Eun-sang returned home to a dark house, her mother’s favorite shoes missing from the entranceway, and a note on the refrigerator. I’ve made your favorite side dishes, her mother had written on a piece of scrap paper. It should be enough for the rest of the week. Eun-sang opened the fridge, saw that it was indeed stacked with little plastic containers filled to the brim with at least four different types of dishes, and frowned at them. Where had her mother—
Right. Eun-sang snagged a beer leftover from when they had hosted movie night and shut the refrigerator door. Ki-ae had decided she wanted to go to Busan and to have Hee-nam accompany her. Tan was usually Ki-ae’s first choice, but Hee-nam was a close second since Tan was older now and had college and Jeguk Group demands. Hee-nam wasn’t all that fond of Busan, but trailing after Ki-ae, holding her shopping bags, and eating with her at fancy restaurants so she wasn’t alone was much lighter work than her normal housekeeping duties, especially when Hee-nam got paid a bonus for traveling.
Eun-sang headed back to her bedroom and changed into her pajamas before plopping down on her bed with her beer and her laptop. She checked her personal email and SNS accounts—and made sure to leave a thumbs up on a cute picture of Bo-na kissing Chan-young’s cheek—before she decided she had wasted enough time and plugged in the thumb drive she had accepted from Ha-sun.
(The rest of their dinner together had been remarkably cordial. Part of her had still been bracing for some version of “the other woman” talk, but Ha-sun never brought up either of their relationships with Young-do. She had, instead, asked Eun-sang many questions about her work at YBS and just what portions of the last several broadcasts she had written or done research for. It was clear she was well-versed on the content of their show.
Eun-sang had been a little unnerved by that. Then again, Ha-sun had been gathering information to give to a journalist for who knew how long. She must have put equal consideration into deciding where to release the information. But why give it to Eun-sang?
For most of the dinner, Eun-sang had been tempted to ask Ha-sun that very question. In the end, however, she hadn’t. There was no guarantee that Ha-sun would be truthful, no matter her previous candor, and asking would have felt like forfeiting a challenge. Eun-sang needed to find the answer on her own, just like she needed to discover Ha-sun’s motives for digging up “newsworthy” information in the first place.)
It took a moment for the laptop to recognize the drive. The window that popped up had twenty-seven main folders, all of them labeled with someone’s name. She clicked on a couple folders randomly, and they were all filled with a mixture of video, sound, or text files, many labeled with dates and locations and others by what looked like company names.
Eun-sang went back to the main window and scrolled through it, taking mental note of all the names she recognized. By the time she hit the fourth name she knew, suspicion made her pause and open a browser. She went back to the first folder and ran searches on each name.
It didn’t take long to confirm her idea: all twenty-seven people with files were members of the National Assembly, and more specifically, members of the Saenuri Party.
“I won’t pressure you to any conclusion, nor will I influence your investigation. The only warning I have is that if I don’t see any movement on the information, I’ll pass it on to someone else. You’ll lose your exclusive then.”
Eun-sang set her half-finished beer aside, opened the folder of a politician whose name she had originally recognized, and selected the first file.
Even though carpooling with Chan-young to school and back was quickly becoming a familiar routine, Hyo-shin still felt weird being on campus on a Wednesday morning. Just last week, he had been running around one of the sets for A Daughter’s Revenge, not camping out in a quiet corner of the library, trying to get back on track with his readings and homework. While he appreciated being able to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time, not being part of a production made him feel oddly bereft.
The little voice in his head that kept insisting he had ruined all of his chances to work in the industry again after his missteps with Assistant PD Go was very difficult to tune out. This was his final semester, and if he couldn’t get into another production as a student and prove himself there, the last reference he could give to potential employers would be her.
He could just imagine what she would say: Difficult to work with and unreliable. Brings personal problems onto the set. Don’t hire him unless you’re willing to put up with—
Hyo-shin buried his face in his hands and closed his eyes. He breathed in slowly through his nose until his lungs were painfully full. After a count of two, he let all the air out slowly through his mouth. He focused on that cycle, the in, the hold, the out, feeling his ribs expand when he breathed in, imaging the knots in his stomach and chest loosening whenever he breathed out. One bad day, one bad working experience, one person who didn’t like him—that wasn’t enough to ruin him. There would be other days, other experiences, other people. He would figure it out.
Somehow. There was only so long he could rely on the Yoons’ kindness before the guilt and self-loathing smothered him. Only so long he could think about what to do about Joon-young’s plea for help before he had to act.
(Joon-young had decided to crash with a friend for a couple days. Being home, where the Zeus Hotel lawyers could find him easily made him too anxious. If Hyo-shin had still had money to spare, he would have offered to put him up in a hotel while he tried to sort out a strategy. But he didn’t, and all of his strategies so far were feeling more desperate than he would have liked.
At least Young-do hadn’t gone after Eun-sang yet. Eun-sang had seemed like her normal, if somewhat tired, self at Monday’s movie night. He was certain that she would have said something if Young-do had sent his lawyers after her, too. If it hadn’t happened yet, it would probably happen soon. Young-do’s conscience hadn’t kept him from harassing Joon-young again; it was only a matter of time before his goodwill for the motorcycle stunt and his absurd crush gave way underneath chaebol ruthlessness.)
Hyo-shin spent the rest of the morning and the early afternoon in the library. He didn’t want to spend any money on lunch, not when he was meeting Rachel tonight, so he made do with water, some red ginseng packets, and a few protein bars he had left over from filming. When his phone vibrated with his medication alarm, he remembered to take his afternoon dose. By the time he had to pack up and go to his afternoon classes, Hyo-shin had made more headway on his overdue homework and reading. If all went well, by the end of the week, he would be caught up with everything.
He got to class several minutes early. The professor wasn’t there yet, and the class only had about a dozen people in it. Hyo-shin went to take his usual seat in the middle of the room, but he paused in the aisle when he spotted the classmate who had spoken to him—was it two weeks ago now?—settling into her seat a few rows ahead of him.
“There are still a few slots in the production crew.”
Hyo-shin put on his most charming smile and changed course for her row. He sat down right next to her as she pulled out her notebook and a pen. “I can think beyond A Daughter’s Revenge now. Do you know if any of those production slots for PD Jin’s drama are still open?”