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Death of an Origamist

Chapter Eight—Personal Matters

Jag Griffin sputtered like a malfunctioning garden hose. “Old lady, are you saying that I killed Craig Buck? You seemed incompetent before, but now I see that you’re delusional.” There were several of them in the hotel lobby, facing the two Orange County detectives.

Jag continued to unleash a slew of insults Sachi’s way, but the one that stung was his first one. Old lady. Sachi was 61 years and seven months old. Yes, almost eligible for Social Security, but certainly not an old lady.

“She’s right.” Kenji stepped in. Sachi couldn’t help but to notice how Kenji’s toned arms filled out his green sweater. “Mr. Griffin was the one who distributed the origami at the elite session.”

Sachi explained herself to the detectives. “We’re not saying that Jag did anything wrong.”

“You better believe I did nothing wrong. That origami was from Craig’s personal stash.”

“And that was brought from his home in New Mexico?” The red-headed detective, Flanagan, asked, her pen resting on her notebook.

“What are you insinuating?” Now Helena had joined Team Defensive. In addition to being Craig Buck’s wife, she was Jay’s sister. They had a similar way of extending their lip when they were upset.

We are insinuating that you may have killed your husband because he was having an affair with Olivia, thought Sachi. Olivia was standing beside Sachi, furiously biting her nails. So that was why her manicure was such in bad shape. Before today, the gorgeous Olivia had seemed so calm and collected, but now she seemed to be tormented. Something in her hobo purse dinged, and Olivia dug out her cell phone and glanced at the screen. “My assistant Beatrice needs some help. Another convention emergency.”

“Not another dead body?” The other detective asked. He seemed proud of himself, like he had told a joke. Nobody laughed.

“May I be excused, detectives?” Olivia directed her question at Flanagan.

“We’ll need your contact information.”

“Don’t you have it already? It should be all over my husband’s cell phone.” Helena wasn’t going to hold back. They all could almost taste the bad feelings between wife and mistress.

Olivia’s dark eyes thinned into slits. She was pissed, alright, Sachi noticed. But Olivia had the good sense to put a lid on her animosity. This was a homicide investigation, after all, and all of them—Olivia, Helena, Jag, and even Kenji and Sachi—were all suspects. She handed over her personal card to Flanagan and left.

“I actually have the piece of origami that Mr. Buck cut himself on,” Sachi then announced to the rest of the group.

Detective Flanagan seemed excited to hear about the status of the origami paper. Sachi wondered exactly how many homicides there were in Anaheim.

“It’s in my hotel room. It’s folded into a Grim Reaper.”

The male detective frowned. “Grim Reaper. Some foreshadowing, huh?” Noticing the blank look on people’s faces, Detective Hansen added, “I was an English major in community college. Can’t help myself with the literary allusions.”

Sachi was now certain that there weren’t that many murders under these two detectives’ watch. “I can take you there now, if you like.”

“Yes, that would be great. You have some evidence bags, right, Hansen? We’ll take it to get tested for the Botulinum toxin.”

The three of them headed toward the elevator, with Kenji trailing close behind.

“Where do you think that you are going?” Jag called out to Kenji.

“She’s my friend,” Kenji replied. “This is personal. And none of your business.”

Sachi kept walking forward, her cheeks flushed. Personal? When was the last time a man had said that about her?

* * * * *

When they entered Sachi’s hotel room, her roommate, Barbara, was in the middle of packing her suitcase, which was propped open on the bed. She literally jumped to see the two detectives behind Sachi.

“What’s going on?” Barbara asked.

Sachi went straight to the desk in their room. “What happened to the Grim Reaper?” The surface was clear, aside from a wet Pepsi can.

“Oh, that. I threw it away.”

“You what?”

“It was giving me the creeps. It reminded me of Mr. Buck, dead.”

“That wasn’t yours to throw away.”

Kenji quickly looked into the trash can beside the desk.

“The maid took away the trash,” Barbara said, not sounding remorseful at all.

Kenji headed out of the room and Sachi knew that he would be in search of the maid and her cart on their floor.

“What now?” Detective Hansen asked his partner.

Sachi went into her convention bag to see if there was anything there from her origami session with Craig Buck. “Oh, wait a minute. I have this. It’s the tissue that I used to wipe Mr. Buck’s blood.” Sachi knew enough about forensic evidence not to touch the tissue sprinkled with blood. She opened the bag wide for the detectives to see.

Detective Hansen wrinkled his nose.

“Get the evidence bag,” Flanagan ordered.

Hansen removed a bag and blue gloves from his pocket and began the evidence collection.

Flanagan got on the phone while Barbara went into the bathroom, making a racket as she seemed to be literally throwing things against the tile floor. Sachi had no place to go. She stood there, her arms helplessly at her side.

The red-headed detective finally clicked off her phone. “Listen, we need you to hang around at least another night,” she told Sachi.

“But the convention is ending. I just live in the area in Los Angeles County. Home is not that far.”

“No, it’s better if you stay here in the hotel for now. Like the rest of the convention principals.”

Barbara had returned to the room with her patterned bag holding her toiletries. “But she’s not a principal,” Barbara said. “She’s nothing. Just a regular origamist. And not the most original one, either.”

Sachi couldn’t believe the meanness spouting from Barbara’s mouth. She thought they were friends, at least nominal origami buddies. Barbara was obviously upset that Sachi hadn’t spent much time with her this convention. And then Barbara seemed to be having financial problems—perhaps that could explain her anger directed at Sachi?

Flanagan didn’t respond at all to Barbara’s insults. In fact, she didn’t even seem to acknowledge Barbara’s existence at all. Barbara herself had become a nothing. “We’ll have to turn in these tissues to the lab. See if he had any signs of the Botox poisoning that early in the day.”

The two detectives, the bagged bloody tissues in hand, then left the hotel room, leaving Sachi awkwardly alone with her roommate.

Sachi didn’t like conflict, but she couldn’t leave things like this without saying something. “I don’t know what I’ve done to offend you—”

“Oh stop it.” Barbara practically sneered. “This whole conference, all you have been after is attention.”

Sachi couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She was the last person who wanted to be in the middle of anything. When her husband was living, she had been content to lead a quiet, yes, sometimes boring day-to-day existence with him. But now that he was gone, Sachi felt herself to be unanchored, unmoored. Had she drifted from being behind the scenes to center stage? And to be honest, with all the interest from the beautiful Olivia to the steaming-hot Kenji, it hadn’t been all bad.

“I’m just happy that this conference is over and that I’m getting away from you,” Barbara said after zipping her suitcase closed. “I’ve had it with origami. I’m going all in with coloring books now!”

Chapter Nine >>


© 2016 Naomi Hiarahara

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