Su Ryeon looks at her reflection in the vanity mirror. Now, with the sunlight bathing her bedroom she's a professor in a white embroidered suit, the epitome of a professional playing by the rules.
As she puts on her trusted chain earrings and necklace she sees a blush in her reflection. Memories invade her mind when she looks at the exposed skin. His hand touching her face softly, his body protecting her own. How she couldn't keep lying to everyone and revealed to him her piercing sorrow. She doesn't need anyone, but for the first time since she concocted her plans, she thinks she'd like someone by her side. Someone who could share her secrets with.
Looking at the scarf Logan put on her two days before, she's not just the pristine image of the lawyer everyone sees. She's also the black night, sneakily into buildings to get answers.
Upon reviewing the tapes, she found the answer she was looking for. Dan Tae indeed met Cheon Seo Jin, they were seen together entering her sister's office. Cheon Ha Jin was a professor of Korean literature and served as chairwoman of the school board of their children's high school. The sisters presented a united front, but they were known to fight often, thus Su Ryeon can't figure out why her sister was coverings for Seo Jin's meeting with her husband. She had to get more information on that dysfunctional family dynamic.
She puts on a bold hue of lipstick and braces herself for the day to come.
"You really insisted on suspension! After all Rona did to me", her daughter screams at the breakfast table. Her anger towards her classmate has far from dissipated.
"Seok Kyun", Su Ryeon attempts to calm her.
"Am I not right, brother?"
Seok Hoon nodded, his eyes dejected. She thought he was fond of Rona. She's sad to see her boy siding with his sister today. No doubt Dan Tae had something to do with him changing his mind.
"You shouldn't have humiliated Rona. She deservedly fought back".
"I don't believe it. Whose mother are you?"
Su Ryeon's mouth falls open.
"First you punish us for that unimportant girl, Sol A and now you're siding with Rona. You're everyone's mother but ours."
Seok Kyun throws her napkin on her plate and leaves the table. A moment later Seok Hoon stoically follows her, sparing a look back at his mother without slowing his pace.
"Congratulations, honey", Dante's voice cuts through the air. "I told you to get over it. Now they won't talk to you for a long time. Stop pushing them away".
"I am going to the firm", she ignores his veiled threats.
"Good luck with your little trial, honey".
Trying to hold back her disgust, she clicks her heels towards the door and puts on her sunglasses. Dan Tae will be the last to go. But it'll be by her hand.
"Why do you think criminals go free even with overwhelming evidence against them?" She poses the question as hundred of eyes stare at her contemplatively. The class is in session and she has opted to teach the material through dialogue, as they did in Columbia.
The audience doesn't respond, likely thinking it's a trick question. Su Ryeon leaves the podium and approaches the front line of the auditorium. She's dressed in a light grey ensemble of dress and suit jacket, in clean lines. It's her fighting uniform, she chose it because after the lesson there's a court hearing. She's prosecuting an affiliate member of Sapiro in charges loosely related to the child trafficking of the gang. She's watching the big picture.
"Come on, guys. Speak your mind", she encourages, lifting her eyes to reach to the final rows. That's a mistake. She meets Logan's steady stare and everything comes back to her. Her pulling him away from the guard, hiding, getting the security tapes. Him protecting her. His fingers on her wrist. Only seeing his burning eyes though the darkness of the basement. Let's be partners.
"Because they buy the judges", a student calls, thankfully interrupting her train of thought.
"It's one factor. Can you elaborate?".
The student, Im Han Ji offers arguments for criminal organisations and powerful individuals bribing high ranking judiciaries to dismiss their cases. That leads to more people joining in, pointing out the faults of the money exchanging practices and favours.
"And why does such a high percentage of judges participates in these unethical acts? What do they get in return?"
"Correct, but it's not the whole story. Think about what and how do they make such risky decisions as disregarding evidence and throwing out cases. We have to understand it because this is what a prosecutor is up against. What's the long term benefit they gain?"
The voice that broke the silence is the same voice that pleaded to trust him in a whisper. Now it was as loud as clear.
"Explain please. What kind of power?"
Logan elaborates. "The kind that important families have. In Korea, it's almost impossible to be a judge without it being in the family. Today, first generation judges comprise a mere five percent of active judges in Korea and many are assigned to non city courts as a way to strip them of their little influence. Moreover, they are not getting the consequential cases that build careers. These are given to the fourth generation judges, whose families have ties with every branch of the state. This is why they go out of their way to appease powerful individuals. To secure their family's name and future financial endeavours. They have to feed the machine with bribes and favours, in return getting more power for their kids and grandkids. It's a never-ending cycle". An approving murmur is coming from the students.
"Unless we end it, of course", he challenges, looking straight into her eyes. He's daring her to remember their conversation in the dark, to believe him when he said he'd help her bring her husband down. But he doesn't know her whole story.
"And how would you propose we do that?", she questions. All heads are turned towards them, the students rapt in their heated exchange.
"Expose them one by one. Take revenge on behalf of the victims of crimes that they pushed under the rug. Publish evidence of their malpractices on the internet for the whole world to see who they are. What dynasties prize the most is their reputation. Let's hit them where it hurts". He says the words with such a calm exterior, but his passion is burning in the subtext that's only for her. He's reaffirming his committment to revenge. To her.
"I appreciate your sense of justice, but is this a prosecutor's job?"
"You tell me, professor. Is it?"
She exits the class in a hurry, dismissing politely the requests for office hours, stating she has to leave for court promptly.
She grabs her bag and coat from the office and enters the elevator to the bottom flour. As she waits for the doors to close, the old timey design catches her eye. It has metal bars and tainted glass, even a wooden lever, although the mechanism is completely modern. A quiet relic of the university's older days.
She pushes button for the doors to close hurriedly, almost breaking her manicured finger. Before she can see her reflection on the closing doors, they slide open revealing a handsome face. Logan looks like he hasn't slept for days.
He enters wordlessly and stands next to her, facing forward.
"We have to stop meeting like this", he leans over to her and whispers. At her look he clarifies. "In confined spaces".
"Logan. You had some interesting ideas in class".
"I thought you'd agree".
"By interesting I mean never to share with anyone ever again", she faces him and sees his smile fall off. "What do you think you're doing? Suggesting revenge in a room full of future people of the law, do you want to draw attention to your extra curricular project?"
"I wanted to remind you of my question the other night-"
"Stop. There's no other night. Forget it ever happened. I can't risk it".
"How can I pretend nothing happened? You were there first! You pulled me into the shadow. I told you about my family. I know you understood why I want to investigate their crime. You'd do the same thing. In fact, you are. Your husband-"
"Keep your mouth closed!" She took a step forward, her movement pushing his back to hit the wall. He lifts his hand in an attempt to pacify her, when she grabs it and twists it behind his back, effectively immobilising him. The lift had long arrived but neither noticed. "The things I told you, if anyone even suspects anything, it's over. I won't let you put my plans in danger. If you ever pull a stunt like this in public you're done. I have to get my revenge and I won't let anyone stand in my way", she fumes.
He purses his lips in pain and attempts to escape her grip. She applies more pressure, pushing her nails to his skin, enough to hurt, but not to scratch.
"Do we have an understanding?" Logan winces and with a sudden move he unlocks her grip on his wrist and brings her hands between their bodies.
"Let me help bring them down". He closes her palm inside his two larger ones, like a knight pledging an oath to his queen.
"I can't let you risk my plans. I have to do it alone". Her expression softens. "Let me go", she isn't refering only to her hand.
Logan's shoulders sag and he slowly does as he's told.
"If you need help, promise you'll ask me".
At her silence, he touches her hand and whispers "Promise me, Su Ryeon Ssi".
Her nod is imperceptible but brings hints of a smile on his face. As she squeezes his hand and turns to exit the elevator, she misses his smile deepening. With his hand still not leaving hers, he tugs at her towards him, so that her back is almost to his front. Her nerve endings are oversensitized. Without touching her, she feels leaning in her ear. His breath is creating hot vibrations tickling her neck as he speaks.
"Good luck on the trial today. I wouldn't want to be the council opposing you".
"And do you admit that the price for your silence was monetary reward?" Su Ryeon interrogates the witness on the stand. It's Kim Jung Oh, the banker whose money was transferred to a bank account of one of Sapiro's members. If she establishes a connection, Su Ryeon will gain legal access to all of his business deals. She has to break him.
"I didn't speak to the police because I had nothing to say", he pleads.
She walks confidently towards the stand.
"Did your daughter like her previous school?"
"What does this have to do with the case?"
His lawyer stands up. "Objection, your honour. Outside the scope".
The judge nods affirmatively. "Sustained".
"I will rephrase, your honour", Su Ryeon reassures the judge. "Mr Kim. Did you receive money from the Sapiro gang in order to cover up their crime, abducting and selling a minor to a rich family in America?"
"You're under oath, Mr Kim. And I want to introduce to the court evidence number 34, a bank statement with the amount of a year's tuition for Mr Kim's daughter. The account belongs to Oh Jong Won, whose association with Sapiro has been established in this same court. So, the cost for you turning your back on the crime was your daughter's elite school tuition, isn't it true Mr Kim?"
Silence falls in the audience. Su Ryeon has trapped him. If he denies it, the money will be investigated and his daughters will lose her place, if he admits it, he's going to prison and will be permanently associated with a criminal organisation. Unless he cuts a deal.
"I plead the fifth".
"If you do, the prosecutions request further investigation into Mr Kim's finances, ranging from ten years ago. Any liable amount should be investigated for fraud and illegal use. Including the funds that go to his daughters", she petitions the judge.
"No! You can't do that!". He looks at the judge to save him, but she sides with the prosecution.
"Ms Shim is right. If you don't comply with the court, you'll give us reason to further investigate your malpractices. Would you want that, defendant?"
"No!", He turns to Su Ryeon. "You win. I covered cause they promised me my daughter would have a bright future. As long as I didn't say anything about their moving orphans to rich family's and using them". He looks down at his hands, painted with blood, metaphorically. "You have kids in a private school, you know what people give to get in".
Su Ryeon's stare turns icy. She ignores his implication.
"If you can protect me, I'll give you all the names".
Su Ryeon hides her triumphant look. She gazes at the modest audience where a few of her students are seated and meets Logan's eyes. He's looking at her like she's hung the sun up. Pure admiration. Just for a second, she stays in the moment, soaking it all in.
As she's walking to her car, holding the flowers her colleague congratulated her with, Su Ryeon feels hopeful for the first time in a while. Kim Jung Oh took the deal and is currently in the police station, compiling a list of names. She'll get her hands on that list, likely be connecting Sapiro members to the buyers of the children. The people who benefitted from the children will also pay a steep price.
A message notification interrupts her musings.
Oh Yoon Hee: Unnie, I hope your trial went well. Can you take Rona to spend some time with you one of these days?
She shoots her a quick answer, agreeing to take Rona, to give her mother some space to figure things out, likely with Ha Yoon Chul.
She rounds up to her car when she sees a dark figure leaning against it.
As soon as he spots her, Logan stands up and waits for her to reach him. His eyes flicker to the bouquet in her hand and confusion passes before them. Wisely, he doesn't address it.
"Congratulations. You made him talk". He says as she stops before him.
"Did you come here to tell me that?"
"I came to apologize. Seeing you kick ass in court was a delightful bonus". He smiles tentatively.
Su Ryeon studies his face, wondering whether to give him a chance to set the record straight. He has an answer for everything, but she senses he's not giving her the whole story.
"Go on", she gestures.
"I'm sorry for bringing up revenge in the classroom, I tried to make it discreet but I can see why it put you in a difficult position. This is the last thing I want." He blabbers. "I'm sorry, can you put these flowers away, I can't-"
Su Ryeon opens the passenger door and puts her things inside, then looks at him expectantly.
"Thank you. What I wanted to say is, I want to be your partner. That night, you saved me from getting caught and because of you I now have the tapes I wanted. And I know you still have doubts about me, but I'm willing to prove myself to you. Use me. I have information to give you and I will tell you how I got it".
"What kind of information?"
"Can we go somewhere more private to tell you?"
"Start talking and I'll decide".
"There's a hit on you. Someone either wants you dead or permanently silent. My secretary intercepted it when looking through Sapiro's activity. You're in danger".
"They can't take down a prosecutor in the middle of an active investigation". Gangs don't usually operate that way, they're more into silencing and intimidation than public manslaughter.
"Can't they? Are you willing to risk that? They may find out you're not just assigned this case, that it's personal for you. What if they go for your kids to scare you?"
Su Ryeon contemplates that. She's been feeling watched lately, and though her job always had been dangerous, she's started to wonder how far they are willing to go.
She leans in on the car door and closes her eyes. This has been a lot.
"How do you know all that?"
"There are things I have to tell you. You should know about my past if we're going to work together".
"Do you mean the internship?"
"Yes. And us being partners to bring Sapiro down".
"Neither of these has been decided. Let's talk tomorrow in my law office".
"I'll be there. In the meantime, you should watch out. Today was a big win, but it's exactly these kinds of moments when smart people lower their guard. Please be careful", he advises softly. A lock of her hair has fallen in front of her eyes. With a tender movement, he pushes it back, his pinky finger grazing the shell of her ear. He's got the same look in his eyes as that night, when he put the scarf on her to hide her face protectively. His black irises radiate concern and longing.
"I don't want anything happening to you", he whispers.
Su Ryeon parts her lips but no word comes out. She's been so preoccupied with her revenge, how to use her prosecutor job as a means to investigate them, and how her plans are already affecting her family. She has forgotten what it's like to worry about herself. And this man shows pure concern about her wellbeing, like he's afraid to lose something precious. His eyes are cataloguing every feature of her face and she feels the burning on where his eyes linger.
She swallows. She has to show restraint as always. First revenge, then untangle their complicated interactions. She can't risk to be distracting from her plans, even faced with a pair of pleading puppy eyes.
She reaches into her pocket and produces the green silk scarf he gave her last time. The symbol of his protectiveness. She reaches for his hand and places it in his palm, her fingers grazing his skin.
"Thank you. For helping me last time".
She moves to take her hand away, but he closes his palm, keeping it inside.
"Keep it". He touches her wrist tentatively and circle her wrist a few times and ties the folded material around it. Needing more precise for the knot, he brings his mouth closer and pulls the strand with his teeth. His hot breath tickles her sensitive skin. She hope her pulse doesn't betray her flushed state, though she feels she's blushing. When he finishes, his eyes return to hers and he reluctantly lets go.
Neither of them dare to break the spell by talking. Su Ryeon nods a small goodbye and gets into the car, feeling his eyes following her movement. As she drives away, she sees him through the rearview mirror, frozen in place and looking at her car driving away.
It's early the next morning when she gets a call about the list of names the defendant gave to the police. Her co-worker is reading them, when she hears three names that make her blood run cold.
The crime he was referring to, the crime it now looks like he most likely commited is the one she's hunting down. Her heartbeat accelerates.
He got close to her to cover his tracks, she thinks. Now he'll pay just like the others.