King and Queen, Episode 12


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!

***

“What did it say again?”

Amber sighs. They’re outside the school and HyunA’s trying to pick the door open with a paperclip. She knows that Amber regrets following her outside. But she didn’t force her at gunpoint, did she? People have to live with the decisions they make and Amber is no different. “Where Nobody sees you,” Amber finally says.

“And that tells you she’s in danger?”

Amber doesn’t say anything. HyunA knows she should lay off, but Amber is such an easy target. She’s so uptight and...sincere. That’s why HyunA likes her, but also why Amber can be really annoying too. Why not just tell her that?

“You can be really annoying, you know that?” HyunA just tells her.

“What?”

“You should lighten up sometimes.”

“Krystal could be in danger.”

“From Nobody?”

“If you don’t think anything’s wrong, why’d you drag me out here?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” HyunA says, withholding a bit because she wants to see Amber’s reaction, which is nonplussed. It’s true. She couldn’t sleep. But it was because none of her 4Minute compatriots were in their rooms either. Not even Jihyun, her roommate, and, to her knowledge, the consummate teacher’s pet who would never disobey the school’s direct edict unless it was absolutely essential to her future career. So either Jihyun and the rest of 4Minute were in danger or they just hit the jackpot. And didn’t tell her. Why wouldn’t they tell her? Why couldn’t she at least be in danger too?

Well, maybe she could be. If she can just get this damn door open.

“Here, let me try,” Amber says, pushing her aside.

HyunA wants to laugh in her face but before she can the door pops open. “Got it,” Amber says. And HyunA sees a twinkle in her eye. Maybe she isn’t so uptight after all.

“Lead the way,” HyunA offers. Let’s see where this takes her.

Amber pushes the door open and eyes the hallways, darkened but with a few security lights to guide the way. “All clear,” she says.

HyunA follows as Amber leads and she’s fine with that except for the fact that neither knows where they’re going at all. Where does one actually find nobody?

Or maybe nobody will find them. HyunA hears footsteps. The tapping against linoleum. She hears them before Amber does and she tries to pull her inside of a classroom, to Amber’s resistance, but the doors are locked, and she left the paperclip in the front door and whoever or whatever is there with them now has them cornered.

***

Gary doesn’t get it. He has the list of unaccounted students. Some he does get. HyunA not being in her room is a given. It would be strange if she was there right now, knowing her. Zico not being in his room he gets. He needs to live up to his image. Rap Monster too. But the outliers. Jihyun. Krystal. Ailee, Amber. But maybe the most disturbing was the absence of future valedictorian and superstar, Jonghyun. Where could he be? Was he in danger? But why? Gary just doesn’t get it.

Maybe if he got some sleep he’d be able to piece this together. But he has to stay awake now, more than ever, because the missing students are telling him something. Just like HyunA pointed out to him before. They were all liars. The trick was finding out why they were lying, or, in this case, why they weren’t where they were required to be. Could it all have been students randomly staying out late? He tips his chair back, rocking his foot against the desk. In this classroom, still. And the answers are out there, somewhere. Right in this school.

Would the students be the answer he was looking for? Or were they hiding in a classroom right now, laughing at him? Some he can see laughing at him. Zico, HyunA, Bora, Rap Monster.

But Ailee? He heard some rumors of a scandal. But besides that, nothing remarkable. Ostracized perhaps, but not much of an outsider. A girl like that would just squeak on by, not causing any trouble. And IU? Could she be behind all of this? Whatever this was?

That finally does it. “Officer!” Gary screams. The unnamed officer opens the classroom door, forever loyal even though Gary has given him no reason to be so.

“Yes, sir?”

“Could you get me a coffee?”

“Yes, sir.”

Feeling guilt already, Gary asks, “Is there a coffeemaker in the breakroom?”

“I believe so, sir.”

“Something from there would be fine.”

“Yes.”

“And make sure you get some for yourself.”

“Yes.”

Gary smiles, or at least he thinks he does, but the officer doesn’t, he just shuts the door.

***

Lee Hyori massages her temples. She works her hands down, rubbing her eyelids, her cheeks, her entire face. She tries to loosen the tension that has built up. She’s past caring about makeup. She turns to catch Jay Park looking every bit as bad as she feels. His left eye twitches, and the boyish face so many find charming looks sunken, lost, defeated.

She knocks twice on the dorm room door, then knocks again, louder.

“What’s his name,” she asks Jay Park in a whisper.

“Chanhyuk.”

“And?”
“He seems like a good kid.”

Their conversation is cut short by the opening of the door, a bleary-eyed student standing before them.

“Chanhyuk?”

The student shakes his head before turning, marching back into his room, and jostling the mattress of his sleeping roommate. Hyori waits patiently while the second student rises. She watches him push long hair from his face and don thick, coke-bottle glasses.

Hyori repeats his name, and this time the student nods a slow assent. She takes a moment to judge him, to evaluate. Chanhyuk is thin, wiry, like most of the students in Kpop High. He hardly resembles a cold-blooded killer.

“I’m sorry for waking you,” she says. “But I’d like to ask you a few questions. Is that okay?”

Chanhyuk nods again, then leans his weight against the door frame. He is half asleep. He is barely there.

Hyori looks to Jay Park for support, but he is fading too.

“Chanhyuk,” she says, pushing forward. “You were interviewed by JYP during your application process?”

The young man nods his head, slowly, exhaustedly, and Hyori nearly ends the questioning there.

“Are you familiar with something called The Dungeon?”

She almost misses it. There’s a split-second of recognition that twinkles in Chanhyuk’s eye. Even as he shakes his head, no, for that brief second it is obvious that the tiredness is but an act and that he is wide awake. But then it vanishes. As quickly as it came, it disappears, and Hyori is left wondering if she imagined the whole thing.

Jay Park taps her elbow, then signals with his eyes that they should go. The interview is over. But their night has not been a total waste.

“Just one last question,” Hyori says. “When’s your debut?”

Chanhyuk raises his head. He looks her in the eyes. “I don’t know,” he says, before Hyori bids him goodnight.

“Not a killer,” Hyori tells Jay Park, as they exit the dorms, “But we haven’t seen the last of Chanhyuk.”

***

Amber nervously checks her nails. She folds and unfolds her arms. She tries looking at Detective Gary without actually looking, but he is busy studying a single sheet of paper.

Beside her, HyunA sits calmly, motionless and perfect. The long moments of silence do not seem to bother her. She hasn’t said a word since the cop found them in the hallway, two coffees in his hand like he couldn’t decide whether to drink or drop the styrofoam cups and arrest them.

Amber looks around the room, a classroom converted into police headquarters, but there is little out of the ordinary. The teacher’s desk has been brought forward, now occupied by Detective Gary, and Amber and HyunA sit at the only two desks not pushed against the walls. She checks her phone.

“That won’t work,” Gary says, startling her. “We’ve shut down all cellular and wireless service in the area. Your phone won’t work.”

Amber does not know how to respond, so opts for silence.

“So do you want to tell me what the two of you were doing violating curfew?”

It’s HyunA who answers first. “We weren’t breaking any laws,” she says, but Gary remains expressionless, the two of them locked in an unseeing gaze. Where nobody sees you.

“Detective Gary,” Amber begins, anxious to explain, anxious to leave. And then the words flow out of her like a faucet she cannot stop. “We’re looking for my roommate, Krystal. She didn’t come home tonight, but first I thought she’s probably just with Luna and Victoria, or maybe even with Jessica, but then it got later and later and she still wasn’t back. And of course I tried my phone, and I tried my computer, but apparently you’ve shut down the signal. And then I found this.”

Amber reaches deep into the pocket of her boy-cut shorts and pulls out the folded up slip of paper. She hands it to Detective Gary, but continues her story before he can read it.

“I’ve been out searching for her, with HyunA. I know I’m not supposed to, but Krystal is my friend, and if there really is a killer on the loose, I’m not going to wait around hoping that she’s okay. It’s my fault we’re out, HyunA was only helping me.”

Her words end, awkward and unfinal. And Amber waits.

Detective Gary unfolds the note, but the question he asks next is unrelated.

“What can you girls tell me about Jonghyun?”

“Jonghyun?” Amber is so surprised to hear his name that she repeats it without thinking. “Jonghyun is…”

HyunA steps in for her. “Jonghyun gets things done. He has an overdeveloped sense of protectiveness, especially when it comes to helpless women, and he takes himself entirely too seriously.”

“What about Ailee,” Detective Gary asks.

“Huh?” Amber cannot understand what is going on.

“Ailee is your basic pariah. She’s made her share of mistakes, but that’s exactly what makes her human, makes her real. She follows her heart, which is more than can be said for most of the students here.”

“And Krystal?”

Amber spins her head back and forth, trying to understand the conversation happening around her.

“Popular, glued to her phone, sometimes an airhead, but smart when it suits her. Hard to read.”

“Interesting,” Gary says.

“Wait, I’m sorry,” Amber interjects, “But do you know where Krystal is? Is she safe?”

Gary sighs, clearly frustrated. “Perhaps she’s with some of her fellow classmates who are also breaking curfew. Perhaps she’s with the rest of 4Minute.”

There’s a long pause before Amber can react. The rest of 4Minute.

“Wait,” she says, turning to HyunA. “Did you know that 4Minute was missing this whole time? Why didn’t you say anything?”

“You didn’t ask.”

Detective Gary smiles for the first time. “It seems all our friends are hiding somewhere,” he says. “Maybe ‘Where nobody sees you.’ Whatever that means.”

HyunA grips the front of her desk, suddenly, her eyes wide and full of understanding. “Wait,” she says. “I know what it means.”



To Be Continued...



-C

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