SOSHI: The Roads We Have Taken – Chapter 2

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

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

Emily Dickinson

Chapter 2: In which wings spread, bread crumbs emerge, and beginnings take flight.

“This,” Hyoyeon groaned, leaning back in her chair, “is going to be hell.”

Tiffany rolled her eyes. “Just because we can’t go out into the field this time doesn’t mean things are going to get exponentially more difficult.”

“Yes it will,” Hyoyeon shot back. “The reason we’re being assigned this case is because we’re supposed to do a better job than whoever had it before. But we’re expected to rely on the same evidence they collected and somehow reach a better conclusion?”

“The evidence is good enough,” Tiffany murmured as she shuffled through the files. “We’re just hoping to see something they might’ve missed.”

Hyoyeon huffed. “Let’s not forget that some of us have a harder time seeing than others.”

Tiffany looked up, eyes softening. “Here, I’ll describe them to you.” She flipped to a photograph and its relevant attached papers. “First, the bank. There was an explosion in one of the vaults, attributed to a blown gas pipe. It happened as an employee was walking in, so unfortunately, there’s our first victim. The one fortunate thing is that no one else was around at the time.”

“The vaults have security cameras, right?” Hyoyeon sat up. “So if someone rigged a bomb, we should be able to tell when it was put there, right?”

“Working on it,” Yuri called from her desk. “I’ve got whatever footage the cameras recorded before they were blown up.” She tapped busily at her keyboard. “I’m trying to trace the source of the explosion, and I’ve got two angles to work from, so it should only be…there we go.”

Tiffany got up and patted Hyoyeon’s shoulder, signaling the other to do the same. The two made their way over to Yuri’s desk. Jessica was bent over her keyboard on Yuri’s left, with Sooyoung and Yoona peering tentatively from behind her.

Tiffany examined the computer screen before pointing with one finger. When Yuri went frame by frame, it was clear that the explosion had originated from a back corner of the huge stacks of bills situated in the middle of the room. “There?”

“You got it,” Yuri agreed. She rewound further and gave a low whistle. “Wow. I’ve never seen that much cash in one place.”

“It is a bank,” Tiffany reminded her, amused. She leaned closer. “So it’s one of those shipments from the mint. Looks like it hadn’t been touched yet.”

“Oh. So like, one of those huge cube stack things.” Hyoyeon traced a vague outline of a box in the air with her hands. “Wow, how many won is that? Billions? Trillions?”

“Too much,” Tiffany replied grimly. “Okay, so how did that shipment get in? Or did someone come into the vault and place the bomb there?”

Yuri shook her head. “I’ve been rewinding. Here’s where it came in.” She paused, showing two men wheeling the money into the then empty vault. Their caps, however, obscured a good portion of their faces.

“Well, that’s not helpful,” Tiffany sighed. Then she squinted. “Looks like their uniforms are from the mint. So we can probably get records of everyone who came into contact with the money that day.”

“Yeah.” Yuri nodded, writing a note to herself on a post-it before sticking it to her cubicle wall. She leaned out, glancing in Jessica’s direction. “Hey Sica, how’s that intersection feed?”

“Grainy,” Jessica grumbled. “And the explosion came from below the street, so an overhead view doesn’t really help. Unfortunately, they’ve already started fixing the road, so not much chance of any more first-hand investigation. But Seohyun said she’d give me some data to help put together a simulation for how the explosion happened; not that it’ll be incredibly helpful for figuring out how the bomb got there in the first place.”

“Well, if it was below ground, there’s basically no chance of us finding that out anyway,” Sooyoung, leaning over the far cubicle wall to Jessica’s left, pointed out.

Jessica nodded, clicking over to the next window. “Anyway, as for the car, not much to say. Drives up, parks, person leaves. Comes back, starts the car, and…boom.”

Tiffany winced as the explosion clouded up the camera feed. “So…the bomb was planted before the owner parks the car in the street?”

“Probably. I’m running the license plate right now.”

“And where was the last place? Parking garage?” Yoona piped up.

“Yeah.” Jessica switched screens and clicked through the frames of that feed. “Same situation, it looks like. I’m running the plates on that one, too.” Her computer beeped. “Oh, here we go.” She pulled up the results. “Here, I’ll print these off.”

Tiffany leaned over and read the screen out loud while Jessica walked over to the printer. “Rang Domi, female, age 27. She drove over the intersection bomb. Go Ya, male, 35, in the street. And Won Duri, female, 23, the garage.”

“I sent a request to the mint,” Yuri announced. “But it’s after work hours for them, so they won’t be able to get back to us ’til tomorrow morning.”

“That’s fine,” Tiffany said, taking the papers from Jessica once the tech returned. “We’ve got more than enough to occupy us in the meantime.”

“Save me,” Hyoyeon groaned. Then she paused as she heard Jessica settle into the chair with a quiet sigh. She reached out and patted where she knew Jessica’s arm would be. “Hang in there, Sica. We’ll get her back. You’re doing a great job so far,” she added brightly.

Jessica bit her lip. “It’s easier to be busy when there’s something you’d rather forget.”

The others fell silent, wishing for something else to do besides nod.

Taeyeon sighed when she noticed the time. Technically, she was supposed to head home now, if she was abiding by normal work hours. But who still does that nowadays?

So she walked into the outer office, casting a casual glance at the agents bent over their desks and hard at work. Though she suspected they had made the shift from the case to other, as pertinent if not more so, things just as soon as she had.

“Where’re you going, Taeng?” Yuri asked as she passed.

“Break room.” Taeyeon hoped to be out the door before her answer really registered.

“Break room?” Tiffany looked up. “Really?”

Taeyeon shrugged. “Just gonna see if I can catch up with some people. Gotta make sure I’ve got friends outside of SOSHI, you know.”

“Aw, but you love us, unnie.” Yoona grinned. “You don’t need anyone else.”

“And that right there,” Taeyeon said, wagging a finger, “is why I need new friends. Don’t stay up too late, alright?”

A chorus of murmured assent followed her out into the hallway.

In truth, Taeyeon was headed to the break room because she was fairly sure the person she was looking for would be there. And her suspicions were confirmed when she entered; she did an internal victory dance once she spotted the only other occupant in the room. “Hey, Victoria-unnie.”

The older agent turned and smiled, a mug of coffee in hand. “Hello, Taeyeon. Long time no see.”

“Yeah, it’s been pretty busy.” Taeyeon lifted a styrofoam cup from the top of the stack by the coffeemaker. “How’re things with your team?”

Victoria shrugged, taking a sip from her mug. “Oh, you know, about as nerve-racking as it can be with all your members scattered around the globe at any one time.”

Taeyeon nodded. “Believe it or not, I think I can understand a little bit of that. Second-hand, at least, anyway.”

Victoria stared blankly for a moment before snapping her fingers. “Ah right, Krystal’s sister.”

“Yeah,” Taeyeon confirmed with a chuckle as she lifted the coffee pot to pour the bitter, steaming liquid. “Jessica always gets a little tense when she hasn’t heard from her little sister in a couple of days.” She gingerly wrapped her fingers around her cup, feeling the heat through the styrofoam. “You have any idea where Krystal might be?”

Victoria shook her head. “I’d be inclined to tell you what I could if I knew, but actually, Senior Agent Kim Youngmin took over Krystal’s mission from me. I usually report to him anyway, but I guess he wanted to get rid of that middle step. So I haven’t heard from Krystal since she left the country last.”

“Huh.” Taeyeon set her coffee down on the counter carefully. Kim Youngmin? The director’s right-hand man? “Tell you what, if you find out for me where Krystal’s mission is supposed to be, I’ll take you out for drinks. On me.”

“You sure?” Victoria raised her eyebrows. “I’d hate to be the reason the leader of SOSHI suddenly became bankrupt.”

Taeyeon waved a hand, picking up her cup again with the other. “Have some faith in my salary, please. So how about it?”

Victoria grinned. “You free right now?”

Taeyeon blinked, coffee halfway raised.

The older woman laughed. “I never said I didn’t know where she’d left the country for.”

Taeyeon sighed and shook her head, lifting her drink the rest of the way to hide a smile. “Alright, Agent Song, you got me. Wait a second while I go get my wallet.”

“What’s that, unnie?” Yoona asked, curious, as she leaned over Jessica’s shoulder to peer at the screen.

“Hey, aren’t you a bit close,” Jessica complained, her teasing tone softening the words. She pushed the younger girl’s cheek aside as she pulled off the headphones she was wearing. “I’m just listening to our last phone conversation. There might’ve been something she said that I missed, or something in the background that could tell us where she was.”

“Turn it up,” Sooyoung demanded, spinning around in her chair and propelling herself closer to Jessica’s desk. “We can all listen.”

“But Jessi,” Tiffany commented, “you…record all your calls with Krystal?”

“Are you implying that I shouldn’t?” Jessica retorted.

“Note to self,” Yuri murmured, loud enough for the rest of them to hear as she pretended to scribble on a post-it, “never say anything incriminating to Sica on the phone, ’cause it might just come back to bite me later.”

“Shh, unnie,” Yoona said, a finger to her lips.

“Oh, sorry,” Yuri whispered, and then put a hand over her mouth when Jessica glared. Once she was sure the other would stay silent, Jessica turned up the volume on her computer. Her voice came crackling through the speakers.

“So when’ll you be coming back?”

“I dunno, unnie, but I’m sure it’ll be soon. They can’t keep me here forever. And I’m pretty much done, as far as I can tell.”

“Hm, but it seems to me, Jung Soojung, that you’re quite enjoying yourself over there, wherever ‘there’ is.”

‘When in Rome’, right?”

“Fine, fine. I see you’ve been catching up on your English expressions.”

“Thanks—oh, stay on the line, unnie. I’ll be right back.”

“What?”

“Just—just stay there, okay? I should be back soon.”

“Is this mission related, Krystal? Because I’m pretty sure you have a commanding officer to watch over this sort of thing—”

“Thanks unnie, you’re the best!”

Krystal’s last statement was followed by a soft thud, presumably the younger girl throwing her phone down. Seconds later, they heard the door slam.

Jessica’s whisper seemed much too loud for how softly she spoke her next words.

“See you later.”

Yuri coughed.

Tiffany closed her eyes and inhaled as quietly as she could.

Hyoyeon reached out, but paused, realizing that she was too far away from Jessica. So she pulled back and took a hold of Yoona’s hand instead.

“…Hey, what’s that background noise?” Sooyoung broke the silence, leaning closer to the computer speakers. “Can you increase the volume?”

“I can do better than that,” Jessica muttered, typing a few commands in. Seconds later, she pulled up a program that helped her split the audio file into several parts. When she finished, she played the background noise by itself. What was undoubtedly English came streaming through, loud and clear.

“In other news, Los Angeles County reached record highs today…”

Jessica paused the file.

“Hey guys,” Taeyeon announced as she strode in. “So I think Krystal might be—”

“Taeyeon,” Jessica cut in, “we need to get to Los Angeles.”

“—in Los Angeles,” Taeyeon finished. She blinked. “Wait, don’t tell me I just promised Victoria an entire night’s worth of drinks when you guys just figured out the exact same thing.”

“Us not telling you won’t make it any less true,” Yoona pointed out.

Taeyeon shrugged. “Fair enough.”

“So Jessi and I will take the first flight out tomorrow morning,” Tiffany decided.

“Woah, woah.” Taeyeon held up her hands. “And how do you figure that?”

“L.A. is where I grew up,” Tiffany reminded her. “It’s where my mom…” She pursed her lips.

Taeyeon hesitated. Then she nodded slowly. “I…suppose it’d be a good lead to follow up on.”

“You’re serious?” Tiffany brightened. In reality, it was an excuse bordering on downright unrealistic. It wasn’t completely proven, after all, that her mother’s case and this current one were even remotely related. But if Taeyeon saw a chance to set both Tiffany’s and Jessica’s minds at ease, she would grab it and hold on for all she was worth. So Tiffany rushed forward to wrap the shorter woman in a hug. “You’re the best,” she murmured into Taeyeon’s shoulder.

“That’s what I’ve been told,” Taeyeon wheezed. “Fany—can’t—”

“Hey, Agent Kim, have you said your farewells yet?” Victoria poked her head into the office. “The bars are open ’til late, but I prefer to get a head start.”

“Of course you do,” Taeyeon muttered as Tiffany let go.

“Hi, unnie.” Yoona gave a cheerful wave. “Drink extra for all of us, okay?”

Victoria winked. “You got it.”

“You two.” Taeyeon fixed the Americans with a glare. “I expect reports every 12 hours, okay? And I’m sending Sunny with you too, just to make sure you don’t get into anything too crazy.”

Victoria coughed into her fist.

Taeyeon rolled her eyes as she continued. “I think Sunny’s down with Seohyun right now, but I’ll go and let her know before Agent Song keels over from lack of alcohol.” She reached out and patted both women on the head. “Take care, alright?”

Jessica smiled faintly. “You got it, Taeng.”

After Victoria had hooked arms with the mildly distressed leader of SOSHI and practically skipped down the hallway and out of sight, Tiffany turned to Jessica with a grin.

“L.A., here we come.”

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
– called “hope”

Will such a tiny thing keep us warm?