SOSHI: Aesop’s Twisted Fable – Chapter 11

November 22, 2013 in Aesop's Twisted Fable, moonrise31, SOSHI by moonrise31

Chapter 11: Protect

Protect: v. Keep safe from harm or injury. (New Oxford American Dictionary)

Jessica stood on the other side of the one-way mirror, watching Tiffany and Yongguk through the glass. The former was leaning against the table, facing Jessica, so that she had to turn in order to make eye contact with the gang leader. Yongguk sat slumped in his chair, giving Jessica a good view of his sullen side profile. Their conversation was being broadcast over the speakers in this room, but Jessica had tuned it out long ago because of Yongguk’s unresponsiveness.

“We know that BAM is involved with someone else,” Tiffany was trying again. “If you give us information on that someone, it’ll lead to leniency on your individual case.”

“I can’t,” Yongguk repeated, voice low.

“Why not?” Tiffany pressed. “If it’s safety you’re concerned about, we can guarantee yours as well as that of your inner circle. Kim Himchan, Jung Daehyun, Yoo Youngjae, Moon Jongup, Choi Junhong.” She ticked off each name on her fingers, nonchalant. “We know who you are. And we’re just as capable of protecting you as we are chasing you down.”

Yongguk’s face twisted. “You can’t do anything.” His tone dropped another octave. “It’s impossible.”

“Have a little faith in the justice system, won’t you?” Tiffany retorted. But only silence met her lighthearted jibe.

“Good talk,” she said.

Tiffany pushed herself off the table and left the interrogation room. Once she’d closed the door behind her, she reached out to grab the can of Red Bull waiting in Jessica’s outstretched hand. Then she sighed and collapsed into a chair beside Yoona, spinning in a dejected circle as she popped the tab on the can open with a loud snap.

Yoona turned from the recording control panel, sliding the headphones off of her ears. “Maybe I should go in, unnie.”

“No, Yoong.” Tiffany shook her head firmly. “You’ve spent way too much quality time with that guy already. Like hell we’re gonna let you that close to him again.”

Yoona rolled her eyes. “I think I handled myself quite well, okay? And he’s not some sleazy old man or something. Sure, he likes me, but that’s exactly what I can use to my advantage.”

“It’s nothing personal against your talents, Yoong.” Tiffany’s expression darkened. “I’d just rather not throw you in as the sacrificial lamb twice in twenty-four hours,” she muttered into her drink.

“Let your unnies stop worrying for a bit, okay?” Jessica spoke up. Her eyes stayed glued to the slouched figure on the other side of the mirror. “You’ve done more than your fair share of the work. Actually, you should be at home resting.”

“Apparently I’m not gonna be doing anything here anyway, so that counts as rest.” Yoona pouted. “I don’t see how we’re going to get anything useful out of him anytime soon, then.”

Jessica uncrossed her arms and stepped towards the door. “How about you let me try?”

Tiffany raised her eyebrows. “You sure? He might break if we just give him time. It’s only been a few hours.”

“We don’t have time,” Jessica retorted. “I’m not supposed to be here either, you know. Sunny’s due to check out that tea shop with Hyoyeon soon and I’ll be the one backing her. I’m not gonna make Yuri go through the stress of monitoring that mission too.”

“Why are you here then, unnie?” Yoona asked, curious.

“Haven’t been able to sleep lately,” Jessica grumbled, hand on the doorknob. Louder, she said over her shoulder, “I’m going in, okay?”

Tiffany waved a hand. “Alright, Jessi. You’re the trump card, so it’s your call. I was just hoping to save the poor boy from complete and utter destruction.”

“He had it coming,” Jessica replied. The door clicked shut behind her.

Yoona reached out and turned some dials, shutting off the audio recording. Since Jessica wasn’t an official investigating agent, she technically wasn’t supposed to be carrying out any sort of interrogation. But she was scarily effective at getting what she wanted, and she wasn’t afraid to do so when she thought it was necessary.

No one really knew how she did it, since the speakers were turned off with the recording. But no one really wanted to find out firsthand, either.

Yoona sighed. “I always feel a bit underhanded when Sica-unnie does this.”

“Funny, I don’t think Yongguk-sshi thought it was underhanded when he knocked you out and abducted you from right under our noses,” Tiffany commented, watching the woman in the other room intently.

Yoona blinked, taken aback at the hostility in her voice. But really, it shouldn’t have been surprising. She’d noticed the abruptness Tiffany had used to open her Red Bull a few moments before. And Jessica’s tense posture as she’d leaned against the wall, staring through the mirror with a blank gaze so much harder than usual.

I haven’t been able to sleep, lately.

Yoona briefly remembered Hyoyeon’s run-in with that serial killer everyone in SOSHI now refused to name. Her heart beat uncomfortably fast as she recalled Yuri sitting helpless as Hyoyeon’s sight was taken away, drop by drop. The tech wouldn’t let anyone else listen, so they could only watch in silence as her hollow expression became more numb with each passing second.

Yoona’s situation had been nothing compared to that.

But how were they to know? She suddenly heard, again, Sooyoung calling under the guise of Gong Minyoung, her first contact with the rest of SOSHI in twelve hours. She hadn’t registered before the relief in Sooyoung’s voice as soon as Saebyuk had answered. Then she felt, again, Taeyeon’s hand at the small of her back, rushing her up the stairwell to the warehouse roof. It had lingered a little longer than usual, as if to make sure she was really there.

“I love you guys too,” Yoona said softly, a smile curving her lips. She scooted closer and rested her chin on Tiffany’s shoulder. Wrapping her arms around Tiffany’s waist in a tight hug, she tried again to put her thoughts into words. “Thanks.”

“That’s what I’ll be saying to Jessi once she’s dragged the info out of that guy,” Tiffany replied, tone still irritable. But Yoona felt her relax just a fraction.

The younger girl turned to watch as Jessica carefully rested her elbows on the tabletop, lacing her fingers together. Then she leaned forward. Slowly. Deliberately.

Jessica’s lips moved, and Yongguk looked up to meet her gaze.

Tiffany’s grin was one of grim satisfaction. “I wish him the best of luck.”

“Twins.”

Sunny tilted her head. “What?”

“It’s the only logical explanation, unnie,” Seohyun answered with a shrug. “Ryuhwa-sshi is clearly still at the hospital. And the probability of seeing someone in the same area who looks exactly like her but is entirely unrelated is extremely small. So it’s much more likely that she has a twin.”

“She is an orphan,” Sunny mused. “Those records are never as well kept as they should be. And siblings get separated all the time when they go through the system. Ryuhwa could’ve discovered it quite recently.”

“How did Youngsun-sshi know about this, then? Did Ryuhwa-sshi tell her?”

The older woman tapped her chin. “Maybe. But I have a feeling that it could also have something to do with why she and Jungeun came home late that night. It may even be the reason for her injured leg.”

Seohyun nodded. “So you think the tea shop isn’t really a tea shop.”

Sunny raised her eyebrows. “It’s definitely worth checking out.”

“If you find a nameplate there, your case will only get stronger,” Seohyun added.

“Right.” Sunny shook her head, smiling. “Seriously, Seohyun. How can I be your unnie when you’re the one guiding me all the time?”

“You’re my unnie because you are,” Seohyun replied simply as she began to unbutton her lab coat.

Sunny was startled at how young the other looked in civilian clothing. The air of professionalism Seohyun so carefully crafted had slipped away easily with the lab coat she was now hanging on the hook by the door.

Then she turned, and Sunny was caught off-guard once more. Seohyun always had a certain clarity to her gaze — it punched right through and left no obscurity in its wake. But the brilliance in her eyes as she stared at Sunny now shone in a different way. It reminded Sunny of splashing through puddles in big yellow rain boots and tumbling in the park without a care for dirt-streaked clothes and grass-stained knees.

“So, shall we go?”

“Huh?” Sunny blinked and shook her head to clear it. “Go where?”

“To the tea shop, of course.” Seohyun brushed past the shorter woman. “The investigation isn’t going to continue by itself.”

“Woah. Wait, wait.” Sunny reached out and grabbed Seohyun’s wrist. She frowned at how unbelievably delicate it felt in her hand; she was almost afraid that she’d break it if she squeezed too tightly.

The force is unusually high for a female kick, Seohyun’s voice echoed in her mind. The window was likely shattered by a male, and a strong one, too.

What was the difference between weatherproofed glass and this thin, thin wrist?

“You’re not going.”

Seohyun frowned. “Why not? Hyoyeon-unnie is and she’s never been there before, so I should go too. Tiffany-unnie is busy upstairs with that BAM member.”

“That’s why I’m here,” Sunny reminded her. “Hyoyeon and I will go to the tea shop. I’ll take care of her. I know I haven’t been here long, but you have to trust me, okay?”

“Unnie, you should be on standby just in case,” Seohyun insisted. “If back-up is needed, you’ll be much more capable of giving it than I would.”

Sunny paused.

As much sense as the other woman was making, it was all under the assumption that Seohyun was part of the team that would be going. There had to be a larger reason she had inserted herself; under any other circumstance, she would have just suggested a more experienced agent instead. Sunny examined her face closely. “Something on your mind? I know you usually don’t do field work.”

Seohyun lowered her gaze. “Yeah. Hyoyeon-unnie told me I should get out more, so I figured now would be a good time.”

Sunny smirked a little. “Something tells me you don’t usually listen to Hyoyeon.”

“That’s true.” Seohyun’s cheeks reddened. Her eyes remained downcast.

“Hey,” Sunny said, voice soft. “Something’s bothering you, right? You can tell unnie. Let me feel useful, pretty please?” She added with a winning grin, even letting some extra sweetness color her tone.

Seohyun hesitated. “I’ve just been thinking. A couple days ago I got in an argument with Jessica-unnie and Yuri-unnie about Sooyoung-unnie’s problem awhile back.”

“Oh.” Sunny nodded slowly. “You mean when she couldn’t testify in court?”

“Yeah.” Seohyun pursed her lips. “I guess it wasn’t really an argument because they didn’t say I was wrong, but they didn’t really say I was right, either. And then I realized that I don’t have the most unbiased view on the entire issue.

“I mean, on that table over there,” she gestured, “I examine the bodies of countless victims. I’ve seen for myself the horrible things that people are capable of. But those bodies have been displaced. I know nothing of where they’ve come from, what they were doing, the details of what happened. Part of my job is to find out what happened, of course, but I’m doing it in this cold, clean environment that’s so different from the real world where the crime was committed in the first place. And I just…” She trailed off and exhaled, frustrated.

For all her doctorates, Seohyun was still struggling to put into words just how she was feeling. But Sunny already knew.

“You need to do more research.”

Seohyun looked up. “What?”

“Research,” Sunny repeated with a smile, fighting the rising panic in her gut.

She had to give Seohyun a chance. The Seohyun who was lightyears ahead of her peers when all she wished was to share the same space. The Seohyun who needed to see for herself how the world worked instead of simulating it in a laboratory. The Seohyun who needed unnies instead of students, even if she didn’t know how to express it just yet.

So Sunny let out a long breath and rubbed the back of her neck. “I still don’t like sending you out there into some place I don’t know, but Hyoyeon’s experienced and I trust her. So I need you to trust me and tell me as soon as the slightest thing is off.” She raised her eyebrows. “Understand?”

Seohyun’s frown widened into a smile. “Thank you so much, unnie.”

Then Sunny snapped her fingers. “Sweet potatoes.”

The younger’s grateful expression clouded. “What?”

“The code word,” Sunny explained. “I’ll be listening in on you guys, so as soon as you feel that something isn’t right, just say ‘sweet potatoes’ and I’ll be right there.”

Seohyun giggled. “Okay, unnie. Sweet potatoes.”

Sunny looked relieved, but she still couldn’t shake off the apprehensiveness pressing against her chest. She wondered how a scientist who had dissected hundreds of horribly mutilated victims could still laugh so innocently. She almost took everything back right then.

Instead, she tightened her grip on the younger woman’s wrist.

“Alright.” Sunny sighed and stepped forward, tugging Seohyun along. “Let’s go.”

An alternate definition –

Protect: v. To realize that sometimes, sacrificing everything isn’t enough. But nothing’s going to stop you from trying anyway.