SOSHI: Aesop’s Twisted Fable – Chapter 8

October 31, 2013 in Aesop's Twisted Fable, moonrise31, SOSHI by moonrise31

Chapter 8: Progress

Progress: n. forward or onward movement toward a destination. (New Oxford American Dictionary)

The key to pretending that she’d been hit, Yoona had learned, was timing.

She’d seen Yongguk’s fist coming for the side of her head, and she knew that she’d have to move at the same speed as that punch—no more, no less. Yongguk had to feel his hand make contact, and see the force he believed would be sufficient to knock her out.

The key was timing, and a lot of guesswork.

Which is why Yoona still found herself with a slightly ringing skull; she’d misjudged how hard Yongguk would actually throw his punch. Sheesh—he’s the only guy I know who’s not afraid to hit a girl.

At least her throbbing head made it easier for her to slump over and let herself be tossed facedown into the backseat of BAM’s escape vehicle. Which meant she couldn’t look out the window and keep track of her surroundings, but she was supposed to be knocked out anyway.

These circumstances also left her in the unfortunate position of being conscious enough to suffer through the heavy silence filling the car as Himchan drove them to what was presumably one of BAM’s hideouts. She figured that they’d been traveling for maybe ten minutes before the car hit a speed bump and jolted its passengers, allowing her to roll along with it naturally to face the front windshield. She could even open her eyes just a little, peering through a curtain of her hair at Yongguk silently stewing in the shotgun seat.

Eventually, he shifted, grumbling, “This is a mess.”

“I’m sorry,” Himchan murmured, glancing briefly from the road to shoot the leader an apologetic look. “I really thought that since you took her there, she knew…”

“Yeah, I know.” Yongguk sighed heavily and slouched, running a hand through his hair. Then he rubbed his eyes with the heel of his palm. “I don’t even know what I was thinking. I just kind of…walked there. Out of habit, I guess. I made a deal there just yesterday.”

“We’ll have to be more careful,” Himchan said. “Ditch that spot and find another one.”

“Yeah.” Yongguk scowled.

Quiet fell once more, and Yoona looked outside, watching the lampposts go by as the car zoomed past them. Their lights blurred into thick yellow lines against the night sky. Outskirts of Seoul. Almost countryside.

Himchan cleared his throat. “So what’re we gonna do with her?”

“I don’t know,” Yongguk groaned, squeezing his eyes shut. “I didn’t sign up for this, dammit.”

“Well technically…” Himchan started.

“Shut up,” the other snapped. Himchan said nothing, and Yongguk exhaled again after a few seconds. “Sorry.”

“We’ll figure it out,” Himchan assured him, one hand leaving the steering wheel to punch Yongguk in the shoulder. “We see a chance, we’re gonna take it and get out.”

“Yeah.” Yongguk nodded once, one corner of his mouth curved in a wry grin. “Even if we only have one shot at it. I’d give anything just to get that old guy off our backs so we can do our own thing again.”

Yoona’s mind was flying so fast, she almost couldn’t keep up with the conversation. Old guy? Someone came in and took over BAM? Is this why the killing suddenly increased recently?

Finally, we’re getting somewhere.

The two didn’t say much else for the rest of the trip, and Yoona was left calculating when she was expected to regain consciousness. She decided that she would conveniently still be knocked out when Himchan finally pulled up to a deserted warehouse. She willed herself to remain completely limp while the two BAM members tried to find the best way to carry her. Finally, Yongguk pulled her up into a sitting position and Himchan helped him slump her over his shoulder so he could carry her on his back. Yoona breathed as slowly as she could, trying to keep her heart from beating too hard.

Limp. Think limp thoughts. 

She narrowed her eyes into the tiniest of slits since her hair was now out of her face, so she could only see the transition from the dark night outside to the dim glow of the warehouse as Yongguk stepped inside. She heard the echo of the space around them and wondered just how big the building was.

After climbing at least two flights of stairs—Yongguk’s shoulder digging into Yoona’s chin with each step, much to her chagrin—Yongguk stopped and dumped her onto a soft surface. A couch? Then he left the room and Yoona allowed herself to breathe a little louder, preparing for her next course of action.

But then Yongguk came back in, and Yoona heard a quiet sloshing sound. Oh crap he’s not gonna—

She barely had time to brace herself before the wave of cold water splashed her in the face, so her surprised squeal was mostly genuine. Then she allowed herself to flail around some more before sitting up and wiping the liquid from her eyes.

“Where…am I?” Saebyuk asked, looking around the room. There was a table in the corner and a couple of chairs scattered around, but other than that, it was bare except for Yongguk and his now empty bucket.

He is so gonna pay for that.

“My place.” Yongguk pulled up a chair and sat down across from her, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. He smirked drily. “Bit different from what you were expecting, I bet.”

She blinked at him for a few moments before looking down again, shuffling her feet. “What’s…what’s gonna happen? To me.” Saebyuk was petrified, but inside, Yoona was furiously assessing how she could make it out of this alive. She was well aware of the gun peeking out from behind him, tucked in the waistband of his jeans. But the fact that he hadn’t tried to kill her yet was always a good sign.

Yongguk looked down at the floor and laced his fingers together. He let out a long breath. “To be honest, I don’t know. I’m sincerely sorry for involving you in this, Saebyuk. But now that you know, I can’t just let you go, right?”

“You can,” Yoona tried. “I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”

Yongguk shook his head. “I don’t think I can take that risk.” He sighed and stood up. “Just stay here for now and don’t try to do anything. You’ll get food and the bathroom’s right outside, but I’ve got someone watching at all times. Got it?”

Well, I didn’t think it’d be that easy, but it was worth a shot. Plan B. Saebyuk fidgeted with the damp hem of her shirtsleeve. “Um…how long?”

“I dunno, maybe a couple of days.” Yongguk shrugged. “Just sit tight, okay? It’ll be over before you know it.”

“My friends,” Saebyuk blurted. “My roommate. She’s going to wonder where I went.”

Yongguk paused in the doorway. Then he fished her cellphone out of his pocket and walked over. “Here. Text her.”

Yoona thought of her bag, which, as far as she knew, was still sitting on the floor of Himchan’s car. He must’ve taken it out before we left. Oh, and he switched it off…poor Yuri. She needs to put a tracker in this thing. She cautiously turned on the phone and opened a message for “Choi Anna”. Then she hesitated.

“Write what you want,” Yongguk said, though he stared at the screen intently. “If it’s harmless, I won’t complain.”

Yoona nodded, mind racing. She had to make this message count. Her thumbs slowly hit the screen one character at a time.

[12:01 AM] Sorry forgot to tell you I’m over at my grandparents’ house for the weekend. Signal’s bad in the countryside but I’ll try my best ^_^

“That’s fine.” Yongguk watched her send it and then took the phone back. He stepped out of the room and closed the door.

She listened to his footsteps fade away before she felt comfortable enough to exhale again, blowing some wet strands of hair out of her face. Now what should I do—

“Hyung, you messed up bad.”

Yoona jumped up and whipped around, but she was the only one in the room. She frowned. “What the—”

“Shut it, Daehyun. I’ll take care of it, okay?”

Her searching gaze focused on the floor. The air vent? She walked over to the metal grating and leaned down.

A third tinny voice echoed from below. “You hyungs just chill, okay?” Yoona’s eyes widened. That’s Youngjae.

“Yeah,” a fourth chimed in. “Or the old guy can just come in and tell us what to do, like always.” A smattering of incoherent grumbles followed.

Yoona settled herself beside the grate, tilting her head back to rest against the wall. She closed her eyes and began committing as much as she could to memory, word for word.

“Taeng! Taeng!” Yuri burst into the office. “Yoona texted!”

Taeyeon looked up. “Is that so?”

“Yeah.” Yuri’s ecstatic expression dropped into a glare. “Damn, if you hadn’t made us take a break, I wouldn’t have missed it by three hours.”

“I don’t see why you’re complaining.” Taeyeon adjusted her sunglasses. “You just did work while not doing work. So you’re welcome.”

“Hold on.” Yuri blinked, suddenly registering what exactly was perched on the other’s nose. “Are you wearing sunglasses? Inside? At night?”

“It’s 3 AM, thank you very much, and some of us have eyebags we’d rather not let others see,” Taeyeon retorted. She held out an expectant hand. “Well? What’d she say?”

“Oh, right.” Yuri pulled out a printout with a flourish. “There. ‘At grandparents’ house’. ‘Bad signal’.”

“ ‘Countryside’,” Taeyeon read. “Oh, since her phone is on now, you should be able to track her, right?”

“Already done,” Yuri answered triumphantly. “Abandoned warehouse four hours outside Seoul.”

“Perfect.” Taeyeon stood up. “Tell Soo that we’re going on a road trip. Seems like Yoong has irregular access to her phone, and I’d give it 24 hours max for battery life. When that ends, we’ll be ready to bust her out.”

“Oh, you’re going too, Taeng?” Yuri watched as the other stood, tidying papers and fishing around drawers.

“Yeah.” Taeyeon nodded. “It’s been ages since I was out in the field anyway. And frankly speaking, I wouldn’t mind taking—” she whipped off her glasses and winked, “—a crack at these drug lords myself.”

YEAHHHHHHHHH!”

Yuri jumped. “For heaven’s sake, is that your ringtone, Taeng?”

“Yoona set it, so I can’t change it ‘til she gets back,” Taeyeon replied absentmindedly as she retrieved her phone from under a stack of binders. She glanced at the screen and then closed her eyes. “Oh shoot, totally forgot. The director’s wondering what all this missing person business is about, so I guess I should inform him. When I’m done getting chewed out, I expect everything to be ready.”

“You got it.” Yuri saluted and let Taeyeon exit first. She closed the door behind her and then paused. “By the way, crack? That was a horrible pun. And Soo’s already made it. Multiple times.”

Taeyeon waved a careless hand. “It’s 3 AM, Yul. Cut me some slack, okay?”

Yuri laughed. “Yeah, okay.” She glanced down at the sheet in her hands, Yoona’s words printed in bland black ink the most beautiful thing she’d seen in a long while.

Everything is going to be okay.

“Unnie, please don’t touch that.”

Hyoyeon continued to play with the empty test tube, nimble fingers feeling along the glass. “There’s nothing in here, maknae. I’m not gonna mess something up.”

“I just want you to be careful,” Seohyun replied, although she knew that she didn’t have to tell Hyoyeon twice. The other woman slid the test tube neatly back into its place on the rack before wandering off, her right hand brushing lightly against the various instruments lining the wall. Seohyun used to hold her breath whenever Hyoyeon did this, because a stray finger could hit the wrong button and then in the blink of an eye, a week’s analysis would go down the drain.

Of course, Seohyun knew better now. Hyoyeon usually needed to keep in touch with her surroundings in order to place herself, but she already knew this lab better than if she could see it.

Which was why she could boldly cross the room and stop right in front of a clean autopsy table at the center. Her hand reached out and confirmed the placement of the metal surface before she vaulted on top. “Better now?”

Seohyun winced. “Not really, unnie.” She tried not to think of the last person who had been on that table—seeing Hyoyeon sitting there gave her the chills.

“Wanna feel my pulse just to check?” Hyoyeon teased, cutting through Seohyun’s darker thoughts.

The latter sighed through her nose. “I’d rather you didn’t joke about these things.”

“You know what your problem is?” Hyoyeon slid off the table. “Spending too much time in here. You need to get out of the lab more, get away from all these not living things.”

“Oh? And go out there, where there are living things trying to make not living things?” Seohyun retorted. “Unnie, my place is here, and you know it.”

By this time, Hyoyeon had made it to the other side of the room. Her drifting hand almost knocked into an empty aluminum can sitting on the counter, but she quickly plucked it up and turned towards Seohyun, raising an eyebrow. “Just like how this Red Bull is supposed to be here, right?”

Seohyun sighed and walked over, taking the can from the other’s grasp. “I keep telling Tiffany-unnie to stop leaving those around. There’s a recycle bin just down the hall.”

“I know,” Hyoyeon chirped, snatching it back and leaning against the counter. “I’ll toss it when I go. No worries.”

Seohyun let her keep it, because that meant the elder would stay still for once. She stepped over to the computer on Hyoyeon’s right, tapping at the keys. “No offense, unnie, but why are you here anyway?”

Hyoyeon shrugged. “I can’t just want to visit my favorite person in this building?”

Unnie,” Seohyun whined, ignoring the other’s victorious grin. “Not when there are two cases going on. Plus, Yoona-unnie’s missing.”

“She’s fine.” Hyoyeon waved her free hand.

Seohyun frowned at her screen. “I mean, yes, Yuri-unnie found her, but still. She’s not here.”

“She’s fine,” Hyoyeon repeated. But Seohyun heard the Red Bull can crinkle slightly.

“We’re all worried,” she offered in response.

Hyoyeon nodded. But she wasn’t one to dwell on darker thoughts, Seohyun knew. Not anymore. And sure enough, the mood quickly became too stifling for Hyoyeon, so she said, “You know, I think you should go back to teaching.”

“Not this again,” Seohyun mumbled, her attention on the data she’d just pulled up on the computer.

“I really do,” Hyoyeon insisted. “I mean, you do great work here, don’t get me wrong. Amazing work. But I’m sure you were an awesome professor too. You shouldn’t have just left it like that.”

“Unnie,” Seohyun said gently, “it’s hard to teach students who are your peers. Neither can take the other seriously.”

Hyoyeon tossed the can to her other hand as she shook her head. “Don’t try to tell me that you don’t miss it. I know you love research. Working here only gets you so far—what about all those university funds you always rave about?”

Seohyun finally turned from the screen to give the other a thoughtful look. Then she put a hand on Hyoyeon’s shoulder. “Unnie, those were nice. Extremely nice. But I get to do a different sort of research here, and I’m already going to publish soon. And I get to help you guys catch bad people. You really think being a professor is the better deal?”

“But what about all the degrees you have?” Hyoyeon pointed out, jerking her head in the direction of wall that displayed Seohyun’s numerous diplomas. “How many is that even—like, twenty? You’re way too overqualified for this job, maknae.”

“Twenty? Don’t be ridiculous,” Seohyun defended, cheeks reddening. “And I’ll take whatever job I want, okay?” She made a face. “It’s almost like you don’t want me here.”

“Hey now.” Hyoyeon poked Seohyun’s shoulder firmly. “If you ever leave, we’ll all cry, and I’ll be bawling the hardest. But,” she hesitated, lowering her hand. Her other pointer finger made a tap tap tap sound against the aluminum can. “I…just don’t think you should give up. Right? I mean, you’re important to me. And I don’t like the idea of someone important to me giving up on something, ever.”

And then Hyoyeon coughed and faced the other direction. Rolled the empty can between her palms.

Seohyun couldn’t suppress a laugh. “Unnie, if I ever need a role model for someone who just wouldn’t quit, it’d be you.” Her voice softened. “And I’m really grateful for that.”

Hyoyeon nodded once, not turning around. “I’m grateful too.”

If Seohyun didn’t know better, she’d assume that Hyoyeon was staring very intently at an empty wall. But she did know better, so she had a good idea of what Hyoyeon was thinking about: memories of the month, about a year ago, when the latter had taken a leave of absence.

It wasn’t unusual, since anyone who had been captured by a rampant serial killer would understandably desire some time off the job. So when Taeyeon submitted the request, the director hadn’t given it a second glance.

Of course, he didn’t know that the rest of SOSHI had helped Seohyun move some makeshift equipment over to Hyoyeon’s apartment so she could still do her lab work while taking care of her new patient. The doctor had sat through the days and nights that now seemed the same, the storms of frustration and whirlwinds of despair, the constant darkness. Seohyun was always ready with a steady hand, a warm hug, an “unnie, please don’t give up.”

Those words were Hyoyeon’s light.

“You’ve still got some stuff over at my place, you know,” the elder spoke up. “Some glassware or something. It’s really cluttering my kitchen.”

“I’ll come by later and take it back,” Seohyun promised as she smiled at her screen.

Hyoyeon tilted her head at the other’s tone. “Do I detect a happy maknae?”

“I think I’ve found the weapon that knocked Ryuhwa into a coma,” Seohyun explained, examining the figure her computer had just generated.

“Nice!” Hyoyeon punched the air with her free hand. Then she grinned. “And I’m not gonna stop bugging you about going back to the university, you know. I bet you could even balance that and SOSHI, and then you’d be getting twice as much done.”

Seohyun rolled her eyes as she printed off her results. “It’ll happen when unnie stops playing with all of my lab equipment, okay?”

“Be careful what you wish for,” Hyoyeon warned lightheartedly. She pushed herself off the counter and then began making her way to the exit, tossing the Red Bull can up and down. Just before she reached the door, she passed by a covered beaker sitting on a shelf. Her free hand hovering dangerously close. “Oh, what’s this?”

Seohyun didn’t even look up. “Unnie, please don’t touch—”

“Just kidding!” Hyoyeon dropped her hand and snickered before leaving the lab room. The doctor lifted her head, but Hyoyeon was already gone. Moments later, Seohyun heard the faint clatter of the can being tossed into the recycle bin.

She shook her head and moved to another instrument, hiding a smile behind her clipboard.

 

An alternate definition—

Progress: n. One step one way, two steps the other. Does the direction matter?