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Killer Roll

Chapter Eight — Try Tamago

I wait for Crowe to threaten to publicly expose my lies. I picture being kicked out of the dorm and being on the front page of the Stanford Daily: middle-aged Japanese sushi chef impersonating a graduate student. 

Anago feast,” he says, sharpening his kitchen knife with a steel rod.

“Excuse me?” I find a wire-mesh strainer and pour my broth into a plastic container. I’ll use the dashi for another purpose.

“You mean that you prepared an anago feast for another customer besides me?”

I blink and focus on his hazel eyes. The hair is different but the face is the same. My phone dings but I ignore it.

It must have been two years ago when I was still with Kurt. This man had come in the sushi bar and requested that I devise a special menu for his wife for their anniversary. She was crazy for eel. “I don’t care about how it costs,” he said. Instead of unagi, sea eel, I suggested anago, or fresh-water eel, a more sustainable option.

I remember thinking how romantic it was, and how lucky his companion must be. She was slender and lithe—possibly a dancer in her youth with curly auburn hair that fell to her shoulders.

She oohed and aahed at everything I created: hone-senbei, fried eel bones that crunched like rice crackers; soup with bits of anago; and, of course, sushi with anago grilled with a sweet teriyaki sauce.

“She was a delightful woman,” I say, placing my homemade broth on the bottom shelf of the expansive refrigerator. “How is she doing?” More dings on my phone.

“She died six months ago. Breast cancer.”

I’m so shocked that I can’t speak for a moment. His wife looked so vibrant just two years ago.

He can read my mind. “It happened quickly. At least she wasn’t in pain too long.”

“I’m so sorry,” I say and tears well in my eyes. “I just lost my husband. Well, my ex-husband.”

He stops his sharpening and bends his head to listen more carefully.

“I mean, it’s not the same. We’ve been divorced and I haven’t even seen him for months—”

Crowe looks at me and then I burst into tears.

* * * * *

He makes both of us jasmine green tea and the jasmine envelops my sinuses and manages to calm me down. I don’t want to tell him too much because this whole situation with Kurt is so complicated and yes, potentially dangerous.

“It was quite sudden,” I say. “Pretty shocking.” I don’t offer anything more.

A burst of blonde enters the open kitchen. “I’ve been looking for you,” Carrie says to me. “I’ve been texting you for the past hour.” She suspiciously takes in the scene of us two drinking steaming cups of tea together. “Am I interrupting something?”

“Ah, nothing,” I get up and dig my phone out of my purse. Sure enough, five text messages. “I better go.”

“She has to go,” Carrie practically pushes me out of the kitchen.

“Thank you for the tea,” I call out, dangling my Whole Foods bag off my shoulder.

Once we are in the hallway, I tell Carrie, “I have a lot to tell you.”

“I bet you do.” A little too much sarcasm for my taste, but I let it pass.

Carrie’s phone rings. “Som is Facetiming us,” she says and angles the screen towards me so we both can see.

Som’s head takes up most of the screen. He has a shock of black hair that is better groomed than usual. “I got the job,” he announces.

“What job?” Som has been working as a bus boy for Yudai’s Corner ever since I’ve been a sushi chef there.

“Great,” Carrie exclaims.“He got into Oxford Strategies.”

“I’ll be doing data entry. Typing 75 words a minute came in handy. I start tomorrow.”

“You can’t work there, Som. It’s dangerous. Someone may know that we are connected.”

“Sometimes you have to be in the lion’s mouth to find out what’s going on.”

That’s what I’m afraid of—and that this lion will bite Som’s head off.

“Yudai’s going to give him some time off for this undercover work,” Carrie explains.

I can’t believe that Yudai would sacrifice the smooth operation of his business to help me.

“My younger brother will be working in my place. Don’t get too used to him, because I’m coming back.”

“You better,” I say. Yudai’s Corner wouldn’t be the same without Som’s frenetic energy.

As he clicks off, we enter Carrie’s dorm room. She’s been sleeping in the loft, leaving me the futon on the floor.

We both crash on top of the futon. “So what was going on between you and Crowe?”

“Nothing. We were just talking about food.” A bit of a white lie, but there’s enough truth in it for me not to feel too guilty.

“Watch out, he’s a bit of a player.”

I’m annoyed by Carrie’s warning. Is she actually insinuating that I might be interested in him? There are more important things in my life to deal with.

“This is what I found in the condo.” I take out the Mac Notebook from my Whole Foods bag.

“Why didn’t you tell me from the get-go?”

Carrie immediately flips open the laptop. “Do you know what his password might be?”


Carrie frowns. “Pet’s name. A little too easy, but I’ll try it.”

We try different versions of my cat’s name with various numbers. Kurt’s birth year, my birth year, the number of his favorite players on the Giants and the Warriors. But nothing.

“Try tamago,” I tell her. And then a date. The date that we had met.

Tamago was what won him over, Kurt had told me. My tamagoyaki was the best outside of Japan. He had come into Yudai’s Corner on a windy day in October. I remembered it because Kurt would never let me forget.

Carrie pecks at the laptop and with the click of the last number and the return key, the computer accepts the password and moves to the next screen. We are in.

Chapter Nine >>


© 2019 Naomi Hirahara

fiction Killer Roll maki mitchell mystery naomi hirahara restaurant sushi

About this series

Maki Mitchell, one of the few female Japanese chefs in the world, works at Yudai’s Corner, a sushi bar in California’s Silicon Valley. Still bruised from her divorce to an American man, she uncharacteristically lets down her guard to a male customer one evening. That seemingly random encounter leads her down dark paths involving high-tech hijinks and international espionage. Soon Yudai’s Corner becomes a full-fledged detective agency and all the employees ban together to not only solve murders but to also support and protect the life of their female sushi chef.

Read Chapter One