2 years ago.
The café Namjoon finds himself in is quite painteresque, Brazilian jazz music playing softly thru the speakers above him, since he is sitting in the furthest corner of the establishment. He fidgets time and time again, changing his position from on chair to the other and arranging his hair, trying to look as if he was nervous and waiting for his date to arrive. He could see the barista coo at his antics when she thought he wasn’t looking, which gave him the confidence to keep his act up.
How much longer he needs to wait for his fake date to arrive, he doesn’t know. It was the first time he met the intel holder, frankly, it was the first time he even met an in one at all. He had only been promoted to detective for 3 months, and although he loved to work his desk hours, he sometimes missed the never ending patrols, and the almost robotic dynamic of a late night reckless drunk driver arrest. He had to have patience to deal with people’s reactions, had to calm himself down more than once to not beat the hell out of some pretty disrespectful civilians.
Namjoon thinks he is good at that, patience and control, but sitting inside this little café, with his own drink long gone cold and his ass way to numb change sits again, Namjoon decides he might not be as good at the waiting game as he thinks he is. He knew he shouldn’t have had high hopes of the suspicious tip he got over e-mail a few days ago, the web correspondence claiming to be of help and asking to meet him so they could come up with an arrangement. Of course the rookie detective didn’t just agree to meet them, he wasn’t that unexperienced. Namjoon asked for any information the possible intel sharer had that could be of help in the case he was currently assigned to, only giving him the link of the local newspaper that covered the crime.
A 19–year-old female found dead inside a bathroom cubicle at a private charity event. Her dress had been torn apart, lipstick smudged around her young face, long glittery nails broken, all sings of someone trying to resist an assault. Annie Lee, had been her fathers plus one for the evening, but disappeared around 30 minutes in. Five hours later she was found dead, strangled with a necktie. The only evidence was said piece of clothing, which obviously didn’t belong to the victim. No witnesses, and although everyone with access to the event was a suspect, being able to cover them all was almost impossible. Rich people don’t tend to stay in the same place for long. Especially rich people who might have committed a crime. He had interviewed at least 100 guests in the last week, coming back and forward between the annoyingly immature gossip of the young elite and even worse, gossip of the elder elite. It was either she went out with this guy or that guy or her father had pissed someone off. He was going in circles.
So when the email came to him, he found himself having a little bit of hope, even if it was minimum. The answer to his request had come almost immediately after he send it, as if they were waiting for Namjoon to ask. It had been two pictures of Anna Lee’s father, Roy Lee, the same night of the event. In the first one, He was photographed right before entering the event, Anna by his side, father and daughter were arm to arm, looking like rich people look, snobby and kinda bored. The second one though, Roy was standing outside, holding a cigar in between his right hand’s fingers and a woman’s hand with his own left hand. Said woman was clearly not Anna, but the woman actually was, Namjoon couldn’t tell.
At first glance, the two pictures didn’t ring bells in his mind, since Roy didn’t really look too different in either of them. That was until he read the message attached to the pictures.
“I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t let just anybody take my Christian Lacroix, as unfitting as it is to the event. Would have had to be rather dumb to not notice someone stole it. Dumb or naked.”
It took like 5 minutes and a 10 second search on google for Namjoon to understand that he was talking about the man’s tie. The same necktie that the victim was strangled to death with.
10 minutes later, the tip teller sent an address, date and hour. Namjoon had deleted the email conversation after saving the pictures. And now, he finds himself still sitting in the back of the cute business, an hour later than what was agreed on. Ass still numb and patience decreasing by the minute.
He normally wouldn’t accept such tardiness on anyone, after all, he spends his days scolding his roommate for his eternal morning showers and never ending cloth picking. But truth be dammed, the dark haired detective was curious. This person just came out of nowhere, decided to jump in the investigation and grant some clues. And they came directly to Namjoon. He knew the person didn’t just e-mail some random detective, they had to have a reason to pick him, despise being only 3 months on the job. He also had a feeling the civilian behind all of this was probably inside the elite, giving the word choice and apparent familiarity to private and overly priced event’s etiquette. Maybe it was one of the guests he had already interviewed? Was it someone maybe in the catering service? Will they be close to his age, older, or even more dangerous, younger? Where they even aware of what they wanted to get themselves into?
Namjoon had a lot of questions but none of them were going to be answered today. Yes, he was curious but he was also a busy man with an ongoing case that needed to be solved. If the intel giver really wanted to be there, they would have arrived on time. Maybe they just chicken out, a bummer to his undying curious mind, but there was nothing he could do.
The barista looked as disappointed as Namjoon felt when he came up to the register to pay for his untouched coffee. “I’m guessing they didn’t show?” She says, her mouth in what it looks like a pout, cheeks round and eyes a little sad but still sharp. “Yeah, I guess so.” The man responds, sounding a little more bummed than he intended to, taking his wallet out. “You were waiting for so long I could almost feel my own butt numbing.” The short girl turns away from Namjoon, a few strands of her hair falling off her improved ponytail as she does so, moving out of the detective’s sight. “I’ll give you one pastry as comfort food,” she comes back, paper bag in hand. “You’ll still have to pay for the coffee though.” Her gummy smile and innocent shrug make the much taller and apparently older man coo.
“I don’t think I can accept it” Namjoon declines, “and shouldn’t the coffee be the free item?” He asks, hoping the feline looking barista doesn’t take offense. Namjoon feels relieved when her smile doesn’t crumble, instead she pushes the paper bag further onto the detective’s direction, insisting. “Ah, a cute face like yours can get free coffee anywhere,” she shoots, making Namjoon open his eyes wide for a second to then burst giggling and hide his redden face behind his hand. “but not everyone will sacrifice their free employee pastry for that cute face.”
Namjoon doesn’t really like people gifting him stuff, but heck, he could use some sweetness to recover from the disappointment of his failed intel. “Fine” he finally gives in, taking some money from his wallet to pay for his coffee “Keep the change.” The barista smiles widely at him once more, not arguing with him and instead saying “Be sure to keep it closed and warm until you can eat at the comfort of your home,” she suggests timidly looking at the much taller man through her lashes, “They taste way better when you are relaxed and alone.”
Namjoon raises a brow at the girl’s instructions, eyes exchanging from the paper bag to her. He nods at her smiling, making his way out of the shop as if assuring her he’ll head straight home, which he is. “Come back soon!” She shouts at his back, her courtesy in full display.
It’s only when Namjoon is about to sit on his bed, door closed and warm cup of milk on top of the drawer next to his bed that he realizes the paper bag is oddly heavy for a pastry to be inside. Like a gravital force, the words the sweet looking barista said to him hit him one by one.
Keep closed. Home. Better. Alone.
Now that he thinks about it, the girl didn’t even have a name tag attached to her uniform. And he didn’t even saw her put the money he gave her on the machine. Also, who on earth gives their free dessert away? Namjoon had been so dumb. Waiting for someone to arrive and didn’t get to think about them –her- waiting for him. Why didn’t she say something? Was she being watched? Did she not trust him?
Or maybe she was just delivering.
With that in mind, Namjoon picks the paper bag and lets the contents inside fall on his bed. An old Blackberry Bold cellphone sits there, screen pitch black. He quickly picks it up, turning it on. When the devise is on, the first thing he checks is the contact list, and as he expected only one number is registered, under the name of ‘Poker’.
The detective fights the urge to roll his eyes at the name even if no one could see him do so.
Namjoon debates between calling the number or texting. He guesses the most efficient way is calling the stranger. But then the call goes straight to voicemail and a ping sound comes out of the phone almost immediately after the failed signal connection.
Ah~ finally someone made room for dessert! Sorry I couldn’t attend your call; this old cellphone’s microphone is busted! Wouldn’t be of much utility.
Yours is too, by the way.
Namjoon thinks about what to respond for a couple of moments, torn between asking him everything he had been wondering since he got the e-mail, why him, why now and why not show themselves, why a blackberry of all phones. Taking a deep breath, the detective decides for the question.
Oh well, I guess it just fits, wouldn’t you say? I’m not the card dealer in this game. I just happen to know my hand pretty well, and other’s as well. I don’t mind sharing some of my knowledge and tricks with you.
You know, ~poke~ you when you need it.
This time Namjoon actually rolls his eyes at the intel gatherer’s sour pun. ‘Poker’ seems to be fairly dramatic and very much secretive, which only reassures his theory of them being someone who is pretty well known, insider of the high elite, and quite possibly connected to gambling of some kind.
What’s in it for you?
The answer doesn’t come straight away, leaving Namjoon uneasy but not quite uncomfortable. He knows jack squat about this type of activities, but for the sake of his current case –and possible future ones- he’ll play along. Another ping lets him know he’s question has been answered.
Peace at night. Morality bonus points. Getting rid of the feeling of impotence. I don’t mean to jeopardize your work, detective. I hope you’ll take this as what it is, a simple transaction of values. I help you with the cards I can gather, and you help me doing what I can’t. Laying them all on the table.
So… what do you say, detective?
Said detective, for what it feels like the first time since he started the job 3 months ago, doesn’t hesitate when he answers: