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 more significant 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 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 like the people going to and from the Coffee Stop. She was 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 of 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, 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 time to start.


Rayford Penn was adopted from 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. He'd stay at the orphanage until he aged out if no one adopted him. 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 most affluent Kama'aina haole family, next to the family that 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 on the town in the evening and late afternoon gatherings at Sandy Beach. He and his friends often got into scrapes with unruly tourists, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Misunderstandings with the local surfers were quickly resolved as Rayford deeply respected the hierarchy of surfers with 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 their 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 would 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. He returns to Andover Academy and forgets about her like 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, Rayford had 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. She offered the living room, where an unwatched fifty-five-inch TV screen sat. He could have his friends over, 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 would overlook 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 turned right into the Wailupe peninsula. He pulled up in front of a corner house with chest-high hedges. The residence inside looked like a modern-day villa with surrounding bungalows connected by a singular courtyard. Rayford left his vehicle and casually walked to the front driveway, where a Haole male looked about the same age as Rayford, who hugged and shook hands with him. There wasn't 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 occupied the same spot until close to sunset. By then, 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 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 her chosen location. Of course, it was at some darkened wine bar with a private booth. I wonder why people insist on the cloak-and-dagger routine. She slid three more large envelopes across the table, "This is double what our agreement was. Dig deeper."

While I placed the envelopes in my mini-brief case, Sher reached across the table and put 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 a 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 happened 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 entered the villa, where I saw the two men sit on a couch or a chair. The two scanned the space around them and nodded to one another, obviously impressed. They hadn't waited 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 parked on the opposite side of the first car and entered 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 I'd obviously been missing the whole while. 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 cried, slowly extended his arms, and embraced the old woman. She seemed 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 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 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,"

"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 happening here?"

Carl shook his head, chuckling as if the world would crash around me. "What are you doing here? Prostitution? BDSM? What?"

"I'm not telling you shit," Carl rolled his eyes and smirked. Eye rolls and smirks piss me off. I squeezed tight when I grabbed the muscle where the chest meets the armpit. I got what I wanted.

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

"Who's that girl you gave to those two guys earlier? 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 squeeze. 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 could barely catch his breath.

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

"Over where I was sitting," he said. "On the table next to the couch are the two boxes that look like they're from Macy's. Open'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 was disappointed when he heard nothing. However, he didn't seem surprised when I returned to 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," he finally caught his breath.

"By who?" I was curious.

"Boy Napualawa," he looked at me like this person's name was supposed to mean something.

I cut him loose and let him gather himself for a second. "I've never heard of him," I told this Carl guy. "Do you know who he is? This Boy?"

Ka'aikuahiwi looked down and then turned to regard the mist hovering above the cresting surf fronting Pō's home. "I don't know who that is, either."

"Is he someone I should worry about?" Pō asked.

"No," the old man replied. "If it comes down to being a worry, I'll take care of it."

"I don't mean, if I should worry, that you should do something about it," Pō began. "Make no mistake; you and I will never be good. I don't know why you keep showing up. You're obviously not welcome here, and I know you know it. Are you trying to force me to prove my point?"

Ka'aikuahiwi said nothing. He simply regarded his former charge with a long glare before quietly turning around and leaving the beach house. 


I told Sher that there was no case of infidelity against Rayford. I also returned her money but 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 knew 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 protected by this Boy Napualawa as long as he kept what he did very private. Should Carl's talents come to the wrong people's attention, who knows what they might do with it or him?

I paid for Carl's medical expenses. It seems I might have actually torn part of his pectoral muscle. 

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

"There is," I replied. "but she's still alive."

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