King and Queen, Episode 8


King & Queen is a Kpop fan fiction drama that is released in an episodic format exclusively at Critical Kpop. Enjoy and keep tuning in for the continuing story! Catch up on previous episodes here!


Zico glares at Detective Gary, thumbing through an inch-thick file that probably contains nothing but scrap paper.

“Woo Ji Ho, a.k.a. Zico.” Detective Gary elongates the last syllable like it’s a joke. “Want a mint?”

Zico wills himself to clear his mind. Betray no emotion. Don’t give the man what he wants.

Gary shakes the box of Altoids, and Zico instinctively looks.

“I had my lieutenant search you on the way in for anything potentially dangerous.” Gary pops open the tin box and picks out one of the tiny white pellets. He holds it up to the light, closing one eye even, like a child blocking the sun with just the tip of his finger, then places the Altoid carefully on his tongue. “Unless these are poisoned, you’re clean.”

“So why am I here, then?” Zico checks himself. Don’t react. Let the joke of a detective spin his wheels. He’ll never understand a thing about Kpop High, about what goes on behind closed doors.

“Are you the owner of a firearm?”

Zico scratches his nose. He puts his hand back down on the table, but it no longer feels natural. Where do hands rest? He covers it in his lap.

“Should I repeat the question?”

“I heard you.”

“You can imagine why I might be interested in the answer. Given the circumstances.”

“Yeah, I’ve got a gun.” Lying to a police detective could cause him problems. But nothing that wouldn’t be absorbed by his reputation. Zico licks his upper canine, a challenge.

Gary slides the Altoid case across the table. “Those were in your pocket, weren’t they?”

“Gotta stay fresh.”

“Know what I think? I think you don’t have a gun at all. I think you talk a big game, but when it comes down to it, you’re just a boy who’s had his heart broken.”

Zico gives his hardest look. He pictures the detective spontaneously catching fire, burning before his eyes, and doing nothing to stop it.

“Drop the act, Zico.”

“You don’t know me.”

“So you’ve got a gun?” Detective Gary is yelling now, and Zico has to concentrate to keep his voice steady.

“That’s right.”

“What kind?”

“Colt .45.” Zico looks him in the eyes, and Gary leans back.

“Right, right. I’m a big fan of the Colt .45 series. Which model do you have?”

“Not sure.” It’s a clear trap.

“Stainless steel receiver? Rosewood grip?”

Zico nods.

“What do you have, one of those little snub-nosed numbers? No, Zico must have a man’s gun, right?”

“That’s right.”

“How long’s the barrel? Seven, eight inches?”

“Seven.”

“Which side is the ejection port on?”

“Left. Is this what you brought me in for?”

There’s a knock on the door, but Gary ignores it. “That’s interesting. Do you want to know why it’s interesting?”

“Am I free to go?” Zico says.

“It’s interesting because Colt doesn’t make barrels longer than five inches. And standard ejection ports release the bullets from the top, lowered ports from the right. Would you like to see what I mean?” Gary reaches a hand inside his jacket to pull out a gun that Zico can only guess is a Colt .45. Stainless steel receiver. Rosewood grip. “Does that look familiar?”

Zico nods, though he doesn’t look at the weapon any longer than he has to. He knows he has lost this round.

“I know you don’t have a gun, Zico. I know that. I called you in here to see if you would do something for me.”

That gets Zico’s attention. He stares at his nails to look uninterested.

“You see, I need you to deliver a message for me.”

“A message? Who to?”

Gary takes his time answering. “I’m confident you’ll get it to the intended recipient.”

There’s another knock on the door, and this time a big-cheeked officer pokes his head in. Gary does not bother to hide his frustration.

“Sir? Sir, there’s a whole line of students waiting to speak to you out here.”

“Do I look like the guidance counselor?”

“No sir. They, uh, have information about the case.”

“Very well. We’ll be done in moment.”

Gary stands, and Zico does the same. The Colt .45 rests between them.

“I’m sure you’ve heard by now the rumor that the winner’s envelope was stolen.”

“Rumor?”

“Yes, rumor.”

“You mean it’s not true?”

Detective Gary stares down the barrel of his service weapon, one eye cocked, before holstering it. “As it turns out, there were three envelopes that night. It seems our friend JYP couldn’t make up his mind.”

Zico bites his lip before remembering to look stoic. “I thought the winners were chosen by vote.”

“A committee of one, it would seem.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

Gary sighs like a much older man. “I know there’s more to this school than meets the eye, Zico. I just thought you should know that I’ve got the only envelope with the winners’ names. Whatever else is out there is a sad fiction.”

***

“Crosshairs,” Lee Hyori says, smashing Jay Park’s body against the lockers. She’s stronger than she looks. She’s usually underestimated and she uses that to her advantage.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jay Park mumbles. He’s looking around the hallways. For help? Or is he embarrassed?

“I heard you say crosshairs to JYP just before he was shot. Coincidence?”

Jay Park’s expression doesn’t change. He barely blinks. “Yes,” is all he says.

Hyori’s taken aback, but she pushes harder against him. She thought she had a real fight on her hands here. Now, she just feels like a bully. Is Jay Park actually embarrassed for her?

“I have two questions for you, Principal Hyori,” Jay says with a certain contempt. “Am I allowed a few questions?”

“What is it?”

“One: who is in my classroom watching the students?” When Hyori doesn’t know how to answer him, he asks, “And two: if you thought I had something to do with the shooting, how come you didn’t go straight to Detective Gary?”

That she can answer him, but she won’t. She didn’t tell Detective Gary because she had to confirm it herself first. If one of her faculty actually had something to do with JYP’s shooting, she’d need more than a hunch before blowing the lid wide open. She had to look into Jay Park’s eyes and confirm, to herself, that she could be speaking to a killer. But all she gets from his eyes is this dumb inconsequential look. Like Jay Park couldn’t arrange the killing of a fly.

“Explain crosshairs,” is what she says to him, though she can say much more. Like how she feels like her incompetence has finally been exposed. Like a part of her wishes that she could have stayed watching JYP all night, so none of this would feel like her problem. But she is here now. Put up or shut up.

“I don’t have to take this,” Jay says.

She smashes his shoulders against the locker. “I’m not going to ask again,” she says. And if he doesn’t answer, what then?

Fortunately, he does. “Fine,” he says. “I did say that. Lock me up. I said crosshairs.”

“But why?”

Jay Park rolls his eyes. “JYP. He has enemies, okay?”

“What do you mean?”

He laughs. “How can you not know?”

Hyori can picture it. Her eyes glowing red. Maybe they really are glowing, because Jay Park gasps, then says, “I can’t give you all of the answers. But I know that he puts a lot of students in the dungeon. He has for years.”

Hyori laughs. The dungeon? He can’t be serious. “So he was in their crosshairs? These students?”

“I heard rumors. Some whispers. I keep my ears open, okay? Of course I didn’t expect this. I thought at worst, a prank against JYP. Can you let me go, Principal Hyori?”

Hyori relents, loosens her grip. Damn him. He was starting to make sense. “You’re telling me you weren’t threatening him?”

“Threatening him? I was trying to help the guy. Can I go back to my classroom now?”

Hyori is about to say, Yes, but then a firework goes off in her brain. “The dungeon,” she says.

Jay’s eyes widen. “What about it?” Hyori can tell. He’s afraid. He’s said too much.

Hyori smiles. She says, “Take me there.”

***

Today has been the worst day of Rap Monster’s life. It began as a characteristically bad Saturday morning. The only food in the dining hall was carbohydrate-free which meant it was plucked from a tree, a very specific tree, and what the hell, he’d give away the surprise ending, it was bananas. All they had for breakfast were bananas not even half-ripe.

Fast-forward fifteen hours. Rehearsals canceled, his band mates had forced him to wear this horrid suit and pretend to engage in social activities, and to top it all off, an instructor was shot! Now he finds himself standing in the corner of a room full of people who hate him, people who should be his peers but are actually thinly disguised enemies. Worse than hating him, however, they are laughing at him. He doesn’t know how he can take any more.

Rap Monster looks around the room, tentatively. The last thing he wants is to make eye contact. But where is Jay Park? After the police left, taking Zico with them, Jay Park disappeared too. And now there was no one guarding the door.

Unless they were waiting on the outside. Rap Monster would take his chances. Without wasting another second, he throws open the door to room 220 and steps into the hallway. It’s completely empty. Where are the teachers? The police? It doesn’t matter.

He sets off down the hallway, making as little noise as possible. If Ailee is in Choreography A, then that is where he needs to be.

***

“Professor Jongkook?” Lime bats her eyes, holding her hands up to her chin.

“Dr. Jongkook, I need to speak with the detective.” This time it’s Alice.

“Professor?” Yooyoung and Seoyoung say in tandem, and did one of them just wink?

He answers with his palms out. “Please, it’s just Jongkook.”

“But professor, I really need to speak with the detective.” Cho-rong of A Pink bites her lip.

“Professor?” Nam-joo blinks away tears.

For all his muscle, all his mass, Jongkook is backed against the door to the Fitness Center, surrounded by a throng of young women, all bent on leaving. All with the same exact excuse, all of them with information about the tragic shooting. Even the men of Infinite are huddling closer, waving their hands to be released.

But his instructions are clear. It is his job to keep these students safe. To keep them inside the Fitness Center.

“Professor?”

“Professor Jongkook, I have information about the shooting.”

Someone brushes against his bicep, and Jongkook recoils.

“Please,” he says, in a small voice. “Professorship is for instructors on tenure-track.”

But the students in front are getting more and more bold. There’s a hand on his shoulder, and someone is tugging on his shirt. Jongkook raises his hands up in protection, realizing only then that he is no longer in front of the door, that the students are exiting the room en masse. Before long, it is just him and a room full of weights. It is quiet. So he picks up a dumbbell and gets to work.

***

Ailee can’t believe Rap Monster’s here now. And he’s smiling? He has some nerve. He waves at the rest of BTS and gives a thumbs up to Vice Principal Tony An.

Jiyeon laughs, saying to Suzy, just loud enough for Ailee to hear, “Who’s he going to beat up now?”

“What are you doing here?” Ailee asks. Rap Monster looks as if Ailee has slapped him in the face. What did he expect? A hug? A kiss?

“I came for you,” he says, dumbly.

“You shouldn’t have bothered,” she tells him. She walks away from him. She wants to leave the classroom, but Vice Principal Tony An is already at the door again, incensed that Rap Monster just waltzed in. No one’s going to leave now. She takes a far corner, away from everyone’s watchful eyes. But Rap Monster doesn’t get it, he just keeps following her.

“Do you know how much trouble I’ve been through just to get here?”

“Please leave me alone.”

“Why are you being like this?”

Ailee doesn’t want to go through this. Not now. She just wishes she had left early like she had wanted to. Before Rap Monster stopped her, and made her believe that everything could be okay.

“Is this about Zico?” he asks.

“Why’d you fight him?” she bites back. “What were you trying to prove?”

Rap Monster shakes his head. “He had a gun. He shot JYP. All I was trying to prove was a shooting.”

“Zico shot JYP? Are you serious?”

“Why do you find that so hard to believe? Because he was your date?” The way he says that. Like Ailee just ripped his heart out of his chest. At the other side of the class, BTS pretends not to notice the scene Rap Monster’s making. Jonghyun makes eye contact with Ailee, motions if she needs help by pointing to his chest. She waves him away, but Rap Monster takes it as another insult, directed at him. “You can’t be serious.”

“Zico wouldn’t shoot JYP. Even if he had a gun, why would he shoot JYP of all people?”

“Revenge. Against everyone. I’m not crazy here. I just had a whole classroom laugh at me. Are you going to do the same thing to me now too?” His voice trembles. That trembling makes her want to take him in her arms and forgive all tresspasses. But she stops herself. She has to be stronger now. She can’t risk letting someone else hurt her, not now, not ever. Rap Monster had caught her in a moment of weakness. Just like Zico.

“I’m not laughing at you,” she tells him. “I just. I need to be alone right now. Okay? Can you do that for me?”

Rap Monster nods. He’d do that for her, at least. He goes to his BTS friends, they hug him, they holler, before Vice Principal screams for quiet. They whisper amongst themselves. Rap Monster plays it cool, doesn’t even look Ailee’s way. So why is she looking at him then?

Stop it, she tells herself. There are more serious matters to contend with now. Zico couldn’t have shot JYP. She’s absolutely sure that IU was the one who pulled the trigger. But Tony An’s not letting anyone out, no matter what they insist they know. She knows that she has to get out of there and find IU, maybe at this “dungeon.” Not just to get her to confess. But to look her straight in the eyes and ask her: What did it feel like to annihilate your destiny?


To Be Continued...


-C

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