SOSHI: Aesop’s Twisted Fable – Chapter 9

November 5, 2013 in Aesop's Twisted Fable, moonrise31, SOSHI by moonrise31

Chapter 9: Graffiti

Graffiti: n. Writings or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place. (New Oxford American Dictionary) 

“Hey.”

Sunny looked up and gave Youngsun a small smile. “Hey.” She took a sip of her coffee.

“So you come here often, huh?” Youngsun asked as she sat down in the same spot she had the day before, mocha in hand.

“As often as you, apparently,” Sunny replied with raised eyebrows.

“They’ve got good coffee,” was Youngsun’s explanation.

The two sat in a comfortable silence for a while longer, enjoying a mutual agreement to not talk about Sunny’s work or why Youngsun still limped—except Sunny noticed that she wasn’t quite as stiff-legged anymore. Not a serious injury?

“So how’s the case going?”

And just like that, Youngsun had broken the quiet, as well as Sunny’s tacit promise to treat her as someone who wasn’t a key witness of the investigation—at least, until after they finished drinking their coffee. Sunny sighed inwardly, but decided that maybe it was good to slip back into something she knew she could do. The alternative was endlessly worrying about Yoona and how her colleagues had gone off somewhere four hours away to perform a rescue operation from a ruthless gang with so much to lose.

Yeah, work is the better option.

So she took a deep breath before turning to look Youngsun in the eye. “Alright, Youngsun-sshi, let me be frank with you. It’s not looking very good right now, both for you and your sister Jungeun.”

Youngsun pursed her lips.

“We’ve got blood from the broken window, and the type matches with both of yours. So that, coupled with the fact that you two aren’t being exactly forthcoming to our investigators, makes your situation seem suspect at best,” Sunny continued. She hesitated before adding, “Of course, you could just submit a sample and if you’re innocent, it won’t match.” She stopped again.

Now Youngsun raised her eyebrows. “I hear a ‘but’.”

But,” Sunny allowed, “I somehow get the feeling that you want to do more than that.” She looked at the other woman intently.

Youngsun let out a long exhale. “Since the beginning,” she agreed, absentmindedly tapping her injured leg. “But there’re just so many lines, and I don’t know which ones I want to cross.”

“Finding your sister’s assaulter should be the priority,” Sunny reminded gently.

“Yeah, I know.” Youngsun closed her eyes. “But there are still so many…”

Sunny considered the other woman’s dilemma. Then she said, “Alright. Here,” and pulled out a sheet from her bag. She slid it along the table to Youngsun. “We just figured out the shape of the weapon that hit Ryuhwa-sshi on the back of the head. It’s got an edge to it, but it’s fat and then tapers, like a triangle. Any idea what it could be?”

Really, there could only be one logical conclusion from Seohyun’s results. “Nameplate…” Youngsun murmured. Her expression darkened.

“That’s what we were thinking,” Sunny agreed, watching the other woman. “There wasn’t one in your father’s office, though.”

Youngsun looked up. “To be honest, I don’t even remember if he has one. But I have seen a nameplate somewhere I know Ryuhwa has been.”

“And you’ve decided to tell me the place?” Sunny prodded cautiously.

Youngsun remained silent for one more moment before nodding, resolute. “Yeah.” She pulled out a pen from her purse and wrote an address on her napkin. She handed the tissue to Sunny, face solemn. “Just, please…handle the situation carefully.”

Sunny blinked as she took the napkin. “Thanks. I’ll do my best,” she promised. But internally, she ran through Youngsun’s request once more as she read the inked lines in front of her.

What kind of answers did these scribbled words hold?

Yoona woke up with a start.

Her back was stiff and her neck hurt, and both complained loudly when she tried to shift to one side. She resisted the urge to whimper. That’s the last time I’m sleeping sitting up.

After a few more moments of disjointed shuffling, she managed a surge of strength and stood. But the sudden rush was too much for her head, so she stumbled backwards and leaned into the wall once more, waiting for the spots in her vision to disappear.

Then she took in her surroundings: sofa, chairs, table—nothing had changed. She closed her eyes and traced through all the conversations she’d heard from the grate, trying to determine exactly when she’d fallen asleep. How long ago had that been? She made an irritated noise. Don’t even know what time it is around here.

She remembered Yongguk mentioning a bathroom and a guard outside, so she walked purposefully to the door and twisted the knob. When she peeked out, she felt a flood of relief at the sight of Youngjae sitting across the hallway.

He looked up and nodded. “Bathroom?”

Yoona hesitated.

Youngjae had been embedded in BAM long before SOSHI took over the case, so he’d seen a lot of agents come and go. Everyone knew who he was and what he looked like, but he wouldn’t be able to tell a newer ally from one of his gang members. Luckily, a set of words had been decided on prior to his departure: when the codewords came up in conversation, he would know that he was talking to a fellow agent.

She had to fit those three words in somehow, without breaking character—if sound traveled through the grate that well, Yoona didn’t want to take chances anywhere in that warehouse. So she smiled cautiously and said, “Actually, could you tell me the time? I’ve completely lost track.”

“Oh.” Youngjae glanced at his wristwatch. “It’s just past ten. In the morning.”

“Fantastic. Thanks so much.” Saebyuk inclined her head and let out an uncomfortable laugh. “It seems like it’s been forever since I got here.” Then Yoona looked up and studied his face.

Younjae’s acting skills were far above average—they had to be in order for him to have survived for this long. But Yoona immediately caught onto the subtle twitch in his mouth, the slight widening of his eyes. He had recognized the words. And yet, something was off.

Complete, fantastic, forever. Yoona frowned. Was she missing something? But Sooyoung had made sure that the words were drilled into everyone’s heads before they went out into the field. She’d run them through countless scenarios, forcing them to come up with smooth, seamless ways to insert those words into any interaction. Yoona felt something cold settle at the bottom of her stomach.

Have the words changed?

Youngjae was still watching her, thoughtful, tense. She could tell that he was wondering what to make of it all—either she was an agent who somehow hadn’t been alerted of the code word switch, or the investigation had been compromised.

“Damn it, Saebyuk.” They heard Yongguk storming up the stairs and then stomping through the hallway before he stopped in front of them. He took no note of the apprehensive atmosphere as he pushed her ringing cellphone into her hands. “I should’ve turned the damn thing off, but it’s too late now. One of your friends has been trying to reach you all morning and she’s threatened to track you down at your ‘grandparents’ place’ if you don’t respond.”

Yoona glanced at the caller ID and resisted the urge to smile when the name “Gong Minyoung” flashed back at her. She accepted the call and held the phone to her ear. “Hello?”

“About time you picked up,” Sooyoung said on the other end of the line. “Where’ve you been, Saebyuk?”

“Sorry, I misplaced my phone,” Yoona answered, well aware that the two BAM members could also hear every one of Sooyoung’s words. So Saebyuk added, “I don’t know if I can talk that much this weekend, Minyoung. My grandparents don’t like loud noises; I might just switch my phone to silent or just turn it off.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Yongguk nod.

“Fine then,” Sooyoung replied easily. “I just wanted to tell you about the assignment change. Professor Lee switched it yesterday without being clear to everyone.”

So the words are different now. Yoona held in the annoyance threatening to seep into her voice. “Ah, that’s good to know. I’ve already started on the wrong assignment, then. Thanks for telling me.”

“Gong Minyoung to the rescue as always, no big deal.” Yoona was sure Sooyoung would be doing a hair flip if she could. “Anyway, remember this, okay? I’m not gonna repeat it.”

“I am paying my utmost attention, Minyoung-sshi.” Saebyuk rolled her eyes, but Yoona hung on to Sooyoung’s every word.

“Alright,” Sooyoung chirped. “We have to read chapter five from ‘Looking Up From the Top’ and the third and sixth of ‘When I’m Dancing with the Queen’. Got it?”

“Yeah, thanks.” Fifth word of the first title…’top’. Third and sixth of the second…. ‘dancing’ and ‘queen’. Even as she worked it out in her own head, Yoona watched Youngjae’s face as he also pieced together Sooyoung’s message. Then he met her gaze and gave her the slightest nod.

Yoona felt relief loosen every muscle in her body. Thank goodness he heard and caught on too. I have absolutely no idea how I’d work those into conversation. She cleared her throat. “Talk later, okay?” Saebyuk said.

But Minyoung ignored her. “You know what’s funny? That Bang Yongguk guy is gone the same weekend you are.”

Yoona felt the air fall still.

Sooyoung had just made a dangerous move in an already risky game. But Yoona understood why. If they could just pull it off…

“I’m sure it’s just coincidence,” Saebyuk replied slowly. “Why’re you stalking him, anyway?”

“You guys always hang out at the café I work in, and he’s usually there on the weekends too. I’d be blind not to notice,” Minyoung explained, blissfully unaware of the situation. “And I have to keep tabs on my best friend’s potential love interest, right?”

Yoona didn’t even need to pretend to be bashful, because she could feel her face heating up already under Yongguk’s amused gaze. Sooyoung-unnie, I’m going to kill you. “You and your matchmaking, Gong Minyoung. It’s gonna get you in trouble someday.”

“You never know. Maybe I’ll start an agency or something,” Minyoung shot back, “and then I’ll be the talk of the city.”

Saebyuk rolled her eyes. “We’ll see.” She paused then, because the next four words she said held more meaning than ever before. “See you later, okay?”

“Yeah,” Yoona heard Sooyoung’s voice catch slightly, “you bet.”

Minyoung hung up. Yoona was alone once more, although she felt a little better with Youngjae at her side.

Now, she gauged Yongguk’s expression. Sooyoung had put pressure on him by saying that his absence had been noted. Thus, logically, Yoona’s safety had just been ensured—if something happened to her, there was a chance the trail could eventually lead back to Yongguk, since Gong Minyoung had already made a “coincidental” connection.

That is, if Yongguk acted like they hoped he would.

But Yoona was fairly confident of the fact—Yongguk was hardly one to take a chance, as far as she had observed. She would just have to tread carefully in order to not become such a threat that disposing of her took was worth whatever cover-up he’d have to run afterward. She felt herself relaxing, and she knew that was dangerous.

At that moment, they were three people in a narrow hallway of an abandoned warehouse four hours from Seoul. It would’ve been easy for Yoona to dismiss the true fleetingness of her safety, if not for the bulge under the back of Yongguk’s shirt where she’d seen his gun the night before.

She couldn’t allow herself to forget that he knew how to use it.

“Well, that’s that.” Sooyoung breathed, putting down her phone. “Hopefully we bought her some time, if she needed it.”

“Feeling lucky today, are we?” Taeyeon laughed from where she was crouched, pulling her sweatshirt hood more over her face.

“It worked, okay?” Sooyoung retorted. Her next thought, “I hope”, went unspoken. But Taeyeon looked like she’d heard it, anyway.

Then Sooyoung nudged one of their duffel bags with her foot. “So we just sit here and wait it out, huh?”

“Yup.” Taeyeon rocked back on her heels. “You’re not gonna start eating, are you?”

The other didn’t even look up as she pulled out some chips from her hoodie pocket. “Don’t ask questions you already know the answers to.” Then she put a piece in Taeyeon’s outstretched hand before filling her own mouth with more.

They made an odd sight: two women, dressed in baggy clothes, sitting on the rooftop of an abandoned warehouse with a bag of chips between them. Yuri had driven them out before daybreak, avoiding the roads since that was where BAM’s focus would be. She’d dropped them off and then found a place, out of sight, where she could hide their all-terrain vehicle and set up shop.

“I certainly picked the right mission to be on,” Taeyeon commented. “I should’ve just sent Yuri out with you and stayed in the ATV.”

Sooyoung crunched a chip with gusto. “Yeah, with your decision-making skills, it’s a wonder you’re our leader.”

“It really takes a special kind of person.” Taeyeon winked. Then she paused, noting the snacker’s solemn expression. “Hey, don’t beat yourself up about all this, okay? You’re here now, and we’ll get Yoona back, and that’s all that matters.”

“I know,” Sooyoung said, sounding distant. She stuck a hand into the chip bag again, the crinkling plastic almost overpowering her next words. “I hope BAM doesn’t check their rooftops on a regular basis.”

Taeyeon ignored the switch in topic. She studied the other more intently, realizing that Sooyoung was thinking even further into the past than the previous day.  “You shouldn’t be worrying about that, either. Freezing on the witness stand could’ve happened to anyone.”

Taeyeon’s words snapped Sooyoung from her thoughts, and the latter couldn’t help but stare wide-eyed. Then she looked down and scoffed. “I screwed up big time, Taeng. God knows why you guys still keep me around.”

“Because,” Taeyeon said, “we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Sooyoung shook her head. “It’s just…really complicated. And you can’t just give some overly simple solution to such a complex problem.”

But the elder said nothing more about it, only reached over to her own duffel bag and unzipped it loudly.

“It’s really complicated,” Sooyoung repeated.

Clack clack clack.

Sooyoung glanced up at the sound, and she realized that Taeyeon was shaking a can of spray paint. She watched as SOSHI’s leader bent down and suddenly vandalized the rooftop with a brilliant streak of red. “Uh…Taeng?”

“If we’re moonlighting as rival gang members, we might as well act the part,” Taeyeon answered, stepping back to scrutinize her work. She shook the can again before adding a second stroke.

Sooyoung peeked into her bag. “Woah, you’ve got a bunch of them here.”

“Gotta spend my paycheck on something besides my dog,” was Taeyeon’s reply as she capped the can. “Toss me the blue?”

Sooyoung watched as Taeyeon’s masterpiece slowly began to take shape. Finally, she shook her head, crumpling the chip bag and returning it to her pocket. “Wow. I didn’t know you were such a good artist.”

“What, you didn’t know that I go out and color the walls of Seoul in my free time?” Taeyeon grinned, wiping the back of her hand across her cheek and leaving a black smudge behind. She held out the can of white in her hand. “Here, you can put in the finishing touch. Right there.” She stuck out her now paint-spattered shoe and pointed at the exact spot.

Sooyoung obliged, holding back a squeak of surprise when the liquid shot out more explosively than expected. But Taeyeon just chuckled and gave her a pat on the back, and the two of them looked down at the image they had created.

“Good, right?” Taeyeon nudged Sooyoung.

Sooyoung grinned, brooding forgotten, if only for the moment. “Yeah. It’s perfect.”

An alternate definition—

Graffiti: n. Written word, spoken word, words splattered on the pavement: art that has much more underneath the surface than the casual eye can ever hope to see.