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Trouble on Temple Street: An Officer Ellie Rush Mystery

Chapter 4

It’s past midnight and someone’s turning the key to my double-lock on my front door. I know who it is and even Shippo doesn’t bother to get out of his doggy bed.

Some women wouldn’t like it if their boyfriends smelled better than them. I’ve never worn perfume and sometimes even the scented pages of fashion magazines cause me to dissolve into a spasm of sneezes. Cortez Williams lays it on thick with ample splashes of cologne on his freshly shaven jaw. By midnight, his afternoon shadow is back and the cologne lingers, but it doesn’t bother me a bit.

He comes into bed and somehow his body feels cool while it’s still sweltering outside.

“I saw you on TV this morning,” I tell him.

“I didn’t talk to any reporters. Your aunt was there in all her glory.”

I still don’t understand why Cortez was there as he’s supposedly working on a top-secret homicide case. I know enough not to ask. With both of us in the LAPD, there are lines I’m not supposed to cross.

“I know that you were the first uniformed on the scene,” Cortez says and starts nibbling on my ear.

“Azusa and Boyd told you?”

“No, it was a civilian. A guy who volunteers at the Little Tokyo koban.”

I picture the skinny Hapa guy with messy hair. “He’s not my admirer.”

“Well, he’s your stalker then. He knows your name. How long you’ve worked for the LAPD.”

I frown. He didn’t seem to reveal any of that yesterday when he found me slurping noodles at Osaka’s.

“Let’s stop talking,” he says and I readily agree.

Even Shippo knows enough to cover his eyes.

* * * * *

In the morning, Cortez is already up. It’s not like we’re living together, but he has some fresh shirts hanging in my miniature closet. Luckily, I’m more of a T-shirt and jeans kind of gal so my closet, however small, is up for grabs. I actually own two dresses, and one of them is my black one for funerals. Yup, I’m fully adulting now.

“I’m working today, too,” I say, after pulling out my night guard. I know, it’s not a sexy look, but neither is grinding my teeth away. I don’t feel stressed, but I guess I am, at least according to my dentist.

Of course, I hardly have anything in my refrigerator, but there’s a bag of Peet’s in my freezer, compliments of Cortez. He says that he doesn’t become fully human until his morning cup of coffee, but I forget and always start jabbering away as soon as I open my eyes.

As he begins to grind the coffee beans, I go in for a quick shower. Shippo follows me into the bathroom and guards the doorway. I don’t know what he’s protecting me of.

After I’m done and in my uniform, I join Cortez at my vintage formica table in my kitchen. “So had you heard of Atom McDonnell before?” I casually ask. He’s fixed me my drink of choice, a hot cup of green tea.

He takes a long sip of his coffee, almost too long. “Ah, not much,” he says, and I know he’s lying.

“He was the head of one of those websites—an image board, Nay calls it.” Nay, my BFF, writes for the website of a local TV news station.

“Wait, so Nay was there, too?” He swears and takes a quick look on his phone.

“What’s the problem?” I haven’t had a chance to read Nay’s post.

He gets up, smoothing down his tie. “I have to go, Ellie,” he says and then kisses the top of my head. “I love you,” he says and I realize that he hasn’t said that in a while.

Both Shippo and I follow him to the front door. “I love you, too,” I say and both of us watch him leave from the open doorway.

* * * * *

Working on the weekends is not unusual for me. As bicycle cops, we usually patrol large events and there always seems to be something going on in the streets of downtown Los Angeles. There’s the Anime Expo, but thankfully, I’ve been assigned to a summer musical festival at Pershing Square. When my partner, Johnny Mayhew, and I arrive on our bikes, we see that the attendees are more homeless than hipster.

We both are wearing our sunglasses, but I can still see that Johnny’s eyes are a bit puffy from probably a late night of partying. In the past, he’s always prided himself for treating his body like a temple, but lately it seems that he’s been visiting the church of distilled spirits every single night.

“I heard that you were at the murder scene. Where they found Atom McDonnell.”

“You know the guy, too?”

“I used to skateboard with his brother. Local guy. Grew up in Hermosa.”

For how forever big L.A. is supposed to be, if you’ve grown up here, it’s really a small world.

“So what’s an imageboard supposed to be, anyway?” I ask.

“Ah, it’s stupid. For geek types into anime and manga. Then I guess that 2ibon morphed into dark-world stuff like porn. McDonnell supposedly leaked those nude celebrity photos recently.”

“Yeah, I know about that.”

We then spy two men scuffling over some empty plastic bottles in a trash can and ride our bikes over there. By the time we reach the spot, they’ve scattered, leaving a trail of trash. It’s just one of these days.

“This sucks,” Johnny says. The band cues up the music and it’s about the worst thing I’ve heard since my high school prom.

“It really sucks,” I agree.

We patrol in and out of the grassy area in front of the Biltmore Hotel. It’s one of those old school hotels, all made of brick. I see it sometimes in these old reruns of TV shows that my grandmother watches on these obscure channels.

We both are close to falling asleep on our bikes when our radios crackle loudly with a burst of voices.

“Did you hear that?” Johnny is immediately alert, and so am I.

We both listen intently. It’s what I feared. “Shots fired. Officer down.”

The dispatcher says an address on Sixth Street and my mind tries to picture the intersection.

“Isn’t that around the Last Bookstore by Spring?” I ask Johnny.

“I know exactly where that address is,” he replies. “It’s the headquarters of 2ibon.”

To be continued…

 

© 2017 Naomi Hirahara

Ellie Rush fiction little tokyo mystery naomi hirahara Trouble on Temple Street

About this series

LAPD bicycle cop Ellie Rush, first introduced in Murder on Bamboo Lane (Berkley), returns in this special serial for Discover Nikkei.

Ellie, who has been on the force for two years, finds herself in the middle of a Little Tokyo murder case that may potentially involve the people she loves most—her family. Will she be able to connect the dots before the killer harms her aunt, the deputy chief of the LAPD? Where does Ellie’s allegiances fall—the truth or family loyalty?

Read Chapter One