SOSHI: The Roads We Have Taken – Chapter 11

September 14, 2014 in moonrise31, SOSHI, The Roads We Have Taken by moonrise31

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
  Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery…

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Chapter 11: In which cases are reopened, overlords are on the rise, and alternative uses for sandwich bags are found.

“Agent Kim,” the director greeted when Taeyeon stepped into his office and closed the door behind her.

“Director.” Taeyeon nodded before taking a seat on the other side of his desk.

Sooman cleared his throat. “I assume you know why I called you here today.”

Taeyeon smiled ruefully. “I take full responsibility for my team’s actions in Los Angeles, sir. I knew what they might get into over there, but I let them go anyway.”

“Indeed.” The director flipped through some sheets. Taeyeon noticed Senior Agent Kim Youngmin’s name at the top of each page. “Speaking of which, the report mentions that Jessica-sshi and Agent Hwang entered the building through means other than the front door, unlike Agent Lee. However, Senior Agent Kim was unable to determine where exactly they entered.”

Taeyeon shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine, sir.” And it was true, because Jessica had once tried to explain the more technical aspects of her hacking to Taeyeon, and the latter had left the monologue with a dazed look in her eyes and a sudden desire for another cup of coffee.

“I see.” Sooman straightened the stack of papers on his desk before setting them down once more. “I suppose further investigation and any disciplinary action will have to be postponed to a later date, because right now I need your team operating at full capacity.”

Taeyeon recalled Jessica’s brief, texted explanation of what she thought had happened to Krystal and bit back a retort about how a further investigation of Senior Agent Kim’s interrogation methods would be much more pertinent. Instead, she cleared her throat and said, “The three in the States are boarding a plane back to Seoul as we speak, and we’ve made good headway on the Dae Koyu case. I suspect Yuri will be able to crack his real identity soon.”

Sooman nodded. “That’s good to hear. Which makes me more confident in assigning you another case.”

Taeyeon raised her eyebrows. “Another, sir?”

“Actually, continuing an old one,” Sooman clarified. “It seems Agent Choi had a run-in with a member of the press the other day,” he observed wryly, “asking about the name Kim Kwangsoo dropped in court. Agent Choi declined to comment, which is putting it mildly. Nevertheless, the reporters continue undeterred, as they often do. And I’d rather have a preliminary investigation about this Jeongnam character and his relation to BAM be started by my best agents, so then we’ll have something concrete to give when the press finally breaks down our door.”

Taeyeon swallowed, the name she’d hoped would never pass through the director’s lips ringing in her ears. She prayed that her gulp had gone unnoticed. “Will do, sir.”

Sooman dismissed her then, and Taeyeon forced herself to breathe normally until she had walked all the way down the hall and stood waiting for the elevator. She wiped her damp palms on her pants, pausing over the bulge of the cellphone in her pocket. But she decided to refrain from texting the others. Well, except one.

Sooyoung would need every second she could get.

Unfortunately, Taeyeon could only delay revealing SOSHI’s reopened case until the next morning.

“Team meeting, Taeng? Now? You know we just got back, right?” Sunny suppressed a yawn as she walked into the office. “We literally landed two hours ago. Some kind of welcome this is.”

Taeyeon shrugged. “I could’ve held the meeting while you guys were on the plane, and then held it again for you three once you’d landed and recovered sufficiently, but that’d be too much work for me.” She looked up as Jessica shuffled in, looking even less amused than usual. “Sica. Krystal’s alright?”

“She could be better,” Jessica grumbled, although Taeyeon knew she shouldn’t take the other’s ire to heart; it was clearly directed at a certain senior agent across the Pacific. “Soojung’s tough, though. She’ll recover. You, on the other hand,” the tech raised a delicate eyebrow, “better have a good reason for waking me up an hour after I’d gone to bed.”

“Look on the bright side, Jessi,” Tiffany piped up. “You’re this much closer to beating jet lag.”

Sunny sighed. “Fany, just listening to you makes me more tired.” Jessica nodded in agreement, resting her head on Sunny’s shoulder.

“Me too,” Yuri agreed, head dropping onto the shorter girl’s other shoulder.

“Unnie, you’re supposed to be up by now, anyway,” Yoona pointed out. “And you don’t have jet lag as an excuse.”

“Besides, Hyo, maknae, and I got here earlier than you,” Sooyoung added. “Courtesy of the good doctor insisting that the early bird gets the worm. So if any of us get to be tired, it’s the poor driver who had to avoid falling asleep in traffic at six in the morning.”

“Unnie, you shouldn’t drive if you’re sleepy,” Seohyun admonished. “I thought you were awake enough.”

“Well, I think I’ve heard everyone,” Hyoyeon announced before anyone else could say anything. She turned to face Taeyeon. “Let’s get the party started.”

Taeyeon took a deep breath. “Not much to say, really. I met with the director yesterday. He had a few words to say about the shenanigans you three got into while over in Los Angeles.” She squinted at Tiffany, who grinned brightly. Jessica and Sunny were too busy feigning sleep to be bothered.

“Anyway.” Taeyeon sighed. “He was happy enough with our progress on Dae Koyu and the bombings. So happy, in fact, that he figured we could take on another case. Or rather, continue one we’d put on hold a week ago. Either way, the press is about ready to break down our doors for answers, apparently, so we have no choice but to resume as soon as possible.”

She paused. The other eight waited, not even drawing a single breath. The anticipation, the quiet dread, lay heavy—almost suffocating.

Sooyoung’s expression became carefully neutral.

“So.” Taeyeon coughed, and then continued as if no one else knew what their next investigation could possibly be. Her next words came quickly, as if saying them faster would lessen the force they carried. “We’ll have to follow up on Kim Kwangsoo and what he said in the courtroom about this Jeongnam person. The connection’s been made between him and BAM…

“…So I guess the Overlord case is back on,” she finished. Then she bit her lip, waiting for a response other than wide eyes and nervous shifting and Hyoyeon’s leg bouncing up and down in her peripheral vision.

“I’ll question Kim Kwangsoo,” Yoona offered before the silence could get too weighted again. “And Bang Yongguk afterwards.”

“Take Hyoyeon with you,” Taeyeon suggested, relieved to hear another voice besides her own. “She’s getting jittery again.”

“Am not,” Hyoyeon retorted.

Taeyeon said nothing, simply staring at the other’s knee as it continued to bounce up and down with alarming speed.

It only took Hyoyeon two seconds to realize what she was doing and sheepishly stop the movement. “Yeah, I’ll go with Yoona.”

“Great.” Taeyeon clapped her hands together. “Okay, you three,” she pointed. “You’re off for the day. I expect you all back and ready to work by tomorrow.”

“I’m fine, really—” Tiffany started.

“You too,” Taeyeon cut her off with a firm look. “You might’ve fooled yourself into thinking you’re awake enough, but I’m not gonna wait ’til you trip over yourself or spill coffee on Yuri’s computer for you to realize that it’s all a lie.”

Yuri sat up, alarmed, and then wrapped her arms around the monitor in front of her. “It’s okay, it’s okay. No scary liquid is gonna get close to you, I promise,” she informed it in a soothing whisper.

“Right.” Taeyeon blinked, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. “I’d like some progress on Dae Koyu’s real identity soon, alright? The faster we get this case done in particular, the better.”

“You got it, leader.” Yuri sat up again and gave Taeyeon a mock salute.

“Sooyoung can help you, I expect,” Taeyeon continued. Sooyoung’s shoulders relaxed slightly at her assignment to the case not concerning Jeongnam; not that Taeyeon would’ve even considered the other way, but she understood Sooyoung’s anxiety.

“And maknae…I dunno,” Taeyeon finished, waved vaguely with one hand. “Go do sciencey things.”

“Actually,” Seohyun said, “I was wondering if Sooyoung-unnie and I could visit Seven Springs again. Hyoyeon-unnie realized last night that she smelled the store’s scent at the site of the embassy bombing. I think it’d be worth checking out.”

Taeyeon nodded. “Go for it. I’ll help you then, Yul. Let’s get this case wrapped up as quickly as possible.”

“Afraid of another bombing?” Tiffany asked over her shoulder, pushing Sunny and Jessica ahead of her as they shuffled out of the office.

“Maybe he’s decided to lay low for a while,” Yuri suggested hopefully as she pulled up a command window on her screen.

“Yeah, if only,” Taeyeon agreed grimly. “But I’d bet all the gummies in my desk drawer that we don’t have much time.”

“Hyoyeon-unnie should’ve come with us,” Seohyun sighed as she and Sooyoung shuffled from one back room of Seven Springs to another.

“Yeah.” Sooyoung took a tentative sniff. “It all smells like tea to me.”

“Here’s where Sunny-unnie and Hyoyeon-unnie fought that BAM member, Choi Junhong.” Seohyun stopped in front of another room and peeked inside, noting the mess of crates on the floor and piled against the wall. “Hm. I guess they didn’t bother cleaning up, or just didn’t have the time to.”

Sooyoung’s gaze automatically gravitated towards Seohyun’s sling. She briefly remembered seeing Hyoyeon with a bloody sleeve. Then, the moment of calm when she’d realized Hyoyeon was okay. And then her heart plummeting once more when she had noticed a rather pale Seohyun leaning heavily on the older girl’s shoulder, limp arm cradled carefully in the other.

She’d rather not live through another second like that. But everything else considered, they’d been incredibly lucky.

“Unnie,” Seohyun called from further down the hallway. Sooyoung realized with a start that the doctor had moved on without her. “Look at this.”

Sooyoung jogged over to the last doorway and peeked inside. Her eyes widened. “That’s… a lot of fertilizer.”

Seohyun stepped inside and lifted the lid of one of the labeled crates. She reached into her purse and retrieved a latex glove, along with a plastic bag. She pulled on the glove and stuck her hand inside the crate, the plastic bag awkwardly dangling from her sling-bound hand. “Unnie, can you hold this?”

“Yeah, sure.” Sooyoung hurried over and took the bag from the younger girl, holding it open as Seohyun dropped a fistful of fertilizer inside. “So…do you always carry gloves and sandwich bags with you?”

“It never hurts to be prepared,” Seohyun replied lightly. “Thanks, unnie.” She accepted the bag after Sooyoung had sealed it. “I’m going to run tests on this and try to match the ammonium nitrate with whatever I can salvage from the embassy bombing debris. But I’d say the connection between BAM and Dae Koyu just became considerably concrete.”

“I’ll tell Yoona that it might be worth mentioning when she talks to Bang Yongguk.” Sooyoung glanced around. “We really should just tell Seven Springs to close down for a bit so we can clear out all its ties with drug lords and other miscellaneous criminals, huh?”

“The store sells good tea.” Seohyun shrugged. “Actually, if we keep Seven Springs open a little longer, it might be a good way to try and catch Dae Koyu. He’ll have to come back to get materials for his next bomb. If we could set up surveillance or something, Jessica-unnie and Yuri-unnie could tell us whenever he decides to show up.”

Sooyoung nodded, following Seohyun out as the carefully slipped the plastic bag of fertilizer into her purse. “Not a bad idea at all. I think I’ve got some stuff in the car from Yuri that I hopefully still remember how to set up. And I guess the worst case would be Dae Koyu not coming back at all. But at least that would mean no other bombings.”

“We can only hope, unnie.” Seohyun walked out into the hall, pulling off her glove and tossing it into a nearby trashcan. Then she patted the other girl’s shoulder, as if to remind her that they could be talking about more than just an end to the bombings.

Sooyoung smiled, thankful for the doctor’s silent support; sometimes, words couldn’t say everything, but a gesture like that did much more than filling in the gaps. And as they stepped out into the street, heading towards where she’d parked the car, Sooyoung thought of her father and how in the world she was going to even begin to face this mess, much less get out of it.

“Yeah,” Sooyoung repeated quietly. “We can only hope.”

…That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed

Dangerous is the milk of Paradise.