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Killer Roll

Chapter Twelve — Family Ties

“Just give it to me, Maki.” I hear Carrie’s voice behind me. I’m so relieved that she, Som, and Crowe have arrived. She walks and stands in front of me, her blue eyes laser focused on my face and I know that she means business. I have a government-issued gun in my trembling hands and I almost drop it. Luckily she has good reflexes and catches it.

Agent Neela Bronstein is still yelling obscenities related to her palm wound. Blood is dripping onto the linoleum floor of the Bhalla family kitchen. Som throws her a roll of gauze from a kitchen cabinet, while Hector keeps his gun on her and her partner.

Before I know it, we are surrounded by police officers. I see the lights of the black and white squad cars flashing outside, but everything from this point on gets fuzzy. The officers make us all raise our hands and the agents are red-faced and angry, claiming that we are the criminals. Carrie, in her Stanford T-shirt, steps in, along with Crowe, the dormitory chef. “I’m the one who called you guys,” I hear Carrie saying and then I become woozy again and my legs collapse underneath me.

When I regain consciousness, I’m not in the Bhallas’ 1970s-style kitchen. I’m in some darkened room with beeping machines around me. I try to get up but then I hear a male voice from a chair in the corner.

“Whoa.” It’s Crowe. “Take it easy. You’re in the hospital.”

I have a pounding headache. “What is going on?”

“You passed out at the house. I think all the chaos finally got to you.”

He gives me a rundown about what happened after I lost consciousness. The police immediately apprehended Hector, as Neela accused him of shooting her, which he did but with good reason. But then Carrie, Som, and Crowe intervened. Yudai confirmed it all with additional evidence—some audio recordings with his cell phone. It doesn’t look good for Neela Bronstein and her minions.

“Oh, and the thumb drive,” I remember. “The one that I found on Mochiko.”

Carrie walks in, followed by Som who gives me a hug with his bony arms. “I never got the chance to tell you thanks for saving my life,” he says. “You were the one who followed the tamagoyaki trail to the van.”

“I didn’t save your life. Yudai did, actually. Where is he? And Hector?”

“The police was giving Hector a hard time for shooting Neela,” Carrie explains. “It was only a flesh wound. He could have killed her, you know. I contacted one of my professors who found a criminal lawyer for Hector. He’s been released and wanted to stay home with his wife and baby girl.”

I totally understand. Hector had risked so much to help me. I will do whatever I can to completely clear his name.

“And Yudai?”

“He has the most to answer for. I think he’ll have a long night at Mountain View Police Department.”

My eyes start to feel heavy.

“Hey,” Carrie says. “I think that we should let you rest. And that means you, too, lover boy.”

Crowe doesn’t seem to object to the nickname Carrie has given him. He gets up from his chair. “Once you’re feeling better, I’ll come by the restaurant. Maybe you can make me an anago dinner.”

“Yes, come by,” I tell him. “Only I’ll make you something completely new.”

 

* * * * *

When I wake up the next day, a nurse informs me that I will be released from the hospital. I go to the bathroom and change into my clothes. I’m not sure who’s going to pick me up. When I re-enter the room, my question has been answered. Yudai, a red, purplish welt on his cheek, has come for me.

“The nurse is bringing a wheelchair,” he says.

Words don’t come to my lips. Instead, I begin to cry like a baby. Yudai does the same.

“Is everything okay?” I ask him in Japanese. He knows that I’m referring to the police.

He ignores my question and rubs away the wetness under his eyes. “You are so important to me, Maki-san. Like my ne-chan.”

Under other circumstances I would have scolded him for calling me his older sister. But now I relish it. I am alive and he is alive to tease me.

“Because of you, I am able to live out my dream,” I say to him. Who else would have trained and hired me as a sushi chef?

We speak as if we will never get a second chance to see each other again. Our brush with death has changed us.

“Kurt visited me about a month ago,” Yudai reveals. “He told me that he was very worried. That he thought someone might be out to hurt you. I think he may have shot the man who was supposed to meet with you that one night.”

I cover my mouth with my hand. So Kurt may have killed Ray DiPietro? “Who killed Kurt then?”

Yudai stares at me as if he is too frightened to say it aloud. I’ve figured it out. Neela Bronstein.

“Oh, and the thumb drive. Do you know what was on that?” I ask.

“Kurt told me that he had some kind of evidence that Oxford Strategies had made some kind of presentation to various foreign government officials about selling private information from American households to them. I’m sure that information was on the drive.”

“Kurt died a hero.”

“I don’t know about that. He may have been blackmailing agents here for playing both sides.”

I think about the Palo Alto townhouse that he had purchased and gave to me. Was that bought by dirty money?

The nurse arrives with the wheelchair. After I sit in it, Yudai pushes me down the hall toward the elevator.

Where was I supposed to go? Not back to the Stanford dorm, of course. I had caused enough havoc in Carrie’s life. And I want to avoid returning to my old apartment where Kurt had been killed.

As we get close to Yudai’s car, I look up to him. “I’m not sure where I should go next,” I tell him.

“No worries,” he switches to English. “I know where you can be, at least for tonight.”

 

* * * * *

The stress from the past several days has definitely caught up with me. I’ve fallen asleep again and it’s already the next day. I roll myself from an old couch. I’m wearing the same clothes from the day before as I walk down the stairs and then into the dining room of Yudai’s Corner.

“There she is,” Som calls out, holding up a bowl of miso soup.

Everyone is sitting at the table, eating a late breakfast. Hector has brought a couple of tamales and I go to him and squeeze his shoulders. I am so glad to see him, safe and unharmed. Carrie is all smiles and Yudai is on his cell phone, making arrangements for a new stand-up gig.

“So how was it to sleep in our storage area?” Som asks, making room for me at the table.

“The best sleep,” I say. Beside chawans full of steaming hot rice is a perfectly folded tamagoyaki.

I poke it with a pair of hashi and pop a slice into my mouth. “Who made this?” I ask. I’m impressed.

“I did,” Som says. “I’m getting better, right?”

Yudai has finished his phone conversation. “Oh, Sleepyhead finally woke up,” he says. “Everyone, raise your glass.”

We each grab a cup of hot green tea.

Kanpai!” Everyone toasts. “Here’s to Maki!”

I take a quick sip. “And here’s to the Yudai’s Corner Detective Agency. May it be around for a very long time.”

 

THE END

 

© 2019 Naomi Hirahara

fiction Killer Roll maki mitchell mystery naomi hirahara restaurant sushi

このシリーズについて

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