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Killer Roll

Chapter Eleven — How to Sharpen a Knife

One of the first things Yudai, my boss at the sushi bar, taught me was how to properly sharpen my knife.

He uses the traditional Japanese method of mizunoushi, or literally water stones. They are rectangular stones that look like the Japanese confection yokan. After soaking them in water for 12 hours, you remove the stones and sharpen your blade with them, scraping the blade against the stone’s surface at a 15 degree angle.

Here in Carrie’s car, we don’t have the luxury of using water stones, and rely on the next best thing—Crowe’s sharpening steel rod. He’s been listening to our whole story. How agent Ray DiPietro was killed in the parking lot of the restaurant we worked at, followed by the discovery of my ex-husband’s body outside of my apartment. This whole time I thought agent Neela was on my side, but now I realize that she is with the BGWAAM, Bad Guys Who Are After Maki, committed to destroy me and my friends.

“You’re not going to kill anyone with those knives, are you?” Som is still a bit traumatized by his capture by the BGWAAM and flinches each time the blade scrapes against the steel.

“Not if we can help it,” Crowe says.

“You’re kidding, right?” Som keeps prodding.

Both Crowe and I remain quiet. We both have no idea what to expect when we arrive at Yudai’s Corner.

It’s a Monday night and the restaurant should be closed, but it’s ablaze with light. The curtains are closed and we can’t see what it going on inside. Carrie parks about a block away. “Give me one of those,” she says about the knives. She’s terrible with knives; I’ve seen her murder a mango once. When she was finished cutting into one, there was nothing left that was edible.

“Give her the paring one,” I tell Crowe. With the smaller one, she can at least defend herself.

“How about me?” Som asks. Duct tape that he peeled off of his wrists, legs, and mouth are discarded at his feet in the car. He’s in no shape to barge into a potential death trap.

“Stay in the car and be our look out,” Crowe says. “Call if you see their reinforcements arrive. And if it looks really ugly, call the cops.”

We decide that Crowe will go through the front door, while Carrie and I will go through the back. We are more familiar with the building—we know where to hide and where to get access to more knives.

Yudai, handcuffed, is on his knees on the tiled floor of our kitchen. The rusty-haired agent is holding his gun at Yudai while Neela paces in front of our oven. “Why are you protecting her? It’s not like you’re lovers, right?”

Yudai’s heavy cheeks are even more swollen than usual, perhaps from blows administered by one of the agents.

“If she just gives us what we want, this whole thing will be over.”

Carrie gestures that we run from the back and surprise them. I shake my head. The agent has a gun. I can’t have more of my friends be hurt like this. I go over everything in my mind. One of the last things Kurt said to me when he was alive was to “watch out for Mochiko.” And then his farewell message to me on his laptop: “Live long and prosper.” That was a saying on Star Trek. Kurt was not a fan of Star Trek, so why include it in his message?

I drop my knife to the floor and the clatter of stainless steel against tile attracts the attention of both Neela and her wingman.

I raise my hands. “I’m here. Please stop hurting him.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Carrie’s blue eyes widen and her mouth drop open. What the hell are you doing, Maki? she is probably thinking. Saving your life.

The male agent aims his gun at me now.

“Don’t—” Yudai yells and Neela slaps him into silence.

“So let’s have it.”

“It’s not here. But I know where it is. The home of my co-worker, Som Bhalla.” I say Som’s name especially loud, hoping that both Carrie and Crowe know that I’m sending a message to both of them.

“Take us there then.”

“But leave Yudai here. He has nothing to do with it. I’ll only do it if you let him go.”

Neela exchanges glances with the other agent. “Well, he did kill Bhalla, so he’ll keep his mouth shut,” the male agent comments.

“Okay,” Neela agrees. “Let’s go.”

* * * * *

I’ve only gone to Som’s house one time and I don’t have the best sense of direction. So I’m not even intentionally getting us lost but I’m thankful for the extra time that I’m giving Carrie, Crowe, and Som to clear out his house. I can tell Neela is losing her patience with me as the gun that she holds toward my head is now literally resting against my temple.

Som’s house is on a quiet street in Mountain View, located conveniently in a cul de sac. I was hoping to see Carrie’s car somewhere as a sign that they had warned the Bhalla family about our arrival. I pray that no one’s there. Does Som’s mother work? I can’t remember.

We go through a back gate. The door is locked and the agent effortlessly puts his elbow through the glass, shattering the pane. He pokes his arm through the hole to undo the double lock. When that doesn’t work, he takes a few steps back and kicks open the door.

The house seems empty. “Mochiko, Mochiko,” I cry out.

“What are you doing?” Neela asks, the gun still cocked toward my head.

“My cat. My cat has what you are looking for.”

“We’re not here for any games.”

I look and there is the white ball of fluff sandwiched between the refrigerator and the stove. I get on the floor and pull Mochiko as Neela points her gun squarely at us. Attached to Mochiko’s collar are her tags, of course, and a new addition, an addition that I had barely noticed before. It’s an image of Sulu. Star Trek. Live long and prosper.

Mochiko mews and purrs in my lap, oblivious that our lives may be ending in a few seconds. Or perhaps it will just be mine because who would be obscene enough to shoot a cat? I pray that the sound of gunshot will scare Mochiko out of the kitchen into another room.

I remove Sulu from her collar and pull off his head. Wha-la! A flash drive. What it holds, I don’t know. But dangerous enough for two men to be killed over it and now a Japanese woman.

“I think this is what you are looking for.” I hold the drive out to Neela, who finally smiles. She holds the gun toward my forehead as she grabs the drive with her left.

This is how it will end, I think. I don’t know why, but I’m not afraid.

Then a pop, the smell of smoke, a shriek, and a gun falling down to the ground beside me on the linoleum. “Pick it up, Maki!” someone is screaming and I do what he says.

I look up and it’s Hector with a gun pointed at Neela who is grasping at her bloodied palm. I’ve never held a gun before and my hand begins to shake, as if I’ve lost complete control of it.


To be continued...


© 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