Twenty Views of Tanforan
by Kate Bachus
One : November, 1952
I had been waiting to tell the truth for a long time.
“All rise,” said the bailiff, and I did, manila folder in hand.
Two : February, 1948
“Kawaguchi.” The clerk spelled it for me. “K-A-W-A--”
“I got it,” I said. “I got it.”
Tom Kawaguchi and I graduated from John Muir High School together in ’38. He was a hyper, skinny kid who played a ruthless game of basketball and would have been valedictorian under different circumstances.
You know, if he hadn’t been Japanese.
Three : February, 1944
I thought I saw Tom once boarding a bus at the Alameda base. A bunch of us had been shipped back through Honolulu and I swore I saw him, crew cut and intent, through the crowd of GIS, all equally crew-cut and intent.
I hollered and waved, but he didn’t see or hear me.
I was on my way down to Manzanar. In the long run, maybe it was for the best that we missed each other that day.
Four : February, 1944
“Lieutenant Chambers.” Captain Hall had a way of shaking your hand like he had a private understanding with you, like you and he belonged to a secret club or something. I hate that, always have.
“Welcome home.” He looked like he was going to hurt himself with that smile. He’d watched me limp in, too, standing up just a hair too late from the chair in front of Merritt’s desk.
Los Angeles was about as home as Dusseldorf had been. “Thanks.”
I hadn’t been injured badly enough to discharge. Those days it was getting to the point where you had to lose an arm or a leg to avoid getting reassigned. I got a ticket back to California, to wind up my tour as an MP for the WRA. Shit work, and Hall and I both knew it. I wondered what he had done to wind up down here, besides being an ingratiating asshole.
“We run a real nice facility here,” said Hall. “You’ll see how it is.”
“Sure,” I said.
I had seen saw how it was from the bus window, in the wan orange light of the setting sun. Six gun towers, with the guns pointing in, and about ten miles of barbed wire besides. A nice facility, sure, if you were holding prisoners or cattle.
Merritt didn’t smile. He shifted a stack of papers from the right side of his blotter to the left side and sat there waiting for Hall to finish.
“You’ll want to meet Ned Campbell,” Hall continued. Even after ten hours on the train, what I wanted was to sit. My leg was killing me. “He’s a good fellow, runs things real smooth around here. You know, administratively,” he added, when Merritt looked up at him. “We’ll introduce you in the morning.”
After a certain number of years in the military a man begins to know the smell of operational bullshit. Three sentences out of Hall’s mouth and I was already up to my neck. I should have known what was coming.
“You and Ned — you’ll want to work real close with him. He knows his way around the place,” said Hall.
Five : February, 1948
“Tom Kawaguchi.” The kid squinted up at me, one foot still on the pedal of his bicycle like he might ride off any second. “C’mon, buddy, don’t bust my balls here.”
“I know him,” the kid said. He pointed up the street. “Up there, on top of the hill.”
“Thanks.” I made to go past him, but he turned the wheel of his bike, blocking my foot.
“What d’you want to know for?”
“I owe him a pack of cigarettes,” I said, and turning the handlebars for him, walked on by.
Six : February, 1944
There are things you take for granted, like sugar in your coffee.
I met Ned Campbell over breakfast. The kind of guy we used to say “he gets things done” about, without saying the rest of the sentence, which was “however he has to.” The MPs liked him. The Army had transferred him over and he had the walk, the talk, even more than the MP officers did.
Part of me wanted to like him.
“Mostly they do what they’re told,” he said to me. “We got a pretty good group here. They cleaned up the place, got some gardens going, they’re teaching school and playing baseball. Just a few troublemakers.”
Evacuees. I’d seen evacuees in France. It was a hell of a euphemism.
“I got nothing against these Japs,” he told me. He handed me a cigarette. “We just have to be careful.”
Seven : February, 1948
When Tom opened the door I think he wanted to slam it square in my face again, but being the kind of guy he is he smiled instead.
“Hi there, Nick,” he said. “Come on in.”
Like he’d been expecting me.
We sat in his living room and drank Cokes. “I think I found him,” I said, although he knew I wouldn’t have been there otherwise.
Tom set down the coke, sat back in his chair. “OK, I’m listening,” he said.
Eight : February, 1944
The wind blew dust down the spaces between the tarpaper and wood barracks.
“Out there’s the reservoir.” Campbell pointed outside the camp’s perimeter, squinting. “There’s a crew of four out there, on 24-hour shifts. They keep an eye on the water supply.”
He looked back at me. “Heard you got shot down in Germany,” he said.
I watched an old man and a little girl make their way upwind towards the auditorium. The little girl wore a starched apron that flapped up in her face like a shutter.
He nodded. “Good man,” he said.
I ground out the last of my cigarette.
“Severinson is WRA, and Hobart’s military but never left San Diego. The closest he’s seen to action is the night somebody drove a truck into a munitions shed.” Campbell chuckled.
Three unlikely lieutenants: I had left Europe a sergeant. Nothing about this was right. Nothing.
The little girl and the old man disappeared around a corner. I had been here almost twelve hours and still hadn’t spoken to a prisoner. Evacuee.
That night Campbell, Hobart and Hall took me into Independence for a drink. Hobart was a good guy, really, not too bright but capable. He’d probably spent his time down in San Diego handing out rifles and boots. He and Hall spent a lot of time discussing the Pacific, and after a few drinks it was clear neither of them knew anything about it.
Campbell drove me back to the camp in his big dusty Olds. “You seem like a bottom line joe, so I’m going to give you the bottom line,” he said as we drove down the long stretch of nothing and darkness.
I was suddenly too big for the front seat. Trapped, shifting. “OK,” I said, because he was waiting for an answer.
“We have some ways of doing things here,” he said. He watched the nothing out the dust-hazed windshield, relaxed, comfortable. I took my hands out of my trench pocket and put them back in again. “Sort of a status quo.”
“Yeah,” I said, after he looked at me: I had hesitated too long. I already regretted what I would say next. “I understand.”
“Good.” He didn’t look relieved because he had never looked apprehensive. I stopped liking him, just like that, right there. “You’ll get along fine here,” he said.
Nine : August, 1946
Tom Kawaguchi found me a year after the war had been over, after I got my PI license and was recruited by P. J. Roynton on the steps of City Hall.
Roynton’s investigations operation was about as shaky as they came, and I was working out of my house those days, using my coffee table for a desk and the phone down the hall for business calls. It was steady work, and I had a knack for it. I was also barely getting by, something I hadn’t thought much about until Tom came to visit one night.
“I’m sorry to come by like this,” he said. It was raining, and I could hear it in the background as his voice crackled up over the intercom from downstairs. “Tom Kawaguchi, from Lowell,” he said again.
“I remember,” I said, and then blamed the gin for the sudden sweat on my hands. My living room looked small and dingy with him in it. I offered him a drink, which he declined. He sat on the edge of my sagging leather armchair, hat in his lap.
“How have you been?” he asked me.
It was a straightforward enough question, and then again it wasn’t. Not at all. “Just fine,” I said.
He was married. He had money: his suit was new, sharp. I was sitting in a three hundred square foot rat hole in my bathrobe, mostly drunk, when he arrived. What had happened, I thought, not to him, but to me?
“Private investigator,” he said, nodding approval. That was nothing he needed to do, and I changed the subject to help him out.
“What can I do for you, Tom?”
He smiled. I would find out later that he had served in the 442nd. It wouldn’t have made any difference, really. “I need to find somebody. A relative,” he said.
Ten : January, 1947
P. J. Roynton had some house rules. Rule #1: no booze in the office. Rule #2: no freelancing. Rule #3: don’t get mixed up with a case involving the Feds. Rule #4: his daughter was off limits.
I broke all the rules but one.
The folder of photos sat in the bottom of a file box in the kitchen and eventually Tom stopped calling me.
Eleven : May, 1944
Campbell was right. I got along great. The kids they were calling MPs did what I told them to, and mostly I sat at a big empty desk and pushed a pencil back and forth between my fingers. Sometimes I walked around the camp, like a sort of inspection. I signed forms, put up notices on bulletin boards and kept my uniform clean.
The other lieutenants, Severinson and Hobart, seemed to do more or less the same thing.
Hobart occasionally went down to the auditorium or attended meetings for Hall, to explain policies and procedures. As far as I could tell anything he said he read off a paper Hall handed him. No one had me read anything, which was fine as far as I was concerned.
Later I would look back on it all and how close to enjoying the job I came would strike me. No amount of gin got me past the feeling, either.
Twelve : April, 1947
It was both because of Roynton and his daughter that I suppose I finally quit. I’m not much of an employee under the best of circumstances, and when Roynton said I deliberately made it tougher for him he was right on a couple of counts.
I set up my own shaky business that spring, in a matchbox office over a bar in North Beach.
The only real difference was that instead of the people I investigated being shadier than my clients, it tended to be the other way around.
I don’t know why it took so long for Tom Kawaguchi’s wife to tell him. I don’t think she was protecting me.
I don’t know what to think.
He wrote me a letter, which was in a way worse than coming to me in person. It came in April of ‘47, typed on cream stationery and polite as hell.
I hope this letter finds you well and that your new business is satisfying and successful. I have learned that you were a military police officer at Manzanar, and therefore think that you might have known my sister in law.
It is regrettable that I bring this to you once again, but there is the possibility that you knew of her and matters regarding her, and so I respectfully ask again if you will consider assisting me.
“Matters regarding her.”
In the top left hand corner of the envelope there was an Alameda address. Lt. Kawaguchi. Lieutenant. I had to stop and think about that for a while, and working over a bar has its advantages.
I drank until I could come back and sit at my desk. As I dug out the manila folder I thought of Tom and his wife, his questions and her answers.
Then I put the folder on my desk and lit a cigarette. A call to the county clerk was as good a start to the case as any, if this was going to be a case at all.
Thirteen : September, 1944
I wouldn’t have even known about the sugar if I hadn’t started playing cards with the cooks.
We would sit around in the mess hall after dinner: a couple of MPs, a couple of cooks, maybe one of the kids who came in to mop the floor. I’m a lousy card player, but something about sitting there with a cup of coffee, elbow to elbow under a cloud of smoke from hand-rolled cigarettes appealed to me.
I wasn’t ever really close to my crew, the crew of the big doomed “Tiger Rose.” Still, we’d done our time together, and I suppose I missed them anyway, now and again. We’d played cards too, in long nights on distant airfields.
The mess hall group was a quiet one. We had little language between us, but once and a while someone would groan, or shake his head, or put up his hands with a laugh and say “finish.” None of us were much good, which I guess was part of the fun. I got to know a couple of the fellows, a cook by the name of Benny and a Hawaiian guy, kibei, they called him, Harry Ueno. He took to walking back to the barracks with me, or accompanying me around the camp on my so-called inspections.
Ueno had worked in a Jewish food market down in Beverly Hills. He claimed to know Douglas Fairbanks and Norma Shearer. He was a fast walker and always had a spare cigarette for me.
I got more astute as a PI. At the time I was suspicious of Ueno, and it never occurred to me that he was doing me a favor, not looking for one. I misunderstood when I started hearing about the complaints, about the block meetings about missing meat. Missing sugar.
“Hank,” I said one night as we lapped the camp for the second time, “I heard something about some complaints to the administration.” The doublespeak struck me after I’d said it: it didn’t sound like me talking, but Campbell.
“Yeah,” he said, and I couldn’t tell if it was denial or acknowledgement.
“Something about some supplies.”
“Yeah.” He stopped at the flagpole: the halyard clanged over his words in the wind. “You got cake over in the Caucasian mess hall. There’s no cake in the other mess halls.”
He hesitated again. My interview skills would improve later too. Right then all I did was stand there waiting for him to explain.
“They said it takes too much sugar to make the miso and the soy sauce. So they’re coming up short.”
It had been good cake, too. We’d offered Ueno some during the card game, but said he didn’t want any.
“Did somebody check the books?” Part of me didn’t want to know about any of this. I didn’t want him to tell me, or to want me to do anything about it.
“Production manager says he got about three hundred pounds of sugar for making soy sauce. Miso doesn’t take any sugar. I think maybe there’s about six thousand pounds shortage.”
You get a few opportunities in your life to do the right thing. That’s what Ueno was offering me, although I still don’t know why.
“Maybe you can look into it sometime,” he said, squinting against the wind.
The next day Campbell came into my office and told me to have Ueno followed. For every opportunity you get to do the right thing, you get ten more to screw up, that’s the problem.
In the end I played it both ways. I told one of the MP kids to keep an eye on Ueno and spent the next week tracking missing sugar down. Supplies sent me to the hospital, the hospital said they weren’t using extra sugar, check with the production manager. The production manager sent me back to administration. I could tell by the answers I was getting I wasn’t the first to ask, and by Friday Campbell was back in my office. He wanted to know why I hadn’t come to him in the first place.
He was right. It was the most logical and obvious answer.
“I thought we understood each other,” was all he said.
We did, and I did it anyway. That night after cards I took Harry for a walk and we broke into Campbell’s car.
“Nice big trunk, plenty of room,” Hank said after a moment, after that terrible silence while we both stood there with pliers and wire and flashlight looking at the sacks and packages. He started to laugh, leaned on the car’s dusty bumper and laughed, while the flashlight beam jounced over it all.
Fourteen : April 1947
Two phone calls got me this: Salt Lake City, Utah. I didn’t want the Feds coming to visit me on my turf, so I went ahead and drove the seven hundred miles to theirs.
Most of the trip I smoked and thought about Harvey, about how things just seemed to snowball after the meat and sugar discovery and how I have a knack for looking in one direction when all the important things are unfolding behind me.
Salt Lake’s a funny town. I parked right in front of Topaz Deluxe Cleaners without even realizing what I was looking at, and sat in my car and tried to figure out what I was going to do.
It wasn’t a good idea to go to the FBI with the pictures. That was because they belonged to the FBI and I was pretty sure they knew I had them. On the other hand, I wanted to know what had happened to Andy Kawaguchi, and someone in the Salt Lake field office was bound to have some answers.
There are some things you don’t handle on the phone. The look on Harvey’s face when his wife escorted me onto his back patio and offered me a drink brought me up short, though.
The handshake was as brief as he could get away with. “Chambers.”
He hadn’t forgotten, which wasn’t the best sign. “Harvey,” I said.
His wife brought out iced tea and set it down between us, got a look at how things were and evaporated again.
We all have different tactics. Harvey’s was to sit in silence until the you made a noose of what you were trying to say and hung yourself with it.
Then again, I don’t talk much either. “I still have them.”
He sat, and somewhere in the neighborhood nearby a screen door slammed.
We sat. We sat for a long time out there in the sun while the ice in our glasses creaked and shifted.
“Don’t start this,” he said.
Harvey shook his head.
“His wife.” It was an accusation and it came out that way.
“Everybody did what they had to, Chambers. Me, them. You, everybody.”
He was right. Nobody came out clean. It was also the closest I had to an answer from him.
“Does it keep you up at night, Harvey? It keeps me up.”
He looked toward the house. He nodded. “Absolutely,” he said.
He got up. There wasn’t much else to do, so I got up too. I followed him back through his house with the real wood paneling, back out to my car.
When I went for the pack of cigarettes it was empty. I sat with it crumpled in my fist for a moment while Harvey stood in silence next to my car.
It was wartime. We made some mistakes. We did what we had to. National security.
He didn’t say any of those things, just reached in the window and put a pack of cigarettes on the dash.
There are no good bars in Salt Lake City. I know. I’ve looked.
I was shooting one man pool in a place with magazine pictures of the tropics pinned up on the walls when I thought of the cleaners and by then I was so drunk I could barely find it again.
The woman who came to the counter didn’t look to happy to see me, which was understandable since I was drunk and looked like hell after three days on the road sleeping in my car.
“Topaz,” I said. “Your sign says Topaz.”
“Topaz Deluxe Cleaners,” she confirmed. She turned and called something to the back in Japanese. “Do you have some cleaning?”
I swore I recognized the young man who came to the front of the store. “No,” I said. I realized I didn’t recognize him but that he was familiar. He had the same look a lot of the fellows had had, the ones they called the “no-no” boys after the questionnaire.
“So what do you want?” he came around the counter.
“I’m trying to find someone. Someone who may have wound up at Topaz.” It was a bald lie. I was in the right general area. Harvey came from Salt Lake all the way to Manzanar for a reason, and that was all I had. “Andy Kawaguchi.”
To my astonishment, it registered. “Why do you want to find him?”
“His brother wants to find him. They were separated at Tanforan.”
“A lot of families were separated.”
“His brother,” I didn’t mean to hesitate but somehow did, “is a friend.”
“Sure. OK.” I deserved the laugh I got, I suppose. “You should talk to Ted Yatsko. He knew all those guys.”
“All what guys?”
The laugh again. At least he wrote down an address before sending me on my way.
Ted Yatsko was retired, the newspaper desk told me. I got his home address off his last paycheck, which for some reason he hadn’t picked up. I took it with me, although my goodwill gesture got ripped in four neat pieces the moment after I handed it over.
“That was a check,” I said, feeling my precarious financial situation and the effects of the gin.
“Writers.” He was a short man with a straggling beard and no Japanese accent. “Writers, teachers, priests. Always the first to go. You want Andy Kawaguchi.”
“We were at Moab together. They brought him up from Tanforan. After the war was they let us go.” Yatsko’s place was small, and we stood on the porch while the sun threw long shadows on the fresh-mown lawn.
“Because they didn’t have anything.” My face painted something I didn’t mean it to: Yatsko shook his head. “Maybe you find that hard to believe.”
“No,” I said somewhat pointlessly. Yatsko was already turning back towards the house.
“Where did he wind up, do you know?”
Yatsko shrugged. “He didn’t go back to his wife. They told him she was a spy. Of course that was a lie. But you know the truth...” he stopped, chuckled, although there wasn’t much humor in it. “Sometimes the truth is worse.”
When I got back to the car I took out all the photos, and sat and stared at all of them until it got too dark to see. On the drive home I forced myself to think about things I’d deliberately forgotten, tried to go back and remember things I’d had no intention of thinking about again.
Fifteen : December, 1944
Campbell hadn’t gone after me, of course, he’d gone after Ueno. Not just for the sugar and meat but for a lot of things, a lot of questions, reports and committee meetings and the time right after the car incident when Ueno went in and banged on Campbell’s desk.
The Bureau was supposed to come down and investigate the administration but that wasn’t exactly how it worked out. They started by taking two American-born Japanese — nisei — out into the desert. Two days later brought them back to announce that Ueno and a few of the others, Japan-born issei, were pro-Japan. That was how they worked it.
What Campbell hadn’t counted on was what exactly it meant to pit Japanese against Japanese, with accusations like “traitor.” It tore the camp apart. No amount of committees or debates or meetings were going to begin to touch the damage, either: rumors started to circulate, factions sprang up, fights broke out in the dusty alleys between barracks.
I caught Severinson bringing out tommy guns one morning. It got that bad, that quick.
“Expecting a raid?” I grinned; I guess I couldn’t quite believe it.
“It’s no joking matter, Lieutenant Chambers.”
“No, I guess not,” I said.
Harvey showed up that afternoon, he and two other agents from Salt Lake. The next thing I knew I was in Campbell’s office, listening to them talk tactics with Guilky, the local chief of police. Cigars all around, and Hobart and Severinson leaning against the windows looking smug.
“We need to deal with this now,” Campbell said. “The longer we let them walk around out there stirring things up the worse it’s going to get.”
He was right. “The problem is,” said Harvey, “you’ve got nothing here.”
“No,” agreed Campbell, “not yet.”
Within a few hours they had rounded up Ueno and the others and arrested all of them.
Chet Tyler, one of the MP kids I had come to like working with, came and got me from where I was handling the formation of a negotiation committee. That’s what the internees called it, a negotiation committee. Another euphemism: whatever it was, Campbell saw fit to send me and about six MPs down to where they were assembling at the auditorium.
“Lieutenant, they’re arresting them,” Tyler told me, “and Campbell and Ueno are... he stopped, realized about thirty people were listening.
“OK,” I said, and followed him.
There was a tight knot of MPs in front of the MP station, next to Campbell’s car. Ueno had cuffs on, and both Guilky and Campbell were standing far too close.
I didn’t hear what was said. I saw Campbell go to hit Ueno and barely stop himself in time.
“Get Hall,” I told Tyler, and with a barely a “yes, sir,” he was gone.
I could tell by the way Campbell and Guilky looked up at me that I wasn’t wanted. So I rode with them in the car and spent the night making sure Ueno didn’t get killed in the Independence jail.
By morning Hall had arrived, along with Merritt, and I wasn’t part of the discussions that led to Ueno’s being taken out of handcuffs, given coffee and toast with the other prisoners and then escorted, minus handcuffs, back to the camp.
There was something much more ominous about it, though, about the ceremonial way that Ueno and Merritt were introduced and Merritt’s tone when he told Ueno that the negotiating committee was negotiating and all they had to do was wait for the results.
“We just want to calm things down a little,” Hall told me as we followed the solemn entourage to the camp’s barracks jail.
Nothing calmed, though. The committee was supposed to be three men, but by six o’clock that night a crowd of about fifty had gathered around the administration building. I was posted there again; maybe Hall thought I would have a calming influence.
Ironic, since when the tear gas and gas masks got brought out in plain sight, I was the one who lost my temper.
“What the hell are you trying to do out there?” I left Tyler in charge and found Hall and Severinson at the sentry box.
Hall shook his head. “We have a situation that needs to be dealt with and I’m dealing with it, Lieutenant.”
“That’s not a situation. That’s a few dozen people standing around waiting for you and Guilky and Merritt to make a decision about Ueno and the others already so they don’t have to stand around in the cold.”
“Those are Japanese nationals, Lieutenant, and we need to be ready for anything.”
“You’re going to make this happen.”
Then, from outside, we heard the singing. It took me a moment to realize that it was the Japanese Navy marching song.
Hall looked at me, and picked up a rifle. “Do you really think so?” he said.
It wasn’t Hall that opened fire, though.
I made it out in time to drag Tyler back by the scruff, back against the building where he had some cover. They had already started throwing the tear gas, and the wind was blowing it in sticky billows. Hobart had a line of MPs holding against a group who were mostly just trying to get out of the way, and as they began to break ranks in the face of he hollered “Remember Pearl Harbor! Hold your line!”
I saw Harvey and one of the other agents come from the side of the building, using our same corner but unaware that I could see him. He watched, found his target, aimed.
Before I could react he had fired.
“Jesus,” said Tyler, and raised sidearm, only to have me knock it back down.
I dragged him to better cover as more shots rang out. “Don’t,” was all I could get out in the bedlam that followed.
After the shooting was over, after the dust had cleared and the camp had been locked down, it was mostly Hall and I who dragged the bodies back to the infirmary. Nothing new to either of us, and Hall didn’t want the MPs to help.
Something about the fact that most of the rioters had been shot in the back, I suppose. Well, except one.
I’d bent to slide her into a bag, a young, good-looking woman in her twenties. She’d taken Harvey’s bullet, a clean, professional shot. The first shot.
Harvey intercepted me on the way to the infirmary. “Need some help?” he asked. We stood and stared at each other for a moment. “Sure,” I said. He took one end, and when we got inside he found Hall right away, went into the next room and the two of them discussed something in low tones. I stood with the bag. I looked at a file Harvey had set down when we set down the bag. I looked at the bag. I listened to Harvey and Hall, still in conversation.
The photos practically dropped into my hand out of the file. Nineteen, with another one stuck deep into the back of the pages. Inquest records. Transcripts. Interviews. I slipped the photos into my jacket. I closed the file.
A. KAWAGUCHI, the label on the file said.
I went and found Viv Kawaguchi myself. I hadn’t even known she was there at the camp. “Faye,” I started. Clumsy, and it didn’t matter. She’d known what I was going to say the moment she opened the narrow door. “I knew your husband,” I said. I’d known Andy too. He was the kid brother, the fast-talking one perpetually in Tom’s shadow. I don’t know when he married Faye, but I hoped they at least had had some good times together.
Viv took the news that Faye had been shot dry-eyed and silent. When I was done she thanked me and asked me to leave the six by six curtained cubicle she now called home.
Sixteen : April, 1947
I hadn’t meant to smoke any of the cigarettes Harvey gave me, but there was only one left when I got back to the City. I sat at my desk and smoked and looked at the photos again.
Twenty glossy pictures, the kind of grainy, badly-exposed shots you get when you’re moving fast and don’t have time to worry about focus or the light.
They’d been taken at Tanforan, the San Bruno racetrack turned WRA staging center. Pictures of washing hanging on lines outside remodeled stalls, crowds of internees with wheelbarrows of belongings. Among these things, Andy Kawaguchi. Sometimes, less clearly, Faye.
Yatsko had said they’d released him. I wondered what the hell kind of spy they thought he was.
Why, in the end, they’d released him and sent Harvey all the way out to Manzanar to kill Faye.
I leafed through the photos. Photos of lines at the latrines. Photos of kids playing. Photos of Andy and Faye, and photos of Andy and Tom. Tom, who had gone on with the 442nd to break the Gothic line, which for six months no other division could touch.
I stopped at the last photo, the one Harvey had stuck back underneath all the papers.
Andy wasn’t in it, just Faye, three kids and a guy in a suit.
She was beautiful, I let myself think. And then thought about the white guy in the suit.
“Gino,” I was saying as I hit the bottom floor, and Gino looked up from the bar. He was used to me plunging down the stairs at all hours and was already setting up a gin as I sat down, picture in hand. “No,” I said, “you got the paper from last Thursday?”
“Thursday?” He poured the gin anyway and rifled around under the bar. There was a rumor he kept a shotgun under there but I’d never seen it. “Yeah, here. Sorry. Kind of messy.”
I straightened out the paper and brushed off the ash. “It’s him,” I said.
Gino had a look, but I knew I was right, I’d known when I remembered upstairs.
“Senator Dies at 42,” the headline said.
“Looks the same.” Gino was already away, though, drying a glass. He was right. A smart man wouldn’t want any part in it.
I guess you always feel sorriest for the beautiful dame, no matter what her part was. I drank the gin. And I did feel sorry, of course. I did.
Seventeen : January, 1945
I helped Campbell and Merritt cover it all up. I didn’t actually do anything; I didn’t destroy any evidence and I didn’t lie to anyone, but by my silence I might as well have.
There was an investigation, which naturally amounted to nothing. I held onto the pictures and didn’t say anything then either.
The problem was, the issue of Ueno had never been resolved.
He knew, too. One night under the flickering mess hall light he said to me, “there’s no going back now, Nick. Not ever,” and of course he was right. There were no more card games. I guess it was a kind of permission he was giving me, but I couldn’t do it, at least not that one thing. Campbell watched me, I watched Campbell, we both watched Ueno.
Eventually the war ended, the camp was disbanded and I was discharged.
I left, and I took the pictures and everything I knew with me.
The thing is, you can’t make things end just by trying to forget.
Eighteen : February, 1948
In the end, I told Tom most of the truth but not all of it.
I might have, but as we sat there the front door opened and Vivian Kawaguchi walked in.
She said “Lieutenant Chambers,” and she might have smiled but mostly her face was a warning.
I took it. I got more astute as I got older, like I said, and besides, the damage was done.
“Your brother got sent up to Moab,” I said. “The FBI had suspected him of espionage before he even got to Tanforan and had been following him... investigating.” Tom nodded. Vivian stayed where she was, standing in the entryway with her purse in her hands.
“They... didn’t have much.”
Tom put his glass down. “They killed her because they made a mistake with Andy,” he said.
I had to make an effort not to meet Viv’s gaze. “I don’t know for sure,” I said. “Maybe.”
I didn’t let him think about that too long. “They told him she was a spy, and that she was dead,” I told him. “They released him after the war, and eventually he got married out there. I found him that way, through a marriage license in Salt Lake.”
Tom nodded. “It was a terrible thing to be accused of,” was all he said.
“It’s over now,” said Viv. She put her purse down, took off her coat and hung it up, and walked into the living room. “Nick, please join us for dinner.”
I looked at her, I looked at Tom, who I realized at that moment probably realized the extent of what I wasn’t telling him.
Despite it all, I stayed.
Nineteen : October, 1952
Viv called to tell me two days after Andy was killed in a car accident. It wasn’t permission any more than any other unsaid thing had been, but like we all had I took it that way. I wondered how long she had known about Faye and the senator, and knew she would never mention it again.
“He was a good man,” she said, and hung up without waiting for an answer.
Twenty : November, 1952
I’m not religious, and I didn’t need a Bible to swear on.
“Lieutenant Nick Chambers, do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
“Yeah, I do,” I said.
Copyright © 2003 by Kate Bachus