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Nikkei Detective

Chapter Ten—Following the Doc Martens

Read Chapter Nine >>

Some people, when faced with a crisis, go ballistic. They run around, their faces red and their voices bellowing. Others get stone cold. I’m in the latter category, which I guess is a good thing because I’m a PI. And right now on one of the hottest days in summer in Los Angeles, I’m freezing as if I was dropped in the middle of Antarctica.

My infuriating, Doc Martens-donning goth daughter, fourteen years old, is missing. And she’s without her cell phone, the anchor of any teenager—heck, any person these days. Maddy, my only daughter, my only child, is without her lifeline.

I look up at the ceiling of the Starbucks and spot a camera mounted in a corner of the room. “I need to see your security footage. Now,” I order the barista. He’s old enough to be my son, and he realizes that I’m not pussyfooting around. I even show my PI license, not that it really means anything but he doesn’t know it.

While he’s off to talk to his manager, I get on my phone to call my buddy in the LAPD. Doug Brenner is not high-ranking, but he’s an insider. After I explain my situation, he tells me that he is on his way.

In the meantime, I search through the phone that she’s left at Starbucks. I check her texts. About half of them are back and forth from me to her. She’s also been texting someone named Shaka. She’s never mentioned Shaka to me. Who the hell is this person? The texts seem innocuous enough, but most of the exchange has been late at night. What has Maddy been up to while I’ve been asleep?

Doug arrives in fifteen minutes and his uniform convinces the manager to take us into the back office to view the security footage. And there, I see Maddy sitting at one of the tables by the window, hunched over her phone. And then the back of someone in jeans and a hoodie. He leans down but not far enough for us to see his face. I can’t tell his age, but I don’t think he is Maddy’s age. He’s not lanky enough to be a teenager.

Maddy looks up, but she doesn’t seem surprised. Whatever he has told her has made a big impact. She immediately gets up and runs out of the coffee shop, leaving her phone behind.

I start cursing. Maddy knows this guy. From her reaction, he’s not a stranger. Why would she react in such a way? Is this Shaka?

“Does she have a boyfriend?” Doug asks me.

“She’s with me 24-7 practically in Little Tokyo. She has no time for boys.”

“How about back with her mom in the OC?”

Maddy’s mother. My ex-wife. Oh boy, does this mean I’ll have to contact her? I’ve just been fired by my only client and now I’ve lost our only daughter.

“You need to call her. She may know something that will help.”

I know Doug is right, so I go to my phone and press X in my phone directory. She answers immediately. “What’s up?”

No hello, how are you doing. So I decide to get right to the point, too. “Maddy’s missing.”

“What do you mean she’s missing? For how long? Doesn’t she have her phone?”

“No, she left it at Starbucks.”

“She left it? She’d never be away from her phone.” My ex is starting to have a meltdown. She obviously falls under the ballistic response category.

“Who’s Shaka?” I ask her, hoping she will calm down.

“That’s her best friend. She’s in Hawaii with her dad.”

No wonder they’ve been texting late Pacific Standard Time. We are three hours ahead of the Islands.

“Does Maddy have a boyfriend?”

“Maddy is fourteen years old. She’s not old enough to have a boyfriend. What is going on, Kev? Where are you?”

“Listen, don’t worry,” I tell my ex. “Doug is with me and he’s with the LAPD. I’ll keep you posted. I’m sure she’ll turn up.”

“I’m going over there—”

“No, no, I’m sure everything is fine,” I lie. “She probably went to buy a boba.” That didn’t make any sense, but it quiets down my ex.

“Well, keep me posted, okay? Like every minute.”

I click off my phone. She will literally expect up-to-the-minute updates.

“What are you doing here, anyway?” Doug says.

“A job. Or, I guess, former job. I just got fired.”

“You get fired and your kid takes off. Right here on Wilshire? You think it’s some sort of coincidence?”

“You mean you think that it might be related?”

“You think?”

My mind whirls back an hour when I first arrived here at Fine Bank. I was asking questions related to the murder of Satoko Fujii, who used to work as a housekeeper for one of the bank’s executives, Ryo Yokoyama. The operations officer, Harumi Campbell, was a bit mysterious herself. She said that she was convinced that Ryo had not been involved in Mrs. Fujii’s death. But how could she be so sure? Perhaps she knew who the real killer was. And perhaps she sent one of her goons downstairs to take Maddy away from me.

I run out of Starbucks and go through the lobby for the elevator. The security guard tries to stop me, but with Officer Doug Brenner right behind me, he agrees to let us through without formally signing in.

Once the elevator opens on Fine Bank’s floor, I charge through to Harumi Campbell’s cell-like office.

She’s lit up another cigarette. “What the—” she says and then notices Doug, who immediately starts sneezing. Yeah, this six-foot-three giant is really allergic to cigarette smoke.

“Isn’t this a smoke-free building?” he gasps.

Harumi drops her lit cigarette into an open Diet Coke can and gets out of her chair. “What’s going on?”

“Why did you say that Mr. Yokoyama didn’t have anything to do with Satoko Fujii’s death? Is it because you know who killed her? And what have you done with my daughter?”

“Wait a minute. What’s this about your daughter?”

“Someone took her downstairs.” I’m obviously overstating, but I need to make a point. “And I think it’s related to this murder in Little Tokyo.”

“Listen, I don’t know anything about that, okay?” Her voice completely changes its tone. It becomes softer, less abrasive. She then makes sure that the glass door to her office is completely closed.

“I know that Ryo didn’t have anything to do with that incident because we’ve been tailing him for the past two months.”

I let her words slowly sink in. “Tailing him? We?”

She lets out a breath and removes something from her purse. She has a special ID too, but instead of a PI license, it says FBI. She presses her finger to her lips and lowers her voice. “This institution is being investigated. Ponzi schemes involving Japanese customers.”

“No kidding,” Doug says. I know that the way he’s checking out Harumi, he’s become more interested in her than my missing kid.

“So you’re not having an affair with Ryo Yokoyama?” I say.

Harumi doesn’t answer me right away. “I need to do whatever is required, okay? Anything to win his trust. Nothing really has happened. But I was giving him a neck massage at his house when that housekeeper walked in.”

“Mrs. Fujii.”

Harumi nods. “Ryo was afraid that she’d talk. So he apparently gave her some money to keep her mouth shut. Finally, he just decided to fire her, to get her away from his wife.”

If that isn’t motive for murder, I don’t know what is.

Harumi obviously knows what I’m thinking. “I was with Ryo all day in the office when Satoko Fujii was killed. It wasn’t him.”

I then realize that I know who most likely murdered Satoko Fujii. I just don’t know if this means that I will be able to find my daughter.

 

Chapter Eleven >>

 

© 2015 Naomi Hirahara

fiction little tokyo mystery naomi hirahara Nikkei Detective

About this series

Private investigator Kevin “Kev” Shirota calls himself an OOCG, an Original Orange County Guy. The last place this Huntington Beach, California, native wants to be in is Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, but he finds himself there temporarily to operate his failing PI business. The only bonus is that his fourteen-year-old estranged daughter, Maddy, loves Little Tokyo, which can possibly bring the two closer together. But a series of vandalism and then the discovery of a dead body challenge not only Kev’s investigating skills, but maybe the relationships that are the most dear to him.

This is an original serialized story written for Discover Nikkei by award-winning mystery author Naomi Hirahara. A new chapter will be published on the fourth of every month from August 2014 through July 2015.

Read Chapter One