Chapter 74 - Huge Reward #3
"My dad was like human garbage. My mother got out of the house early, and by the time I grew up, I had bruises all over my body. I couldn’t take it anymore. When I recovered my spirit, I was in the middle of nowhere.”
Her voice was calm, as if she was telling someone else’s story. Hye-mi arrived at the Emergency Relief Centre a year ago, where other children with similar situations were gathered.
"The treatment I received there wasn’t that good. Well, that’s the mindset of the Korean people. It is the role of a parent to punish their child. I was seen as a troublemaker who ran away because I didn’t like my home. Up to now, my explanation seemed like a rough morning drama.”
They absolutely weren’t pleasant memories. Still, Hye-mi continued to speak with a serene expression. It felt like her sorrow had already become weathered down in the passage of time.
"It is strange isn’t it? That place seemed to have gathered all the misery in the world in the same place. When I was there, happiness felt like an illusion that I couldn’t have. And then I met Unni. Despite what she suffered, Unni was always the one taking care of the crying or depressed children.”
Tae-hyuk visualized An Eun-young and nodded,
"There are people like that.”
Hye-mi’s frozen expression slightly softened.
"I think it’s easy to talk to you. Normally I only get one of two reactions when I tell my story, but you don’t have either of them.”
Tae-hyuk seemed to know whether what she was saying. She either received sympathy or contempt, feelings that made a person feel miserable.
“At any rate, I will continue the story.”
Hye-mi’s story continued.
The two people suddenly became friends as Soo-bin looked after Hye-mi like an older sister. Hye-mi always followed along behind her. The only uneasy thing was that they didn’t know when they would be separated. The Emergency Relief Centre was just a temporary residence for people affected by domestic violence. The children there would either return home or go to a facility.
Hye-mi and Soo-bin would be separated. Then a small miracle happened. The two people were sent to the same orphanage. It was a one in a hundred chance. Once it was decided, they were so delighted that they hugged each other.
"Many things happened after we came to the orphanage. Sometimes, my drunk dad came and asked for his daughter to be returned. There was a thief in middle school, so I received a nighttime punishment. However, Unni was able to help me successfully overcome everything and anything that came my way.”
Hye-mi and Soo-bin were family to each other. They fought against the discrimination of the world with their slender bodies.
"But there was one mistake. It wouldn’t end with living at the same orphanage. For Unni, she only had two years left to live here, so we made a promise. As soon as possible, we would make a lot of money so that we could live together. This is the token.”
Hye-mi pushed out her left hand.
There was something like a copper ring on his little finger. It was bumpy, like it wasn’t properly made.
Contrary to appearances, Tae-hyuk was well versed in art and quickly noticed what it was.
"Uh, is that a bearing?” (Refering to the ball bearing that reduces friction between moving parts)
“Yes. Unni got it. She didn’t want to be in school and got a job as soon as possible. That is where Unni first made this. There was no money to buy a ring.”
Putting a ring on their little fingers meant fulfilling their wish. Soo-bin was obviously filled with the desire to live with Hye-mi away from the orphanage as quickly as possible. There was another meaning to the ring, however.
“Either way, do you understand now? This is a token of my promise with Unni. I will continue wearing this on my finger as I promised. Unni didn’t run away. I’m sure she was scouted into a company and got a good job. Once she makes a lot of money, she will come back for me.”
Hye-mi looked at the ring on her left little finger. To her, this ring given by Soo-bin was more precious than a gold ring that was worth a hundred, no a thousand times more.
After hearing Hye-mi’s story, his doubts changed into conviction. Soo-bin didn’t run away, and was involved in this case. The problem was that it wasn’t exactly clear how.
Tae-hyuk started organizing things.
‘Right now, three different cases are happening at the same time.’
First, the disappearance of the famous actress Ryu Myung-hwa. Then girls started disappearing like they were following her example. The final case was the mutilation murder that Kang-suk went to investigate. How were they related to each other?
‘Indeed, this case is too complicated. In the end, the killer didn’t get caught.’
Tae-hyuk knew the future. It also meant that he only knew about what happened in the future. He had no information about the culprit behind this case.
At that moment, Tae-hyuk smiled.
‘Truly. Isn’t it all the same? So far, I have been fouling.’
Tae-hyuk had to dig into the truth of the incidents with just his crime skills and Tae-hyuk’s own abilities. Therefore, the reward was huge, compared to what he had seen so far. Either way, Tae-hyuk squeezed out as much knowledge of the future as possible. Then he remembered one useful thing.
‘Wasn’t Gangdong Police Station the headquarters of this doll case? And the coroner is...’
First of all, he wanted to identify the body that was found this time. And maybe...
Tae-hyuk put on as good of an expression as possible and said,
"Hye-mi. Do you want to go to a place where Soo-bin might be?”
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
“I’m not sure. No one knows if Soo-bin is there or not. So I wanted to check. Perhaps in this world, you are the one who knows the most about Soo-bin.”
Hye-mi looked at him with a bemused expression.
"You want me to help you?”
"I guess so.”
Most of the adults treated Hye-mi as a poor child, yet he asked for her help? It was the first time she had received such an offer. Hye-mi didn’t dislike it so she nodded.
"Well, I can help since you asked me.”
There was a need to pay for the transaction. Tae-hyuk decided to buy a meal.
“I’ll treat you to a delicious meal. How about burgers?”
"Beef rib eye."
Tae-hyuk was at a loss for words. He was a cheap citizen who ate spicy pork stir-fry on a date with Moonlight Flower, but beef? However, solving this case required Hye-mi’s cooperation. He felt regret, but it couldn’t be helped.
"...Okay. The negotiations are concluded.”
Hye-mi used what she had surprisingly well.
Tae-hyuk added one last thing.
"Ah right. Maybe I’ll do something a bit bad. Keep it a secret from the adults.”
Tae-hyuk smiled with a downright villainous face.
“You are a bad person.”
Kang-suk, who received another call from Coroner Park Min-soo, didn’t say anything for a while. His fingertips were slightly shaking. It ended up spreading to his whole body.
Kang-suk’s condition wasn’t normal, like a person suffering from a high fever.
Hyun-ho asked as he drank warm coffee next to Kang-suk.
“Sunbae. Didn’t you just receive a call from Coroner Park? What new information did you get? Have their identities been revealed?”
“…I’m sorry but I’m not in the mood for jokes. Can we just sit for a while?”
“Yes, I understand.”
Hyun-ho whistled and pulled out a notebook to write down what he had learned about the incident. The file name was untitled since the nickname of the criminal hadn’t come out yet. Thus, almost 20 minutes passed and he managed to clear up his mind.
Kang-suk slowly opened his dried lips.
"They are alive."
“Huh? The victims?"
“Yes. He said they were alive.”
“...What does that mean?”
“Looking at the state of the body, the coroner can see how long they have been dead.”
"Indeed. That is the coroner’s job.”
"But this incident...”
“Yes. Please say it."
"This case. Cutting off the arms and legs... He told me that the victim was alive when they were mutilated.”
All expression disappeared from Joo Hyun-ho’s face.
"I'm going to cut apart this bastard alive!”
Cho Kang-suk howled like a wounded beast.
The arms and legs of the doll were cut off. The man looked at his work with satisfaction. It was almost like an artwork, but something was lacking.
“...Hey. Please don't look at me with those eyes. Don’t worry. I’ll give you even more beautiful things.”
The doll was looking at the man with a mixture of contempt and fear. The man couldn’t stand it and pulled the doll’s eyes out.
"The arms, legs and eyes should come out.”
The man laughed. He was thinking about the very pretty eyes of a doll that he passed by chance a while ago. If he wanted, then he could get it.
The man hummed.
"I’ll give her arms to hold me tightly, legs to run towards me, and... eyes so that she can only look at me.”
The man’s insanity overflowed in the dark room. He didn’t know how much time was remaining. However, if he hurried then he would be able to finish all the work before it was too late. The man went looking for parts to give the doll.
Tae-hyuk had Kang-suk’s phone. It was a copy, but he could still get a glimpse of the call history and email. He used it to clearly understand the people around Kang-suk.
There were many things that could be done with it.
"Now, let’s try it for the first time.”
[Voice Modulation has been used.]
-You can directly imitate the voice of Cho Kang-suk.
Tae-hyuk called Coroner Park Min-soo with a satisfied expression.
“Uh, Min-soo. Are you doing well?”
He heard a tired voice over the phone.
-I told you my lead. 10 minutes ago, I called and reported the situation. It is obvious that the victims were still alive when the mutilation occurred. Have you already forgotten?
“Haha, sorry. Actually, I called because I have a favor to ask.
-What is it?
"I have an important witness in this case, so I want to show them the bodies. I'll send them to your location. Please.”
-Hey, that's illegal.
“That is why I am asking you. It will just be between us."
Park Min-soo hesitated a little before replying.
-Will this help you solve this case?
-I understand. I am here alone now so I will secretly let them in.
"Thank you. Oh right, you know this is confidential?”
-I understand. I won’t write it down and will take it to my grave.
"Then I'll pretend I don’t know about this. You will do the same. At any rate, thank you. Then work hard.”
The call ended.
Tae-hyuk laughed. Park Min-soo seemed surprised that Cho Kang-suk had made such a request.
"Then a disguise... No, there is no need.”
Tae-hyuk was still wearing the Rudolph costume from the Christmas party.
"Well, I can say that I came from a part-time job.”
Tae-hyuk had an accurate grasp of Park Min-soo’s character. He didn’t care about trivial things, and once he concentrated, he only looked at the corpse.
"I think there are only strange people around Hyung.”
Tae-hyuk took a taxi and headed to the Gangdong Morgue. Of course, it was with Hye-mi. Hye-mi got off the car and looked around with a perplexed face. The atmosphere was unusual.
“W-Where is this? It isn’t a hospital...”
Tae-hyuk scratched the back of his head.
"Hye-mi. Don’t you want to find Soo-bin?”
"No. I have to. Unni didn’t come to pick me up so I have to go.”
"Then I’m sure that Soo-bin is here. Is it okay?”
Although Hye-mi was familiar with violence, it was different from death. That’s why she didn’t know that the scent of death was blowing here.
“How do you know that Unni is here? Have you been kidnapped?”
"Well, it is similar?”
They moved to the side door of the morgue, where someone was standing in front of a chained door. It was Park Min-soo, whom he had contacted in advance. Tae-hyuk coughed a few times and walked over,
"Detective Cho Kang-suk sent me.”
“Really? Aigoo. She is a kid. Is this okay?”
Park Min-soo looked at Hye-mi with anxious eyes. He didn’t notice the Rudolph costume that Tae-hyuk was wearing at all.
Hye-mi shook her head vigorously.
“I’m not a child. I am big.”
“I-I see. I understand. At any rate, I’m secretly letting you in. Please come quietly.”
Tae-hyuk and Hye-mi went inside with Park Min-soo. The place where the bodies were kept was floor 1B.
"I’ll be on lookout so the both of you go in. I’ve put them all out so make sure you check it.”
It was in order to keep the bodies from rotting.
Once they entered, the storage was so cold that it was like a refrigerated warehouse. There was an autopsy table covered in plastic in the middle of the room. It looked like doll arms and legs were arranged on top of it.
Hye-mi’s eyes trembled. The fluorescent lights blinked as if they had reached the end of their life.
"Unfortunately, they aren’t from dolls. Do you want to take a closer look?”
Hye-mi nodded silently and moved closer and she realized what was lying there.
“Shh. Someone outside will hear.”
Tae-hyuk put on some surgical gloves that was next to the table and handed a pair to Hye-mi. She said nothing and followed Tae-hyuk in putting on the gloves. Now, if she confirmed that none of the arms or legs were familiar then the long day would end.
At that time, Hye-mi suddenly sat down. Hye-mi had kept calm after her initial confusion. Then did she find something notable?
Tae-hyuk swallowed his saliva. He followed Hye-mi’s gaze. It was a hand with a small cut on it. The hand wasn’t that pretty. They were dirty with oil, and the nails were cut short. The only unusual thing was that it had an ugly, ring like object on the little finger.
“S-She was supposed to pick me up. It was a promise. The little finger...”
Hye-mi desperately rose from her spot. She walked towards the table like she wanted to make sure that what she saw was right. Her legs trembled so badly that it was like she would collapse at any moment. Despite that, she walked forward slowly, step by step.
Suddenly, a familiar hand was in front of Hye-mi’s eyes. After touching it a few times to confirm it, Hye-mi hugged it and fell on the table. She started to cry as she brought the hand to her face.
The impact caused the ring on the little finger of the arm to fall to the ground. It rolled away without anyone noticing. It was almost like it was speaking,
‘I’m sorry I couldn’t keep my promise.’
Tae-hyuk looked up at the ceiling.
He lost his appetite. Hye-mi was stunned and tired. Tae-hyuk carried her out and left the morgue. He bowed towards Park Min-soo who was smoking a cigarette outside.
That arm was clearly Kim Soo-bin’s, but it was only one arm. He compared it with the other parts, there was no other arm covered in oil like Soo-bin’s left arm.
Park Min-soo clearly said that the victim was still alive when the arm was cut off. There was a chance that she was still alive.
Tae-hyuk recalled what he knew of the Doll Play case. In the end, the identities of the mutilated bodies weren’t revealed. But now he figured it out.
The future had changed with the intervention of the God of Crime.
‘It is only one, but I know who the owner of the arm is. If so, I can do this investigation.’
The only thing left was to catch the criminal and uncover the truth of this incident. Tae-hyuk walked through the darkness.
He could hear Hye-mi breathing on his back.
Alive. Obviously alive.
‘I will go to rescue her and Kim Soo-bin won’t be dead.’
For Hye-mi, who desperately wanted to be happy. For the sake of the huge reward, Tae-hyuk decided to start a full-blown investigation.
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