Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 1, 2021

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2021 #91



My job wasn't all about contracts all the time. It comes as a relief when I don't have to off someone by gun, poison, or usual means. A pūʻolo.

Today's case was about infidelity or the suspicion of it by a wife regarding her husband. Money wasn't an object, and whatever my fee was, she promised to double it if I could garner proof of her husband's unfaithfulness sooner than later. I've had larger amounts of money thrown at me by the decadently wealthy, corrupt politicians and underworld crime bosses. This wasn't any different. "That's up to you," I said. "I just need the usual half upfront."

She removed three thick envelopes from her oversized designer bag and slid them across the wrought iron table. "That's a bit cavalier, having me give you your payment in such a public place like the Coffee Stop," she mused. "You're not afraid of anyone seeing the transaction, I assume?"

"Most people are too busy stewing in their own juices to care about anything that occurs outside their personal circle," I countered. "They'd like everyone to think that's not the case, but it's not."

"So, you'll keep an eye on Rayford and let me know if you get anything?" She was just like the very people going to and from the Coffee Stop. Too wrapped up in her own shit to care. 

"I give my clients a day-to-day assessment. If something juicy pops up, I'll contact you first thing," I nodded while loading the money in my mini-brief case. 

"Alright, I'll wait for your call," she crooked her head to one side, extended her hand, and smiled. 

"Now, that's something people WILL notice," I nodded toward her extended hand. "No handshakes, no hugs. You leave first, and I wait a couple minutes, then I leave so that there's no suspicion Mrs. Penn."

"Call me Sher," she insisted. "I didn't get your name, by the way?"

I nodded slowly and replied, "I know."

I left first. I went directly to my Dodge and peeled out of the parking lot, and took a left on Mo'omeheau and then a right on Kapahulu. I made a beeline for my office. I had time today, so there was no better moment than now to get started.


Rayford Penn was adopted out of an orphanage in Cambodia by the Penn 'ohana. It was one of those charitable things they did every few generations to stave off the stigma of the socially disconnected wealthy haole kama'aina family. Rayford was part American GI and part Cambodian. If no one adopted him, he'd stay at the orphanage until he aged out. He would have to live on the streets more than likely if he couldn't find a viable means of income. In Hawai'i, the Penn ohana was the second richest Kama'aina haole family next to the family who owned a private island on the westernmost tip of the archipelago. They were a very private family, and because of their influence, they managed to keep all their personal affairs out of the public eye. Rayford came up through Andover Academy, the best private school in the united states. His breaks and vacations were spent at home on the family's secluded estate in the back of Mānoa Valley. Most of his days were spent out on the town in the evening and late afternoon gatherings at Sandy beach. Often times he and his friends got into scrapes with unruly tourists, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Misunderstandings with the local surfers were quickly resolved as Rayford had a deep respect for the hierarchy of surfers who had a vast network of connections beyond the pipeline. Wealthy families in the islands were one thing, but other elements in Hawaii could make people disappear no matter the social class. Sher Rodriguez was a raven-haired beauty when Rayford first saw her at Sandy beach one afternoon. She was coming from a food truck with her monstrous bowl of bubble gum syrup and li hing mui powdered shaved ice. Whatever it was, at first sight, it was enough to motivate Rayford to buy a bowl of the same thing. Rayford had enough foresight to know that the vendor piled on too much of the shaved ice. At any moment, it was going to fall off the second Sher moved her straw. And fall off it did. Rayford was there just in the nick of time to offer up his shaved ice so that Sher wouldnʻt have to buy another one. Six months later, when Rayford brought Sher home to meet the family, he was happy that his parents were impressed by her beauty and intellect, but they never expected Rayford to marry her. At best, Sher was what they thought to be a spring break, summer, or winter dalliance. Heʻd go back to Andover Academy and forget about her, the way he did with other girls. All these years later, with no children to speak of, Sher maintained her girlish figure, never thinking that she would have to worry about Rayford looking at other women, but lately, heʻd been distant and spent hours on end away from the house. His excuse was that he was at a friend's house watching the game. Sher offered up the living room, where a fifty-five-inch tv screen sat unwatched. He could have his friends over and scream and shout over the game as much as they wanted. In fact, she would prepare all the snacks and drinks. "Nah," Rayford shook his head. "It's not the same thing."

I parked far enough down the block that Rayford wouldn't notice me when I started tailing his Mercedes S 550. The vehicle meandered out of the valley until it came down University and took the on-ramp going east. On the earlier part of Kalaniana'ole, Rayford took a right turn into the Wailupe peninsula. He pulled up in front of a corner house with chest-high hedges all around. The residence inside looked like a modern-day villa with surrounding bungalows connected by a singular courtyard. Rayford left his vehicle and casually walked around to the front driveway, where a haole male looked to be about the same age as Rayford hugged and shook hands with him. There didn't seem to be any kind of secrecy between the two by their body language. He followed his buddy into the nearest bungalow. The main window was open, and I could see the two seated across from one another. They were having a lively conversation with laughing and manly slaps on the shoulder. In between what I assumed were intermittent trips to the bathroom or the kitchen, Rayford basically occupied the same spot until close to sunset. It was by then that he stood up and exchanged a handshake and hug with his friend. Rayford made this same excursion every day at the same time and left every day at the same time. No sign whatsoever of an affair. That was my report back to Sher after a month of the same routine. She was insistent that there was something more. This time she insisted that we meet at a location of her choosing. Of course, it was at some darkened wine bar with a private booth. I don't know why people insist on the cloak and dagger routine. She slid three more large envelopes across the table, "This is double of what our agreement was. Dig deeper."

While I placed the envelopes in my mini-brief case, Sher reached across the table and placed the palm of her hand on mine to get my attention. "Mrs. Penn, please."

"Are you ever going to tell me your name?" She was used to using her beautiful pout to get her way.

"Swain," I sighed. "Louden Swain."

"I'll enter that as part of your phone number, under add new contact," she smiled.

I stood up and placed the strap of my mini briefcase around my shoulder, "Whatever works,"


Nearly another month passed before I got an inkling of what might have actually been going on in that Wailupe villa. I didn't bother following Rayford from his home anymore. It was easier to park and wait for him at his daily meeting spot. I was early, and I noticed a car pull up into the driveway where two local Japanese men emerged and met with Rayford's friend, who came out to greet them. It was the same routine, a hug and a handshake except for this time. Money was exchanged in large wads wrapped in rubber bands from each man to Rayford's buddy. The three went into the villa, where I saw the two men sit on either a couch or a chair. The two scanned the space around them and nodded to one another, obviously impressed. They hadn't waited for too long when Rayford's friend appeared with a beautiful local girl at his side. He stepped behind her, and with his hands on her shoulders, he presented her to the two men who took the girl and disappeared somewhere on the property. At that moment, Rayford drove up and parked on the opposite side of the first car and made his way into the property. He let himself into the bungalow and took a seat where he waited. Soon, his buddy appeared, and hugs and handshakes were exchanged. Then, using my spy glasses after all this time, I witnessed something that I'd obviously been missing the whole time. Within that hug, a large envelope overstuffed with money was exchanged. Rayford's buddy left the room for a second and soon returned with an elderly Asian woman. She appeared to be frail and in the extremities of old age. Rayford suddenly broke down crying and slowly extended his arms and took the old woman into his embrace. She appeared to be crying as well and fell into Rayford's arms. 

I waited until the two local Japanese men and Rayford were gone. I left my car and went straight up the walkway and into the first bungalow. Rayford's friend sat on an old couch watching the game on the big screen tv. He was shocked to see me but not shocked enough that he couldn't reach under the large pillow next to him, where he removed a snub-nosed 38. Never once stopping my stride, I unleashed a shin kick to the side of his head and knocked him out. When he came to, his hands were tied behind his back, and he was bound to the verticle handles of his oversized stainless steel refrigerator. "Struggle as much as you want, and this whole thing will come crashing down on you. You won't' die right away, but you'll suffer tremendously before you do."

"Look, my name is Carl Lumley," he began.

" I don't care about who you are," I stopped him. "I just want to know what the hell is going on here?"

"You have no idea who I am," Carl shook his head, chuckling the whole time as if the world was going to come down crashing around me. I removed a ball-peen hammer from my coat pocket and hit Carl hard enough to fracture the bones around his eye socket. "What are you doing here? Prostitution? BDSM? What?"

"I'm not telling you shit!" Carl screamed through tears, pain, and frustration.

"The collar bone is next. You think you hate me now?" I warned him.

"It's a private service," he blubbered and whined, knowing that I wasn't bluffing. "I bring people together, lost relatives, kidnapped kids, missing in action, the whole nine yards!"

"Who's that girl that you gave to those two guys earlier then? You're gonna tell me that's their daughter or something?" I smirked while waiting for his bullshit answer. 

"Those two men were her husbands at different times. They just came back to get her, that's all," I could see that he was dealing with the pain I inflicted on him. 

"What the hell are you talking about? That girl couldn't have been more than twenty?" Big holes in this guy's story. "What about Rayford Penn? Who was that old lady?"

"Rayford?" He was incredulous now. "Why are you so interested in Rayford?"

I spared him another strike with the hammer. Instead, I gave him a shot to the liver and dropped him to his knees. I waited until he got his bearings back before I asked him the same question again. "What about Rayford Penn?"

"That's his grandmother," he was barely able to catch his breath.

"His grandmother?" Something didn't make sense.

"Over where I was sitting," he said. "On the table next to the couch, the two boxes that look like they're from Macy's. Open it, you'll see."

I gave him the once over. I had to double-check to make sure that I tied him up securely. I can only imagine what was going through his mind. He must have been waiting for a reaction but must have been disappointed when he heard nothing. However, he didn't seem surprised when I came back into the kitchen. "There's skeletal remains in both of those boxes."

"I know," he nodded. "I know, it doesn't make sense, but what you saw was Rayford's grandmother and the wife of those two men. This is what I do, I find the remains of missing people, and I contact the families and have them meet me here, where I resurrect them to flesh and blood. It only lasts for a minute. People always want that minute to tell their loved ones how they feel or to hold them one last time. You'll be surprised how much they're willing to pay for that experience. So that's what I do. I'm not hurting anyone. I'm just giving people closure."

"I've never heard of you, and I know all the operators," I told him.

"I was told to keep it private, this thing I do," he finally caught his breath.

"By who?" I was curious.

"Boy Napualawa," he looked at me through one eye that was so puffed up that his eyelashes looked like a permanent ink marker line from right to left. "That's why I asked you if you knew who I was. I wasn't trying to be a prick about it."

I cut him loose and then let myself out of the bungalow. Heading back to town, I phoned the office. Rita picked up, "Hello Rufus, let me connect you to Boy."

"Roof," Boy answered.

"I messed up," I told him. "I messed up real bad. I didnʻt know."

"Come in," Boy replied.


I told Sher that there was no case of infidelity against Rayford. I also gave her money back and only kept the first half of my upfront cash. Rayford never told Sher about what he was doing because the Penn family were devout Protestants and frowned on anything that smelled of superstitious legerdemain. Without their knowledge, Rayford spent years looking for his grandmother, the only person he'd known before she was forced to give him up to the orphanage on the threat of his life or hers. His grandmother's hands were tied. She had no choice. Rayford's money bought the best of the best, who could locate her remains. When he was in contact with Carl Lumley, he was very aware of who the man was and what he could do. Rayford spent time with Carl when Carl needed to get to really know Rayford before he could conjure his grandmother from her remains to that of flesh and blood, however brief the moment might be. Aside from myself, no one else knew that Carl Lumley was under the protection of Boy Napualawa as long as he kept what he did very private. Should Carl's talents come to the attention of the wrong people, who knows what they might do with it or him?

Boy directed me to make sincere apologies to Carl and to pay for all his medical expenses. On top of that, Boy assigned me to be Carl's personal bodyguard. 

"As a sign that there are no hard feelings, are there any deceased family or friends that you'd like to have closure with one last time?" Carl asked.

"There is," I replied. "But that person is still alive."

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