Damocles Overthrown: Chapter 4

July 12, 2015 in Damocles Overthrown, moonrise31 by moonrise31

4. And the king said, “Very well. You may take my place for as long as you wish.”

Yuri glanced down at her phone, and then up at what could only be described as a very large building, even by mansion standards, sitting on the outskirts of Seoul. “Nope, you’ve got the address right,” she muttered to herself as she set the device aside and turned into the gated drive. She glanced at the callbox, then up to eye the camera with a red light blinking back at her. Clearing her throat, she rolled down her window and pressed the button on the box. “Hey, uh, Sunny. It’s Yuri.”

“Ah, Yuri-sshi,” said a clipped male voice that was definitely not Sunny’s answered. “Please, come in. Sunny-sshi will be waiting in the room to your left once you’ve made your way inside.”

It wasn’t until — Yuri checked her phone and yup, it had indeed taken her five minutes to actually reach the mansion, driving — but even then, it hadn’t been until after she’d finally stepped inside the room Sunny and the others were waiting in that the sheer size of the Lee estate finally broke through her initial numbed shock.

And so logically, the only thing she could say was, “You call this a room?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure this is larger than my entire house,” Sooyoung commented, glancing around. She was sitting in the chair nearest to the entry, but she was still a good ten meters away from where Yuri stood.

“That’s it, I’m never leaving this place,” Hyoyeon announced from behind Sooyoung. “And to be quite honest, I doubt Sunny would even notice if I didn’t.”

“I can hear you, you know,” Sunny sighed from her place at the far end. “And it’s not like I live here because I want to. But I can’t exactly refuse a gift from my uncle.”

Yuri made a few more unintelligible noises about the sheer expensiveness of said “gift”, and what that must mean about the person who had given it, before walking over to sit in the open spot beside Juhyun, across from Sooyoung.

“So, who are we missing?” Sooyoung glanced around. “I count eight.”

“Tiffany-unnie hasn’t arrived yet,” Juhyun said.

Yuri blinked, trying to decide why she had been feeling so pleasantly thrown off ever since she’d entered. It couldn’t just be the overwhelming largeness of the mansion and the fact that she actually had the chance to sit inside of one of these things in her lifetime. She looked at Sooyoung drumming her fingers on the mahogany tabletop, Hyoyeon fiddling with a butter knife that Yuri suspected took the term “silverware” way too literally, Taeyeon drawing something or other and Yoona trying to be discrete as possible in peeking over her shoulder. At the head was Sunny, spinning her phone between her thumb and middle finger. And then on her own side of the table — was Jessica sleeping? — Juhyun sat ramrod straight. Yuri felt the need to sit a little taller.

Was it that this atmosphere almost seemed…normal? Besides the various threats of imminent danger, of course. And not to mention their current missing member. Yuri willed the more imaginative portion of her brain to stop working so hard about the possibilities of what battles Tiffany might currently be fighting through in order to get to the rest of them.

“We figured it best to just fall into familiar terms,” Taeyeon offered, perhaps smirking at what Yuri assumed must be her own vaguely bemused expression. “Nothing like a near-death experience to bring a group closer together, and all.”

“Ah.” Yuri nodded and sat back in her seat. Yes, best to leave it at that.

Sunny cleared her throat. “Anyway, as I was explaining before, I thought here would be the best place to gather until we get all of those threat things sorted out. Looks like whoever sent those letters has friends in high places, if they were able to rig the jury room like that yesterday.”

Juhyun frowned. “Did anyone try to go to the police?”

Most of the women shook their heads, but Sunny only pursed her lips. “Fany said she’d try to last night, but she got called away on a last minute schedule, so I’m not sure she got around to it.”

The empty chair to Sunny’s left sat in the loud silence that followed.

Hyoyeon coughed. “So how’d you convince the judge to let us gather here, anyway?”

“That would be Sooyoung’s doing,” Taeyeon spoke up, eyes not leaving her pen as it moved across the notepad in her lap. “I’ve never seen a grown, dignified man so intimidated in my entire existence, however mildly so.”

“I just made a good argument.” Sooyoung huffed and crossed her arms. “Law people love that kind of stuff. All you need is logic.”

Yoona decided to forsake subtlety in exchange for a better glimpse of Taeyeon’s doodle. “Is that Sooyoung-unnie? Breathing fire?”

“I’d make the demon horns sharper,” Hyoyeon advised from the other side. Sooyoung elbowed her in retaliation.

“Well, hopefully no one else knows that we’re here then.” Yuri turned to Sunny. “How’d you get all of our numbers, anyway?”

Sunny stared back with a completely deadpan expression. “Magic.”

“Okay, where’s this idol manager friend of yours?” Jessica demanded. Yuri noticed that she had finally opened one eye. “The sooner we figure out how to rule this case, the sooner we can put this all behind us.”

Juhyun frowned. “Unnie.”

“No, Jessica has a point,” Sunny agreed. “Here, I’ll call her right now.” The room waited while she dialed Tiffany’s number and held the phone to her ear.

Yuri suddenly felt like she should be glancing behind her shoulder. She did so, and was relieved to not even spy the shined cufflink of a lurking butler in the shadows. Because if the TV programs and mystery novels she’d read were correct, it was always the butler.

“Hey, Fany? You didn’t forget about the meeting, right?” Sunny paused, expression darkening. “They what?”

Even Taeyeon stopped doodling. The others sat perfectly still, breaths caught in throats.

“Are you alright though? Okay? Okay. Get over here right now. No, cancel the rest of their schedules. That’s an order. I don’t care that they’re in the middle of promotions. If they’re getting — okay, fine. For the day. Yeah, good. We’ll figure out the rest later. Alright, see you soon.” Sunny ended the call and tossed her phone on the table before hiding her face in her hands.

“Unnie?” Yoona finally attempted after a few seconds.

“This,” Sunny said from behind her fingers, “is a fucking nightmare.”

Tiffany knocked on the door. “Girls, let’s go. You’re going to be late.”

She received a chorus of muffled “coming, unnie” in response. Momentarily satisfied, she stepped back and leaned against the far wall of the hallway. Through the door, she could still somehow hear Juhyun’s soft voice prodding the younger members to not keep their manager waiting.

Tiffany thought of Seo Juhyun then.

She cursed quietly and glanced at her phone. At this rate the girls would be on time for their schedule, but she still had to drive an extra thirty minutes after to reach Sunny’s place for the second day of jury deliberations.

Technically, she should be getting off of work in order to fulfill her civic duty, and Sunny had already warned her that she couldn’t be paid for any hours she did put in during that time frame, but Tiffany couldn’t make herself stay away. Especially after the letter she’d found on the floor of her apartment crossed her mind again.

She didn’t need any other prompting to pull out her own key and unlock the door.

“Unnie, we’re almost ready, promise,” Seungwan yelled as she ran past the hallway. “Just a little fire incident we should be taking care of. Yerim, if it’s a grease fire you shouldn’t put water — !”

Fire?” Tiffany tried to keep her voice even as she struggled out of her heels and raced to the kitchen. “Didn’t I tell you that Juhyun should be the only one trying to cook things besides fried rice?”

“Unnie, it was my fault.” (Bae) Juhyun sounded smaller than usual, wringing her hands as (Park) Sooyoung banged through the various cabinets and drawers. “I must not have turned it off after breakfast and then it just…”

Something in the bottom of Tiffany’s stomach turned to ice.

“Here, Sooyoung, give me that.” Tiffany grabbed the metal baking sheet the younger girl held out to her and promptly shoved it over the burning stove. “If it’s a grease fire, that should do it. And hey.” She turned to Juhyun and gently gripped the latter’s shoulders. “This wasn’t your fault, okay? Hey, don’t look like that. You guys have a performance that you should’ve left for…” Tiffany looked up at the clock. “Two minutes ago. Come on, guys.”

“Sorry, unnie,” Juhyun mumbled as they rushed to put on shoes. “And you came in on your day off to drive us there, too.”

“Really, it’s not your fault. I think…this apartment is faulty.” Tiffany risked lifting the metal baking sheet to check whether the fire was fully extinguished. “That’s why I came in to check up on you guys. Minjin-unnie’s waiting in the car downstairs, so hurry up. We’ll figure the rest out later, okay?”

Less than a minute later, Tiffany stood alone in an empty kitchen, the smell of smoke still hanging heavy in the air. She frowned, and then glanced up at the ceiling. A few wires dangled from the center of a circular patch, slightly lighter than the rest of the paint surrounding it.

There’s no way the girls were the ones to remove the smoke detector entirely.

“Not good,” she said out loud. Confident that the metal sheet was cool enough to touch, she lifted it from the stove and slid it into the sink. She bent down until she was eye-level with the metal grill that often covered gas stoves, frowning as she tried to examine the blackened mess wrapped around one of the burners. “Really not good.”

Tiffany moved from room to room of the dorm, everything from innocent-looking electrical outlets to a wobbly chair leg now deemed potential hazards. But besides a note sitting on Seungwan’s dresser that made her want to rip it to shreds, she found no other obvious sign of danger. She returned to the living room, considering the couch before deciding that she had no further scrutiny to spare, plopping onto it with a tired sigh. The balled piece of paper she’d clenched in her fist rolled off of her palm and onto the floor.

No, there was no way she could have them return to this apartment.

She heard her ringtone, and then groaned. If she hadn’t been late before, she definitely was now. “Hey, Sunny.”

“Hey, Fany? You didn’t forget about the meeting, right?”

“No, no. Red Velvet just had an…incident. At the dorm.”

“They what?”

“I think whoever wrote the letter is going through with their threats.” Tiffany rubbed her temple with her free hand. The crumpled sheet of paper sat on the carpet next to her bare foot, mocking her. “Someone rigged their stove to burst into flames and ripped out the smoke detector. If no one had been in the kitchen, it would’ve been a lot worse.”

Tiffany paused, listening to Sunny’s rapid-fire questions. “Yeah, I’m fine. Yeah. Sunny, they can’t stay here. I mean, they’re off at a schedule right now, but — what? No! You can’t cancel all — Lee Soonkyu, listen to me. If you want this to be kept quiet, pulling them off the air is not the way to go; it’s me these people are after right now. I’ll find them a new place to stay — one that no one but us two can know about. Not even the other managers. Okay? And then they’ll go straight there until this schedule is finished.”

“Alright, see you soon.”

“Yeah, I’ll be there in an hour.”

When Sunny hung up, Tiffany flopped back onto the couch, phone slipping out of her grasp and onto the cushion beside her.

And it’s not even noon.

She closed her eyes, but realized too late what a mistake that was. The words scrawled onto a sheet of looseleaf obviously ripped out of one of Yerim’s school notebooks were burned into the backs of her eyelids:

DO YOU REALLY THINK THEY ARE SAFE?

Tiffany lifted her foot and stomped down. The paper ball flattened under her heel with a weak crunch.