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Trouble on Temple Street: An Officer Ellie Rush Mystery

Chapter 11

“Grandma, let me see that log book.”

“Be careful; it’s old as dirt,” Grandma Toma cautions me as she hands over her father’s notebook that he kept while working as a policeman in Manzanar.

I sit down at her desk, crowded by Sudoku books, John Wooden biographies, and junk mail. Grandma Toma is a bit of a hoarder; it took us quite a while to empty out her house before she moved in. The only good thing about it today is that she’s kept my grandfather’s record of his connection to a military policeman named McDonnell.

The incidents throughout the notebook are pretty much minor. The theft of a nameplate off of a barrack door. A toddler who had been missing. (She had been found two barracks down.) Too much noise by a group of teenagers in the middle of the night.

But then I see something interesting. There’s something about a domestic disturbance in a certain barrack in a certain block. The names have been crossed out, looking like thick bands of a censor.

As I think about the implications of this, my parents pop their heads into my grandmother’s bedroom. “Ellie, I didn’t know you were here,” my father says.

“How’s Cortez?” my mother asks.

“He’s better. Dad, are you still a member of Can I see your laptop?”

Dad has been busy collecting camp information on all of the Tomas. He hasn’t bothered with the lineage on his side of the family, though. That truth is too much for him to take.

Hearing that I’m interested in his genealogy sleuthing, he is all smiles. He thinks that I’ve taken an interest in my Japanese American family history, when in fact there’s another family I’m looking into.

With now his laptop on Grandma Toma’s desk, I look at the Manzanar rosters in, but all of them are in alphabetical order—nothing by barrack location.

Maybe something at the Japanese American National Museum? I check my phone. I have an hour and a half before it closes. Could it be that the answer to Atom McDonnell’s murder lies in where the crime was committed—right in the heart of Little Tokyo?

* * * * *

This time I leave my bike at my parents’ house and borrow my dad’s hybrid to return back to downtown L.A. I park at the Aiso lot across from the Union Center for the Arts. Up in the plaza outside the lot, a few regulars start unrolling their sleeping bags, and I nod hello to them. They aren’t hurting anyone, so we practice peaceful coexistence. I then jaywalk towards the parking lot near the museum.

When I arrive at the Hirasaki National Resource Center, I recognize the college-age woman who is sitting on the other side of the counter. It’s the little sister of one of my Pan Pacific classmates. I can’t remember her name, but she reminds me. “I’m Paige. I’m one of the Getty interns here this summer.”

We do the obligatory small talk, and then I get to what I want. I need to find out who lived in a certain barrack in Manzanar.

Paige frowns. “I don’t think that I can get that information. But maybe someone at the Manzanar’s Visitor’s Center? I think that at the last pilgrimage they were giving out that information.”

“Do you know someone there?”

“I do know a ranger.”

“Do you think that they can look up who lived in this particular barrack?” I hand her the numbers.

“I don’t know. I’ve been calling them a lot lately.”

“Look, this is important. It’s a matter of life and death.”

Paige’s mouth drops open. She’s trying to figure out whether I’m just being dramatic, but she knows that I’m a cop.

“Can you give me a little time? We are open until eight tonight.”

I leave my cell phone number and tell her to text me immediately if she gets some information.

Now with some extra time, I walk to get my manju fix at Fugetsu-Do down the street.

I pass the line at the udon and soba place, Marugame Monzo, and then the line outside of the ramen eatery, Daikoku-ya. It’s like noodle nirvana on First Street.

On the street outside of the confectionary store is a food truck. “Pancake and Chashu” is painted on the side with an illustration of fat pancakes and red roasted pieces of pork with smiley faces.

Weird combination, I think, but there is something to sweet and savory. Fried chicken and waffles, right? Maybe this is our Asian version of that.

I almost take a right into Fugetsu-Do but stop myself. Pancakes? Wasn’t that a clue at the crime scene?

No one is waiting for pancakes and chashu and I go straight to the window. A young Asian guy with a bandana around his head greets me enthusiastically. Unfortunately, I have to burst his bubble when instead of an order, I identify myself as part of the LAPD.

“Were you out here last Friday night?” I ask him.

“Yeah, that was our debut night. With Anime Expo and all, we thought that we would be raking in the bucks.”

“Do you remember selling anything to Atom McDonnell?” I figure that being a young male, he would know who he is. Turns out my hunch was right.

“You mean the 2ibon dude that was dressed as a Doraemon who was killed last Friday?”

I nod.

“I tried to sell one to him. But he said that we were charging too much. He’s a multi-millionaire but doesn’t want to spend five bucks on a pancake.”

“So he didn’t go for it.”

“Nah, the whole night was a bit of a wash. We did sell a pancake to a guy who said that he volunteers at that visitor’s center right there.”

“The koban?”

“I don’t know what you call it. But yeah, that was practically our only sale that night. He made some weird comment, that maybe Doraemon will need a pancake.”

* * * * *

I think back to the guy who had initially looked for me at Osaka’s, the one who had supposedly discovered Atom’s body. What the hell was his name?

Kyle Schaup.

The koban is a couple of doors down from Fugetsu-Do. Two young Asian women, probably in high school or college, sit behind desks in the visitor center.

“Is Kyle around?” I ask.

“Kyle?” The one with a round face asks me.

“Kyle Schaup?”

“Oh, you mean Kiyoshi?” the narrow faced one chimes in. “He says that he prefers his Japanese name.”

“Named after his ojiichan,” round face adds.

Whatever, I think. Looks like these two girls are definitely crushing on Mr. Schaup. “What do you know about Kiyoshi?”

“He’s such a devoted volunteer. Works at the Department of Water and Power. His mother died recently. Overdosed on her medication,” thin face says.

“They say that it may have been intentional,” round face whispers.

“Oh, that’s awful.” I start to feel guilty. What skeletons in the closet am I opening?

My phone dings and I discover a text from Paige.

Found it!
Kiyoshi and Himiko Himitsu. And baby daughter, Katherine.

Oh my God, I think. Could this Kiyoshi be Kyle Schaup’s grandfather? Why would this wartime connection lead to murder in 2018?

I suddenly feel afraid and wish that I had brought my Glock with me. I thank the two women and head back to the parking lot. I need to talk this over with Grandma Toma and my parents. Somewhere safe outside of Little Tokyo.

I quickly feed my parking ticket into the machine and it responds in that strange robotic voice:

You owe two dollars. Place payment in the machine.

I pull out my wallet from my backpack and fumble around for my credit card. I feel someone’s presence behind me.

I turn around and there he is.

Kyle Kiyoshi Schaup.

Last chapter >>


© 2018 Naomi Hirahara

Ellie Rush fiction little tokyo mystery naomi hirahara

About this series

LAPD bicycle cop Ellie Rush, first introduced in Murder on Bamboo Lane (Berkley, 2014), returns in this special serial for Discover Nikkei.

Ellie, who has been on the force for two years, finds herself in the middle of a Little Tokyo murder case that may potentially involve the people she loves most—her family. Will she be able to connect the dots before the killer harms her aunt, the deputy chief of the LAPD? Where does Ellie’s allegiances fall—the truth or family loyalty?

Read Chapter One