Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Nov 1, 2018

The Stranger: After One More

We have an understanding. As long as she's at the bar and I come knocking, she'll open up. Once I'm in she'll put up the closed sign and shut off the neon lights.
If the custodian is there she'll make him draw the curtains and then she'll send him home. She knows I've had a hard case and that I need somewhere to decompress so this is the space she offers me. Twenty years ago she and her boyfriend lived in the apartment opposite mine on Date Street. Now and again, the two of them would have disagreements and one of them would end up storming off somewhere until things went back to normal a short time later. I'd see her in passing sometimes while heading to the washer and dryer on our floor or when taking out the trash. She was hapa with big doe eyes and naturally blonde hair, a smile seemed like breathing to her and she did it well. We'd only spoken once when I walked a few paces behind her as we were both heading to the trash bin. She carried several garbage bags in her hands and had accidentally dropped one. I picked it up and tossed it into the bin for her. I had no intention of introducing myself or engaging in any kind of conversation.

"Fucking shit," she smiled more out of embarrassment that friendliness. "Would you mind grabbing some of these and tossing them in also?"

I clutched three of those things in one hand and tossed them in along with my own garbage bags.

"I'm Radiant," she smiled again. "Ray for short."

"I'm your neighbor," I replied and bowed slightly and headed back to my apartment.

The spats between the two continued until one Sunday I heard a loud booming sound coming from her apartment. That noise was unmistakable, it was a twelve gauge shotgun. I ran to her unit and luckily the screen door was open. She stood there in the middle of the living room too terrified to cry. I couldn't come armed with any of my own weapons so I picked up the first thing I could find which was a twenty-pound weight lifting plate that they used as a doorstop.

"Do you know the school right here behind our building?" I asked her, there was no time to waste.

"Yes," her entire body was shaking and she was close to hysterics.

"If you don't run there now, I can't help," she didn't need me to say it a second time. She left just as I heard her boyfriend reloading his weapon, I had to be accurate and I couldn't tense up, I had to be relaxed and calm. Any tension would cause me to fall short of my mark, so I waited until I could hear him breathing heavily as he came down the hall and out into the living room. Once he came into view I drew the twenty-pound plate back and let my arm go dead, I used the torqued energy from my hips to radiate up to my arm so that when I threw the plate it became like a whip with the twenty-pound weight at the end becoming the snap. It came at him vertically and hit him right between the eyes and knocked him out cold. As I called the police from Ray's landline I made it a point to wrap one of her cloth napkins around my hand. I wiped it clean once I was done reporting the incident. I also wiped the weighted plate down and then headed back to my apartment where I began to pack. Luckily I live and travel lite so there wasn't much to take, even my weapons weren't cumbersome at all. By the time the police arrived, I had already made my way down the back stairs. In my apartment, I left a note for the landlord along with the rent I owed for the month. My car was parked on the main road and once I got in I drove to the school behind the apartment complex and found Ray sitting on a bench next to a date palm, she was still crying.

"The police are at your place now, you should go back and tell them everything. I'm sure the building manager will back you up. I know he's received numerous complaints from other residents,"  I spoke quietly so that she didn't get the feeling that I was overbearing

"He fucking tried to shoot me because I told him some asshole at work gave me his phone number, but I told the guy I had a boyfriend and I threw his number away. The idiot only hears that someone gave me his phone number and not the other stuff," she looked me up and down for a second like she was seeing me for the first time. She stared at me for a good minute like she was taking me in and then she said, "I know what you are; my dad lived the life too but just when he was about to give it up he got clipped and we had to move here. Guys like you and my dad have this thing where you try to blend into the background but you stand out whether you like it or not."

"Be good to yourself," I told her. "I have to go."

"I own a bar downtown called, 'Everette's.' If you ever need to decompress come and see me, drinks are on the house," I could hear her dial-up someone on the phone as I was leaving. She asked for help with moving her things out of her apartment in the next few days. I remember thinking back then that I had to find a house where the neighbors lived a mile down the road. That way I wouldn't come down with goodsamaritanitis.



The doors are closed and the all the lights are off. I look into the window and I see her sitting at the bar with a beer on one side of her and a small plate of pulehu ribs in front of her. She's eating and going over something on a calculator at the same time. I almost hate to bother her. After she left her idiot boyfriend she sank all of her money and time into making this bar a better place than it was when her ex-was her business partner.

Now it's called, 'Ray's'

She runs a tight ship and she takes no shit from anyone but she's got a spot for me at the bar whenever I need it. I was just about to leave when she turned around to get off the bar stool and saw me standing outside. She skips over to unlock the door and she gives me a smile before she lets me in. That's her thing, I don't get in unless I smile back, it's painful but I do it, it's a small price to pay for privacy. I make my way to the bar where she's already sitting after reaching behind it and removes a bottle of beer.

"The worst beer ever made," she smiles yet again. "Just the way you like it, in a dirty bottle. Notice I chilled it but I didn't dust it off?"

"You're really funny Radiant, can I have my rot gut whiskey please?" I deadpan with the seriousness of a state worker.

"Serious case?" She asked as she removed the twenty-five-year-old bottle from its box and carefully opened the top. Once it came off she held it under my nose for me to inhale. "How you like them crackers huh?"

"Nice as ever," I inhaled and let out a long breath, "very nice."

"Glad you like it," she poured it into a favorite skull shaped shot glass that I liked. She lifted her can of coke and we gave a dull clink to each other before we threw one back. She sat back and relaxed after and regarded me with a thoughtful look. "So how serious was this one?"

"Serious enough to need a shot of twenty-five-year-old rotgut whiskey," I said as I threw the second one back.

"That sounds serious," she shook her head as she dabbled her fingers on the calculator. "Things have gotten a bit hairy lately. Maybe you should lay low or take a vacation?"

I thought to myself that maybe I should, but what I really thought was that it would be safer to remove myself from Ray and her bar as if I'd never been there. I had a gut feeling that what I do for a living would one day pull Ray into my world or that my world would come to Ray. I could never let that happen, not to her or anyone else in my life. What I really need to do is sit down and have a serious conversation with Boy Napualawa. Hopefully, he has the wisdom to guide me.

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