Endless Night || Heartless City Sequel
Chapter Three – Collision
A single light swung back and forth like a metronome against the inky darkness of the warehouse interior. The warehouse had been long abandoned and stood silent and empty, except for a single steel chair. The chair was currently occupied by a stout man whose strained gasps echoed off the walls. His limbs were duct-taped to the chair and his swollen face was battered and bloody. He whimpered through busted lips around a gag that had been roughly shoved into his mouth.
Two men approached from the shadows, while a third looked on from a short distance away. If the man, Do-shik, had been a poet, he would have compared his situation to that of being stalked by wild tigers; but he was no poet, only a man in his middle years who liked his women and his liquor. He displayed his wealth through a rotating parade of bright, garishly patterned garments and his mop of curly brown hair bore the signs of extensive perming. Do-shik currently worked as a mid-level distributor for a brand of designer drugs. The drugs were the best on the market, coveted for their purity and potency. Having tested them himself numerous times, he knew that the product was superior, which made his job extremely profitable. He’d watched as time and time again as new drugs attempted to break into the market and failed each time. There was no denying that the chemist behind the drug’s composition was nothing less than a genius.
Do-shik was comfortable with the position and plushy life that distribution allowed him. He had an extensive list of street dealers from every walk of life, and money flowed regularly from the well-oiled machine. But he didn’t like to get his own fingers dirty and was by no means a brave man, so he sent his goons to do the necessary muscle work when a client failed to pay on time.
It had been his own men who had attacked him – throwing a bag over his head and smashing a fist into his cheek, rendering him unconscious. He’d been shocked awake by the sharp stinging pain of salt being ground into his face. That had been before each of his fingers had been broken, each joint manipulated in a way to induce the most pain.
He didn’t immediately recognize any of the three men. The man who’d rubbed salt on his face had a fine bone structure and long black hair pulled back tightly against his skull, bringing his angular cheekbones into sharp relief. There was a long jagged scar running the length of his right hairline that lent a distinctly sinister quality to his face, and his cold black eyes seemed to pierce into Do-shik’s soul. He hadn’t spoken a word during the entire interrogation; in fact, his entire face was wholly without emotion. When Do-shik’s blood had spattered across his face, the man hadn’t even blinked.
It was the second man who had done all of the talking, not that he had asked Do-shik any questions. He was tall with an arresting face and black hair shaved down to the skin, a stark contrast to the first man. As he moved around, Do-shik saw figures of demons in black tattoos that curled around his neck before disappearing beneath the collar of his black shirt. He spoke in an almost detached but taunting manner when he informed Do-shik of the torture he was about to administer on his person until he begged for death. Do-shik already half welcomed it. He’d heard hushed rumors uttered in hair-raising terror about the two men circling him and a cold sweat broke over his battered body when he realized he was dealing with The Demon and The Dancer.
But as terrifying as the two men stalking around him were, Do-shik knew that they were only following the orders of the third man, who stood back and watched the proceedings with indifference, arms folded against an immaculately cut three-piece black suit. There was a coiled tension to the man’s slender, lithe frame, reminding Do-shik of a sleek cheetah poised to strike a bloody fatal blow.
Now, as the two men walked towards him, twirling sharp instruments in their hands, Do-shik realized to his horror and dismay that he was about to lose control of his bowels. He spit out blood while struggling to speak after one of the men pulled the gag from his mouth.
“Wha…aa..what do you want? Who…who.. are you?”
“Do-shik, Do-shik… you don’t know the rules, do you? We’re the ones who ask the questions,” The Demon, as Do-shik knew him to be, said viciously. He casually picked up Do-shik’s right hand and twisted his wrist to the point of breaking. Do-shik howled from the pain.
“What happened to Dragon?” The man asked, picking up Do-shik’s other hand. Dragon had been Kwang-sung’s handle.
“D…Dragon? What ha..happen..ed to h-him?” Do-shik recognized the name of his supplier. The last time they had had any communication had been two days ago.
“What did I tell you about asking questions?” This time, as if following an unspoken sign, it was The Dancer who rested his hands on Do-shik’s shoulders before expertly breaking his left shoulder. Do-shik’s world exploded in agonizing pain.
The Demon, known as Young-jae who was the Third Lieutenant, and The Dancer, known as Masa who was Second Lieutenant now that Dragon, or Kwang-sung, no longer filled the position, walked back towards their leader as Do-shik screamed incoherently and blubbered out broken pleas.
Paksa Adeul rubbed a hand against his jaw and swallowed the urge to snarl in frustration. It seemed that Kwang-sung’s subordinate was an idiot who was clueless about what had happened to him. The fool didn’t even know that Kwang-sung had been murdered. When Paksa had seen the bloated preening peacock being dumped into the chair, he already had his misgivings, but they needed to explore every avenue at this point.
He signaled for his men to clean up the mess; they wouldn’t find any answers here tonight. Stepping back fully into the shadows, he dialed his phone and raised it to his ear. He hoped that his First Lieutenant was having better luck that he was.
Soo-min touched her smoothly curled hair for the fifth time in the past ten minutes, betraying a nervous twitch. She glanced down at her dress and heels and gave a wry smile. It had been a long time since she’d taken the time to dress up. The outfit’s dark crimson lace made her feel a bit like she’d been painted in blood. Ever since the incident, she’d found herself passing by the pastels and brights that made up her previous wardrobe, and gravitated towards deeper, darker colors.
At least I won’t stand out like a sunbeam, she thought at she stifled the urge to smooth nervous hands over the dress yet again. She was currently standing across the street from her target, a club that was located in a sprawling manor up on a hill. The neighborhood seemed to cater to the wealthy judging by the surroundings. She’d observed more than one black limousine driving down the street and had backed off the sidewalk in order to not be noticed. But now she was in danger of loitering and the night wasn’t growing any younger.
Soo-min had finally caught a small break when she’d gone back to Hye-soo’s apartment the second time. She’d spotted the always present local ahjumma, so she quickly spun a story of how she was Hye-soo’s old friend and was looking for her because Hye-soo’s mother wasn’t doing so well. She mentioned that she couldn’t get a hold of Hye-soo and wondered if the woman had any idea as to Hye-soo’s whereabouts.
The woman had been more than eager to gossip and had excitedly whispered that Hye-soo might have a wealthy boyfriend, since there’d been a black limo dropping her off frequently in the past. Maybe Hye-soo was now spending more time with said rich boyfriend? Soo-min, speaking calmly so as to not betray her growing hope, had asked if the woman had any idea where Hye-soo might have been meeting with this wealthy boyfriend.
The woman didn’t know, but just as Soo-min was starting to feel hope quickly deflating, the woman mentioned that there had been one night when Hye-soo came home quite drunk. Normally a quiet girl, the alcohol had loosened her tongue slightly and she’d struck up a conversation with the dumbfounded ahjumma. They chatted about inconsequential things, such as the ahjumma’s daily dealings and family. Hye-soo still remained quite tight-lipped about herself, the ahjumma said. When the ahjumma casually asked where Hye-soo worked, she’d started to respond before stopping herself.
“It sounded like it started with a B or a V,” the ahjumma said, scratching her head, “Some fancy English word, I don’t remember.”
That’s when Soo-min caught her break. She’d kept the simple white card she found in Hye-soo’s apartment as a memento of the girl, something small to remind her of her promise to seek justice for her. The scented card also gave off a calming fragrance and Soo-min almost felt that Hye-soo herself was guiding her.
The card read “Vanity.”
It had taken a quick call to a past acquaintance to find out if any club named Vanity existed. The acquaintance didn’t provide much information except some vague directions as to the club’s possible location. It had taken Soo-min an hour of wandering the streets to finally pinpoint the exact spot.
Now she stood several hundred yards away and observed the building. She saw women decked with jewels escorted by smartly dressed men pull up in fancy cars and disappear through the doors. From a distance she watched as visitors were stopped at the door; she observed guests presenting something in their hands; the object caught the light and looked like an old polished coin. A calling card, she assumed. Dress code was one thing, but it seemed looking the part wasn’t the only entrance requirement.
Soo-min stepped out of the shadows and made her way up the hill, passing a well-manicured garden, walking up a flight of stone stairs. She bit her lip and tried not to wince at her tender feet; it had been a while since she last donned heels.
As she reached the entrance, the doorman smoothly stepped forward towards her as she approached and stood, waiting.
Soo-min summed up a dose of courage. Let’s hope I have a shred of acting skills in me, she thought.
She straightened her spine and moved without hesitation towards the guard, giving him her best imitation of a femme-fatale smile. “I’m so sorry, I misplaced the coin for here and didn’t realize it until I arrived. You wouldn’t mind letting me through just this once would you?” She laughed prettily, “I promise that I won’t forget the favor.” She coyly laid her fingers against his arm and gave him a smile full of secret promises.
The guard stared at her, looking unconvinced. Soo-min was beginning to think her charade was up before it even began when he nodded and stepped aside.
“Thanks.” She tiptoed up and whispered in his ear. She moved towards the door, fighting off the uncomfortable feeling of his eyes roving over her figure.
Soo-min walked through the entrance, which opened up to a wide foyer. Casually glancing left, right and up, she saw dimly lit hallways that led to other parts of the club. There was a steady stream of people moving around and she allowed the flow of the crowd to direct her. She quickly realized that the building’s exterior was deceptive; the club was far larger than what she had expected. The place silently screamed extravagance and money, from the large crystal chandeliers to the embellished walls that she lightly ran her palm against. While no longer interested in such obvious material pleasures, she could still appreciate the beauty.
However, she wasn’t here to admire architecture; she had another purpose. Moving through the crowd, she allowed her gaze to rest briefly on each face before moving onto the next, trying to recognize any features. It was a shot in the dark and there was no guarantee that anyone here tonight would give her any leads, but trying wouldn’t hurt.
A few hours passed by and Soo-min had looked into so many faces that they were all starting to blur together. Deciding she should call it a night, she headed over the bar in order to drop off the drink that she’d been carrying for the sake of appearances. She walked to the edge of the mahogany counter and was just turning around when a man sitting at the far corner caught her eye. Keeping her face tilted down, she passed the length of the bar, averting her gaze to avoid eye contact. When she neared the man, she had to do her best to not stumble. She fixed a bored expression on her face, but couldn’t help her eyes from suddenly widening.
That man… he has a lion on his wrist… a red, black, and gold snarling lion… Her heart began to pound. It had only been scant hours ago when the same lion had appeared in her nightmares. She knew with absolute certainty that the man drinking at the bar was one of the guards during her abduction.
The man was still drinking, so she moved to another spot while trying to memorize his features with quick glances at him. He had a face that could be described as sensual, but cruelty lurked in the twisted curve of his lips. He finished his drink, stood up and moved away from the bar. Soo-min followed him at a distance, her body taut with tension. The man headed for the entrance and Soo-min realized that he was leaving the club. Hardly believing her luck, she maintained a safe distance as she followed him.
He exited the club using a different route that she had entered by, and started walking down the hill. Silently cursing the man who invented heels, Soo-min hurried after him, hearing the sharp echo of her shoes against the surrounding stone walls. The man stopped but Soo-min kept going, hoping not to arouse any suspicion. If need be, she would slip into the roll of a lost partygoer.
The trick seemed to work as the man picked up his pace again and turned right into a pathway. She saw the man moving through stone sculptures before disappearing behind them. Soo-min waited a bit before following. She tread quietly through the sculptures, keeping an eye out for the man. The lights here were markedly fewer and the shadows they cast gave the sculptures almost demonic appearances. She rounded a sculpture but there was no sign of her target. Puzzled, she turned around and quickly walked towards the other side. No sign of him here either. It seemed she’d lost him. Shit.
She turned back to walk up the pathway, weaving through the statues and wanting to scream in frustration.
At least I have a face to match the tattoo, she thought. Maybe I can call in another favor and get a sketch artist to—”
In mid-thought, she found her arm wrenched behind her and she was jerked into the shadows. Twisting and turning, she moved her head enough to see her aggressor’s face. It was the man she’d been following.
“You didn’t think I noticed you at the bar?” he grinned, giving her arm a vicious twist. Soo-min gasped in pain. She kicked backward and simultaneously ground her elbow into his stomach. He exhaled with a slight “oof”, then wrapped a hand around her neck and started choking her. She could feel his hot breath against her cheek as he panted with excitement.
Soo-min’s vision started to go black from the lack of oxygen. She used her free hand to rake her nails down the hand closed around her throat. Her fingers turning red as she ripped nails into his skin; she heard a snarl of pain. He shoved her away then backhanded her with a closed fist.
Soo-min fell to the ground, her head spinning from the blow. Grinning sadistically, the man leaned down and straddled her. He grabbed her thrashing arms and pinned them over her head, digging his fingers into her delicate wrists. Despite her frantic attempts to buck him off, he didn’t budge.
An awful, cold fear pierced her as the man reached into his pocket and produced a very familiar-looking syringe.
“I remember you from those months ago,” He leaned closer to speak into her ear, using his other hand to wrench her head in place. “My boss was so mad about your escape that he took his anger out on me. I always hoped that one day I’d be able to pass along the favor to you, and it seems that day is today.” He ripped the collar of Soo-min’s dress down and ran a possessive finger along her scar. Soo-min’s skin crawled with revulsion and she intensified her struggle.
“But first, a little memento for old times’ sake,” he purred, pulling Soo-min’s arm towards him and placing the needle against her inner elbow. “I’m going to relish the sight of you writhing on the ground. It will bring back such fond memories.”
Soo-min went mad with terror; she fought like a mindless animal but her small frame was no match for the man’s larger physique and he slowly pushed the needle into her skin.
There was a sudden shout followed by a loud crack that rang out in the night; the man abruptly collapsed on top of Soo-min. She shoved his inert form off of her and rolled onto her hands and knees, trying to breathe through her panic attack. Grasping her chest and panting, she raised her head to thank her rescuer but the words became stuck in her throat. Instead, she ended up blurting out a name she never thought she’d have the occasion to say again.
Author’s Note: Yes, I know, I’m terrible for ending it on this cliffhanger :P! Due to real life picking up I’m releasing this chapter early, but next chapter will be out on Monday as normally scheduled! Special thanks as always to my awesome editors lilahozi and aziraphale! And to Akiko for the endless support, it means the world!