Mr. Lee put the snacks on the table and turned around, grabbing hooded man by his ear, like a mother, when she scolds her child.
“What did I tell you?” Mr. Lee said sharply. “Quietly. Is it too hard to understand?”
“S-Sorry, hyung...” culprit whispered. Mr. Lee let him go and hooded man moved back to the chair in the corner, holding the newly bought bread.
Something was definitely wrong here... I was observing Mr. Lee, looking for a sign that he was acting to get me out of here, but I didn’t see any. Then Mr. Lee saw me. I flinched uncontrollably, when I met his cold eyes. They weren’t like that before. He seemed like a different man. He squatted next to me. I clenched my teeth, trying not to sob, but it was stronger than me. Tears also flowed endlessly. Mr. Lee grinned and sat on the chair near the windows.
“Sorry about that,” he said to me, but his voice showed that he was literally enjoying the situation.
“You...” I panted. My voice broke again because of recent screaming, so I had to whisper. “Who are you? And why did you to H-Heejunnie –” I stopped, when I choked with tears. I bit my lip to control myself and lowered my head.
“Ah, right. Poor kid. Sorry about that too. But you know, it’s your fault in the first place.”
I looked at him with widened eyes. He was still smiling.
“It was you who discovered Choi Seo Yun’s body, wasn’t it? You shouldn’t have played in the forest, kids.”
“B-But you told us to play there!” I groaned with shock.
“I said near the forest. You didn’t listen to me. Anyway...” He looked with disgust at the hooded man, who was occupied by eating. “I can’t blame you for everything. This fool was supposed to throw the body into the river, not next to it.”
“Who are you?” I repeated. “Were you his... accomplice all along?”
“His accomplice?” He burst out laughing. “More like his boss. I’m his older brother after all.”
I trembled with fear. Seriously... !? Mr. Lee was all along his...
“But in Hwang-ya you helped us! You fought him and –”
“I pretended to faint. Read beyond the lines, boy. Aren’t I such a good actor?” He giggled, proud of himself. I was feeling sicker and sicker with his every word. “But he couldn’t kill you in Hwang-ya. Then I decided to change my tactics. I sent you home, helped him to escape the police and sent him to Seoul to observe you. It was my idea to scare you a little with those warnings, but this fool took it too seriously and played with you for too long. I was disturbed by it. Then he tried to eliminate you again, in your dorm. He failed and nearly killed you. But it wasn’t your time yet, you see. You were important to me, because you knew the numbers. I was sure you would want to solve it, thinking that it’ll save you and your friends. My brother left then, giving you the hint. But, as I said, he was playing with you too much. The murders of Seo Yun’s fiancé and that noisy high schooler weren’t planned. My brother just wanted you to fall into despair, but there was no time. Before my idiot brother made another mistake, I stepped in, rescuing you from our puppet, who attacked you and that muscle fool. And” he smiled wryly. This was so similar to his brother, that I flinched, horrified. “here we are.”
When he finished, obvious facts hit me so hard, that for a moment I saw double.
He showed up suddenly. Even our manager – his friend – didn’t know about his coming. He said that he knew about the numbers from the company staff, but here manager was right – not everyone knew about it and it was unlikely that they were talking about it all the time. Another fact: the bugs. How did he guess so fast that the hooded man heard us through them? He was surely trying to solve it quickly to get to the money! Now I remembered his face, when we discovered gold bars. He wasn’t shocked. He was pleased.
“Did you do it for money?” I asked with disbelief. “All the killings were –”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong,” he interrupted me. “I’m not so evil. The money was mine from the beginning. We were childhood friends with Seo Yun and her twin sister, Seo Ji. Their grandfather loved us. We were sure we’ll get the inheritance, because those girls were so unpredictable and foolish, that I was the best candidate.” He waved at his brother. “He had some mental problems from the birth, so he wasn’t counted. Anyway, things got complicated, when Seo Ji died. Grandfather was depressed and Seo Yun had to take care of her all family, so suddenly she became responsible, and so on. Grandfather must have seen this, because before he passed he gave HER the fortune. It wasn’t right, Jihun-ah. I did so much for them, you know? And I was supposed to walk away with nothing? I was discussing this with Seo Yun for years, but she didn’t listen to me, even to my brother, whom I thought she liked more. Then we met in the spring in Hwang-ya, where she was spending her vacation, just like you. Oh, I was so surprised when your manager called me and asked if you could come there to rest. I knew you only from TV, so I didn’t know what kind of brats you were. But unfortunately you turned out to be too curious and courageous. We were fighting with Seo Yun two days before your arrival. And I pushed her off a cliff.”
“Wait, so YOU killed her?” I gasped. “Not your brother... ?”
“That’s right. People are so blind, you know? You show them two men: one in an elegant suit with proper job, and the other one: dirty, in the hood covering the face. Who would you think they choose as the suspect?”
“You’re crazy...” I muttered. Fear and desperation were squeezing my lungs, so I could hardly breathe. “Both of you...”
“Maybe. But we’re the winners at the end, boy. When you were so proud of yourselves that you solved the mystery, my brother already took the gold bars from the bank.”
“And –” Suddenly we heard an alarm clock. Mr. Lee shut it down and stood up. I froze. “It’s already the time. Sorry, boy. Our time came. I have to get to my work, and you need to disappear. I hope you’ll have painless death.”