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Trouble on Temple Street: An Officer Ellie Rush Mystery

Chapter 12

He’s standing about a foot away from me. He holds his right hand behind his back. Could he have some sort of weapon?

My mind whirls. I don’t know how to play this. I decide to keep it casual, as if I don’t even suspect anything is askew. “Hi, Kyle. How have you been?”

“I heard that you were at the koban. Asking about me.” I try to create more space in between us, but Kyle’s not budging.

“Yeah, the LAPD is having a booth at Nisei Week, so I was wondering if maybe you can help out. Since you’re a volunteer with the koban and everything.” I tug at my cell phone in my back pocket, pressing down on the screen, hoping to unlock something. Maybe Siri can hear me? All I need to say is call 911.

Kyle frowns, lines deepening on his forehead. “Why would I help the police? After everything you all have done?”

Oh, oh. I’ve definitely set him off. I try to look beyond him to see if there’s anyone who I can flag for help. But all I see is a homeless man unrolling his sleeping bag on the ground.

I know from some of the hostage negotiation workshops I’ve sat in on, I can’t be angry. Instead I have to let Kyle know that he is being heard. Show empathy.

“Yeah, yeah,” I say. “Policing definitely has its problems.” And I’m not even lying about that.

“Your grandfather did nothing. Like Atom’s grandfather.”

Wait, what? Kyle’s not talking about police wrongdoings in general terms. But in very specific ones. And it’s not about the LAPD.

“You mean in Manzanar.”

“My grandmother needed help. But the camp police, the MPs, did nothing. They just covered it up, saying it was a family problem. I read all about it. In my grandmother’s journal.”

What were Kyle’s fellow volunteers at the koban saying? That his mother may have committed suicide recently?

“After my mom died, I found it. Got it translated. And everything became very clear. Why my mother was so tormented.”

“I’m so sorry,” I say and I mean it.

In spite of my attempt at sympathy, I know that I sound lame.

“Your apologies aren’t worth anything,” he says. “M.P. McDonnell and your grandfather could have done something. Stopped the beatings. The sins of the father are carried down to his children. That’s why I sacrificed Atom at the altar of Go for Broke.”

I silently curse. Kyle might be officially bonkers.

“And now I sacrifice you here on Judge Aiso Street.” Before he can move, I try to disable his right arm. A knife drops to the concrete floor and then he pushes me against the parking machine. Before I know it, we are both enveloped in a foul-smelling fluff of padding and I feel like almost throwing up. I try to get loose from it and finally fresh air! Kyle Schaup, on the other hand, is covered in the homeless man’s sleeping bag and held to the ground by utterly fabulous boots worn by my BFF, Nay Pram.

As Kyle tries to kick his way out of his stinky cocoon, Nay hands me some duct tape. With no time to ask questions, I wind it around his body with Nay and the homeless man’s help. It’s not pretty, but it works.

“So how did you find me?” I ask Nay after I call in the assault.

“You got on your phone and I knew that you were in trouble. I used my Find My iPhone App. You know that I have your Apple ID and password.”

Funny, I don’t remember ever giving it to Nay.

“And the duct tape?”

“Doesn’t any self-respecting L.A. woman have duct tape in her purse?”

Within a few minutes, Boyd and Azusa arrive in a black-and-white. They think it’s hilarious how I’ve practically mummified the suspect and proceed to take photos with their cell phones.

“Hey, hey, this is no joke,” Nay scolds then. “This is the guy who killed Atom McDonnell and he could have killed Ellie. I have it all recorded.” She lifts up her iPhone. Thank God for technology.

* * * * *

Afterwards, Nay and I end up where it all started. Osaka’s ramen house.

I order a beer after we sit at the counter. This time, instead of Sapporo, I order us a large bottle of an Okinawan beer, Orion.

While we are waiting, I get a couple of texts. One of them is from my Aunt Cheryl:


I guess Azusa and Boyd’s verbal report has already reached the top brass’s ears.

And then from Cortez:

I’m getting released tomorrow. Let’s celebrate.

I just hope Cortez’s heart is in good shape, because I have a pretty good idea what his idea of celebration is.

Nay and I pick at the boiled edamame placed in front of us. “I have to give that guy credit. The way he looked for you that night and then pretended that he was a fan boy of Atom McDonnell. I would have no idea that he was the one who killed him.”

I figure that Kyle bought a pancake from the food truck and then followed Atom. The pancake was probably just ruse for him to get close enough to stab him.

“It sounds like your granddad maybe didn’t handle this domestic violence case too well,” Nay says, after sucking on the skin of a soy bean.

“What was he going to do? It was the 1940s and they were behind barbed wire in a desert.” I am trying to justify the authorities’ inaction but deep down inside I know Nay was right.

“Sad thing is that it happened, what, maybe seventy years ago, and it still seems to have had an impact on the next generations.”

I nod my head as the waiter brings us an ice-cold large bottle of Orion and two glasses. I carefully pour the beer so that the foam doesn’t get too deep and hand a glass to Nay.

She makes a toast on the fly. “Here’s to the past staying in the past.”

“You know that it’s not that simple.”

“Okay, how about this then—that we have the strength to face the past so it doesn’t mess up our present.”

I raise my glass. That I can definitely drink to.



© 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