|Jump Street Archive|
Ty opened the door and smiled politely at the man on the stoop. He was smallish, elderly, with distinguished silver hair and nearly black, almond-shaped eyes. He looked up at her and bobbed his head in something between a nod and a bow.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"I am looking for Harry Ioki," he answered, in a soft, heavily-accented voice. Ty immediately recognized the accent and realized why the cast of his features looked so familiar. He was Vietnamese. "Is this his home?"
"Yes, but I'm afraid he's not here."
"Will he be back soon?"
"I don't know. I just got home myself, and I haven't spoken to him all day. Would you like to come in, Mr..."
Ty reacted to the name, her eyes flying open in surprise and the blood draining from her cheeks. The man smiled fractionally and murmured, "You are familiar with this name?"
"Then perhaps this is the right place." With another partial bow, he said, "I would very much like to come in and wait. I have come a long way to find this Harry Ioki."
Ty wordlessly stepped aside, holding the door wide for him. He slipped past her, then hesitated in the entryway, as though reluctant to barge in. Ty gestured toward the living room.
"Please, make yourself comfortable. Would you like something to eat or drink?"
A smile twinkled in his dark eyes. "Some coffee, if it's not too much trouble."
"None at all. Excuse me."
She headed for the kitchen, leaving Mr. Van Tran alone in the room. He stood in one spot, taking in the details of the house and furnishings, his eyes dwelling longest on the photographs that adorned the mantel. Then he moved over to an armchair and sat down, composing himself to wait. From his posture, it seemed that he had been doing a lot of waiting in his life.
Ty returned quickly with a tray full of coffee paraphernalia and a steaming fresh pot of the brew. As she handed a cup to her guest, he smiled pleasantly at her and said,
"Pardon my curiosity, but are you a doctor?"
"How did you know?"
He nodded toward the pile of belongings she had dropped on her way to answer the door. "The black medical bag."
Ty laughed. "It's an affectation, I admit, but all of us seem to acquire it. Sooner or later, someone you love gives you that silly black bag as a gift, and you can't stand to throw it away." A pause, then she ventured, "Mr. Van Tran..."
"I don't want to offend you. But you have to understand that my first loyalty is to my husband."
"Good." She stared thoughtfully into her own coffee cup, at a loss for words.
"You doubt my motives?" Mr. Van Tran asked.
"How can I not? If you are who I think you are, you disappeared for close to eighteen years. Where have you been all that time?"
"Building my life, here in this country, and trying to make peace with the deaths of my wife and son." At her questioning look, he continued, "I saw my wife die on the sand in front of me. I heard her last words and felt the last breath leave her body. That gave me...belief. But I did not see my son die. He was separated from us when the attack came, lost in the crowd, searching for his friend. Before I fled the beach, I tried to find him. Then again, on the ship, I searched and searched - for Vinh or for his friend - and found nothing."
He cast a glance at the pictures on the mantelpiece and murmured, "When I close my eyes, I do not see a lifeless body in the sand. Not once, in eighteen years, have I pictured his face in death. It is always alive... smiling... and I cannot make my heart believe what it has not seen."
Tyrrel stood up and crossed to the fireplace. There, she chose a framed photograph from the collection, which she handed to the old man. It was a snapshot of Harry, flanked by Tom and Doug, in the doorway of the Agency office. All three men wore enormous grins, and Harry held a sign that read, "Jump Street Investigations". Upside down.
Mr. Van Tran held the picture delicately, as though afraid that he might shatter the glass and destroy the truth, with one false move. He lifted a tentative finger to touch the smiling image of his son, and his hand shook visibly.
"Please, Mr. Van Tran, tell me the truth about what happened to you."
"What would you like to know?"
"Why did you stop looking? Obviously, Vinh got onto a different ship than you did, but the ships all went to the same place. How did you miss him on Guam?"
"I was ill. I stayed in my assigned tent, and a kind woman brought me food. By then, I had told myself that Vinh and Thai were dead, so I had no reason to go looking any more. I had only grief and illness and regret. Do you...do you know how my Vinh fared in the camps?"
"He was right there, serving food to the refugees every day. If you had only come out of your tent, you would have seen him."
Mr. Van Tran shook his head in amazement. "The irony of it."
"So, you never thought to look for him, once you came to the States?"
"No. My son was dead, and my life was here, in America, without him. I spent many years trying to believe that."
"His 30th birthday." At Tyrrel's surprised look, he smiled wistfully. "Call me a sentimental fool, but when Vinh's 30th birthday came, I felt that I needed to mark it somehow. I decided to find him...his body...and say a proper farewell that would give us both peace. I prepared to return home..."
"No, no, I did not go back. But I set out to do just that. I spoke to many bureaucrats in both governments, trying to get the papers I needed and some guarantee of safety. Then I found the strangest ally...a clerk in the Vietnamese Embassy, a Communist and ex-soldier, who had ridden the tanks into Saigon. He heard my story, and he promised to help me find out what had happened to my son, so I would not have to go back to Vietnam. He said that all the bodies of refugees found with papers had been recorded, and if Vinh had any identification with him, his name would be on the lists. I knew that Vinh had carried papers given to us by the Americans in Saigon, papers that were supposed to assure us safe passage out of the country. I thought these papers would take me to my dead son. But when this friend did an official search, he found nothing.
"I was in despair. I thought that Vinh had vanished into a mass grave, and his spirit would wander forever. I still prepared to go, but I had no hope left. My friend at the Embassy told me that I would be risking my life on a fool's errand. He begged me not to go. When I said that I must, he asked me to wait while he tried one more search."
"He called the INS?"
The old man nodded. "I learned that Vinh Van Tran had come to the United States in 1975 - just one week before I did. He had been here all these years." For a moment, it seemed his emotions would overmaster him, but he swallowed his tears and continued, "I felt reborn. The picture in my head - the smiling son, still full of life - was true, and I would see that face again, with my own eyes. But when I tried to find this Vinh Van Tran, I could not. I went to the home where he lived in St. Louis, and I followed him out to San Francisco. Then he vanished again. It took me almost two years to learn that he had changed his name to Harry Ioki and to trace him here, to this city. To this house."
He touched the picture again, almost reverently, and whispered, "My Vinh. The smile is the same."
"But a lot of things have changed, Mr. Van Tran."
"Yes. The child I knew is a man, who has become very much the American. The Westerner. And he knows nothing of having a father. Perhaps... perhaps he will not welcome a traditional old man, tired from years of loneliness and loss, into his American life. Perhaps there is no room for me."
"There will always be room for his family."
"You are kind to an old fool, but this man - this police officer - who calls himself Harry Ioki is not the Vietnamese boy who played in the streets of Saigon. He has abandoned his name, his country, his past..."
"Only because he had no choice. And because he thought he had left his past dead on that beach."
"You speak for him with passion."
"That surprises you?"
He hesitated, for a bare moment, then broke out in a smile of real warmth. "It pleases me. You think I do not approve of my son marrying a woman of your race."
"It crossed my mind."
"And mine. But only until I saw the heart beneath your American face."
"The heart is American, too."
"Yes, but it loves my son."
Tyrrel's face softened into a smile. "It certainly does."
"You have not told me your name, Daughter."
He frowned slightly and mouthed the name with some difficulty.
Tyrrel chuckled. "Harry has trouble with it, too. He calls me Ty. You can call me Ty, if you like, or Daughter. I like the sound of that."
"Ty." He spoke the name a few more times, getting the feel of it, then he commented, ruefully, "You'll pardon me, if I forget and call your Harry Vinh, from time to time?"
"Of course. I think he'll be happy to hear you say his name again."
"It is a hard thing to remember, when he has always been Vinh to me." He cast a longing glance at the front door, then asked, "Will he be here soon?"
"I honestly don't know. When he's working, he sometimes stays out all night." Mr. Van Tran looked horrified at that suggestion, and Tyrrel hurried to reassure him, "That very rarely happens, and he always leaves me a message so I don't worry. Let me check the answering machine!"
She jumped up and left the room, returning a moment later with the news that Harry had left no messages. "I'm sure we'll hear from him, one way or another, very soon."
"Suddenly, the waiting is so hard."
"Can I help? Can I tell you something about him, to fill in the gaps for you?"
"Oh, yes!" His face brightened. "I would be so grateful! I know nothing of his life for the last eighteen years, except that he became a police officer."
"That's why he changed his name, you know, so he could become a cop. But I'm starting in the middle."
With that, she launched into a detailed account of Harry's life, up to now. The old man listened with rapt attention, only occasionally interrupting her narrative to ask a question or make a comment. She had reached the point where Harry returned to the Department after his injury in the drive-by shooting, when she heard the rumble of a familiar engine outside.
Breaking off, she turned anxious eyes on the door to the foyer. Mr. Van Tran picked up on her mood and followed her gaze with his own. Tyrrel could feel the excitement and fear coursing through him, making his frame vibrate. She instinctively laid a calming hand on his arm.
The front door banged, and a cheerful voice called, "Ty? I'm home! I brought food!"
Ty gave her father-in-law's arm a gentle squeeze, then she crossed the room to the doorway. "I'm in here."
"Hey, gorgeous." Harry slipped his free arm around her waist and gave her a quick kiss, then abruptly pulled back, frowning slightly. "What's wrong?"
"You have a visitor."
His frown turned quizzical, but he allowed her to slip her hand through his arm and pilot him into the room. When they reached the nearest chair, she gently detached herself from him, taking the bag of Chinese food from his free hand. He automatically clasped the back of the chair, to give himself a reference point. The entire exchange was so quick and so natural to the both of them that it went completely unnoticed by their guest.
Leaning close to her husband, Tyrrel said, softly, "I don't think you gentlemen need me here. I'll be upstairs."
Harry caught her elbow to prevent her leaving, genuine worry in his face. "Ty?"
At that moment, Mr. Van Tran forced his paralyzed muscles to unglue and his tongue to move, though he could not tear his eyes from the face of his son. "Please, Vinh. She is right to go," he said.
Harry froze in shock. His eyes flew open, and the breath stopped in his throat. He knew that voice. He'd heard it every night, in his dreams, since childhood. It had spoken to him out of the darkness, when he thought that fear and pain would drive him insane, and it had pulled him back from the pit. It had both comforted and tortured him, being there and not there, being the longed-for voice of a dead man who could never come in person to give him comfort. And it could only belong to one person.
"Father." The word came out in Vietnamese, though he had not intended it to. Somehow, that word could only be spoken in his native language - in the language his father had taught him.
The voice answered, "Yes, Vinh."
"It can't be you," he whispered, shifting into English. "You're dead."
"No more dead than you are." A pause, during which Harry stared at him intently, no recognition in his eyes, then he pleaded, "Don't you know me, my Vinh?"
Harry shook his head.
"There must be something in my face you recognize."
"I'm sorry," Harry whispered, lifting his hands in a helpless gesture. "I'm sorry. I can't..."
His father took a few steps to close the distance between them, though he did not dare touch the hauntingly familiar stranger in front of him. "I'm your father, Vinh. On the spirits of our Ancestors, I swear it."
Harry took an unsteady breath, and his voice thickened with tears though his eyes remained dry. "I know your voice. I've heard it... so many times..."
Driven by the raw pain in his son's eyes, Mr. Van Tran clasped his outstretched hands and felt Harry's fingers tighten around his. "Look at me. Let your heart see. Look at me!"
"I can't. I'm sorry, Father, but I can't."
"I wish... Oh, God, I wish I could see you!" His voice broke on a sob. "I'd give anything to see your face again." He tore away from the clasp of his father's fingers and buried his face in his hands, crying, "It's not fair! Not now! Not after all this time!"
The old man caught his wrists in a gentle, but irresistible grip and guided his hands away from his face. "Look at me, Vinh."
Harry lifted blank, tormented eyes to his face and waited for the inevitable exclamations of shock and horror. Instead, his father gazed steadily at him, seeing for the first time the nearly invisible scars that decorated his face and the emptiness of his perfect, but vaguely unreal eyes. Then he let go of Harry's wrists to catch his head between gentle hands. Pulling the young man close, he dropped a kiss on his forehead, then gathered him up in his arms.
Harry closed his eyes and surrendered to the oddly familiar embrace. Pain burst like a bubble inside him, washing through his body, then disappearing into the air. Forgotten. He buried his face in the comforting shoulder and whispered, "Father."
"My son." Tears sounded in his voice. "There is no shame in weeping for the lost years."
Harry sighed. "I can't do that, either. Not 'til the next time it rains."
"I don't understand."
"I can't cry anymore, so I stand in the rain and let the sky do it for me. It's the closest I get to tears."
"I see." The old man's voice warmed with affection. "Then we'll wait for the next rain, and we'll cry together."