Ga Eul must have lost her mind.
Hooking up with So Yi Jeong, the idea! Why had that stupid idea been planted in her brain? And why did she have the stupidity to act on it?!
She'd been avoiding him most of the week at work—well, as much as possible considering they had to work on cases together.
She'd kept her answers short and to the point. She'd buried herself in her paperwork.
Honestly, why had she thought she could be like him? Do something like that and then act like it didn't mean anything? She wasn't that type of person. She couldn't be cool and nonchalant and unaffected, though she'd been trying awfully hard to appear so ever since that night.
Now she sat in her car in front of the station, staring at her steering wheel like it might give her a way forward.
Ugh. What a mess.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid," she muttered, pressing a hand to her forehead.
A knock on her car window made her jump.
Outside the car, Yi Jeong grinned at her and motioned for her to roll down her window.
Oh, what did he want now?
Ga Eul considered driving away, but she hadn't even turned her car on yet.
And she'd have to deal with him tomorrow, anyway. Better here, in the half-empty parking lot, than inside the building or on their way to a crime scene.
She pressed the button on the side of her door, and a crisp breeze blew in as her window slid down.
"Yes?" she asked.
"You're avoiding me, aren't you?"
"No. If I was avoiding you, I would have driven away just now."
Yi Jeong laughed.
"You should pay more attention during interrogations. Maybe one of these days you'll learn how to lie properly."
"What do you want?"
"Me? For what?"
"I had a good time the other night. Want to do it again?"
"Do I want to lose my virginity again?" she answered flippantly. "I don't think it works that way, but thanks."
Yi Jeong laughed louder, and she took a cursory glance around them to make sure no one was listening in.
"No, I meant...in general...would you like to do that again? We could go to my place this time."
"Why do you want to do it again?"
"I just mean"—she folded her arms around her middle—"if sex is all you want, I'm not the girl for that. And you should probably find someone you don't work with, in my opinion."
"Well, that's not...that's not all I want. We are friends—"
"I don't do the whole 'friends with benefits' thing, if that's what you're asking."
"Um...no. That's not...that's not it."
Ga Eul studied his body language.
He was nervous, though she had no idea why.
Nevertheless, she took the edge out of her voice.
"What is it then?" she asked quietly. "Yi Jeong Sunbae?"
"How would you like to have dinner with me? At my apartment. Say, around eight?"
"I don't...I mean, I want—"
A sudden drift of voices emerging from the building stopped him short.
"Look, I'll leave it up to you." Yi Jeong took his notepad out and scribbled something on it. He ripped out the page and handed it to her. "That's my address. I'll be home all night if you want to come over. We don't have to do anything but hang out. I don't know, talk, whatever people normally do. At least, maybe we can talk about what happened." He glanced over at two of their coworkers heading out to their own respective cars. "I'll see you later then, Detective Chu." He gave her a salute and made his way to his motorcycle.
Ga Eul sat there for another five minutes after he left, rubbing her fingers over the piece of paper.
To damn herself or to damn herself, which will she choose?
The next day found Ga Eul and Yi Jeong frustratedly sifting through witness statements, looking for inconsistencies. So far, the security tapes had nothing to show—no one going in or out of the house all night—and the autopsy suggested Lee Chen had died of a heart attack, not a head wound. But the odd location of her death combined with the head wound and Ha Jae Kyung's insistence that further investigation be done into the matter kept them on the hunt for other possible causes. They were still waiting on the toxicology report and the DNA sample results to come back. Even if Lee Chen had ultimately died of a heart attack, perhaps foul play was still involved. Lee Chen's laptop, if they were ever able to hack into its files through the numerous encryption measures she had set up, might provide a wealth of information on her private life.
Park Hae Soo, the housekeeper's daughter, arrived at the station late that morning, dressed like she'd once again been out all night. Or like she had never gone home at all. Everything about her sparkled—her silver eyeshadow, her sequin blouse, her long acrylic nails that tapped the desk as she recounted what she'd been doing the night Lee Chen died.
Yi Jeong did the majority of the talking during her interview, a fact which served its purpose—Hae Soo seemed a lot more forthcoming with him, though Ga Eul suspected it was a tactic to get him to go out with her. That type of behavior used to bother Ga Eul during interviews, but she'd seen so much of it by now, and besides, Ga Eul had the smug satisfaction of knowing no one could touch Yi Jeong but her.
Still, Park Hae Soo was overdoing it, just a bit, and she really wasn't telling them anything of value. Ga Eul could tell Hae Soo was leaving something out of her story, and that annoyed Ga Eul far more than the false eyelashes Hae Soo was fluttering at Yi Jeong.
"So, let me make sure I have this straight," Yi Jeong commented, reviewing what Hae Soo had told them. "You left the house around seven. Ate dinner at a chicken shop, met a guy, and spent the entire night with him."
"And this guy, do you remember his name?"
"Do you remember the names of all your one night stands?"
"I'll be asking the questions, Miss Park."
"Oh, but I think that's relevant. To me, at least."
Yi Jeong cleared his throat.
"Miss Park, please just answer the question. For one thing, it will be helpful to you if someone can corroborate your story."
Hae Soo smiled sweetly.
"Of course, Detective So. I believe his name was...Lee...Wang Eun. Yes, Lee Wang Eun. He works at the chicken shop I went to earlier that evening. We made plans to meet up after he got off work."
Ga Eul pulled up a text on Lee Chen's confiscated phone.
"Is this the chicken shop you went to?" The text message, sent to Lee Chen at around seven-thirty, showed Park Hae Soo posing happily in front of the very same chicken shop Lee Chen's father owned. Ga Eul and Yi Jeong had gone over to the restaurant the previous afternoon, but unfortunately, the old man, upset as he was, knew very little regarding his daughter's activities. They'd been estranged for years, as Ha Jae Kyung had suggested. The keychain, however, did come from his shop—he gave them out to his employees, and he said it was possible his daughter had one. He'd always felt she was keeping tabs on him, even if he didn't see her.
"Oh, that. Yes, I almost forgot. I ate at her father's chicken restaurant. Lee Chen's, I mean. She...recommended it to me. That's why I sent her the picture."
"Were the two of you close?" Ga Eul pressed. On the phone, there hadn't been any other messages exchanged between the two women.
"Well, I wouldn't say we were best friends, but we lived in the same house. We saw each other quite frequently, you know. So, in a way,"—Hae Soo gestured vaguely—"we were close." She immediately looked contrite, in a manner that made Ga Eul suspect she was not contrite at all. "I was so shocked to hear what happened. I just can't believe she's gone."
Finally, Hae Soo left, making eyes at Yi Jeong like she might blow him a kiss as she did so.
"All right, so I say we find Lee Wang Eun and hear his version of events." Ga Eul shook her head as the two of them walked back to Yi Jeong's desk.
"Yeah. I don't know if she's lying, but there's definitely something she's not saying," Yi Jeong agreed.
"Do you think maybe they went back to the house?" Ga Eul asked, an idea wiggling its way into her brain. "It could be Lee Wang Eun's keychain we found."
"But the cameras don't show anyone going into the house all night."
Ga Eul sighed.
"Detective So?" One of the rookie police poked his head into Yi Jeong's cubicle, where Yi Jeong had just sat down at his computer with Ga Eul standing behind him.
"Yes?" Yi Jeong replied.
"There's a woman here to see you. Ha Jae Kyung. She said she has some further information about the Lee Chen case."
"Oh, send her in." Yi Jeong stood up. "Detective Chu and I will talk with her."
"I feel so embarrassed to be coming to you like this," Ha Jae Kyung said once the three of them had been seated in a quiet location.
"Embarrassed? Why?" Yi Jeong asked, handing Miss Ha a cup of water.
"Thank you. Well, it's just that I was so upset the other morning—yesterday morning, I mean—that I left out one very important detail which I'm sure you've already caught."
Ga Eul frowned.
"And that is?" she asked.
"I think I told you I went to bed around ten. Is that correct?"
"Uh, yes," Yi Jeong answered.
"Um, well, around midnight, I woke up with a headache, and I couldn't get back to sleep. I have really bad migraines sometimes. So I went out for a walk, and I think I was gone for an hour and a half. Two hours, maybe."
"Alone?" Yi Jeong asked.
"Yes, alone. I get stress headaches when I have a big project going on, and sometimes walking helps to clear my head."
"Did you see anyone while you were out?"
"No." Miss Ha shook her head. "It was the middle of the night. I was really just walking around my property, so I didn't even see any cars."
"But on your security recordings," Yi Jeong continued, "we should see you leave the house at around midnight and get back at around one-thirty or two?"
"Yes, that's correct. And then I went back to sleep. I didn't wake up again until Miss Park came to get me to tell me that Chen had...that Chen had passed."
Ga Eul closed her notebook and folded her hands on the table.
"Sorry," Ga Eul interrupted. "We have a problem then. The security cameras don't show anyone coming or going during the night."
Miss Ha frowned.
"But they must. Honestly, I was gone for about two hours. I seem to have blocked it out yesterday, but I wanted to tell you as soon as I realized what I'd done. I figured you would have seen me leaving on the recordings...Do you think the footage was tampered with? Or the cameras?" Miss Ha's brow knitted with concern.
Possibly, Ga Eul thought, though that would have been quite difficult to do given the level of Miss Ha's technology.
"Well, it's certainly probable given what you've just told us," Yi Jeong replied when Ga Eul didn't answer. "Miss Ha, when you came in last night, do you recall hearing or seeing anything that seemed out of place?"
"No. Though to be honest, I was tired, and I wasn't looking for anything."
"Which door did you leave and come back in through?" he asked.
"The front door."
"And the door was locked when you came back?" Yi Jeong continued. "The security system was on?"
"Yes, everything appeared to be as I left it. But I suppose someone could have come through the back entrance or a window, perhaps. Though the security system should have gone off, and it was still armed."
"Lee Chen and Park Hae Soo, were they close, would you say?" Ga Eul asked.
Miss Ha gave her a curious look.
"No, not at all," she answered. "I'd say they...tolerated each other."
"Can you explain what you mean by that?" Ga Eul asked.
"They only talked to each other out of necessity. Lee Chen thought I was being too generous with Hae Soo. That she's been taking advantage of me. To be honest, Hae Soo's really not that much help, but out of kindness to her mother, I haven't found it in me to kick her out." Ha Jae Kyung looked from Ga Eul to Yi Jeong then back to Ga Eul. "Sorry, do you suspect her of something?"
"We are exploring every avenue at this point," Yi Jeong stated. "Just trying to gather as much information as possible."
"Well"—Miss Ha relaxed her posture—"I must confess I have also found something missing from my house earlier today. Not from the study but from my bedroom."
"Yes?" Ga Eul urged her to go on.
"A diamond necklace that was my grandmother's. It's missing from the safe I kept my jewelry in. In my closet."
Park Hae Soo was hiding something. Ga Eul could sense it. Perhaps a diamond necklace, perhaps a murder. But Lee Wang Eun was conveniently 'out sick' when Ga Eul checked at the chicken shop, and a visit to his apartment earlier that day had proven unfruitful. They'd decided to stake out the place and as such had stopped by Yi Jeong's apartment, which happened to be only a few blocks from Wang Eun's, to use the restroom and make coffee. Ga Eul was currently pacing around Yi Jeong's kitchen, waiting for the coffee to finish brewing and applying her mind to what could have been on the cameras that had now presumably been erased and recorded over.
And exactly why and how could Hae Soo and Wang Eun have successfully attacked and/or killed Lee Chen without her fighting back?
And what to think of Miss Ha's two hours out of the house?
Miss Ha seemed too sincere in her grief to have been the culprit, but she had changed her story, though obviously she hadn't known the security footage was tampered with.
Hae Soo, on the other hand, had made it clear that she didn't come back that evening in her statement.
What tune would Lee Wang Eun be singing? Ga Eul wondered.
Or, another thought: could Lee Chen herself have stolen the necklace, and Miss Ha found out and murdered her, perhaps accidentally? Was Ha Jae Kyung really so cunning as to purposefully cast doubt on her own story to make herself seem more sincere?
Yi Jeong's laptop was sitting on the counter, and without thinking Ga Eul opened it to search for the brand and style of necklace Miss Ha had filed as stolen, hoping to get a sense of its value beyond Miss Ha's report and her own appraisal and insurance policy.
But when she had typed in Yi Jeong's password and the screen opened up to a text document, she found her eyes drawn to the words on the document instead.
Please accept this letter as my formal notice that I will be resigning from my position…
Ga Eul's heartbeat stuttered to a halt.
A resignation letter. A half-finished one, but a resignation letter nonetheless.
Yi Jeong was writing a resignation letter.
He was resigning from his position in their department and from his position as her partner.
And he hadn't told her.
Unfortunately, the document didn't have a date on it, but if he had it open on his laptop, he must have been planning to quit soon, right?
He hadn't told Ga Eul anything about it.
In Yi Jeong's bedroom, the bathroom door shut, and Ga Eul quickly closed the laptop. She walked over to the coffee maker and tried to look busy pouring herself a thermos full of hot coffee.
"Coffee ready?" Yi Jeong asked.
"So I was thinking. Maybe Lee Chen startled them."
"Hm?" Ga Eul stirred sugar into her coffee oh-so-slowly, keeping her back turned while she waited for her cheeks to quit burning. Yi Jeong always said she was a horrible liar, and if she turned around now, she knew he would know something was off with her.
"I mean, maybe Hae Soo and Wang Eun saw Miss Ha leave the house. So they went up to her room, stole the necklace, and were caught by Lee Chen when they came downstairs."
"But there are no defensive wounds," Ga Eul countered, keeping her voice steady as she chanced turning around. "She doesn't look like she was fighting anyone."
"Okay, then, maybe they snuck up on her," Yi Jeong said, reaching around her and grabbing the pot of coffee. Then he was mercifully distracted by looking for his thermos and filling it up.
"I thought your premise was that she snuck up on them."
"Right." Giving her a sidelong glance, Yi Jeong said, "I kinda suck at investigating, don't I?" He smiled.
"Do you?" Ga Eul asked, her voice higher-pitched than normal.
"Sure, I do." He reached around her and put the coffee pot back in its place. "You're the brains of our operation." He kissed her forehead.
She swallowed and watched him back away.
He shrugged on his coat and she mechanically placed the lid on her coffee mug, grabbed her purse and her keys off the table, and went out the door he held open for her.
This was going to be a long stakeout, no matter how short it was.