Dilettante – Chapter 3

Ha-na slowly closed and opened her eyes as she tried to catch her breath.

“Don’t lie…you bastard.”

Like a habit, profanity slipped out from between her lips first. After a moment of silence, the caller calmly continued to speak.

[I’m sorry.]

Ha-na felt like the ground beneath her feet had disappeared. Her mind went blank and her vision blurred as tears filled her eyes. She leaned against the hood of the van to steady herself and didn’t even need to blink before the tears dripped down, wetting her face. 

“No… no! It’s not true! Don’t lie to me!”

Ha-na eventually collapsed. Surprised by the sudden situation, Jeon Yu-cheol and the other detectives rushed forward to support her.

The ringing in her ears caused their concerned voices to fade into the background. Yu-cheol gently took the phone from her hand and spoke to the caller. After a few moments of silently listening, his face paled and then he started yelling into the phone.

He vented his anger at the caller by spitting out swear words even she had never heard of. For Ha-na, everything happening around her felt completely unreal.

Like an elaborate play that was being performed on a crude stage. 

‘This can’t be real.’

“Hey, get up. You have to calm down, Lee Ha-na! Come on!”

Yu-cheol grabbed her arm roughly, shaking her.

Her bloodshot eyes were distorted.

“Wake up, you bastard!”

“Dui…can’t be dead. Sunbae, you know it too. Say something, please? Dui is not the type to just die!” (TL: Dui = Do-hyun)

When Ha-na screamed, Yu-cheol simply nodded with a bitter expression on his face.

“Yeah, how could Do-hyun die? So, let’s calm down and figure this out okay? You have to pull yourself together, Ha-na! Get it together!”

Ha-na was tired of dealing with death.

There were times when a bomb exploded would explode just 100 meters away from her position and a building collapsed with her colleagues inside.

She had even witnessed her colleagues’ heads blown off three times.

Since she was only human, death was an absolute tragedy that she had no choice but to accept.

However, experiencing the death of a family member is different.

The disappearance of a loved one, the only being on Earth precious enough to risk her life for, was unimaginably painful.

For the first time in her life, Ha-na experienced the agonizing pain of her heart breaking.

“Ughhhh!!”

* * * * * * * *

 

The day dawned bright and clear with the rising sun casting a rosy hue across the morning sky.

Numb to the passage of time, Ha-na laid in Do-hyun’s bed and stared blankly at the ceiling.

This comfortable house was a completely different place from the inn she cried in for the first time in her life.

‘Yes, this was our home.

It wasn’t an orphanage full of mold stains, nor was it a basement room that was always wet due to condensation.

It’s an apartment in Seoul, which was built less than 10 years ago. It faces south, so it gets plenty of sunlight, and everything from the wallpaper, to the furniture… All of it was clean and brand new.

This house is the sanctuary we worked hard to obtain in order to live happily together. But without you, this is not our home anymore.

I could no longer use the word “our” to describe this home anymore.’

Ha-na’s swollen eyes filled with tears as she cried again. She felt like all the moisture in her body had been depleted, but she preferred it that way.

“Ugh…”

She punched the bedsheets as hard as she could, but it didn’t make her feel better.

Nothing felt real. It felt like she was all alone in an unknown world as if her life no longer had any meaning.

Nothing ever went according to her wishes.

Ha-na buried her face into the damp pillow and screamed. Overwhelmed with grief, she screamed until she felt the blood rushing to her face and a burning sensation in her throat.

“Why did you have to die?! Why?! Why did you leave me alone?! Why?!”

‘You can’t die… You can’t leave me behind. You told me that we would live happily ever after until we died of old age. What do I do now? How can I live without you?’

Ha-na was wiping away her tears with her hand when she suddenly heard a sound.

A faint vibration was heard from somewhere in the room. 

It couldn’t by her cell phone since it was dead and had fallen beneath the bed.

Ha-na slowly got out of the bed. The strange vibration, which echoed in the quiet, but silent house, pulled her out of her grief.

‘Where the hell…’

Do-hyun’s room had a bed, a computer desk, and a freestanding closet, where his clothes were hung. The only storage in the room was an iron cabinet located under the computer desk, something she had purchased online for 20,000 won.

But the sound was not coming from the cabinet. Focusing all her senses on hearing, she slowly walked around the room.

“Is it under the bed?”

It was a high possibility that the sound was coming from under the frame, the vibrating close to the mattress.

Ha-na stared at the bed and then lifted the mattress at once, stirring up a bit of dust in the process. 

After raising and leaning the mattress against the wall, she pushed her hand beneath of the frame.

“It was definitely towards the head.”

For unknown reasons, Ha-na was felt a sense of urgency to find the source of the vibration. It was like an instinct, so she couldn’t explain why.

While fumbling around the bottom of the frame, her fingers brushed against a wire. A chill starting at her fingertips, spread throughout her body as she carefully rams her fingers along the wire.

The vibration had stopped for a while, but started again. Ha-na was then able to find the source of the sound and grabbed ahold of the device producing the vibrations.

Her body trembled as tension built up within her. 

What she found was a CDMA terminal with a 2G mobile phone attached to it. Currently, 2G service had been terminated, and could no longer be used by civilians, but Do-hyun was not a civilian. (TL: A CDMA terminal is a device that gives a telephone system or mobile phone the ability to communicate with other devices via voice calls and exchange data like texts, fax, GPS, ect.)

On the surface, Do-hyun was a member of the National Security Intelligence Agency and the ace of the overseas criminal investigation team. He supposedly lead investigations into oversea drug crimes, but it’s not known exactly what he was primarily responsible for.

A lot of secrets meant a lot of hidden things.

Ha-na stared at the mobile phone in her hand. The vibrations indicated an incoming call, but there was no caller ID. She flipped open that phone and answered the call while watching the screen.

00:01 

00:02 

00:03

[…Noona!]

After three seconds, Ha-na heard the sound of Do-hyun’s voice, and sighed heavily with the breath she had been holding in.

“Do…hyun? Where are you? What the hell happened to you?! Are you okay….?”

The signal strength wasn’t good. This meant he wasn’t contacting her using a normal communication device. 

Her heart started beating frantically.

[‘Noo… na. …I can’t …say. Not now. That’s why, telling you… be careful. …That bastard …not dead. …Don’t look for me. I won’t die.’]

“Dui, you keep cutting off. Say it again! Where are you right now?! Just tell me the coordinates. Anything that might be a hint!”

[Oh, no…f*ck…]

Ha-na instinctively knew the signal would be lost soon. Impatient, she became pensive and continued speaking.

“Dui, don’t hang up. Dui! Keep talking and don’t hang up. I’m going to track the coordinates myself!”

However, there was a loud racket and the call ended. The explosive noise resembled the sound of a building collapsing.

Ha-na stood there in a daze. The interaction hit her like a bucket of cold water.  Dui’s superior stated Do-hyun was definitely dead. That he died during his mission, so she should make arrangements for his funeral. But, unless it was a ghost she had just spoken to, Do-hyun is still alive.

Do-hyun is out there somewhere, alone in a potentially dangerous situation, with no support because everyone believes he’s dead…

The muscles in her body grew tense. The hairs on her back of her neck stood up and every fiber of her being was in a frenzy. In a state of shock, Ha-na pushed the bed frame to the side, and grabbed her charging cable.

‘Dui is alive.’

‘Dui, my only reason for living, is alive.’ 

‘He didn’t die.’

Her lips were trembling as her heart started pounding as if she had taken stimulants.

‘There must be a reason why he is contacting me through a device that can’t be tracked or bugged, when he can contact me on my cellphone.’

Ha-na ran into the bathroom and splashed her face with cold water. Raising her head, she gazed at her reflection in the mirror as the icy water dripped down her face.

‘Calm down, Ha-na. Get a hold of yourself.’

She inhaled deeply and focused on calming her erratic thoughts. Her hands turned white from grasping the bathroom sink too tightly. 

‘But I’m happy….’

She exhaled and the sudden relief seemed to ease her tension. 

As she watched her reflection in the mirror, Ha-na began to grasp the situation.

Dui is alive.

The organization is trying to kill Dui.

This is a cover up or a misunderstanding.

‘He was assigned to a dangerous mission, so it wouldn’t be strange if he lost his life. But, what about the body? Why didn’t I ask about the body?’

Ha-na punched the marble sink with her first, reflecting on the errors she had missed. 

“You bastards…”

Do-hyun is currently in a tight spot. Which means that there is a high probability that he can’t ask for help from anyone in his organization.

The dark-brown eyes reflected the mirror were filled with rage. Because of her unusual pale skin, her hair appeared exceptionally dark and dense.

After leaving the bathroom, Ha-na headed straight to her room.

Opening the door to her walk-in closet, she retrieved a 20-inch suitcase and began to pack things quickly and accurately. After packing a minimal amount of clothing and underwear, she added her tablet, laptop, phone charger, and a few archive files from the bottom of her bookshelf.

Then, she immediately went online and purchased a plane ticket to Cambodia.

The shortest flight was 5 hours and 30 minutes. It took Ha-na 17 minutes to purchase a first-class ticket for Wi-Fi access and locate her passport and ID.

Dui didn’t die.

Ha-na mumbled to herself as she continued to pack like a madman, and then left her house without hesitation. 

It was just before sunrise, a time when the sky was dyed in a breathtaking mixture of colors.

An eerie calmness washed over her as she sorted her chaotic thoughts.  Her erratic heartbeat had also subsided, and the only thing on her mind was the fact that Do-hyun was alive. 

Ha-na called Choi Tae-joon while waiting for a taxi. Choi Tae-joon is Do-hyun’s closest colleague and currently deployed on the same mission. 

‘If something had happened to Dui, Choi Tae-joon would have been the first to hear the news. But if something also happened to Tae-joon…’  

As her thoughts cycled through the worst case scenarios, the call connected.

[Uh… Ha-na]

The moment the call connected, Ha-na could hear Choi Tae-joon as he cried over the phone.

‘F*ck, don’t cry.’

“I’m going now.” 

[What? Where…?]

Choi Tae-joon was sobbing so hard that it was difficult to make out his words.

“To see his body.”

[The…the body…I see…]

“Choi Tae-joon… I’m the one who wants to cry. So, just please answer me directly. Dui’s body, where is it?”

[I don’t know. I couldn’t find it. A bomb went off. There was…a suicide bomb…on Dui’s body… Ha-na, listen carefully to what I am about to say. Don’t get too shocked, just hear me out, and listen until the end.]

‘This is already hard to listen to.’

‘Suicide bomb? Don’t make me laugh.’

Ha-na wanted to say that she had spoken to Dui on the phone not too long ago, but she swallowed her words and endured it. 

Ha-na watched the streetlights turn off one by one with a harsh expression on her face.

[Dui… What I’m trying to say… It appears that Dui stole some things.]

“Things? What things…?”

[He stole drugs. I think he needed money. But, the thing is… The drugs belonged to the mafia.]

“Therefore…”

[I think this was done by those Mafia dogs. You know the methods they use to dispose of bodies. I think that’s why I couldn’t find his body.]

Ha-na closed her eyes tightly.

Her hand was trembling as she held the handle of the suitcase. There was a metallic taste in her mouth from biting down on her lip, but she couldn’t feel the pain.

“Choi Tae-joon… Why didn’t you call me? You should’ve done that right away! Why?!”

[I wanted to find him! Somehow… Somehow, even a damaged part! But… But, they said they had already killed him. Ugh…  Lee Do-hyun, you crazy bastard! Why?! Why?!]

The taxi had arrived.

Ha-na took a deep breath, opened the door, and climbed into the back seat.

“The time difference is two hours. If the flight departs at 5:50, I will arrive at 9:20. So, please wait for me at the main exit of Phnom Penh Airport and be on time.”

[Are you serious? You’re coming now?]

“Yeah, right now. You said you couldn’t find the body. I will find Dui’s body. And… I’m not going to mourn his lost just yet.”

Tae-joon didn’t say anything.

Ha-na could clearly picture the puzzled expression on his face

The elderly taxi driver turned around and asked, “Should I take you to Incheon International Airport?’ Ha-na nodded her head.

“Therefore… if you don’t want to see me go crazy, don’t hide anything from me. Not a single thing. Now, go get ready.” 

 

 

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