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Trouble on Temple Street: An Officer Ellie Rush Mystery

Chapter 7

I press the buzzer by the door of a small brick building.

The door immediately opens, as if Father Kwame is expecting us. He greets my dog first. “Hello, Shippo,” he says, and Shippo wags his tail in response.

The priest ushers us into his corner office and excuses himself to make some tea.

Shippo makes himself at home on a throw rug while I sit underneath a floor lamp. There are books on the shelves lining the walls. They are not only in English, because Father Kwame is fluent in about six languages, and they are not only religious. I smile as I see what looks like a complete set of the Harry Potter books. Father Kwame is the coolest Catholic priest ever.

He returns with two cups of tea. I take one and hold it on my lap.

“So what is going on with your life?”

As usual with Father Kwame, my confession comes out easily. First like broken glass and then like a rushing creek. My hurt feelings about being chased away by Cortez’s mother and then more importantly, my worries about Cortez. Will he recover from his gunshot wounds and get back to normal?

Father Kwame sips his tea, looking at me with his dark eyes, which seem mischievous and sad at the same time. He waits until I cannot talk anymore. He finally says, “Sometimes when people are in shock and hurting, they lash out at people right in front of them. That person is just an easy target. But not the real one.”

My tea is lukewarm now, but in the heat of Los Angeles, even at sundown, I prefer it that way.

“The mother sounds like she is afraid. And probably angry at the person who hurt her son. And maybe some other women that might have hurt him emotionally in the past.”

Cortez and I really haven’t spoken much about past relationships. I know a little about his son’s mother and he knows about my ex, Benjamin—we even ran into him in a Chicago deep-dish pizza place in Echo Park. Benjamin looked both surprised and disappointed. I read his mind: a fellow cop, of course. In terms of all these other women in Cortez’s life, that was news to me.

“So what you’re saying is that I shouldn’t take it personally.”

Father Kwame nods.

“That’s pretty hard to do.”

He rises and I know that is a sign that he has some place else to go.

“I know that you can do it, Ellie. You have proven yourself in the past.”

As Shippo and I walk on the stone walkway away from the priest’s office, it becomes perfectly clear what I need to do. I need to find out why Rowan James shot my boyfriend.

* * * * *

The next day is conveniently my day off. I put on my geeky black-framed glasses, pull my hair back in a ponytail, and wear a T-shirt, hoody, and jeans. I am ready to infiltrate 2ibon’s headquarters.

As it turns out, it isn’t that hard to do. That evening, I spent all night on its website and came across a listing of jobs. I actually am qualified for at least a couple of them. I hadn’t done a resume since my life studies class in high school, and pull together something quickly. I don’t mention when I actually graduated. I look young enough to be a recent grad.

I also create a simple LinkedIn page with basically my education, B.A. in Spanish, Pan Pacific West University.

On all these places, I type in Ellie Rush—not my given name, Eleanor, because there are a few articles in the Bicycle News that mention me in connection with the LAPD’s Bicycle Coordination Unit. I’ve been careful not to be on social media, and it turns out that there are other Ellie Rushs in Illinois, Texas, and Florida. In a way, being among many Ellie Rushs is the best cover that I can have.

I had filled out the online application around 11 p.m. and by midnight I had received an e-mail response. “Please come in for an exam for this position at 9 a.m.” 2ibon must be desperate for a Spanish-language translator because, just like that, I’m in.

It feels so awful and strange to go into the same building my boyfriend was shot in, but I swallow hard and grab hold of the strap of my backpack. I can do this, I tell myself.

The crime tape has been taken down and it looks like any old day at a tech start-up in downtown Los Angeles. I take the elevator to the fourth floor, which is open and industrial looking.

There’s a receptionist at the front desk looking down at her phone.

“I’m here for the Spanish translator position,” I tell her and she pushes forward a form attached to a clipboard.

After I fill it out, I join about six other people, looking bleary-eyed and downing something in travel tumblers, around a long table with laptops. I need coffee, too, but don’t dare to ask for some. From the middle of the room, I check out the rest of the space.

There’s only one enclosed space—a conference room—and I recognize the COO’s lawyer speaking there to someone whose face is hidden by a ficus plant. That must be Rowan James, the shooter. Is that where Cortez was shot?

I feel a bit sick to my stomach and slip down in my chair. The guy next to me tries to make small talk. “Yeah, tests always get me on edge, too.”

I grit my teeth and am thankful when someone from 2ibon comes to start the test. We need to type our answers on 2ibon laptops and our results will be apparently calculated immediately. I whip through the sample translations and finish early. It’s about ten o’clock and more employees have come in and settled at their desks.

After I log out and report to the test administrator, I ask about the restroom. It’s right next to the conference room and as I make my way there, the conference door flies open. “It’ll be fine; don’t worry. They know it was an accident,” the lawyer is telling her client.

Rowan James is about six feet tall, his head topped with brown curls. His face is cherub-like, with two deep dimples. We lock eyes for a moment and I immediately look down at the concrete floor.

When I’m finally in the bathroom, I try to figure out my next move. I look in the mirror. What the hell are you doing here, Ellie? I feel like a fool. I need to get out of here.

I head back to the test administrator, but she’s talking to Rowan James.

“Hey, are you Ellie Rush?” he says to me.

I nod.

“Hi, Rowan James. You got ninety-three percent. No one gets ninety-three percent.” He looks me up and down. “So are you Latino?”

“No, are you?”

Rowan James smiles. “Fair enough. I’m one quarter Jamaican, and three quarters the United Kingdom.”

He waits for me to respond in kind, but I say nothing. The less he knows about me, the better.

“Well, I’m happy to let you know that you got the job.”

Chapter 8 >>

 

© 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