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Death of an Origamist

Chapter Five—Chicken McNuggets Confidential

Sachi Yamane didn’t know what it was like to be fired. She had snagged her job at Los Angeles County General Hospital after she had finished nursing school. That had been almost forty years ago and she had stayed in its ER ever since.

For Kenji the bodyguard to be fired in front of her was uncomfortable. Disturbing even, because she somehow felt responsible.

She got up from one of the penthouse overstuffed chairs and followed him out the double doors into the hotel hallway.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, pulling at the hem of her silly little black dress she had bought from Nordstrom Rack. This was the first time for her to wear the dress and she had discovered that her filmy Spanx caused the dress to ride up. “Maybe if we weren’t having drinks at the bar—”

“It wasn’t your fault. It was that damn Jag. Just trying to cover up his own tracks.” Kenji strode to the elevator and Sachi practically jogged in her high heels to catch up.

He poked the elevator button with his thick index finger.

“What do you mean? Cover his tracks?” Sachi then lowered her voice. “Do you think that he did it?”

The elevator dinged and opened. Kenji entered and looked back at Sachi. “Well, are you coming?”


They went to the fifth floor, where Kenji’s room was. Sachi frankly wasn’t sure why she was accompanying him, but the day had been strange already. She hadn’t been alone with a man since her husband, Scott, had passed away. It felt good to have a rugged and nice-smelling man at her side.

The door of one room was marked with yellow-crime tape.

“Mr. Buck’s?”

Kenji nodded. Sachi started to feel ill. To think that the origami master had died behind that door.

Kenji placed his key card in the door next to Craig Buck’s room. It made sense that he had an adjacent room as he was supposed to be there to protect him.

As Kenji and Sachi entered the room, the bodyguard placed an extended finger on his lips.

Sachi frowned. Why did she have to be quiet? Was someone else in the room?

Kenji knelt down by his bed and pulled something from underneath it. A safe? Wasn’t the hotel safe sufficient, Sachi thought. Kenji turned the combination lock, removed some manila folders and a thumb drive and stuffed it in a convention bag.

With the convention bag in hand, he then guided Sachi by the elbow out the door.

“Where are we going?” she asked when they were in the elevator. Kenji pressed the ground floor button.

“Anywhere,” he said. “Anywhere they can’t hear us.”


They sat at a McDonald’s across the street from the hotel. Not exactly a romantic ambiance. A child in the next booth kept crying—maybe from Disneyland overload—while a group of teenagers giggled as they swiped their cell phones. Sachi hadn’t had a chance to eat at the banquet, so she opted for some Chicken McNuggets, while Kenji ordered a cup of coffee and drank it black.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Sachi wiped her finger of some barbecue dipping sauce on a napkin.

“Mr. Buck was planning on breaking away from his origami institute in New Mexico. He was starting a new venture. With government funding.” Kenji’s eyes darted back and forth, absorbing every corner of the well-lit fast food restaurant.

“Government? Why would the government be interested in origami?”

“How something so complex can be created with a flat sheet of paper? Make that a piece of metal. The construction possibilities could be endless.”

“I don’t get it. Do you mean fabrication of something, like a plane?”

“Or maybe a missile.”

Sachi almost turned over her container of Chicken McNuggets on her tray. “Are you talking weapons?”

“I think that our enemies are already looking into it.”

Sachi didn’t want to ask who their enemies were. She just came to the origami convention to fold hearts and adopt a new perspective on life. This kind of perspective, she didn’t need.

“The first night in the hotel, we found Mr. Buck’s room bugged,” Kenji reported.

“I guess you’re not talking cockroaches.”

“No, electronic devices in the light fixtures.”

“That’s crazy,” Sachi said. “And you’re saying they were placed there by our enemies?”

“No, someone closer to home. Jag Griffin. He’s been out of his mind to figure out what’s going on. He suspects something, that’s for sure. Jag and Mr. Buck started the origami institute together. Mr. Buck was the brains and the talent; Jag, the businessman. But Mr. Buck soon figured out that Jag was not a benefit, but a liability.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Sachi had just shared a beer with Kenji at the bar. Before then she barely knew his first name. She still didn’t know his last.

“Because I need your help. I’ve checked you out. Full name, Sachiko Yamane, sixty-one. Worked as an emergency nurse at Los Angeles County General Hospital since the Seventies. Widowed. Was married thirty years. No children. Two cats.”

“I suppose that you know my weight and height, too.”

Before Kenji could say more, Sachi stopped him. “No, that would not be necessary.”

“We checked out every person who was selected for Mr. Buck’s special session. We couldn’t take any chances.”

“Have you gone to the police with this information?”

Kenji shook his head. “They will just mess everything up. It is beyond your average detective in the OC. The feds will get involved, I’m sure. I’ll be talking to them when they come on board.”

“Well, why do you need me?”

“With Mr. Buck dead, Jag can sweep me aside. He can try to get into Mr. Buck’s personal papers and e-mails now to find more information. But I have that right here.” He patted the convention bag that was still around his arm.

“Well, make sure that you don’t leave that bag anywhere, because there are about two hundred bags just like it.”

“Don’t worry about that.” Kenji took another sip of his coffee. He had a broad, strong jaw. A jaw that could take a punch. Or a kiss.

Sachi shook away any amorous notions she had. Why was she being so foolish? Maybe the Spanx had cut off blood to her brain. “But you still haven’t told me how I’m supposed to help you.”

“Well, Olivia, for some reason, has hand-picked you to be her newest best buddy.”

The beautiful, statuesque Olivia, the wife of the convention organizer, Charles, and mother of Taku, the origami savant. Sachi had no idea why Olivia had been so welcoming to her.

“Olivia,” Kenji continued, “is, or was, having an affair with Mr. Buck.”

“No,” Sachi said. “I thought Holly West was.”

“Holly, she may think she was. That was only a flirtation. A plaything. Mr. Buck doesn’t go after women who he thinks that he can have.” He finished the rest of his coffee. “Olivia knows more than she’s telling—either to us or the police. I need you to find out exactly what she knows.”

Chapter Six >>


© 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