Rainy night, dark and cold sky. Perfect weather for a farewell. He stood in black clothes with an umbrella in his left hand and carnations in right. Blankly looking in only one direction.
“R.I.P Sandra Park.”
All alone standing amidst the grisly graveyard, this child had only one thought in mind, now he has no one left. Dragging his small legs across the graveyard, he sat down on a bench nearby. After four days of torturous nights and painful days, he finally let out a sob. He didn’t cry for once after his mom’s death. But thereafter he cried because she died for him. She had died to save him. Now he is just left with one clue to find the killer. A ring! A silver colour dragon-shaped ring.
Seventeen years later…
Running across the playground with his dog, Mark was living his comfortable life. But deep within, childhood scars remained not mended. Days after days and years after years, the thirteen-year-old grew up into a thirty-year-old man who now had only one ambition in his life, find the owner of the silver ring and avenge his mother’s death.
It’s been seventeen years, and he is still haunted by that awful and unfaithful day when he was in the car with his mom. And that perpetrator, who had a rather indistinct visage, stopped the car and shot his mother in front of his eyes. Little did that guy know, that there was a child in the car too, else he would have died too.
Trying to figure out all those childhood traumas and memories he came this far, he is now the head investigator of NYPD and is all delved into and striving to unravel the aeon long old case which has hardly any records or shreds of evidence left.
“Hello? Is this Mark Matthews?”
“Yes, who is this?”
“I am David Lee. I would like to meet you this Sunday if you are free.”
“I am sorry Mr Lee, but I don’t meet anyone without prior appointments!”
“It’s really important sir!”
“I am afraid, it’s not possible. I suggest, you try getting an appointment and then we shall have a word. Now if you would excuse me….”
“Hey! DO NOT hang up, this is regarding your mother Mr Matthews!”
There was a dead silence for few seconds followed by a cough from David Lee’s side.
“Yes. Yes. Mr Lee, what were you saying?”
“I would like to meet you this Sunday. It’s regarding your mother.”
Without a tinge of conscience, he agreed to a meeting. After all, it was the first time in all these years someone had come forward in regard of this incident. But his investigator’s perception was stopping him to confide this guy.
Sunday morning at 11 am.
He waited for few hours in the cafeteria until a man, who seemed to be a quinquagenarian entered. He pushed the chair and fit himself in.
“Would like to order something?”, Mark asked.
“Yes, a cup of green tea would suffice.”
They placed the order and waited for each other to break the ice.
Finally, Mark couldn’t take it any longer, “You said over the phone, you wanted to talk about my mother?”
“Yes, Mr Matthews.” He put down his cup and handed a brown envelope to Mark. At first, he was confused, but then he began examining the contents. As he flipped through the first few pages, his eyes widened as they had top secret information about North Korea’s Missile Launch Expedition (MLE). This was something that any government or terrorist organization would want to have their hands on.
With a confused look, he stared at David Lee’s face.
“I need your help, Mark Matthews. I am being chased, right from the moment, I boarded the flight from South Korea to New York. Your life is in danger. Now listen carefully to what I am about to say. Your Mom worked for the Central Investigation Front. This organization was formed under the Government of the Republic of Korea. She was the lead investigator in this case. These people were chasing a group of a North Korean terrorist organization named Beta. Apparently, they conducted nuclear activities seventeen years ago and had plans of launching nuclear missiles towards the Indian subcontinent. Your Mom was on a team that was trying to stop them. She succeeded in doing so, but the problem began when your mom started getting threatening messages. She had to quit her job because of it. One day while coming back with your father from some errand work, your parents were surrounded by these terrorists, and your father was at gunpoint. They asked your mom to hand over all the documents related to MLE, but she refused, and instead fought back, despite being zapped, she did all that she could, to save your father and herself. When they finally managed to escape the gunmen, they ran to save their lives but during the run, your father was shot dead. Your mother somehow managed to survive and left the country with you. But after some years they found you both and killed your mother too. But do you know what the best part was, your mother was able to hide your identity from the world. So, nobody, except your parents and your uncle knew about your existence.”
“But how do you know about me and how do you have such an intimate knowledge about me? Who are you?”
“I am your uncle. I live under the pseudonym David Lee. You see, we had to change our identities to stay alive. My real name is Park David and I am a Korean-American.”
Just then David started coughing furiously and started to lose consciousness. He fell off his chair and landed on the ground. He was choking badly.
“Mr Lee! …Sir! What’s happening to you?”
“Run Mark! You need to protect yourself. And take revenge for your mom and dad. Those guys deserve to die. You…promise me you will find and kill them all. Make them pay for your loss!”
“Yes…yes Uncle I will,” he said it with a grief.
“Now go to Seoul and find this guy. Here take it….” He handed him a small piece of paper. “Go and ask him to help you. I don’t have much time left. I did everything I could do, to locate them but I failed. You, being just thirty years old, managed to come this far. You cannot stop now. Go!”
As soon as he said it, his head hit the ground and he died.
Mark couldn’t believe what he saw. He first assumed that David had been poisoned. But he was shocked to see the red stain on his shirt. He too was shot dead.
He quickly ran out towards the sound of rushing car engine. He ran after them, but he lost their trail.
With a heavy heart, he came back home, he was surprised not to see his dog there. He took out the keys of the door, only to find it open. He was taken aback but he was sure something was wrong. With small and heavy steps, he entered the living room making a negligible amount of noise. He saw his dog covered in blood lying near the centre table. He stepped inside slowly and steadily, he switched on the lights to find his house turned upside down. Everything was in an utter mess. This could only mean one thing, they now know who he is, and they are going to find those documents at any cost. He quickly grabbed and packed his bag, took the passport, ran and hailed a taxi to the airport. Now there is only one way to get everything straight, END IT! And there is only one way to do it, find them and kill them. “A flight to Seoul,” he said at the airport.
Now the journey begins…
After completing all the formalities at the airport, Mark was sitting in the transit lounge as his flight, which was scheduled for 9:00 am, was delayed by 3 hours. This made him even more restless and irked.
But accepting the fact that his disposition would hinder judgement and would cause him to react irrationally, he calmed himself down.
He got up from the bench and thought of grabbing a coffee which would help him think straight.
The lounge there was lavish and served the finest and a gamut of cuisines one could imagine of.
Mark walked up to the coffee kiosk and perused the digital menu board but to his surprise, it served items which could cost him a pretty penny.
“Good Morning Sir, what would you like to have?” the Barista asked.
“Huh? Oh! Ahem! I…uh,” Mark fumbled. The prices must have made him anxious or maybe he was still thinking about his mother’s case.
“Sir?” Barista asked.
Good god! Mark luckily, had spotted the ‘right’ coffee.
“Yes…uh…yes, I’d just like to have that ‘Crema Blast Espresso’” Mark said.
“Very well sir, that will be 3.65$.”
By the time Mark paid his bill, the other barista had brewed the coffee and it was ready in no time.
“Here you go,” the other Barista said.
As Mark went forth to collect the cup, the barista grabbed his hand. His grip was tight and excruciating.
As Mark was about to say something the barista interrupted,
“Careful Sir! The coffee is still very hot.” He said it composedly, yet with a baleful look on his face as if he had advertently grabbed his hand that tight.
Mark grew a bit suspicious but shrugged off at the thought of considering it to be overthinking.
As he proceeded towards the coffee table, he turned his head to steal a glance at the Barista.
And astoundingly he was gazing at him with fierce eyes, much akin to a tiger when it glares at its prey seconds before pouncing at it.
He ignored him and focused on the coffee he was having.
As he took the first sip, he apprehended how bitter and strong the coffee was, he had a sweet tooth and always preferred sweetened beverages, to which he tore a sugar sachet, poured it and began to stir when unwittingly he was again looking at the barista, but he was nowhere to be found.
Panicked and curious Mark went up to the kiosk to inquire about his absence.
“Excuse me, could you tell me where your partner is? The one who served me the coffee,” Mark said.
“Sir I have been working here alone all this time, and I was the one who served you,” the Barista said.
“How can that be?? That is impossible, there were two of you as far as I reckon!” Mark exclaimed.
“Surely must be some misapprehension sir, but the fact is that I have been attending customers all by myself from the time this cafe was set up,” the Barista said.
Mark started to feel groggy and he was all puzzled. Without saying anything he left the lounge and advanced towards the assigned gate from where he was supposed to board his flight.
“Jetseg airlines flight 7E-467 flying to Seoul has commenced its boarding, passengers are requested to queue up in front of gate number five.” an announcement was heard.
Completing all the further boarding procedures Mark finally embarked on the flight and gave a deep sigh. He rested his head against the seat and with a faint smile. He either turned his head to look out of the window or watched the incoming fellow passengers.
Before entering the cockpit, the pilots addressed the passengers.
“Dear flyers, we extremely regret the delay and fully understand the inconvenience caused to you. We assure you that we will reach our destination on time,” Pilot one said.
“WE WISH YOU A HAPPY AND SAFE JOURNEY AHEAD!” Pilot two said.
Mark recognized the voice and immediately looked across the alley and what transpired at the end of the alley was totally perplexing for him. He was the same man who had served him the coffee!
As soon as he unfastened his seatbelt the flight attendant requested him to remain seated. But as he was about to say something he felt a jerk in his chest as if he had been hit by a truck. He started to sweat and began to have a seizure. He could feel lather drooling from his mouth and could faintly see the flight attendant standing next to him.
A heart stroke BAM!! He blacked out and finally rested unconscious on his seat.
Someone had hit Mark on his head.
Who could it be? Was it the flight attendant? Who could have plotted this against him? Was it the same people who made his mother meet such a tragic death?
Somewhere in Seoul
“Paul, give me the current report.”
“Sir, he has already boarded from New York.”
“Then he is coming to the ‘lair of death’.” he chuckled.
“Keep updating me on the status, you feel me? His every move is imperative for us.”
The next morning.
Mark slowly opened his eyes and found himself lying on a bed, which was in a cool room with severe pain in his head. A man, aged around thirty-five, sat next to him. He offered him a cup of decocted basil leaves. “Here, have it, this would help relent some pain.”
“Where am I?” Mark asked in a low voice and suspiciously looked around.
“Don’t worry, you are safe here, I am Yoo Jaesuk. David told me about your arrival.”
“What happened to me? How do you know David, what is this place, where am I?” Mark anxiously asked in one breath.
“Hey, you need to simmer down. I am the person David asked you to consult. I have known him for the past eleven years. Albeit he was on a higher rank he was a great friend of mine. We worked together for the same organization. Even your mother Sandra, was my senior. This place is one of my many secret hideouts.”
“Were you the one who knocked me out on the flight?”
“I mean no harm to you. I only gave you a small dose of antidepressant. This is to help mitigate your anxiety and to make the ones trying to kill you, believe that we are on their side by feigning your death,” he said it assuredly.
“But why?” he questioned.
“Now look here! Do you even have the slightest idea that these people were keeping a watch on you all this time? Every action of yours was under their surveillance. David is now dead because of you, they attacked your house. You could have been killed before even reaching to Seoul.”
“This is what the matter is about? Oh God! I cannot thank you enough for helping me,” Mark sobbed.
“You don’t have to say that. All I can advise you is to just leave this investigation. You alone cannot fight these people, so it is better to back off. They have already killed your father, mother and uncle. I don’t want you to die right in front of my eyes,” Jaesuk said.
“Don’t you think I deserve my vengeance? As you yourself said they killed everyone I ever knew. The day I discovered I have an uncle, the same day he was killed. For the first time in seventeen years, I have come this close to find the men behind the scene. I can’t let go this easily,” Mark rapid-fired.
“Tell me this Mark, do you want to die?”
“Never mind, take rest, I will be back by the evening. I have got some business to do.”
“Alright. I am still feeling dizzy anyway,” Jaesuk smacked his lips and walked away.
“Keep a watch on him,” he ordered the guard who stood by the door.
The guard nodded.
Certainly, something was odd. Mark could feel it. All these years of silence regarding this case, then showing up of so many close ones who cared for him, was something that he was not being able to comprehend and certainly was not adding up. He summoned all the energy he had and tried to get up.
“This is probably the only time that I will get to scrutinize this place,” he mumbled to himself.
“Sir, please lie down,” The guard ordered.
“Oh, could you get me some soda?”
“I don’t think we have it here. Now please would you get back in the bed?”.
“I beg of you, please get me some!”
“Alright! But don’t you dare leave this room,” he said.
“Even if I wanted to, I cannot,” Mark grinned.
Just as the guard moved out, Mark sprang back on the ground and got to work. The first thing he did, was to put the patio chair under the lock so that it won’t open.
Then he rummaged through the apartment to look for anything out of the place. The place was dark, almost cell-like and had the same damp feel to it. He decided to start with the closet. There was a series of blue onesies like the one he was wearing. There was absolutely nothing else there.
He looked through all the drawers, cupboards, under the bed, everywhere he could. Just then he heard the footsteps outside. The guard was returning to the room.
Then something odd caught his attention. A punching bag! It was the only thing that he had not examined in the whole room. As his eyes fixated on it, he noticed something very odd. The bag was as good as new, still had some of its plastics intact, as Asians liked to keep it. But there were tiny little holes here and there, all at the eye level. All were at the places where one would normally punch.
Then it struck him. He dashed towards the closet where he had seen the inner gloves and turned them upside down.
There it was! Blood! He examined the place again. He saw a lone pair of jeans lying on the ground. He picked it up and searched through the pockets. There he saw it.
There it was, the big sparkling white Dragon, the one that he had seen seventeen years ago the day his mom had died. In his rage, Jaesuk always wore it while taking down his opponents in this very room and also had imprinted on the bag. Sometimes in this haste, he would not put on his gloves and punch it. The pointed end of the dragon made holes in the punching bag. It also made his knuckles bleed.
He heard a knock on the door.
“Open up!” the man shouted.
“Uh yes! Yes,” Mark replied.
He placed the ring back in its pocket and opened the door. The guard dashed in.
“Why was the door closed?”
“I feared, that someone would barge into my room and kill me, so I did it for my own safety. I shouldn’t have told you to go for the soda in the first place.”
“You bet.” He blurted back. “Here it is.” He tossed the can towards him.
Mark drank it and went back to rest.
In the evening, Jaesuk returned.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Fit as a fiddle. The medicines helped, I am sure.”
“Oh yes, they better do.” Jaesuk grinned.
“Anything else you want?”
“Actually, I thought about what you said earlier this morning. I think that you were right. I should move on after all.”
“Good! Very good. Now that is what I am talking about. Be a good lad like your parents always wanted you to be.”
“I will leave the day after tomorrow. But can I go for a little sight-seeing? You know, to the mountains. Now that I have come to South Korea, I should visit someplace for reverie,” Mark requested.
“Oh, all right, I will ask the guard to take you tomorrow.”
“Not the guard, please. I have no-one close to me. You are the only person who knew my parents and is still alive. Why don’t you take me?”
“Very well, I will.”
Mark thanked him and lay back in the bed.
“He knows,” Jaesuk murmured to the guard as he walked out.
“Planning to kill me throwing me off the cliff, huh? I will teach you a lesson wait and watch,” he talked to himself.
The next day early in the morning, Jaesuk and Mark drove off in Jaesuk’s car. Halfway through, the car abruptly came to a halt.
“Damn this!” Jaesuk said in a piqued voice. “Wait here, I will rent a car from the nearby rental service,” he said.
Now that the car could not be tampered with, Jaesuk sighed. “You will die too, like your mom and dad, Mark. You tried to be the true son of your mom, but you will fail,” he mumbled to himself.
As he was returning, Mark called him and asked him to bring a soda.
“Alright I will get it,” he answered back.
On returning to the car, Mark opened the can and took a sip. He offered Jaesuk some.
“No thanks,” he denied.
“Have some, it is not poisoned,” he joked.
Or did he? Because there he lay after a minute slithering on the road as Mark looked by.
“You want to know how I poisoned you. Well, guess what? You will never know. You deserve to die, you punk!” he furiously stated as he kicked him around the cliff.
Mark had sensed that something was wrong the moment the car stopped within a few kilometres near the rental shop. He knew something was fishy. He had to act fast. Just then, his eye went on the cyanide tablet that was hanging around a locket in his neck.
“You will die!” he exclaimed as he broke it from his neck and put in his mouth. When Jaesuk offered him the soda, he broke the shell and put it all in back in the can. The medicine that Jaesuk was giving him helped his body to overcome any poison that may have entered.
But, Jaesuk died in suspense.
Mother’s revenge was taken.
Elsewhere in Seoul
“Sir, Jaesuk is dead, he killed him!”
“Hmm then, he must have fathomed that Jaesuk killed his mother. Oh! My blood…” smiled confidently.
(To be continued…)