Asleep Are the Dogs: Chapter 2

May 6, 2013 in Asleep Are the Dogs, moonrise31 by moonrise31

Woof.

Chapter 2: Of Valley Girls and Thickened Plots

 —

When Jessica answered the door, the last thing she expected to see was a complete stranger beaming back at her. In retrospect, she probably should’ve looked through the peephole beforehand—that’s why the darn thing was there in the first place—but energy not expended now could always be used later.

“Hi!”

Her first impression was that the other woman couldn’t have smiled any brighter, but she was proven wrong right then. And every moment after, if that was even possible.

Jessica blinked.

“Thanks for letting me in.” The stranger, hands tucked deep into the pockets of her hoodie, neatly sidestepped her way into the apartment and kicked off her sneakers as if she had been invited. She practically bounced her way into the kitchen, and Jessica trailed wordlessly after.

“Nice place you’ve got here, Sooyeon!” The woman commented as she twirled on the hardware floor. She stopped with some difficulty, socked feet slipping against the polished surface, and then looked up at her reluctant host with a grin of unabashed triumph. “Or do you prefer Jessica?”

The air conditioner whirred quietly in the silence.

Jessica finally decided to open her mouth. “…Who are you?”

“Tiffany,” was the reply, perfectly pronounced “F”s included. “I was born in California too! San Francisco, even.” She paused and thoughtfully tapped her chin. “Maybe in the same hospital, actually, but I’d have to check again.”

Jessica examined the stranger standing in her kitchen one more time and made a decision. The cellphone she was holding behind her back with one hand returned to its rightful place, slipped into her back pocket. Then she crossed both arms in front of her. “And how do you know this?”

Tiffany’s eyes curved upward as she smiled. “I have my ways.” She pulled herself onto the counter and made herself comfortable, legs swinging idly. “Speaking of which, I have a favor to ask.”

“Yes, you may sit on my counter,” Jessica said flatly, but could only imagine animated rainbows and sunshine radiating from the laughter that followed.

“Another favor then,” Tiffany amended, grin still in place. “How about it?”

Jessica leaned against the wall. “Depends.”

“Aw, come on,” Tiffany encouraged. “I know you can do it.”

“And how do you, exactly?” Jessica demanded. “Know that. Know things. Everything.”

“I guess I do know a lot,” the other woman agreed as she conveniently ignored the original question. “You’ve got quite the tidy organization going on, don’t you?”

Jessica exhaled, blowing a few strands of hair out of her face. Of course the stranger was here about that. Everyone was, after all, so the only question was when they’d decide to ever-so-casually bring it up. “So?”

“You’ve done quite a bit. I’m impressed,” Tiffany complimented. “Let’s see…” She began counting off on her fingers. “There was that nasty oil spill in the Han that no one ever got to blame the government about. The factory down by Gangnam district that miraculously started emitting fewer pollutants one day. And let’s not forget the sudden revealing of National Assembly member Park Jeongsu’s shady financial connections.” She stopped and smiled sweetly. “Did I miss any? In the past month, I mean.”

Jessica remained expressionless. “I see you’ve done your research.”

“That’s what hackers do,” Tiffany replied cheerfully, slipping off the counter. She extended a hand. “And I need your help. What do you say?”

Jessica stared at the woman’s perfectly manicured fingernails. “You…hack?”

“Have to make a living somehow.” Tiffany shrugged. “I’m good with computers. People like people who are good with computers. Connect the dots, and here we are!”

You.” A pregnant pause. “Computers.”

Tiffany exhaled, somewhat exasperated. “Yes. Me, computers. Is it really so hard to understand?”

“I don’t know if you’ve looked in the mirror lately, but everything about you screams ‘valley girl’,” Jessica deadpanned. Then she squinted, scrutinizing the other more closely. “Except maybe the sweatshirt. But it says ‘San Fran’, so never mind.”

“Not one to mince words, are you,” Tiffany chuckled. “But valley girls can be computer savvy, too.” She wiggled the fingers of her outstretched hand. “So? Pending question.”

Jessica’s arms remained firmly crossed, her fingers pressing a little more into her biceps as she frowned. “Don’t think that I’m some sort of hero. I’m made from money as much as the people I’m paid to take down are.”

“It’s not like the things I do are perfectly legal, either,” Tiffany countered. “And believe me, I’ve got as much cash as you’d like, and then some. I’ve seen your accounts. I know how much it is per job.”

With a sigh, Jessica unfolded her arms and completed the handshake. “If you can find out so much already, I don’t see why you need me.

“This new project I’m working on is a bit tricky.” Tiffany’s grin widened. “And besides, my therapist told me I should get out more. Make some friends.”

“Friends, huh.” Jessica wondered if she was only imagining her headache. Then one of Tiffany’s words belatedly struck her. “…Therapist?”

Yuri slurped noisily at a milkshake, and Juhyun struggled to keep her expression only mildly horrified as she watched. The older woman eventually realized that she was being stared at and looked up from her drink. “Want some?”

“No thanks,” Juhyun said firmly. “That can’t be good for your health, unnie, and you know it.”

“You’re not the doctor here.” Yuri made a face that would usually be considered quite unbecoming for her age. Not that she cared. “Get a smoothie instead, then. Fruit is always good, right?”

Juhyun sighed, idly flipping another page of the packet in front of her. “I’ll pass.”

“Hey, stop making me feel bad,” Yuri teased as she stirred her drink. “If you didn’t want to come here, you could’ve just said so.”

She found herself subject to Juhyun’s disbelieving glare. “You gave me a choice of either the Icee Queen or Disneyland. In Tokyo.” The younger let the contrast hang in the air for a moment before returning to her paper. “You tell me which one is more realistic for an outing this afternoon, unnie.”

Yuri shrugged before bringing the straw to her lips once more. “It’s the thought that counts.”

“Yuri-unnie! Seohyun! What’s up?”

The two turned to see Yoona approaching from the serving counter, sundae in hand. She stopped in front of their booth, waiting for the doctor to scoot over on the bench before she plopped down at the outside end.

“Hi, Yoona-unnie.” Juhyun gave the newcomer a brief, but lighthearted, smile. “Still think we’re not too old for nicknames?”

“What nickname?” Yoona whisked the milkshake away from Yuri and took a sip as she placed her ice cream on the table. “Seohyun is Seohyun is Seohyun. End of story.”

“She just thinks she’s mature now ‘cause she’s interning at the National Assembly,” Yuri offered carelessly as she snatched her drink back with a grin. “And she’s right, of course, but that doesn’t mean that we are. Yoong, eat your own food.”

“Silly Seohyun,” Yoona snickered as she dug a spoon into her frozen treat.

An amused expression crossed Juhyun’s face, but it quickly became concerned when she noticed the liberal amounts of hot fudge Yoona had poured onto her sundae. She decided not to say anything and instead commented, “Dr. Kim was just here an hour ago.”

“I know,” Yoona said around a mouthful of ice cream. “She came back and told me I could have the rest of the day off, so of course I came here for a second helping.”

Seohyun stopped trying to hide her disapproval, her mouth curving down into a blatant frown, but the other two just rolled their eyes and giggled at each other in response.

Yuri suddenly perked up. “Ah, Seohyun, I forgot to ask. Any luck after that Park Jeongsu mess?”

Juhyun wrinkled her nose. “They’ve cleared me of the entire thing, thank goodness. Only one reporter tried to get anything out of me, and that was yesterday. They’re just shuffling me around now, though, so I don’t really have any specific work.”

Yoona made a disapproving sound. “That’s too bad, but I’m sure it’ll all get figured out soon enough. You’ll go from being a member’s top intern to taking that member’s spot after this shocking scandal. It happens in movies all the time.”

“I’ll believe it when I see unnie in a movie one day,” Juhyun replied as she finished scanning another sheet.

Yoona snorted. “Me? Acting? Don’t be weird, Seohyun-ah. Can you even imagine it?”

“Why not?” Yuri countered. “You’re already writing movies. It can’t be too much of a stretch. Lots of directors are also actors in their own stuff.”

“Directors aren’t the same as scriptwriters,” Yoona protested.

Yuri waved a hand. “Close enough. You’re an accomplished one, so it’s about the same.”

“Making scripts during my downtime at Taeyeon-unnie’s hardly counts,” Yoona muttered. “I just got lucky with a couple, is all.”

“You’ve sold seven storylines to various producers already, unnie,” Juhyun pointed out without even glancing up from her work.

Yoona groaned. “Thanks for keeping count, Seohyun.”

“Anytime, unnie.”

All three looked up when Yuri’s pager beeped. She pulled it out and frowned. “I’ll have to catch up with you guys later. They need me at Jongno.”

“Why? What happened?” Juhyun demanded. Yuri ran her own practice, but she had contact with the local hospitals in case they needed an extra hand. This rarely happened since Seoul had many of the best facilities in South Korea, so Dr. Kwon was only called in case of emergencies, and extreme ones at that.

Yoona got up and Yuri quickly slid out of the booth, shoving her almost empty glass into the former’s stunned hands. She gave them both a reassuring smile before rushing away, throwing a few words over her shoulder that weren’t comforting in the slightest.

“There’s been a bombing.”