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Into the tree line

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It was well past midnight when the first yawn hit Han Yeo Jin, the loose sleeve from her oversized sweater covering her mouth just in time. The prosecutor, who was reading to her the profile on the perpetrator from his newest case, paused minutely and lifted his eyebrows. She shook her hand lightly at the screen and he continued on.

 

Hwang Si Mok was still in his office attire, shirt sleeves rolled up and hair messed up. He was sitting down on the floor of his living room, laptop on his coffee table, a nice looking sofa right behind him. What little of the place she could see looked almost as neat and small as his Seoul apartment. 

 

She sighed. There was no need to take a look around her place to know that the prosecutor would probably frown deeply if ever saw the chaotic adult she could be.

 

Seconds later he stopped again, this time to yawn into his palm. She was about to tease him for not getting enough sleep when the urge to yawn rose again. 

What is this, a competition?  

It was her turn to help him, so she could not possibly fall asleep now. Reaching out, she took her canned coffee just to find it empty.

 

-Hey Prosecutor, I’ll go get more coffee, you can continue and I'll listen, these are wireless- she informed him, pointing at her earphones. He just nodded and carried on, his clear voice and speech rhythm nice in her ear.

 

It was obvious they were tired; a cold Thursday in the middle of autumn that promised to be just as exhausting as the rest of the week and yet neither of them said anything about calling it a night; in the first two hours of the call they had advanced two of her cyber-crime cases and he had taken notes about what to ask specifically of the police traffic division pertaining to his newest kidnapping case.

They were obviously a most efficient team.

If they were completely honest with themselves though, it was also the novelty of seeing each other’s face after months of exchanging occasional texts that kept them there; it was their first video call - Yeo Jin’s idea after her nephew had face-timed her a week before- and they were enjoying it so far.

 

She was still searching for the choco-pie box, tired of her own uncanny ability to misplace things when she heard the prosecutor’s hesitant tone.

 

- I was considering not to be in the interrogation room. Mr. Kim recently told me I could come across as intimidating sometimes, even when just examining witnesses.

 

Yeo-Jin paused at that, Kim Hu-Jung's face coming to her mind after the prosecutor had lost his patience. Those had been extenuating circumstances but from the outlines of his present case she had to agreed that a more sympathetic demeanor was needed.

 

-Perhaps you should wait. From what you’re telling me the suspect is as intelligent as he’s paranoid and skittish. You don’t want him to act rashly so yes, perhaps sit out the first interrogation? It could give you time to gather more information if he lets his guard down after being released.

 

-Yes. Alright.

 

She went back to her search, recalling Mr Hwang’s last visit at Yonsang Police Station. Even Jang Geon had been impressed; the prosecutor had appeared in the station after Prosecutor Seo Dong Jae had been found and demanded to question Jeon Gi-hyuk alone. Within 3 minutes, he had kicked them out of the interrogation room, turned off the video-recording device, and confirmed whatever it was he was after. He even apologized to them quickly on his way out.

The surprise was that the auxiliary recording device in the room hadn’t been turned off, so Geon had sent her the audio; the threatening man in the recording sounded so world-weary and angry that a comparison with the one she knew was almost unthinkable. Of course, Prosecutor Hwang had mentioned that visit to her but she never asked how he managed to make that scumbag confirm his suspicions. 

 

In an effort to take all the snacks back to her desk, her grip on the opened cold beverage slipped and half the content ended up pooling on her kitchen floor, making her curse like a champion. A worried voice in her ear called her out

-Senior Inspector Han! Are you alright? 

Talk about being chaotic

-Yes, I'm alright. I just spilled something and need to clean it. I'll be with you right away.-she replied, unable to keep the irritation out of her voice.

-Take your time- he replied quietly.

 

It must have taken her ten minutes to clean up her mess but by the time she made it back to her laptop with a half-empty can of coffee in her hand and ready for the next case in the queue, the prosecutor had already fallen asleep.

She had to cover her mouth quickly to stifle a giggle, almost not believing her eyes. Not only he was asleep but unlike any other adult who would have rested his head on his arms or over the sofa, he appeared to have face-landed directly on the coffee table and then rolled aside, avoiding his own coffee mug and case files but close enough to the laptop screen where she could see him perfectly.

 

Amused, she looked at him for a couple of minutes, a relaxed expression discernable now in his handsome features. Finally, she decided to let him sleep for some time and kept on typing. After a while, she realized her microphone was still on, so to avoid any unfortunate sound would make its way to a certain living room in Wonju, she turned it off.

 

Si-Mok opened his eyes immediately.

 

-I'm sorry I fell asleep –he mumbled, scratching the stubble on his chin.

 

She groaned dramatically.

 

-Are you being serious? Were you being lulled by my working sounds? Who knew you were into ASMR! –at his clueless expression, she just continued, almost laughing when she saw him trying to focus her on the screen, half his face red and lined from being pressed into the hard wooded surface – Just go to sleep already Si-Mok. We'll text tomorrow and see if we have the time to do this again if that’s ok with you. –she proposed.

 

-That’s the first time – he commented while rubbing his eyes.

 

-What do you mean? 

 

-Si-Mok. It is the first time you called me just Si-Mok.- he replied, lifting his eyebrows.

 

-Oh! –she exclaimed, embarrassment making her blush – I apologize I ...-

 

- I don't mind. I don't mind that you call me Si-Mok. May I call you Yeo Jin sometimes? - he asked, his voice tinted with something she couldn't quite identify although he looked a little like when she asked him if he had done a background check on her. 

 

The night was full of surprises.

 

-I'd like you to – she answered after a beat, unable to hide a wide grin– Now, you look exhausted, please go to sleep, Si-Mok –she repeated, feeling satisfied.

 

-Alright. Sleep well, Yeo-Jin. – his eyes wrinkled at the time the corners of his mouth lifted discreetly.

 

With jaw-dropping speed, she pressed the screenshot keys, hoping to catch his expression before it was gone.

 

- - - - -

 

 The coffee and the sugar kept her awake for some time after she hung up, her thoughts far away from the files on her desk.

 

“Are you more invested?” – Chief Choi Bit had asked once, taking her completely by surprise. – “He’s an adult but you left with him and gave him a ride because he had an upset stomach. You like him but he’s not interested, right?

 

Her answer at the time had been honest, if a little vague, not only because she really was going to date an artist –her most disastrous blind date ever- but also because she was unwilling to disclose personal information about her friend to anyone, Chief Choi included.

 

That did not stop her words from resurfacing occasionally on her mind.

Was she?