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Nikkei Detective

Chapter Eleven—True Confessions

Read Chapter Ten >> 

We’re in my LAPD pal’s black-and-white. Officer Doug Brenner makes me sit in the back seat—it’s protocol—like I’m a common criminal, and unfortunately this isn’t the first time for me. You see, I’ve been under arrest in the past, but now I’m a concerned father. My 14-year-old daughter Maddy is missing and I’m going out of my mind trying to find her.

At least Doug has the siren on at full force as we speed down Wilshire Boulevard towards Hancock Park. Certainly beats the bus, which has been my main mode of transportation since getting my driver’s license revoked.

A couple of drivers don’t bother to stop in the intersection and we swerve to avoid hitting them. I have no deep love for the police, but today I’m all for them. A signal means stop and get the hell out of our way.

“You sure about this?” he asks me as we park in front of the Yokoyama house.

“Yes,” I lie. I have a hunch but no evidence.

I bang on the door, and after a few seconds, the heavy door slowly opens. It’s Mrs. Yokoyama, looking as sweet as a skinny Aunt Bee in The Andy Griffith Show. I’m not falling for that and want to shake her like a rag doll. But that won’t help my case to find Maddy so I curb my caveman impulses.

“Oh, hello, Mr. Shirota and Officer,” she says. “Is something wrong?”

“Can we come in?” Doug asks.

Thank God Doug is here. It’s hard to refuse a man in uniform.

We go inside and I stop in front of a framed photo on the hallway table. It’s Mr. and Mrs. Yokoyama, together, looking regal and distinguished. Oh, how photographs can deceive.

“You’ve probably sacrificed a lot for your husband, right, Mrs. Yokoyama?” I say, still staring at the photo. “Come to a new country where you know no one.”

“Yes, it has been difficult.” Mrs. Yokoyama approaches me, frowning. She knows something’s up, but she’s not sure what.

“But at least you had a friend, a confidante. Someone who listened to your problems. Someone you could trust.”

Mrs. Yokoyama’s lashes flutter as if there’s something stuck in her eye. She’s no actress, that’s for sure.

I decide to go for it. I don’t have time to waste. “Satoko Fujii was blackmailing your husband. She was threatening to soil his reputation. No one could have blamed you for going after her.”

Mrs. Yokoyama loses her footing on her tiled hallway floor and Doug is right there to help her regain her balance.

“Here, lie down.” He practically carries her to the couch in the living room. “Hey, maybe we should call the detectives in,” he says softly to me.

“No, no.” There’s no time for that. And even though I don’t want to emotionally beat up on an old woman, I feel I have to for my daughter’s sake.

Mrs. Yokoyama swallows and sits up. “You don’t understand. She was going to leave me. Leave the US and go back to Fukushima.”

I let what she says sink in. “You mean that you two were lovers?”

“No, no. We were friends. More than friends, even. Family. I knew her secrets and she knew mine. She was saving up all her money to take back to Fukushima with her. To help people suffering from the tsunami. It was my idea to blackmail Ryo. But I never thought that he would fire her.”

She clasps her hands together. Although she looks otherwise frail, her fingers are long and sinewy. “She was saving money any way she could. Taking money from that good-for-nothing son of hers. Selling my old purses. Her children were there, just waiting to take her money when she died. She didn’t want that. She even gave me a copy of her will that she wrote from a sample on the Internet. She wanted to give away her money to help her village back home rebuild.”

Doug gets a phone call and he excuses himself to take it.

“Her dreams then changed. She wanted to move back to Tohoku and bring the tanabata she was making to them. I wanted her to take me with her. I didn’t want to be here in Los Angeles without her. She told me that would just cause problems. She said that she was finished with dealing with people like me. People who just drained her of energy. She wanted a new life. I couldn’t believe what she was saying to me. That we weren’t really friends. That I was a burden.”

I can barely breathe. I need for her to say those words. And where is Doug to witness it?

She looks up, her eyes rimmed with tears. “I didn’t mean to. My cane was in my hands and before I knew it…”

Doug comes back in the knick of time.

“I killed her.”

* * * * *

The confession slides out, beautifully and perfect. I am almost in a state of disbelief, but there is something even more pressing that I have to deal with. “It’s now over, Mrs. Yokoyama. You can tell me where my daughter is.”

“Your daughter? The one who came with you the other time? What happened to her? I would never hurt a child.”

“You mean that you didn’t have someone take her?”

“No, no!”

I look into her gray eyes, which reminds me of a mutt our family used to own. I feel that she is telling the truth.

Doug reads Mrs. Yokoyama her rights and then helps her to her feet. “Mrs. Yokoyama, I’m going to have to take you to the station. You’ll have to speak to detectives assigned to the case.”

“Yes, yes. It’s time, ne.”

As we leave the Yokoyamas’ house for the patrol car, Doug turns to me. “I’m sorry, Kev. We’ll find her.”

My heart is feeling the lowest it’s ever been. And believe me, it’s sunk pretty low in the past.

“Forensics just called me about that threatening anonymous message that was left underneath your door.”

I wait, hopeful for some clue that will lead me to Maddy.

Doug shakes his head. “No fingerprints. But the investigator said that it was strange. He said that the paper had a strong odor of soy sauce.”


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© 2015 Naomi Hirahara

fiction fukushima little tokyo mystery naomi hirahara Nikkei Detective tohoku

About this series

Private investigator Kevin “Kev” Shirota calls himself an OOCG, an Original Orange County Guy. The last place this Huntington Beach, California, native wants to be in is Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, but he finds himself there temporarily to operate his failing PI business. The only bonus is that his fourteen-year-old estranged daughter, Maddy, loves Little Tokyo, which can possibly bring the two closer together. But a series of vandalism and then the discovery of a dead body challenge not only Kev’s investigating skills, but maybe the relationships that are the most dear to him.

This is an original serialized story written for Discover Nikkei by award-winning mystery author Naomi Hirahara. A new chapter will be published on the fourth of every month from August 2014 through July 2015.

Read Chapter One