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Killer Roll

Chapter Nine — Where’s Som?

On my dead husband’s laptop is only one document, a letter addressed to me.

Carrie glances at me and I nod. She double clicks on the “For Maki” file and a Microsoft Word document opens.

Dear Maki:

If you are reading this, I’m probably dead and you’ve been smart enough to stay alive.

I’m so sorry that I’ve put you in such a terrible position. I wish I had some good advice for you, but you’ve seen where I’ve ended up.

Just know that I left you not because I didn’t care for you, but because I loved you. You were the best thing to happen to me. Really, you were.

I think that I may have endangered your life, but you’ve also managed to take on every obstacle and challenge in your way.

I believe in you, Maki.

Live long and prosper.

Love,

Kurt

I’m shaking as I read my ex-husband’s goodbye letter to me. So he really did love me. He left for my sake, not his.

Carrie doesn’t have the same reaction to Kurt’s message. “This is BS,” she shouts, rolling off of the futon and springing up to her feet.

I blink away my tears. “What do you mean?”

“There’s nothing here that can help you. No clues. No blackmail. He just hung you out to dry.”

“He doesn’t want to expose me to any more harm.” I turn off the laptop and return it to my Whole Foods bag.

“Maki, why did he even go over to your apartment that day? Why couldn’t he have left you alone?”

“I don’t know.”

“He was using your place as a hideout. A last-ditch place to store something.”

Carrie’s phone dings.

“It’s a text from Som. He was just leaving Oxford Strategies after taking his typing test. I think that he’s in some trouble.”

“What makes you think that?” I say.

Carrie holds her phone screen towards me. The message is simple and to the point: “HELP.”

* * * * *

We run to Carrie’s car. I’m so nervous that I can’t easily open the passenger’s door and I’m barely in the car before Carrie peels out of the dorm parking lot.

Oxford Strategies is located in Los Gatos, just south of San Jose. The neighborhood is a sleepy patch of green, revealing nothing of the evilness that may lie underneath. It’s 5:30 p.m., and based on the empty parking lot, it seems that most of the employees have gone home for the day.

“Why did you bring that with you?” Carrie notices the Whole Foods bag securely under my arm as we make our way to the company’s glass doors.

I shrug my shoulders. It’s my only tie to Kurt and I somehow don’t want to be separated from it.

A security guard stands by the door as we make our way to the lone receptionist seated on an elevated platform. “We are here for Som Bhalla,” Carrie says.

The receptionist frowns for a moment and taps on her computer keyboard. “There’s no one by that name working here.”

“He starts tomorrow,” I add.

“Well, he should have been added to our database.” More taps. “I’m sorry but we don’t have him listed yet.”

“You have to be kidding me.” Carrie has obviously lost all her patience. She starts to furiously pace the expansive lobby. The security guard grips onto his bully stick. There are cameras positioned everywhere on the ceiling.

I ask the receptionist to try again, spelling out Bhalla. She types something on her keyboard and shakes her head. “We do have a few Bhallas, but no one with that first name.”

The security guard takes a few steps towards Carrie.

“We’ll be leaving,” I tell the receptionist and pull Carrie out the door.

“This is ridiculous. It’s as if they hired Som to make him disappear.”

“But why would they even know that Som was with us?”

“They are following our every move, Maki. It seems, in fact, that they are always a step ahead.”

As we walk down the driveway back towards the parking lot, I notice something yellow on the concrete. I pause to take a closer look.

“What is that? Cheese? Or a Post-It?” Carrie asks.

I kneel down. It wasn’t either of those things. It was a bit of tamago-yaki. I had made some extra egg omelet days earlier and stuck it in the refrigerator of Yudai’s Corner. Had Som taken some for a snack?

And there, about five feet down, is another scrap of yellow. Som had left a trail for us. A trail only we would notice.

We follow the tamago-yaki trail to a black van parked by some large recycle bins. We creep around the van to make sure that it’s empty and there’s no one in the front seats. Then I see a big chunk of tamogo-yaki on the concrete by the bumper. Part of it is still wrapped in saran wrap.

“Som!” I call out.

“Som!” Carrie joins me.

And together, “Som!”

The van starts to shake back and forth and we hear a muffled cry from inside.

Carrie jumps on the bumper and cupping her eyes, tries to see what’s in the back of the van. “I think he’s in here.”

We try to open the back door and of course it’s securely locked. So are the side and front doors. Then I notice the security cameras mounted on electric poles surrounding us.

“I don’t think that we have much time, Carrie.”

“Well, if that’s the case—” She takes my Whole Foods bag with the laptop and starts pounding it on the rear window of the van. It takes about four good whacks before the window shatters and the car alarm sounds.

Carrie wipes away the broken glass with the fabric of the grocery bag and finds the indoor release for the back door.

As the alarm blares, we hear footsteps running towards us.

On the floor of the van is Som, his legs and hands secured with duct tape. And tape over his mouth as well. He squirms and luckily he’s so light that both of us can easily lift him out like a pile of firewood. There’s no time for us to release his legs and we run towards Carrie’s car. Somehow she has unlocked the car with her remote and we literally toss Som into the back seat. Carrie almost runs over the security guard as we make our way out the driveway.

“Oh, I left the laptop,” I say, noticing the Whole Foods bag on the ground by the broken glass.

“Who cares?” Carrie says. “There was nothing on it. At least it came in useful for breaking the window.”

I crawl in the back seat and gently remove the tape off of Som’s mouth. The last bit of it is stuck on his bottom lip. “Yudai,” he spits out the name of our employer. “He’s in on all of this.”

To be continued . . .

 

© 2019 Naomi Hirahara

fiction Killer Roll maki mitchell mystery naomi hirahara restaurant sushi

Sobre esta série

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