew what it was that caused young Mark to act out so violently, but little did anyone in the Lidstone family know that Johnson led a double life. During the day, he served as the family's financial analyst; at night, he went to an unassuming building in the Kalihi warehouse district where he and others like him took on the guise of women in full dress. Since he had a darker complexion than the rest of the other Lidstones, Johnson's stage name was Florinda Domingo. It fit him perfectly.

None of the Lidstone family would ever become the wiser.


1:43 pm

Loretta stood up and walked the length of River Street until she reached the intersection where Ala Moana Boulevard became Nimitz Highway. She gazed out at the harbor as if she were looking for something but it wasn't anything external, it was internal. What did the cumulative events of her life mean up until this moment? She'd overcome so much that the fact that her own mother hated her didn't weigh on her the way it would for others. In her life, she'd either learned to adjust when she had to, let go when needed, or overcome to survive and move forward. Loretta had nothing to be ashamed of, but as of this second, she felt a longing and emptiness inside her. At first, she could not describe the feeling, but suddenly, it hit her at the dead center of her soul….she wanted something of her own, which was solely hers that no one could take away. She wanted a child. With her left hand gently placed on her tummy and her right covering her mouth, Loretta wept openly as people traffic and vehicle traffic droned by. Simultaneously as Loretta was struck with this epiphany, Mark Lidstone drove up, and even with the car windows rolled up and the a/c on full blast, Loretta's musk came right through the car and filled his nostrils until he became dizzy. However, Mark would never be able to act on his primal urge. His phone went off suddenly, and the noise startled him, bringing him out of his trance-like state. It was Dora, his publicist, and she was distraught.

"Mark, it's almost two o'clock! Where the hell are you?" she shouted over background noise that sounded like a million people speaking simultaneously.

"What do you mean?" Mark needed clarification and needed to figure out what Dora was mad about. "What's at two o'clock?"

"HELLO!!!" Dora screamed. "Your baptismal with Evening Harvest Church? The richest Christian church in Hawaii is also about to become your biggest financial supporter!!!"

"Oh, shit…" Mark hit the steering wheel so hard that it caused the horn to go off, which made Loretta look back at him. He sheepishly waved to her and mouthed, 'I'm sorry!'

"Shit is right!" Dora confirmed. "We're at magic island waiting for you, get your ass over here right now!"

The line went dead, forcing Mark to abandon his intended target. However, Loretta's lingering scent wouldn't leave him. He had no choice but to relieve himself en route to Magic Island. He couldn't show up looking all flush, with his eyes wide and his nostrils flaring.


Johanna's memorial services were held on the westernmost point of Ala Moana Beach Park, just opposite the Kewalo Basin. Loretta had barely made it in time and stood at the back of the crowd. A portrait of Johanna draped with maile on either side featured her infectious smile as it sat on a plain brown easel. The memorial services were informal, and everyone was invited to come forward and share a few words. Most of the memories of Johanna were either very funny or very bawdy, but in the end, everyone prayed that her body could be found so that her soul could have closure. Only Loretta really knew that Johanna was dead, but she could never tell anyone how she knew. As always, it was something she would have to keep to herself.


John Cummings, or Johanna as everyone knew her, was murdered most brutally by gubernatorial candidate Mark Lidstone. Johanna's body was expected to sink into the dark mire beneath the waters of River Street. Mark had no idea that the mountains in the back of Honolulu had been soaked by a rainstorm earlier that day, which fed the Waolani and Nu'uanu streams. As a result, the collective rushing current from both streams met at the mouth of the Lili'uokalani Botanical Garden and swept through the canal at River Street. It lifted and floated Johanna's body out to the basin of Honolulu harbor, where it languished for a few days before finally being carried out to the ocean. Was it happenstance, or was it merely mother nature functioning as she always does, or was it Johanna's ghost waiting for the opportune moment to revenge herself upon her own murderer? If so, how strange that her body could take such a circuitous route against the shoreline currents only to wash up on the very beach where her killer, Mark Lidstone, was about to be baptized in the waters of the Ala Moana beach park? It was a field day for the media because as dead as Johanna's body was, it still wreaked with the intoxicating musk that drove Mark crazy. And drive him crazy, it did.

                                                                THE DAY FOLLOWING

With Loretta's bags checked in, she had enough time to make herself comfortable at the airline terminal before her flight arrived. She was on her laptop looking for adoption agencies near Chicago. It was different from shopping for a car or looking for a pet. She wanted to nurture, raise, and love this child. She'd already decided that should the adoption be approved, she and her child would return to Hawai'i. Sure, there were a lot of painful memories, but overall, Hawai'i was Loretta's home. For some reason, she thought of calling her mother. She dialed the phone, but it kept ringing on the other side. After three more attempts, Loretta let it go. No sense in trying to squeeze water from a stone.

Pua's body was covered with dark, coagulated blood, and the rigor mortis had long set in from the day before. There was no one in the empty house to smell the horrible stench in the kitchen or to swat away the flies that came in through the unlocked back door. The wind outside gently shook the branches of Pua's kolomona bush while fine misty rains left tiny droplets on the blades of grass in her driveway. The peaceful atmosphere stood in stark contrast to the events of the day before; the only noise was the muffled ring from Pua's phone as it sat on the rattan couch. The vibration from the ring caused the phone to slide ever so slowly toward the space between the back seat pillow and that of the sitting pillow until it hit the floor and lay there before the ringing finally stopped. Three months would pass before a man from the electric company would come to turn off the power. The foul odor would lead the poor man to call the authorities where Pua's decomposed body would be found.

When Loretta received the phone call from the authorities, she was not in the least bit surprised because she had already seen it in her vision. It was simply a matter of time.

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