Hyo-shin parked his car at the far end of the lot, away from the cluster of vehicles that probably belonged to the cast and crew of whatever shows were being filmed at this particular studio. The building itself was six stories, with a limited number of windows and a drab cement exterior. A very polite group of fans were huddled together against the chill of the autumn afternoon between the main entrance and the vehicles. Their signs indicated which actors and actresses they were hoping to catch a glimpse of when filming was over.
He texted Yu-ri to let her know that he was here. She texted back a few minutes later, telling him to go to the east side of the building and wait for her. Hyo-shin checked his hair in the rear-view mirror one last time before he got out of his car and made his way past the crowd of fans.
The east side of the building was clearly a service alley, just wide enough to let trucks maneuver in and out of the currently shuttered docking bays. Hyo-shin waited by the unmarked personnel door—locked, with a badge reader beside it—and ran through some breathing exercises in an attempt to calm down his racing heart. He tried not to count down the seconds.
By the time Yu-ri opened the door, Hyo-shin was about as relaxed as he was going to get. Her long hair had been pulled back into a low, messy bun, and she was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt with their university’s name emblazoned on it. She looked him up and down for a second, then said, “Better hurry. The lunch break’s almost over.”
It was late for a normal lunch, but Hyo-shin was familiar with the special way time ran while on set. He stepped inside and was unsurprised to find himself in a mini warehouse, filled with labeled crates and multiple rows of shelves stacked with assorted larger props and materials to build sets. “Thank you for setting up this interview for me.”
“It wasn’t a problem,” Yu-ri said. She wasn’t kidding about hurrying, either, because she took off at a brisk walk. Hyo-shin followed closely behind her. “Assistant PD Jun makes it a point to include student interns in the crew whenever she can, especially from SNU.”
“Is she a graduate?”
“Eleven years ago.”
That explained Yu-ri’s sweatshirt. Hyo-shin would have to dig through his closet to see if he had kept anything with the school’s name on it when he moved into the Yoons’ home. If not, he should see if Bo-na would let him into her family’s vacation home so he could go through the boxes he had sent there. Provided he got the job.
Yu-ri led him to a door near a bank of freight elevators. Both the elevators and the door had badge readers next to them; she swiped her card and opened the door to a dimly lit back staircase. She climbed the stairs with barely a change in pace.
“Any tips for me?” Hyo-shin asked just before they reached the first landing.
“Be enthusiastic. If she brings up SNU, talk about how much you’ve enjoyed the film program. Stress how much you want to learn from this opportunity. Have you seen any of the dramas she’s worked on?”
“Two of them.” He had looked up her filmography during his second class. After two flights of stairs, he wasn’t sure if his heartbeat had picked up from the exertion or from nerves.
“Talk about them if you can figure out a good opening. Bring up other work you admire. Don’t be alarmed if she starts quizzing you.”
They hit the third-floor landing, and Yu-ri glanced back at him. She smiled, just a little, and added, “And don’t look so worried. Be confident about your abilities. You got some great experience on A Daughter’s Revenge.”
Hyo-shin forced himself to smile back; he was less successful at ignoring the negative thoughts that sprung up at the mention of the drama. “Thanks, Yu-ri. I mean it.”
“You’re welcome,” Yu-ri said. She held her badge against the reader and opened the door when the reader flashed green. “Let’s go.”
Although Eun-sang missed her mother, she had to admit to herself that it was easier for Hee-nam to be out of town. She could haul her laptop out of her bedroom and litter the kitchen table with papers filled with her hand-drawn diagrams and notes, which she had done on Wednesday night, too. Hee-nam didn’t often pry into Eun-sang’s work since she got to see much of it every Sunday, but her mother would have commented on the sprawl and just how dark the circles were under Eun-sang’s eyes.
Nam Yoo-mi had made a cutting remark about it, though Eun-sang couldn’t blame her senior for it, not when the quality of her actual work had suffered due to her lack of sleep the last two days. Writer Nam’s criticisms of her sixth draft were fair, no matter how sharply they had been delivered, but it still stung. At least Eun-sang had finally delivered an acceptable segment and been cut loose at a decent hour Thursday evening.
She called her favorite fried chicken restaurant on the way home from the bus stop to put in an order, and she got home just in time to change into her pajamas and pay the delivery person. Eun-sang ate quickly and then got everything out again to continue her work on sorting through Ha-sun’s information.
There was still too much of it for her to get through everything before tomorrow morning, so Eun-sang had implemented a triage system of sorts last night. She ran a search for the businessman and his company name and read, watched, and listened to everything that mentioned either of those or had them in the file name. It gave her a better idea of the scope of one of the biggest issues, and from there she delved deeper into any significant players in the thumb drive. She had also started to poke around in the folders of key committee members and other senior party members.
Tonight, she needed to finish that, and then she would have to spot check the other folders to see if there was anything else that stuck out. A number of the politicians hadn’t turned up any connection to the businessman in her quick search, so Eun-sang wasn’t sure why Ha-sun had included them. Was this just a dump of all the compromising information Ha-sun had?
That seemed to run counter to Eun-sang’s impression of Ha-sun so far. To be fair, she knew very little about Ha-sun personally, but based on her limited interactions and what Young-do had told her, Ha-sun was more calculated than that. Ha-sun had prepared all this—over years, undoubtedly, and with the help of who knew how many underlings—and that wasn’t something a person did on a whim. She had reached out to Eun-sang, too, and imposed a deadline, neither of which was spontaneous.
If Ha-sun wanted to cause problems for the Saenuri Party, this was a good start for it. But why?
That missing why was the real story behind all of this, Eun-sang was certain of it, and it was also the trickier aspect of uncover. With the Hongs’ scandal, the motivation had been straightforward: get someone out of prison early. Tracking backwards to discover the culprits had been a matter of connecting timelines and opportunity and chaebol politics to the final result.
What did Ha-sun stand to gain from all this?
Eun-sang’s phone buzzed, and she paused in her third attempt at drawing a relationship web between politicians in order to see who had texted her. She was surprised to see Young-do’s name and a little more surprised at the message:
Do you have some time this weekend? I need to talk to you, in person.
Eun-sang frowned at his words. What was important enough that he needed to talk to her face-to-face? It took her a moment to remember their Monday night phone call. That seemed like ages ago. If I haven’t passed out by then. Is it about your VP?
Yes and no. Are you okay?
She hesitated. Just tired. Pulling long hours for work again.
It shouldn’t take long. Let me know when you’re available.
I will. She typed good night but changed her mind and went with How’s everything going? instead.
Young-do took the opening and talked a little about the business deal he was working on. Eun-sang got up from the table and used the time where he was typing to stretch out her aching muscles and make herself another cup of coffee. She asked him little questions about the property he was trying to acquire. It was nice to take a break and think about something far off and less complicated than the mess scattered across her kitchen table.
I’ve never been to Spain, Eun-sang texted after he sent a few pictures of the view of the ocean from the hotel. But it looks lovely. Will you give me a discount if I want to visit?
No. As a friend of the future owner, you can stay for free.
Eun-sang laughed at the offer. Even if she saved up the money to go abroad, she wouldn’t go on vacation to Barcelona. She would probably send her mother to the U.S. to visit Eun-suk. I’ve screenshotted this, so you can’t take it back.
I’m offended. Who do you take me for?
Choi Young-do. She tacked on an emoji with its tongue sticking out. I’ve got to get back to work. I’ll talk to you later.
They said good night to each other, and Eun-sang settled in for another sleepless night. She had to be ready to talk to PD Yoon and Writer Nam first thing tomorrow morning.