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Death of an Origamist

Chapter Six—The Other Woman

Sachi was always a bit intimidated by beautiful women, especially Asian ones. She herself ranked about a 5 in appearance, maybe a 6 when she was in her late twenties and playing in a volleyball league. She had daikon ashi, white radish-shaped legs that were good for squatting to set a ball, but not so good in jeans—either skinny or bell bottoms.

Olivia was definitely in the realm of a 10. Or maybe even more. She must have been in her forties, but her skin was absolutely flawless—not a stray freckle or age spot in sight. Her long black hair was still glossy and her figure lean and taut.

So when her new friend, Kenji the bodyguard, told Sachi to hang out with Olivia to find out her secrets, Sachi was a bit reluctant. First of all, she had no clue how to hang out with a beautiful person. What did they do? Consult the mirror 24-7 to make sure that their lipstick was on right? Take selfies on their phone every ten minutes?

“She likes you already,” Kenji tried to reassure Sachi. “You won’t have to do much to get her attention.”

But that’s precisely what made Sachi suspicious. Why did Olivia show an immediate interest in her? She mulled over this as she headed back to her hotel room. Unfortunately, her roommate, Barbara Lu, was still up, so it meant that Sachi had to make small talk with her.

“Where have you been? You just disappeared after Taku announced that Mr. Buck was dead.” Barbara had a white moisturizing mask over her round face. Taku, an origami savant, was Olivia’s 12-year-old son.

Sachi didn’t want to get into her encounters with Olivia and Jag Griffin, Mr. Buck’s former partner. According to Kenji, Jag didn’t have Buck’s best interest at heart. And Olivia? She was rumored to be having an affair with Buck before his untimely demise.

“Ah, I wasn’t feeling well. It might have been something I ate earlier in the day,” Sachi lied.

“You’re probably stressed out. We all are. A lot of people are leaving the convention. They say that this convention is cursed.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Well, if Craig Buck is gone, then what’s the point? Every person is here because of him.”

Sachi herself had signed up for the Left Coast Origami Convention to see the master origamist and to receive some pearls of wisdom about the renewal of life. That certainly wouldn’t be happening now.

“Are you leaving then?” Sachi asked Barbara.

“No. I mean, I paid for everything. I might as well get my money’s worth.” Barbara, still in her night mask, got into her bed. “Maybe after a good night’s sleep, we’ll all feel better.”

As it turned out, Sachi didn’t get a good night’s sleep and she didn’t feel better. She wasn’t naïve about the world, but to see evil seep into her fun pastime bothered her. Wasn’t there any escape from the realities of life?

“Not coming down for breakfast?” Barbara asked the next morning.

Sachi shook her head. She had taken a shower late last night and stayed in bed. At least she smelled okay.

A few minutes after Barbara left, someone knocked on the door. Barbara must have left her room key card behind, Sachi thought, sliding out of the bed and opening the door.

It was Olivia, looking fresh and flawless as ever. But on closer inspection, Sachi noticed something funny about Olivia’s eyes.

“You have a car here?” Olivia said, not evening bothering to say good morning.

Sachi nodded.

“Let’s get out of here.”

Sachi quickly changed in the bathroom into some jeans and a T-shirt. She glanced at her face in the mirror. Nothing could transform the frizzy hair and the chubby jowls. At least some lip gloss would prove that she wasn’t dead yet. They took the elevator down to the lobby and went outside to wait for Sachi’s car.

“So where are we going?” Sachi asked when the hotel valet drove up with her Nissan Maxima.

“Downtown Disney maybe. It’s supposed to be the happiest place in the world, right?”

Sachi wasn’t sure what would be open at the shopping mall at this time, but a couple of restaurants must be offering breakfast or brunch.

“You’re an emergency room nurse,” Olivia stated, catching Sachi off-guard.

“Your parking pass,” Olivia pointed to the USC County Hospital pass hanging from the Nissan’s rearview mirror. “Plus your registration form. Beatrice and I handled all that information.”


“She’s the one who’s manning the registration desk. She’s a godsend. Came out of nowhere to volunteer to help us.”

Sachi pictured the woman with cotton candy hair. “You must do something more than just manage databases for origami conventions.”

“Well, I’m a mother. Taku is a very special boy as you know. He’s actually on the spectrum.”

“And your husband? He has a day job, doesn’t he?”

“Charles? Oh, we’re not married, but we do live together. Same house, different bedrooms. His family in the UK is blessed financially. Other than helping to organize these conventions, he hasn’t had to work a day in his life.” Olivia’s voice had a cutting edge to it. She obvious didn’t respect Charles’s lack of a work ethic.

Sachi didn’t know what to make of Olivia and Charles’ lifestyle. Her own mother had worked as a beautician for her entire adult life, and her father had been employed by a grocery store for decades. And after nursing school, Sachi started immediately working in the ER. The three of them and Sachi’s brother, a car mechanic, were all used to being on their feet at least forty hours a week. To not have to report to work, not to face ill-tempered customers and patients seemed like a godsend. But then what would Sachi do all day? There was only so much origami she could fold.

The parking lot was almost empty; it was too early for the crowds to descend. Sachi parked the car and waited for Olivia to get out from the passenger’s seat. But she stayed put. Her long, slender fingers covered her eyes and then a guttural sound like a dinosaur’s cry came out of her mouth.

Working in the emergency room, Sachi had witnessed all different kinds of responses to losses and pain. But to see Olivia’s transformation from a cool cucumber to a wailing beast was definitely a first.

Sachi kept a box of tissues in the car and turned to her back seat to retrieve it. She knew enough not to say anything or try to touch Olivia. To do that was a sign that Olivia should stop crying. And sadness was like a bacteria. There was no antibiotic that would be effective. You just needed to allow it to run its course.

“I’m so sorry to be like this.” Olivia finally removed her hands from her face and pulled out a tissue. Tears ran down from her face like rain drops. No smeared eye makeup, no red nose. Olivia remained beautiful even in grief. “But how could he be gone? We were soul mates.”

Kenji had been right, Sachi thought. Olivia and Craig Buck had been lovers.

“He was going to leave his wife and we were going to be together.”

“Did Charles know that?”

“He didn’t care. As long as he didn’t lose touch with Taku, and I would never let that happen. The only person who really opposed our relationship was Jag.”


“Craig is married to Jag’s sister, Helena. She hates this whole origami scene. She thinks it’s juvenile. She’s a psychotherapist.”

“Does she know about you and Mr. Buck?”

“She must have suspected. I don’t think Jag ever mentioned anything to her, though. He wanted them to stay together. But he’s gone to pick her up from the airport right now. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I see her, Sachi. You have to help me.”

Chapter Seven >>


© 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