Disclaimer: I do not own anything that has to do with Heartless City, JTBC. Original characters are mine however.
Endless Night || Heartless City Sequel
Chapter One – Contamination
Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,
In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near,
And the impending things are hastening upon them
(Deuteronomy 32:35, Bible)
Dr. Lee Woo-ha stared at the phone in his hand, wishing that he could make both it and himself disappear. He nervously ran his fingers through his hair, absently noting that he’d let it grow slightly past professional standards. Indeed, there is no escaping the passage of time and one’s responsibilities, he thought miserably.
It was in these moments that he wished he hadn’t been born to a roaring drunkard of a father who cared only for cards and the revolving door of women. He’d not spared an inch of affection on little Woo-ha, instead choosing to lavish his dubious attentions on whichever female happened to be hanging on his arm. Woo-ha had never become accustomed to the cloying scent of perfume that pervaded the small space he stubbornly refused to call “home.”
But no amount of perfume could mask the smell of greed and corruption that lingered on the bodies of the space’s occupants, not even when they died. Woo-ha had stood there, his slight frame trembling as he gazed down at his father’s corpse. The body wasn’t even cold before the debt collectors had started pounding on the door. Despite his young age, Woo-Ha had made up for his physical vulnerabilities with a quick mind. He offered up the only bargaining tool he had to the collectors – his future – and signed the contract in blood; he shed no tears.
Now twenty years later, Woo-ha had found a semblance of companionship with the various men who held his contract. They had all come from broken families and crushed dreams, but most still strove to make the best of their lot in life. They made up the new revolving door in his life, replacing the heady scent of perfume with the metallic smell of blood. He found he preferred the latter, a stark reminder of human nature, over simpering pretenses.
It was easy to imagine that if fate had spun a slightly different thread Woo-ha could have been the one with the battered knuckles instead of the one mending the damage they caused; but this didn’t make delivering bad news any easier. That was the tricky thing with gangsters; you didn’t know if they were going to take the news calmly and assess the next steps, or beat the messenger bloody first before thinking about the next steps. From past experience Woo-ha knew that though the gangsters always avoided his surgeon’s hands, his face was still fair game.
Pushing his wire-framed glasses slightly higher up on his nose, Woo-ha breathed deeply before punching in a phone number he’d long since committed to memory. There was no use putting it off any longer. He had been sitting on the results of the final analysis for an hour and there was no denying the bleak confirmation. He’d been on alert since he received the first call from Kwang-sung, the contact here in Seoul, and the papers clutched in his hand confirmed his fears.
The phone rang twice before it picked up and silence greeted him on the other line. There was no need for pleasantries; the man on the other end had little use for them and this was anything but a social call.
“There’s been another body found,” Woo-ha stated precisely, “It displays the same signs as the previous five victims. Initial test results hypothesized that death was a result of overdose, but further analysis shows the amount consumed would not have been enough to induce an overdose. Furthermore, the same chemical pattern was found in the stomach contents of all the victims. There’s no denying that each victim’s death was the result of the drugs they consumed, in pill or powder form.”
“You’ve confirmed that the drugs are ours?” A calm, cultured voice asked.
“The analysis of the drugs’ chemical pattern displayed a match with our unique chemical signature..” Woo-ha paused, “However, the chemical signature is different; the composition of these drugs include new material which wasn’t in ours originally. I did an test on the sample you had sent from the factory and that sample does not contain that additional pattern, only the original signature. Upon further examination of the drugs I found out that they were all from the same shipment.”
“So the drugs found in the victims have been altered,” the voice said, “Is anyone else aware of the contamination?”
Woo-ha thought carefully before answering, “I can’t medically hide the fact that the drugs are the cause of the deaths, but a fairly reasonable explanation I can give is that the deaths were the result of impure drugs that had been cut with poisonous components. No one will be alarmed by this; new drugs appear on the market all the time as a result of some kid trying to play chemist and make some fast cash. This is the safest explanation I can give without drawing any attention.”
“That will have to do for now.” The voice answered shortly. There was an unmistakable thread of tension in the voice that hadn’t been there previously. The line went dead without further comment.
Woo-ha put the phone down and stared at it once again. This is much worse than I thought. In the four years Woo-ha been communicating with his boss he’d never heard such emotion in his boss’s voice. If Woo-ha didn’t know better, he would have said it was worry.
The man on the other end of the call, mentioned only in rumors spoken in dark corners as Paksa Adeul, resisted the urge to loosen the tie that suddenly felt abnormally tight around his neck. Ignoring the questioning glances of the two men beside him, he quickly dialed a number. Letting the phone ring twice before hanging up, he re-dialed and waited for the voice on the other end.
“Did the Doctor confirm the results?” Kwang-sung, his second lieutenant and head of operations in Seoul, asked.
“Your early guess was right. The drugs are from the same shipment and tests show they’ve been tampered with. There’s no denying the fact that they’re ours. So far none of the dealers are aware since a random death or two in this business is a daily occurrence. But if the deaths start to increase, people are going to start asking questions; and judging by the dates that the victims were found, that frequency is increasing.”
Paksa Adeul tapped his fingers against the edge of the window as he looked down at the city he’d called home for the past five years. A cool gust of wind whistled through the open window and teased at his hair like a playful lover. He had grown fond of Tokyo; it had been here that he’d shed the white coat he wore on his arrival and re-donned his black suit. The world, with the exception of a very few close friends, believed that Paksa Adeul was dead. In this new land, he’d risen from the ashes and painstakingly constructed an empire using the calculated ruthlessness he’d kept in check during his years as an undercover agent.
There was no longer any man he called master, no one that he took orders from. He chose his own loyalties and made his own allegiances in his pursuit of revenge, however questionable his methods may be. He’d silently watched as other drug empires crumbled under the constant pressure and stepped in to claim the spoils. Now, it seemed he was being challenged by another lord in the city that he once promised to claim as his own.
Mentally brushing aside his thoughts and the memories attached to them, he turned his mind to the task at hand. Someone was threatening his empire. Someone who wasn’t honorable enough, even in this dark world where some lines were drawn, to thrown down the gauntlet in front of him but instead resorted to deceit and trickery. Paksa Adeul turned his attention back to his second lieutenant on the line,
“Devote your entire attention this matter. Let one of your subordinates take care of any daily matters and focus solely on finding out what happened to that shipment and how our drugs were contaminated. Report any leads, no matter how small or insignificant, back to me,” he instructed, “We need to get this contained before we lose the trust of our dealers.”
“Understood.” Kwang-sung replied.
Both men hung up without a goodbye; Kwang-sung’s thoughts were already honing in on the task that he had been given. Any leads that he found through his investigation would be crucial and the urgency in Paksa Adeul’s voice confirmed the seriousness of the matter. A small number of deaths was easy to overlook, but it had only been a few days since the third and fourth victims had been found, followed by the death of the fifth victim a day later. Whoever was tainting the drugs was playing a deadly game and very soon the blame was going to fall on their heads.
Kwang-sung sighed, realizing that he would have to cancel his plans tonight and that it would be days until he was able to see Jin-ae, his mistress. He’d have to bring her a bouquet of flowers for their next rendezvous, red roses to match the soft petals of her lips. Perhaps they would silence the tongue-lashing he was most certainly in for.
Two Weeks Later
Dr. Lee Woo-ha walked through the quiet hallways of the hospital, thankful for the silence this seldom-used area offered. Most physicians seemed to be wary of the morgue floors but Woo-Ha had discovered long ago that dead men make the best companions. It was here that he could escape from curious eyes and peel off the façade of quietly unassuming doctor that he played.
His pager suddenly went off and Woo-ha looked down to see the details of the call. Dead male. Victim of physical violence. Autopsy requested. The room he’d been called to was just three doors down from his current location.
Resigning himself to the loss of personal time, Woo-ha stepped through the doors of the autopsy room. The body was still covered with a sheet, except for the left arm dangling by the side of the examination table; The left arm that bore a curling dragon around its wrist.
Shocked speechless, Woo-ha stepped closer and stared at the arm, his memories transforming the pallid skin tone in front of him into living flesh.
Kwang-sung took a long drink of beer and slammed the bottle playfully down next to Woo-ha’s. “Woo-ha!” he exclaimed, a grin curving his lips, “You need to lighten up and live a little bit!”
Woo-ha had smiled himself as he picked up his own beer. “Medical surgeons aren’t exactly known for their bright and bubbly personalities. Besides, don’t you think I’d draw attention to myself if I decide to follow your example and ’live life to the fullest’?” He’d joked about Kwang-sung’s love for pretty ladies more than once in the past.
“I’m not saying you should be scandalous but you need to enjoy life more!” Kwang-sung said, laughing.
“You don’t think I’m scandalous enough considering the company I keep?” Woo-Ha pointedly looked at the exposed tattoo on Kwang-sung’s arm. Kwang-sung usually wore long-sleeved shirts, but when he drank he was prone to rolling the sleeves up. He’d scared off bar patrons often enough that long ago, Woo-ha had decided they could only have drinks outdoors.
“That’s what you need!” Kwang-sung drunkenly exclaimed, looking at his own arm. “You should get a tattoo! Be a little bit dangerous!”
Woo-ha’s beer almost went up his nose from the sudden laughter than rose from his throat. He laughed longer and louder than he had in a very long time. After that, Kwang-sung had taken to sending him tattoo designs every now and then, with each one growing more outlandish than the last. He’d even suggested a matching tattoo to his own at one point.
Woo-Ha blinked back the memories and stared at Kwang-sung’s still body. Dazedly, he peeled the sheet back to reveal a barely recognizable face. The brutality that had been unleashed on Kwang-Sung was horrific. Someone had taken a tire iron and tried to beat his face inward. If not for the tattoo, Woo-ha would not have recognized Kwang-sung.
He heard the door open behind him and he stepped away, phone already in his hand. He signaled to his co-worker that he would be back before stepping outside and walking down the now too quiet halls.
Paksa Adeul, or Jung Shi-hyun as a select few called him, turned his second lieutenant’s keys over in his hand before inserting them into the lock and opening the door to Kwang-sung’s office. He’d received Kwang-sung’s autopsy papers upon his arrival in Seoul and he knew the latter’s death had not been a quick or easy one. Kwang-sung had been tortured and left barely alive for hours before someone had gone back to finish the job. His death in itself was a small relief; he would never have been able to walk again after being blinded and having his legs broken. Shi-hyun knew that Kwang-sung would’ve never been able to live as a cripple.
Despite the sadness Shi-hyun felt over Kwang-sung’s death – and he did grieve, for Kwang-sung had been a loyal man – Shi-hyun hoped that his death had not been in vain. Kwang-sung had been searching for leads to the tainted drugs and Shi-Hyun intuitively knew that his death was in some way related to his investigation, which meant that he had discovered something. Shi-Hyun only hoped that Kwang-sung had been able to leave behind some hint of what he’d found. If nothing else, Shi-hyun promised to exact revenge on those responsible.
The door opened, revealing an office that had obviously been ransacked. Kwang-sung’s murderers had probably captured him here, Shi-hyun thought. He stepped over debris from shattered bottles and splintered chairs. He bypassed searching through the destruction for a clue; any evidence would have been trashed already.
He walked towards the back wall and lifted off a rather provocative painting of lovers caught in embrace – Kwang-sung always did have rather interesting tastes – to reveal a keypad. He dialed the combination and the safe opened with a click. Shi-hyun pulled out the stack of money on the top shelf, reached towards the back and lifted open a secret panel. His fingers felt along the hidden compartment and came into contact with a small card; he pulled the card out.
It was simple white card; The word “Vanity” was written in elegant script in the front with an address in smaller print beneath it. Running his fingers along the surface, Shi-hyun could feel a subtle embossing of some shape, perhaps some kind of flower. An unbidden thought suddenly rose up –
There had been a girl in his past, a past that sometimes came fluttering in his mind during quiet moments, a girl who had been like a wild flower.
Shaking his head slightly to stop such thoughts from taking root, Shi-hyun examined the card; he made out the handwritten words “The Madame”. The back of the card was empty except for one name that was written in Kwang-sung’s scribble – “Mi-young.”
Shi-hyun picked up his phone and called his first lieutenant, a feeling of cool triumph unfurling inside him.
“I have a task for you.”
Author’s Note: Special thanks to my editors lilahozi and aziraphale, you two are amazing beyond words! Chapter Two will bring Soo-min into the picture and you’ll find out how her five years have passed. As always, feedback is appreciated!