They sleep on benches at the church, or on chairs in Police Inspector Yoo’s surveillance room, or in odd snatches in the van when someone else is driving. It’s cold, and hard, and uncomfortable; they’re perpetually short of sleep, and the dark circles under Jung-moon’s eyes draw themselves deeper and deeper each day.
But it’s better than prison.
There’s a tiny bathroom at the church, off the transept. Woong-chul washes up in the sink for three days before he discovers the makeshift shower Tae-soo has rigged out of a bucket, some wire, and a length of rubber tubing. Tae-soo presses the wrinkles out of his shirts and hangs them up carefully in his locker, but Woong-chul keeps his clothes in an untidy heap and Jung-moon isn’t much better. They have a hotplate, but no fridge.
Jung-moon misses coffee the most. They have no time for cafes, for leisurely sipping with a book in one hand. If he gets coffee at all now it’s from a vending machine or convenience store, while they’re stocking up on instant ramyun cups and triangle kimbap. Morning wakeups are a splash of cold water on the face, and empty afternoons have Inspector Yoo glancing at her watch and making noises about calling the prisoner transport.
They try not to have too many empty afternoons.
Woong-chul catches up on sleep, snoring with his eyes slitted open. Tae-soo does push-ups in the nave, toes balanced on the high arm-rest of one pew, two fingers braced on the dusty floor of the aisle. The dim light glimmers over his sweat-slick skin and the dark ink of the tattoo rippling down his back.
Jung-moon leafs through old files, drowsy, trusting more to his subconscious to pick up patterns, catch details he’ll only need later. They closed their last case this morning: drugs again, three years off Tae-soo’s sentence after another rock-paper-scissors match. Inspector Yoo was called off unexpectedly for something else, which is probably the only reason they haven’t been sent back behind bars yet. Gu-tak told them to behave themselves and then disappeared off on reasons of his own. Jung-moon wonders if he’s meeting the Commissioner again, or simply stealing a nap.
He’s contemplating a nap of his own when Tae-soo’s feet slip off the pew with a thud. Woong-chul startles awake and blinks around blearily. “Wha’?”
Tae-soo straightens, reaches for the towel draped over the end of the next pew, and begins briskly rubbing himself down. He says, “I’m going out.”
Woong-chul rubs his eyes. “To the hospital? I thought your woman got released.”
“She did.” Tae-soo’s always spoken of Park Sun-jung as that woman, no possessive, but he doesn’t, Jung-moon notices, correct Woong-chul this time. He pulls on his shirt and says only, “I’m going to the market. Gimbap?”
“Hell no.” Woong-chul lurches out of his pew. “I’m coming.”
Tae-soo accepts this with a nod. He reaches for his jacket. “Psycho?”
Jung-moon thinks of the files he has yet to read, of Inspector Yoo’s reaction if she returns to find them gone, of sunlight and street vendors and ajummas chattering. He closes his file and sets it aside.
They walk out of the church together.
The heat strikes like a blow. Cicadas rasp in the hedges, and dust puffs up from the lane at every step. It’s a long walk down to the only road that gets any traffic, and Woong-chul’s blue tee-shirt turns dark with sweat. He grumbles about the heat, of course, about the walk, about how much he wants a cold beer. Or maybe an ice cream.
Jung-moon unzips his hoodie. He wouldn’t pass up an ice cream if it were offered, either.
Only Tae-soo, pulling ahead of them with his long-legged stride, appears unaffected. When they finally reach the bus stop the collar of his white shirt is still crisp. His black suit jacket absorbs the sun’s rays and gives nothing back. Jung-moon thinks of how rarely he sees the other man in shirt-sleeves and wonders if Tae-soo, like Jung-moon himself, is perpetually cold.
Cold-blooded killers. Woong-chul would probably get a kick out of that.
Jung-moon doesn’t say it.
The bus comes. They board. The bus driver eyes them askance — three such dissimilar men, waiting together at a stop far from anywhere — but they find seats, not too close to each other. The other passengers are mostly countrified ajummas in floral pants and bored teens with headphones on. Jung-moon gazes out the window at the countryside slipping past and tries not to hear the girls behind him whispering about Tae-soo’s cheekbones.
Most of the other passengers descend in a flood at the market stop, chattering and jostling. Jung-moon lets himself be swept along in their tide. The marketplace is traditional style: narrow alleys, small booths, tiny perm-haired grandmothers and balding grandfathers tending their stalls. Woong-chul detours straight to a hotteok stall and comes back juggling steaming pancakes filled with sizzling brown sugar syrup. “Need some meat on those bones,” he says, shoving one into Jung-moon’s hands. “Give your kidneys some cushion for the next time you get stabbed.”
“Kevlar might suit your purposes better,” Tae-soo advises.
Woong-chul snorts. “You think they’d let us have that?” He tells Jung-moon, “Eat it before it cools.”
Jung-moon burns his tongue. It’s still the best thing he’s eaten in two years.
They wander down the long alley, pausing to sample dried persimmons and fresh snow peas, fingering the soft bolts of fabric outside a blanket-seller’s stall, watching in bemusement as a small boy belts out trot songs from the doorstep of his grandmother’s shop. Tae-soo leaves a 5,000 won bill in the boy’s upturned hat before they move on.
They buy kimbap, made fresh as they wait, and dried octopus and tteokbokki. Woong-chul buys half a dozen packets of cigarettes, though he doesn’t smoke. “Presents for the boys,” he says. He spends the next five minutes tucking them away unobtrusively in his clothing, where the prison guards won’t find them when they search.
Two minutes after he finishes, while Tae-soo is bargaining for ice creams, Inspector Yoo comes stalking down the alley with two burly policemen at her back. Her face is flushed in the heat, her hair wisping out of its sleek ponytail. Her gaze catches the ice creams in Tae-soo’s hands, and her lip curls in disgust.
He offers her one, courteously.
Woong-chul smirks. “Bribery, Tae-soo-ya?”
“Politeness,” Tae-soo murmurs. “Surely you must have heard about it.”
Inspector Yoo brushes their banter aside, along with the ice cream. “You were to wait at the church for the prisoner transport bus. What are you doing here?”
“As you see,” Tae-soo says calmly. He hands the rejected ice cream to Jung-moon. “We’d have come back shortly.”
She glances between them, suspicious. They meet her eyes blandly. There’s no evidence she can seize on: just the bag of dried octopus dangling from Woong-chul’s hand, the empty container of tteokbokki. The cigarettes are all hidden away. Woong-chul unwraps his own ice cream and takes a bite. The chocolate coating crunches loudly. He chews with his mouth open, grinning, flecks of nuts and chocolate stuck to his teeth.
Inspector Yoo makes a small sound of disgust, and turns away. “Come on,” she says. “I brought the van. We’ll meet the transport bus at the church.”
The first policeman falls in behind her; the other lingers, glowering, to bring up the rear. Tae-soo looks back at Jung-moon. “Eat that ice cream quickly,” he says. “Before it melts.” He peels the wrapper from his own red bean ice bar, bites off the end, and strolls after Yoo.
Something bumps against Jung-moon’s knuckles. He looks down. It’s a cigarette packet, concealed by Woong-chul’s beefy hand.
“Even Psychos need some prison currency, eh?” Woong-chul mutters. “Take it quick.” He shoves the packet into Jung-moon’s open hand and saunters past the waiting policeman, leering with a mouth full of chocolate and cream.
Jung-moon palms the cigarettes into the pocket of his hoodie while the policeman’s distracted. By the time the man’s mistrusting gaze returns to him, he’s tearing his ice cream open, taking a bite. It’s a melon bar, not too sweet. The cool creaminess soothes his burned tongue.
He lets the policeman’s glower slide off him, and follows his hyungs.