Asleep Are the Dogs: Chapter 1

May 5, 2013 in Asleep Are the Dogs, moonrise31 by moonrise31

Asleep are the dogs…should we just let them lie?

Chapter 1: Of Ice Cream and Drug Lords

“Good morning! Do you have an appointment?”

Sunny paused momentarily, barely inside the door, and blinked at the grinning receptionist sitting behind the desk. “IM YOONA” was printed neatly on the nametag pinned to the woman’s lapel.

“Yeah… last name Lee.”

“Ah, Lee Soonkyu,” Yoona clicked her computer mouse a few times before nodding, giving Sunny a bright smile. “Dr. Kim will be with you in a moment.”

Sunny plopped into one of the chairs, looking around idly. It was a pretty typical waiting room, she decided—not that she’d been in many, much less that of a therapist’s. The windows were big, making the most of the warm sunlight streaming in, and the few magazines scattered on the side table were actually not the gossip and glam anyone with half a brain cell would be embarrassed to be caught reading. Even so, she passed them over for the morning’s newspaper and began scanning the headlines.

Moments later, the door behind Yoona’s desk opened and a woman in a hoodie walked out. The latter flashed a pretty smile at the receptionist, who bid her a cheery goodbye before informing Sunny that “Dr. Kim will see you now.”

Dr. Kim was settled quite comfortably in an armchair when Sunny entered—so comfortably, in fact, that Sunny almost didn’t notice the slouching therapist. The only professional thing about her, really, might be the white lab coat, but even that struck Sunny as odd.

“Hi, Sunny,” Dr. Kim greeted, sitting up and sticking out a hand. “I’m Taeyeon.”

Sunny shook Taeyeon’s hand. “Hello.”

“I hope I’m not being too forward with the nickname,” Taeyeon continued with a small smile, “but I assume you have it because you don’t like your full one.”

Sunny nodded. “Dr. Kwon referred me to you.”

“Indeed she did,” Taeyeon confirmed, gesturing. “Have a seat.”

Sunny glanced around before sitting down at one end of the sofa across from Taeyeon. “I don’t really know why I’m here, to be honest.”

“Ah.” Taeyeon held up a finger as she scanned the clipboard in her lap. “First rule in this office: no pretending.”

“I wasn’t—”

“Strike two. Three strikes and no ice cream,” Taeyeon interrupted smoothly. “And I’ll tell you right now that the ice cream is really not worth sacrificing.” She looked up. “As for why you’re here, I don’t need these files to say that I think you’ve been having some trouble lately.”

Sunny clenched her right fist a little, feeling the bandages tighten around her knuckles as much as she did Taeyeon’s pointed stare. “Alright, I got a little drunk and hit a guy or two. Bar fights aren’t a sign of mental illness.”

“Who says you’re mentally ill?” Taeyeon’s expression turned mildly indignant. “We’re all a little mad, you know, so I highly doubt I’d be qualified to treat you if that were true.” Her clipboard dropped onto the floor with a soft thud. “But alright, let’s go with it. That makes you as much a therapist as I am, then,” she said, crossing her legs and leaning back into the armchair, “so tell me what you think.”

“Uh.” Sunny shrugged, a bit taken aback. “Dr. Kwon was hinting at PTSD, or something, probably.”

Taeyeon waved a hand. “Yuri’s silly and we both know it. So what if you were in the military? That’s no reason to go around making assumptions.”

Sunny shifted. “Well, after I came back, I found out that I don’t really like loud noises. I can’t stand fireworks now.”

“Ah.” Taeyeon’s gaze focused. “Do you think that’s a problem?”

“I’ll learn to deal,” Sunny replied, defensive. “They just startle me sometimes, is all.”

“Right, right.” Taeyeon closed her eyes and nodded. “That’s one issue cleared. But I suppose Yuri had something to say about your bar fight too?”

“She thinks I may have become a little more aggressive than necessary,” Sunny murmured. “But who wouldn’t be with a couple of shots in their system?”

“Something tells me that you could drink me under the table any day,” Taeyeon commented offhandedly, “but I have basically zero alcohol tolerance, so that’s not really saying much. I’ll tell you what, though.”

She paused, and Sunny found herself compelled to ask, “What?”

“Yuri’s right. Sort of.” Taeyeon made a space between her thumb and pointer finger to show just how much Dr. Kwon was correct. “You’ve been missing something ever since you got honorably discharged. But it’s not the thrill of battle, or the tolerance of explosions.” She tilted her head and raised her eyebrows. “In fact, you can tell me what it is, right now.”

“I really can’t,” Sunny replied curtly, wondering how Taeyeon could’ve possibly gotten a good handle on her situation after a brief skim of Yuri’s notes and a two-minute conversation.

Taeyeon tapped her chin once, twice. “I’ll only count that as half a strike, since you don’t realize that you’re pretending. Here, I’ll give you a hint.” She lifted a hand to point. “Look at where you’re sitting.”

Sunny glanced down automatically, noting the soft carpeting compressed under her feet. “Uh.”

“There’s an armchair here and here,” Taeyeon explained patiently, gesturing to either side of her own, “But out of all the possible spaces in this room to sit, you chose the sofa, right in front of me. You’re upfront with people, and I get that. Admire it, even. But then you sat at the very end.” She met Sunny’s eyes with a steady gaze. “You know what that tells me?”

Sunny suddenly felt very self-conscious. Exposed. “What?”

“That you’re waiting for other people to fill in those empty spots,” Taeyeon replied. Without missing a beat, she exhaled and got up from her seat, dusting off her lab coat. “You look like you need a break. Want that ice cream? My treat.”

All Sunny could think of to say was, “don’t you have other patients to see?” The clock on the wall, with each numeral represented by the appropriate number of peas, noted that it was barely half past ten.

Taeyeon chortled, any trace of seriousness long gone. “Yoona’s good at taking care of that for me. Mostly because I get ice cream for her too. Coming?” She held the door open and looked at the other woman expectantly.

Sunny got up and managed a small smile. “Thanks.”

Taeyeon grinned. “Hey, just doing my job.”

Sooyoung slipped into the tour group without much effort, just one more person in the crowds gathered at the front of the National Assembly building. Their guide had shoulder-length blonde hair topped with a baseball cap, which she adjusted as she cheerfully introduced herself as Hyoyeon, asking everyone to “please follow me and stay together.” Not that Sooyoung had any intention of doing anything of the sort.

The group followed Hyoyeon obediently through the entrance as she launched into South Korea’s political history. The bubbly woman was more than enough to keep the attention of even the younger children, amusing them with mispronunciations and puns that had them giggling just before their eyes started to wander. Even Sooyoung found herself listening to the guide, although she’d heard the same information countless times already.

“And here’s the entrance to the main chamber,” Hyoyeon said, pausing in front of a large set of double doors. “You guys know what happens here, right?” Sooyoung let herself tune out, focusing instead on subtly edging away from the group. Her target was the staircase off to the side, the one that Hyoyeon had so conveniently missed on her way to the main attraction. But up there was where Sooyoung really wanted to be. Needed to be.

“Excuse me, miss.”

Sooyoung squeezed her eyes shut and suppressed a groan. So close. She turned around and gave Hyoyeon a smile. “Yes?” Over the other’s shoulder, she watched the tour she’d trailed after being led off by another guide.

“You’re going to miss the second part of the tour,” Hyoyeon said, following her gaze and gesturing at the disappearing group.

“My apologies,” Sooyoung replied, trusting that the exasperation she was feeling wouldn’t edge into her voice. “I was just looking for the ladies’ room.”

“Ah. It’s right over there.” Hyoyeon pointed helpfully.

Sooyoung hoped her smile wasn’t getting too tight. “Thanks.” She had no choice but to turn from the stairway and enter the restroom. When she came out again a couple of minutes later, the happy tour guide was waiting for her, ready to help her catch up to the group.

“What’s upstairs, anyway?” Sooyoung asked in an attempt to make small talk, although she already knew.

“The assembly members’ individual offices,” Hyoyeon answered promptly. Then she leaned in close and whispered as if she were imparting some sort of secret tidbit, “Sometimes, if we’re lucky, they’ll open one for touring, but the odds aren’t in our favor today.”

“That’s too bad.” Sooyoung tried not to sound incredibly distracted, although her mind was already working far ahead of her original question. She didn’t expect to get that much out of a tour guide, but she figured that since she was stuck here, she might as well go for it. “I guess you’ve heard about that whole business with Park Jeongsu, then.”

Hyoyeon shook her head. “It’s a shame, really. He was so good with the groups whenever we came into his office. To find out that he was taking bribes from a drug lord in his district…”

“I imagine he’ll be stepping down soon, then,” Sooyoung continued, casual. Park Jeongsu’s office was what was just up that stairway. And there, she was sure that more of the puzzle pieces she needed were waiting, in danger of being whisked away at any moment.

“The whole process’ll probably take a couple months,” Hyoyeon was saying. “Maybe even longer, ‘cause who knows? He could’ve been taking more than money from his supplier, if you know what I mean.” She gave Sooyoung a conspiratorial grin.

Sooyoung couldn’t help but crack a smile. “Maybe so.” She frowned when her phone buzzed in her pocket. Pulling out the device, she dismissed the alarm and sighed. “Actually, if you wouldn’t mind, taking me to the exit would be preferable.”

“Oh, sure.” Hyoyeon did an about-face. “Work or something?”

“Yeah, I’ve got a story due,” Sooyoung affirmed before she was able to stop herself.

Hyoyeon raised her eyebrows. “Journalist, huh?”

“Off-duty ‘til now,” Sooyoung promised, holding up both hands to show her innocence. And it was true; she was investigating this particular story on her own time.

“You’re good, Choi, so I don’t care what you do, as long as something’s on my desk every morning at 9 AM sharp,” her boss had told her when she’d approached him with the idea for this new project. He obviously didn’t think too much of the bits she’d presented, but she knew there was more to the Park Jeongsu scandal than just another corrupt government official. Unfortunately, he was the most concrete lead she had, so chasing him down was what she would do.

“I’ll leave you to it, then.” Hyoyeon opened the door for her and winked, pumping a fist. “Hwaiting!”

Sooyoung resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the silly gesture all the pop idols seemed to be so fond of making, if only because Hyoyeon was one of the better tour guides she’d had. Instead, she raised a hand in farewell. “Thanks. See ya later.” She weaved her way back through the crowd, sighing inwardly as she scrolled through her recent messages—tips she’d received from the extensive network of sources she’d developed over the years. And yet, the most interesting thing it had turned up seemed to be a potential exposé on the real origin of the ostrich food at the Seoul Zoo.

Yeah…tonight’s gonna be a late one.