SOSHI: Aesop’s Twisted Fable – Chapter 17

January 10, 2014 in Aesop's Twisted Fable, moonrise31, SOSHI by moonrise31

Chapter 17: Penultimate

Penultimate: adj. Last but one in a series of things; second to last. (New Oxford American Dictionary)

“So let me see if I have this right: he punched you twice, and the second time you fell and hit your head on the corner of the desk.”

“That’s correct.”

Seohyun nodded, marking some notes down on the clipboard Hyoyeon was holding out for her. From the corner of her eye, she caught the expression on the older girl’s face. It said something to the extent of, “I wonder what Kim Kwangsoo with a black eye looks like.”

Laughing at that moment would be inappropriate, so Seohyun cleared her throat instead and thanked him politely.

Meanwhile, Sooyoung had just arrived at the hospital. With the direction of the helpful nurse at the front desk, she’d made it to Kim Kwangsoo’s room. Now, she raised her eyebrows when she saw Jessica sitting just outside, typing away at her laptop. “Sica? What’re you doing here?”

The woman looked less than amused. “Since maknae’s still in a sling, Hyoyeon insisted on accompanying her to the hospital. But neither of them can drive at the moment, so I got volunteered.”

“Ah, sorry about that.” Sooyoung chuckled. She lifted a hand to place on the doorknob, but then she stopped and turned back. “What’re you working on, then?”

“Taeyeon told me you were coming to question Kim Kwangsoo a bit more.”

“Yeah.” Sooyoung nodded. “Fany and Sunny are still busy booking No Minwoo and getting his statement, I guess, and I was the next agent Taeyeon laid eyes on.”

Silence fell comfortably between the two, only interrupted by Jessica’s quiet tapping keys. Then Sooyoung blinked. “Sica.”

“Hm?”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“Oh.” Jessica stopped typing and looked up, thoughtful. Sooyoung figured she was reconnecting her train of thought, because seconds later Jessica nodded to herself and continued, “Since you’re going to grill Kwangsoo more intensely this time, I thought it’d be a good idea to review what we knew so far. So I’m looking over some things again. Right now it’s whatever footage we had before and after the missing tapes.”

“That’s a good idea.” Sooyoung sat down next to her. “I wouldn’t mind a refresher either, just to make sure I’ve got all the details right. So the timeline is something like: Ryuhwa gets assaulted with the missing nameplate, Youngsun and Jungeun come in and find her, and they call Kwangsoo, who was just on his way home.”

“Yeah…” Jessica stopped. Her eyes were glued to her screen.

Sooyoung squinted. “Wait, is that…?”

Jessica replayed the clip. Both of them watched a figure almost walk into view and then turn away at the last second. Jessica rewound it and let it play again. And again. And again.

There was only one conclusion.

Jessica brought a palm to her forehead. “I can’t believe I was so stupid,” she groaned through gritted teeth.

“Why? When was that?” Sooyoung demanded, pointing at the screen.

Two entire hours before Ryuhwa was assaulted.” Jessica stomped her foot, her tightened grip on her laptop preventing it from falling. “So what the hell is Kim Kwangsoo doing back home already?”

Sooyoung leaned closer. “Is he in any other ones?”

“No.” Jessica paused the video and zoomed in on the face just as the person turned. It was blurry, but there was no doubting the identity. “It’s his own house, so of course he’d know all the camera blind spots. At least, most of them.” She pounded a fist into the cushion of the bench they were sitting on. “How could I have missed that?”

Sooyoung patted her back. “You were all really preoccupied with the missing tapes. And you never had any reason to believe that anything before or after that crucial time frame would be of use—what kind of attacker comes in two hours in advance, anyway?”

“He can come in whenever he likes if it’s his own house,” Jessica muttered darkly. “Damn, I should have done this in the beginning.”

Sooyoung watched the commands flash across the screen as Jessica typed them, but she had no idea how to even begin comprehending it all. “What’re you doing?”

Jessica’s glare could have frozen a person solid. “His alibi seemed to check out, so I didn’t bother going further. How could I have been such an idiot?”

“Hey now,” Sooyoung soothed, feeling nervous even though she wasn’t the subject of Jessica’s ire. She rubbed the other’s back gingerly. “I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about right now, so if you’re dumb, what does that make me?”

“Dumber,” Jessica retorted. But her keyboard smashing lessened a fraction. “Look. See? The CCM office’s electronic records clearly show that he checked out at 2 AM. Just like he said.”

Sooyoung nodded. “Uh huh.” She tried not to blink too fast as Jessica’s fingers flew across the keys and brought up another window.

“There.” Jessica jabbed a finger at her screen. “That’s the problem with electronics: they can create the truth anytime, anywhere. I just ran a tracking program, and it says that he in fact used a remote login-in to check out.” She glanced at Sooyoung and noted the blank expression. “Meaning he logged in from somewhere not at CCM. In this case, his own home.”

“Oh…” Sooyoung drew out the syllable as understanding finally dawned. Then her expression dropped quickly. “Wait. So that means this guy could’ve actually hurt his own daughter.”

“Not just hurt; he almost killed her.” Jessica’s gaze burned, and Sooyoung imagined it melting the poor hypothetical person who had been iced just moments before. “Ryuhwa’s still in her coma even as we speak. Do you realize that she might never wake up?”

“Now hold on a second.” Sooyoung looked down. “This isn’t condemning evidence. It’s his daughter. There’s no way he’s like that.”

But there was no convincing Jessica otherwise. Her lip was already curled into a borderline snarl. “He’s messed up, is what he is. Go in there and rip him to shreds, Soo.”

“What?” The venom in the other’s voice startled Sooyoung, even though Jessica’s stance on the entire matter had been obvious for quite awhile. No, it had caught Sooyoung off guard because her own thoughts were finally catching up.

This guy could’ve actually hurt his own daughter.

Sooyoung closed her eyes. “You know what, Sica, maybe you should go in and do the questioning. Or ask Hyoyeon, or maknae—anyone.”

“What?”

“I’m just…” Sooyoung shook her head. The movement only made the fluttering in her stomach intensify. “I don’t think I’m up for it.”

Jessica pursed her lips, but her glare softened. “Well, I think you are.”

Sooyoung didn’t say anything.

“Fine.”

Jessica pulled out her phone. Her thumb flicked lazily across the screen and then selected the person she wanted to call. The line rang twice before the other end picked up. “Hey, Sunny?”

The mention of the other agent’s name brought Sooyoung out of her trance. She looked sharply at Jessica, who made a point of examining her own fingernails. “Yeah, Soo needs to be kicked around a bit and I don’t have the energy. Want to have a try?”

Apparently the answer was affirmative, because Sooyoung found Jessica’s phone being shoved in her face. The other woman merely raised one eyebrow.

Sooyoung tentatively reached out and accepted the device, slowly bringing the phone to her ear. Jessica turned on her heel and walked down the hallway, disappearing out of sight.

“Hello?”

Right, the phone. “Oh, hi. Sunny?”

“Hey. Jessica being a little difficult?” Sunny asked, half-joking.

Sooyoung shook her head, but then remembered that the other wouldn’t be able to see it. “Not really. It’s just me being incompetent.” She paused. “Again.”

“I don’t think you’re ever incompetent,” Sunny corrected sincerely. “That implies you don’t have the abilities, and that’s just not true. Is something eating at you?”

It wasn’t often that Sooyoung couldn’t find the right words to say. But now they were all jumbled and stuck in the back of her throat. She coughed instead. “Look, Sunny, can I ask a favor? I’ll head back and help Fany with No Minwoo. You come here and interview Kwangsoo. I’m sure Sica can brief you on the situation.”

“Sorry,” Sunny said lightly, “as lovable as I am and as close as we already are, I don’t think I’m qualified to give you any favors just yet.” Her tone became more serious. “So Kwangsoo does have something to do with Ryuhwa’s assault, doesn’t he.”

“Yeah,” Sooyoung answered weakly. “He probably has everything to do with it, actually.”

“Ah. I see.” Sunny fell silent.

“Yeah,” Sooyoung said again, because she couldn’t stand the quiet.

Now Sunny was the one who cleared her throat. “Listen, Soo. Remember what you told Fany and me last night? What you told us all?

“You said that you don’t know what to do. And I’m not saying that we know either.” Sunny hesitated; but when she spoke again, there was a steel in her voice that hadn’t been there before. “Soo, it’s always going to be your call. You can’t take forever, though, so you better expect us to pull you forward once in awhile. This is me pulling.”

Sooyoung closed her eyes. She’s right. If I can’t even face this guy, how can I ever face my own father?

“This is gonna suck,” she finally said.

“I know,” Sunny agreed. “We’ll be there for you to fall back on, too. I mean, there’re eight of us—we’ll be wherever you need us to be.”

That promise was what Sooyoung ran through her head over and over long after Sunny had hung up; she put it on loop just like Jessica had been running that security clip. It calmed her stomach and cleared her mind, so when she finally opened the door, she managed to smile.

“Good afternoon, Kwangsoo-sshi.”

Seohyun stood still beside the bed, Hyoyeon sitting quietly in the chair to her right.

Wherever you need us to be.

“Another agent from SOSHI, I assume?” Kwangsoo gave her a nod.

“Agent Choi Sooyoung, at your service.” She took a deep breath. “We caught your attacker earlier this morning. No Minwoo. Your butler, correct?”

The billionaire pursed his lips. “Ah, yes. I still can’t believe what’s happened.” He lifted a hand to gingerly touch the outer edge of the bruises now ringing his eye.

“We’re having a bit of trouble ourselves,” Sooyoung couldn’t resist commenting. She continued quickly. “Kwangsoo-sshi, we have a few more questions, if that’s alright?”

He inclined his head again. “Go ahead.”

“Kwangsoo-sshi…” she paused. I really should’ve thought this out more. “How do I put this—we have evidence from the security footage that you were actually already home, two hours before Ryuhwa was assaulted.”

The room became still.

“Kwangsoo-sshi,” Hyoyeon casually interjected. “You seem a little stiff.”

“Agents,” Kwangsoo said, tone stony. “I hope you are not implying what I think you are implying.”

If she had been by herself, Sooyoung might have wilted a little. So she didn’t know where she suddenly got the burst of confidence from. Was it Seohyun, standing with back straight and unyielding? Or Hyoyeon, with her boldness in the face of all odds, even now? Was it from Jessica, whose returning steps she heard echoing from the other side of the door?

Or maybe it was Sunny, the last member of SOSHI, who unexpectedly had the best grasp on what it meant to be a part of their team.

Now, Sooyoung had no qualms about meeting him head on. “Well that depends, Kwangsoo-sshi. What do you think that we’re implying?”

He pursed his lips. “I don’t need to answer that.”

“Fair enough.” Sooyoung shrugged. “Then I’ll give you a question that you do need to answer: what were you doing back home, two hours before Ryuhwa-sshi was attacked and four or so hours before you supposedly left the CCM office?”

“My personal business is none of yours.”

Sooyoung raised her eyebrows. “It is when it makes you lie during an investigation.”

“I’m sorry, Agent Choi,” Kwangsoo said, speaking as if Sooyoung was a child who didn’t understand. “As much as it pains me to say it, No Minwoo lied when he said he didn’t attack my daughter. The reason he attacked me was because he was after my money.”

“And what makes you think that?” Sooyoung prodded.

Snap.

They all heard it: the breaking of Kim Kwangsoo’s facade.

“Because everyone always is,” the billionaire answered harshly, his demeanor no longer reserved. “Everyone.

Sooyoung readied herself for the final blow. “Is Ryuhwa-sshi included in that ‘everyone’?”

The look Kwangsoo gave her sent chills down her spine. Seohyun even took an entire step back, and Hyoyeon unconsciously shifted in her seat so that she was leaning more in front of the younger woman, clipboard held up as if it were a wall that could separate them from the hate-ridden man in the hospital bed.

“I’m surrounded by hyenas.” Kwangsoo said, voice low. “Greedy scavengers who will take my earnings and fight over the last won. No one is exempt from that; not even you, Agent Choi.”

It wasn’t his accusation that fazed Sooyoung. “You really did it, didn’t you,” she whispered. “You hit your own daughter in the head because you thought she was after your fortune.”

“Ungrateful, every single one of them,” he spat. “Coming up with every excuse to spend even more when I already provide them with enough to never want again. She expected me to believe some story of a long-lost twin who got mixed up with drugs? The nerve.”

“Yeah,” Sooyoung echoed numbly. “The nerve.”

Jessica opened her apartment door and walked inside, exhaling as she flicked on the lights and tossed her keys onto the kitchen counter. It was always a bit lonely when her little sister was out, but the emptiness that greeted her tonight was mostly ignored in the favor of the immense relief of a case finally closed.

She sank into her couch and contemplated sleeping right there.

We did it.

Her phone rang. Groaning, she flung a hand towards her purse, discarded somewhere on the cushion beside her. When she brought the device to her face and read the name flashing across the screen, a jolt of excitement made her sit up straight.

“Hi, unnie. Congratulations!”

She smiled. “Heard about it already?”

“Word travels fast here,” Krystal replied. “And if it’s from Korea, I just have to know.”

“Missing home, huh?” Jessica teased. “I bet wherever you are, it’s worth it, though.”

“Unnie, you know I can’t tell you that.” The whine in her sister’s voice made Jessica want to both hug and punch the pillow in her lap. “It’s classified.”

Jessica snorted. “If the director really wanted it to be classified, he wouldn’t have let you bring back those souvenirs from your last mission.”

“Those coconuts could’ve been from anywhere,” Krystal retorted defensively. “Let’s talk about your job, unnie. So it was the CEO all along, huh?”

“Yeah.” Jessica massaged her temple with her free hand—just thinking about the truth made her head hurt. “The bastard’s basically driven mad by his money, you know? And now one of his daughters is in a coma because of it.”

“At least you caught him,” Krystal soothed.

“Mm. He’s due to be discharged from the hospital tomorrow morning, and then we can get around to wrapping things up.” Jessica sighed. “Taeng’s already got another case.”

“Don’t forget to relax sometimes, unnie,” came the gentle reminder. “Even if it’s just fifteen minutes or so.”

Jessica couldn’t hold back a grin. “Since when did unnie ever sleep less than fifteen minutes, huh?”

A beeping interrupted Krystal’s reply. Jessica glanced at her phone screen and frowned before bringing it back to her ear. “Sorry, I’m gonna have to take this. Talk later, okay?”

“Okay,” Krystal agreed cheerfully. “Bye, unnie.”

Jessica switched calls. “This had better be good, Kim Taeyeon.”

“Depends on your definition of ‘good’,” Taeyeon replied grimly. “Kwangsoo just escaped the hospital.”

What?” Jessica asked in utter disbelief. “Are personnel outside of us complete airheads?” She forced herself to get up and begin lacing her shoes.

“I’d say to be here in ten, but I know you can make it in seven.” Taeyeon hung up.

Jessica cursed and grabbed her keys before exiting her apartment. The door slammed shut behind her.

An alternate definition—

Penultimate: adj. When the finishing line is just within sight—don’t stumble and give up your lead.