(Originally posted 22 June 2014 on tumblr)
On Friday afternoon, Eun-sang presented her suspect list to the four other members of her team. It wasn’t nearly as formal a presentation as the ones she had seen Won give to the Jeguk board, but it was equally as secretive and put far more pressure on her than Won ever had. Nam Yoo-mi had locked the door to the conference room and lowered the blinds before they started.
Eun-sang sat at the head of the table. Her laptop had been connected to the room’s projector system, and she had the presentation running on a separate thumb drive. She pulled up the first slide and its columns of names.
“My initial list consisted of any chaebol, politician, high-ranking public servant, celebrity, or military commander who was imprisoned or had family members imprisoned in 2012, 2013, or 2014, prior to the National Assembly’s passage of the Illicit Drug Trafficking and Use Enforcement Act. Of the fifty-eight people, I eliminated everyone whose sentences were five years or fewer, those who received life in prison or the death penalty, and those who were convicted of something besides a white-collar crime.” As she spoke, the names of the eliminated were crossed off one at a time, leaving just a few survivors. “This reduced the list to fifteen names, all of whom would be eligible for a reduced sentence according to the rumors Writer Nam uncovered, though we do not have confirmation on any of them.”
“I’m working on getting the confirmation,” Yoo-mi said, though her eyes never left the projector screen. “My contacts in the prosecutor’s office are either out of the loop or being remarkably stubborn. They won’t be for long.”
“In the meantime, I have sorted these people into three categories: unlikely, possible, and uncertain.” Eun-sang went to the second slide, where she had divided the remaining names into the corresponding columns. “I looked at a variety of factors, including whether or not I could find evidence of prior relationships between the criminals or the criminals’ families and the three representatives who sponsored both the IDTUEA and pushed to block the funding for the construction of additional prisons in the 2018 legislative session. I also—”
“Why did you decide Choi Dong-wook was unlikely?”
Eun-sang didn’t smile at Yoo-mi’s question, at least not outwardly. She did allow herself to feel some small amount of satisfaction when she changed over to the third slide immediately. Yoo-mi finally looked away from the projector to give her an appraising look when Choi Dong-wook’s slide was the first one up.
The slide was simple and uncluttered, outlining Dong-wook’s investigation, trial, sentencing, and time served, and other critical information. It also included a short list of his immediate family members and closest business associates.
Eun-sang had decided to begin with Young-do’s father precisely because she thought Yoo-mi might be suspicious of his categorization in her presentation, and that move had paid off. It wasn’t often that she had been able to anticipate her boss.
“Choi Dong-wook’s only son, Choi Young-do, and I attended two years of high school together. We were not friends,” she said, and she did not explain why. What she needed was for her co-workers to believe her, and the messy history she shared with Young-do would only muddle the waters. Yoo-mi had wanted Eun-sang to keep her from chasing ghosts. An edited, selective history would be the best way to do that. “He got into several fights during second year with my then-boyfriend, Kim Tan, and he did not have a very high opinion of the scholarship students, of which I was one.”
Yoo-mi tapped her pencil on the desk once, twice. She was still listening instead of interrupting, which was a good sign. Eun-sang forged ahead.
“I don’t know the intimate details of his family, but I do know that his mother, Yoo Kyung-ran, did not resurface in his life until after his father was under investigation. Upon Dong-wook’s imprisonment, Young-do purchased a home for his mother and has been living with her ever since. Everything I know about or have heard of Young-do’s relationship with his father indicates that they were not on good terms and that Young-do would be extremely unlikely to attempt to get him out of prison early for sentimental reasons. As for business reasons, if Dong-wook were released now, it would cause a power struggle within Zeus Hotel. Young-do would be in a far better position for such a fight if his father served his entire sentence. Dong-wook could be exerting some influence from his prison cell, but I think it is more likely that he is an unintended beneficiary of someone else’s maneuverings, even though he is one of the highest profile people on this list.”
She paused then, waiting, but neither Yoo-mi nor anyone else challenged her narrative. It wasn’t until then that she realized just how wound up she had been over Dong-wook’s slide. Eun-sang rolled out her shoulders, relieved to have some portion of her burden lifted, and pleased that her reasoning had been accepted—for now. The last thing she had wanted was to send the Shark after Young-do, especially not after Wednesday night.
It wasn’t her fault that Young-do still liked her, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t try to keep him out of this investigation. After all, he had agreed to stay out of whatever it was Hyo-shin and Rachel may or may not have.
Young-do still hadn’t texted her back about he wanted in exchange for that favor.
“I have also put Lee Jin-hee of Imugi Group in the unlikely category,” Eun-sang said as she went to the next slide. “While it is no secret that he is fond of his two children, both his son and his daughter are in vicious competition to be named as his heirs…”
Hyo-shin had his phone on silent ever since he left the award ceremony, which had proved to be one of the best decisions he had made all week, second only to daring to call Rachel when she appeared on set Friday morning. His mother hadn’t started calling until Thursday afternoon, and she hadn’t given up on leaving him voicemails or repeatedly texting him despite his lack of response. He had only listened to the first three messages—there were only so many ways she could say I need to talk to you about Cha Eun-sang. The girl might be an acceptable acquaintance, but she isn’t someone you ought to be taking to Ministry of Justice events before anger threatened to choke him completely. It was a little less stressful to see the numbers of missed calls silently tick upward than it was to hear his phone ring and actively chose to ignore it every time.
Being on set had helped. There hadn’t been much time for him to be distracted from the frantic pace of the work—just two more episodes left to air, which meant only two more shots to crack the 40% mark. If A Daughter’s Revenge could hit that, it would the first drama in three years to have done it. It was hard for Hyo-shin to set his sights on that lofty goal. What he was looking forward to the most was being finished with the drama. By this time next week, Hyo-shin hoped to be passed out in his apartment and completely dead to the world, and he was one of the lucky people in the production crew who came and went relatively freely. His schedule as a student was nowhere near as demanding as the regular crew.
Yet, even as tired as he was now, the idea of being able to wear himself out like this—in building stories, pursuing a shared vision, creating something people cared about—for the rest of his life was nearly enough of a high to chase away his exhaustion.
Soon. He would be breaking free soon. Fall semester was paid for, and he would somehow dig up the money he needed for the winter session or resort to a loan. Just a few more months until he graduated and could hunt for work in production and start living the life he actually wanted.
Once the filming wrapped up at the studio and Hyo-shin helped pack everything up and load the vans and trucks for the journey to the next location, he headed out into the brisk autumn air. The studio wasn’t far from his apartment, so he decided to walk instead of hailing a taxi.
The walk gave him the opportunity he needed to clear his head a little, stretch his muscles, reintroduce himself to a world that didn’t run off of unbound script pages or carefully staged lighting. There weren’t any NGs out in the streets of Gwanak-gu, no way to re-do the actions that had been taken until things were as close to perfect as time allowed.
So why had Rachel given him a second chance?
That question dogged him all the way home. He had been almost certain any opportunity he had at rekindling whatever had been between them in high school had died after breakfast on Tuesday. After Wednesday night’s fiasco, Hyo-shin couldn’t see how Rachel hadn’t already heard about the assumption that he and Eun-sang were dating, considering how close she and Young-do were. Yet she had shown up on set with a drink for him and the declaration that they weren’t even yet.
Had Young-do not said anything to her? That didn’t fit the Young-do he remembered from school, the one who had tormenting other people down to an art. From what Moon Joon-young had said, Young-do had been even more vicious in private than he had in public, and the public humiliation had been terrifying enough.
I’m a businesswoman. I won’t write off a potential asset that easily.
If Rachel was planning to use him for something like his family connection, she was going to be disappointed. There was no scenario Hyo-shin could think of in which the Lee family’s Saturday lunch didn’t end in some kind of disaster. The only question was how devastating it was going to be.