The stars in the sky were few that night, as if someone had thrown a dark blanket over the sky to prevent anyone from having to watch the events about to unfold. The oblivious pink-haired girl way below stared up at the distant pinpricks of light scattered throughout the blackness. She wished that there were more. The stars were so pretty. Maybe they were making way for a shooting star, she hoped. She'd always really wanted to be able to wish upon one.
"Enjoying the view?" her companion inquired. The other girl grinned wide, eyes lighting up and matching the stars above.
"Yes!" she responded enthusiastically. "I love the stars. They're my favourite part of nature." she explained, happy to be out in the park amongst the trees, watched by the twinkling stars, no one around except for her and her friend. Well, and the young girl they'd passed walking a dog along the riverside a few moments ago.
The girl's companion blinked up at the almost starless sky, brow arching. "There are hardly any there." she pointed out. The pink-haired girl shrugged, seemingly content with simply basking in whatever nature had to offer. "They probably didn't come out because they didn't want to see you. It is possible that you're literally that annoying that you could drive the stars away." The girl stopped walking, hurt and a little confused, and turned around to respond to her friend, only to come face-to-face with the knife in her hand. "Probably making a point by staying away from you on your last night alive."
The pink-haired girl bolted, her footsteps thudding hard on the grass, her breaths rapid and shallow. She'd never been a strong runner - how would she be able to escape this situation alive? She collided with a tree in her panic, almost sending herself tumbling to the ground. She caught herself and was about to start running again, but the other girl had caught up easily and slammed the girl against the tree, pinning her there with one arm while the other dragged the knife across the girl's throat. "Let me go!" the girl screamed, fighting desperately, albeit uselessly, against her attacker's grip. "Stop, please!" she begged. She didn't stop. "You can't just kill me, Ha S-" she cut herself off with an earth-shattering scream, as the knife tore through her flesh. The scream was reduced to a helpless gurgle when the blade was plunged into her throat. The attacker ripped her knife from the bleeding girl's neck and dropped her to the ground, leaning to stab her throat a few more times. That was one way to shut her up, the attacker thought.
She watched the light drain from her friend's eyes, smiling in satisfaction once she was dead and leaving her bloody corpse there to rot, feeling triumphant and victorious.
Jung Jinsoul scalded her tongue on a too-hot cup of coffee too early the next morning, and set the dangerous liquid down on her desk in the police station with an offended frown. Her fellow detective and one of her best friends, Choi Yerim, sniggered from the neighbouring desk. "The cup says 'Caution: Hot' for a reason, you know." Yerim teased.
Jinsoul rolled her eyes, giving herself a headache. "Shut up." she groused. It was too early for this.
Yerim just grinned, and cracked her knuckles (making Jinsoul shudder uncomfortably) as she observed her surroundings. "No Jiwoo yet, huh?"
Jinsoul scoffed. "Hopefully no Jiwoo ever." she muttered, absent-mindedly reaching for her steaming coffee cup again.
"That's still hot." Yerim reminded her. She set it down. "Don't you ever think that you're maybe a little too hard on her?" Yerim asked. Jinsoul's raised eyebrow and disdainful expression indicated a 'no, not particularly'. "She's only trying to help, you know." Yerim pressed.
Jinsoul snorted. "She's really not all that helpful." she sniped. Yerim let out a resigned sigh. Jinsoul deemed her coffee safe to consume after blowing on it to cool it down a little first.
Jiwoo was their (rather irritating) civilian consultant, who tended to show up when it suited her, and who, according to Jinsoul, had volunteered herself to make Jinsoul's life a living hell on the daily. Yerim thought that her friend was just a little dramatic.
"Well, I like her." Yerim said. Jinsoul couldn't understand how. Then again, Yerim's glass was always half full. Jinsoul's was absolutely not. Never had been, probably never would be.
They'd met Jiwoo when she'd been one of the witnesses to a murder a few months previously. Jiwoo, a little intoxicated and clearly not taking the situation as seriously as she should have been, had taken one look at Jinsoul and immediately tried some awful line about being willing to witness every murder in the city if it meant she got to witness Jinsoul's beauty. Yerim and their other best friend and captain, Jungeun, had cracked up at the sight of Jinsoul's mortified face and blank stare, which prompted Jungeun to suggest that Jiwoo become a civilian consultant for them and do just that. Jinsoul didn't think she'd ever forgive her.
"You deal with her, then." Jinsoul responded, huffing. Speak of the devil, Jinsoul could hear Jiwoo approaching. Loudly. Fantastic.
Yerim grinned cheekily. "Nah. She's all yours." Jinsoul scowled at her younger colleague as Jiwoo rounded the corner.
"Jinsoullie!" Jiwoo greeted cheerily; far too loud and chirpy for this early in the morning, Jinsoul thought, grimacing slightly. Jiwoo flung her arms around Jinsoul's shoulders, almost crushing the detective's bones in her tight embrace. Yerim snorted at the exasperated look on Jinsoul's face. "Hi, Yerim." Jiwoo smiled politely at the younger girl, who returned the greeting with a small wave. Why did Jiwoo always pay way more attention to Jinsoul than anyone else? Surely she wasn't that interesting, Jinsoul mentally grumbled. Yerim was nicer. Jungeun was funnier. Yeojin was chattier. Jinsoul was kind of boring and miserable, honestly. Jiwoo took a seat on Jinsoul's desk, despite the empty chair adjacent to it, and nearly knocked over a stack of very important paperwork. She caught it before it hit the floor and ruined Jinsoul's life, barely saving Jinsoul from having a mild heart attack. While Jinsoul was still trying to recover from that, Jiwoo immediately began babbling away, as usual, something about a hectic morning and her flatmate's dog, almost kicking Jinsoul's coffee out of her hand as she swung her legs while she talked about the stress she'd been placed under. Like singing sensation Kim Jiwoo knew stress.
Jinsoul snapped at the consultant a little. Maybe she shouldn't have. She'd later blame it on the early hour and her headache, even though deep down she knew that she was just being petty for no real reason. She interrupted her, told her to shut up, and continued to sip her coffee and act like she'd rather be dead than anywhere near the singer. Jiwoo looked upset. Yerim looked irked. Jinsoul ignored both of them.
Jungeun strode out of her office, bleached-blonde hair framing her grim expression. Jinsoul sighed. A nice early-morning murder, then. This job brought so much joy. She, Yerim and (unfortunately) Jiwoo got up to follow the Captain, who looked more upset than she usually did. "You guys are gonna have to brace yourselves for this one." Jungeun told her detectives.
"What? Why? Is it super gory?" Yerim asked, confused.
Jinsoul studied Jungeun's face. "I think... Do we know the victim?"
They knew the victim.
"Wong Kahei, 26." Yeojin, the medical examiner, announced. "Stabbed repeatedly in the throat. Time of death between 11:20 and 11:35, according to the witness." Jinsoul zoned out as Yeojin started detailing an apparent struggle, staring at the rotting corpse of one of her oldest friends. Kahei was dead. Kind, sweet, gentle Kahei had been murdered in cold blood.
Yerim had left Jinsoul's side as soon as she'd heard Yeojin say Kahei's name and gone to talk to the witness instead. Jinsoul decided to follow her lead. Jungeun could get the details from Yeojin. They'd both understand.
Jinsoul trudged over to Yerim, Jiwoo following once she realised that the witness had a dog. "Can I pet your dog?" she asked, interrupted Yerim.
Yerim frowned. "Jiwoo. This is a crime scene."
Jiwoo ignored her and repeated her question to the witness, who nodded silently, looking a little confused. "She's not a cop." Jinsoul muttered to her, in an attempt to save the reputation of the police.
"No- yeah- I know- Kim Jiwoo, I know who she is, but, uh... why is she here?" the young woman asked, still staring in the direction of Jiwoo and her dog.
"She's our civilian consultant." Yerim replied. She didn't seem all too bothered by the interruption, but Jinsoul figured that she'd take anything that distracted her from the fact that her close friend's dead body was lying a few feet away.
"Ah. Oh, yeah, I think I read something about that on Tumblr." she said, before turning away and continuing to recount what happened. Jinsoul thought she heard Yerim sigh quietly. "When... When I got here, she was already dead, and the person who killed her was long gone. But we'd crossed paths earlier on, and she was walking with another girl. She was alone when I found her, though... I didn't see the other girl anywhere. I don't know where she went."
Yerim nodded as she noted down what the girl, Chaewon according to Yerim's notebook, was saying. "She could be our killer. Thank you, Chaewon." Jinsoul was impressed by how professional Yerim appeared to be staying. Neither of them had ever dealt with the murder of someone they knew, and Yerim seemed to be handling it a lot better than Jinsoul was. Then again, Yerim was clearly deliberately avoiding looking at the body. Or acknowledging that it was Kahei, probably. She was likely pretending to herself that it was just another poor soul that she'd never met, would never meet, and came to a horrible end that would never really affect her outside of work. Jinsoul wondered when it would hit her. "Do you think you could describe the girl the victim was with to a sketch artist?" Ah. There it was. Ordinarily, Yerim would have said the victim's name, rather than just 'the victim'. She always wanted them to be remembered as the person they were, not just as a corpse at a crime scene. Yerim was pretending that this wasn't happening, that it wasn't Kahei. Avoiding confronting the situation. The realisation would sink in soon enough.
The witness nodded. "Yeah, I mean, it was kinda dark, but I think I got a good enough look at her face."
"I'll call Sunmi." Jinsoul told Yerim, pulling her work phone out of her pocket.
"Oh, wait! There was something else." Chaewon exclaimed. "Sorry, I only just remembered. She - uh, the girl, the dea- the victim, I mean - she shouted something before she died, I think she was in the middle of saying the murderer's name?"
Jinsoul looked up at the blonde, eyebrows raised. "A name? What was it?" Yerim was frowning as she wrote silently in her notebook. It was sinking in, then.
"Uh, 'Ha S-' something, she didn't finish it..." Chaewon trailed off sadly. Well, 'Ha S-' narrowed it down a fair bit, Jinsoul thought. She was suddenly grateful for Kahei's loud voice. Then she realised that she'd never hear it again and crumpled.
Yerim seemed to have had a similar realisation. "Right, uh, thanks." she mumbled. "At least that narrows it down."
"To everyone whose family name is Ha." Jinsoul finished. Yerim frowned. "She always last-named people, remember?"
Yerim remembered. She looked at the ground as she felt her eyes filling with tears, hearing a distant 'Choi Yerim!' in Kahei's exasperated voice. She'd never hear that voice again. A tear fell. "Mmhm."
Chaewon gasped. "Wh- You knew her?"
Jinsoul nodded, not moving her gaze away from the spot where Yerim's tears had fallen on the ground. "Yeah. We're... we were... friends with her. For a long time." Chaewon covered her mouth with her hand and started crying. Jinsoul didn't really know what to say. Her brain was too full with memories of Kahei. Her train of thought was interrupted by a shriek from Jungeun as Chaewon's labrador started licking her ankle. Jinsoul snickered despite the situation. Everyone knew it wasn't funny, really, but Jungeun's fear of dogs would never fail to make everyone laugh at her. Jinsoul was surprised she hadn't fired anyone over it yet.
Chaewon called to her dog, looking embarrassed, as Jungeun edged away and nearly ended up halfway up a tree. "Loona! Get back here, girl!" The dog turned away from Jungeun and returned to her owner's side. It'd be nice if Jiwoo was that obedient, Jinsoul thought.
Speaking of whom, Jiwoo was sat on the floor on her phone, all interest in both the dog and the case seemingly gone. She hadn't even acknowledged Jungeun's panic. Jiwoo was usually the only one who told everyone to stop laughing at her phobia. Jinsoul frowned. Jiwoo must have been very invested in whatever Hyejoo was texting her.
It must have been super intriguing, actually, because Jiwoo was still on her phone when they were back at the station and Seulgi was writing on the murder board. Yerim was getting coffee. She was also taking her time. Fair enough, Jinsoul thought. Jinsoul herself was taking her time wondering what in the hell Jiwoo was playing at rather than paying attention to Seulgi. She shifted to try and sneak a glance at Jiwoo's phone screen. Turned out she was looking at surreal memes on tumblr. Unbelievable.
"Here's the sketch from Sunmi." Jungeun said, handing a drawing of a dark-haired, angry-looking woman to Seulgi. Jinsoul glared at it. That woman probably killed Kahei. Then she glared at Jiwoo. She still wasn't paying attention. Jinsoul would quite honestly like to stab her in the face.
"Jinsoul, are you going to the funeral?" Jungeun asked, pulling Jinsoul back to reality.
"Hmm? Oh, yeah." Jinsoul mumbled. "Hey, if this woman is a friend of Kahei's then she might be there. We can question her about what happened."
"Unless she's the murderer, in which case she likely won't be there." Seulgi pointed out.
"In which case I'll kill her." Jinsoul hissed through gritted teeth.
"Jinsoul, that's illegal." Jungeun muttered.
"What's illegal?" Yerim asked as she rounded the corner, carrying five coffees.
"Pre-meditated murder." Jinsoul replied as Yerim handed out the coffees. Mocha with extra whipped cream for Jiwoo, Americano for Seulgi, skinny latte for Jungeun, cappuccino for Yerim, triple espresso for Jinsoul.
"Okay then." Yerim sat down at her desk, carefully avoiding looking at the murder board. "When... When's the funeral?"
"Three days from now." Jinsoul told her. "You're going, right?"
"Right. You two going?"
"Of course." Jungeun replied.
"I'll go too." Jiwoo cut in. Jinsoul turned to stare incredulously at her, nearly dropping her coffee. Her phone was down, for once, and she was staring at Jinsoul like she was asking permission. Jinsoul wanted to swill her.
"You don't even know Kahei." Jinsoul practically spat out, shooting a challenging stare at her. Jiwoo seemed unfazed.
She shrugged. "Moral support." she responded, hopping off the desk. "Anyway, I'm going home. Need to dogsit Max while Hyejoo's in work." she announced, turning to leave. "Thanks for the coffee, Yerim!"
"No problem." Yerim called back, shooting finger guns at her even though she wasn't looking. She also hadn't looked at the murder board once, Yerim realised. "Wait, how does she know who we're looking for if she didn't..." Yerim turned to look at Sunmi's sketch but accidentally looked at the picture of Kahei's corpse instead. It was the first time she'd seen it. She burst into tears. Jinsoul followed suit.
Because what the hell?? What the hell??? First of all, Kahei was dead. Secondly, Yerim was crying. Thirdly, Jiwoo was currently ruining everything, on a bigger scale than usual, and Jinsoul quite honestly wanted to punch her. Why did Jiwoo even want to come to the funeral? To annoy Jinsoul? Likely. Also, Kahei was dead. Why was Kahei dead. Kahei was the nicest person Jinsoul knew, besides Yerim. Who would want to kill her? Jinsoul was close to tearing out her own hair. And then Jiwoo's main organs. Jinsoul wondered why she was being like this on this particular case. Surely she didn't dislike them that much? Jinsoul hated her.
"Jinsoul." Jungeun whispered. "I know you're upset about Jiwoo as well. Don't worry. She won't ruin a funeral." she said, handing Yerim a box of tissues.
So, anyway, Jiwoo ruined the funeral.
She spent the whole time texting Hyejoo and sharing memes. She even had the audacity to snort every now and then. Jinsoul wanted to scream. Although, she did notice the point where Hyejoo remembered that Jiwoo was at a funeral and stopped responding, which Jinsoul was thankful for. Jiwoo didn't seem to reach that point, though.
Jungeun and Yerim made sure they stayed in between Jinsoul and Jiwoo. Probably a good thing, or Jiwoo likely would have been joining Kahei.
Jiwoo wandered off after Kahei's coffin had been lowered into her grave. Jinsoul was secretly grateful. She decided to focus on Kahei instead, on Yerim's and Jungeun's tears and on everything they loved and were going to miss about Kahei. It was a lot.
Jiwoo, meanwhile, was Super Focused on the Undercover Operation. Find a friend of the vic's whose name started with Ha S-. Simple. Easy. A baby could do it. God, she wanted to go home. She saw a teary-eyed brunette woman stepping away from the grave and decided she'd start there. Maybe she was crying because she felt guilty for leaving her friend. Maybe she was just sad. Maybe it's Maybelline. Maybe Jiwoo needed a snack. No, Jiwoo definitely needed a snack. Oh well. The snack would have to wait. Anyway. Super Focused.
"Hi, I'm Kim Jiwoo. I'm so sorry for your loss." She said, sincerity in her words and eyes. The woman managed a small smile.
"Jo Haseul." She introduced herself. (Ha S-!!!!!) "How did you know her?"
"Oh, uh, I didn't. I'm just here with a mutual friend. Y'know, moral support and all." Jiwoo praised herself for her improvisation abilities. "I understand what you're going through, though." She added quietly, so quietly she wasn't sure she'd actually said it, but Haseul nodded in understanding. She turned her face upwards, frowning at the sky.
"It's a beautiful day." She sighed. "Kahei would have loved it. She would have dragged us out to the park to pet dogs and admire trees and stuff..." Haseul trailed off, tears streaming down her cheeks. Jiwoo almost just left it alone. Almost just alerted Jungeun, walked away, went home and had that snack. But she was determined to prove her competence to Jinsoul, and prove it she would. Hopefully.
"When was the last time you saw her?" Jiwoo asked tentatively, immediately deciding that she wasn't good at this questioning thing. Maybe she should leave this to the professionals, after all. It felt awkward, uncomfortable, and she honestly didn't really want to pry, which is what it felt like. Did the detectives feel like this?
Haseul wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Like, the day before she died. We were supposed to all go out together that night, but she cancelled last minute. I don't know why. Probably to look at the stars or something."
Jiwoo frowned at that. There hadn't been many stars out that night, if she recalled correctly. She'd been stargazing with Hyejoo and Max. Well, Hyejoo had gotten bored after fifteen minutes. Max liked them, though. If Jiwoo was as good at interpreting woofs as she thought she was. Focus!!!
She started to try and stutter out another question, but Yerim appeared by her side at that exact moment. Maybe there was a God after all, Jiwoo thought. "Haseul?" Yerim sounded happy to see her. Great, Jiwoo thought, time to escape. "I haven't seen you in forever!" Yerim exclaimed, excited. Then deflated. "Suppose... the circumstances aren't ideal..."
"Yeah." Haseul frowned. "The girls and I would invite you and Jungeun and Jinsoul out more, but we know that you're all always working or sleeping or locking people up." she explained.
"Pretty much." Yerim shrugged.
"Way cooler than us three, anyway." Haseul smiled. It was forced. Jiwoo wanted to go home.
Yerim did a dramatic hair flip and tried to smile, but didn't quite make it there. Jiwoo didn't get why she was so upset. Yerim gave up and changed the subject. "You know Jiwoo?"
"Oh, no, we just met. Are you two friends?" Haseul inquired.
"Yeah! Well, we work together. Honestly, I think she really only likes Jinsoul."
"That's not true." Jiwoo mumbled, but Haseul was raising an eyebrow at her and the urge to leave increased.
"So you're here on police business, or...?" Haseul asked. Her brow was furrowed. She looked a little angry. Jiwoo missed Max and Hyejoo.
"Oh, no, she's just here for moral support. She's not even a cop." Yerim dismissed. Haseul was still staring at Jiwoo, though. Glaring?
"If that's so, why was she asking me where I was when Kahei died?"
Yerim turned to frown at Jiwoo. "Why were you?"
Jiwoo decided to avoid eye contact by staring at the grass instead. Brilliant idea. She was so smart. "Curiosity. Anyway, Hyejoo is calling me, I should go take thi-"
"Your friend thinks I killed Kahei?" Haseul asked Yerim. She looked rather displeased. Jiwoo bolted.
She called Hyejoo with shaking fingers. She could feel her eyes filling with tears. "Hyejoo?"
"What's wrong?" Hyejoo asked immediately. Max barked in the background.
"I want to go home." She whispered.
"I'll be right there. Where's the detective?"
"I don't know. I don't- I don't know." She mumbled. She also didn't care. Jinsoul would probably tell her to panic quieter.