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Death of an Origamist

Chapter Seven—I Spy—You

Sachi never saw herself as an undercover agent type, but she definitely had to always chip away at the truth. She had been an emergency room nurse her whole professional life. Her job was to quickly size up a situation and to ask the right questions—“what did he eat today?” to the frantic mother with the vomiting child; “are you sure you’re not pregnant?” to the teenager who fainted in class; “did your husband drive you to the hospital?” to the middle-aged woman with the black eye.

Now someone, a man who stood six feet and smelled good, had asked her to be a spy. And to make it even more complicated, it was to track a woman who was asking her for her help. They sat across from each other at a fake New Orleans eatery at Downtown Disney.

“I don’t know what I’m going to say when I see Helena.” Olivia’s cheeks were flushed, giving her a beautiful glow. Guilt never looked this good. “Give her my condolences and give her a hug or a kiss on the cheek?”

“Do you think that she suspects?” Sachi took a sip of her water.

“She can’t. We’ve been so careful. Or we were.” Olivia bit her lip.

Sachi was old-fashioned; she couldn’t help it. She had taken care of her husband on his deathbed. Especially after that, she couldn’t imagine cheating on him. She tried to remove the judgment from her face. Her job, according to Kenji the bodyguard, was to find out if Olivia had killed Craig Buck, Olivia’s lover and Helena’s husband.

“Where has the wife been this whole time?” Sachi asked.

“Back in Santa Fe. Craig told me that she was working. She has her own counseling practice there.” Olivia then again covered her face with her long fingers. Sachi noticed for the first time that Olivia’s fingernails were chipped. Otherwise, her appearance was completely flawless. What had she been doing?

Sachi extended her hand and squeezed Olivia’s arm. “It’ll be okay.”

“I’m so grateful that you are here at this convention,” Olivia said. “I don’t know what I would do without you.”

* * * * *

Driving back to the hotel, Sachi was feeling some guilt of her own. She was such a fraud. Why had she agreed to spy on Olivia? Sachi wasn’t cut out for this kind of assignment. As soon as she was able, she would tell Kenji thanks, but no thanks. It was time for her to leave sleuthing and go home.

Her cell phone dinged and she snuck a look at the screen. A text from Kenji.

Olivia’s missing. Do you know where she is?

“Anything important?” Olivia asked from the passenger seat.

“Ah, no. Just my roommate. Wants to know if she should bring a muffin from the breakfast buffet.”

“Barbara Lu, right?”

Sachi was surprised that Olivia had remembered Barbara’s name. There were hundreds of people at this origami convention.

“Yes, she gave us some problems at our last convention.”

Sachi frowned. That was news to her.

“Her check for registration bounced. And then her credit card transaction was declined. She’s filed for bankruptcy, you know. This time we had to insist that she pay for the convention via cashier’s check.” Olivia noted the expression on Sachi’s face. “So you didn’t know of Barbara’s money problems?”

Sachi shook her head. Is that why Barbara had contacted Sachi before the convention to see if they could room together? Everything up to now had been on Sachi’s credit card. Would Barbara be in a position to pay her share? Sachi didn’t need one more problem to weigh on her. The origami master, Craig Buck, was dead; her friend, an orderly at the hospital, had fallen gravely ill; and now she had been drawn into an investigation of Mr. Buck’s death. It was too much. Maybe it was time to cut out of the origami convention early. She could use the extra time-off to soak in her bathtub and later watch Hallmark movies on her computer. Pretend that none of this had actually happened.

As she parked the car in front of the hotel valet station, she murmured out loud, “I may have to have leave the convention early.”

Olivia must have had excellent hearing, because she immediately reacted. “What? You can’t leave, Sachi. You have to be with me at all times. You’re my buffer with Helena.”

This is your problem. Not mine, Sachi thought. As she handed over the key to the valet, her mind was made up. As soon as she could pack, she would check herself out and be in the car back home.

“Where the hell have you two been?” someone immediately greeted them at the front door of the hotel.

“Well, good morning to you, too, Jag.” Olivia’s face had completely transformed. The tears that had been shed during breakfast had completely dried and the mask was in place.

Sachi quickly surveyed the group of people standing in the hotel lobby. Kenji the bodyguard (looking quite handsome in a green sweater—was it cashmere?), a man in a suit, and two women. One of the women, a redhead, looked in her twenties, while the other was probably about a decade older.

“What’s up?” Sachi tried to keep her voice as steady as possible as she greeted Kenji. What kind of cologne was he wearing today?

“Oh, Helena.” Olivia’s voice softened as she approached the woman in her thirties.

“Don’t ‘oh, Helena’ me, Olivia,” Helena said. She wore her brown hair long and straight and Sachi detected a few strands of grey. “I know what you’ve been up to with Craig. Detectives, this is the woman who killed my husband.” She then pointed squarely at Olivia.

Detectives? The redhead then introduced herself as Detective Flanagan, while the older man was Detective Hansen.

“I don’t understand. What’s going on?” Olivia asked.

“Craig was killed. He didn’t die of natural causes. The OC coroner’s office found Botulinum toxin in his system,” Kenji announced.

“I didn’t know that Craig did Botox,” Olivia said.

“He didn’t. But you obviously have had help in that department.” Helena wasn’t holding anything back.

“This wasn’t from a routine Botox injection. It was in his blood stream. Someone obviously was attempting to kill Mr. Buck. And succeeded,” Detective Hansen said.

“I would have no reason to kill Craig.” Olivia jutted out her defined chin. “I loved him. He was going to leave you, Helena.”

“He wasn’t going to leave me.” Helena’s arms were crossed and her whole body seemed stiff as she was preparing to face an opposing force. “Who do you think was paying for the whole origami institute in Santa Fe? It was my family’s money.”

“Our money,” Jag added.

“Yes, the Griffin family trust,” Helena corrected herself.

“But his books. Folding Anew.” Sachi couldn’t help but mention Buck’s books that had become so meaningful to her after her husband’s death.

Folding Anew’s been out for a year. Sold about ten thousand copies. No New York Times bestseller, that’s for sure.” Helena practically snarled.

“His advance maybe covered two months’ rent of the institute,” Jag added.

Sachi’s heart sagged further. Craig Buck’s work had been an inspiration. And to think that his wife and brother-in-law thought so dimly of it made Sachi sadder than ever. Mr. Buck might have been a philanderer, but his work had been important.

“The origami paper,” Sachi then called out.

“What?” Detective Flanagan asked.

“Mr. Buck cut himself on the paper during our special afternoon folding session.”

“When was this?” Detective Hansen took out a small notebook.

“A few hours before he passed away,” Kenji said.

The two detectives exchanged glances. The redheaded one followed up with the question, “Who provided the paper?”

“Mr. Griffin,” Sachi said, remembering. “Wasn’t it you?”

Chapter Eight >>


© 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