SOSHI: Aesop’s Twisted Fable – Chapter 12

November 26, 2013 in Aesop's Twisted Fable, moonrise31, SOSHI by moonrise31

Chapter 12: Mirror

Mirror: n. A surface that reflects a clear image; something regarded as accurately representing something else. (New Oxford American Dictionary)

“Jeongnam,” Tiffany announced as she entered the office.

Taeyeon reached down, plucking her coffee mug from its nest of post-its on Yuri’s desk. Then she settled her elbow on top of the cubicle wall once more. “What?”

“Sica-unnie is a genius,” Yoona elaborated from behind Tiffany.

Taeyeon raised her eyebrows at the said genius as she took a sip. “You worked your magic again, I see.”

“I didn’t work anything,” Jessica grumbled, pushing past the other two women who had witnessed the interrogation. She spared Taeyeon an innocent smile before taking her spot next to Yuri. “I’m just a tech, you know.” Her tone switched abruptly. “Now be quiet and let me do my work.” She slipped her headset over her ears and began typing away.

Taeyeon held up her hands in surrender, taking a couple of steps back. Then she looked at Tiffany. “So ‘Jeongnam’ is a name, I’m guessing.”

Tiffany nodded. “The man who has made BAM his pawn. And they are but one of many, it seems.”

“I see. And this takeover happened five, six months back?” Taeyeon turned towards Sooyoung, who was seated across the aisle, back facing them. “You said that’s when their activities changed, right, Soo?”

“Huh?” Sooyoung whipped around and blinked. Then she shook her head a few times before mumbling, “Yeah. They were always a big gang. They were moving constantly, and it was all very calculated, but there was very little organization.” Her voice grew stronger, falling into its usual confident cadence. “I assume they used violence as much as any other in order to keep people in line, but the body count didn’t start piling up ‘til early this year. Their movements became a lot more centralized, too. I’m closing in on the single operation point, but it’s still a pretty wide radius at the moment.”

“Yongguk would probably tell Sica-unnie if she asked.” Yoona grinned. “We’ve got this in the bag, now.”

“I couldn’t agree more.” Taeyeon gave them an enthusiastic thumbs-up. “Good work, guys.”

“I’ve been running a program that’s looking for potential hideouts based on what Soo found out,” Yuri piped up from behind them. “If Yongguk’s answer is one of those, I think we should go for it.”

“So what do you say, Soo?” Tiffany put her hands on her hips, her smile wide and teasing. “You’re the boss, so you’re the final call.”

“Huh?” Sooyoung looked up again, startled. Then she rubbed the back of her own head. “Uh, yeah. Yeah. That’s a good plan.”

Taeyeon set her mug down. “You alright? You seem kind of out of it.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Sooyoung waved a hand and glanced in the opposite direction. “Sorry. I was just thinking.”

“Care to enlighten the rest of us?” Tiffany prodded.

“I…I think I’ve read about this Jeongnam guy somewhere,” she explained, standing up abruptly. Her movement propelled her chair backwards, the wheels clattering against the floor as they rolled. Her tone became more resolved. “I’m gonna check some records. Whenever Sica can get that info from Yongguk will be fine, and then we’ll just match his answer against Yuri’s results. Then we can start logistics for the roundup.”

“Sounds good,” Taeyeon said, watching Sooyoung as the latter walked out of the office. Her eyes didn’t leave the taller woman’s back even as she reached for her coffee mug.

“Is she okay?” Tiffany asked, frowning.

“Unnie’s probably got a lot on her mind,” Yoona suggested. She bit her lip. “She’s under a lot of pressure.”

“Stop worrying, guys,” Yuri laughed, but her smile didn’t reach her eyes. “She can handle it. Soo’s strong, you know?”

Taeyeon raised her mug to her lips, but then brought it back down again.

“Hm.” She stared at the dark dregs covering the bottom of the cup. “There’s no more left.”

“What’s it called, again?”

“For the last time, unnie, it’s ‘Seven Springs’.”

“Just don’t want to embarrass myself.” Hyoyeon grinned, giving Seohyun’s arm a playful squeeze. Then she felt the younger woman’s weight shift slightly, so she followed suit and stepped safely onto the curb.

“You’ll be fine, unnie,” Seohyun said.

Hyoyeon could feel the tension in Seohyun’s muscles. She hooked their arms more tightly, pulling the other girl closer. “You too, maknae. Don’t worry.”

Hyoyeon knew they had walked into the tea shop when she heard the bell jingle over her head. She kept her stance casual, but her senses were on high alert.

“Tilt your head up a little, Hyo?” Jessica’s voice requested in her ear.

She obliged, knowing that her movement would adjust the view of the tiny camera installed in the rim of her sunglasses.

“That’s good,” Jessica said.

“Welcome to Seven Springs,” the storekeeper cheerfully greeted them from the back of the store. Hyoyeon counted her steps as she let Seohyun lead the way, although she followed so quickly that it seemed like they were walking side by side. This room is twenty-five meters deep? Maybe twenty-six.

“Hello, I’m Park Chorong. I’ll be helping you today.” Hyoyeon heard the rustle of clothing as the storekeeper bowed. “Is this your first time here?”

“Yes,” Seohyun replied, and Hyoyeon gave a friendly smile. The former continued. “We’ve heard some really good reviews about this place, so we had to come and see for ourselves. Oh, is that Earl Grey?”

Hyoyeon tried to pay attention to the ensuing conversation, but she’d never taken any interest in all the different kinds of tea that apparently existed. Thank goodness Seohyun insisted on coming. I’m pretty sure Sunny would be as lost as I am.

“You guys should try the oolong.” Now it was Sunny talking in their earpieces. “That’ll definitely be worth it.”

Never mind. Hyoyeon could get away with rolling her eyes because no one would be able to see behind her shades. It’s just me.

“Unnie, try this.”

The shifting of a teacup along the metal countertop snapped Hyoyeon out of her thoughts. She noted where it stopped and extended one hand smoothly, wrapping her fingers around the cup. She tried to sound intrigued. “Oh, smells good.”

“Back door is unlocked,” Sunny suddenly said. “I’m going in.”

“No, unnie,” Seohyun protested calmly. Her warning was for Sunny, but she placed a gentle hand on Hyoyeon’s wrist to stop her from drinking. “You’ve got to blow on it first to cool it.”

“It’s the BAM guy,” Sunny replied. “Choi Junhong. I’m following.”

“Unnie’s got it,” Hyoyeon smiled at Seohyun. She brought the cup to her lips. “Don’t worry.”

Sunny will be fine.

“Be careful,” Jessica cautioned. “There’s a security camera in the back I can use to watch the door, but they don’t have any on the inside.” She paused before muttering, “Which is a stupid idea, if you ask me.”

Hyoyeon lowered her cup, the pleasant taste of the tea still warm on her tongue. “Mm. Fruity.”

She knew Seohyun was beaming at her. “I thought you’d like that one.”

“Sunny,” Jessica spoke up again. “Stealth is important, but if you get in trouble, it’s the first thing you should throw away.”

“I’ll yell so loud you’ll be able to hear me at HQ, even without your audio feed,” Sunny promised. Hyoyeon heard some shuffling through the microphone.

“This next.” Seohyun slid another cup into her waiting hand. Hyoyeon felt a faint tremor in Seohyun’s fingers from their brief contact.

“You’re doing really well so far,” Hyoyeon assured her, grinning. She heard the click of a second door opening from Sunny’s end. “But if you give me a tea that I don’t like, you’re going to be in trouble.”

“Don’t be silly, unnie,” Seohyun answered, nudging her shoulder lightly. Hyoyeon chuckled as she took a sip.

Good. She just needs to stay relaxed.

“Oh sh–” Sunny started.

The crash rang from somewhere behind the back wall of the store. It echoed too loudly in Hyoyeon’s earpiece.

The storekeeper screamed.

A long string of English left Jessica’s mouth, and Hyoyeon didn’t need to understand to know that she was vehemently cursing.

Time to move.

“Stand back,” Hyoyeon shouted, placing her teacup as far off to the side as she could reach.

Jessica regained her focus. “Counter’s half a meter wide,” she said.

Hyoyeon vaulted onto the counter and slid across the top, aiming for the direction away from where she’d heard the storekeeper. She landed safely on the other side.

“Door to your right,” Jessica instructed. “Two meters.”

Her hand was already hovering at the height a doorknob should be. She clawed at the air for only a moment before finding the handle. She flung the door open just as she heard another crash from her left, followed by two gunshots.

She froze.

“What the hell,” a male voice yelled, frustrated.

“Have some more,” Sunny replied. Another crash.

Hyoyeon let out the breath she’d been holding. She slid her foot out cautiously, testing for obstacles. Then she steadily made her way down the corridor, back pressed against the wall.

Suddenly she felt Seohyun beside her. “Unnie, it’s coming from the first door.”

“What are you doing?” Hyoyeon hissed. “Get back in the store.”

“Jessica-unnie can only give you limited vision,” Seohyun pointed out. “The more eyes we have, the better.”

“Dammit, Seohyun.” Hyoyeon was sure Jessica had just thrown her hands up in the air. “Why do you always have to be right?”

“Stay in the hallway then,” Hyoyeon ordered. “And run when we tell you to get out.”

“Okay,” Seohyun promised. “Here, I’ll peek in.”

“No, give her your glasses,” Jessica corrected. “So I can tell you the distances.”

Hyoyeon let Seohyun pass, handing over the sunglasses. She was thankful for the shouts and shuffling coming from the room, because that meant Sunny was still capable of moving.

“Alright, Seohyun,” Jessica was saying. “Just stick the glasses out a bit–yes, just like that. Okay, Hyo. When you walk in, the direction to the door will be south.”

Jessica began listing off the coordinates of what seemed to be crates lying scattered across the room. Once in awhile she’d ask Seohyun to adjust the camera’s view.

I always hated math, Hyoyeon thought, grimacing, but she was already mapping out the room in her head.

“He’s moving this way now,” Jessica warned. “He’ll be at the doorway–”

Hyoyeon picked out the heavy footsteps. “I got it.” She tensed. He’s gonna be right next to that broken crate–

She heard him stop.

She lunged.

Choi Junhong. 184 centimeters. His knees are going to be right about–

She heard his foot run into the splintered crate. One of the stray boards shot toward her ankles.

Hyoyeon swore as the wood made contact, but she still managed to barrel into the BAM member. He was quicker than she’d expected, though. Before she knew it, he had grabbed her by the collar and thrown her to his other side.

She landed on the ground hard. She ignored the pain in her shoulder and swiftly rolled in one direction. She was completely disoriented, but hopefully Jessica could give her some bearings.

She heard some colorful swears from the gang member. “Who the hell are you guys? Cops?”

“Come quietly, Choi Junhong,” Sunny said from Hyoyeon’s left, “And things will be a lot easier for you.”

“This would be a lot easier for us if we weren’t trying to take him alive,” Jessica grumbled darkly. “Hyo, you’re about eleven meters into the room–”

“Dammit, he’s running!” Sunny shouted, and Hyoyeon heard her make a dash for what must be the doorway. Then there was an exclamation of surprise from the same direction.

She heard the dull rattle of sunglasses falling to the ground.

Jessica cursed again. Hyoyeon couldn’t hear the English syllables over the pounding of her own heart in her ears.

Seohyun.

Hyoyeon rolled another two meters and then got to her feet, scrambling to reorient herself with her mental map. Seven steps forward if I run. It didn’t take more than a second, but it seemed like forever and a day had passed when her frantic hands finally met the wall. The same wall as the doorway. When she pressed her back against it, he was just to her right.

“Let her go,” Sunny growled.

“Just let me go, okay?” He replied. “Then I’ll let her go, and everything will be fine.”

“Choi Junhong–” Sunny took one step forward.

The metallic click of a gun being cocked fell hard on Hyoyeon’s eardrums.

“I’m serious,” he said, voice steady.

Sunny stopped. She kept her tone calm. “Junhong-sshi, you’re not even out of high school yet. Don’t make rash decisions.”

He laughed. “A little late for that, don’t you think?”

Hyoyeon shifted her weight to the balls of her feet, ready to spring. He doesn’t sound like he’s in high school anymore.

“Hyo.” Jessica’s every word was on edge, but Hyoyeon didn’t notice it over her own apprehension. “You’ve got to disarm him. His attention is on Sunny.”

Hyoyeon listened. She heard ragged breathing, picking out his over her own. Five meters away.

“You’re gonna have to make a dash,” Jessica said, the strain in her voice growing with each word. “The sooner, the better.”

Hyoyeon surged forward. She aimed high, knowing that he had almost a head over Seohyun. Her fist met his face with a satisfying thud. Her other hand was already running along his arm. She grabbed his wrist. Felt the cold metal of the gun in his fingers–

A single shot rang through the air.

Maknae!” Sunny screamed.

Hyoyeon felt him slip out of her grasp, but Seohyun was still there. She instinctively wrapped her arms around the younger girl’s waist.

She felt their rapid heartbeats synchronize. Concentrated on Seohyun’s quick shallow breaths.

A drop of warm liquid landed on her arm. It spread into a damp spot on her sleeve.

One drop, and the world roared in her ears.

“Unnie,” Seohyun said, hoarse but steady. Hyoyeon barely heard her. “There’s someone coming.”

“Holy–” A voice behind them started. “What the hell happened here?”

The fog in Hyoyeon’s head cleared for just a moment. Someone new?

The click of a gun hammer sliced through the silence. But this time, it came from Sunny’s direction.

“You,” Sunny said, voice low. “You look just like Kim Ryuhwa. I think you have some explaining to do.”

An alternate definition –

Mirror: n. An object that shows only what you expect to see. Should you trust what your eyes are telling you?