Brian Smith, like most of the firemen at the department, feared Jaku. After swearing me to secrecy he told me that the firefighters laughed at Jaku’s stories to appease him, but they all knew better than to believe the outrageous sexually oriented lies he’d told about me. Brian said the guys knew Jaku lied whenever it gave him a chance to grab the spotlight. “No need to worry,” he assured me.
“Thanks.” I relaxed. “I feel better. Next time I see Jaku—”
“You’d best do nothing,” Brian interrupted.
“Because Jaku gets even with people in nasty ways if he thinks they’re crossing him.”
“Like he tried to do with me after I yelled at him when the lazy bum tried to sneak out of station cleanup.”
Brian and Jaku had duked it out until Jaku cried “uncle”. They shook hands afterward and Jaku pitched in. “So I thought everything was cool between us,” Brian said.
But the following week, with Brian taking point as the two men hunted pigs in the Koolau Mountains, Jaku yelled, “Brah, I’ve got a beef to settle with you.”
Brian looked back to see Jaku running toward him with rifle raised. Jaku tripped on a tree root, the gun fired, and the bullet hit his own toe. He screamed like a banshee, blood gushing from his shoe.
“So I bandaged him up,” Brian said. “He kept thanking me, but I knew that bullet had my name on it.”
I shivered. In hindsight, it was an ironic physical manifestation of premonition. Not long after, Jaku murdered my dear friend Vic in cold blood.
“How did Jaku get his nickname?”
Brian shook his head. “He adopted it after a Japanese fireman called him ‘jaaku no,’ meaning ‘evil-minded one.’ Jaku loved it and wore the name like a badge of glory.”
“Why is a spooky guy like Jaku working here?”
“For one thing, he’s a damn good fireman.” Brian said most of the firemen, including Jaku’s buddy Vic, just figured Jaku for a little guy trying to act big.
“Relax, Liz. Don’t confront Jaku and he won’t bother you. He don’t bother me no more. I just stay out of his way.”
That warning was the silver lining in the dark cloud of humiliation I suffered when Jaku tried to trash my reputation. Not that he gave a rip about how his lies affected me. He only cared that his pantomime of me having kinky sex on the dirty alarm room carpet got him the attention he craved. He thirsted for attention like a man stranded in the desert thirsts for water.
Few are as fortunate as I was, to have a coworker warn me before I confronted Jaku and suffered the consequences—a stab in the back or worse. I soon learned that no one dared confront Jaku. Well, I wouldn’t either. I vowed to never say or do anything to upset him.
Later, I sat at the console logging standbys, when Jaku hurried through the door. He hovered over me, so close I smelled his sour sweat. “I never said you was…doing the dude,” he said. “Some asshole’s lying to you, trying to make brother Jaku look bad. Who told you that?”
Not wanting to name names, I said, “Lots of people.”
He opened his mouth, closed it, paused, then shrugged. “All I said was I saw a red fire chief’s car parked in front of the station and you two in the alarm room. And who knows? You might’ve been getting it on. Hey, I wouldn’t blame the guy, pretty lady like you. I never mean for upset you.”
I didn’t know then what I know now: that a sociopath will offer a fake apology in order to keep things moving along. Liar, I thought. But fear kept me firmly in its grip. Self-preservation made me say, “If all you said was might, I accept your apology.”
“You’re all right, Liz. Cool your old man’s a local dude like me.” He smiled.
“Thanks.” Billy’s nothing like you, asshole.
Winking, he repeated, “You’re all right,” and strolled out the door.
The dye was cast. I had kept myself safe by pretending to be his friend, and would continue to do so. How was I to know that extroverted sociopaths like Jaku tend to steamroll over introverts like me who have difficulty speaking up for themselves? All I knew was it rubbed me wrong that I couldn’t tell the creep off. I didn’t know I was living in a fool’s paradise, thinking that pretending to be Jaku’s friend could save me from his malice.
Being warned about Jaku by a co-worker wasn’t the only way I got lucky. Before long, Jaku’s strong, kind pal Vic took me under his wing and showed me how to quit pussyfooting around.
I wish I’d known that sociopaths, besides being known for pathological lying and conning, were known for their parasitic relationships with “friends.” If I had known, I’d have warned open hearted, naïve Vic about underhanded, sinister Jaku.