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Killer Roll

Chapter Three — Don’t Be a Bakatare

What attracted me to Kurt, you may wonder. It wasn’t that he was particularly good looking. I mean, he was tall, six-three, but he was really thin; at five-six I may have actually weighed the same as he did. But just the fact that he desired me made me desire him back.

The waitress at Yudai’s Corner, Carrie, says this is old-school thinking. Women should not be objects, playthings for men. She’s a gorgeous blonde Stanford student, while I’m of a different generation. And from Japan.

After all he’s put me through—left me without giving me any good reason—you’d think that I wouldn’t have any feelings for him. He now stands in my dark living room—he’s literally broken in—and that familiar feeling shoots down my spine. No, I can’t still be in love with him. Don’t be a bakatare, I tell myself.

“Shut the door, Maki,” he whispers in the darkness.

I close the door and then I hear Mochiko’s purring by my leg, the tags on his collar tinkling.

He grabs my wrist and pulls me through the hallway into the bathroom. The window there is by a light pole outside. He sits on the edge of the bathtub and I can see the outline of his narrow face.

“What is going on?” I finally say and he hushes me.

“Not so loud,” he whispers again.

I’m starting to feel scared. Is my whole apartment bugged?

“The police are looking for you,” I say as softly as I can. I’m actually not sure if the authorities that questioned me today were the police.

“What did you tell them?”

“That I didn’t know where you were. To ask your company for more information.”

He presses his hands around mine. “Maki, people may say terrible things about me. But I want you to know—they don’t know. I’m not a spy. I’m a patriot.”

When he says spy, my blood goes cold.

“What trouble have you gotten into, Kurt?”

He ignores my question. “No matter what people may say, know that I believe in this country. America.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“They will be after you, too.”

“But why? We’ve been divorced for a year. And who is ‘they’?”

“I never wanted you to get involved. But it’s too late now.”

“Kurt, I don’t understand.”

“No matter what happens, take care of Mochiko,” he says and then leaves the bathroom, tiptoeing out the back door.

Mochiko? He’s more my cat than yours and I’ve been taking care of him all this time. But all that is irrelevant. My ex-husband has left again and tonight I’m relieved.

* * * * *

I take a sleeping pill to help me rest and it takes a while before it kicks in. Once it does, I have a fitful sleep, full of oni, obake,and yurei of my youth. My alarm wakes me at nine and my head feels groggy. Did Kurt really visit me last night? Mochiko jumps on my bed, hungry for his breakfast. You saw him, too, didn’t you? I ask him.

When I look at myself in the bathroom mirror, my skin is pale, lifeless. I’ve noticed that my legs have become thinner, but not in a good way. It’s like I’m slowly losing my muscle, any kind of heft that I used to have.

I go into the kitchen and look into the refrigerator for inspiration. I can make myself a beautiful tamagoyaki. I love making these omelets at Yudai’s for tamago-zushi and I have the same rectangular pan at home. I pour some home-brewed dashi into some scrambled egg and add some sugar. The dashi and sugar are what make tamagoyaki special, better than any American omelet. I carefully fold the egg mixture as it cooks. Finally I have a gorgeous yellow roll, which I eventually cut into slices.

Sitting down with my steaming green tea, hot rice in a chawan bowl, and my dish of tamagoyaki, I finally feel normal. But then there’s a mewing at my feet. I’ve forgotten to feed Mochiko, but he never lets me off the hook. After emptying a new can of cat food into Mochiko’s dish, I’ve discovered that the trash in the kitchen is overflowing. Ah, it can wait until I’ve finished my long-awaited breakfast.

Each bite of the egg seems to make me feel stronger. Kurt was overreacting. He probably just got into some kind of minor trouble at work. He did like to read about conspiracy theories when we were together. I take my dirty dishes to the sink and look out the window. Today will be a good day, I try to convince myself.

I tie up the trash and go out the back door for our apartment complex’s rubbish bin. I walk down a concrete walkway and then notice a pair of large feet poking out from one of our hedges. The shoes are very familiar. They are the type that Kurt likes to wear.

I immediately fall to the ground to see who’s hiding in our bushes. I touch one of the legs and it’s as stiff as a tree branch. That’s when I hear screaming, a strange wail of an obake, and then realize that it’s coming from my mouth.

* * * * *

This time the Mountain View Police Department shows up. I know it’s the police because they are actually wearing black uniforms and wearing badges. They take me back into the house and we sit at my kitchen table as I tell them who Kurt was and how he came by the apartment last night.

“He was inside your place when you arrived?” one of the officers asks me.

I nod.

“He had a key?”

I’m pretty sure that he didn’t. “He must have held onto a copy.”

“And why was he—”

Before he can finish, two plainclothes agents charge into the kitchen through the open back door. One of them is Agent Neela Bronstein.

“I told you to tell us when you saw your ex-husband,” she says. The police officers look confused and Neela’s partner shows them some kind of identification and they reluctantly leave.

“I was going to,” I lie again. It’s amazing that I can lie so easily. “I saw him in the middle of the night.”

Neela takes the seat that the Mountain View police officer positioned across from me. “So now tell me everything.”

* * * * *

I’m inexcusably late to work, but I had briefly let Yudai know that something terrible had happened.

It’s actually the time for us to break in between lunch and dinner and all of our customers have left.

When I enter, my co-workers are all sitting around a table, eating a late lunch of miso soup and donburi.

“I think that I’m in trouble,” I tell them.

To be continued…

 

© 2018 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