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Trouble on Temple Street: An Officer Ellie Rush Mystery

Chapter 6

I’ve only said I love you to two men—well, other than my dad and he doesn’t really count. One of them was my college boyfriend, Benjamin Choi, and the other one is Cortez Williams. Cortez is currently on an operating room table while I’m sitting like a fool on a plastic chair in a waiting room in USC General Hospital. Also in this windowless room is a family who seems spellbound by a daytime talk show broadcast on the television mounted on the wall. I want to shout at them, “Who are these women around the table and why do we care what they have to say?” A little boy, his cheeks and lips stained by bright orange Cheetos dust, stares at me and I feel like snarling back.

I know what has caught his eye: my LAPD uniform. I didn’t have time to change and besides, the uniform gains me access to certain places within the hospital. Yet no one—the doctors, nurses, even my co-workers in the police department—has been able to tell me what’s going on with Cortez.

“Ellie, there you are.” My BFF, Nay, magically appears in the waiting room doorway. “How is he?”

I was going to ask her how she found me, but she has a knack to be in places you least expect. I’m grateful for that today.

I shake my head. “He’s still in surgery, as far as I know. I’ve texted his mom. She’s living in Vegas now and is on her way.”

“How about the son? How old is he now?”

“Eleven. I’m sure that they won’t tell him anything. At least until they are sure Cortez will be okay.” My voice catches in my throat. Of course, he’s going to be okay, right?

“Have you met the mother?”

“I guess I will now.” I can picture her clearly from Cortez’s Skype sessions. A dark-skinned woman with great skin and teeth. And a bit of a Southern draw, revealing her Mississippi roots. “What have you heard out there?”

“I was able to interview the protester, Gwendolyn.”

“Really?” I can’t believe that my partner, Johnny Mayhew, let that happen. After Cortez was brought out on a stretcher from 2ibon headquarters, my CO gave strict instructions to keep the press from the scene of the crime.

“I shouldn’t tell you, although I did just file my story.”

Are you kidding me? How many times did Nay come to me, hoping that I’d leak police information to her?

Nay lets out a big breath. “Okay, so she was there inside when the shooting happened. She claims that she was waiting to talk to Rowan James outside 2ibon’s conference room. She hears this shouting from behind closed doors. And then a gun goes off. The administrative assistant and everyone else are too scared to rush inside. And then Rowan James stumbles out of the conference room, blood on his T-shirt.”

“So who shot who?”

Nay shakes her head. “Nobody really knows what has happened. But in the end, Rowan James is okay. He won’t talk to anyone without his lawyer.”

“What were they shouting about?”

“She really couldn’t hear much. But she thought Rowan said something like leave him the eff alone, that he’s knows the police is after him. Rowan has been acting jumpy, ever since Atom was found dead. Apparently they were both getting death threats.”

“I wouldn’t think that would be anything new. Especially after releasing unauthorized naked photos of women.”

“No, this was different. Someone was following these guys. Like leaving notes on their windshields or on welcome mats outside of their homes. On restaurant tables where they had their meals. It was really weird.”

It is weird. What kind of stuff has 2ibon been into?

“Rowan and his lawyer went with your boss.”

“You mean my commanding officer, Tim Cherniss?”

“Yeah, the Boy Scout.”

Cherniss is, in fact, a Boy Scout, always defending LAPD policy.

Nay then notices the talk show blasting from the television. “Oh, man, I haven’t seen this show in ages,” she says, settling in one of the seats in the waiting room.

* * * * *

I must have dozed off somehow in that hard shell of a chair. The television is now blasting today’s news, but I’m now the only person in the waiting room. I don’t know where Nay has gone.

“Anyone here for Cortez Williams?” The surgeon, a woman in scrubs, stands in the doorway.

“He’s my boyfriend.”

“Oh, we need actually a next of kin.”

“I’m Cortez Williams’s mother.” I hear a familiar voice in the hallway.

“Hi, Mrs. Williams—“ I stand up to greet her.

“Maybe we better go somewhere else where there is some privacy.” Turning her back to me, she leads the doctor into the hallway.

I’m a bit shell-shocked. Did Cortez’s mother just majorly diss me?

As I stand by myself in the waiting room, my heart races. Why all this secrecy? What has happened to Cortez?

I pace around the square room, feeling like a rat trapped in a cage.

The doctor walks down the hall and Mrs. Williams returns to the waiting room. Are those tears in her eyes? “How old are you, child? Twenty-two, twenty-three?”

“Twenty-five.”

“You know, Cortez’s son is almost bigger than you.”

I do, in fact, know that as we took Mo to Disneyland earlier this year when he was visiting from Phoenix.

“Cortez has always liked them young. But this proves that he needs someone more mature by his side.”

I frown. I had nothing to do with Cortez being wounded.

“Go off and go to your clubs or wherever you youngsters like to party.”

“Mrs. Williams, I am committed to your son.” We’ve said, I love you, to one another, I think to myself.

Cortez’s mother sighs. “I’ve been through this, I don’t know how many times. My boy has never been without his women. But this is not fun and games, anymore, little girl. My son is in his thirties. When he gets through this—and I know that he will, he’ll need a grown-up woman.”

I am floored. I can’t move. I can’t speak.

“You’ve been very sweet to be here, but I must ask you to leave. And please don’t come back.”

Chapter 7 >>

 

© 2018 Naomi Hirahara

Ellie Rush fiction little tokyo mystery naomi hirahara

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