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Death of an Origamist

Chapter Four—The Inner Circle

T-Rex, also known as Craig Buck, was dead. Sachi Yamane felt like she was going to collapse right there at the banquet table in front of their Star Wars origami centerpiece. How could that be? She had just spent an hour with the master origamist in his exclusive class in the hotel penthouse that same afternoon.

The whole banquet hall was atwitter with the announcement. It wasn’t an official announcement by the Left Coast Origami Convention organizer, Charles, but his 12-year-old origami savant son, Taku.

“Didn’t you see Mr. Buck today?” asked a woman seated across from Sachi at their table.

Sachi nodded. It was as if her voice had disappeared for a moment.

“How was he?”

“Did he seem sick?”

The table began peppering her with questions.

“He got a paper cut,” Sachi finally managed to say.

“Well, he’s not going to die from that.” Barbara Lu, Sachi’s friend and convention roommate, declared.

The table then resumed talking, each member offering their own theory about Craig Buck’s demise.

Sachi placed her hand on her stomach, which was being painfully squished by the pair of Spanx she was wearing to get into her little black dress. She was a fool to even think of dressing this way. Holding onto her purse, she got up. “Excuse me,” she said, making her way through the tables.

She finally found the table where T-Rex should have been seated. Taku, wearing a bow tie and tuxedo, was there, nonchalantly drinking a dark carbonated beverage with a bright cherry on top.

Sachi felt embarrassed approaching a child for more information, but T-Rex’s bodyguard, Kenji, was nowhere to be found. “Taku, what happened?” she asked, sliding in the seat next to him.

Before he could respond, a beautiful Asian woman in a stunning blue-green gown interceded. “Who are you?” she asked Sachi, not in an incriminating way, but a curious one. “I’m Taku’s mother, Olivia.”

“Oh, hello. I didn’t mean any harm,” Sachi said. “We were in the master class together.”

Olivia glanced at Sachi’s nametag, hanging around her neck with a lanyard. “Oh, Miss Yamane. Yes, I heard about you.”

Sachi didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing.

Olivia wrapped her thin, long fingers around Sachi’s thick wrist. “C’mon, come with us.”

Olivia took Sachi and Taku to a special elevator, which went straight to the penthouse where their master class was held.

She used her hotel key card to get into the room where they had met for the class. Before they could go further, a large figure blocked their way. Kenji, the bodyguard, whom Sachi had shared a drink in the bar right before the banquet.

“Ah—” Kenji gave Sachi a confused look.

“Don’t worry, she’s with us.” Olivia led Sachi into another room with couches and a large-screen TV. Taku immediately sunk into one of the couches and began folding little cubes out of small squares of origami paper.

Following his lead, Sachi joined him, comforted by the act of folding origami. “What is this for?” she asked him.


“Isn’t that a video game?” Sachi knew that much.

“I play with origami squares,” he told her, not bothering to look at her while he continued to fold.

Weird kid, Sachi thought to herself, but she was thankful that she had something to occupy her attention. Why had Taku’s mother brought her here? Sachi had been included in the inner circle and she wasn’t used to such access.

Someone knocked at the main door. Sharp, continuous raps.

The door was opened, most likely by Kenji. “I can’t believe it,” a high-pitched voice rang out. Sachi recognized the voice immediately. Holly West, the young origamist that seemed to have some sort of inappropriate relationship with T-Rex.

Holly, dressed in a figure-hugging short red dress, stumbled into the second room where Sachi was sitting with Taku and Olivia. Her nose, wet and swollen, was almost as red as her dress.

“What is she doing here?” Holly glared at Sachi. Her voice was accusatory, as if Sachi herself had killed T-Rex.

“She’s with us,” Olivia said in an even voice. She held a drink, and Sachi wished that she had one as well.

“Where’s your husband, anyway?” Olivia asked Holly, and then took a sip of her drink.

“He couldn’t make it.”

“He seems as though that he can never make these conventions. Especially the ones T-Rex seem to be attending.”

Holly grew silent for a moment. “What can I say? He’s not into origami.” She then let out a sob and stumbled back in the front room.

Olivia was obviously not done with Holly and followed her.

This is getting interesting, Sachi thought, and left Taku to his Minecraft folding to witness the excitement in the other room.

Kenji sat frozen at the large dining room table, staring at his phone as if it would provide him with answers to tonight’s debacle. Sachi felt so bad for him. Did she somehow contribute to his negligence of T-Rex? No, Kenji had already been in the bar when she had arrived.

Holly pulled out a tissue from her convention bag and loudly blew her nose. “The police wouldn’t let me stay in his room. It’s crawling with detectives and investigators from the coroner’s office.”

Sachi originally thought that T-Rex was staying in the penthouse, but seeing how Olivia and Taku moved in the space, she understood that these were their rooms.

“Where were you, Holly? I didn’t see you at the banquet,” Olivia asked.

Holly’s face turned a shade redder and this transformation wasn’t from crying. “I had spilled something on my dress and had to change,” she said. “I just stopped by Craig’s room because it was on the same floor.”

“So you were wearing something more appropriate than this. I mean, this is an origami convention, not a Mustang Ranch gathering.”

Holly’s mouth fell open and she reached for one of her pumps. She raised it to throw at Olivia but Kenji had stealthily removed it from her grip.

“You’re wretched, you know that,” Holly said to Olivia, grabbing her shoe back from Kenji. “That’s why Charles—”

Taku then entered the room, concentrating on his origami folding as he walked.

“Yes, you were saying, Holly?” Olivia scoffed.

Holly just shook her head, and hopped on one foot as she attempted to slip her shoe back on.

The door swung open again, this time revealing Charles, the convention organizer and Taku’s father, followed by Jag Griffin, an executive with T-Rex’s institute in New Mexico.

“The coroner took Craig’s body away,” Charles announced, mostly to Olivia. “We insisted that they do a full autopsy on him.”

“So what the hell happened, Kenji?” Jag, whose loosened tie resembled a noose around his neck, was on the offensive. “I thought that you were watching him. You were supposed to be with him 24-7.”

“I pretty much was.”

“Pretty much?”

Sachi looked down in her lap and avoided looking at Kenji.

“I did leave him for a half an hour as he was getting ready for the dinner.”

“Damn you. I told you to watch him. That’s what I hired you for.”

“He insisted, okay. What am I supposed to do? Go into the shower with him?”

“No, but you are supposed to stand by the door. To make sure no one gets in.”

“The only person who could get in is you. And maid service.”

Jag turned his attention to Holly. “And you, how did you get into his room?”

“The door was open. Held open by a trash can. I went in and found him on the floor. Foaming at the mouth.”

“I can’t believe this is happening.” Charles plopped down at a chair at the table and noticed Sachi for the first time. “Who is this person?”

“Oh, she’s nobody,” Jag declared. Sachi didn’t know whether to be insulted or relieved. “She was in the master class. A terrible folder.”

Now Sachi felt bad.

“I invited her here. I figured that she could reconstruct today’s course of events,” Olivia said, still holding her empty glass.

“We know what happened,” Jag said. “One of these corporate hit men finally got to Craig.” He then paused and turned to the bodyguard. “And by the way, Kenji. You’re fired.”

Chapter Five >>


© 2015 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