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Trouble on Temple Street: An Officer Ellie Rush Mystery

Chapter 1

“I just don’t get it,” I say to my partner, Johnny Mayhew, in front of the Los Angeles Convention Center. We are both on our LAPD-issued bikes, watching a line of the most ridiculous cosplayers enter the hall. It’s like my childhood has come to haunt me. An Asian girl is dressed up as Lakitu, the bespectacled turtle who sits on clouds from the videogame Super Mario World. I see Ariel from the animated movie, The Little Mermaid, Star Wars stormtroopers, and at least five Sailor Moons. There’s even a Rilakkuma giant bear who has to be led around by a friend. Hey, think about cutting eye holes in your costume next time!

I’ve been on the force for two years now, way past probation. Yet here I am, babysitting a bunch of adults playing Japanese dress-up in July.

Johnny, on the other hand, is eating it up. In addition to being from a long line of BMX racers, he’s a gamer and an anime addict. Some of the cosplayers actually come up to pose with him. Do they think he, in our all-black uniform and shorts, is a cosplayer, too?

Something large and brown moves behind us.

“Is that what I think it is?” I ask.

“Yeah, the poop emoji. Not that original,” he says as if everyone walks around literally looking like a giant smiling turd.

My radio squawks and we are directed to the other entrance. On my bike, I avoid hitting a group of women in maid costumes only to be stopped by someone in a glittery sheer top.

“Well, I wouldn’t have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes. Ellie Rush at Anime Expo.” It’s Nay Pram, my BFF and occasional thorn in my side.

Nay looks like a Cambodian Beyonce with her hair knotted up on her head. No one would suspect that she’s now writing web articles for one of our local network television affiliates, but I have a feeling that her employers have little idea how she presents herself in public. Actually, all they care about are the stories—or should I say, “content,” phone video footage, and word count. Anything else be damned.

“Hope she’s not giving you too much trouble,” she says to Johnny. “This would be her ninth circle of hell.”

“I’ve only heard her bitch maybe seven times this morning.”

“Whoa. Sounds like somebody’s in a good mood.”

I adjust my bun and scowl at both of them. When Johnny and Nay are on the same page, it usually means that I’m on a different one. I can’t win when they’ve joined forces.

“We have a call on the other side of the hall,” I tell Nay.

She flashes her pearly whites at me. “So we still on for tonight, right?”

I nod. We’ve been practically doing the same thing every Friday night for almost three years now. Why change now?

* * * * *

I’m late, seven o’clock, so Osaka’s is full when I arrive. My uniform is stuffed in my backpack, and I’m wearing my usual—a Japangeles T-shirt and jeans. Nay calls it my unsexy outfit, and she’s right. At least I’ve loosened my bun so that my hair is at least down. I know what Nay is going to say—I look a decade younger than my age, which will put me at 15.

Nay gestures to me from the counter of the Little Tokyo ramen house. We are stuck in the middle of two cosplayers, but beggars can’t be choosers. “They just called our name. I said that you were in the bathroom, but I didn’t know how long I could keep up that lie.”

We quickly order. These cosplayers are cramping my style, not only at work, but also at play. The Osaka crew is on point and we receive our ramen in two seconds flat.

Nay hangs a napkin from the collar of her shirt, which is actual pretty smart while my Japangeles T-shirt is getting its share of grease splashes. Luckily it’s black, so they don’t seem that visible, at least to me.

“So you hangin’ with your guy afterwards?” Nay asks me about my boyfriend, Cortez Williams, who’s a homicide detective.

“He has a big case.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“You know I can’t talk about it.”

“So I have to wait until it breaks on tmz?”

“You know that most of his cases have nothing to do with celebrities.”

“No fair. Here I am like a sister to you and I don’t get any consideration. I don’t know why I buy all this ramen for you.”

“You never buy me ramen.” In fact, for a long time, before she got this latest gig, I was the one usually paying for both of us.

As people make their way to more open seats, someone bumps into my back. I turn to glare and the offender points to me. “Hey, aren’t you that bicycle cop?”

“Yes, I’m with the LAPD.” I narrow my eyes. The guy, who is white or mixed like me, seems somewhat familiar. Maybe he volunteers with the koban, literally the community police box on First Street, the area’s welcome center.

“We’ve called 911, but you should come. There’s a guy collapsed in back of the veteran’s monument. A doctor’s checking him out.”

Nay gestures that she’ll keep an eye on my backpack as I follow the guy out onto First Street, through the crowds walking in between the old Nishi temple and the glass pavilion of the Japanese American National Museum.

We both run toward the raised black half-circle of a dome. The monument is in the middle of a parking lot just south of Temple Street and next to the contemporary art museum.

There’s already a small crowd of about ten people there. I jump over some trash and what looks like pancake to get to the fallen man.

He’s dressed in a sky blue costume of some kind of creature. Since his hood is pulled down, I can see that it’s a guy around my age. And this isn’t a random health emergency. His costume is slashed in the middle and blood has soaked through. He’s being attended to by an Asian man whom I’ve seen going in and out of the green medical building on Second Street.

“She’s with the police,” says the koban volunteer to the doctor.

“How is he?” I ask.

“There’s not much I can do for him,” the doctor replies. “He’s dead.”

Chapter 2 >>


© 2017 Naomi Hirahara

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

About this series

LAPD bicycle cop Ellie Rush, first introduced in Murder on Bamboo Lane (Berkley, 2014), 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