Even after his therapy session with Jae-sung, Hyo-shin found himself alternating between frustration, rage, and even fear. It made focusing on his schoolwork all but impossible. More than once he was tempted to throw something, but he had worked hard on killing that habit, and giving in to the urge in the library would have been something he would regret every time he walked inside.
Instead, Hyo-shin forced himself to sit as still as possible in the group study room he had scheduled before his afternoon classes. Moon Joon-young was due any minute.
His conversation the night before with Joon-young hadn’t gone well; he had been too angry to provide much comfort, and Joon-young had been too upset to be very coherent. Hyo-shin couldn’t blame him for that, not when Joon-young was staring down old nightmares come to life. Only this time he was staring down a chaebol’s entire legal team.
Rachel had thought Hyo-shin was the one blackmailing Young-do, which he could admit without resentment was at least plausible. He had done it before. But to his knowledge, Joon-young had never done anything to Young-do other than manage to hurt his pride by surviving so long at Jeguk.
Hyo-shin picked up his cell phone, dismissed the text from Joon-young that said he had gotten to campus, and opened his contacts. His finger hovered over Rachel’s name, but he didn’t call her to ask for Young-do’s number. Her scathing words from their disastrous breakfast still lingered at the back of his mind: “I don’t date men who use me to attack my friends.”
Eun-sang had said something similar, too, back at the Ministry dinner, though Young-do wasn’t her friend: “Don’t use me to pick a fight with him.” She probably had Young-do’s number—Hyo-shin had no idea where she had gotten it—since she had pulled off that stunt at Zeus Hotel that ended up fueling the love triangle scandal.
He wouldn’t use either of them to figure out how to make Young-do back off of Joon-young.
There was a knock at the study room door, and Joon-young slipped inside when Hyo-shin looked up. “Sunbae.”
It had been several months since he had last seen Joon-young. Instead of the quiet, confident man Joon-young had re-learned to be over the years, Hyo-shin was reminded of the time Joon-young had asked in a trembling voice if the body outlines at Jeguk were for him or the way he had gone sallow when he had arrived fresh from basic training and spotted Hyo-shin on the same base.
When Hyo-shin was doing well, seeing Joon-young face-to-face wasn’t anything more uncomfortable than lying to his parents; but today, he felt his throat close up as the old guilt threatened to spill out.
As furious as Hyo-shin was at Young-do, Hyo-shin couldn’t forget that he had made the decision to swap Chan-young for someone else. He was the one who had picked Joon-young for Young-do to bully. Hyo-shin still hadn’t been able to bring himself to confess it to Joon-young. Hyo-shin had hoped that was a secret he could keep forever, especially once he found out that Young-do had promised to leave Joon-young alone.
“Sorry I kept you waiting.” Joon-young dropped into a chair when Hyo-shin signaled for him to sit. He pulled a sheet of paper out of his backpack and pushed it across the table. “I made the timeline.”
Hyo-shin took the paper and read through it. Even though it barely reached the bottom of the page, it was carefully detailed. Joon-young had reconstructed the Zeus lawyers’ interactions with his parents, from their first intimidating appearance at his parents’ home to his parents finally calling him to let him know what was happening.
“I took screenshots of everything. My parents’ call logs, our texts, all of it.”
“That’s good,” Hyo-shin reassured him, though he was slightly distracted by trying to slot Joon-young’s timeline into what he knew from Rachel.
The harassment had started Friday morning, but Joon-young’s parents hadn’t let him know until Saturday, when he had gotten back from a school trip. Joon-young had left for it early Thursday afternoon.
Rachel had stormed onto the set of A Daughter’s Revenge on Thursday, which meant the blackmail had been delivered before then. Depending on the exact time, Joon-young might have an alibi.
Might. Hyo-shin tried to think like a heartless chaebol heir who was more concerned with preserving his empire than being a decent human being. The blackmail could have been delivered electronically, in which case, Joon-young being out of Seoul at the time wouldn’t be any kind of defense. If the blackmail had been physically delivered, perhaps the security cameras hadn’t been able to get a good image of the person who had dropped it off. Maybe they suspected that Joon-young was working with an accomplice.
No matter the circumstances, starting an investigation with Joon-young and Young-do’s other victims—
If Young-do was going after Joon-young, it made sense for him to turn his attention to Eun-sang as well. Young-do’s sense of shame hadn’t kept him from sending his lawyers for Joon-young; his lingering feelings for Eun-sang wouldn’t keep him from doing the same to her.
The Shark was angry, far angrier than Eun-sang had ever seen her before. Then again, Eun-sang had never seen Nam Yoo-mi after one of her fights with President Park. It hadn’t helped that President Park had summoned her to his office to make sure she was out of the way when prosecutors from the Ministry of Justice showed up with their grunts and their blue evidence boxes.
They were politer about it than what Eun-sang normally saw on dramas. After PD Yoon had signaled for her to cooperate, Eun-sang had gathered up all of her physical notes on the Hong scandal and walked with a prosecutor to the photocopier so she could make copies of them all. She handed over the originals, and the prosecutor thanked her for her cooperation.
No one overturned filing cabinets or yanked open drawers to empty everything inside. There wasn’t any shouting or threats, and the IT people had brought dozens of external hard drives to copy all relevant data from Eun-sang’s team’s computers. YBS’s lawyers hovered nearby to ensure that the prosecution only took what was covered by their warrant. Eun-sang handed over her thumb drive with her initial presentation on the chaebols being released from prison.
PD Yoon had his hands full directing the prosecutors towards other teams that had helped them with the original story and last night’s follow-up. Every now and then he would shoot a concerned glance toward Yoo-mi, who was stalking back and forth along the edge of the room like an agitated lion. Eun-sang didn’t know what Yoo-mi and President Park said to each other, but Writer Ji seemed to be taking it all in stride.
“Don’t worry,” he had muttered to her after an entire hour had gone by and the Ministry of Justice was still digging through their office. “Writer Nam is always like this when this happens.”
Eun-sang knew, theoretically, that the kind of reporting their program did could occasionally put them at odds with the Ministry of Justice, but all previous spats had been behind-closed-doors affairs that had mostly left her alone. But they hadn’t embarrassed the Ministry before by exposing how they had been manipulated by a chaebol family, and Eun-sang hadn’t ever played such a crucial role in an investigation before. Since they hadn’t used any confidential sources for their story, President Park had decided not to fight the warrant. There weren’t any sources for them to protect; he wanted to regain what favor with the Ministry he could by fully cooperating. If the information they turned over revealed that the Hongs had done something illegal, they could earn the Ministry’s goodwill. Or so they all hoped.
Writer Nam looked like she was ready to rip someone’s throat out. Eun-sang stayed out of her way and tried to look innocent and only mildly concerned whenever someone from the Ministry looked at her. At some point they were likely to question her since she had been one of the people to hone their investigation, though PD Yoon assured her that if it came to that, YBS would provide her with counsel during the questioning.
She definitely did not look at the hidden camera VJ Han had set up when PD Yoon told them to expect the Ministry of Justice.
Her work phone rang. Eun-sang murmured an apology to the tech working on her computer and reached past her to pick it up. “Writer Cha Eun-sang.”
“Writer Cha, you have a visitor down in the main lobby.”
Eun-sang fished her cell phone from her pocket. She hadn’t missed any texts, so it probably wasn’t her mother or one of her friends, and she wasn’t expecting anyone. The only appointment she had this week was with Ryu Ha-sun, and that wasn’t today. “Who is it?”
“I don’t know. He refuses to say. Should I have security escort him out?”
Eun-sang frowned for a moment, thinking it through. She glanced at the rest of the members of her team, but no one was paying attention to her. The tech messing with her computer seemed to be minding her own business, but Eun-sang didn’t know how much she could trust that.
“No, I’ll be down in a few minutes. Please ask him to wait.”
She hung up the phone and walked out of the room without asking for permission or making sure her bosses noticed her stepping away. No one tried to stop her, and she made it into the elevator without incident. But instead of hitting the button for the lobby, Eun-sang hit the button for the third floor.
The lobby itself was three stories tall, so the second and third floors were really partial floors with glass half-walls that turned the outer “hallway” into balconies that allowed employees to look down at the people streaming in and out of the main doors. It was a nice view for people-watching, though Eun-sang hadn’t indulged in it much. But it meant that this time she could get a good look at her mystery visitor before he spotted her.
She headed straight for the edge and looked down. The security desk was right next to the elevators, so it only took her a moment to spot her visitor. It was Kwon Sang-joong, Vice President of Zeus Hotels.