A sign, an omen, a, a GLITCH.
Where am I? Who am I? I am not myself.
"Good morning." The empty room made no reply, almost mocking him in its stubborn silence. He rubbed his hand across his eyes, turning his head to the clock on his bedside table.
Right. His shift started at nine. How convenient that his body clock had decided that four hours of sleep was great as a baseline. He groaned and rolled over, burying his head in his pillow. Curse his body clock. The morning light was creeping through his windows, despite his best efforts to cover every hole with scraps of cardboard. To his credit, he squeezed his eyes shut and tried to return to the peaceful darkness that had muted his brain. It had been a reprieve from the usual kaleidoscope of night terrors he experienced. He muttered darkly about how he was not liable for any damage he caused while tired. He reminded his brain of his eight-hour shift. He then proceeded to threaten his brain with partial asphyxiation. Finally, he gave up, resorting to silence with a sigh.
Eventually, the stillness roused him. A monologue consisting of several choice curses and self-pity filled his apartment. It was interjected by his morning routine of caffeinating his body until he could function, resisting the urge to slip out the door in search of a nicotine fix. He knew his partners would kill him if he gave in to that particular habit. Gradually the hours began to drag by, allowing him precious – if dangerously consuming – time with himself. Chris hated coffee, but he forced himself to drink it. He was a cop, after all, and if he could survive coffee, he could survive the streets. He was growing more and more restless as the days went on. Nothing ever seemed to happen on his current shift. In his region, the real bread and butter of his work was conducted under the moonlight. Humans had a primitive instinct to conduct their sins in the dark. They were like rats, scampering through their burrows, looking for their next meal.
Of course, as a detective, he was forced to work during the day. Sometimes Chris wished that he was a vampire. He always preferred to sleep during the day, anyway. Still, there was a line that had to be toed. He had to keep to his side of the law, even if he didn’t always agree with it. Sometimes being a detective wasn’t so black and white. Sometimes it wasn’t even shades of grey – sometimes it was red and confronting, other times unremarkable, like beige. But Chris didn’t regret his career choice. Not yet, anyway.
His coffee had grown cold as he had sat lost in thought, but he gulped it down anyway, far too used to the taste to grimace. As he rose to his feet, he tried to ignore his protesting muscles. Sometimes he missed being on the field instead of being behind a desk. It had seemed simple, really. Wake up. Break up fights, throw people in cells, get praised and slandered in equal measure by the very people he was trying to protect. Go home to a dark and cold apartment. Sleep. Repeat. He pulled on his uniform, all of it black. It was what he liked about being a detective – the plainclothes. Chris had almost lost track of how many years he’d been a detective. It seemed like far too many.
There was a knock on the door, and Chris jumped. He hurried to button up his shirt before opening the door to a grinning Han Jisung. Chris slung his scarf around his neck and hurried to shut the door behind him. Han was a Detective Constable and had been partnered with Chris for several years. He was always first to greet Chris in the morning and the last one to see him off. They’d been that way ever since Chris, then a Detective Sergeant, had pushed for Han to be made a constable. No one had known why, at first. Chris had been sent on an excursion around the district, looking for any promising or senior officers that were looking to become detectives.
Of course, being a DS, he’d attracted the attention of the younger officers. Some of them only had a couple of years under their belt as PCs. Chris knew he had quite a threatening aura when he was working. He’d scared most of them away. Most had just shaken his hand before darting away to watch from afar. But Han had approached him, clearly intimidated, with his head held high anyway. He’d been a mousy young man back then. But he’d stood in front of Chris, bombarding him with questions. Chris had later looked over Han’s scores. Han didn’t excel in one particular area – he seemed to be good at everything. Chris had gone to his superiors, saying he knew it was a bit uncouth to recruit a detective so young, but that he was certain Han would excel in their unit. His superiors had been unsure, but Chris had shown them Han’s scores, had told them about Han’s interest and sharp attention to detail. A month later, Han had shown up at Chris’ desk, stumbling over thank you, thank you, thank you, until Chris had put a finger to his lips and winked at him.
“Hey, man, you look…” Chris couldn’t help but grin at him, despite Han’s concern. Seeing Han in the morning was always refreshing. He enjoyed their commute together. Chris knew that he should probably start curbing his excitement so that he didn’t weird Han out, but he couldn’t help it. After a shit night’s sleep, seeing Han was like a breath of fresh air.
"Awful?” Chris offered, laughing at Han’s sheepish nod. “Seems like my body has decided four hours of sleep is good enough.” Han frowned at this.
“Maybe time to knock off a bit earlier, yeah?” Han patted his shoulder as Chris locked the door behind him. “Or take it easy for a little bit.”
“What alternative universe are you living in?” Chris laughed. “Come on, let’s go. You know Binnie will eat us alive if we’re late.” Han had been one of Chris’ first real friends. Before he’d met Han, Chris had only had Woojin and Changbin. Woojin had been Chris’ only friend in the academy. He’d been the first one to discover the truth of Chris’ past. Thirteen years ago, Chris remembered waking up in a filthy drain, in a city he didn’t recognise, covered in blood and muck. His clothes had been ripped and torn, he was delirious and feverish, and he had no memories to speak of. His first real memory was of staring up at a clear and serene blue sky, which soothed the blinding pain and confusion he had felt. Then he’d passed out. The next thing he knew, he was being poked and prodded by doctors and confined to a hospital bed.
At most, all he'd regained were flashes, which were twisted and obscured by shadows. Some were clear, but only gave him small snippets of information. Without context, they meant nothing to him. He had blinding headaches, but nothing else. He'd maintained the ability to read and write, which the neurologists had told him was a part of the retrograde amnesia. It seemed that there were some things that the brain did not forget, like tying his shoelaces or putting letters into words, then putting those words into sentences. But here he was now, thirteen years later, still none the wiser as to who he was or where he'd come from. All that remained of his previous life were scars adorning his neck. Over time, they’d faded so that they were barely visible. But Chris still had a habit of wearing a scarf at work, or a hoodie if he was off-duty. He'd been involved with the police force from the very start. When he was still a teenager, he’d been obsessed with trying to find out who he was. But now, walking next to Han, who was chattering away next to him, Chris couldn’t help but smile. He cared less about who he was and more about who was now. He belonged here.
Woojin had been the first one to calm Chris down after a nightmare until Chris had learned how to control his screams and keep himself quiet. Woojin had been the one to kneel next to Chris, rubbing his back as a headache kept him pinned to the floor. Woojin and Chris had been Detective Constables together, assigned to the same senior officer. Woojin had been Chris’ first love – it had been unrequited, Chris had always figured. He’d eventually given up on his feelings. If he was being honest, he still nursed a little soft spot for Woojin. But the flames were gone. Woojin and Chris had fought hard to be promoted. The countless extra hours Chris had put in, combined with his hours at home obsessing over a case, had meant he’d solved cases quickly. Soon he found other detectives were asking him for advice, and he was assisting other detectives with their cases. Chris had been reassigned, partnered with a constable of his own – Seo Changbin.
Changbin and Chris had clicked instantly. Chris liked Changbin’s dark sense of humour and loved any off chance he had to hear Changbin’s real giggle. Chris would doggedly follow a case until it was done, often forgoing sleep for several days. He was good at looking at a case holistically, but often missed small details. Changbin, meanwhile, was extremely good with details, but would often get stuck in them. They balanced each other out well. They’d made a great team. So much so, that both of them had been promoted. Chris almost been poached by another station. The promotion meant had been a way of keeping Chris from moving – not that he was complaining. He hadn’t wanted to leave Changbin behind, after all the years they’d spent together.
That was when Han had joined them. Han had finished his training, which had taken a gruelling two years. Now that Chris had become a DI himself, he’d gotten assigned a constable. Chris would never forget the way that Han’s eyes had lit up when he’d been told he was getting reassigned to Chris. Together, the three had become a formidable team. Han was insightful and good at seeing the whole picture, like Chris, but also had Changbin’s knack for incorporating details. He did tend to be quite spontaneous and was prone to acting without thinking. Jokingly, after a round of drinks at the local bar, Changbin had coined a name for them – 3Racha. It had stuck, to the point that whenever the three of them were required for a case, even their superiors would ask for 3Racha.
“You alright, Chris?” Chris ran straight into Han, stumbling back as he was jerked from his thoughts. Han held him at arm’s length, searching his face. “You’re out of it today, man.” Chris wet his lips with his tongue, trying to ignore the way that Han’s eyes followed the movement. Han’s voice was gentle, and soft. It made Chris’ heart melt a little.
“Just thinking.” He admitted. Han raised an eyebrow at this, and Chris heaved an exaggerated sigh. “About you, actually.” Han flushed bright red. Chris tried not to smirk. Sometimes it was hard to ignore the effect he seemed to have on Han. Chris had first chalked it up to hero-worship. As the years had gone on and they’d become friends, Chris had just continued to wave it off. It was implausible to him that Han would have feelings towards him. Besides, Han was a catch. He was intelligent, well-groomed, funny, and had an incredible smile. Then there was Chris, who always showed up with a wrinkled shirt and bed hair, who poured his life into his work – so much so that he barely saw the outside world unless he was out on a case. Yeah. That just screamed emotionally unavailable. Han deserved better than that.
“O-oh.” Han was uncharacteristically quiet for a moment. “C-cool. Yeah. Uh. Cool. We should – go.” Han turned on his heel, pulling Chris along with him, muttering about being late. But Chris just smiled. His constable could be so cute sometimes.
As soon as they stepped foot into the station, Han knew something was off. It was oddly quiet. Usually the station was bustling by now. Han felt himself begin to tense. He felt a hand land on his shoulder and looked up to see Chris smiling at him.
“Come on, Hannie.” Chris murmured. “Let’s find Binnie.” The two hurried up the stairs, practically taking them two at a time. While the rest of the station had seemed like it was on lockdown, the homicide department was chaos. Standing in the midst of it all was Changbin. He had a scowl on his face and was barking at two constables.
“Oh, fuck.” Han hissed, and he watched as Chris’ brows creased together in confusion. “That’s Hyunjin and Seungmin.” It had been years since he’d seen the pair. Seungmin he hadn’t minded. They’d gotten along well, at times. Han knew that one day Seungmin would be one to rise fast through the ranks. But Hyunjin and Han had always been rivals. It was always a race to see who could run the fastest, get the best scores, or solve the most cases in training. Hyunjin had always just been behind Han. When Chris had come to the station that day, Hyunjin had tried so hard to impress him. But in the end, it was Han who had gained Chris’ attention, without really seeming to try. Hyunjin had always gone on and on about his dream to one day become a detective. Han had felt a little guilty about taking that away from him. Eventually, he'd realised that if Chris had seen enough potential in Hyunjin, he would’ve picked Hyunjin instead. Hyunjin and Han had had one last confrontation on Han’s last day as a uniformed officer. Hyunjin had cornered him, jabbing a finger into his chest, demanding to know how he’d blackmailed Chris, one of the best up and coming detectives. Han had, quite childishly, told him that Hyunjin should fuck off, because he was destined to always be second. Han desperately hoped that Hyunjin didn’t remember that little comment.
“Should I know them?” Chris rubbed his jaw, his eyes sparking with curiosity. Han winced. There was no way he’d be able to avoid this one.
“They were in my year at the academy.” He began, and Chris raised an eyebrow. “Hyunjin was mad when I got moved to CID.” Han murmured. He jumped when he felt Chris’ hand resting gently on the small of his back. Han felt his breath stutter in his throat at the close contact. He looked at up Chris, who smiled sweetly at him, a smile he seemed to reserve only for Han. If he had Chris next to him, he knew he’d be fine. Then Chris leaned down and began whispering in Han’s ear.
“Good thing no one messes with my constable except for me, hey?” Han squeaked at this and he felt a wave of heat rushing through his body. He almost choked on his spit. Chris chuckled, ruffling his hair.
“Come on, looks like Binnie’s already reined them in enough. I think they have more than you to be worried about, Han.” Han nodded dumbly, still trying to recover. He watched as Chris slid his hands into his pockets and strode over to Changbin. Han trailed behind him, trying to inconspicuously take deep breaths to still his racing heart. “Morning.” Chris flashed the three men before him an easy smile. Changbin’s scowl faded a little, and he gave Chris a nod. “I haven’t seen you two around before.” Chris turned to Hyunjin and Seungmin. Han watched as Seungmin’s mouth dropped. Hyunjin, meanwhile, pulled himself up to his full height, flashing Chris an easy smile. Chris returned with one of his own, almost lazily. Han crossed his fingers – and toes, for good measure – trying to hide behind Chris’ muscular frame.
“Inspector, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Hyunjin practically purred, and Han found himself bristling. He shot Hyunjin a glare from where he lurked behind Chris. Chris had come out to Han and Changbin about a year after they’d all been partnered together. Han had loathed how his heart had filled with hope at the news. He’d always nursed a soft spot for Chris, but it had grown to a full-blown crush when his treacherous brain made him think he’d actually have a chance. Lately, Han had allowed himself to think that maybe Chris wasn’t so far out of reach after all. There were the small smiles he delegated only to Han, and the way he was so excited to see Han show up at his doorstep every morning. It was in the way he casually slung his arm over Han’s shoulders, or would never fail to treat Han cheesecake if 3Racha solved a case. Seeing Hyunjin so blatantly trying to lay claim to who Han had been chasing after for half a decade made his blood boil.
“Nice to meet you – I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.” Chris was gauging Hyunjin with interest, and Han felt jealousy curl in his stomach. Han suddenly felt self-conscious. Hyunjin had looked good in a uniform, but he looked even better in a suit. He wasn’t wearing his tie – Han could see it poking out of his pocket. His top button was undone. Hyunjin looked good, and he knew it. And Han…well, he absolutely hated it. He knew he’d never manage to look that good. But Hyunjin looked almost as good as Chris. And no one would ever look better than Chris did in a suit. In Han’s mind, anyway.
“Detective Constable Hwang Hyunjin, Inspector.” Chris held out his hand for Hyunjin to shake.
“I’d introduce myself, but I’m guessing you know who I am.” Hyunjin clasped Chris’ hand with both of his, and Han rolled his eyes as he saw Hyunjin lower his lashes. Such blatant flirting, with a senior officer, no less. Only Hyunjin would be able to get away with it. Han didn’t have the guts for it. All he could do was grumble to himself.
“Of course, Inspector, I’d never forget a face like yours.” Han knew that if anyone looked at him, it was obvious that he was sulking. It was Hyunjin’s first day on the job, and he’d already managed to get under Han’s skin. Changbin coughed into his hand, and Chris blinked owlishly at him.
“Tell me, Hyunjin, why were you bothering my sergeant? He seemed a little…pressed.” Han felt like high-fiving Chris in that moment. He made sure to get a good look at Hyunjin’s face as the smirk slid right off it.
“These two were wandering around like a gaggle of lost geese.” Changbin muttered darkly, and a hint of fear crept onto Hyunjin’s face. “It was embarrassing. I was telling them to find something to do before I kick them out for making me cross-eyed.”
“Ah.” Chris hummed in thought. “Well, boys, first day on the job. Can’t get to anything too exciting just yet.” Changbin grunted in agreement. “Unless…” Changbin groaned at this, crossing his arms over his chest. Han narrowed his eyes in confusion. He didn’t miss the way Chris’ mouth was quirked at one corner. “Who are you partnered with, constables?”
“Detective Inspector Kim, sir.” That was Seungmin’s voice. Chris grinned at this.
“Excellent! There are some files I’m sure he’d love for you to look over…” Han had to bite down on his lip to keep himself from laughing. He watched as understanding dawned on Changbin’s face. Changbin was pretty much shaking, trying not to laugh. “It was a pleasure meeting you, constables. If you just go and see Woojin, and tell him I sent you, he’ll understand.” Chris patted Hyunjin’s back, giving him a little push. Seungmin and Hyunjin pretty much tripped over themselves to go and find Woojin.
“See you soon, Inspector!” Hyunjin turned to shoot Chris a wink before hurrying after Seungmin. Han pouted again. Maybe if he was that smooth and confident with his words, Chris would fall for him in no time.
“That was actually pretty smart.” Changbin gave Chris a high-five, grinning at him. “Get someone to do our paperwork for us? Genius.” Chris smiled lazily at him.
“Don’t flatter me too much, Binnie.” Chris pushed his hair back. “You know how much you hate it when I get cocky.” Changbin snorted. Chris turned to Han, his smile blinding.
“Well? Did I do a good job protecting you?” Han just blinked at him for a moment. Then it dawned on him. Chris could’ve just sent them away, probably putting Hyunjin in a bad mood. Hyunjin probably would have noticed Han and tried to dig into him. This way, even if Hyunjin did run into Han later, all Han had to do was drop Chris’ name and Hyunjin would leave him alone. And, as Changbin had pointed out, less paperwork. All earlier jealousy Han had felt was thrown out of the window as Chris ruffled his hair.
“Inspector.” Han turned to find Chief Superintendent Ivory beckon to Chris. The smile was instantly wiped from Chris’ face. His rank was never usually used in the station. Everyone was on a first-name basis unless something was wrong. The Superintendent looked grim. “Can I borrow you for a moment?”
“Of course, sir.” Han looked between the two men, an uneasy feeling growing in his stomach. Chris clapped a hand onto his shoulder and nodded to Changbin before striding over to the Superintendent, slipping into his office.
“What do you think that was about?” Changbin had an eyebrow raised. Han thought back to his earlier feeling of unease. Something wasn’t right. He just knew it.
“Have a seat, Chris.” Chris slid into one of the plush chairs at his superior’s desk. Chris began to jiggle his leg, anxious to find out why he’d been called in by himself. Usually Changbin and Han went with him. This was new.
“Everyone else is busy with their own cases. I’ve known you long enough to trust your judgment. And this case…you’re going to need a good team.” Chris watched as his superior ran a hand through his hair. The other man looked pale. Chris felt his heartbeat begin to pick up. “We all know 3Racha is becoming one of the best.” Chris couldn’t help but smile at this. He would be endlessly proud of Han and Changbin, and how far they had come.
“My partners and I can handle it, no matter what.” Chris pushed his shoulders back. He was confident in his team. The older man offered him a pained smile. “Sir – Superintendent Ivory – we can do this.”
“See for yourself.” A manila folder was pushed towards him. Chris didn’t hesitate to flip open the folder. His eyes widened. The pictures were horrific. He hadn’t seen a case this bad in a while. A man was lying prone on the ground, bloodstained and broken. It was nothing Chris hadn’t seen before. But there were odd marks on the victim’s arms and neck. “Rupert Tailor. Thirty-nine. Most average man you could ever hope to meet. Body was discovered last night at eleven, by one of our favourite local boys.” Chris sighed at this. Probably another dealer they had to throw away as they’d given the police useful information. At this rate, the prisons would all be empty. As Chris flipped through to the closeups of the body, he felt his stomach begin to churn as he realised what he was seeing. Bite marks. From human teeth. Chris looked up at Ivory, eyes wide. “He was stabbed. He bled out.” Chris winced at this. “And then…well, I’m sure you can guess what happened next.”
The Superintendent turned his computer screen to Chris, pressing play on a piece of footage. “Unfortunate that a civilian had to witness this in order to get the video.” The video began with camera fixed on the ground, then loud, heavy breathing – probably the witness. Then Chris narrowed his eyes. There was an odd noise in the background. He leaned forward, straining to work out what it was. It was a peculiar noise: a muffled, wet panting, occasionally punctuated by something like lips smacking together. It sounded like someone was eating. He tensed. As the witness drew closer to the sound, Chris recognised the body of the victim instantly. But that wasn’t what was catching attention. A wave of nausea and pure, unadulterated disgust washed over him. A scrawny man, his hair greasy and unkempt, was tearing at the skin on Tailor’s arm. The Superintendent paused the video. “That’s pretty much where it stops.” Chris looked down at the folder again.
“With…all due respect, sir. You don’t really need me for this. You have your guy. You just need to find him. You could get a team of good constables for that, maybe some sergeants.” Wordlessly, the Superintendent motioned for Chris to go through the photos again. Chris sifted through them. It was all bitemarks or knife wounds, or…his eyes narrowed. One of the photos was of a closeup of Tailor’s thigh. It looked like something had been carved into the flesh. For some reason, it seemed…oddly familiar. Chris sat back in his chair and whistled softly.
“It’s…a letter. G, right?” Chris pushed his hair back and bit down on his lip. Just when he’d thought his life was starting to get simple. “I wonder what it means.”
“I don’t know if he’d be coherent enough to have the time or motor function for something like that.” The Superintendent continued. “All of the other wounds are sloppy. There’s no way he would be so clumsy, leaving his DNA everywhere, carelessly getting seen, and then decide he’d have time to do some calligraphy.” Finally, it was beginning to dawn on Chris.
“You think this is part of something bigger.” Chris murmured. “You think our guy is taking the fall for the real rat?”
“If I’m right, he’s no rat.” The Superintendent’s eyes flashed. “He’s a snake.” Chris’ mind was fixed on the image in front of him. He knew that from somewhere. Why did he know it? “Chris, I want you to go back to the crime scene. Go from there. If we find nothing, fine, we got our guy. But this stinks.” Chris nodded. His head was beginning to throb.
“Of course, sir.” He gathered up the photos and the rest of the files, tucking the folder under his arm. Chris swallowed hard. He got to his feet, digging his fingers into the chair to give himself some support. He felt nauseous. “I’ll report to you in a couple of days.” With that, he pretty much rushed out of the door. Chris felt like he was in a trance as he made his way over to his partners. His head felt like it was swimming. Han immediately got to his feet, reaching out to put a hand on Chris’ shoulder.
“Chris?” Usually Chris considered himself quite good at concealing his emotions. This time, though, he was shaken.
“My office.” He muttered. He felt like he was swimming through treacle as he trudged towards his office. Chris waited until his partners were seated before shutting the door behind him. He leaned against the door, taking a deep breath. He wiped cold sweat off his forehead. He knew he was on the verge of a flashback. Mostly, he'd space out for a while. But this one was bad. He hadn't felt this bad in years.
“Chris?” That was Han again. Chris made a strangled noise as he sank to his knees, his vision going black.
A young man, his eyes missing from their sockets, with a ‘G’ carved into his chest. Chris was so scared. So confused. Who could have done this? He started shaking. The stench of blood was thick in the air. He could almost taste it. He heard screaming. Who was screaming? Was he the one screaming? His vision was fading in and out.
“Shh…” A soft voice flowed through his ears as a young boy pulled him into a hug. The boy began to stroke Chris’ hair. But all Chris could think of was the corpse. “It’s alright, I’m here. You’re safe.” Chris finally melted into the embrace, burying his face into the boy’s neck.
Chris woke up Changbin’s ear on his chest and Han’s hands cupping his face. He struggled to sit up, pushing his partners off him. He was breathing hard, his heartbeat loud in his ears.
“You’re alive!” Han seemed to be forcing himself not to give Chris a hug. Changbin gave Chris a look, and Chris knew that the sergeant had sensed that Chris had had another flashback.
“Sorry – I – I was just really tired.” He shook his head, desperately trying to clear it. He blinked rapidly. Was that…a memory? He’d seen the boy in his dreams before. Chris had always just figured that they were dreams, but it would be too great of a coincidence. He felt a chill run down his spine. If this had happened before, then that meant there would be a pattern. And there he was, probably with the all the answers, but they were locked away inside his head. Or worse – gone entirely.
“Chris, what the fuck happened with Ivory?” That was Changbin, snapping him out of his thoughts. Chris felt like his head was about to explode.
“The new case.” He whispered. He picked up the folder, which had fallen to the floor, and thrust it at Changbin. “It…brought up some things.” He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “How much do you know about my amnesia, Hannie?” Han’s eyes widened, and Changbin muttered a string of curses under his breath.
“Are more memories coming back?” Han’s voice was low. Chris nodded, numb. He reached out to gently ruffle Han’s hair.
“Help me up, someone.” In the end, both of them helped him to his feet, and to his desk. When they were all sitting again, Chris buried his head in his hands. “Sometimes…some memories come back. All the dizzy spells I’ve had, or when I’ve had to disappear suddenly – it’s probably because of a flashback. The doctors don’t know if my memories will ever fully come back, but sometimes I get small snippets. They can be triggered by scenery, or smells, or similar events.” He swallowed down a lump in his throat. He shifted uncomfortably, realising how eerily similar the corpse in his memory was to Tailor.
“I’m sorry.” Han murmured, and Chris merely shook his head.
“Usually I just feel out of it. I haven’t passed out like that in maybe…two years?” He shook his head and sighed. “It’s probably because I’m tired.” He knew that Changbin wasn’t buying his excuses one bit. Chris took the folder back from Changbin, opening it and spreading the photos out across their desk. Han was biting down on his bottom lip, while Changbin’s eyes were running over the images slowly, eager to absorb every detail. A soft gasp left Han’s lips. “Meet our new victim. Rupert Tailor.”
“They’ve already got the guy. Video footage. DNA, of course, in the saliva.” Chris told him, and Han just nodded.
“So…we have a lot of evidence to work with.” Han began, sounding confused. “I don’t get what there is for us to solve.”
“It’s all got to do with this, I’m guessing?” Changbin was jabbing a finger at the image of the G carved onto Tailor’s thigh. Han leaned forward, eyes wide.
“Exactly. Ivory doesn’t think it’s quite so cut and dry. Even if it’s a dead-end, he wants it investigated.” There was a pause.
“Chris…are you sure you’re alright?” Han’s voice was small. He seemed a bit overwhelmed by all of the information. Chris knew he was probably having conflicting emotions. Han was torn between caring about Chris, his friend, and getting into detective mode.
“Spit it out.” Changbin’s voice was soft. “I know there’s something else.”
“See that mark, on Tailor’s leg?” Han’s jaw dropped as Chris pointed it out to him. Changbin’s dark eyes had become stormy. “I’ve seen it before.” Changbin’s face went white. Chris didn’t want to admit it, but seeing Changbin’s face, he just couldn’t rid himself of the possibility…
“That was the flashback you had, wasn’t it?” Chris should have anticipated this. Changbin was an expert at picking up on details. Adding to that, he was extremely intelligent. Of course this wasn’t going to slip past the sergeant. “You’re involved in this, somehow.” Changbin ran a hand through his hair. “It can’t be a coincidence. You wake up from a traumatic brain injury with amnesia, unable to remember who attacked you. Then this happens. A bizarre murder with a side order of cannibalism. And you remember something about it.”
“I hate coincidences too, Binnie.” Chris laughed, but it felt hollow. “We need to suit up and go to the crime scene.” He could have breathed a sigh of relief as he felt himself slipping back into his work mode. As Inspector, he was firm, cool, and collected. He could do this. He had to. “Binnie, tell Woojin that we need his constables to do some door-to-door for us. Any other DCs that we can spare. I want to know what happened in every house, every second of the last forty-eight hours before Tailor’s death. We’ll meet you outside.” Changbin nodded, striding towards the door.
“You haven’t heard the last of this, Chris.” He called over his shoulder. “I’m going to worry about you one way or another.” Chris smiled wryly at this. He knew that Woojin would probably aid Changbin in hounding Chris for answers. As soon as Changbin so much as said the word ‘flashback’, Woojin would be on high alert.
“Hannie, with me.” Han didn’t move. He was staring at his hands. “Han, come on.” Chris was impatient to get going, to forget about the mess in his brain for a little while.
“Chris…do you think you’re in danger?” Chris’ heart stopped for a moment. He swallowed hard. He could tell Han the truth – that he was shit scared, and he didn’t know what he was going to find. But he was the Inspector. He was the leader. He had to make sure Han didn’t feel like he was following a broken compass. So he flashed Han a weak smile.
“I don’t know yet. Good thing I have you to protect me.” Han seemed to sense that Chris wouldn’t be broaching the subject anymore and got to his feet.
“What, from Hyunjin?” This made Chris laugh for real.
“I thought he was going to try and eat me alive.” Chris tapped his chin, smirking. “I mean, not that I’d mind.” Han glared at him, giving him a little shove.
“Don’t start,” Han whined. “Now I need to bleach my brain, thanks, Chris.”
“You’re welcome, Hannie.” Chris swung his leather jacket over his shoulder and stepped out into the unknown.
“That’s a lot of blood,” Changbin commented. Chris surveyed the street, whistling softly.
“I hate to say it, but I’d say the poor bloke’s dead.” Han looked at him and rolled his eyes.
“Every time, Chris, really?” Han glared at Changbin, who was giggling. “Don’t encourage him, Binnie.” He watched as his partners high-fived. “I’m the youngest, yet I feel like I’m babysitting. This is the worst.” Han began to survey the ground. Not much was left of the crime scene. The SOCOs had already been and gone. He couldn’t see any obvious security cameras. They were in the backstreets. Here, everyone kept to themselves, and they hated cops. It explained why the street was so quiet. Han crouched down, surveying the area for any obvious entry and exit points the killer could have come from. Their culprit had probably struck with the element of surprise.
“There, Hannie.” That was Changbin, who had realised what he was looking for. Han’s gaze flicked to where Changbin was pointing – a narrow alleyway, obscured by shadows. Han nodded and put his hand on the gun at his waist. He made his way over to the alley, Changbin hot on his heels. Han peered down the alleyway, his eyes narrowed in thought.
“Seems logical he could’ve been hiding here.” Han rubbed his chin in thought.
“Look.” Changbin was kneeling. There was a jacket discarded on the ground. Changbin pulled a pair of gloves out of a packet he kept in his coat. “Might match our guy.” Changbin began rifling through the pockets, his eyes flashing as he pulled out a tattered wallet and a few scraps of paper. Changbin offered Han a pair of gloves. Han hurried to pull them on, taking the scraps paper carefully. His face twisted in confusion.
“Changbin.” He murmured. “We’re on Ale Street, aren’t we?”
“One of the notes says, ‘Ale Street, G, seventy-two degrees.’ What do you think it means?” Han heard Changbin’s sharp intake of breath.
“It means Ivory was right. There’s something more to this than just an attack. Sounds like orders, doesn’t it?” Han swore under his breath and began looking at the other notes.
“Changbin, I think we’re going to have some more victims on our hands.” Changbin jolted to his feet, reading the notes for himself.
“Fuck – Palm Avenue. That’s north.”
“It’s a different letter, too. S. And ten degrees.”
“Maybe it’s to spell something out.” Changbin was nibbling on his bottom lip. “Coordinates, maybe?” Han shrugged.
“Must be a weird map they’re using, then. We’re East, not West. But there’s another one. Tarren Road. P. One hundred and three degrees.” Han ran a hand through his hair desperately trying to figure it out.
“I think we need to call the station, send a team out to these places. Code Red on this guy. We need to get him in before he kills someone else.” Changbin pushed his hair back and sighed.
“Anything in the wallet?” Changbin shook his head and sighed.
“It’s empty.” Han pursed his lips together.
“Couple of stakeouts wouldn’t hurt.” Changbin was nodding at his words.
“If the guy who got Tailor did this, I’d be surprised.” Changbin was pulling his bottom lip back and forth through his teeth. “I mean, we saw the wounds. It was really sloppy. And he got caught on video. Doesn’t scream criminal mastermind to you, does it?”
“We still need to get him, though,” Han muttered. “Whether he’s behind this or just the lackey, he’s still going to hurt more people.
“We’ve got a start, though. I’ll get Chris to –” Changbin was looking around, brows drawn together in confusion. “Wait – where the fuck is Chris?” Changbin looked around. Han felt a chill run down his spine. Changbin looked worried. If Changbin was concerned, Han knew that he should be scared. “It isn’t like him to go off without telling us.” Changbin’s eyes were narrowed. “Usually it’s us chasing after you.” Changbin attempted a smile. The joke fell flat as the tension in the air began to rise further. “Han, go and look for him while I call this in.” Han was already moving by the time Changbin finished his sentence. If Chris was in danger and got hurt, Han didn’t know what he’d do with himself.
Chris had watched Han and Changbin make their way over to the alleyway and had decided to look around as well. He wanted to know where their perp had made his escape. It had to be somewhere that was discrete, while still leading back to the city centre. He could’ve been anywhere by now. Chris dug his hands into his pockets, striding over to a storm drain. He couldn’t help but smile. Easy. Of course he would’ve escaped underground. Now all Chris had to do was to find a manhole cover that had been displaced. There were several alleys and lanes that branched off of Ale Street, none of them really big enough to warrant a manhole cover. Chris rolled his shoulders, trying to rid himself of some of the tension. It wouldn’t hurt to use some cadaver dogs. That way they could find where the killer had surfaced from the underground. But there was a chance that he was still lurking underground.
That was when Chris saw a shadow flash by in his periphery. He whirled around. All he could see were Changbin and Han, still investigating the alley. Chris bit down on his lip, taking one last look at them before hurrying down the closest street. He stuck to the walls, trying to keep his breathing shallow and soft. He surveyed the street. He’d seen something – someone. It was probably just a kid or something, hiding from the police like they’d been taught, but he felt uneasy. Chris kept his back to the wall as he rounded the corner, coming face to face with another man. Chris’ eyes widened and he flinched back. The man in front of him was dressed from head to toe in black. He was wearing a leather harness, which was lined with knife sheaths. The man’s face was hidden by a hood. Chris fumbled in his pocket for his badge.
“Police.” Chris began. “Who –” The stranger rushed forwards before Chris had enough time to even blink, slamming his back into the wall. Chris’ gaze locked with a pair of angry brown eyes. He felt a strange flicker of recognition and his brows drew together in confusion. The man was slim, but lean, and quite strong. Chris struggled for breath as an arm was dug into his windpipe. He struggled back against his attacker, gripping the man’s bicep to shove him away. Then a knife pricked against his stomach and he froze, realising it would be useless to move. He managed to painstakingly turn his head towards his attacker’s face. There were those brown eyes again. They were cold but, strangely, he didn’t feel afraid. Suddenly the eyes widened and began to travel over his face. Chris hardly dared to breathe.
"Chan." The whisper fell from the stranger's lips, and he shoved the hood off his head. He had a youthful face that was unblemished, save for two long scars beginning at his chin and running down his neck. He had a gash on his left cheekbone. Chris had a strange urge to gently run his finger over the other’s man cheek. "Channie." The young man repeated, as if he was praying. He looked like he was in shock. He removed his arm from Chris’ neck, instead cupping his jaw, his fingers gently ghosting over Chris’ face. Chris’ eyes travelled over the stranger’s face. He was stunning. Chris was awestruck. Then the knife clattered to the ground, breaking the spell. Chris’ eyes widened as he realised how close he’d been to being fatally stabbed. He knew better than to move – he’d seen the array of knives that the stranger had strapped to his harness. Chris barely dared to breathe, his jaw almost creaking from the amount of force he was putting into keep it shut. Finally, the other man paused. "Chan?" Questioning, this time. "It's me, Minho." The words were a hushed whisper, and Chris was hit by another wave of confusion.
"I-I'm sorry." He swallowed, feeling a stab of guilt as he saw how affronted his new acquaintance looked. "I don't know who either of those people are." The stranger – Minho, Chris noted – froze.
"What do you mean?" The soft brown eyes that had just been filled with so much relief and joy had frozen over, becoming cold again. "Are you not Bang Chan?" There was now stormy anger in those once-warm depths, and Chris fought the urge to cower. He lifted his chin and pulled himself up to his full height. Minho was looking at him expectantly, and he was scowling, clearly unimpressed. "Well?!" Minho demanded, eyes flashing.
"My name is Chris." The detective offered, dropping his gaze from Minho’s.
"You look just like him – older, but that's expected, he'd have changed over time." Minho was mumbling to himself, but Chris froze.
"Wait – are you looking for him? This – this Chan?" Another pang of recognition at the name. For some reason his stomach was sinking. Minho nodded, tapping his fingers against the wall. "Gone?" Chris’ voice sounded hollow to his own ears. Minho nodded again, clearly growing impatient. "For how long?" Chris was on autopilot. He didn't know how to react. It couldn't be. There was no way someone was looking for him now. But he felt hope treacherously rise within him. Minho was looking at him like he'd gone mad. "How long?" Chris repeated, stronger this time.
"For thirteen years." Minho intoned, and Chris felt all the blood drain from his face. He gripped the wall behind him for support. "Why does it matter?" Minho seemed to be out of patience. He raised an eyebrow. "Are you alright?" His voice was without compassion, but he sounded curious. Chris remembered the newcomer's fingers gently brushing his skin. It made him wonder how much this Chan man meant to Minho. But thirteen years...it was too close for comfort. Chris had arrived in London with no name, no past, nothing. He’d arrived with a woman that he’d been told was his mother. He’d been told his name was Chris, and that he’d suffered a horrific accident. Over time, Chris had regained some memories of his childhood, but they were muted. He just remembered living in Australia with his mother, and even that was fuzzy.
But he vaguely remembered another place. Sometimes he remembered faces, and voices, but never anything concrete. No one knew of him. His mother kept claiming that she’d lost his birth certificate, and she always seemed to be in the process of getting him documents of identification. Getting his driver’s license had been a nightmare. Going into training had been even worse. As far as Chris knew, he was a nobody. He’d tried looking for himself in databases, even trying to reach out to other countries to see if they had any evidence of him. Nothing. But Minho recognised him. That was too great of a coincidence to be pure chance.
"I arrived here thirteen years again." Chris’ throat was dry. Minho’s eyes widened at his words. "No memories to speak of, not even a name..." He felt a wave of dizziness wash over him so he reached out and clutched Minho’s shoulder. "All I remember is waking up and thinking that I was going to die. I thought I'd already died. And then…nothing." Chris felt as if he was going to pass out. The ice in Minho's eyes melted and he stepped closer, offering support. Once more there was that gentle expression on his face. Chris just couldn't figure him out.
"Do you recognise me?" Minho murmured, and Chris raked his eyes over Minho’s face, trying to remember something – anything. But all he got was just the sense that somehow he knew the other man.
"I feel like I know you, but that's all." The bitter disappointment that flashed over Minho's face made Chris’ heart twist.
"Show me your shoulder. Your left one." Minho demanded. Chris took a step back, his back hitting the wall behind him. Minho clicked his tongue in annoyance. "I need to see, I want to know." But he didn't offer any further information. Chris felt his heart begin to hammer in his chest as he realised what Minho might have been hoping to see. Chris slowly undid the top buttons on his shirt, tugging the fabric away to reveal a faded, silver scar on his right shoulder. "Yes." Minho breathed, and with the same gentle movements as before, brushed his fingers against the scar. "It is you." Minho's voice rose in excitement. "Channie, I can't believe I found you! After all this time, I –" But he froze as he saw the bemused expression on Chris' face. Suddenly Minho's face became unreadable. "I forgot." He spat, stepping away from Chris. "You don't...remember."
"Who is Bang Chan?" Chris breathed. "Please, Minho, tell me." He was begging now, but he couldn't care less. "Minho, I don't know anything of who I was, I need –"
"You're from Korea. From Seoul." Chris’ eyes widened. "And you are your father's heir." At this, Minho’s expression became unreadable.
"Heir to what?" Chris couldn’t help but laugh. This was so utterly ridiculous. He’d come from nothing, as far as he was concerned. Then a stranger shows up, telling him he’s the son of some famous man. Great. He didn’t know how he was going to explain this one to Han and Changbin.
"Everything.” Minho’s eyes flashed, the laughter died in Chris’ throat. “He as good as owns Seoul. He runs it like a king." Minho touched the scars on his chin, and his mouth twisted. "We can only hope that I don't get pulled up on that one." Chris’ eyes widened in horror, and his stomach dropped.
"You’re saying that my – my father –" He nearly choked on the word. "He did that to you?" Minho looked confused for a moment. Then he shook his head, and his expression became impassive.
"I forgot that you know nothing." Minho ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "How do you think you got those scars on your neck?" Chris’ hands flew to his neck.
"My...father." He repeated, tugging off his scarf and running his fingers along the plethora of scars on his throat. "I..." When he'd tried to picture what his biological father was like, he had never even considered someone like Minho was describing. Someone who sounded cruel and downright sadistic. He felt like he was suffocating.
"You're different." Minho remarked, and Chris noticed that his voice had lost the gentle touch from before. He sounded suspicious. "Chan...Chan would just accept it. Or be angry. But you –"
"I'm not Chan anymore." Chris spat, suddenly frustrated. He tangled his fingers in his hair and shoved past Minho. He needed air, he needed to breathe, he – "I told you, I can't – I can't remember, I can't." His throat constricted. "I can't, I can't, I can't!" He'd thought the scars had come from whoever had assaulted him, rendering him with amnesia. But to think they had come from his own father – Chris moaned as a headache began to build up behind his eyes. He fell to his knees, pressing his hands against his temples. He dimly heard Minho shouting something at him, but he felt like he was drowning. His vision darkened.
"I value obedience, my son, you of all people should know that." The voice was cold, and yet so familiar. He was peering up at a man with eyes that were eerily like his own.
Excruciating pain ripped through his neck and his hands flew to his throat, his nails clawing at his skin –
"Channie!" That was Minho's voice, ripping through the memory. Suddenly he found himself sitting against the wall, Minho pinning his arms to his sides. "Channie, I'm sorry." Minho's eyes were wide. The nickname felt so familiar, coming from Minho’s lips, and it scared Chris how he simply couldn’t remember.
"I – remembered something." Chris choked out, and Minho's grip tightened. "I saw – him. My father." His voice was shaking and his breath was loud and harsh. Minho clenched his jaw.
"I'm sorry." Minho repeated. "Chan, you need to breathe with me." Chris nodded jerkily, trying to get a grip on himself. He didn't have the heart to tell Minho to call him Chris. "Breathe in." Minho inhaled deeply, and Chris tried to copy him. "Out." Chris’ breath shuddered. "Again." Minho ordered, and Chris found himself obeying. Eventually his breathing evened out. "That's it, Chan." Minho soothed, gently running his fingers through Chris’ hair. Chris turned his face away.
"I'm sorry." He choked out, and Minho tensed. "I'm not – who you want me to be. I'm not your Chan. I'm just Chris." Chris hung his head, and Minho bit down on his lip.
"I should have expected this." His voice was soft. "Thirteen years ago –" Minho released his arms, but didn't move away. "We were attacked." Chris’ head snapped up. Minho’s face was twisted in pain. "They went straight for you, they knew who you were. They used their fists on me, but started using their weapons on you." Chris closed his eyes, feeling a wave of nausea wash over him. He could see it in his mind's eye. Two teenagers, desperately trying to fight off a group of cruel and faceless attackers. Cries of pain, blood splattering the ground, a thud as they were kicked to the ground. "I tried to stop them, but I –" Minho inhaled deeply, his voice beginning to tremble with rage. "I was too weak. I passed out, and when I woke up, you were gone." The blatant self-hatred that permeated Minho’s voice twisted Chris’ stomach. "If anyone is sorry, it should be me. I hadn't even anticipated that you would be different, even though it’s been so long. I pushed too hard." Minho’s voice was soft. “I just can’t believe that I found you.” Chris opened his eyes then. Minho was looking at him with a mixture of awe and disbelief and something bordering on adoration. Chris reached up and gripped Minho's shoulder.
"It's crazy." He agreed. This was a lot to take in at once. "There was no record of me at all, here. I'd always tried to imagine what my family was like, what my life was like before." Chris nodded in understanding. "But why now?" Minho remained silent, and Chris persisted. "Why did you only come here now?"
"Your father has need of you.” Minho’s voice was a monotone. Suddenly, it began to dawn on Chris that he was a probably someone’s pawn in some twisted game of chess. "He sent me here." This was news to Chris. Spies, here? His skin prickled uncomfortably. He thought of the man he'd seen in that flash of a memory watching his life play out on a screen. He knew if he continued to delve into this, he could get in over his head. Minho was watching him with a gentle expression on his face. Chris felt his stomach twist.
He knew why Minho’s eyes had seemed familiar. He thought about his earlier flashback. The young boy that had comforted him had the same eyes as Minho. Chris breath caught in his throat as all of the other flashbacks he’d had fell onto him like a stack of bricks. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen the boy in his memories. Most of the time, the boy had been there with him. Sometimes, the memories had been nice – he’d been laughing with the young boy, or they’d been smiling at each other. Other times, the memories had been dark. But whenever Chris had felt terror in those memories, the boy had been there, holding his hand or hugging him. As Chris searched Minho’s eyes, he had no doubt in his mind that the boy and Minho were one and the same. His heart hurt. Chris had always thought that the boy had been like a guardian angel. And now he was standing right in front of him.
"Minho," Chris murmured. "Were we...friends?" Minho froze, and dropped his gaze.
"Yes." He answered tersely. "You could say that." Chris’ eyes widened at this news. There was a lot he could glean from that single piece of information. He thought over the earlier titbits of information. As Chan, it sounded like he had kept to himself, isolating himself from the world. He sounded cold, someone who had a strong distrust of the world and people around him, probably because of his father. Yet somehow, he'd formed a bond with the enigmatic Minho. A friendship strong enough that, even more than a decade later, Minho still looked at Chris as if he was someone precious to him. Now Minho was here, far from home, because of him. Chris knew without a doubt that Minho hadn't just come because he'd been ordered to. He wondered how long Minho had been here, keeping watch on him. His eyes widened. Minho might know about Tailor’s death. His heart leapt with excitement.
"Minho, do you know anything about –" But he was cut off by a roar coming down the street.
"CHRIS!" Han yelled, and footsteps pounded towards them. Minho jerked away from Chris and within moments he had knives in both hands. He stood protectively over Chris, muscles bunched, looking like he could strike at any moment. "Drop your weapons." Han demanded, eyes blazing. Chris was stunned. Han wasn’t a stranger to combat – Chris had seen Han hold his own when some confrontations had gone awry. He’d promised Chris he’d be well-armed today, promised he would be able to take care of himself. It had put Chris at ease earlier, but now he was on edge. Han was easily controlled by his emotions, which became dangerous when his friends and weapons were involved. He couldn’t remember ever seeing Han so…scary, if he was being honest. Usually Changbin was the intimidating one. Chris sometimes lost his temper if it was a sensitive case, and the culprits were scum. Chris had seen Han when he was upset, or mad, but he had never been like this. Chris hadn’t known that his constable was capable of such extreme anger. Minho bared his teeth, scowling at Han. Han lunged at him, wielding his metal baton, but Minho ducked under his arm. Minho rammed his elbow into Han’s abdomen, using the distraction to push Chris further behind him.
"Minho –" Chris began, but Minho barely spared him a glance. Han was desperately whispering into his walkie. Finally, Minho glanced over his shoulder, shooting Chris a tiny smile.
"I'm protecting you." Minho murmured. Chris clenched his jaw. "Those are my orders." Chris nodded in understanding. Han was watching the two of them, his hands curling into fists.
“Chris, what the fuck is going on?” Han was breathing hard. Chris could tell that his friend was holding himself back. The other detective was quivering, his hands white.
“I could ask the same.” Minho intoned, shifting closer to Chris.
"Minho, Han is my friend." That did nothing. Minho didn't move. "He works with me. He thinks you're going to kill me. I'm in no danger, I promise." The anger had melted from Han’s expression during the exchange and now he simply looked confused. "I'm okay, Hannie. Minho isn't a threat." Chris looked around Minho and offered his friend a reassuring smile.
"You know him?" Han shot him a quizzical look.
"Let's just call it a…reunion of sorts." Chris told him. Chris carefully put a hand onto Minho’s shoulder. The other man froze. Chris held his breath. It seemed like hours passed before Minho finally relaxed. That was when Han made the mistake of shoving Minho to the side, reaching out to Chris. Minho reacted within seconds, crouching down and sweeping Han’s legs out from under him. Han hit the ground with a thud and a grunt of pain. He rolled onto his side and glared at Minho.
"Oh, fuck no." Han growled, shoving himself to his feet. He brandished his baton threateningly. Minho cocked his head to one side and smirked. Chris felt his stomach clench. Han wanted to injure Minho, sure, but just enough to temporarily incapacitate him. Minho, meanwhile, was following the orders of someone who hadn’t shied from torturing his own son. Chris knew that Minho would have been ordered to kill anyone who posed a threat to him. Han stumbled to his feet, panting. He began lunging at Minho, but the older man was faster, easily avoiding the baton whistling through the air. Eventually Han would tire, and that was when Minho would strike. It sent a chill down Chris’ spine. They were face to face with a trained killer. Someone who would not hesitate to take a life.
“Minho, stop.” Chris begged. Minho froze, but only for a second. “Minho, stop, you’re going to hurt him!” He reached forward, trying to grab a hold on Minho’s arm, but Minho shook him off.
“Worry about yourself, Chris!” Han was holding his side, wheezing.
"Chan." Minho warned as he spun and send his foot right into Han’s side. "Stay out of this." Han grunted in pain and adjusted his grip on his weapon.
"He's not a threat." Chris promised, but he knew it was falling on deaf ears. "Han, drop your weapon!" Han glanced over at him, looking at him like he was insane.
"No! Chris, he’s trying to kill you."
"No, he won't." Chris pleaded, desperate for the fight to be over. Han’s gaze met Chris’ briefly, but the distraction earned him Minho's foot slamming into the back of his knee. He cried out in pain as he fell to the ground. Minho’s knives glinted in the air, and fear raced through Chris’ body. He had to stop it – he had to, but how?
"I value obedience, my son."
The words cut through his mind like a knife through warm butter, and he shuddered. Chris remembered Minho touching the scars at his chin. He thought about the scars on his neck. They were the cruel reminders of what happened if his father was faced with disobedience. Chris knew he would hate himself for it, but right now he could think of no other way.
"He can’t hurt you.” Chris muttered. “Not if I order him to.” Chris took a deep breath, hating himself for what he was about to do. It was so underhanded. But he didn’t know any other way to save Han. “Minho!" He barked. Chris watched as Minho stiffened, his arm raised. "I – I order you to stand down!" Silence. You could have heard a pin drop. Minho looked over at him slowly, eyes filled with shock.
"Chan." He murmured, mostly to himself. He stepped away from Han and sheathed his knives. He stepped around Han and knelt on the ground before Chris. Minho turned his head to the side, and the scars on his neck seemed to mock Chris, whose stomach was churning. "I apologise for my disobedience." Minho’s voice sounded lifeless. "I live to serve." It sounded like a chant, something rehearsed. A chill ran down Chris’ spine. He felt sick. There was no denying it. His past was catching up with him, and suddenly he didn't know if he wanted to regain his memories anymore. "I live to serve." Minho repeated, still on the ground. Chris watched in horror as Minho retrieved one of his knives and offered it to him. When Chris didn't take the knife, Minho dropped it at his feet.
"Stop it!" He ordered, and Minho froze again. Chris felt nauseous. "Put the knife away – that's an order, Minho." To his surprise, Minho was silent as he sheathed the blade once more. Minho looked up at him, his eyes wide, full of confusion and a hint of fear. In that moment, Chris pitied him, but he quickly he shook it away. Somehow, he suspected that Minho hated pity. "I didn’t know how else to stop you.” Chris whispered, his eyes flitting over to Han. He wanted so badly to go and comfort his constable, but he had to make sure that Minho wouldn’t attack anyone else.
"You are remembering." Minho remarked, and Chris shrugged. "Even if you don't fully, your subconscious does." He explained, and Chris realised he was right. The order had come too easily to him. The stance he'd just held had somehow felt natural. It was like his body already knew what to do, even if his mind wasn't fully aware. Chris offered Minho a hand up. Minho just stared for a second in disbelief before grabbing Chris’ hand, letting Chris pull him to his feet. Minho held his gaze with an intensity that made Chris want to look away. Something was niggling at the back of his mind. He felt as though he'd been in this situation before.
"Minho –" He began, but that was when Han got to his feet. Minho's face, which had been calm, twisted into a scowl.
"What's going on?" Han demanded, looking between Chris and Minho, desperately trying to understand. "Chris, get away from him. You saw him, he's dangerous." Minho scoffed at this.
"He is in my care." Minho retorted, lifting his chin. "At the moment, you are the dangerous one." Chris caught Han’s eye. His constable looked hurt, and not just because Minho had kicked him in the solar plexus.
“When were you going to tell me all of this?” Han asked softly, and Chris clenched his hands into fists.
"I just met him." Han raised an eyebrow. “I swear, Han. But he knows me. He knows who I am." Han’s eyes widened, before he scowled.
"You've made a new life here. Isn't that enough?" Chris felt his chest tighten.
"That isn't for you to decide." Minho cut in, and Han rolled his eyes. Han turned around, murmuring into his walkie again. Chris squeezed Minho’s shoulder, before making his way over to Han’s side. But he stopped in his tracks, blood running cold when he heard Han’s words.
"You're going to wanna see this. I think we can get him in." Chris felt uneasy. Han finally turned back to him, and gave him an easy smile, like everything was normal. He glanced over at Minho and smirked. "You're going to regret hitting me." Minho glanced over at Chris, as if asking him what he should do. Chris bit his lip and twitched one of his shoulders in the tiniest of shrugs. Minho's eyebrows rose slightly, and in seconds, he was by Chris’ side. It was weird how easily they communicated, like...Chris swallowed nervously. Like they knew each other well.
“You alright?” He murmured. Minho shrugged, his eyes tracking Han’s movements. Chris found himself glancing over at Minho again, wondering what Minho was like under the façade. He already knew that Minho had a gentle side to him. But then there was the way he'd shown no hesitation when fighting with Han. He'd been prepared to kill. His instincts screamed to trust Minho, but he was beginning to suspect it was because his subconscious recognised the other man. A lot could happen in thirteen years – he knew that all too well. He didn't know how much Minho had changed from the person he'd known. The Minho his subconscious trusted probably wasn’t the one that stood beside him right now. More footsteps echoed down the street, and Minho shifted on his feet.
"Changbin?" He asked, eyes wide. The sergeant barely glanced at him before turning his gaze to Han. Seeming satisfied that Han was at least standing, Changbin turned the full force of his furious gaze to Chris.
"Right now, it’s sergeant.” Changbin growled. Chris winced at the cold tone. That meant that he was in big trouble. “Han, cuff him." Changbin muttered, and Han began reaching for the handcuffs on his belt.
"You can't arrest him, he's done nothing wrong." Chris demanded, throwing his arm in front of Minho.
"He assaulted an officer of the law." Han offered, sounding smug.
"He was protecting me." Chris shot back, and he saw Han pause. Spurred on, he put his hand on Minho’s shoulder, fixing Changbin’s gaze with his own. "I can vouch for him." Changbin’s jaw clenched. It was always Changbin and Chris that butted heads. Chris bit down on his lip, hoping that Changbin could see how desperate he was. Finally, Changbin seemed to relent. Han’s face was an icy mask.
"Fine." Changbin’s voice was cold. “Maybe we’ll worry about that charge later.” He strode towards them, scowling. Changbin locked eyes with Minho, who bristled. "You’re under arrest for the murder of Rupert Tailor." Chris felt his heart skip a beat – and not in a good way. "Anything you do or say can and will be held against you in a court of law." Changbin continued, and Chris turned to Minho, eyes wide.
"What did you do?!" He demanded. But Minho looked just as confused as he did.
"Nothing." Seeing that Chris didn't believe him, he ground his teeth together. "I swear on your life, I did not kill him." Chris clenched his jaw, knowing that meant that Minho was serious. "Don't touch me." Minho snarled as Han reached for his wrist.
"You are under arrest for murder. I’d suggest being compliant." Changbin reminded him. Minho looked over at the detective sergeant. He pressed his lips together so that they formed a thin, hard line, resigning himself to his fate. Minho pressed his wrists together and offered them to Chris. Han reached for him again.
“He doesn’t match the description.” Chris winced as a note of pleading entered his voice. “Changbin –”
“Save it, Chris.” Changbin snapped, motioning to Han to continue with the arrest.
"Don't let him touch me." Minho spoke through gritted teeth. “You do it, Chan.” Chris’ heart felt heavy as he took the handcuffs from Han and began to snap them around Minho's wrists. Minho turned to Changbin. "I did not kill them." But Changbin had already turned away. Minho jerked back around to Chris. "I didn't kill them, Channie." All Chris could do was hang his head as Han took Minho away.
“I can’t fucking believe you!” Changbin slammed his hands down on the desk. “We’re meant to be a team, Chris! You’re meant to be the senior officer, our leader, and then you let Han get hurt! What the fuck were you thinking? You should have at least tasered the bastard.” Chris inhaled deeply, unable to meet Changbin’s eyes. “What would you have done if he’d seriously injured a constable, under your watch?” Chris looked up at this. Changbin’s eyes were burning. “You’d be off the case, probably put on probation. I need you on the case, Chris! We can’t do this without you.” That hit Chris like a ton of bricks. He chanced a glance at Han, who was holding an ice pack to his cheek. “Sort your shit out, or Han and me will do this without you.” Changbin stalked out, slamming the door to Chris’ office behind him. Chris looked over at Han, who was oddly silent.
“Don’t wanna hear it.” Han was clenching his jaw, even though it must have hurt. “Do I really mean that little to you?” Han’s voice had become surprisingly small. Chris’ heart ached when he thought about it from Han’s perspective. Han had rushed in, throwing caution to the winds, willing to put his safety – if not his life – on the line for Chris. Then Chris had dismissed him for a stranger, who had started attacking him, and Chris hadn’t raised a finger to help. Chris felt about two feet tall as he realised the gravity of his actions.
“I’m really sorry.” He murmured. “It’s just…I recognised him.” Han just watched him, impassive. “He knew me – who I was, what my name was…and he works for my father.” Han’s eyes widened.
“But you don’t know your dad is.” Han winced, readjusting his ice pack.
“Apparently he’s a gang leader in Seoul.” Chris began to realise how mad this all sounded. “Minho works for him. He’s under orders to protect me. Apparently, we were good friends. He thought you were a threat, Hannie.”
“But what about me, Chris?” Han sounded tired. “You don’t know the guy, or if he’s even legit in the first place.” Chris opened his mouth to offer a rebuttal, but Han just raised an eyebrow. Chris’ mouth snapped shut with a click. “We’ve been partners for…what, five years?” Han shook his head, his lip curling. “Do I matter to you at all?” A note of pleading offered Han’s voice. Chris’ heart ached. He pulled Han into his arms, clinging onto him tight. Han buried his head into Chris’ neck, his arms by his side. Only then did Chris realise how truly selfish he had been.
“You must have been so scared.” Chris whispered, carding his hand through Han’s hair. “You did well, protecting me like that. It was pretty stupid, though.”
“Don’t scold me when you were just as stupid.” Han chuckled wetly, and Chris squeezed him tighter.
“Han, of course you mean a lot to me. You’re my constable, after all. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Chan bit down on his lip. “I just got caught up in my head.” Chris ran a hand through his hair and laughed bitterly. “I was so preachy about not caring about my past before. Then the second I get some tiny crust I become completely useless. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.” Chris stepped back, but Han grabbed onto his jacket.
“I don’t regret jumping in to help.” Han murmured. “You know I’d do anything for you, Chris.” Chris bit down on his tongue, running his hand through his hair. Han was looking at him with wide, hopeful eyes.
“Don’t put yourself in danger on my account.” Chris stepped back again, not missing the disappointment that flashed over Han’s face. “I think we should interview Minho first. I think this is a waste of time, but whatever.”
“One lead is better than none.” Han was shifting back and forth on his feet.
“But we could be out there trying to get the real culprit.” Han looked away from him at this, and Chris reached out to squeeze his shoulder. “I will talk to him about attacking you. No one beats up my constable and gets away with it.” Han still didn’t answer, and Chris sighed. “I’m sorry, Jisungie.” He knew that would soften Han, if nothing else. Chris was the only one who called him Jisung, let alone Jisungie. “I…I just don’t know what’s going on inside my head.” Chris knew he wouldn’t be able to admit that to anyone else other than Changbin. If anyone else heard it, he risked being thrown off of the case. Chris had always felt uncomfortable discussing his past, mostly because he simply didn’t know anything. He didn’t want pity, or awkward silence. He was worried that Changbin and Han would look at him differently. Chris nibbled on his bottom lip.
“Just remember you’ve got us.” Han reached out, rubbing his hand over Chris’ shoulder. “Don’t go all lone wolf on us.” Chris chuckled at this.
“Please, can you imagine the disaster if you two left me alone? I’d give the station about a week before it burns down.”
“My bet is three days.” Han sniggered. Chris ruffled his hair.
“Jisungie, I mean it. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Han turned away, and Chris couldn’t see his expression. “Alright, I got it, time to shut up.” He slung an arm over Han’s shoulders. The two detectives made their way to the holding cells, were Changbin was brooding. The sergeant was pacing back and forth, Tailor’s file in his hands. He scowled at Chris, but smiled at Han. Ouch. Chris knew that Changbin wasn’t forgetting anytime soon, even if Han did.
“You’re not talking to him.” Changbin told Chris, whose face fell.
“Nope.” Changbin turned to Han, and his expression softened again. “How’re you holding up?” Chris watched as Han shrugged.
“Better. If Chris isn’t going to talk to him, then, can I? I wanna give him a piece of my mind.” Changbin shrugged at this.
“Sure. Mind if I babysit Chris for a while, then?" Chris sighed, resigning himself to his fate. "There's some new footage we need to go and look over." Changbin explained, and Chris nodded. It made sense. Changbin probably could have done it by himself, but he knew it was his punishment.
“I don’t need babysitting, unlike our inspector.” Han cut in. Chris whined at this, and Han laughed. Han reached up and petted Chris’ hair, cooing at him. “Aww, is Chris sad he can’t interrogate his boyfriend?” The last few words had a sharp undertone to them, and Han sounded bitter. Chris felt himself flush.
“Oh come on, Hannie.” Chris shoved him. “Besides, shouldn’t one of us be with you?”
“He’s the one that got hurt by your friend, so I think Han has the right to do a number on him.” Changbin paused. “Verbally, at least.” Chris rolled his eyes.
“Fine. You win.” Chris turned to Han, quickly noticing the way Han’s jaw was clenched. “You’ll be fine, Jisungie. And we’re just out here if you need us.”
“I can do this by myself, dickhead.” Han sighed and held his hand out for Tailor’s file. “Watch me.”
Han stepped into the interrogation room, trying to inconspicuously take deep breaths. Usually he had Chris or Changbin with him. Usually they led the interrogations. What if he fucked up? What if he asked leading questions? What if he got so pissed off that he punched Minho, and then got thrown out? As soon as the door closed behind him, Minho’s head snapped up. He had a soft smile on his face for a moment. But the moment he saw Han, his expression did a complete one eighty and he was glaring at Han with venom. Han couldn’t help but feel whiplash. He also couldn’t help but bristle, realising that Minho had been waiting for Chris with that expression. Han knew that was how he himself looked at Chris. He thought back to how Chris had told Han that Minho had known him. The hope on Chris’ face had made Han’s stomach twist. It was obvious to him, after seeing Minho’s expression, how close Chris and Minho must have been. Han couldn’t help but sigh. Chris had always been a magnet for potential partners, but this time it seemed that the universe just wanted to fuck Han over. First Hyunjin, and now this guy, who was not only a jerk, but fatally attractive.
“You.” Minho hissed. “I don’t want to talk to you.” Han just rolled his eyes, throwing himself into his chair and slapping Tailor’s file onto the table.
“Yeah, me. Whatever.” Han pointed to his bruised cheek, scowling. “Thanks, man. Really appreciate it.” Han crossed his arms over his chest. “I don’t want to talk to you either, buddy, but at the moment I can hold you here as long as you like. Or send you to jail.” Minho froze for a moment. Then he leaned back in his chair, smiling.
“Chan will get me out.” Minho sounded so confident. It made Han want to slap the smugness off his face.
“His name is Chris, and actually, he listens to me.” Minho scowled at that. “I’m his constable, and you only just showed up. Who do you think he’s going to believe?”
“Wait until his memories come back.” Minho smirked. It seemed that Han’s fears had been confirmed. Fuck, what if Minho and Chris had actually been dating? What if Chris remembered everything and decided to ditch 3Racha for Minho? Han forced himself to take a deep breath. He was getting ahead of himself. He had to stop thinking about Chris and start doing his job.
“He doesn’t need to have his memories back to know who he should trust.” Han bit out through gritted teeth. “Point is, he’s going to be on my side.”
“What makes you so sure?” Han faltered at this. He couldn’t think of a good comeback. “I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings by divulging the truth to you. You’d think he’d pick up on your feelings by now, wouldn’t you?” Han’s breath caught in his throat. His eyes were wide.
“Oh, fuck off.” But his voice cracked. He hadn’t been that obvious, surely? What did Minho know, anyway? “This is the way you’re going to defend yourself? You sound like a child.”
“Says the detective who rushed into a fight like it was a pub brawl. My guess is you don’t do that for everyone.” Han bristled at this. Minho had hit the nail on the head, and Han hated it.
“Shut your mouth.” Han hated how easily Minho could see through him.
“Where did your manners go, constable?” Han knew he couldn’t let Minho continue to get under his skin. He knew that Minho’s plan was simply to needle him until he got angry, and then Chris would swoop in to break them up. “That isn’t how you should treat your guests.”
“Why are you here, Lee?” Han pointedly ignored him. “I’m guessing it wasn’t for a vacation.”
“I’m here for Chan.”
“Chris.” Han shot back. “His name is Chris.” He didn’t know why it was annoying him so much. Maybe it was because Chris was his, and Chan was Minho’s. Han didn’t want to give Chris up to a criminal. “Who sent you?”
“My…employer.” In seconds, Minho’s voice had become diplomatic, soft and smooth. Han tried to ignore how nice Minho’s voice sounded. Minho stared at him for a moment, before rolling his eyes. “Fine. I’ll cut the bullshit. Chan is my friend, and my employer’s son. He is in danger. I’ve been sent to protect him.” Han couldn’t believe that he’d actually gotten something out of Minho. He wanted to pat himself on the back. He’d stood up to Minho, and now it was working. He was proud of himself.
“Who is your employer?” Han began scribbling onto his notepad.
“I already told you.” Han looked up to see Minho smirking at him again. Han’s breath caught in his throat again. While Hyunjin’s smirk, attractive as it was, made Han want to punch him, seeing Minho’s made Han feel…ten kind of ways. Han couldn’t allow himself to think about Chris’ smirk, or he’d get off track again. “What do I need to do to make you listen, detective?” Han realised with a pang that this was just another way for Minho to slither past his defences. Han shuddered as he realised Minho had almost made his way into Han’s mind.
“Okay, so you’re working for Chris’ dad. Why does he need protecting now?” Han tried to watch Minho’s face for a crack in his expression, a flicker of emotion, anything. But Minho was impassive.
“I only just found out he was alive a couple months ago.” Han’s eyes widened. “I know about Tailor’s murder.” Han swallowed hard.
“I didn’t kill him, if that was your first thought.” Minho scoffed. “I would never be caught for murder.” He sounded so confident, making Han feel uneasy all over again. “Our informants – or spies, you may call them –” Han choked on his spit.
“Spies?” He choked out. Surely Minho was bluffing. He had to be. What would a foreign power want with infiltrating CID? Sure, government, that made sense. But what power came with CID? Most of the senior officers were under some government official’s thumb anyway. What was the point? But still, the thought of working next to a mole made Han’s skin tingle. He had no one who came to mind. What if that just meant that the spies were good at their jobs?
“Yes. Keep up. They caught wind of some strange patterns developing about six months ago. I was just waiting for the first murder to happen.” Han’s eyes widened as he remembered that Chris had seen this before. Minho saw his expression and nodded. “We knew what to expect because this has happened before. Thirteen years ago.” Minho’s eyes darkened.
“When Chris got amnesia.” Han murmured. Minho smiled, but it was bitter.
“Well done.” Minho sighed, and looked away. “There will be seven murders. Six of them, Chris will know about, in some way, shape, or form, because they’ll want him to know. All of the victims will be found with a letter with them or on them. All the victims will seem random but have something in common.” Minho bit down on his bottom lip. “We still don’t know what exactly it was, but they were all connected. And six months before the murders start, a series of high-ranking officials will retire early, go missing, or die.” Han’s jaw dropped. Between a suicide and a car accident, a cheating scandal and an unexpected early retirement, four government officials had disappeared within a month. It had just seemed like bad luck. But now…Han was beginning to feel light-headed. “Time to pay attention to the news, detective. Anything can be a pattern.” Han’s heartbeat stuttered a few times. “This has happened twice before.” Minho dragged his teeth along his bottom lip. “They’ve never succeeded in killing seven people.” Minho stared down at the table. “And it’s the first time it’s happened outside of Korea. Not surprising, however, because Chan is meant to be the seventh victim.”
“What?” Han choked out. He curled his hands into fists. “Why does someone want to kill Chris?”
“You’ve never been inside a gang, and it shows.” Minho gave Han a wry smile. “Chan’s father is…extremely powerful.”
“Yeah, I gathered by the whole spy thing.” Han shook his head in disbelief. “Surely he’s known about Chris for a while. But he didn’t tell you?” Minho’s smile was cold.
“He wanted to keep me loyal, Han.” It was the first time that Minho had used Han’s name. It rolled naturally off of Minho’s tongue. Han couldn’t deny that he liked the way his name spilled out of Minho’s lips. But Han was too busy being angry to give it much thought.
“That’s sick.” He spat out.
“You’re telling me.” They smiled at each other for a moment, but Han ran his hand through his hair and took a deep breath. He needed to get to the bottom of this.
“Do you know what happened to Chris?” He murmured, and Minho swallowed hard.
“I was with him.” Han sucked in a sharp breath. Finally Minho’s mask cracked. “They ambushed us. I tried to fight them off, but as always, it was Chan protecting me. He managed to distract them for a moment. Then one of them knocked me unconscious. That was the last time I saw him. I was told that Chan’s father had had us followed. As soon as we were attacked, they called in backup. For his own safety, they sent him away. I thought he was dead, and was told it was my fault.” Minho pursed his lips together. His next breath was shaky. “And so I was enlisted. I sold my life.” Minho closed his eyes. “So you can imagine, when I saw him, and someone charged towards us, I was ready to fight back and win.” The last shreds of resentment Han had towards Minho melted away.
“I see.” Han breathed. “You couldn’t protect him last time.” Minho nodded.
“Exactly. I’m sorry for hurting you.” Han paused at this. Minho sounded surprisingly genuine. Han hated to admit it, but he was beginning to empathise with Minho. He remembered the rage that had filled him as he’d seen an armed stranger pinning Chris to a wall. He remembered the absolute terror that had rushed through him as he’d thought of Chris falling to the ground, injured – or worse. He realised now that Minho had probably felt the exact same. But Minho had even more reason than Han to want to defend Chris. It suddenly dawned on Han that he was probably lucky to be alive. Minho had probably wanted to eliminate any threats to Chris permanently. It was a testament to how much Minho respected Chris that he’d stepped down. Han swallowed hard. Minho was dangerous, and yet…Han couldn’t help but sympathise. If Han had been in Minho’s position, he would have done the same.
“I’m sorry for arresting you.” Han rubbed the back of his neck. He decided to shoot Minho a tentative smile. Minho’s expression softened for a moment. “Why didn’t they fix the amnesia?” Han blurted out. Minho’s eyes narrowed. “Surely they could’ve done more. Some sort of surgery, or…I don’t know.” But Minho was already shaking his head.
“Easy. Keep him quiet.” Minho was grim. “Use him as bait.” Han’s eyes narrowed in confusion. “They keep trying to threaten the empire, and they’re doing it by going after Chan. If they can catch whoever is behind it for real, he will be undisputed again.” Han knew that Minho was referring to Chris’ father. “They’ve always gone off the grid when they can’t get to Chan. They’ll pull other little assassinations here and there, or robberies, or a few arsons. But Chan’s death…” Minho mouth twisted. “I’m sure that would be the main event.” Han felt like was going to be sick. “They always brand their work with a letter. It seems to have no particular pattern. Assassinations and robberies usually come with a G, though. Arson is usually an R.”
“Tailor had a G on his thigh.” Han rubbed his temples. It was a lot to process. “Let me get this straight. This has happened twice. Chris is the target. Whoever’s after him and is responsible is out to get his dad’s empire. Chris’ dad knew the whole time that he was alive. And you only just found out.”
“Fuck, how am I meant to explain this to him?” Minho bit his lip.
“I’d prefer if you didn’t.” Han looked at him, confused.
“He’s in danger. Why wouldn’t we tell him?”
“If he knows, he’ll let something slip. No one can know. Our moles haven’t found which organisations they’ve infiltrated. They’ll be watching him.” Han realised that they were pretty much backed into a corner. Minho was right. Han pressed his hands against his temples, frustrated.
“Yeah.” Minho sighed. “Now are you glad I’m here?” Han just looked at him for a moment.
“I’d never thought I’d be saying this to someone who beat the shit out of me only a couple hours ago but, yeah, I am.” Minho smirked at this. Then he sighed, and the mask slipped again.
“I just wanted to protect him.” Minho murmured. For some reason, Han’s heart ached. He couldn’t imagine what Minho must have been through. Han opened his mouth, about to offer comfort, when the door opened.
“Oi.” Changbin stuck his head through the door. Minho’s face smoothed over. He was impassive again. “Time’s up.” Changbin shot Minho a glare. “We keeping him?” Han got to his feet and looked down at Minho. Minho stared back at him. Han knew he didn’t have to think twice about your decision. “It’s your choice, Hannie. You can lock him up for a good while, if you wanted to.” Changbin was still glaring at Minho. Han couldn’t help but smile. Changbin was so protective of him.
“Let him go, Binnie.” Changbin did a double-take. Chris poked his head over Changbin’s, eyes lighting up. Han smiled at him but quickly realised that Chris wasn’t grinning at him. Chris’ gaze was fixed on Minho.
“Han…you’re sure about this?” Changbin sounded confused. Han looked back at Minho again. Minho tore his eyes from Chris and nodded to him, clearly wary of Han’s decision.
“Yeah. We’re going to need his help.” Minho’s eyes widened a fraction, and he dipped his head.
“You won’t regret this.” His voice was soft.
“We’ll see about that.” Han watched as Minho smiled, and he ignored the way his heart skipped a beat.