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Death of an Origamist

Chapter Twelve—Waiting Room

“Okay, the grace period is over.”

Sachi looked up from her Candy Crush game on her phone. “Huh?”

Her BFF Leslie placed a forlorn hardboiled egg wrapped in cellophane and a carton of coconut water on the table. She sat across from Sachi in the outside courtyard of the hospital. “It’s been a month. With Scott I gave you a whole year, because, well, he was your husband and the love of your life. But this guy, this guy only deserves two days. A week at best.”

Sachi regretted telling Les about Kenji. It had been a post-menopausal crush. Kind of like adolescence, only the other end of the life spectrum. Why didn’t older women warn you about these things?

“It’s not him. It’s just everything that happened.”

“Don’t give me that crap. This is me who you are talking to. We deal with trauma in the ER everyday. The poisoning of an origami master and almost getting shot—heck, that’s all in a day’s work, right?”

Sachi then thought of the shooter, Joan Ellis, the grieving mother. Her attorneys were maintaining that she was mentally unfit to stand trial and professionals were currently evaluating her. Sachi didn’t know how she felt about any of it. Only that she didn’t want to see Mrs. Ellis again for the rest of her life.

“Seventy-eight days,” she then blurted out. “Seventy-eight days until I can retire.”

“Retire? What will you do, Sachi? Hang out with your cat all day and fold mouse origami? You’ll get bored in one day. Trust me. You’ll be back here in a week.”

* * * * *

The next few days Sachi considered what Les had said. It was true. Up to last year, her life had been about work, her husband Scott, Tora the cat, and origami. Now Scott was gone and with the recent life-threatening fiasco at the origami convention, origami was gone, too.

“You sure as hell better not leave me, too,” she said to Tora as he played with a toy filled with catnip.

Hearing her voice, he turned to her and then jumped onto a platform of his cat house.

Sachi turned on the Food Channel and tried to watch but her hands couldn’t keep still. She had some 3 by 5 cards to jot down some recipes, but before she knew it, she was folding some jumping frogs.

Dammit, she scolded herself. I just can’t stay away.

On her day off she went to her husband’s crypt at Forest Lawn and left some freshly folded origami flowers to replace the old ones she had left several weeks ago.

“So you’re the artist.” An old lady wearing giant sunglasses sat on one of the marble benches inside the columbarium. In spite of the summer heat, she was wrapped in a coat and scarf.

“Excuse me?”

“The paper flowers. I admire them every time I visit my husband. I wondered who created them. I didn’t think that it was someone so young.”

Sachi blushed. This woman was good. Tell a sixty-something woman that she was young and she’d be eating out of your hand.

“That’s my husband,” Sachi gestured to his crypt, which was third from the bottom.

“You are too young to have lost a husband. I was married for sixty years. Imagine that?”

Sachi sat down next to the woman. “How do you get over it? Or do you ever?”

“It’s not something to get over. Yes, maybe the grief is. But then you realize he is all around you. In your children. Grandchildren.”

“We never could have children.”

The woman clutched onto Sachi’s wrist. “Then here. He’s in your skin. The layers of your life. You don’t get over him, but he travels with you. What makes you, you, is partially your experience with him. But you still need to travel, open up yourself to new opportunities.”

“What if you open yourself up and nothing is there?” Sachi didn’t mean to sound so pathetic.

“Then you open yourself again.”

* * * * *

The next day, Sachi was running a little late for her shift. She was greeting by the teddy bear of an orderly, Oscar. He had fully recovered from being poisoned by Mrs. Ellis; Sachi didn’t know if she could have continued working if he hadn’t survived.

“Some dude’s been waiting for you in the waiting room,” he said. “He’s been sitting there for two hours.”

From Oscar’s description of the man, Sachi knew who it was. “Big, Asian, and in his fifties,” only meant one person to Sachi.

“What are you doing here?” she asked after spotting Kenji in one of the plastic chairs.

“You didn’t return any of my calls or texts. I didn’t know where you lived. Only that you worked here.” Kenji was wearing jeans and a tight Polo shirt. Sachi hoped that he wouldn’t notice that her voice was shaking.

“I just want to forget about that whole experience. I feel bad enough as it is that Craig Buck might have been killed because of something that happened here in the ER.”

“C’mon, you know that you can’t be blamed for a crazy woman’s actions.”

Sachi knew that she couldn’t take responsibility for Mrs. Ellis’s actions. Maybe if she was in her thirties or younger, she would have blamed herself. But as a woman who was about to turn 62, she knew better.

“I have one last favor to ask of you,” Kenji said.


“I want you to read this.” He handed Sachi a stuffed manila envelope.

In spite of herself, Sachi took it and opened the metal clasp. Out came a manuscript printed out on computer paper. She noted the title page: “Dare to Fly: Taking Life Risks in the Dark Unknown. By Kenji Asano.”

“Why don’t you let Olivia look it over?”

“She’s completely cut herself off. She and Taku have gone back to Britain. Anyway, this wouldn’t be anything she could relate to.”

“I’m an RN, not a writer. I doubt that my feedback could help in any way.”

“Only that you were a die-hard fan of Fold Anew. You related to what I was writing about.”

“That’s when I thought Mr. Buck was the author.”

“The words are the same.”

“But not the intent behind them. I felt Mr. Buck was talking to me. He was the master origamist. He knew what he was talking about. Do you even know how to do origami?”

Kenji held out his large, stubby fingers. “Do you think these hands could even fold towels?”

“And I bet you’ve never hit anyone in your life.” Sachi was referring to him pretending to be Mr. Buck’s bodyguard.

“Never had to. I’ve always been so big, kids stayed away. Adults didn’t want to mess with me, either. But I have worked as a bodyguard. That part is true. It’s just that I was always writing in my spare time. Mr. Buck gave me a chance to do what I loved.”

Sachi didn’t say anything for a moment.

“Anyway, if you could just read this and tell me what you think. I have to give it to my agent next week, and I sure would appreciate a second opinion.”

“An agent? You almost sound legitimate.”

“It’s the same agent who sold Fold Anew. She knew that I was one of the ghostwriters.”

At least someone else knew the truth, Sachi said to herself.

“Look, you can burn it, if you want. But I would really appreciate it if you gave it a chance.” He took out a business card from his pocket. “I just got these made.”

It had his name and the job description, “writer,” along with a new e-mail address and a P.O. box address in Los Angeles.

Sachi couldn’t help but to notice the change in residence. “So you are in L.A. now.”

“I figure that there are more opportunities here.”

Sachi’s skin felt tingly, but she tried to be a hundred percent professional. “Well, if I have time this weekend, I’ll give it a read.”

“I’d appreciate that. It would mean a lot to me.”

An ambulance, its siren blaring, was approaching.

“Well, I guess you’re busy.”

“Yes, I am.”

“Hope to hear from you, Sachi,” he said. And then he made his way through the rows of people, waiting for medical attention.

Sachi still had the manuscript in her hands and turned the title page. “To Sachi, who gave me the guts to stand on my own.” The words hit her hard and she couldn’t move.

“So who’s the guy, Sach?” Oscar returned to Sachi’s side, pulling on some acrylic gloves.

“He just might be my retirement.”

Oscar, in his youth, looked confused. Sachi took out a pair of gloves from her smock and awaited the delivery of broken people that was coming their way.


© 2016 Naomi Hirahara

Death of an Origamist fiction mystery naomi hirahara origami

About this series

Sachi Yamane, an emergency room nurse, escapes the pressure of life-and-death situations through the precise and calming world of origami. Attending an origami convention in Anaheim, California, she looks forward to meeting her idol, Craig Buck, a guru of not only origami but also life. Over the past two years, Sachi has gone through her set of losses—her husband’s fatal heart attack and unexpected deaths of some coworkers. Meeting Buck and being immersed in origami will again restore peace in Sachi’s life, or so she thinks. But as it turns out, the origami convention is not the safe haven that this sixty-one year old Sansei imagines it to be.

This is an original serialized story written for Discover Nikkei by award-winning mystery author Naomi Hirahara. 

Read Chapter One