Chapter 1: I
“It was you,” Taehyung cringes, a hand running through his hair, the other shaking while holding his gun. “Since the beginning.”
“Me?” Jeongguk steps forward, perplexed. “What are you—”
His breathing stops right away.
He cannot move anymore, blocked by the cold barrel against his brow.
“I knew you were a fucker, but that much?”
“I don’t know what—”
“Just shut up!” Taehyung explodes, pushing his weapon harder and harder against Jeongguk’s forehead, making him go back.
“You’re a dead man, Jeon.”
A few months earlier
“It’s always the same shit,” Taehyung gripes, “right, kiddo?” He turns his head towards Leroy, standing next to him, arms folded too.
“We’re the only ones thinking that but yeah,” the younger answers as he watches the meeting from afar.
“He solves a case and everyone admires him for that, but why? I mean, it’s our job, for God’s sake.”
“Maybe they need a hero?”
“Don’t you need one too?” the detective asks.
“You’re already mine!” the officer teases.
“Piss off,” Taehyung says as he shoulders him a bit, which doesn’t really make Leroy move. There was a time when the older was able to do so very easily, but Leroy Jenkins was tougher now. Well, he had to in order to bear Taehyung, also know as the Lone Wolf in the 11th District of the Chicago P.D., the worst in regard to homicides.
“You could have the same reception for every victory,” Leroy points it out to his colleague and superior.
“You know I don’t care about the fame.” Taehyung sighs and shakes his head slowly. “For real, I don’t get it. So much champagne and congratulations for some robberies? Well, good, but we still have to take care of rapes and murders.”
“I feel you, but we’re the 11th District, Taehyung, people need some light from time to time.”
“Ain’t no light in Harrison. That’s why we’re here.”
“Don’t be so pessimistic.”
“That’s my nature, ‘Roy.”
A lot of noise, some stupid laughs and a bit of alcohol.
Everything Taehyung hates.
But the thing he hates the most is standing right in the middle of the station.
Well, not really a thing, but Taehyung finds him so superficial that it’s near enough. Superficial, indeed, but apparently efficient too. Since his arrival, Detective Jeon has solved a lot of cases with his partner, but the later is often forgot in aid of the new guy.
Fortunately, they’re part of another team of the Violent Crimes Section, which is made up of three teams in all, each led by a sergeant.
“We serve and protect, here’s our motto. Why can’t they just do that?”
“We serve and protect,” mimics Seokjin as he shows up beside Taehyung, copying the detective’s low voice.
A simple sentence and Taehyung’s heart skips a beat. Damned Sergeant Kim, and above all, damned thoughts.
“Go get a drink, idiot,” the detective says, not in the mood for Seokjin’s digs.
“Somebody’s grumpy tonight,” concludes the broad-shouldered man before he leaves, knowing that staying would be a waste of time given Taehyung’s attitude.
“Idiot uh?” Leroy notices, even though he’s used to it. “The boss would kill me if I called him that.”
“Being a detective has its advantages.”
“A special detective,” the officer corrects. “In fact, I’d say being the amazing Taehyung.”
“Sucking my dick won’t offer you a promotion,” he affirms, rising an eyebrow.
Leroy brings a hand to his chest, pretending to be shocked. “Me? Never,” he swears, before getting close to Taehyung as if he wants to tell him a secret, “but I know who’d love to.”
“Shhhh.” The older presses his palm against Leroy’s mouth, who is laughing a bit. “Little punk.”
He doesn’t want to think the way he’s thinking right now, but Taehyung can’t help picturing the one Leroy was talking about.
“Can you...” the officer manages to tell.
“Oh, sure,” Taehyung responds as he removes his hand, still lost in his daydreams —and memories.
“You know, I think you should—”
“Stop,” Taehyung orders, before adding, “please.”
He’s perfectly aware of the imminent subject, but also knows he doesn’t want to talk about it again. Dealing with it everyday is already hard enough, no need to put extra pressure on himself.
“Sorry, I’m just worried about you,” Leroy admits.
“Me? Nah kiddo, don’t be. All you need to do is keep it a secret.”
“A kiddo wouldn’t do this,” the younger protests. “Luckily, I’m not a child.”
Taehyung lightens up a bit, glad to have this idiot by his side, even if he never tells him directly —the kid’s ego would blow up. He’s also glad to have him on his team since the beginning, and proud to see what Jenkins has become: a kind of small Taehyung with less hair and a square jaw.
Well, they’re not similar at all physically, just mentally, but still.
“I’ve almost raised you here. You’ll always be my—”
“What’s up, loners?”
Taehyung loathes being interrupted.
Even more when a fucking prick does it. The ultimate prick.
“What?” Jeongguk goes on after catching Taehyung’s dark look. “Jealous again?”
“Piss off, Jeon,” he enunciates, trying to stay calm.
“You hate celebrating another’s victory, right?”
“Victory? You discovered Jack the Ripper’s identity? Brought Mercury back to life?” Taehyung says with irony. A true victory would be him disappearing, but the older detective doesn’t express it aloud. God he hates this guy, it can’t be otherwise. The disgust of this man flows through his veins.
“Your buddy’s trying to be funny,” Jeongguk snickers, speaking to Leroy. “Well, see you later, killjoys.” Upon these words, the nuisance finally goes away, leaving a minty scent on his path.
Taehyung usually loves mint, but he can’t bear it when it comes from him.
“Fucking asshole,” Taehyung and Leroy decree in unison.
Taehyung adores autumn and its characteristics; that’s why a smile appears on his lips as soon as he hears the sound of rain against the windows. It’s a good day so far; he’s alone, sipping a cup of tea, and his favorite season has begun —but it’s only 7 A.M., and God knows a rough day awaits him. To be honest, every day gets harder and harder since Jeongguk’s appearance, six months ago. Even if they’re not part of the same group, they’re on the same big team in general. Jeon remains a detective, just like Taehyung. The latter is far from hating every detective of the 11th District; in fact, he only rejects Jeongguk. He knows that the new one is smarter than the average and very useful, but these facts aren’t enough to erase Taehyung’s thoughts. Before anything else, he sees him as a wealthy man who, at the end of the day, can get everything he wants by clicking his fingers. Jeongguk smells mint, yes, but especially dollar. Everything conveys his material comfort, starting with his parents. Of course, Taehyung doesn’t know them personally, but their identity is common knowledge: a mother high-ranking in the New York Police Department, married to one of the most famous lawyer in the country, no less! To be precise, adoptive parents and, even if this information isn’t shouted from the rooftops, only a fool could believe they’re linked by blood. Jeongguk Jeon doesn’t sound American, right? Or, to be exact once again, Jeongguk Jeon-Kearney. Basically, his wealthy and powerful folks are behind the majority of his privileges, including the transfer from the NYPD to the Chicago P.D. Why leaving the Big Apple for the Windy City? Unsolved mystery thus far.
More? Well, he has a damned black Range Rover which is probably worth more than Taehyung’s soul, dark shirts and ties costing a kidney or two —individually—, Oxford shoes waxed to perfection... the list is long. Oh, and surely the best hairstylist of all time, given his pretty long and wavy hair way too radiant for this world —yeah, hating someone means looking at them more than you should.
In short, he’s rich and, fuck, Taehyung isn’t.
Jealousy? No, just rejection of Jeongguk. That’s all. Who would be jealous of a man like that, uh? Not Taehyung, for sure.
Seated behind his desk, only lighted by a warm table lamp, Taehyung is focused on his report. Today, he works the night shift, his favorite one. Less noise, less luminosity and, above all, less Jeongguk. Generally, if Taehyung works at night, the rest of “his” team too, but each of them knows he prefers staying alone within the realms of possibility. He always sees night shifts as a quieter alternative, even though life goes on, just like crimes.
“Taehyung,” a voice interrupts his reflection, after what he looks up and adjusts his reading glasses.
“I’m kinda busy, Zak.”
Zak Fowler, a mixed-race man with an impressive stature, police officer in his thirties, classic in Chicago.
“Sorry, but the sergeant wants to see you.” A break. “Now.”
“I hope it’s as important as it seems,” Taehyung says as he stands up. Against his will, the detective leaves his area and heads for Seokjin’s office, which is in a different room. A few seconds later, he enters without knocking.
“Yes... I understand. I see. Yes, we are on our way,” Seokjin finishes as he hangs up the phone.
“What’s happening, Jin?” Taehyung asks, understanding that something is wronger than usual.
“They found a body at West Garfield Park.”
Near Humboldt Park, where Taehyung lives. Fantastic, but he’s used to. The West Side isn’t the safer one.
“And? Rather common here, I’m not teaching you anything.”
“No Taehyung it’s... weird. Unusual.”
The detective frowns, puzzled. Seokjin isn’t the kind of man who worries easily. And he perfectly knows what kind of man he is.
“They’re blocking off the area. Be ready to leave in two minutes.”
“Are you coming with me?” Taehyung questions and, as soon as Seokjin nods, he gets that something is definitely wrong. Before getting ready, he shares his bad feeling with the sergeant, who finally admits what the caller said.
“The killer left a signature.”
Chapter 2: II
"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them."
- Galileo Galilei
Hey, so here we go for the second chapter! It's short too, but don't hesitate to let me know what you think, and enjoy.
As regular as clockwork, Jeongguk comes back from dreamland before his backup alarm, even though he got home late last night.
He loves being ahead of the game.
He loves waking up when some are just falling asleep. When the sky is dark, the city silent.
Well, Chicago never truly sleeps, but the Loop is much more quiet at 4:30 a.m.
At this hour, his automatic reflexes are acting in his place. Shirtless despite the biting cold of October, he goes to the bathroom, leaving it ten minutes after, emptied and refreshed. A thin towel around his waist, he traverses the living room, bare-feet on the dark marble, before entering his walk-in wardrobe. A few warm lights let see several rows of clothes and shelves. There are suits on the left, shoes in front of him, shirts on the right, and different kinds of ties on the wall. Everything seems pretty similar, but each piece is unique. The biggest common traits are the dark tones and the price—but Jeongguk can easily afford it. He owns some colorful items too, but has always preferred darkness.
Elegance and sobriety, nothing else.
However, his morning outfit isn’t quite the same. Who would train in a suit?
As usual at this time of the day, he goes at the back of the room and opens the door leading to another closet, a smaller one. Then, a quick look later, he chooses a hoodie and a tracksuit. Classic.
After that, his routine continues. He takes a light breakfast while listening to a podcast, brushes his teeth, checks all the rooms, puts his Nike, takes his bag and closes the door three times—just to be sure.
Only then, he is ready to go.
No choice if the coach says so.
Panting after all those rounds of sled pushes followed by pull-ups, Jeongguk docilely goes back to the heavy sled. Although his aching muscles beg him to stop, he doesn’t care. The pain wouldn’t stop him in the middle of a fight or a pursuit, so why now?
He carries on, dripping with sweat but driven by the loud music resonating in the gym.
“Good,” the trainer finally admits while Jeongguk achieves his last pull-up. “Five minutes break and we’re going in the ring.”
Jeongguk nods as he removes the cap of his bottle, eager to fight even though he has been doing this for years.
Boxing is an addiction. He cannot live without and wouldn’t even imagine it. This sport helps him whenever his job overwhelms his mind—and Lord know it happens all the time. But sometimes...
“Alright, put on your gloves son.”
He nods again, ready to take them out his bag, but then sees a notification displayed on his phone.
I need you. Come as quickly as possible.
He knits his brows. That early?
Another text, a location.
He is about to ask why when the coach rushes him.
“Gloves on, now.”
“Sorry I can’t,” Jeongguk manages to say, his eyes still riveted upon the screen.
“You can’t my ass! In the ring, faster than that.”
“For real,” Jeongguk assures as he gathers his things, “it’s an emergency.”
“At 5:30 a.m.?”
“You know how it is, Joe,” he sighs. “I’ll make it up to you later.”
The trainer finally accepts, before telling, “Be careful, son.”
Sometimes his job must come before everything.
“Alright,’ Jeongguk thinks out loud as he turns the key in the ignition, the engine coming to life with an impressive melody. Then, a second melody takes over from it: his favorite synthwave playlist, to drive at night or when Chicago is still dark, just a bit brighten up by colorful lights.
So he drives, tapping the wheel because of the anxiety flowing through his neurons. He is not used to this feeling, but the situation isn’t quite regular—yes, often seeing dead bodies isn’t either but, sadly, it has become a habit. His help is often requested, but never in this way.
After about fifteen minutes, Jeongguk arrives in a well-known neighborhood—not because he loves this area, but because of the amount of time he spends in it.
Damn it. If this is what he’s thinking...
Doubtful, he parks near the sidewalk, cuts the engine and gets out the vehicle, the door closing with an echo.
“That was quick,” remarks a voice emerging from the darkness, before the silhouette appears.
“What the hell?” Jeongguk asks as he walks toward the man. “You don’t look like someone who needs help, to be honest.” Annoyed by the pointless anxiety he has felt on the road, the detective’s ton is pretty sharp.
“I couldn’t say the whole truth, but I do need you.”
“Seokjin,” Jeongguk begins. “Explanations, now.”
He shouldn’t talk to a superior like that, right? Well, damn it. Seokjin isn’t the sergeant of his team.
“I think this case will interest you. Come.”
“This case? Which one? Why calling me and not your brilliant detective, uh?”
Seokjin takes a brief inhalation and Jeongguk immediately guesses. The sergeant always betrays himself like this.
“No, please no,” the detective says, tense. “Tell me you didn’t do that.”
He won’t tell it, because he did it. Jeongguk knows it, but still. Why? For a case? It never happens usually, so why now? A special case, uh? Bullshit.
A part of him is curious about this, but the other assumes it’s a complete trap.
“So which case?” Jeongguk resumes. “There’s no one here.”
“They are a bit further away.”
“So I’m your secret weapon, uh?”
“A secret maybe, but not a weapon.”
“Seokjin,” Jeongguk scolds him. “Wrong time for that.”
“To see your another secret?” He shakes his head. “Not gonna happen.”
“Jeongguk,” the sergeant grabs the younger’s shoulders. “It’s a murder, and not a common one. So come, before I kick your ass.”
In another circumstances, the detective would have resisted a little bit more, but a murder? A strange one, apparently? He’s in.
“Let’s go,” Jeongguk surrenders.
They both leave, walking in the empty neighborhood, when a third silhouette comes across them.
Taehyung seems relieved for a second, before noticing Jeongguk.
Then, his traits harden, and anyone would fear for his life in front of him at this moment.
“Oh, fuck you Seokjin.”
Chapter 3: III
"Evil brings men together."
So sorry for being that late! I'm quite busy with Uni and life in general, but I'll catch up.
Enjoy the chapter.
Taehyung turns around and walks away, rushing where he is required —which isn’t here, among the worst fuckers of Chicago.
“Taehyung,” Seokjin calls.
No answer, obviously. The detective speeds up.
“Taehyung!” the older tries again.
He can’t accelerate more, but doesn’t turn over, decided to work on his own. He doesn’t need these two.
“Don’t be such a child,” Seokjin says once he’s near Taehyung, who stops right away to face him.
“You lie to me,” —he pushes Seokjin with his index finger— “you bring him here, and I’m the child?”
“Oh it is!” Taehyung interrupts him. “We didn’t even begin! So what? I’m not enough? ‘Cause a fucking killer left a signature? That’s all we know so far!”
“A signature?” Jeongguk takes part.
“You...” Taehyung threatens, ready to do anything to shut him up, but Seokjin gets between them.
It’s actually the worst thing to say when Taehyung is losing his temper. His blood boiling, he doesn’t think twice and grabs Seokjin’s overcoat in a aggressive way.
“Piss off, you and your puppy. I’m working alone.”
Even if he wanted to work with Seokjin a few minutes ago.
Running out of patience, the older sweeps Taehyung’s hands away and his aura grows stronger. His broad shoulders seem to overlook the detective, even if the two men have a similar height. Seokjin rarely dominates Taehyung, but the latter feels like he’s about to vanish in front of the impressive stature.
“Who do you think you are?” Seokjin rebukes. “I’m still your superior, so you’re going to obey me for once.” He steps forward, letting his cold breath crushing upon the detective’s face. “I don’t want to hear another complaint.”
Taehyung remains silent but, proud as he is, holds Seokjin’s gaze as long as needed. He can’t loose this battle, even he’s deeply affected by it, as evidenced by the shivers running through his spine. It’s not the cold weather this time, just the man before him. It’s always that prick.
“Yes sergeant,” Taehyung gives up, a smidgen of irony in his voice.
Even if he notices the impertinence, Seokjin seems to be satisfied with what he’s got. Hearing Taehyung comply with an order is always extraordinary.
But complying isn’t agreeing, the sergeant had better remember that.
“So a signature?” Jeongguk asks again after a few seconds of silence.
Taehyung takes it on the chin right now, knowing that he can’t explode every time this fucker speaks. God knows it’s hard. All he wants to do is send him back to New York.
“You’ll see it soon,” Seokjin answers as he begins to walk, followed by Jeongguk and, far behind, Taehyung, who analyzes the environment to focus and calm down at the same time. The long street is desert, and the few lampposts still alive cannot light it sufficiently. A shy wind is shaking the dead leafs, making them fall from their sorrowful trees. Taehyung resembles a tree this morning. He’s powerless against the elements, watching what he owns disappear in the dark, far away from him.
Distant noises and voices let him know they’re coming nearer to the crime scene, which Seokjin left quickly when they first arrived—for Jeongguk, thing that Taehyung didn’t know back then.
“You’re back,” the main crime scene investigator says as he gets near the yellow barricade tape. “We have not finished yet, but the officers are still behind the van.”
“Thank you. Let me know when you’re done.”
“Of course. We’re about to do the third walk-trough.”
Third and last, in general. The first consists in understanding what kind of crime has occurred, the second involves taking pictures and drawing sketches of the scene, and the last one concerns the evidence collection itself.
The Crime Scene Investigation unit had arrived faster than usual, called by Seokjin even before he arrived on the scene, himself informed by the cops who found the body.
Body that Jeongguk has not yet seen, his vision probably clouded by the CSI team.
“Wait a few minutes,” Seokjin tells the young detective, who seems impatient. But Taehyung has seen the corpse from far away, and Jeongguk shouldn’t be eager to discover it.
“It’s not an attraction,” Taehyung declares coldly.
“I didn’t say that,” Jeongguk protests, raising an eyebrow.
“I’ve never seen an officer excited to discover a dead person.”
“I’m as excited as when I see you.”
“Asshole,” Taehyung mutters, trying to keep his cool as much as possible. Why does Jeongguk exist?
Proud of himself, Jeongguk turns over and follows on Seokjin’s heels. He doesn’t even need a leash, how cute.
Taehyung stays a bit where he is, wanting a semblance of tranquility for a moment, before heading for the van, which obstructs the damaged road.
The two officers who found the body are part of the third team. Taehyung, who already talked with them, remains quiet for a while, letting Jeongguk’s voice pollute the air.
“So you were on patrol when you saw something strange?” the detective summarizes.
“Yeah, but we almost missed it because of the darkness.”
“And you didn’t see the body first?”
“No, just the writing,” the second cop assures.
“The signature?” Jeongguk says as he turns toward Seokjin, who nods.
Then, Jeongguk continues his mini questioning, and the sergeant takes Taehyung aside.
“Do you mind if I call Zak, Kristin and Leroy? We’re going to need backup soon.”
“You should have called them first, not him,” Taehyung reproaches him for it. “I think you were different from the rest of the District, but apparently not. You’re a fan too.”
“A fan? We’re police officers, Taehyung, not a baseball team.”
“I’m a police officer, but you? The majority of the District? You’re just dumb as fuck.”
“You’re that jealous of him? Why? You’re as talented as he is,” Seokjin says as he gets closer, but Taehyung steps back, a rictus crossing his lips.
“As talented as he is? He doesn’t have the half of my skills.”
It’s false, and the detective knows it, but he won’t admit it in front of the sergeant. It’s silly, but Taehyung is too blinded by his hate to do otherwise.
“You’re not pathetic, but almost.”
“Wanna see a pathetic man? Just look in the mirror, Seokjin.”
The sergeant suddenly looks away, destabilized, and Taehyung already regrets what he said. He always does that, speaking before thinking when he’s angry.
“Don’t. Go check the surroundings while I’m calling the team.”
Taehyung wants to achieve his previous sentence, but words seem too heavy. They can’t pass his mouth. He can’t express how he feels. He can never when it isn’t anger. Not anymore. Especially with this man.
So he leaves the area and goes around the crime scene without crossing the tape, focused on the outside and its neighborhood, as cold and dirty as usual. Maybe more.
Birds aren’t singing. The only sounds come from voices and cameras, from leafs shaken by the wind.
But the first curious are on their way. Some shutters are raised, some doors ajar. The scene represents a disturbing halo of light among the murky environment.
The early birds are shy for now, but chaos is not far, Taehyung knows it. It’s always the same, but it never gets easier. Quite the contrary.
The tape blocks access to a large part, composed of an abandoned house and its garden. The red bricks are damaged, but the windows are even more so. In fact, there is no window at all, just a few planks filling some holes. The property is narrow but tall, which increases the impression that it is about to fall down in pieces.
Taehyung takes his leather-bound notebook out of his long wool coat, along with a black pen. As usual, he writes down basic but essential elements, starting with the crime scene itself. It’s his ritual, in order to remember even the small details. Everything is in the details, always.
“What’s goin’ on?”
This is it. A female voice gets the ball rolling.
A black woman, more than common given the area.
“It’s a crime scene ma’am, no entry.” No ifs or buts.
“Who killed who this time, huh? Another gang victim?”
“Sorry but I can’t tell you.”
And it’s true. Even if he has briefly seen the victim, he can’t tell why and how it happened. Not yet.
Surprisingly, the woman remains calm. It has to be a mother worried for his boy or something like that. It’s often the case around here.
“Just tell me, officer... Have we lost another kid?”
He was right.
“No ma’am,” Taehyung reassures her. “Don’t worry and, please, go back home.”
She squints, looking deep into Taehyung’s eyes, who doesn’t flinch.
“I’ll trust you. Do your job, young man.”
The detective nods, meaning to do his best. It seems to convince the woman, who leaves right away.
It was easy for once.
He turns toward Seokjin.
“It’s done. Come.”
Taehyung follows him silently to the most interesting zone, which becomes suddenly less attractive when he sees Jeongguk already standing there.
“You can enter, we have all we need. I hope you didn’t eat before coming, gentlemen.”
Seeing a dead body with a full belly is never a good idea, indeed. The old Taehyung can confirm.
The three men pass below the tape at the same time, joining the CSI member. The characteristic smell increases as they walk on the damp grass. The smell of death, but Taehyung has been through worse.
“Recent death?” the older detective asks.
“Positive. You have a good nose.”
Of course he has. He isn’t the best detective of Harrison for no reason.
And there he is. The body in the flesh.
Even if the demise is recent, the stench fouls the air. But that’s not the worst part.
In front of them lies the cadaver. A white woman, whiter than she should be. Blond hair, scattered with blood, even if there is no hemoglobin around the corpse. She is almost naked, only wearing her underwear. There are marks of blows all over her skin, even upon her throat.
“She has been strangled to death. The hyoid is fractured.”
Taehyung nods, and then frowns.
Her hands have been sliced and put a few inches away from the wrists, palms up.
The detective notes a few things down while Jeongguk crouches near the remains.
“Humiliation and violence,” the younger says. “And this...”
Taehyung follows Jeongguk’s look, which makes its way toward the nerve center of this murder.
The signature. Literally.
REMEMBER? is painted in capital letters with blood, upon the damaged wall.
Something was wrong from the beginning and the word confirms what Taehyung thought.
“I don’t get it,” Jeongguk states.
Of course he doesn’t get it. It’s not about him.
Taehyung can’t stop thinking about this. But why? It’s just a coincidence, right?
Yeah, a coincidence. But still.
He writes the word down and circles it several times.
“A notebook and a pen,” Jeon can’t help teasing. “You’re that old school?”
Taehyung doesn’t care this time. He barely hears him and doesn’t listen him at all. This fucker doesn’t matter right now. He never does.
The detective gazes at the corpse then the signature, before returning to the cadaver and so forth.
A long silence.
He feels their eyes upon him.
He has to tell them.
Chapter 4: IV
"It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it is never gone."
— Rose Kennedy
Once again, I'm sorry for the lateness, but this chapter is (a bit) longer.
Thank you for reading this fiction, it means a lot to me. Enjoy!
The location, the hands sliced, the body almost naked... Taehyung recalls.
He tries to reproduce the initial crime scene in his mind, but Amber is the only one he thinks about.
Yes, he hears Seokjin calling his name, but it seems to be distant noises right now. Taehyung is held prisoner by a bubble of sorrow.
Her scent, her sense of humor even in the worst situations, her unforgettable voice, Taehyung remembers it all. She’s always with him, especially when he’s working —and he never stops.
He attempts to think back on the similar case, but he only sees her radiant smile, which illuminated his days so many times.
God he misses her.
“Taehyung, are you okay?”
The detective finally reacts when Seokjin squeezes his shoulder. He seems worried, his eyebrows drawing together as he speaks. For how long Taehyung has been lost in the past?
“You remember it too, don’t you?” he asks the sergeant when their eyes meet, Taehyung’s voice rougher than usual. His throat hurts, as if it was encircled by barbwire.
“Of course.” Seokjin removes his hand, his gaze still diving into Taehyung’s dark eyes.
“Remember what?” Jeongguk speaks, impatient. The older detective clenches his jaw, battling against his will to strike this prick. Why is he so eager to know? This poor women lying on the grass is dead anyway.
“The signature is for me,” Taehyung begins, not wanting to hear Jeongguk’s unbearable voice once more.
The younger is about to ask another stupid question when Seokjin clarifies, “We already faced a similar case.”
“More than similar,” Taehyung adds. “The exact same thing.”
“Tell me more.”
He doesn’t want to tell him more, for God’s sake.
It’s just the fucking same murder. If he desires to know more, this moron can do his own researches.
“Google it,” says a very serious Taehyung.
“Let’s see...” Jeongguk pretends to grab his phone. “Creepy murder probably solved by the worst douchebag in town. Oh, nothing!”
“What did you say?” Taehyung sees red immediately and gets closer, but Jeongguk doesn’t move backwards at all, and even steps forward.
“Douchebag,” he enunciates.
Taehyung is about to seize the younger but, once again, Seokjin intervenes.
“Show some respect!” he orders them.
“It’s a crime scene, gentlemen,” the CSI member confirms, although he appears entertained.
Taehyung puts up his hands as a sign of retreat, but he’s not done with this fucker. Neither of them look down. It’s settled, Taehyung won’t work with such an asshole.
“Alright. I’ll tell him what happened.”
“Do what you want, Seokjin.”
With this, the sergeant pivots toward Jeongguk while Taehyung turns his back, looking at the crime scene.
“Almost two years ago,” he begins, “a female body was found in the neighborhood. Same attributes. Hands sliced and put away, the victim only wearing underwear, and broken hyoid.”
“But no signature?”
“That’s the difference,” mumbles Taehyung, who tries to not insult him.
“No signature back then, indeed. And more blood, because she was killed on site.”
“Apparently not the case here,” Jeongguk deduces.
“It has to be a copycat,” Taehyung says. “Here’s my first explanation.”
“Was the initial murder special?” the younger man asks Seokjin.
“Not really, just... deranged.”
Taehyung spins around. Seokjin is too slow.
“It was my first case as a detective. Rather easy to solve ‘cause the murder wasn’t premeditated, and the killer not organized. In brief a crazy ex-boyfriend who went berserk after an argument.” Taehyung stops, gazing at Jeongguk. “Wanna know why he cut her hands?”
Of course, the detective gives a positive response.
“’Cause she refused to jerk him off. Can you believe that?”
Jeongguk tilts his head, apparently more curious than shocked.
“So you caught the culprit?”
“Of course. He was from this area, but not her. There were traces of DNA and other proofs so we knew who it was, and we found him in a dirty motel two weeks later. It’s always complicated when a black man kills a white girl, so the case didn’t go unnoticed.”
“Is he still in jail?”
“He was,” Taehyung corrects. “He was murdered by his cellmate a few weeks ago. One less insane on earth.”
“No need to be insane to murder,” Jeongguk observes.
“Oh, please. That was a crazy crime did by a crazy guy. No one will regret him.”
“No, but still,” the younger turns his gaze to the corpse, pensive. “A copycat then...”
Even if it’s only the beginning of the inquest, Taehyung is sure of what he has said earlier. This murder is not a coincidence. It can’t be with such signature and similarities.
“But why now?” Seokjin wonders. “Because the initial murderer died?”
“Maybe. We can’t tell for now.” Taehyung pivots once again and asks the investigator, “Did you find something weird?”
“Not really. As you have seen it, there is no blood around the body, and the victim has some bruises, but that’s all. You know everything else.”
Taehyung nods and takes extra notes. He wants to remember the gloomy atmosphere, the smell—less strong than expected—, the house, the desert area, the deserted area inside the neighborhood, the absence of noise and, most of all, his first impressions. This bad feeling stuck in his stomach and his throat.
“I think we’re done here, right?” Seokjin asks the two detectives, who nod, before telling the CSI leader, “I let you the corpse, then. Call me when you’ll know more.”
“Alright. We are pretty busy lately but, given the circumstances, the autopsy will be realized as soon as possible.”
“Thank you. Do the best you can.”
Upon these words, the investigator gathers his team, and Taehyung goes back near the van, where stand his real teammates, arrived in the meantime. Then, he takes Leroy aside, who quickly understands what’s going on when he sees Jeongguk.
“There’s no way Seokjin brought him here,” says the stunned officer.
“And yet,” Taehyung grumbles. “He called him right away when we arrived.”
“Who knows why Seokjin does what he does, right?”
“You said it!”
“You two,” the sergeant says as he gets near them. “Go around the neighborhood, there could be some evidences.”
“Yes sir,” Taehyung accepts with irony, before leaving with the only teammate he wants to be with right now.
“Seokjin.” Taehyung fixes his gaze on the broad-shouldered man as he repeats for the third time, “I won’t work with him.”
“You already said it a million times.”
They’ve been in Seokjin’s office for at least ten minutes, and Taehyung wants to turn everything upside down. Maybe the sergeant feels it, standing, hands upon his desk.
“And yet you don’t fucking get it.”
“You won’t be alone your entire career.”
“I wasn’t alone,” Taehyung rectifies.
“You are now.”
“Not true. I have Leroy.”
“He’s not a detective.”
“Look,” Taehyung gets fed up. “Half of the station wants me to work with this prick since his arrival, but you know what? It’s not gonna happen. Not today, not tomorrow, never.”
“Why what? You perfectly know why.”
“You miss her, I get it. We all do, but—”
“Shh, just shut up.”
“You’ll need another partner, one day.”
“I’m doing great on my own.”
“I know, but—”
“You know it, uh?” Taehyung interrupts him again. “Let me work alone then. I’m worth two detectives now.”
“Tae.” Seokjin skirts his desk to come nearer.
“No Tae. Not anymore.”
The sergeant doesn’t mind, trying to take his hand, but Taehyung immediately steps back.
“Not anymore,” he insists, even though a part of him desires the warm of the older’s hand.
“Fine.” Seokjin finally rests on the furniture item. “It’s been a year, Taehyung,” he comes back to the previous topic.
“So what? A year, two, three, four, five... it will always be the same. And don’t tell me that you know it, ‘cause you don’t. You don’t feel your heart aching every time you’re walking through this damned hallway, seeing her picture among a few others. You don’t feel weak and powerless when you face an alley. You didn’t have nightmares for months. You don’t tell yourself ‘what if?’ every fucking day. You don’t feel what I feel.” The list is long, but Taehyung doesn’t want to break down right now, so he just sighs, his shoulders sagged. “But I’m sure you miss her. How could you not?” A sad smile crosses his face. “She was one of a kind.”
“We agree on that.”
And then the void.
The void in the room, but clearly not in Taehyung’s mind, which ventures to memories he tries to push back. The kind of memory that reminds him how gorgeous her smile is, how infectious her laugh is, how her mind amazes him every time. Only then he remembers. It’s not ‘is’, but ‘was’, and there’s nothing worse than that. Knowing it’s over for her, while he has to stay among assholes like Jeongguk and live as if nothing had happened. But it happened, and he knows it. He won’t ever forget.
And, above all, he won’t ever forgive himself.
Even though the office seems to be a soundproofed capsule, the reality catches up with them when someone knocks on the door, startling Taehyung.
“Come in!” Seokjin yells.
“Sorry to interrupt, but a husband reported his wife missing. It could match the victim.”
The detective frowns and moves forward, suddenly attentive.
“Show me, Kristin.”
Without further ado, the three of them get out and go to the Norwegian’s desk, where rests a computer. The screen displays the photograph of a blonde woman, all smiles. It’s her, no doubt, but her joy has obviously disappeared since. Who would die with a smile on the face?
“I’m pretty sure it’s our victim,” the sergeant says.
“That’s her,” Taehyung affirms. He recognizes her features, especially her blue eyes, which weren’t closed when the body was found.
So, Janice Doney, 45 years old, Caucasian, around 5 feet 6 inches, nails always polished —it wasn’t the case earlier—, married to Josh Doney, with whom she lives —lived— in Kenwood.
“Kenwood?” Taehyung’s eyes widen. “It’s at least 25 minutes away from West Garfield by car... Why so far?”
“To cover the tracks?” an annoying voice proposes from behind.
“Mind your own business, Jeon,” grunts Taehyung without looking at the man, his face tightening.
“I’m just passing through,” he assures, but the older still feels his presence near his back and it pisses him off. Unfortunately, he can’t turn over and push him away, so he just clenches his jaw, hoping he’ll disappear soon.
“So Kenwood.” Taehyung turns slightly toward Kristin. “I suppose the husband went to the closest station?”
“Yes, not far from his home.”
“About thirty minutes ago.”
The detectives takes a look at his leather watch. 3:19 p.m.
“What about a quick visit?”
“I’m in,” says Jeongguk, still here.
“Hell no!” Taehyung sharply protests as he faces him, eyes at the same level as Jeongguk’s. He hates the mischievous spark in them, this condescending appearance characteristic of Jeongguk. He sees the nascent smirk upon the corner of his lips, and is itching to erase it from the face of this fucker. But, despite his boiling blood and the veins throbbing in his forearms, he can’t do so.
“An animal like you, announcing to a husband that his wife’s dead? I can’t picture that.”
Taehyung steps forward, Jeongguk damned minty scent filling his nostrils.
“Animal?” he articulates, his heavy breath crashing upon the younger’s face.
“You’re deaf or what?”
Taehyung clenches his jaw even harder, struggling to calm the violent voice in his head, meanwhile Jeongguk laughs scornfully.
“Poor husband,” the prick finally declares as he leaves, encouraged by Seokjin.
Taehyung follows him with the eyes, his heart full of hatred still racing. It’s always like that when the anger takes over —at least he didn’t lose control this time.
“I was this close to kill him,” the detective tells Seokjin as he shapes a tiny gap with his fingers.
“I know,” he admits with a sigh of relief.
“Oh, you know nothing, Seokjin.”
Chapter 5: V
"The first condition of immortality is death."
- Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
Once again, I'm sorry for the lateness, but life can be messy, as you know it. Thanks for your attention, and enjoy.
(Nobody asked, but more Jeongguk's POV will arrive soon.)
Taehyung takes a deep breath.
It’s never easy to do what he’s about to do, but at least he’s alone. No Jeongguk around. It doesn’t follow the procedure, but who cares.
He’s standing under an elegant porch, pretty welcoming to be fair. The red brick wall contrasts with the white front door, and everything seems perfect from the outside. Will it be the same once inside?
Another deep breath, after what he signals his presence with three knocks. He doesn’t have to wait long.
“Hello sir,” he says to the the tall man as he takes his badge out. “Detective Kim, from the Bureau of Detectives. Josh Doney, right?”
“Yes, but I didn’t expect such a quick answer,” he admits as he shifts. “Come in, detective.”
Taehyung thanks him and enters once his insignia put back in its place.
“Sadly, I think it’s not the answer you wanted.” Taehyung doesn’t want him to hope. It would be worse.
“Really?” Josh invites him to take a seat on his comfortable couch. “Do you want a coffee or something?”
“No thanks,” he refuses as he sits. The living room is tidy, almost too much. A nice perfume floats in the air, but Taehyung is about to ruin it. His job sucks, sometimes.
“I think I already saw you on TV,” he informs Taehyung as he takes his place too. “Is that possible?”
“Yeah, well, I’ve made some appearances.”
“I was sure to know your face. You’re pretty young, don’t you? Sorry if I bother you with my stupid questions.”
“That’s nothing. I’m one the youngest detectives of the country, yes.” And he was the youngest of the 11th District before Jeongguk arrived. But it’s not the point now, and Taehyung doesn’t get why the husband is asking him those questions. He doesn’t seem to be nervous, but maybe he is deep down.
“Sir,” Taehyung starts, gazing at Josh. “I’m sorry I have to tell you that, but we found your wife last night. She’s dead.”
There’s no ‘good way’ to announce such a bad news. It’s not the first time, but it always strikes Taehyung, especially because he knows that awful feeling too well. Announcing it is a thing, but being told a loved one has died is much more terrible. He can’t even express it. You have to live it, but he doesn’t wish that to anyone. Not even to Jeongguk, that’s saying something.
Josh doesn’t react straightaway, his mouth just slowly falling open. Taehyung expects to see sadness or shock in his eyes, but the man has a vacant look.
The news is brutal, making any reaction seems normal, so the detective doesn’t mind for now, but keeps it in mind. The husband is always the first suspect in that kind of case.
“Dead?” he finally repeats before swallowing with difficulty. “How?”
“Murdered?” Josh’s bulging eyes stare at Taehyung, who nods. “How?” Again.
“I’ll tell you if you want, but maybe you need some time for now? At least a few minutes?”
“Detective.” He’s still staring at Taehyung. “I don’t feel sad.”
There’s a glimpse of worry in his voice, though.
“You’re shocked, it’s natural. There’s no good or bad reaction.”
Josh lowers his gaze as he bites his lower lip.
“I’m lucid. Surprised but not really shocked.”
“You mean your wife had enemies?”
Taehyung pulls his notebook out almost by reflex, ready to hear the rest.
“I wanted to divorce.”
Now that’s truly interesting. And weird.
“Can I ask you why?” Taehyung says as he doodles on the paper.
“You see, detective... We have a boy. James.” A proud smile emerges on Josh’s face. “A wonderful kid. He’s at school right now.” The smile disappears suddenly, and his complexion deteriorates. “The first years were amazing, but at some point Janice had to stop working. She was a sales rep, just like me, but we couldn’t both travel anymore. The company I work for was getting bigger and bigger, so she chose to stop. At first it was okay, but after some months she blamed me for this situation. I was on business trips most of the time, so she began to hate James, to see him as a burden.”
Josh takes a quick break, flexing his fingers again and again, restless.
“I didn’t notice it soon enough. Nothing seemed wrong when I was at home, regardless of her attitude toward me. But it was.” Another break and a dark look at Taehyung. “Wrong.”
The detective doesn’t feel attacked by the darkness of the eyes. It’s for Janice.
“Did she beat James?” is the first question that crosses his mind.
The husband nods, and suddenly the victim becomes the felon—but she’s still a victim, and this information must be interpreted as a crucial element. Did the killer know about that?
“When did you find out?” The killer may be sitting in front of Taehyung.
“Only a few days ago. I came back from a trip earlier than expected, and I saw everything.” Josh’s knee can’t stop bouncing. “I should have seen it before.”
“So James never told you?”
“Never. I don’t know why... Was he too afraid? Under pressure? Didn’t he feel it was wrong?”
“Something in between?” Taehyung fiddles with his pencil. “How is James?”
“Fine, I think. Well, he seems to be, but it will leave a mark forever, no doubt.” A deep sigh. The other knee starts to bounce to relieve its twin. “At least he’s happy when I’m here.”
The contrary would be worrying, given the situation.
“He’ll need you more than ever, but I bet you know it.”
Josh agrees once again. “You really don’t want anything? Coffee? Tea?”
“I’m good, thank you, but I have more questions.” Taehyung moves his notebook away for a short time and opens his small leather briefcase, taking some photographs out, which he places face down on his thighs. “I won’t ask you to go to the morgue if you don’t want to, but I need an identification.”
“I understand. So how did she die?” Josh asks as if it’s an easy question, but his voice shakes a bit.
“Her body was found at West Garfield Park.” Taehyung clears his throat as he checks Josh’s complexion. “Her hands had been cut, but there was no blood, so we think she was brought here.”
The husband gulps, Taehyung continues, “She had bruises all over her skin.” The detective frown at his own words. What if...
He keeps that in mind. “Her hyoid was broken.” Taehyung points a finger at his bone. “That was the fatal wound.”
Josh’s face turns ashen. Does he picture his own lingual bone being fractured?
“Bruises?” the husband asks, and Taehyung nods.
“Now that I know for James, it seems pretty weird to me. Can I show you the pictures? They were taken at the mortuary.”
When Josh agrees, Taehyung turns the deadly shots over and gives him the first one, on which the pale features appear. The tall man takes it with a shaking hand, even though he’s trying to limit the spasms.
“That’s her, no doubt,” Josh affirms after a long silence. Taehyung knew it, but he needed a confirmation. Now he has to broach another subject. Josh returns the picture to him, after what Taehyung hands him the second one.
“Did James have similar bruises?”
Josh is inspecting the paper, brow furrowed. “You think it could be linked?”
“I can’t tell for sure, but maybe. Coincidences are rare.” And he means it. That’s why he doesn’t forget that the first suspect is sitting in front of him. Josh knew him before he came, and knew what Janice did to James. It’s a motive, and telling the police that his wife was missing could have been a way to cover up the crime.
“There was another thing.” Taehyung takes the picture back and puts it in his briefcase with the first one. “A signature, painted in red on a wall.” With blood, but he doesn’t specify. “It said ‘remember?’. Do you know what it could be about?”
“A signature? Why? I don’t get it.”
“You said she didn’t have enemies, right?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
Taehyung writes it down this time. No enemy, uh? Or one enemy in the person of the husband?
“And about last night.” Taehyung draws Josh’s attention to him. “Where were you?”
“At home with James. Janice was supposed to meet her best friend.”
“What’s her name?” The pencil floats in the air, waiting for an answer to write.
“Linda Bane. Wait a second.” Josh stands up and approaches a drawer, from which he takes a pen and a post-it out. He scribbles on it and comes back. “Here’s her number.”
Taehyung thanks Josh as he sits again, before fixing the post-it on a page.
“So you said she was meeting Linda?”
“Yes, but she wasn’t here when I woke up around 6 p.m, so I called Linda. Janice was supposed to drive James this day so she had to come back home.” Josh shakes his head. “She never met her.”
“It didn’t worry Linda?”
“Here’s the thing. She thought Janice was with me.”
“The phone,” Taehyung realizes. “She didn’t leave without it, right?”
“So the killer had it. And maybe still has it.” Taehyung takes his own phone out. “Can you give me her number, please?”
Josh nods and tells it directly to the detective, who sends it right away to Seokjin, in order to try a localization. It’s improbable, but maybe the murderer didn’t destroy it.
“What about the text?”
“It said ‘not feeling well. I can’t come, sorry.’ Janice always texted that way.”
Taehyung notes it down once again. The killer knew her, it can’t be otherwise. There are too many things proving this.
“I drove James to school and tried to find her after, but I couldn’t, so I went to the police station.”
“Did your wife have a password?”
“Of course, but I don’t know it to be honest.”
That’s all Taehyung needs to know for now. He stuffs his notebook in the interior pocket of his coat before standing up, followed by Josh.
“I won’t bother you any longer. Can I count on you if I have more questions?”
“For sure, detective Kim.”
Taehyung thanks him with a slight head movement. “Do you need me to bring someone there?”
“I’m good,” Josh assures as his eyes meet Taehyung’s. “I’ll call my sister. James will be happy to see her.”
The policeman holds out his hand to the husband, who shakes it firmly. “Call my station if you need something.” Taehyung gives him the small paper he has prepared. “Hang in there, Josh.”
Taehyung sits as he pronounces those words, putting his arms around his knees, pressed against his chest.
“It’s been a weird day.” He sighs, feeling the pressure all over his body. “I’m exhausted.” The son rides up his collar to cover his ears, reddened by the cold wind. “I’ll never get used to it, you know. Telling someone’s dead.” He shivers a bit. That damn wind is blowing strong tonight. “The husband barely reacted, but I can’t blame him. Death baffles us.” Another sigh. “I did the same when they announced yours.”
The only source of brightness is a distant yellow light that flickers from time to time.
“So yeah, I’m on a new case, and it seems linked to me in a way. Should I worry, dad?” Taehyung glances at the humble grave next to him. “It feels wrong, but I’m on it. Like always, right?” The shaking dead trees are the only ones answering him, but that’s enough. He doesn’t ask for much.
“I think Jimin will be worried when I’ll tell him.” A muffle laugh resonates. “If he doesn’t kill me because I didn’t warn him soon enough.” A silence. “I’ll tell him tomorrow. Maybe. But he must be busy. The 1st District isn’t the easiest one. Rich people are annoying.”
Especially one of them.
“I already spoke of Jeon, right? What an asshole. Sorry for the word, dad, but it’s true. And guess what? Seokjin wants me to work with him! Never in a million years, I swear it. Not gonna happen.” Taehyung takes a little break, looking at the infinite sky. “I don’t know who upsets me the most between the man I used to love and this fucking prick.” He lets his chin rest upon the top of his knees. “You would have liked Seokjin. He’s a good man, even if he can be a pain in the ass when he wants. And I’m not talking about sex.” Taehyung laughs at his own bullshit. “’said I was tired, OK? My bad jokes come from you.”
Then the detective remains silent for a while, just being a fuzzy shape inside an ocean of graves, leaves, and trees.
It has been years, now. Time goes by so quickly, and yet everything seems to be frozen. What are a few minutes in a day? What are a few hours in a lifetime? What’s a life in a huge eternity? Taehyung doesn’t have the answer.
But what’s a dead loved one in his heart? A hole, bigger than everything, more painful than the worst wound. A void you have to carry everyday. A void that could eat you in a minute if you’re not careful enough. Not strong enough.
Taehyung doesn’t feel strong right now, his legs staggering as he stands up. But he’s alive. It’s not much, but that’s all life can give. A poisoned chalice.
“I miss you, dad.” His fingers linger upon the stone, brushing it. “And I love you.”
Chapter 6: VI
"From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate."
WTF guys the boys were truly on another level during MMA and MAMA it was CRAZY!
With this, I let you read the chapter. Enjoy.
“So what? It’s a contest now?”
“You don’t get it.”
“Oh, I do,” Jeongguk gives a faint scowl as he buttons his pants back up, before buckling his black belt. “I’m not a fool, dear,” he whispers in Seokjin’s ear.
“A fool?” The half-naked man raises his eyebrows. His face looks even more handsome than usual, lighted by a warm red lamp, the only source of brightness among the obscurity of the room.
“You really think I didn’t notice?” Jeongguk snickers and pushes him slightly, making him sit upon the wide bed. “You’re trying to make him jealous.”
Seokjin slips a hand behind Jeongguk’s lower back and partially opens his lips, but the detective puts his thumb on them. “Shhh, I don’t care.”
“Really?” Seokjin slowly nibbles the digit, even licks it at some point, making Jeongguk heave a sigh.
“Didn’t you get enough?” Jeongguk eyes the messy bed with a puckish smile—the sheets don’t even look like sheets anymore. Will the furniture item break one day?
His hand is wandering upon the older’s throat—a pretty one. He likes pretty things. He has rarely seen a man as pretty as Seokjin. An ethereal beauty, but also one hell of a good lay.
“I’ll never get enough of you.”
“The charmer you are today, Seokjin.” Jeongguk lifts his chin with his index finger, adorned with a silver ring. The sergeant’s eyes are sparkling, willing to give Jeongguk anything and everything, which always turns him on far too quickly. Blasted Seokjin. “Keep that for Taehyung.”
Seokjin has the audacity to laugh at those words. “Who’s jealous now?”
“You.” The detective lets his hand go down, brushing the two collarbones. Seokjin tries to step up, but he stops him and pushes him further. The older is now lying on the bed, almost wheezing, his dark brown eyes gazing at Jeongguk. He knows this look. It is screaming give me more. “I don’t know what happened between you two, and I don’t give a damn.” His fingers saunter down Seokjin’s bare chest, his broad shoulders rising over and over because of his breathing. “I just noticed it. You know I’m observant.”
“See how I’m dying to feel you—”
Jeongguk covers Seokjin’s mouth with his palm. He has to go, and this idiot knows it.
“You’re so provocative tonight.”
“Punish me then,” the older murmurs, the right corner of his lips lifting a bit.
“You bastard.” Jeongguk has to focus harder than ever to remain calm. “It’s 1 a.m., I have to go home.”
“Sleep here,” he almost pleads as he skims Jeongguk’s arm.
“I think you got ‘sleep’ and ‘fuck’ mixed up.”
“Alright,” Seokjin’s hand moves up along his skin, finally reaching the nape of Jeongguk’s neck, who lowered in the meantime. “Fuck me.”
Jeongguk closes his eyes and inhales deeply. He won’t be able to resist if the older starts to play this hard. Why is he still so aroused?
Blasted Seokjin, indeed.
“Maybe tomorrow.” Come on, be strong. Tomorrow, not now.
After keeping his eyes shut for a few more seconds, Jeongguk manages to take a step back. His body really needs to rest—and fucking the demigod lying right in front of him isn’t the most relaxing activity.
“Too bad for you.” Seokjin stretches out his arms and exhales slowly. “Taehyung wouldn’t have refused.”
Jeongguk can’t help snickering. “Call him then.” He keeps an amused face, finding this funnier than he probably should. “You and me, we’re not together.”
“I know.” Seokjin straightens up a bit to lean on his elbows. “But still.”
“You want me to be jealous or something?” Jeongguk laughs again as he tries to find his black shirt, which is surely somewhere on the floor.
“It would be an impossible task.”
The detective finally finds his shirt and puts it on. “But I’m truly curious, Seokjin,” he says as he fastens the buttons. “Why did you call me this morning?”
The sergeant shrugs. “I needed you.”
“You had Taehyung.”
“I wanted your opinion too.”
Jeongguk shakes his head. This isn’t it. “You could have asked me later. Before fucking, for instance.”
Seokjin rolls his eyes. “It was a bad move, OK? I wasn’t thinking.”
“Oh you were.” The younger affirms once he has put his socks on. “You wanted him to see me with you. To show the power you have on me.” Jeongguk’s Oxford shoes turn up. “But you have no power. You’re not even my boss.”
Seokjin sits up this time, sporting a more serious look. “It’s not about power.”
“So you really wanted him to be jealous?”
“No. I just wanted the best detectives of Harrison on this weird case. I still do.”
“You know he hates me.” Jeongguk puts on his shoes. “And the same goes for me. That damned douchebag.”
“You’d be the best unit ever together.”
“You know what? I hate him, yes.” Jeongguk returns to Seokjin, a playful smile on his lips. “But I’m not blind. He’s a cunt, but a handsome one.” He pretends to contemplate the ceiling. “I would fuck him without a doubt.”
An uncontrollable laughter suddenly seizes Seokjin, who almost falls back on the bed. Jeongguk frowns a bit, perplexed in the face of such hilarity. Yes, he would screw Taehyung, so what?
“Oh boy,” Seokjin’s trying his best to mitigate the laugh, which, at some point, he manages to do. “He would be the one fucking you.”
Jeongguk’s eyes widen in surprise. Him being fucked by mister lonely wolf? What’s next?
“You never said such bullshit.”
“Try and see then,” Seokjin ventures.
“You’d be the jealous one.”
“Just shut up,” the older says as he throws a pillow at Jeongguk, making him laugh once more. The younger runs a hand through his wavy and pretty long hair to clear his sight. He currently likes them that way—and he’s not the only one.
“You’re right, though. The case interests me.” Jeongguk grabs his jacket and puts it on, getting fully dressed again. “We’ll talk about it later.”
“If I want to.”
“I won’t come tomorrow if you don’t,” Jeongguk threatens him.
“You really think you can buy me with sex?”
There’s a quick pause, broken by Seokjin’s giggle. “Alright. Sleep well, idiot.” The older lies back on the comfy piece of furniture and raises his arm to wave at Jeongguk. “See you tomorrow.”
Exceptional as it may seem, Jeongguk manages to climb the stairs leading to his apartment—and there are many of them, given that he lives on the building’s top floor. He unlocks the strong black door and enters the vestibule, which also has a door. The detective bolts the first door and then punches in the code on the panel next to the entry. A beep resonates, Jeongguk finally comes in. This perfume...
Everything is dark, if not for the slight starlight spread by the wide panes of the room. Despite the tiredness, Jeongguk takes a moment to admire the city through the window. Chicago is beautiful tonight, brought to life by plethora of floodlit skyscrapers, traffic lights and illuminations of all kinds. Jeongguk cannot hear anything, but he perfectly knows what’s going on outside. It’s always the same thing with big cities, and Chicago doesn’t differ from New York. He likes the Windy City and, to be honest, doesn’t miss the Big Apple that much—only his family. Fortunately, his dearest friend is by his side—or, more exactly, Jeongguk decided to follow him when he left New York for Chicago. The detective needed to leave, to know something else. Needed a fresh start, in short.
Want to know a funny thing? Jeongguk also chose Chicago because of Taehyung back then. What a mistake.
He loves the city, yes. But Taehyung was a enormous disappointment—still is.
Oh, yes, Kim is the great detective outlined by a lot of people, but no one told Jeongguk that he was the less friendly guy of the entire police. You see the cliché inspector who always grumbles while smoking a cigar? Taehyung is worst than that.
They say appearances can be deceptive and, damn, Jeongguk feels that. He felt it the first time he entered the station of the 11th District, Taehyung eyeballing him, and felt it even harder when the latter refused to shake his hand. And for what reason? Because Jeongguk was the new guy? Blasted cunt.
He shakes his head as he thinks about this moment again. Jeongguk doesn’t understand Taehyung, even if he tried at first. Really tried. Now he just teases the man when he can, it’s easier than hoping to get the whys and wherefores of Taehyung’s behavior. Maybe he’ll know why someday, but for now Jeongguk just want to shut up his mind for a few hours. Thinking about the other detective is a complete waste of time.
Jeongguk turns around and takes a deep breath. The woody scent is still in the air...
His legs lead him to the guest room, and what he finds inside it doesn’t surprise him at all.
“I know you were there.” Jeongguk can’t help letting a fond smile appear on his lips as he whispers this. He can be a pain in the neck when he’s awake but, asleep, his best friend is the cutest man on Earth. No joke.
He is about to leave when a mumbling voice interrupts him, “Jeongguk?”
“The one and only.” The younger approaches the double bed. “Sleep, Yoongi.”
Yoongi mutters a bit, his head in the pillow. “Your fuck buddy again?”
A pain in the neck, indeed.
Jeongguk snorts, used to his friend’s reactions. “Seokjin, yes.”
“Shower and sleep, idiot.”
“Understood, king of idiots.”
Jeongguk laughs at his own sentence and then leaves before suffering the wrath of Yoongi.
11 a.m. Jeongguk is more than hungry, and the report he has been typing for at least an hour isn’t quite exciting. Sometimes he chases after the bad guys, and sometimes he is half asleep in front of the computer. The last situation is pretty rare, and this time it’s because of Seokjin. Good excuse, no?
Jeongguk stretches out and smiles at a colleague sitting nearby. He doesn’t know all the policemen of Chicago, obviously, but those of Harrison are nice—if not for Taehyung, it goes without saying.
Oh, speaking of the devil...
Even though he’s not supposed to work today, Taehyung’s inscrutable face appears in the station. As usual, he is wearing a long coat over a silk shirt. It’s always the same kind of shirts, with ridiculous patterns, often colorful—not a style you would expect on Taehyung. The shirt is always tuck in his pants, exposing a leather belt, but also exquisite curves.
Jeongguk bites his lower lip, trying not to laugh a bit nervously, but Taehyung seems to notice it judging by his murderous look. Is he even able to smile?
And, above all, why is he so hot for?
Yes, yes, Jeongguk cannot stand the man but, as he said to Seokjin earlier, he’s not blind. The contrast between Taehyung’s behavior and his clothes is one thing, but the way he’s wearing them is another. This douchebag is serving looks today.
The younger bites his lip again, but for another reason this time, before trying to refocus, in vain. What’s up with his mind today? He must be really, really tired to think that way.
Curious as he is, Jeongguk grabs his mug, stands up and walks all over the station, pretending to go to the coffee maker. From here he is able to see Taehyung, who’s searching something into the drawers of his desk. He’s not here for work, otherwise he would have taken his briefcase with him. What? Jeongguk is observant, that’s all.
“You’re lost, Jeon?” Taehyung peers at him askance once near.
“I’m working, Kim.” Jeongguk scoffs. “Are you?”
“Piss off.” The older overtakes him. “You won’t ruin my day.”
It wasn’t the goal anyway, but alright. Jeongguk lets him go without adding anything and truly starts to make some coffee.
How can a man like Taehyung be such a good detective? No, scratch that, Jeongguk has the answer.
The real question is: why did Seokjin fall for this moron at some point?
Chapter 7: VII
"The world is so unpredictable. Things happen suddenly, unexpectedly. We want to feel we are in control of our own existence. In some ways we are, in some ways we're not. We are ruled by the forces of chance and coincidence."
- Paul Auster
Hey, I know, I'm late again.
I hope you don't mind, because even if it's not the biggest chapter ever, this one is longer than the previous ones! It introduces a new character too, someone you already know of course.
So this is it, my christmas gift to you. Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
What. A. Fucking. Asshole.
11 a.m., and Taehyung’s head is already aching. Jeon is a goddamn migraine on legs. He’s seen him for a minute, but it’s enough to annoy him. Nobody annoys him like Jeongguk.
Picture that. You’ve been part of a station for years and, one day, a fucker dares to ask if you’re lost. In your own fucking station. Yours. With an unbearable grin painted on his face—a grin Taehyung is dying to erase.
But not now. He said Jeon won’t ruin his day and he meant it. It’s a special day, he can’t change that. He won’t.
Taehyung inhales once he’s outside, letting all the bad vibes behind him. It’s gonna be a good day, it can’t be otherwise. He knows that hard days are around the corner, so he must enjoy this Sunday and forget about the rich idiot. About everything.
The detective tightens his grip on the small box nestled in his left hand, takes his keys out of a pocket and opens the driver’s door of his loyal 1975 Ford Pinto. A true masterpiece. He gets in the vehicle and puts the box on the passenger seat. How did he manage to forget the case in his desk’s drawer?
Taehyung starts the beast, smiling at the throbbing it produces. It’s not the engine of a Porsche, but he enjoys its sound. Taehyung is a simple man, he doesn’t care about luxury. He doesn’t even have enough money to care about it to be honest and, given how much he loathes Jeongguk, it’s better that way. He can’t imagine being a prick like him.
Fuck, he’s still thinking about him.
He needs to get him out of his head. Like, now. In order to do so, he closes his eyes during a few seconds, emptying his mind, before getting out of the parking spot.
It’s one of those grey days. The sun is shy, contrary to clouds, but it doesn’t rain, even if the air is damp. There’s a thin fog, which compels Taehyung to focus harder than usual. It would be such a shame not to reach his destination.
After a moment in the traffic, Taehyung manages to enter the oldest part of Chicago, the Near North Side, a community area composed of interesting neighborhoods, historical for many of them. The circulation is heavier here, but Taehyung doesn’t mind waiting a bit on the road, even if he’s excited as hell, tapping the wheel with his fingers. At some point, he reaches Old Town, its characteristic archway appearing on the right sidewalk. It’s a pleasant neighborhood, a good place to live, far away from Humboldt Park, where Taehyung crashes. Well, not that far geographically, but those are two different worlds. The difference was even bigger when the detective used to live in West Garfield Park. He’s glad to know that his friend managed to get out of those shit-holes.
Don’t get him wrong, Taehyung actually likes them, but it’s most certainly because he doesn’t know anything else. That’s fine, he’s a man of simple taste, really. He works in this part of Chicago anyway, so living there isn’t a curse. He’s not the type of man to hide in the Loop like Jeongguk.
Ah shit, true. No Jeongguk. No way.
He sighs, desperate by his unconscious. Why is it so hard for Jeon to go out of his head? Taehyung clenches his jaw harder than he wanted to but it’s fine. It’s fine.
The driver goes slowly, looking for a place, and hurries when he spots one, parking warily along the curb. Taehyung kills the engine, grabs the box to put it in his pocket, then he steps out of the car. He locks it and exhales as he rubs his hands over the wool coat.
Taehyung bypasses the Ford and walks to the black fence in front of the plot of grass ahead of the house. Everything is well maintained, as always, and Taehyung smiles at the sight of it. He’s not really into having a beautiful home with a nice garden, but it’s not disagreeable either—and what awaits inside is even better.
The detective opens the small portal, never closed, before climbing the few stairs that separate him from the tall house. Then, he clears his throat and knocks three times on the door, waiting for the best person alive to open it.
He doesn’t have to wait long and, as soon as the door opens, Taehyung rushes inside, hugging the man so tight that his feet leave the ground and his legs circle Taehyung’s pelvis, almost by reflex.
“Happy birthday, Chim!” Taehyung yells, his voice less deep than usual. He tightens his arms around Jimin and walks over the corridor, not minding letting an opened door behind them.
“You didn’t forget.” the brown-haired man’s chuckles fill the hall, echoing on the walls.
“I never did, idiot.”
Jimin’s head swings back as he laughs, Taehyung takes advantage of it to nuzzle against his neck. An old habit of him when it comes to Jimin.
“Right.” Jimin straightens up a bit, his hands playing with some locks of hair, which has Taehyung smiling even more. “But you did forget to close the door.”
A sweet grumble slips off Taehyung’s lips as he brushes the man’s neck with his nose once again.
“Don’t wanna let you go.” Clingy Taehyung is out today.
“Taehyungie, put me down.” Jimin giggles and kisses his forehead. “Just for one second.”
The detective frowns, inspecting Jimin’s features. “Mh, one second then.” He carefully lets him go and Jimin scampers to the door, closing it. Then, he quickly comes back to Taehyung and jumps on his back.
Taehyung nods, his lips still curved in a foolish smile. Now, only Jimin drives him dumbly happy like this. It has always been so.
Willingly, Taehyung carries Jimin across the tidy place, his hands under the man’s thighs. When they arrive in the lounge, his eyes wander all over the room, even though he knows it by heart. It’s always the same wooden furniture, the same warm lamps, the same incense floating in the air. Taehyung doesn’t mind it, as it’s light and not overpowering. It’s even more enjoyable mixed when Jimin’s fragrance, a slight touch of vanilla. Only one thing is missing, which pleases Taehyung more than he wishes.
“Your frunchroom is much more welcoming when he’s not here.” Taehyung slowly puts Jimin down. “’Cause he’s not here, right?”
The older by next to nothing shoulders the detective. A pout makes its way to Jimin’s lips as he answers, “You’re the not welcoming one, dummy.”
“’Dunno what you’re talking about.” Taehyung stretches his left arm, a bit numb. “So, is Namjoon here or not?”
Jimin sighs, “Not here. He’s at work, will come back in the night I think.” Suddenly, a veil on his face suggests that he’s realized something. “Speaking of work...”
“No no no,” Taehyung tries to avoid the topic. “No work today, unless you wanna talk about Namjoon’s.”
“No, yours.” Jimin approaches dangerously. “You forgot to tell me something, right?”
“’Don’t think so,” Taehyung lies, even though he knows he won’t go away with this.
“Oh, so you didn’t find a dead body two days ago?”
“That’s pretty much my job. And yours.”
“Taehyungie.” Jimin rests his wrists on the detective’s shoulders. “It’s my birthday, don’t get on my nerves.” He then smiles as he tilts his head on the side, looking more angelic than he actually is right now.
“Fine,” Taehyung retreats, knowing that he won’t win that skirmish. “How did you find about it?”
“Chicago is chatty, you know it.”
“But you’re not, right? You didn’t tell your lovely housemate about it?”
“Joon doesn’t know, and I won’t tell him.” He’s still smiling. “But you know he’s a great journalist.”
“I especially know how pig-headed he is,” Taehyung grumbles. “He’ll badger me as soon as he’ll be informed. The later the better.”
Jimin rolls his eyes, arms still resting upon Taehyung. “He never badgered you.”
“Come on Chim, he’s a journalist.” Taehyung arches his eyebrows. “Those fuckers have mastered the skill of badgering people, mainly cops.”
“You’re being slanderous.” Jimin grabs a lock of Taehyung’s hair and rolls it around his index finger. “Is it true? What I’ve heard.”
“Tell me what it was, first.”
“You found the body of a woman at West Garfield, hands sliced off.” Jimin’s still playing with Taehyung hair, but he looks him in the eyes at the same time. “There was a weird... signature?”
Taehyung nods. “Remember, written with blood and in capital letters. With a question mark, too.” Usually, he doesn’t share information about his work, but he doesn’t mind when it comes to Jimin. The police officer will know everything somewhere along the line anyway. Like Jimin said, Chicago is a damn chatterbox, especially when it comes to sordid things. There are a lot of districts and stations, so saying that everybody knows each other would be an overstatement, but links between people exist. Taehyung and Jimin’s bond proves it.
“Remember what?” Jimin brows meet in a discreet wrinkle.
“I’m pretty sure it’s linked to me. You remember my first murder as a detective?”
“Let me think...” Jimin squints his eyes. “Isn’t it the one committed by the man who died a few weeks ago? You called him the crazy boyfriend.”
“So you remember.”
“It was too messed up to be forgotten, and the media didn’t help.”
“They never help. Thank God Namjoon wasn’t around back then.”
“Idiot.” Jimin slightly blows on Taehyung’s face. “Is it the same M.O.?”
“Hands sliced off and put away, female body almost naked and broken hyoid for both murders, but there are differences. This one was premeditated, for sure. The killer didn’t act on site. I think he staged everything. The signature is the key. I feel that, without it, the murder would have been pointless, you know? It was as important as killing. I’m pretty sure of that.”
Jimin caresses Taehyung’s nape, applying gentle pressures on it. “I’m quite worried, Koda.”
Taehyung can’t help smiling when he hears one of his oldest nicknames. For most people, Taehyung is a wolf, a lonely one, especially at work but, for Jimin, he’s always been a little bear. Their friendship was already strong in 2003, when the cartoon came out. Taehyung has always been Jimin’s little brother, even though he’s older by a hair’s breadth. They’re like two bears protecting each other. It has always been the two of them against the world, and will always be that way.
“Chicago isn’t made up of coincidences,” Taehyung says as he loses himself into Jimin’s eyes. “It means the killer knew why he did that. I just need to discover the why.”
“I know you will.” Jimin’s hand travels over Taehyung’s neck and reaches his cheeks at some point, brushing one of them with his thumb. “There’s no better detective than you in Chicago.”
Taehyung offers him a warm smile, feeling at home with Jimin. The brown-haired man has always been his pillar. Always. “Let’s not talk about work today. Not when my boy’s turning 27.”
“Alright.” Jimin ruffles Taehyung’s hair, which makes him grumble a bit. He’s not really complaining though, it’s just for form. “I hope you prepared something special.”
“’s that how it is now?” Taehyung arches an eyebrow, amused. “You wanna be surprised?”
“Just kidding.” Jimin shakes his head while his lovely laugh fills the room. “Traditional ritual?”
“Traditional ritual, Chim.”
It’s an old ritual. Taehyung can’t even remember when it truly began. What he can tell, however, is why it began. Jimin and he both lived in West Garfield Park at that time, they were like fifteen or sixteen. Let’s say fifteen, Jimin turning sixteen that night. Life was tough back then. Really tough. They just wanted to get out of their prison, they felt trapped in the neighborhood. Their families were struggling, and so did they—but at least Taehyung’s father was still alive. He kind of misses those hard times, not because they were hard, but because his father made them bearable. Taehyung understood that too late, of course, it’s always that way. He couldn’t know that one of the most important figures of his life would disappear not long after.
Anyway, Jimin and Taehyung wanted to escape from their reality for a little while. Shortly after midnight, they crossed Chicago, walking over richer areas, less exposed to crimes—at least shocking ones. The night was beautiful, displaying a sky full of stars; it was one of those peaceful nights, the kind that makes you feel invincible, at peace with yourself. It’s an impression, a short illusion, but still, it’s enjoyable.
Taehyung and Jimin felt alive that night. They were together, outside their shit hole, breathing another air. It smelled more like appetizing food than blood and it felt good. They weren’t naive, knowing than even the most enlightened areas had their dark side, but it couldn’t be shittier than their daily life. They felt safe. After a moment of wandering, they went to the Harbor Lighthouse. It was a glowing point in the dark—even if they were lights almost everywhere, Chicago being always awake. They couldn’t miss the lighthouse, it attracted them. So they went there, even if it was forbidden, and stayed near the water for a while, watching it broke against the wall under their feet. They talked carefully, almost whispered. Chatting about anything and everything was one of their habits. It still is today.
They could see the Navy Pier from their spot, but it was closed at this hour, so they remained where they were, promising themselves to visit the pier in the daytime if they could.
It has been their ritual since then. No matter what they did during the day of Jimin’s birthday, they would always come to the Navy Pier or the Harbor Lighthouse. No matter what.
So, for another year, that’s their plan for tonight.
After a lunch in one of their favorite restaurants, the two men had spend the day hanging around, just enjoying each other’s presence.
Now the sun has fallen, offering its place to the moon. It’s not that late in the evening, but winter is coming, so everything becomes dark sooner. Taehyung has always liked darkness, it’s easier to hide when it’s around, covering and swallowing you. Darkness is comforting.
“Thanks ma’am. Have a good evening,” Jimin says to the owner of the hot-dog stand as he takes the Red Hot. Taehyung already has his own succulent dish—you can’t come to Chicago without eating at least one of those.
“The pier?” Taehyung asks when they begin to walk again.
It only takes them five minutes to reach the emblematic place, still open. There are neon lights everywhere and the melody of merry-go-rounds fill the air, just like the attractive smell of candies of all kinds. Taehyung isn’t fond of loud places carrying a lot of agitation, but the pier pleases him. This location is full of good memories, and Taehyung cherishes memories. Everything can be erased, except a memory. It’s like a capsule of feelings stuck in a moment and, paradoxically, completely outside of time. Time can affect a memory, even modify it, but not erase it. It wouldn’t be human. Everyone needs to keep track of the past, even it’s hard sometimes. Taehyung fucking knows it.
“At the far end?” Jimin asks, Taehyung nods. They always go there.
Taehyung looks up as he walks, admiring the Centennial Wheel. He doesn’t see it often, rather used to another kind of attraction. No need to ride such a thing, the thrill is already in his daily life, but it’s beautiful.
There are a lot of tourists, as always, which means a lot of noises. People are walking around with food or shopping bags in their hands, making it hard for Taehyung to see in the distance.
The two men divert a bit from the main section, following the edge of the pier, secured by barriers. They walk peacefully, each one biting his hot-dog between two pieces of conversation.
When they reach the end of the pier, all the food has disappeared. Taehyung sits on the backrest of one of the benches, quickly imitated by Jimin, Lake Michigan spreading as far as the eye can see in front of them.
“I forgot to tell you something else, Chim.”
Jimin spins a bit, ready to hear whatever the detective has to say.
“It’s always Seokjin,” Jimin can’t help commentating as he rolls his eyes.
“Yeah, well, not only him.” Taehyung sighs. He wasn’t supposed to think about those two pricks today but he has to inform him, otherwise Jimin will complain. “He called this fucker of Jeon as soon as we got there.”
“On the crime scene?”
“Yeah. He’s not even in our team.”
“I know.” Jimin clicks his fingers. “Maybe they’re fucking.”
Taehyung frowns and nudges him. “Idiot. Jeon ain’t a dominant one.”
“You sure?” Jimin annoys him, his lips curled in an impish smile.
“What, you got laid?” Taehyung asks in a sharp and sarcastic tone, making Jimin laugh.
“Oh, don’t be stupid, he’s all yours.”
“He’s not the one I wanna fuck.”
“I didn’t lie when I said it’s always Seokjin.”
“What if I’m talking about you?” Taehyung leans a bit forward, an eyebrow raised and hands on his knees.
“Come and get me then,” Jimin teases, gazing at Taehyung with sparkling eyes.
“Why didn’t I think of that before?”
Jimin shrugs, his palms facing the sky, and Taehyung allows himself to laugh after trying not to for a while. God knows he’s already thought about that, and Jimin knows it too. Nothing truly happened yet, but time will tell, right? It would be... funny. Interesting.
Taehyung shakes his head, still laughing, before putting his arm around Jimin’s shoulders, making the older’s head rest on him. With his left hand, free, Taehyung takes the little box out of the coat’s pocket.
“Again, happy birthday, Chim,” Taehyung wishes as he holds the jewelry case out to Jimin. The latter slowly perks up, his mouth uncovering his teeth. His eyes are barely open, shrunken by his cheekbones.
“You sly little fox!” Jimin giggles as he gently grabs the box.
“I’m not the big bad wolf anymore? Or a bear?”
“Tonight you’re my little fox,” Jimin affirms. He caresses the box with his thumb, making Taehyung impatient.
“Will you open it one day?” Taehyung applies a smooth pressure on Jimin’s right shoulder.
“Fine.” The brown-haired man finally opens the small box and, believe it or not, his smile grows even bigger when he discovers what’s inside. It’s not a big thing, but it seems to please him much than excepted, and it’s all that matters. “It’s beautiful,” Jimin goes into raptures when he takes the thin necklace in his hand, the silver links lingering on his fingers. “Very elegant.”
“Just like you.”
Jimin giggles once more and straightens a bit to put the piece of jewelry around his neck. It suits him so much, Taehyung definitely made a good call.
“Thank you, Taehyungie.”
By way of response, the detective simply kisses Jimin’s forehead.
“Finally, here you are!”
“Good morning to you too, Leroy,” Taehyung says as he sits on the chair behind his desk, putting his cup of tea on it and his leather briefcase on the floor.
The police officer takes two steps forward to get in front of Taehyung’s desk and leans on it, almost sitting. “I have good news.”
“You’ve decided to leave the 11th District?” Taehyung asks, before sipping his tea. It’s burning his throat and stomach, but he likes it that way. A tepid tea isn’t valuable.
“I bet being polite for two minutes would kill you?”
“You’re betting well, little boy.” Taehyung isn’t truly mad or something. To be honest, he’s trying to hide the nascent grin on his lips.
“So I guess you don’t want to read the autopsy report?” Leroy supposes innocently, giving the impression to leave.
“The autopsy report?” Taehyung puts his mug back on the desk, both hands circling it. “Only one week after the murder? What a miracle.” Another sip. “Show me that.”
Leroy’s lips turn into a victorious smile. “You’re welcome, detective Kim.”
Taehyung rolls his eyes as he takes the report, the other hand still holding the mug. He opens it under Leroy’s watchful eye. There’s nothing new on the first page: Janice Doney, 45 years old, Caucasian, 5 feet 6 inches. Taehyung turns the page, reading attentively. The cause of death is the fractured hyoid, as expected, and the blows were made ante-mortem. It’s written in a more complicated way but, in a nutshell, the murderer killed Janice elsewhere and took her body to West Garfield Park in order to stage everything. Rigor mortis is complete, and the woman was killed around 1a.m. Janice wasn’t sick or anything else, nor was she drunk or drugged. As for the hands, they were sliced before death too, probably with an axe. Finally, no sign of sexual assault.
“Info from the lab follow.”
Taehyung nods and reads what’s next. Briefly, the signature on the wall was indeed written with Janice’s blood, certainly kept elsewhere—maybe in a jar or something? God, that’s seedy. A few fibers of paintbrush were found, but nothing truly conclusive. Once again, no fluid was found, if not for the victim’s blood. No fingermarks or footprints either, obviously.
“Hm, it doesn’t help much,” Taehyung states as he lets go of the reports.
“Not if we’re talking about evidences, but it does reveal some things.”
“You’re a fast learner.” Taehyung rubs his chin. “I think we’re dealing with an organized sadist. God, they’re the worst.”
“Or a lucky psychopath,” Leroy proposes.
“A psychopath who’s done some researches, then.” Taehyung sighs. “It’s weird as fuck, Leroy.”
“I already got that part.”
Taehyung can’t help rolling his eyes once again. “I’ll keep it for a while. Thanks, little punk.”
Getting the message, Leroy nods and returns to his own desk, nor far from Taehyung’s.
The detective takes hit notebook and his black pencil out of the briefcase, putting them on in front of him. He opens it, flips some pages and then writes the date: Friday, October 18. He scribbles the main information he’s just learned, while sipping his tea from time to time. It would be a shame to waste this holy nectar.
At least Jeon’s not here this morning.
October 22, 2018.
It was Monday, on a fucking rainy day. Don’t get him wrong, Taehyung appreciates the sound of rain against a window, but he wasn’t in a building that day. They weren’t, but they should have been. Fuck, they should have.
But they weren’t, and it ruined Taehyung’s day. It ruined his fucking Monday and his cursed year. It ruined a part of his life, and the entire life of someone else.
“You loved rain. I still do too, but I fucking hate Mondays.” Taehyung lies down on the grass, one leg bent. The sky is dark as hell, there’s no star. “Who the fuck likes Mondays, anyway?” Taehyung blows through his nose. “I bet Jeon does. You wouldn’t have liked him. He’s everything you hated. Seokjin thinks he can replace you, but no way.” Taehyung clicks his tongue. “I’ve only one partner, and it’s you Amber. Dead or alive, it’s you. I just... I would’ve preferred alive.”
A long silence follows. There’s no one around, as it must be around 2 a.m. or so. It’s the same cemetery, again and again; the two same graves, but Taehyung never talk to them on the same day. It would be too painful. He couldn’t handle it.
“It’s been exactly a fucking year, can you believe it?” Taehyung places a hand behind his head. “Oh, Amber, it’s been a year of suffering.” The detective closes his eyes for a moment. He’s tired as hell. “Well, there were some good days, but it wasn’t like a day with you. Never. You were always there, somewhere in my mind, but you weren’t there in the end. There were days better than the others, especially when everything was fine with Seokjin.” A bitter sound, barely a laugh. “But it ended at some point. You know me, I wouldn’t let a relationship break me, but it’s still hard. I’m not broken, right? Just a bit hurt, that’s all. Anyway.” Taehyung clenches his jaw. Why is he talking about all of this? He could tell Jimin whenever he wants to, but he’s here, talking to a fucking grave. He would be here anyway, especially one year after, but it feels a bit weird. Maybe he’s just weird by nature.
There’s another silence. Longer this time, even heavier. It becomes oppressive at some point, making Taehyung breathe louder. He’s not particularly anxious, but the air gets thicker and thicker, squeezing his throat and his lungs.
Where the fuck is the oxygen?
The detective closes his eyes, trying to clear his mind before his lungs. He inhales and exhales as slowly as he can, in and out. In and out.
After a few minutes that seem to be hours, Taehyung manages to find a normal pace again. What the hell was that?
He sighs loudly and stretches his bent leg, before bending the other instead.
“I know it’s life,” he starts again, “but why do I keep loosing people I love? Am I supposed to not love? To simply hate, or to be indifferent? Maybe that’s it, the answer to my pain.” Taehyung loosens up a bit, recalling happy memories. “You’d kill me if you could, right? You were the optimist.”
Taehyung lets a few more minutes pass, before standing up. “I’ll bring you chrysanthemums next time.”
A sour smile stretches Taehyung’s lips as his fingers linger on the grave stone.
“I don’t know where you are now, but I hope you’re doing good. Or maybe you were right, there’s nothing after death and you’re just rotting six feet under. Anyway.” He brushes the grave once again, looking painfully at the inscription. Amber Ellis. The fucking one and only.
“I miss you and I love you. Forever.” A last silence, a last glance. “See you soon, Amb’.”
Thank you for reading this chapter. Don't hesitate to tell me what you think, it matters a lot.
I wish you a merry christmas if you celebrate it and, otherwise, have a good day and take care of you. See ya!
Chapter 8: VIII
"Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man."
- Friedrich Nietzsche
Once again, I'm sorry for being so late. Time is so hard to find sometimes!
I hope you're all doing okay and I hope that 2020 is pretty good for you so far.
(A quick thing about Shadow: it's freaking mind-blowing. Min Yoongi, you're a genius.)
On that note, enjoy the chapter, fellows.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“There’s barely nothing about the murder,” Jeongguk says as he explores the newspaper for the third time.
“It’s good, nah? And it’s been almost three weeks, new deadly crimes happened in between.”
“Not like this one, Yoongi.” The detective puts the paper down on the kitchen’s table. “Same thing on the Internet.”
“I thought the point was to keep it hidden? The less the media know, the better.”
“You are... right.” Jeongguk hums while tapping his fingers on the glass. “But still, that’s weird. Let’s say our district managed to keep a low profile.”
“You’re not even on this case,” Yoongi points it out to Jeongguk, who presses his tongue against his cheek right after.
“Not yet.” The detective’s lips stretch a bit. “But I’ve done some researches.”
“Of course you did. You don’t like not being in control.”
“It’s not about control,” Jeongguk protests.
“It is,” Yoongi affirms, a light smirk upon his mouth.
“Alright,” he admits. “Just a bit. The real thing is that I’m literally living for that kind of case.”
“The weird ones, right? “ Yoongi scoffs as he impales some pasta on his fork. “This inquest would progress faster with you on it.”
“Maybe, yes, but this idiot won’t work with me.”
“I’d like to meet this Taehyung. Nobody can resist you usually.”
“No, you wouldn’t. He’s unbearable. Always so grumpy for nothing.”
“But handsome at least, isn’t it?”
“And yet, his splendor isn’t enough to hide his attitude.”
“So your Seokjin isn’t grumpy at all?”
“Sometimes he is, but never mind.” Jeongguk eats up. “And he’s not mine, just like I’m not his.”
“You’ll never belong to anyone, I know.” Yoongi’s dish is empty too, now. “See, you’re a lone wolf too.”
“Oh, shut up.” Jeongguk stands up and grabs Yoongi’s plate to put it on his own. “I’m nothing like him.”
“You want to solve the case, right?” Jeongguk obviously nods at the question. “I bet he wants it too.”
Jeongguk snickers as he places the plates in the dishwasher. “Such a poor common trait for two detectives.”
“You should work with him.”
“Go tell him then.” Jeongguk leans an elbow on the table, looking at his dearest friend. “I actually wanted to work with the guy at first, but I didn’t expect him to be the cunt he is.”
“I’m sure you’re able to convince him.”
“How do I do that, uh?” There’s a short silence, after which Jeongguk’s eyes suddenly grow bigger. “Unless...”
“No no no.” Yoongi’s eyes narrow as he leans forward. “I know this look.”
“I should sleep with him.”
Yoongi sighs and runs a hand through his black hair. “No no no, worst idea ever. I never...”
“You want me to convince him, don’t you?”
“Not with your ass!”
“I was thinking about his, to be honest. I’m not giving mine.”
“Just... don’t do that. Please?” Yoongi sighs once more, waiting for his friend to answer.
“Don’t worry, old sport.” Jeongguk ruffles Yoongi’s hair, making him grumble a bit. “I’ll find a less pleasant way.”
“You know what, don’t try working with him. I bet you can just convince someone to put two teams on this case, without having to take your shitty mate as a partner.”
“Maybe. We’ll see.”
Then, the detective moves away and heads for the bathroom, where he quickly brushes his teeth. When he comes back to the big kitchen, Yoongi is still sitting at the table, but eyes now on the paper Jeongguk was reading before.
“You know what would trigger the media?” Yoongi asks, Jeongguk shakes his head, wanting to hear what the older has to say. “Another murder. With the same M.O. and stuff.”
The younger can’t help snorting at this, they truly share the same mind.
“It would be such a mess, but maybe it was a one time thing?”
“You really think so?” Yoongi’s gaze is so intense right now that it takes Jeongguk a few seconds to answer.
“You know I don’t, but I hope we’re wrong.” He goes to a corner of the room and grabs the oxford shoes he left there earlier, before stepping into them.
“Where are you going?”
“Ferreting on my own, of course.”
“At 9 p.m.?” Yoongi arches an eyebrow.
“The night is young.” Jeongguk gives Yoongi a faint smile and turns his back on him. “Don’t forget to put the alarm on if you don’t sleep here tonight.”
And he’s gone.
Kenwood has known many notable residents, such as Barack and Michelle Obama, Muhammad Ali, Edward Levi and so on, but also a few maniacs. The most infamous ones are probably Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, aka Leopold and Loeb, the murderers of Bobby Franks, a 14 years-old innocent boy. It was “the crime of the century” at that time, and the two men thought they committed the perfect crime. To Jeongguk, there is no such crime, even if the culprit is prodigious—like Leopold and Loeb. A little mistake is always hiding in the corner, under a pebble you didn’t notice at first glance. He feels that the murder of Janice Doney belongs to that kind of mystery: hard to solve, but not unsolvable for all that. Maybe that killer thinks he’s made the perfect crime too, but Jeongguk intends to prove him wrong whatever the cost.
He was a New Yorker, but he’s found a new home in Chicago—and Jeongguk always protects his home.
Aside from that, Kenwood is an elegant neighborhood, full of 19th century mansions and charming green spaces. The sun has fallen but it’s still luminous, roads enlivened by many lampposts and bustling restaurants. Jeongguk is not here for this, though.
Knowing the address, he drives to his destination without hesitation and, once near the house, parks his Range Rover along the curb. He kills the engine and stays in the car for a while, back resting against the leather seat. She seems to be home, judging by the illuminated windows. That’s good.
More out of habit than necessity, Jeongguk opens the small pot next to him and takes a breath mint out, savoring the taste of it on his tongue. He checks his insignia and steps out of the vehicle, closing the door and locking it three times. Three is better than one. Or two. Three is good.
The area is more animated than you would except it to be, which leads Jeongguk to rethink something. If this animation is a common thing, how did the killer abduct Janice? He seemed to know her password, so is he a close relation? Did Janice feel at ease when he approached her? Or did he kidnap her by surprise, coming from behind? The report doesn’t answer those questions, unfortunately—but thanks Seokjin for allowing him to read it.
Anyway, maybe he’s going to learn new elements.
Jeongguk follows a lovely pathway lined with flowers and walks to the door’s house. He knocks three times, not too fast to spare her a rush of stress. Long seconds pass, perhaps even a full minute but, in the end, the door makes way for a tall brunette.
“Good evening, ma’am,” he says as he shows his badge. “I’m Detective Jeon, from—”
“The Bureau of Detectives?” the woman cuts him off and presses her lips together, seeming to analyze Jeongguk.
“Exactly. You’re Linda Bane, right?” The woman nods, wary sparks in her eyes. “It’s quite late and I apologize for this, but I need to ask you some questions about—”
“I know what this is about.” Jeongguk holds a roll of his eyes back. Is she going to die if she doesn’t interrupt him every two minutes? “I’ve already seen your colleague. Detective Kim, if I remember well.”
That’s true, indeed.
“Yes, but it was a few days ago, and I would need some specifications.” Jeongguk’s gaze intensifies. “It that’s okay with you.”
She seems to think about it for a while, before stepping aside to let him in. Jeongguk nods as a thank-you and enters the house. A light smell of citrus caress his nose as soon as he steps in. It’s enjoyable, even if he doesn’t like citrus that much. Whatever it is, it doesn’t smell mourning at all—but everyone has their own way to process a loss. Still, even Linda’s features don’t express grief: no dark bags under her eyes, no gaunt features, nothing at all. Maybe she’s good at hiding things, maybe she cares less than you’d expect her to, maybe she’s just strong enough to not let it show. It could be anything and everything. Human beings are complex.
“I’ve said everything to your colleague.” Linda closes the door and shrugs, before leading Jeongguk to the lounge dinner.
“I don’t doubt that.” Jeongguk sits at the table after the woman did so. “May I record what you’ll say?” He doesn’t always ask for permission, but why not today.
“As you please.”
“Thank you.” Jeongguk turns the micro on and puts his phone on the table, flipped. “First thing, just to be sure. You are living alone, right?”
“I am.” Linda gazes at him with frank eyes, but also taut muscles, chin high and sharp jaw. She’s cautious. She’s right to be so.
“But you had a husband before?”
“Yes, indeed.” They divorced three years ago, he doesn’t have to ask that. He didn’t even have to ask if she had a husband but every conversation has a beginning.
Jeongguk lets a short silence, eyes scanning Linda’s face. “A quick one about Janice. Did you know her phone’s password?” He likes doing it this way, short questions with no direct connection between them.
“Of course.” She isn’t the kind to be destabilized easily. “I would have made a poor best friend if I didn’t.”
“I don’t know my best friend’s password, but okay.” Linda’s lips twitch a bit at this. Bingo. “Tell me if I’m wrong about this. You knew and still know Janice’s family?” She nods, the detective goes on, “Especially Josh Doney?”
Linda grits her teeth. “I even dated this moron in another life.”
Jeongguk knew about that too—thanks Seokjin for all the tips. “Why didn’t you warn Janice when she met him?”
Quick recap: Linda met Josh a few years before meeting Janice, who became her best friend. Josh and her dated when they were in their twenties, but it didn’t end well. On an impulse, after he got drunk, Josh hit Linda during an argument. Something pretty bad.
“I gave him the benefice of the doubt, and we acted like we didn’t know each other.”
“But you told Janice at some point, right?”
“Yes,” she sighs. “At first, things were looking good, but it’s always like that, mh?” Jeongguk nods. She speaks more freely. “One day an argument went too far, so I told her. She listened, yes, but it’s Janice, so she went on with her life.”
“Did it happen again? That kind of argument.”
“I think, yes, but she didn’t talk much about it.”
“And then James was born, right?”
A small smile twists her lips. “Yes, a wonderful kid that I love. I godmother him.” The smile fades away. “I didn’t know for... you know, Janice’s behavior. Your colleague told me that.”
Of course he did. Colleague, yeah for sure. Rather a schmuck. “Visibly, she hid it well.” If she loved him that much, Linda could have done it to protect the kid, no? Everything is possible.
Another silence. Jeongguk is about to play his trump card. “Josh wasn’t the only one to argue with Janice, am I wrong?”
“I talked to Mark.” The husband. “According to him, you had a lot of arguments with Janice.”
“Which friends don’t?” she hisses. “So that’s why you’re here, you think I killed her.”
“Did I say this?” Jeongguk’s lips display a smirk. “I wouldn’t dare, ma’am. I’m just asking questions, and this one seems to be a sensitive subject.”
“You’re telling me I used to argue with my dead best friend, how am I supposed to react?” Jeongguk isn’t afraid at all, but she’s still looking daggers at him. Was Taehyung afraid of that look? No, probably not. A wolf wouldn’t be scared, right?
“I just want an answer,” he remains calm. “Did some quarrels go too far?”
“Too far for what it was, maybe.” Her jaw is clenching more than ever. “But too far doesn’t include killing her.”
“Fair enough.” Another smirk. “Relax, I didn’t bring my handcuffs.” It doesn’t please her, but Jeongguk had to tell it.
“It used to escalate quickly, yes.”
She is about to add something, but he’s faster. “But it doesn’t mean you killed her. Got it, miss Bane.”
But, still. She had a motive if she knew for James—which isn’t sure but never mind—, she had Janice’s trust and, above all, her password. She could have sent a message to herself in order to cover her tracks, and could have called Josh for the same reason. Things are rarely what they seem, Jeongguk knows it very well.
She’s definitely a suspect on his list, period.
“Thank you, Harvey,” Jeongguk says as he accepts the cup of coffee handed by his partner.
Harvey Winger has been his partner for nearly seven months now. He’s the typical good cop: in his thirties, great face, burly but athletic, pretty funny and obliging. One of the nicest guys here, in Harrison. He wants to do his job and doesn’t care about recognition, always putting Jeongguk in the spotlight when flashes are around the corner. It was kind of weird at first, but it didn’t take long to Jeongguk to acclimate. After all, he remains a New Yorker with brilliant parents, both famous in their respective field. Being center stage must be in his blood.
So he’s a nice partner. Jeongguk could have had worse, so much worse. Thank God or whoever is dancing in the sky, Taehyung is not here tonight, because only Jeongguk and his team work the night shift this time.
It’s already 2 a.m.—time passes quickly when the handsome cunt isn’t here, even if it’s kind of boring too, sometimes. Jeongguk has nothing to get his teeth into when the sight of Taehyung isn’t available, or Seokjin’s. Never mind, focusing remains his main goal, even if writing reports isn’t always diverting. Fortunately, he spends most of the time in the field and not behind a computer.
Speaking of that...
“You’re ready to go, Harv’?” he asks the man after finishing his coffee.
“Ready when you are.” Harvey stops what he was doing, putting some papers upon his own desk. “I have the keys.”
Jeongguk nods and gets to his feet. He grabs his black jacket, slips into it and shrugs a bit. He checks his belt just in case, reassured when he feels his sidearm. God bless his Beretta 92FS.
They let their sergeant know they’re going for a round and head for the exit. Outside, their carriage awaits them: a blue and white Ford SUV, displaying police in capital letters. Jeongguk prefers his own black SUV, but this one is pretty terrific too.
“You drive?” Harvey asks and, as soon as Jeongguk rises his hand to confirm, the older throws the keys, which he catches in mid-air. Then, he unlocks the car, sits behind the impressive wheel and fastens his seat belt. He waits for Harvey to do the same and brings the engine to life, headlights turning the dark night into something brighter.
“The three areas tonight, right?” Jeongguk asks even if he knows the answer, just to loosen his tongue. Humboldt Park, West Garfield Park and East Garfield Park.
“That’s correct,” Harvey confirms as he turns the two-way radio. “It’s been a while since our last patrol.”
“You said it!”
As detectives they don’t patrol often anymore, unless there’s a necessity. An officer was sick tonight, and the others were busy so the two detectives proposed their help. To be honest, Jeongguk mostly wanted to get some fresh air, so he jumped at the chance.
In a peaceful silence, sometimes interrupted by some chit-chat, Jeongguk is driving through East Garfield Park. The road is empty of living cars, if not for their SUV; sidewalks are empty of people, if not for some hoodlums, scarpering as soon as they see the Ford. The two detectives don’t mind them, those drug dealers are not their main concern—but it’s still funny to see them scurrying like rats.
“Let’s check the park at the end,” Harvey says and Jeongguk agrees. Garfield Park stands within East Garfield Park’s arms, but if you look well, it’s kinda in the middle of the three areas, like the center of a triangle.
After going around East Garfield for a solid ten minutes—except in the park for now—, Jeongguk heads for Humboldt Park, den of the big bad lone wolf, aka the handsome cunt, aka Detective Kim—this damned moron. Is he asleep right now? Probable. Or maybe he is watching TV like an insomniac—no, he likely doesn’t even have a TV.
The streets are more animated here. Many lights are on, and a few bars are still open, being lairs of the inhabitants, but not only. Puerto Rican melodies pierce through the car’s windows, reaching the detectives’ ears and making Jeongguk tap the wheel with his fingers. There are also Puerto Rican flags floating from balconies, and people in the bar seem to have fun, dancing in front of it or just watching the others do so, a warm smile on their lips.
How does it feel to mess around in a bar, yet? Jeongguk feels like he hasn’t been in one for an eternity.
“I’d like to go there too,” Harvey affirms, looking in the same direction as Jeongguk.
“We’ll go soon, then.”
The two men fist-bump each other and then refocus on what they were doing. Life is going pretty smoothly too in Humboldt Park tonight, which is kind of weird, but Jeongguk won’t complain. His body feels a bit stiff at the moment, and the idea of chasing an eventual criminal doesn’t enchant him as much as usual.
A few minutes flow by, everything is quiet.
“About this awful murder...” Harvey starts, gaze fixed on the outside. “Do you think the killer will strike again?”
Jeongguk’s tongue finds its way between his parted lips, the detective in full reflection. His point of view has not changed since his discussion with Yoongi about that. “I do. I hope he won’t, but I do, yes. It’s been three weeks, though, so maybe he has disappeared.” Being interested in this kind of case, Jeongguk knows that thinking this way is pretty naive, but why not? He would love being wrong for once.
But at the same time, his consuming curiosity is dying to have more cases like that.
“Well, I suppose we’ll see.”
Jeongguk supposes the same thing.
It’s really tranquil tonight. It amazes him. Chicago has many facets, but also many moods. Chill one it is for now, even if chilling and Jeongguk do not go well together.
“What is?” Jeongguk answers without looking at Harvey, focused on the road. He knows what is coming next.
“This calm. I know we haven’t patrolled for a long time, but those neighborhoods didn’t change in the meantime.”
“The round isn’t finished yes.” Jeongguk arches an eyebrow. “You really want to chase someone right now?”
“Not really, but I’ve a bad feeling.”
Ah, feeling. A tricky thing, really.
Jeongguk hums as he heads for West Garfield Park. Even in the dark, he’s able to distinguish the dirtiness covering most of the sidewalks, but also all the deserted parcels, with their long grass and ruined houses. Once again, there are probably a few dealers, but nothing interesting or truly dangerous. This is such an annoying round. Maybe the numbers of this year will be better than the previous ones—he wasn’t there, but annual reports exist for a reason.
Jeongguk’s hands stiffen on the wheel when he slows the car down near a particular spot.
Three weeks ago, Janice Doney’s body was found here.
Jeongguk halts the car, looking at the pitiful wall. REMEMBER has almost faded, but it’s still legible. Damn it, he has to solve this murder. He won’t be defeated.
For now, there’s nothing around the spot. You wouldn’t suspect that a dead body was there three weeks ago.
It really was a strange murder. A provoking one. Maybe the most dangerous kind.
Anyway, staring at the empty crime scene won’t bring him the answers he wants, so Jeongguk speeds up. Nobody needs their help around here, so they quickly arrive at the last spot.
Garfield Park looms in front of them once Jeongguk has stopped the car and killed the engine. The detectives get out in silence, silence only broken by the slammed doors.
They’re walking toward one of the entries when Jeongguk stops right in the middle of the road.
This is not good.
Feeling is a tricky thing, uh? Well, he freaking feels that something is wrong. A red flag, redder than a goddamn puddle of blood.
His pulse becomes stronger and the tips of his fingers are itching; even his body senses it.
“This is not good,” Jeongguk articulates as he casts a glance at Harvey. His partner doesn’t deny, he feels it too.
They nod at each other and starts walking again, carefully, half lighted by old lampposts. A foreboding is one thing, but two? Oh, man.
They are about to enter the park when a holler makes them halt once more, and then run faster than ever.
Now is time to hurry.
The grass seems to disappear under their feet as they rush to the source. Jeongguk slows down when he sees two hooded silhouettes in the distance. He puts a hand on his Beretta, ready to draw it at any moment.
“Police! Don’t move!” Jeongguk warns as soon as the shadows turn toward them. He hears a “Shit!” before seeing the two shapes split and flee as fast as their legs can carry them.
“You go right, now!” Jeongguk tells Harvey, who complies immediately.
Jeongguk then starts the race of his life, arms swinging as fast as his legs. Each movement makes the wind crush his face harder, having his eyes almost filled with tears.
“I said DON’T MOVE!” Jeongguk yells at the man, who has now lost his hood. Oh, if he catches him...—and he will.
His legs weren’t prepared for that and, with this in mind, it seems like they’re made of damned iron. Jeongguk doesn’t slow down for all that. That stupid idiot won’t escape.
So he runs after him relentlessly, hunting the man like a crazy hound. He doesn’t even know why the fuck the man starts running in the first place.
Jeongguk doesn’t want to shoot, so he speeds up as much as his legs are able too. The distance between them starts to disappear, which makes Jeongguk’s moves swifter.
“Stop!” he shouts one more time but, of course, the man doesn’t obey.
Jeongguk lets a harsh whine out as he rushes even more, making his legs and arms hurt harder. The suspect of Lord knows what gets dangerously closer to an exit. The detective has no choice but giving all he has left to jump on the man, tackling him violently. They both roll over a few meters, dragged along by a small hill and the damp grass mixed with mud. At some point, their fall ceases and Jeongguk pins the black man to the ground.
“When I say stop, you fucking stop moving!” the policeman hisses, his chest rising and falling at a breakneck peace. He feels the other’s heart bumping under his palm.
“It wasn’t us!” The man’s eyes are flickering like hell. “We didn’t do this shit, man!”
“’m not your man,” Jeongguk corrects as he sinks his left knee into the man’s stomach and body-searches him. No weapon.
“Su-sorry,” he stammers, out of breath. Jeongguk loosens his grasp a bit.
“Why the fuck were you running?”
“Didn’t you see that shit?” His eyes are still flickering, but now they have also widened. “A fucking mad shit. Hell.”
“Hell?” Jeongguk frowns. “Speak clearly!”
“A dead man! Shit, shit, shit!”
“What?” Jeongguk’s eyes widen in turn. What the hell is going on?
“Okay, calm down.” The detective wonders if Harvey has succeeded. “What were you doing here? Dealing some shit?”
The fugitive nods vigorously. “Just that, yeah. I’ll show you if you want.”
“Yeah, yeah. You’re going to come with me, right? I didn’t see that body you’re talking about and, if you’re telling me the truth, I’ll call for backup.” Jeongguk deeply gazes at the man, who’s listening to him carefully as he wants him to. “I don’t give a damn about your weed, coke or whatever. Not my section, but I need you as a witness. Are you okay with that?”
The man nods once more, the flickering of his eyes has reduced. “Got it.”
“What’s your name?”
He seems younger now that his features have relaxed. “Alright, Ollie. Try something stupid, and I’ll shoot you. Clear?” Jeongguk smirks, Ollie nods. It is very clear for the young man, indeed.
The detective stands up and helps Ollie to do so.
The dealer seems truly cooperative, not trying to outstrip Jeongguk and even sticking to him, so he lets him live.
“What about your friend?”
“Not really a friend, just a regular client.”
“I see,” Jeongguk says as they walk toward the initial spot. Did Harvey catch the consumer?
“We often meet there,” Ollie explains, feeling at ease now. “Nobody comes here at night.”
“Nobody except dealers and dead bodies, visibly.”
Ollie clears his throat but doesn’t dare to add anything else.
Two masculines silhouettes emerge from a row of trees when Jeongguk and Ollie arrive.
“I have the client, so you have the dealer, right?” Harvey asks. He looks shitty, with mud all over his clothes and his hands—just like Jeongguk.
“Correct.” At least the two men told them the same story. “So, where’s the body?” Jeongguk has turned toward Ollie, who indicates a zone hidden by a few trees.
“Keep those two, Harv’.” His partner nods and Jeongguk approaches the area, almost walking backwards, as if he were about to open Pandora’s Box. It does smell of death. It freaking smells of burning, too. Jeongguk scrunches his nose as he gets closer, and then...
Then he sees it.
“Harvey!” he instantly raises his voice. “Call for backup. We have a dead man.”
After getting a confirmation, the detective takes a cautious step forward and leans a bit. It is not a pretty sight at all, and he quickly understands why it smells of damn burning.
Right before his eyes lies what used to be a man, naked if not for his underwear. A flimsy ray of light stems from a lamppost but it’s still too dark to see properly, so Jeongguk takes his small flashlight out—he always has it when he lives at night. He’s not really impatient to see the details, but someone has to do it so he enlightens the cadaver.
Once again, damn it.
First of all, the man’s throat has been cut with a blade or something like that. The wound is clean—but hell, it’s the only clean thing here.
The rest of the body has been tortured, Jeongguk would say mostly with a poker. Half of the head has only hair burnt to ashes and burn marks. There are marks like those pretty everywhere: on cheeks, shoulders, stomach, hands and even feet, but it’s almost nothing compared to what horribly reigns all over the man’s chest.
REMEMBER? is written with slivers of burnt flesh.
Jeongguk feels his guts toss and turn in his stomach, a sour bile swimming in his throat. He knows he won’t throw up, but he’s so damn close to it that it comes down the same thing.
The sight of this slaughter is one thing, but what it means is another thing. Jeongguk’s memory has gotten clearer now and...
No, no, no. No way.
He wanted to be involved in the case, right?
Well, he fucking remembers too.
And heeeere we go. The story truly starts here, I think.
I've nothing more to say, but maybe you have. Don't hesitate. See ya!