SOSHI: Aesop’s Twisted Fable – Chapter 16

January 6, 2014 in Aesop's Twisted Fable, moonrise31, SOSHI by moonrise31

Chapter 16: Edge

Edge: n. The point or state immediately before something unpleasant or momentous occurs. (New Oxford American Dictionary)

Taeyeon was used to walking fine lines.

When she had first been informed that she would be leader of a special division of Seoul’s finest, she’d almost laughed in the director’s face—fortunately, she did manage to restrain herself. And it had been awkward at first, because she had had to find the middle ground between superior and friend even as the unit shifted and grew, adding agents from different backgrounds, talents, personalities, and histories. Some had known each other before SOSHI, others had come all the way from overseas, and here she was trying to manage it all while not being able to stop herself from growing closer.

So it wasn’t long until she realized that she was working with eight of the most incredible individuals she’d ever met, and she wouldn’t trade a single one of them for anything in the world.

Of course, some days were better than others. There were times when she wondered why the director had picked her. Why not someone with Sooyoung’s experience, or the gregarious charisma Tiffany could use at will—just the right amount, and at all the right times? How was she supposed to lead these people who excelled in every aspect she still lacked? How could she be the person they all looked up to, the person they assumed would actually have some knowledge that they didn’t already possess?

These were silly worries, really; ones that her team put to rest over and over again. And with Sunny as the last piece of SOSHI’s intricate machine, Taeyeon figured she could finally start settling into what being this team’s leader really meant. But restless minds were dreadful things, especially when it came to those swirling misgivings that poked and prodded as night fell, just on the brink of sleep.

When she walked into Lee Sooman’s office with these kinds of thoughts filling her head, the director never said anything. What he did do was offer a handshake at the end of their meeting.

One single handshake, and Taeyeon was never able to stop herself from smiling afterwards.

Today, however, she walked a line finer than most.

She briefly recalled the moment she had been sitting in this very spot just last week, when she’d basically implied to the director that she would grit her teeth and take the bullet if it was shot by one of her own team members. Now she wondered if the mere metaphor of that promise was any less dangerous.

The easiest thing was to always go with the truth. Lying boldfaced to Lee Sooman was basically naming your death wish—the man was a walking polygraph. But there were tricks to getting around even the most sophisticated lie detectors, and the director was no different.

It all came down to a word game.

“Your report corroborates with Agent Yoo’s, which is excellent,” he was saying. “Well done, Agent Kim.”

Taeyeon nodded. “I’m glad we were able to help wrap up that case. The lead investigators will of course be available for testimony during the prosecution, as well as our resident medical expert.”

“Great.” Sooman paused, and Taeyeon tried not to inhale too sharply. “Speaking of lead investigators, I do recall Agent Choi pitching an idea that BAM was in fact being ordered around by some higher up. At least recently.”

“It was an intriguing idea, Director,” Taeyeon agreed smoothly. “It just didn’t turn out to be helpful with the immediate investigation.” No, we just might’ve stumbled on something much, much bigger.

“I see.” Sooman laced his fingers together and contemplated the fact for several moments.

Taeyeon focused on keeping her breathing even. She was sure the director would actually be able to hear her heart pounding against her ribcage if she didn’t stay calm. Not that she thought he would expect them to already have intelligence on the subject—if she remembered correctly, Sooyoung had simply scribbled the notion of a higher authority into the margins of one of her submitted progress reports.

So the only thing they really needed to keep under wraps for the moment was the identity of said higher authority; with one last visit from Jessica, Yongguk’s lips were guaranteed to be sealed on that subject. Unfortunately, the confirmation of the existence of “that old man” was still bound to come up during the gang members’ trials.

Time’s a-ticking.

Sooman spoke up. “Perhaps I should assign your team to the less immediate investigation, then, now that this has more or less been sorted out.”

She could only dip her head again; that conclusion had been unavoidable. “Of course. And we’ve made quite a bit of headway on the Kim Kwangsoo case as well. I have agents chasing down his assaulter as we speak.”

“Good.” The director raised his head, glasses flashing as they reflected the glare from the lights above. “No other outstanding details on this new offshoot of the BAM case, then?”

Taeyeon shrugged. “We didn’t get much from the leader,” just a name, “and even less from everyone else.”

“Alright then. Dismissed.” She stood up and turned to leave, but then he continued. “Agent Kim.”

She faced him once more and saw his right hand, outstretched.

“Thanks, Director.” She smiled and completed the handshake. But it wasn’t until she had walked out of his office and a safe distance into the hallway that she let out a long breath, staring down at her palm and thanking the heavens that it hadn’t been drenched in sweat.

It’s all on you now, Soo.

“You really think he’s gonna be here?” Sunny looked skeptical as they stopped in front of the apartment door. “We’ve basically given him 24 hours to run off to who-knows-where.”

“Well, we won’t know where he’s run off to if we don’t start where he did,” Tiffany pointed out.

Sunny nodded. “True. This is a pretty old place,” she commented as she stepped back and examined the door, flicking the safety off of her gun. “So how are we doing this?”

“Like so.” Tiffany brushed past the other agent and pounded on the door. She took a deep breath. “NO MINWOO, WE’RE COMING IN.” Then she raised one knee and drove her heel into the doorknob.

The door crashed open, banging into the wall behind it as it swung wildly on its hinges. Sunny caught it and attempted to close it, but Tiffany had ended up kicking out the entire locking mechanism, leaving a gaping hole in the doorframe.

“Well, I’m not paying for that,” Sunny muttered.

The perpetrator didn’t hear her—Tiffany was busy flipping through the magazines littered on the kitchen counter. “I don’t see any travel brochures, so there goes my hope that we’d have to chase him down to a nice tropical getaway.”

Sunny slowly lowered her weapon as she scanned the room. “He’s not here?”

“We should probably check the bedroom,” Tiffany suggested. She followed Sunny down the short hall, noting the bathroom and closet they passed on their way. But the entire apartment had now fallen silent. So when they entered the empty bedroom, Sunny flicked the safety of her gun back on and tucked the weapon into the holster hidden under her jacket.

But quiet had never sat well with Tiffany.

“Doesn’t really look like he packed.” Sunny frowned as she pulled open a sock drawer. “No sign of him rushing through the place. Maybe he skipped coming home entirely.”

“Yeah,” Tiffany said, noncommittal. It was enough for Sunny to look sharply at her, but she just motioned for the other to keep going.

Sunny walked to the other side of the room. “Closet seems untouched too.”

Tiffany stayed by the bedroom door, ears straining for the slightest sound. Luckily, the safety of her gun was still off.

“Bed’s neat. It’s pretty much like he was never here.” Sunny’s unspoken words hung heavy with the truth.

Or he never left.

There was a suddenly thump from the other side of the wall. Tiffany immediately rushed out into the hallway and slammed the bathroom door open. But she was only aiming her gun at the gaping window above the sink.

Tiffany swore. Then she ran to the window and leaned out, catching a glimpse of No Minwoo’s back just before he turned the corner.

She felt Sunny at her shoulder. “So exactly how many English curse words can I expect to learn from you and Jessica by the end of this month?”

Tiffany ignored the other’s startled yell as she suddenly swung one leg over the window ledge. “I’m running after him. You go down the normal way and try to cut him off.”

“Do you even know where he’s going?” Sunny demanded as Tiffany landed on the fire escape.

Tiffany grinned up at her. “Only one way to find out.” Then she rushed down the steps, two at a time. She skipped the last half-flight of stairs in favor of vaulting over the railing instead.

Thank goodness I didn’t wear heels today.

It had been awhile since track-and-field in high school, she reflected as she rounded the same corner Minwoo had seconds before. Sure, they had to stay fit if they were training to be agents, but she couldn’t really remember the last time she’d had to race down fifty meters of cement with no sign of stopping.

“Fany.” Yuri’s voice suddenly crackled from the bluetooth she’d forgotten was resting snugly in her ear.

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“Thank goodness you always have your phone on you,” Yuri sighed. “I know you’re running after the guy and everything, but you could at least call. Or pick up when Sunny calls. I mean, I know you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Yuri is amazing so she’ll come through and I don’t have to pay attention to things like whether my phone is vibrating, or bothering to keep Sunny updated on where the hell I’m going’, but it wouldn’t hurt if Yuri could save her amazingness for something else—”

“Yuri.”

“Okay, connecting you to Sunny.”

“He just passed the grocery store,” Tiffany said breathlessly as soon as she heard the lines switch.

Only a slight pause before, “Okay, which one?”

She noted Sunny’s suppressed “would it kill you to think these things through a little more” and knew she was going to hear it—again—once this was all said and done. But she smiled to herself as she replied, “I don’t know. You think I have time to read these things? Probably the nearest one.”

“Well that’s helpful.” She heard the engine start and the chime of Sunny turning the GPS on. “You can at least tell me a street name, right?”

“Um.” Tiffany squinted, panicking as Minwoo disappeared into a crowd of late morning shoppers. He bobbed back into sight a second later. “Does it help if I tell you that I just made two lefts and now a right?”

Dammit, Fany,” Sunny muttered, but she didn’t pursue the subject. “Okay, I’m going to meet you in two blocks unless he turns again.”

“Left,” was Tiffany’s answer. “Oh wow, really? He’s running inside the TRAX building. He’ll be cornered for sure.”

“Don’t lose him then.” Sunny growled in frustration as Tiffany heard the cars honking both through her bluetooth and from one street away. “Yeah, I’ll just park and meet you there.”

If Minwoo thought pushing aside smartly-dressed business people was not part of Tiffany’s skillset, he was wrong. And she had thrown aside subtlety long ago, shouting, “Police, make way! Stop that man!” But he had already pulled open the door to a stairway.

“Never mind,” Tiffany muttered. She caught the door before it swung all the way shut. Minwoo’s steps echoed heavily above her, but she timed her own strides so her footsteps rang with his. Six stories later, she decided she didn’t really want to chase him all the way to the top of the building.

Her gait fell out of sync with his as she sped up, skipping three or even four steps at a time. She exhaled with relief when she heard him open the door to the ninth floor. Slipping through the remaining gap before the door closed, she caught a glimpse of him rounding another corner.

“Ninth floor,” Tiffany murmured, and trusted her microphone to be sensitive enough for Sunny to hear. She was rewarded a split second later with Sunny’s slightly disheveled reply. Tiffany caught snippets of “hellish parking” and “stupid pedestrians” before the other concluded,

“Definitely taking the elevator.”

By the time Tiffany turned the corner, there was only an empty hallway left to greet her. She narrowed her eyes and jogged down the corridor, eying every closed door as she passed. He can’t have already run all the way down and turned; there wasn’t enough time.

“Hey Sunny,” she said as she reached the end of the hall. “Feel like taking a gamble?”

She heard the quiet ding of an elevator bell, no doubt nine floors down. A rustle as Sunny stepped inside. “Depends on what the odds are.”

“Fairly good, if I know my big business buildings,” Tiffany answered as she peeked around the corner. The hallway stayed empty. She retreated and raised her eyebrows when she noticed the elevator on the other side of the corridor she was now in, a few doors to her right. Moments later, Sunny walked out.

Tiffany motioned for the other to go around, so one of them stood at each end of the hallway she had last seen Minwoo in.

“And now we wait.”

The ninth floor was surprisingly quiet; Tiffany hadn’t seen a single civilian walk by. While the seconds passed, she wondered which room Minwoo had ducked into. If he wanted to avoid suspicion, his best bets were probably some sort of storage closet. Or maybe even—

“He’s coming towards me,” Sunny hissed. “You can sneak up from behind.”

Tiffany glanced around the corner and saw Minwoo ten paces away, the bathroom door swinging shut behind him. She rolled her eyes. Of course.

Sunny chose that moment to appear in front of him, gun aimed squarely at his chest. “That’s far enough, No Minwoo.”

He stopped in his tracks.

“Go on.” Sunny approached, weapon steady. “Hands up.”

Minwoo raised his arms, one centimeter at a time.

Sunny took another step. It was obvious from his shifting eyes that he was going to try something, so she didn’t follow when he suddenly turned and bolted—

—straight into Tiffany.

She grunted and grabbed his shoulder. Then she shoved him against a wall, twisting one of his arms behind his back. “Hey, Minwoo-sshi, we’ve got some questions, since you seem willing to stick around.”

“I’m—sorry—” He finally gasped, grimacing as Tiffany pushed a little harder on the shoulder in her grip.

“A bit late for apologies,” Sunny commented. She leaned casually against the wall, shifting so that she was practically nose-to-nose with the former butler. “Kim Kwangsoo’s daughter wasn’t good enough, huh? So you went after the big guy himself.”

Confusion flashed across Minwoo’s features. “What? No I—I hit Kwangsoo-sshi, yes. But—augh!”

“Fany,” Sunny said, and Tiffany released the pressure, pulling Minwoo away from the wall. She locked a pair of handcuffs around his wrists, smirking in satisfaction as the metal clicked in place.

“Wait.” Sunny frowned. “So you freely admit to assaulting Kwangsoo-sshi, but not Ryuhwa-sshi?”

Minwoo shook his head. “I had nothing to do with that. You can even check—” He paused, face falling. “Oh, the security footage…”

“Is gone, we know.” Tiffany pinched the bridge of her nose. “How can so many unrelated crimes be happening in one household?”

“It’s a big house,” Sunny pointed out dryly.

“I really didn’t hurt Ryuhwa-sshi,” Minwoo insisted. “But I take full responsibility for attacking Kwangsoo-sshi. I lost my temper when I shouldn’t have.”

Sunny raised her eyebrows and glanced at Tiffany.

Minwoo rambled on, attempting to explain himself. “I was just so enraged. He accused me of trying to steal money from him. He wouldn’t listen to reason. I’ve worked with him three years already—you’d think he’d know better than that by now, right? But he kept insulting me and I finally snapped.”

“Okay, you can give us your formal statement later.” Sunny led him down the hallway, towards the elevator.

“He even gave me tea just last week,” Minwoo muttered, more to himself than to the two agents. “Said I was the best butler he’s ever had.”

Behind his back, Sunny and Tiffany exchanged glances.

Minutes later, the three entered the parking garage. Sunny opened the back door of her vehicle and guided Minwoo inside.

“Sunny,” Tiffany began as she opened the passenger-side door, “they said Kwangsoo-sshi’s supposed to be checking out of the hospital today, right?”

“Yeah.” Sunny fastened her seat belt and reached into her pocket for the keys. “I think Seohyun is visiting him to get confirmation of attack details. Which means Hyoyeon will be going as well, and I think Sica mentioned having to drive them?”

“Okay, good. Maybe we should ask Taeyeon to send another agent over too.” Tiffany tapped her chin. “I think Kwangsoo-sshi definitely needs to answer some more questions while we get this guy sorted out.” She glanced at the rearview mirror, which showed Minwoo slumped in the backseat.

Something just isn’t adding up.

An alternate definition—

Edge: n. The delicate equilibrium between safety and danger, ignorance and enlightenment. Are you ready for the fall?