King and Queen, Episode 14


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!


***

Gary is tired. He’s been up since dawn, and he’s sure he’ll see today’s sunrise because that’s the life of the detective. The life he chose. And yet sometimes, in the dark and lonely hours, Gary still wonders if he made the right choice. He wonders if the life he turned his back on, all those years ago, might still be out there, waiting for him.
        
A beautiful wife, he imagines. Kids, a boy and a girl, drawing pictures in crayon of their perfect family. That anyone might imagine him as perfect, might look up to him as a father, is a dream too far from reality. Gary slaps his cheeks, then continues his lonely trudge through the empty hallways of Kpop High.        

“Where nobody sees you,” he says aloud, to himself.

Nervously, Gary pats the breast pocket of his blazer, making sure the two winners’ envelopes are still there. He’s not sure why, yet, but he knows this is important. He knew it the moment he found the envelopes on JYP’s bureau. Not one winners’ envelope, but multiple. Three of them, at least. Perfect for a last minute change of heart. Gary’s first order had been to requisition and recount the votes for King and Queen, only to find that one of envelopes left on JYP’s bureau had contained the actual results. Whatever envelope JYP had taken on stage, it was a fabrication and nothing more.

Gary slows, peering into yet another empty classroom. The curfew worked as expected, bringing only the important players forward. And now, according to his source, he would find the rest of them in the auditorium.      

“Where nobody sees you,” he says aloud, one more time. Gary can’t say he understands it, exactly. But according to HyunA, and confirmed by Amber, the stage lights are so bright that the audience seems to disappear. A code that only a student of Kpop High would understand.

The auditorium doors loom large in front of him. Gary reaches for the walkie-talkie on his hip, but instead of calling for backup, he flips the device to off. Call it intuition. Gary isn’t looking for a group of students violating curfew. He’s searching for the attempted murderer in their midst. As quietly as he can, Gary pushes the door open and slips through into darkness.

***

Lee Hyori is wandering the hallways in a daze. Tired, hungry, in shock. JYP shot, and possibly by a student of Kpop High. How could this have happened? And why on her watch?

A million questions bounce around her head. Was it her fault? Was she somehow to blame? Had she missed something, some sign? If she were a better principal, could she have stopped this tragedy? She recognizes the questions as useless, as dangerous, as something she should ignore. But in her exhausted state, the questions are all she can think about.

She wishes for someone, anyone, who can reassure her. As if in answer, she hears voices coming from around the next corner. Hyori quickens her pace, recognizing one voice as Tony An’s. If anyone can help her, can ground her in reality, it’s her Vice Principal.

As she turns the corner, the voices resolve into an argument. A police officer is insisting that Tony An leave the premises. The officer stops in mid-sentence, then restarts to include Hyori in his edict.

“You, both of you, need to leave the area immediately.”

Tony speaks without acknowledging her presence. “I am the Vice Principal of Kpop High. If you think I’m going anywhere when my students are in danger, then you’re sorely mistaken.”

“I don’t care who you are,” the officer says. “If you’re not wearing this uniform, then you need to leave.”

Hyori steps forward, but Tony presses on. “What’s your name?” he says to the officer, doing his best to intimidate him.

“My name?”
       
“That’s right, I want your name so I can report your gross misconduct—“
       
“Tony.”
       
Hyori steps forward, hoping to diffuse the situation before Tony gets himself arrested. She can’t afford to lose her second in command right now. But Tony glares at her with something like hatred in his eyes. It’s a look that haunts her the whole way to the front gate, the pair of them escorted silently by the unnamed officer. Does Tony blame her for what happened?

The officer sees them past the front gate and off school grounds. Hyori and Tony turn as one to watch the officer close the gate, then walk back the way they came. And before she can say another word, Tony is accusing her.
       
“Did you have anything to do with the shooting?” he says, not mincing his words.
       
“What?”
       
“I guess Detective Gary released you? Your answers satisfied his curiosity?”
       
“Tony, what are you talking about?” Hyori’s head is spinning. Is it all a dream?
       
“I heard you were being questioned, Hyori. While you were being accused of shooting your colleague, the rest of us were trying to restore order around here. Trying to keep the students safe.”
       
Hyori takes a step back, like she has been pushed. “You think I had something to do with JYP?”
       
“Well one of us did.”
       
“What do you mean?”
       
“There’s no way a student did this. It has to be one of the faculty.”
       
Hyori admires his confidence, his belief in the students. But she doesn’t think she can share his convictions. “Tony, do you really think—“
       
“I can’t believe it was a student. I can’t.”
       
And for the first time, Hyori sees past Tony’s strength. She sees a young man who needs, desperately, to believe.
       
“Tony, the police are not investigating any faculty members.”
       
“What? Weren’t they questioning you?”
       
She shakes her head. She needs him to be strong. She prays for him to be strong.
       
“Then where have you been all this time?”
       
“Investigating. Looking for clues as to what happened.”
       
Tony stares at the ground. The pair of them have not moved from the front gates. It is deathly quiet on the street so late at night.
       
“Let me get this straight,” he says, looking up with steel in his eyes. “You’ve been running around playing detective all night while the rest of us try to keep some semblance of order?”
       
Hyori opens her mouth, but he does not let her respond.
       
“You’ve been out looking for ‘clues’ while I’ve been worrying over the very safety of our students?”
       
Hearing it said aloud, Hyori cannot find a response.
       
“You call yourself ‘Principal?’”
       
She feels the emotion of the past few hours rush to her head, seeking release in the form of tears, but she will not allow it.
       
“Tony—“
       
“You abandoned your students when they needed you most.”
       
“Help me,” she says, surprising both of them.
       
“What?”
       
“Help me. I know I should have been there. But I’m not. And now neither are you.” Tony lets out a growl, but she continues before he can blame her further. “The security of Kpop High is out of both of our hands now, whether we like it or not. But I’m not about to abandon our students. Help me,” she pleads. “If you want to help our students, help me find the person responsible. It’s the only way we can end this.”

***

“I have a plan,” HyunA whispers, and Amber immediately thinks: Oh no.

“Don’t tell me that,” Amber whispers back. The police officer escorting them back to class is ahead of them, exhausted himself. “I just want to go back to the dorms.”

“You don’t mean that,” HyunA says, and maybe she’s right, but she doesn’t want to get in any more trouble than she is. Krystal will be fine. What was HyunA and her going to do if she was in trouble anyway?

“Amber has to go to the bathroom!” screams HyunA and the police officer stops dead in the halls.

“She can’t wait until she gets back to her dorm room?”

“Don’t worry,” HyunA says, “I’ll keep an eye on her.” HyunA watch her? As if she were the troublemaker! HyunA points to a bathroom just behind them. “I’ll make sure she doesn’t escape,” she says, winking at the officer, who is not amused, but, at this point, just doesn’t care.

“Fine. Whatever. Just hurry.”

HyunA pulls on Amber’s collar and leads her to the bathroom. “You’re too much,” Amber tells her as HyunA shuts the door. Poor choice of words. HyunA probably takes that as a compliment. “Now what?” Amber asks.

“I go to the bathroom,” HyunA says, as if Amber were insane. She takes a stall. Amber can’t believe it.

“You really have to go to the bathroom right now?” Amber screams.

“Please, Amber. This is private.”

Amber shakes her head, washes her hands. “Great plan,” she hollers, washing her face, seeing the dark circles under her eyes in the mirror’s reflection. Krystal would tell her that she was hideous right now. But she’d laugh right after, like she always did to blunt the severe. And now, she was somewhere in here. At school, or maybe somewhere else? Maybe Krystal picked tonight to go clubbing?

All of this thinking leaves Amber with her guard down. HyunA is suddenly behind her and she’s smiling. Amber gasps, then composes herself. “Now comes step two,” HyunA says. She points to a closet at the corner of the bathroom, which Amber always assumed would hold assorted toiletries and maybe a mop bucket. “It’s not a closet,” HyunA says. “Open it.”

Your wish is my command, Amber wants to sarcastically shoot back. But instead she goes and opens that door. She peers inside, expecting to see a bricked wall, to hear a jingling of a clown’s hat on the other side, like that terrible Edgar Allan Poe story that gave her nightmares for years. Or worse, a mausoleum or a deep, foreboding crypt, that HyunA could maniacally push her into, entrapping her forever.

HyunA flips the light switch next to her head, brightening up a small secret hallway. “What is this?” Amber asks.

“JYP had this built for the janitors, connecting one girls bathroom to the other. There’s a separate hallway connecting all of the men’s rooms. So they can avoid the hallways.”

“Why?”

“JYP says that it adds to the efficiency of the janitorial staff. But the janitors have a different idea.” HyunA begins walking down the hallway. Amber follows, shutting the door behind them. The walls are lime green and have an earthy feel. There are florescent lights up above lighting the hall. It’s claustrophobic and cold and Amber almost would prefer a crypt, just for the lighter atmosphere.

To get her mind off of the cramped space, she prompts HyunA to finish her thought, though HyunA seemed satisfied to leave it unfinished. “You talked with the janitors?” Amber asks her. “What they’d say?”

HyunA grunts, quickens her pace. “They said they built these hallways because the idols don’t want to picture what they do on a daily basis. JYP wants to protect them from filth. But filth?” HyunA laughs. “It’s everywhere.”

A flashlight beam hits them both in the face. “Who’s there?” a girl screams.
HyunA puts her hands up, a reflexive move that seems so natural that HyunA must have had many opportunities to practice this motion. But Amber sees who it is immediately. “Krystal?” she asks, like she doesn’t know already.

“Amber? What are you doing here? With...her?” What’s Krystal wearing? Just black, all black - black tee and black jeans. She could be a ninja. In the dark, she would look like a disembodied head.

HyunA takes offense to the “her.” She puts her hands down. “We’re here to rescue you,” she says plainly.

“You should go back to the dorms,” Krystal says, ignoring HyunA completely. She’s sweating, even though this hallways is damp and frigid. She looks nervous, troubled.

“What’s wrong?” she asks her roommate, her friend.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m fine. Okay?”

HyunA stands in Krystal’s way. “There’s a police officer on the other side of this hallway.”

“You brought a police officer here?” Krystal exclaims.

“You should tell us what’s going on,” HyunA says.

“What is going on?” Amber asks, scanning Krystal’s face, hoping for some truth.

“I’m looking for IU,” Krystal finally says.

“Why would you be doing that?” HyunA asks.

“Because,” Krystal says, this time to the both of them. “IU is the shooter.”



To Be Continued...






-C

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