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Trouble on Temple Street: An Officer Ellie Rush Mystery

Chapter 8

I know that my boyfriend, Cortez Williams, will say I’m crazy. But he’s in a medically induced coma at USC General Hospital and has no say.

My parents, especially my mother, will say I’m crazy. So would maybe my Grandma Toma. My grandmother, Lita, would instead be proud of me and say something like my gumption came from her side of the family. Let’s not mention anything about my grandfather, my father’s bio dad, who served time in prison. That’s just something that the Rush family doesn’t talk about around our dinner table. I can’t even imagine what my Aunt Cheryl, the LAPD deputy chief, would say about what I’m doing, other than I’m breaking numerous counts of police protocol.

But here I am, pretending that I’m a tech gig worker, when I’m anything but. I’m a LAPD officer P2, assigned to the Bicycle Coordinating Unit. To find out what happened to Cortez, I need to infiltrate the place where he got shot.

I take a few days off of my real work, which is understandable since Cortez has been shot on the job. What my Commanding Officer Tim Cherniss has no idea is that Cortez’s mother doesn’t want me 100 feet, or maybe even a 100 miles within the vicinity of the hospital. She thinks that I’m just a hanger-on, a user, a fronter. I’m just a kid, a child, more than seven years younger than Cortez. She doesn’t think that I’ll be around during the hard times, so she cuts me off before I can hurt him.

Mrs. Williams has no idea who I am. That my Grandma Toma was raised in a U.S. World War II camp. And that my great-grandfather worked as a policeman in that same camp, behind barbed wire. We are not quitters. We don’t leave when the going gets rough. All she sees is my long brown hair and childish face and figures that I can’t take much pain or suffering.

I may not be able to be at Cortez’s side at the hospital. I can, however, be out here in the field, in the offices of 2ibon.

* * * * *

I do almost an all-nighter to translate the materials that Rowan James has given me. It was supposed to take me a whole week, but I don’t have that kind of time to waste. I need to find out if he really shot Cortez by accident and why he was carrying a firearm in the first place.

I attach my Spanish-language translations to my e-mail and press send. I hop in the shower and by the time I’m out, I’ve received a reply from Rowan James.

This is incredible. Fast work and at first glance, looks solid. Do you think that you can come in to the offices today?

Can I? In five minutes flat, I’m in a clean T-shirt and jeans. My hair’s wet; who cares. It’s July in L.A., which means it’ll be dry by the time I ride my bike into downtown Los Angeles.

* * * * *

The sleepy receptionist at 2ibon, who’s probably around my age, directs me to wait for Rowan James in the conference room. As I enter, my legs are shaking. This is the room where Cortez was shot. I examine the space as discreetly as I can. I’m sure the clean-up crew has removed any evidence of what occurred here a few days ago.

I get on my knees and examine the concrete floor. Is that something red that I see?

Since I’m on the floor, I look under the conference table. The janitor has missed this area. I see blood splatters along one side, the side by the table. I feel dizzy, like I may collapse.

“What are you doing?” Rowan James still has his trademark smile on his face, but I notice the ends of his mouth seem strained.

“Oh, I dropped my pen,” I say, grabbing at a pen that I had placed in my jeans pocket.

Rowan James then visibly relaxes. As I get up, he begins to talk about how impressed he is with my work, that they may need an interpreter as a business contingent from Latin America is due to arrive.

The receptionist, her eyes still half-open, then opens the door. “Hey, your lawyer is here—” she tells him.

“Oh.” Rowan James’s face reddens. “Ah, can we meet later—”

“I can wait—” I look forward to spying on them as they talk in the glass conference chamber.

“Have you eaten anything? Maybe brunch somewhere?”

I don’t hesitate. “Bottega Louie on Grand,” I tell him. “Just come when you’re ready.”

* * * * *

Bottega Louie is loud with the best macaroons and Italian desserts in downtown Los Angeles. I don’t choose it for its acoustics or sweets. I choose it because it has a bar that’s open this early. I order two Bloody Marys, but ask that one have vodka on the side. The waitress frowns, but the customer is always right, right? Once she delivers the drinks in tall glasses with celery sticks and three green olives speared with a cocktail stick, I quickly pour the vodka accompanying my virgin drink into the other one.

I sip my tomato mix slowly, crunching into the celery. As I check my phone, my BFF, Nay Pram, texts me.

CORTEZ???

I text back: Nothing. You hear anything?

She texts back a shrug emoticon: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I feel so sad. This lack of information about my boyfriend makes me all the more resolved to find out what happened.

After about forty-five minutes, Rowan James finally arrives. He finds me in the corner by the bar, of course. He seems surprised to see the Bloody Marys on our table.

“You start early, huh?” he says, laying his car keys on the table.

“What, you can’t hang?” I needle him and it works. He immediately takes a gulp of the Bloody Mary. “Wow, they make them stronger than they used to.”

I smile demurely and take another sip of my tomato mix.

We small talk for a while. He asks me about Pan Pacific West and thankfully, since I really went there, I’m able to answer his questions.

I take more sips and he matches me. Soon I find that his lids are getting heavy. Mr. James is a light-weight drinker, that’s for sure.

When I’m pretty sure that he’s sauced, I go in for the kill. “So what happened?” I casually say. “I heard that something went down at 2ibon. A cop got shot.”

Rowan James tries to right himself in his chair, but fails. “Who told you what?” he slurs.

I remember my girlfriend Nay’s story on a local station’s website. “It was online.”

“It was an accident.”

“A weird kind of accident. Like why was he there in the first place?”

Rowan James sneaks a look to his right and then to his left. “Don’t tell nobody,” he says to me, almost knocking down his empty glass. “But that guy was a dirty cop.”

Chapter 9 >>

 

© 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