Episode Three: The Debussy Murders Part One
“After months of negotiations between Mrs. Kim, her esteemed attorney Mr. Lee Junho, The Ministry of Justice and the District Attorney’s office, all charges filed against Mrs. Kim have been dropped. The trial today left many confused and more than a little disappointed in the skills of lead prosecutor Choi Jung Keun. Mr. Choi had no comment to make as he left the central Federal Courthouse this afternoon. Mr. Lee on the other hand seemed ecstatic and promised the entire courthouse a round of drinks at his expense.” I rested my hands on my hips as I stared at the television mounted on the wall. My chest seemed to stretch as I bottled volatile emotions I didn’t dare release for fear of breaking something. At that moment, I could have killed Junho even though I knew it wouldn’t do me any good. Besides, he was the only defense attorney I knew, who else would get me off the hook for murder if he were dead?
“This is just sickening.” I groaned, watching the news broadcast shift to a video taken earlier that afternoon of Sunbaenim Choi and myself leaving the courthouse. My head stayed tucked low in shame, hidden beneath a manila folder I used to shield myself from the sun as well as the disappointed stares of all the poor people Mrs. Kim had defrauded. I couldn’t bear to look at them knowing I’d failed them. I was the reason they weren’t shouting in elation after seeing the woman who’d sent them spiraling into debt locked up. All because I couldn’t say no to Lee Junho. Jung Keun on the other hand didn’t appear fazed at all, his head stayed high as he descended the stairs and opened the back of his sleek black sedan so that we could both slide inside. But I knew better than to trust that stoic face of his. Inside he had to be dying. It had been a little over two weeks since Junho had blackmailed me into giving him the updated court record that held receipt of all the evidence my Sunbae had needed to put Mrs. Kim behind bars. In that short time the rat bastard had reworked everything in his favor. During the trial he’d made us both look like fools, declaring the evidence was ‘circumstantial’ and even going so far as to boast that it had been tampered with. The more he went on the more everyone just seemed to believe him, without questioning his authority. I watched as the faces of the juries changed as he wooed them with his silken voice, dazzling smile and his overwhelming use of logic. Damn his logic. They were easily swayed to his side of the argument and within just one short hour the charges had been dropped and Mrs. Kim was free. I still remembered the haughty look on her face as she rose gracefully from her seat and wrapped Junho in an awkward embrace that was way too close to be strictly professional. I wanted to weep. I’d been solely responsible for the loss of the trial, and even though Sunbaenim didn’t know the full extent of what I’d done I knew he still blamed me for it. Even if he denied the fact that he did. How could he not? It was our first trial as a team and I’d let him down. I was a walking bad luck charm and he’d be much better off just getting rid of me. But instead of kicking me to the curb like any sane person he’d just sighed once we were comfortably seated in the back of his car, an unlit cigarette hanging from his bottom lip as he searched for his zippo. His words of wisdom still rang in my ears, causing my heart to flutter rapidly in my chest.
“Some trials are won, and some are lost. It’s not about winning or loosing, it’s about seeking justice above all else. That is something Mr. Lee doesn’t understand. And no matter how much people praise him as a genius attorney, so long as he puts his own selfish endeavors over what is right, he will always fail.” I’d watched him finally light his cigarette and take a long drag. He seemed so calm and composed, but his dark eyes were frustrated. And that frustration pained me. I wondered how he seemed to know Junho so well, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask about him. Whether it was for fear of stirring up old memories and bringing my Sunbae even more pain, or revealing what I’d done, I couldn’t say, but his name refused to pass my lips so long as I was in his presence. I’d put that question away to be asked at a time that wasn’t so rife with tension. Still, I couldn’t help pondering why someone as blue blooded as my Sunbae would waist any time getting to know Junho who looked and even acted like a thug. But then again, who was I to talk?
It hadn’t been three hours since I’d been dropped off in front of my apartment building. I’d started on dinner but soon found I didn’t have much of an appetite. I was entirely too depressed to do anything more than crawl into bed and cry myself to sleep.
“You’ve got to stop beating yourself up Yeun Seuk. You didn’t travel all this way to wuss out, you came to make something of yourself!” I shouted to myself, my voice echoing back at me off the bare walls of my apartment. My words sounded good, but I couldn’t force myself to feel better. Just when I was about to go curl up on the couch with my fingers in a canister of cake icing my cellphone rang. Frowning I snagged it off the coffee table and blanched as my Sunbae’s name flashed across the screen. “I’m sorry please don’t fire me!” I wailed after answering the call. Jung Keun just sighed.
“Miss Park, do you want me to fire you?”
“No! How could I ever want that?” I felt my heart sink into the pit of my stomach. To my surprise my ears were met with an indignant snort.
“Then stop bringing it up. If I were to fire you there wouldn’t be enough tears on the planet to save you. Now, what are you wearing?”
“…I’m sorry I must have misheard you.” My tears stopped instantly. Was I hearing things?
“It’s not a come on Miss Park, I’m inquiring if you’re dressed.”
“Well…” I glanced down at my black hoodie and shorts. “Yes.”
“Good. Come downstairs.” He said curtly before hanging up. I suddenly had the strangest feeling of déjà vu. Stuffing my phone in my back pocket I tiptoed over to the window and peered ten stories below at the familiar black sedan that idled at the curb. What in the name of god is going on now?
“I have a bad feeling about this.” I whined as I grabbed my keys and the first pair of shoes I saw before leaving my apartment and making my way downstairs. Rain had just begun to fall, covering the world around me in a light hazy mist. The passenger door opened and I slipped inside, being sure to pull my seatbelt on tight after closing the door. Sunbaenim was behind the wheel of the car and I was beyond surprised to see him dressed casually in a pair of black slacks, black button down and a black wool coat. He’d obviously dressed for the weather meaning he was either psychic or he took time to watch the weather report. There were just so many things I didn’t know about this man.
“What are you staring at?” He asked and my eyes immediately snapped to the road in front of us as he pulled into traffic.
“Nothing…I’ve just never seen you without a suit on.” I risked taking a peek at him from beneath my lashes. His hair was causal too; instead of combed back away from his face in its usual style it gently framed one side of his face. His lips twitched as if he were holding back a smile.
“I don’t sleep in them Miss Park.”
“I know I just…so wait this is what you sleep in? Where are we going? And since when do you drive your own car? Where’s Mr. Chauffer from this afternoon?” The questions tumbled forth but he didn’t deem it fit to provide any answers. Instead he reached over my knees and opened the glove compartment, damn near giving me a heart attack as his fingertips brushed my skin. Out of the glove box came a yellow envelope that he shoved into my lap. “What’s this?” I asked and again he didn’t speak. Pulling the envelope open I slid what looked to be a police report out of it, my eyes widening at the officer’s sloppy handwriting. “Homicide report. Mrs. Kim Soon Yul pronounced dead on the scene. Cause of death…bludgeoning?” I gasped, staring up at the grim lines that had begun to form around his mouth.
“I got the report as a fax just minutes before I called you. It seems someone wasn’t happy with the loss of the trial today. They followed her to her penthouse apartment and murdered her.” He said and I slid the report back into the envelope, my eyes wide as his words sunk in. We both knew that Mrs. Kim had plenty of angry enemies, but who would be so cruel as to follow the older woman home and beat her to death?
“Murder weapon?” I asked and he threw me a sideways glance as he turned onto a side street.
“We’ll find out once we’re on the scene.”
“We’re going to the scene? As in the scene of the crime? As in where someone just died?” I asked and again his lips twitched as if he wanted to laugh but refused to allow himself that freedom.
“Yes, the crime scene. Have you forgotten that investigation is part of my job description Miss Park? And since you’re my assistant it’s part of yours as well.” He said and my stomach fluttered.
“R-Right.” I could do this. I had to, in order to make up for all the mistakes I’d made since he’d taken me on as his partner. You can count on me Sunbaenim!
The drive to Mrs. Kim’s exclusive apartment building in downtown Seoul wasn’t long and before either of us knew it we were parking and climbing out of the car. Police officers were stationed outside, blocking off the building from curious passersby. Yellow tape sectioned off a neat perimeter, separating normal citizens from the rest of us who actually had to go in and look at dead bodies. Luckily, the coroners unit had already come and gone, leaving only more police officer, the Crime Scene Investigations unit, and us.
“I’m sorry sir I can’t let you pass.” I nearly ran into Jung Keun’s back as a dark haired police officer stopped us at the police tape. My Sunbae didn’t miss a beat, pulling his wallet out of his jacket pocket and flashing his Prosecutors badge. The officer curled his lip before lifting the tape and allowing us passage.
“What was that look all about?” I asked, hustling to keep up with my long-legged Sunbae.
“The police of this country hate prosecutors as well as the Ministry of Justice. It’s an ongoing battle between both forces for the right to investigate crimes. It’s best if you ignore them Miss Park.” He said as he led me onto the elevator past a Crime Scene photographer who didn’t hesitate to snap a quick picture of us before the doors closed. I rolled my eyes, stiffening as Jung Keun laid a heavy hand atop my head. I couldn’t stop myself from shivering; his hand was warm despite his cold outward appearance. “Yeun Seuk, I want you to keep close to me, don’t leave my side. And be sure to pay very close attention to everything that goes on inside this apartment.” He told me and I nodded, my eyes widening as the elevator doors slid open to reveal a foyer made entirely of marble. Large marble pedestals flanked an ornate wooden door that was adorned with gold leaf and what looked to be pearls. Mrs. Kim sure knew how to live. I would have been impressed had everything she owned not been paid for with the blood, sweat and tears of the poor. I followed Jung Keun into the apartment, watching him push open the door and step inside. I immediately wanted to gag, not because of the crime scene, but because of who stood in the center of the room, staring down at the dark red bloodstains on the plush white carpet.
“Ew.” I sneered and he turned to smirk at me.
“Good to see you too Miss Park.” Junho chuckled, smiling at my Sunbae and I as we moved further into the room. He was dressed casually as well in a pair of white slacks, a plaid button down and a brown belt slung low around his hips. His hair was once again combed into a spikey style that made him look like a hoodlum, as apposed to the carefully gelled back style he’d worn earlier in the courtroom.
“I’d return the sentiment but then I’d be lying.” I replied haughtily, much expecting to be reprimanded by my boss, but he seemed to overlook the fact that I was being a spiteful bitch. Maybe he just liked it when I insulted Junho?
“That’s too bad. I was really looking forward to seeing you again, though, not on a crime scene.” He said, taking a quick look around the crowded penthouse. Us aside, the place was packed with Seoul’s homicide unit, crime scene investigators and a few people I didn’t recognize. They were a solemn looking bunch, their heads low as a police officer herded them against the far wall of the living room. Junho had once again begun to speak but I couldn’t bring myself to pay attention. The apartment around us was extravagant, decorated in rich reds and dark gold. The fluffy carpet beneath our feet, though partially bloodstained, was a pristine white that would probably take a miracle to clean. Directly across from us stood a wall of windows that overlooked the sparkling city of Seoul and, on a raised platform in front of it stood a proud grand piano that appeared to have never been played. It was beautiful beneath the slightly dimmed ceiling lights to the point that the black lacquered wood almost seemed to glow. Atop the piano rested a sterling silver tray that held two glasses of champagne, one empty and the other half full…
“Miss Park?” My Sunbae called suddenly and my eyes snapped up to meet his, “Have you heard a word I’ve said?” He asked and I instantly looked contrite.
“No sir. I’m sorry I spaced out a bit.” I answered truthfully and Junho had the nerve to laugh. The bastard.
“That’s quite the assistant you have there. She can’t even bring herself to pay attention while you’re talking to her. Though I can’t blame her, you’re a bore if I’ve ever met one.” He smirked and Jung Keun ignored him completely in favor of frowning down at me. I was still staring at that piano. I didn’t know what, but something just felt off about it.
“Would you mind sharing your thoughts Miss Park?” He asked and I worried my bottom lip. I was a rookie; I didn’t want to open my mouth and risk sounding like a fool. But as if he’d heard my thoughts he gave me an uncharacteristic nudge that secretly meant he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Who knew my Sunbae was so persistent?
“Well. In the report earlier it stated that Mrs. Kim was home alone. But why would you pour yourself two glasses of champagne if you were here by yourself? I mean it’s obvious she likes to live extravagantly but two glasses of champagne? That’s a bit too much.” I asked, cocking my head slightly as I stared at the still bubbling champagne in the flute. Both Jung Keun and Junho frowned down at me then over at the glasses in question. “Uh m-maybe I’m wrong?” I instantly back peddled, wishing I could take back my words. This just wasn’t my week. What else could I manage to do wrong today?
“No. You’re exactly right.” Jung Keun said, flagging down one of the homicide investigators who begrudgingly made his way over to us. “Who was the officer who made the homicide report earlier?” He asked, an angry note in his baritone voice.
“That would be me…Sir.” He threw in the last part as an afterthought, deep, grim lines appearing around his mouth as he forced the words out. It was pretty much killing him to be polite. And my Sunbae looked like he was loving it.
“Then tell me, officer…Kwon,” He paused to read the mans name tag, much to his dismay, “What gave you the impression that Mrs. Kim was here alone?” Officer Kwon seemed to hesitate.
“Well…She…wasn’t alone.” He admitted sheepishly and my eyes widened.
“Care to elaborate?” Jung Keun asked and Officer Kwon motioned to the group of people they’d lined up against the far wall. A particular man in the center of the group began to fidget, casting us quick glances from beneath his shaggy black hair.
“That guy, who we identified as the building grounds keeper, was the one who initially called us to the scene. He was in the apartment when we arrived.”
“And you failed to file that in your report? How long have you had this job?” Junho interjected angrily, storming over to the man in question with his hands in the pockets of his slacks. “Yah. Where were you when my client was being murdered? If you were here within minutes of her death you had to have witnessed something.” Junho all but growled and Jung Keun was quick to make his way over as well. I hastened to follow him, watching the man stiffen up and all but shrink against the wall.
“What is your name?” He asked and the man began to stutter.
“K-Kim Myung Saeng.” He managed to say, avoiding the harsh stares of both my Sunbae and Junho. They looked about ready to kill the man.
“Are you going to answer my question?” Junho pressed and I reached out to grab the collar of his shirt, pulling him slightly off balance.
“Leave the guy alone! You don’t have to be so rude to him.” I said and he gave me a shocked stare. Clearing my throat and stepped forward. The guy looked like he’d just witnessed a murder, his face was pale and his skin appeared clammy. The poor man was probably scared to death. “I’m sorry but could you please tell me what you saw?” I asked, hyperaware of Jung Keun and Junho’s eyes boring into the back of my skull. Myung Saeng lifted his head to stare at me, his deep brown filled with tears.
“M-Mrs. Kim invited me up to clean her apartment. She’s come on to me in the past so I wasn’t surprised to see she’d prepared champagne. She invited me inside and started to drink heavily. I was about to leave by the time she started on the second glass, and then suddenly the lights went out. T-There was a scream and I heard her fall. W-When the lights came back on she was dead.” He said, breaking down and sobbing into his hands. I stared at the poor man, piecing his story together in my head. There were so many holes in his testimony it was painful.
“Mr. Kim. Please, I know this is hard, but tell the truth.” I said and he gave me a stunned stare, a gasp falling from his lips. Junho placed a hand on my shoulder as he tossed Jung Keun a grin.
“She’s sharper than I imagined.” My Sunbaenim smirked.
“W-What do you mean?” Myung Saeng asked and I pointed at his feet.
“Your shoes. You’re the grounds keeper right? So that means you take care of the landscaping as well as the garbage for the entire building. Your shoes are naturally very dirty right?” I asked, motioning to the pristine carpet. “Yet the carpet is clean.”
“Meaning you removed your shoes when you entered the apartment. One doesn’t take off their shoes if they don’t intend to stay.” Jung Keun added and Junho grinned.
“They’re right. What was your real relationship with my client?” Myung Saeng began to stutter.
“Not to mention that Mrs. Kim was wearing heavy makeup during the trial today, I doubt she had time to scrub it all off before she was murdered.” I pointed to the champagne glasses, “There’s only a lipstick mark on one of the glasses. If she drank them both–”
“Alright enough! Don’t say anymore!” He suddenly exclaimed, his breathing suddenly becoming frantic. The man looked as if he was about to snap. Instantly Junho grabbed me and pulled me behind him, stepping forward to give Myung Saeng a menacing look.
“Lower your voice.” He growled and I gawked up at him while my Sunbae frowned deeply. “I’m giving you one last chance to tell the truth. The next lie that comes out of your mouth will be your downfall.” He threatened and Myung fell back against the wall.
“I-I…I…Can’t–” He began but was suddenly cut off by the sound of a single piano key being struck. Everyone in the room turned their attention to the black grand in the room.
“D-Did the piano just play itself?” I asked and Junho pulled me closer as the sound of some classical piece I couldn’t identify began to play. The gentle hum of the notes was calming amongst the chaotic atmosphere of the apartment. “What is it?”
“Debussy.” Jung Keun commented, his head low as he stroked his bottom lip in thought.
“Valse Romantique.” Junho added, his brow furrowed as he made his way over to the piano. The keys weren’t moving but a steady stream of music fell from its depths. I stared up at Junho’s sudden show of intelligence.
“Amazing.” I commented haughtily and he grinned back at me.
“Isn’t it? I’m not as stupid as I appear right?” He turned back to stare at the piano, “I studied classical music in college. The Valse Romantique in the key of F Minor. It’s actually one of his amateur works that he composed while studying at the Paris Conservatory.” He said and it was my turn to frown. He really was smarter than I thought.
“The song doesn’t particularly matter, it’s the meaning behind it that I’m more interested in.” Sunbae moved to my side and I turned to stare past him at Myung Saeng who had sunk to the floor and clutched at his head. He was shaking as if he’d just seen a ghost. The music continued to play, a crescendo of sound that only got louder and louder until finally, it stopped. Seconds before the power went out and someone let out an ear-piercing scream.