SOSHI: The Roads We Have Taken – Chapter 1

July 8, 2014 in moonrise31, SOSHI, The Roads We Have Taken by moonrise31

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
…Then took the other, as just as fair,
…Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same…

Robert Frost

Chapter 1: In which roads meander, paths cross, and journeys begin.

“Sir?” Taeyeon tried to keep the incredulity out of her voice as she stared at the file folder the director was holding out to her.

“This case has been given top priority,” Sooman said evenly. “So it only makes sense to have my best team on it.”

Taeyeon cleared her throat. “With all due respect, Director, my team was nearly run ragged working two cases at once. I was hoping to give them a little down time, or at least be able to focus on a single case for a while.”

“Then I’m putting your current case on hold,” Sooman replied. “There have already been four deaths around the city, Agent Kim, and an alarming number of casualties. We would do well to put a stop to this before it escalates much further.”

Taeyeon pursed her lips and nodded once. She gripped the proffered end of the folder. “Very well, Director. We’ll see this through.”

“Perfect.” Sooman smiled. “As expected of SOSHI.”

Taking those as words of dismissal, Taeyeon bowed once before turning and exiting the office. As she walked down the hallway, she opened the folder and flipped through the pages, frown deepening with each new sheet she read.

What kind of joke is this?

“What’s that, Taeng?” Yuri piped up as soon as she entered the SOSHI office.

“New case,” Taeyeon replied curtly, mind already racing. How could she best handle the situation she knew would arise?

“Another one?” Sunny raised her eyebrows. “I thought we already had our hands full.”

“The Overlord case has been put on hold, orders of the director,” Taeyeon informed her. “To make way for this one.”

Sooyoung almost snorted; hearing “overlord” in reference to the case that sought to chase down the current kingpin of Seoul’s underground and would ultimately be the pursuit of her father very nearly made the entire ordeal a laughing matter. But Taeyeon’s reasoning made sense—they technically did know the name, “Jeongnam”. But using it to address the case made it that much more likely that someone outside of SOSHI might realize that Sooyoung’s dad also had the same name, and then the coincidences would end there. Besides, they’d obtained the information through Jessica’s admittedly illegal interrogation participation, anyway, so they weren’t even expected to know that much at the moment.

And also, maybe, it was Taeyeon’s way of trying to make light of an incredibly awful situation. As little as it helped, Sooyoung did appreciate the effort.

“Well, spit it out,” Hyoyeon prodded. “We don’t have all day.”

Taeyeon took a deep breath. Then she walked to the whiteboard by Jessica’s desk and began pinning photos onto it with small pink magnets. The room stayed silent, the quiet only disrupted by the clacking of the magnets as they clung to the whiteboard surface.

“What’s this?” Tiffany’s voice was eerily quiet.

Taeyeon winced at the tone, and then put on an impassive expression before turning to face her team. “There have been a string of bombings around Seoul during the past couple of weeks. Four so far, but the director thinks there will be more.”

“Are you sure these are all related?” Sooyoung stroked her chin thoughtfully, gaze practically burning holes through the pictures and the whiteboard underneath. “There’s a bank, a car, a parking garage, and a busy intersection. Vastly different targets, aren’t they?”

Taeyeon pursed her lips. “Different targets, yes, but there is one similarity.”

“They don’t look like bombings.”

Taeyeon nodded slowly at Tiffany’s monotone observation. “That’s right. In fact, each of these incidents is written off as something else entirely: gas explosion, engine malfunction, and so on. Probably to stop the public from having a mass panic attack, but we know the truth.”

“Taeyeon.” Tiffany stood up, arms crossed, eyes hard. “Let me be lead on this.”

“I don’t think that would be wise—” Taeyeon started carefully.

Taeyeon!” Tiffany practically shouted. She swallowed. “Please,” she said, softly.

“Fany,” Taeyeon replied, just as quietly, with an equally pained expression. “It’s not like I’m forbidding you from the case entirely. Just…you know why, right?” She trailed off, her remaining words unspoken. Don’t make me say it.

Tiffany closed her eyes and exhaled, shoulders slumping with the release of her breath. “You’re right. I apologize.” She sat down again, and Yoona leaned over to rub her back comfortingly.

Taeyeon let out the breath she had been holding as well. “Okay then. Actually, I think I’ll be lead of this one. The director kept sending me not-so-subliminal messages about this being super important, ‘top priority’ and such, so I guess this is what he’s expecting. Sica, could you make copies of these? I’m gonna run down to Forensics and get them to send Seohyun the samples from the explosion debris.” She held out the file, but no one reached out to take it.

Taeyeon turned. “Sica?”

Jessica only blinked several times once Yuri had nudged her firmly in the upper arm. She tore her gaze from her desktop. “What? Oh, sorry.” She took the folder. “Take these down to Forensics?”

“No, that’s what I’m doing,” Taeyeon corrected gently. “I just need copies for everyone, please?”

“Oh. Yeah. Yeah, sure.” Jessica got up slowly and wandered off to the copier.

“…Is she okay?” Sunny frowned.

Taeyeon glanced down at Jessica’s desk, but the only thing on it was her cell phone, its screen dark. She shrugged. “Maybe waiting for a call.” Then she raised her voice, addressing the entire room, “Once you’ve received your copy, I think you can call it a day. We’ll have a lot of work for us tomorrow.”

As the office settled into a low buzz of chatter, Sunny leaned close to Sooyoung. “Uh, Soo…why is Tiffany so…agitated? Is this somehow personal?”

“You can say that.” Sooyoung’s gaze flickered to the agent in question, but Tiffany was deeply engrossed in whatever she was currently searching for on her laptop. “Normally I’d say this is something Fany would have to tell you herself, but seeing how things are panning out, she’ll be too wired this entire case to give you a good answer.” She coughed. “Basically…her mom died when she was a kid. Freak car accident. Malfunctioned engine, in fact.”

Sunny’s eyes widened. “Like…”

“Yeah.” Sooyoung nodded grimly. “Fany never believed the official explanation, of course. Looks like her investigator instincts kicked in early. Her family moved though, from the United States, soon after the accident. I guess the reason she became an agent in the first place was to someday be able to get to the bottom of what really happened. But I imagine she never though she’d run into something so close to home all the way over here.”

Sunny nodded slowly. “You think she’ll be alright, then?”

“Oh yeah.” Sooyoung grinned, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Fany’s a tough cookie. She’ll be fine.”

Yeah, Sunny thought, risking a peek at the woman still glaring intensely at her laptop screen, not even looking up when Jessica placed a packet of papers in front of her. I hope so too.

“So how was your day, Sooyoung?”

Sooyoung paused, chopsticks halfway to her mouth. She managed to grin. “Same old, same old.” Taeyeon insisting that I be the one to help Sunny with the paperwork for the Kim Kwangsoo case…got a new case that just might put Fany over the edge…my entire team knows that you’re a drug lord… She swallowed the lump of rice along with her unspoken thoughts, wincing as both got caught in her throat. Her hand flew up to cover the cough that sputtered through.

Her dad laughed and leaned across the table to pass the water pitcher. “I hardly think working for one of the top crime-fighting organizations in Seoul would ever get old.”

If only you knew. Sooyoung shrugged and refilled her glass. She took a drink to soothe her esophagus before speaking again. “To each their own, I guess. How about you, Dad?” Mind filling me in on your next crack shipment?

“Oh, same old, same old,” he shot back with a wink. Soojin and her mother chuckled and Sooyoung joined in, letting their joy fill the hollowness of her own laughter.

It had only been a week since SOSHI had wrapped up the Kim Kwangsoo case. That also meant that it had been a week since she’d realized that her own father had been the reason behind a local drug gang’s increasingly violent activity. She’d come to the conclusion that her dad was involved in less-than-honorable activities a long time ago; after all, she was one of SOSHI’s top investigators—if something of that scale went unnoticed in her own house, she might as well hand the title to the next intern that walked by.

And to be honest, she wasn’t quite sure how unobservant her sister and mom had to be in order to not be the least bit suspicious. Any eavesdropped phone call well into the night or a thorough search of his office would suffice—or did other people not do that sort of thing?

In either case, once Sooyoung had confirmed her fears, she’d announced that it was about time she moved from under her parents’ roof and strike out on her own.

It probably hadn’t been the wisest decision—Choi Sooyoung, running away from something that scared her? But if she hadn’t done it, she was quite sure she would’ve had to spend many more all-nighters at the office, because there was no way she’d be able to get any sleep in this house.

Having her own apartment was nice, anyway, even if it did get a little lonely at times. Besides, her coworkers were always dropping by whenever they were in the neighborhood, and her mother still insisted on all of them having dinner together every weekend, so it wasn’t like she had really moved out completely. Just enough to keep herself relatively sane.

And then, SOSHI had been assigned to pretty much track down her father in light of the wrapped-up BAM case—although they weren’t supposed to know it was him. Of course, that hadn’t stopped them from finding out anyway and giving her their wholehearted support. Sooyoung closed her eyes and sighed. What miracle could I have possibly performed to deserve those eight wonderful people in my life?

“Everything alright, dear?” Her mother inquired, concerned at her sudden loud exhale.

Sooyoung quickly smiled, the action less trying than it usually was as of late. “Nothing, Mom. Just glad to be with you guys right now.”

The conversation took a turn to more mundane topics, so Sooyoung let her mind drift off to work-related things again. Taeyeon had been feeling merciful and assigned Sunny to be head of this case, and now it had been postponed indefinitely in favor of the serial bombings. But Sooyoung knew she couldn’t hide forever.

She looked up and watched her father, laughing at some lame joke Soojin had just made. She wondered how he could look so genuinely happy when he was singlehandedly behind most of the major underground organizations in Seoul.

She felt something twist in her chest. And the sad part is…I’m happy that you’re happy.

“Soo? Is that yours?” Soojin’s question broke through her contemplations.

Sooyoung blinked, the ringtone of her phone finally registering. “Oh, sorry. Excuse me.” She pulled out the device and read the caller ID, frowning. When Taeng calls, it’s usually not to just wish me good night. “Hello?”

“Hey, Soo. You need to get down here right now.” The other end of the line clicked as Taeyeon hung up.

Sooyoung sighed, getting up from her chair. “Sorry guys, I gotta go. Save me the leftovers.”

With her family’s goodbyes and well-wishes in her ears as she headed out the door, Sooyoung momentarily forgot her larger-than-life father troubles. Because her gut was telling her that Taeyeon’s phone call was about some other serious issue entirely.

“What’s going on?” Tiffany demanded as she burst into the office, Hyoyeon and Seohyun close behind. “You didn’t even give us an explanation.” She glared pointedly at Taeyeon.

“Because I didn’t have one,” Taeyeon defended, holding up both her hands to ward off Tiffany’s ire. “Look, if it’s anyone who has any explaining to do, it’s Sica. She’s the one who made me get you all over here after you’d all gone home.”

Eight pairs of eyes settled on the tech, sitting in her chair with legs crossed and fingers tapping an impatient rhythm on her desk.

“Well?” Hyoyeon demanded after a brief silence.

Tap. Tap.

“Unnie?” Yoona said, sounding uncertain.

Jessica’s fingers stilled. Without turning to look at them, she murmured, “Krystal’s been taken.”

“WHAT?” Yuri demanded immediately, jumping up from her seat. “What do you mean, taken?”

“What does it sound like I mean?” Jessica snapped, eyes flashing. “She was on some mission in who-knows-where, and all of a sudden she lost contact. Now no one knows where she is”— her expression darkened—”except the very unfortunate souls who abducted her.”

“She’ll be alright, Jessi,” Tiffany assured her, walking over to lean on Jessica’s desk. “She’s a tough girl. And I’m sure backup will be in there to get her out in no time.”

Jessica sighed, rubbing her temples. “That’s the thing. I don’t think backup’s gonna be there anytime soon.”

“Why not?” Sunny asked.

“They…” Jessica bit her lip, “…might not be convinced she’s been kidnapped.”

“Oh. Okay, then—just playing devil’s advocate here,” Taeyeon quickly explained, shrinking slightly at Jessica’s how-dare-you-suggest-anything-different glare, “what makes you so sure she’s been taken?”

Jessica closed her eyes. “We were talking on the phone. She was supposed to be done for the day, but something must’ve come up because she told me to stay on the line. I waited the entire night, but she didn’t come back. Nothing all of today, either. So here we are.”

“She told you to stay on the line?” Seohyun frowned. “Wouldn’t it have been more efficient for her to report to her commanding officer that she was going out into the field again?”

Jessica shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe she didn’t have enough time. It doesn’t matter—what I do know is that she never made it back. Which means that she was taken.” She pursed her lips, refusing to continue.

Or worse.

Her conclusion was met with a dazed silence.

Finally, Taeyeon cleared her throat. “Well, Sica, I don’t know what you want us to do. We’ve got our hands full with the bombing case already.”

“What do you mean you don’t know what I want you to do?” Jessica practically hissed.

“We’ve got our hands full with the bombing case already,” Taeyeon repeated. “During work hours.” She paused, waiting for her words to sink in. One by one, the others started to get her implications. She nodded. “Right. During work hours, you’ll be way too busy for anything else. But once you’re off for the day?” She shrugged. “Who’s gonna stop you all from staying behind a little longer just to hang out or something? Certainly not me; I know I’ll be around, since I never have anything else to do.”

Jessica’s lips twitched in the semblance of a smile, albeit a tired one. “Thanks, Taeng.”

Yuri threw a comforting arm around her fellow tech’s shoulders. “No worries, Sica. We’ll get her back.”

“Yeah, we have to,” Jessica whispered. “You know the last thing I said to her?”

“I hope you guys didn’t have an argument or something,” Sunny joked. Then she paused. “You didn’t, right? Have a fight?”

“No, of course not,” Jessica scoffed, covering her face with her hands. “I said, ‘see you later’.”

The room fell into silence once more, a sympathetic one this time.

“Don’t worry, Jessi.” Tiffany leaned over and rubbed her distraught friend’s back. “We’ll make sure you keep that promise.”

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by…

Has that really made all the difference?