A black cloud of smoke near the intersection of Florence and Normandie drifted toward Mrs.
Kim’s California Dry Cleaning store in South Central Los Angeles. She turned the sign to
closed and locked the door. Her husband phoned telling her to come home. The jury had
acquitted the four white police officers accused of beating Rodney King. Trouble had begun.
She’d seen the video of the policemen clubbing the man when he was down. Didn’t
The Kims, in their 50s, socialized with and hired only other Koreans. With their two
daughters, they lived the American Dream in a Korean cocoon.
A year before, Soon Ja Du shot Latasha Harlins, a black teenager, in the back of the
head in Du’s convenience store and spent no time in jail. Since then, Mrs. Kim’s black
customers would grab their clothes and leave without saying good-bye. She didn’t kill the
girl, but she felt guilty.
Mrs. Kim hurried as she took the money out of the cash register and put it in a bag with
the day’s receipts. She wanted to leave before Mrs. Johnson came for her 6:00 Wednesday
pick-up. She was a good customer, and they used to make friendly chitchat about their
children. But an awkwardness had grown between her and the tall black woman with dark-
red hair and pretty fingernails.
Mrs. Kim grabbed her keys. She remembered the folding security gate had to be
closed, but when she got to the door, she saw Mrs. Johnson park her car. Mrs. Kim rushed to