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Death of an Origamist

Chapter Eleven—Making Connections

“Here, drink.”

Sachi’s hands were shaking. She was afraid that she would drop the water bottle and splash all over the paramedics’ blanket wrapped around her. But she was grateful to get some liquid in her to remove the taste of vomit from her mouth.

Of all people to come to her side, Jag Griffin was the last person she expected. Yet here he was, his hair a bit in disarray, a smashed shag rug.

She took a swig and then spit out the water onto the floor of the parking lot, almost wetting Jag’s expensive wingtips. “Sorry,” she weakly offered.

“No worries. After almost being killed by a stray bullet, I consider that a baptism for a new life.”

“What happened?” Sachi asked, wondering if she really wanted to know. The last thing she remembered was Joan Ellis with her husband’s .22, pointing it at her inside of the van.

“Well, nobody got hurt. This time.” He gestured to the van, which was surrounded by Orange County investigators. There was a bullet hole in one of the back doors. “You’re lucky to be alive. And I am too. Kenji was the one who ordered the cops to hold their fire.”

“Kenji, but what authority—”

“None. He just made a fool of himself, jumping in their way. Good thing this was the OC and not LAPD. He would have been Swiss cheese, for sure.”

“So what happened to Mrs. Ellis?”

“The police arrested her. She had no idea how to handle a firearm. After she let that first bullet go, she threw the gun out of the van.”

“I just don’t remember…”

“Olivia wanted to make sure that you were okay. She’s with Taku right now.”

“But why would she care? Or any of you? I’m the reason why Craig Buck is dead.”

“No, that madwoman is the reason he’s dead. It’s nothing you did.”

Sachi wondered if that was true. Maybe she could have been more compassionate towards Mrs. Ellis when her son died in the ER. Maybe she should have sent a social worker in immediately. But there had been a food poisoning case at a local nursing home at that time, and all the nurses were running around, wheeling in patients into hallways and any kind of open space.

“I can’t believe that you’re being so kind to me,” Sachi said, then taking a full sip of water.

“Look, the origami world—yeah, we may bicker and fight, but when you get right down to it, we are family.”

“But you and Olivia—”

“Oh, yeah, I still can’t stand her. But I can’t deny that she and Kenji are the ones who put Craig on the map.”

Sachi frowned. “What do you mean?”

“You mean Kenji didn’t tell you? They are the ghost writers behind Fold Anew.”

“But he’s a bodyguard.”

“C’mon, I know that he’s tall for a Japanese, but do you think that he could hurt a fly? Nah, he was on the payroll for his writing and research skills.”

Sachi couldn’t believe what she was hearing. You mean the words that had initially mesmerized Sachi came from the mind and heart of Kenji?

“They were working together on the new book. Tough deadline. Kenji even had to move in with Olivia’s family to finish the project. Then they were having creative difficulties. In the end, Craig chose Kenji as his main writer. He was the one with the best ideas, anyway. A true believer in starting over and all that crap.”

“I didn’t know that there’s another book.”

“Well, there’s not now. Not with Craig dead and all of this.”

Both of them remained silent for a moment as they watched the detectives go back and forth from the open van. How did all of this happen at an origami convention?

“Sachi, oh my gosh, are you okay?” Olivia, still managing to look gorgeous even under the circumstances, almost floated into view. Clinging to her hand was the 12-year-old Taku, who was sucking his thumb.

“Well, I guess this is my cue to leave,” Jag said. “I would say that it’s been a pleasure, but…”

It hadn’t been, thought Sachi. Aside from the past few minutes. She raised the water bottle in thanks as he left.

Olivia, meanwhile, was chiding Taku for sucking his thumb, but Sachi stopped her. “He’s been through enough, don’t you think?” She then rummaged through her bag that was left beside her in the ambulance and found a fresh package of origami. Taku’s eyes instantly glimmered. He took the paper and was on his way to folding another spectacular creation.

“I’m an awful mother,” Olivia murmured.

Sachi refused to join the beautiful woman’s pity party. “Why didn’t you tell me that you were co-writing Mr. Buck’s books with Kenji?”

Olivia twisted a strand of her silky black hair around her index finger. “It was a secret. I mean, we couldn’t let the whole origami community know.”

“I’m not the whole community. I thought we were becoming friends.”

“We were. We are.” Olivia reached out to stroke Sachi’s shoulder.

“Yeah, right. Then why were you and Kenji talking about me?”

Olivia’s face was blank. “What?”

“Your son told me. That Kenji was telling you that I was smarter than I seemed. And that you need to be careful.”

“Oh, oh, that.” Olivia pursed her lips. “That’s what Kenji said after he first met you. You know, after the debacle with the Grim Reaper. I think that he said something like, ‘Those are the women you have to watch out for,’ or something like that. I have to admit that I was intrigued.”

“Is that why you wanted to be friends with me? Because you were intrigued?” Sachi didn’t want to be anybody’s pet project.

“Sachi. Sachi. Where are you?” A familiar voice emanated from her jeans pocket.

“I think that your pants are talking to you,” Taku commented in mid-fold.

Her phone! Had Leslie been on speaker this whole time? Sachi pulled her phone out to see the name, Leslie, on her screen.

“Les!” Sachi practically yelled into her phone’s speaker. “I’m okay, Les. I’m in the hotel parking lot.”

“Yup, I can see you. I’m right here.”

Sachi looked up and there was her BFF in her SpongeBob SquarePants scrubs, standing next to a parking lot column with her cell phone pressed to her ear. Here was a friend, a real friend. Someone she could really count on.

Read Chapter Twelve >>


Congratulations to J.Fucik, the winner of the Death of an Origamist contest! She will be receiving a signed copy of Naomi Hirahara’s latest mystery novel, Sayonara Slam. No one correctly guessed the identity of the killer, so J.Fucik was randomly chosen out of all those who submitted entries. Thank you to everyone who participated!


© 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