Chapter 22.2

“Jae-young, are you absolutely certain there were no witnesses?” Hyun-seong asked.

“For the hundredth time, yes! There was no one around. Didn’t you bother to review the CCTV footage?” Jae-young retorted, his frustration clear in the crease of his brow.

Hyun-seong, noting Jae-young’s offense, stood up and glanced at his watch on the left wrist, realizing that time was running short before the next meeting with a new client.

“There’s a cafe near the site of the incident. Jung and Kwon, would you be willing to accompany me there tomorrow? Let’s discreetly inquire if there might have been any witnesses. Try not to reveal your profession as lawyers. If you happen to find someone, contact me immediately.”

“Yes, understood,” Jung and Kwon replied in unison.

Jae-young interjected, “But the cafe was closed at that time. It wasn’t even during their regular business hours!”

“Even better. We’ll all go then,” Hyun-seong decided, dismissing the objection and moving forward with determination. As he walked, the youngest among them, Min-joon, hurried ahead to open the door to the conference room. The rest followed, leaving Seo Jae-young behind, nursing a bruised ego, and suppressing his simmering anger.

“That damn bastard… Just you wait,” Jae-young muttered under his breath. He pulled out his phone and made a call to someone, but frustration mounted when the call went unanswered.

“Uh, it’s me… Yeah, can you do me a favor? It’s just a simple thing. Um, start writing down what I’m about to say,” Jae-young spoke into the phone.

For the next few minutes, Jae-young’s voice resonated in the empty conference room, but the words fell on deaf ears. Time seemed to crawl as the clock on the wall marked the passage of moments without anyone paying heed to Jae-young’s words.

***

On that long summer day, the clock had passed 7 pm, yet the sky remained a vivid shade of blue, and the sun showed no sign of relinquishing its bright hold. The air bore a hint of humidity, but it was still bearable, not too stifling.

Ordinarily, the task of investigating the crime scene would fall to the designated investigator, not the prosecutor. She could have easily delegated the case to Ho-yeon and stayed comfortably at her desk. However, the faces of the victim, Gi Dong-yeong, and his daughter, kept haunting her thoughts persistently. The yearning to unravel the truth behind this case held her in its grip, refusing to let go.

Thus, after the workday had concluded, she hailed a taxi and made her way to the crime scene. Disembarking at a suitable spot, she surveyed her surroundings. Among the distant houses, the three-story residence of Seo Jae-young stood out conspicuously, an abode that exuded an air of opulence.

“Why would he act so arrogantly when he lives in such a luxurious place?” she wondered aloud. Yet, the thought crossed her mind that perhaps his arrogance was not an outcome of his current residence, but rather, a long-held trait. Born into privilege, Jae-young likely wielded money as a solution to all problems. In South Korean society, it was an undeniable truth that wealth wielded the most potent form of power.

As she ruminated on her own experiences, Yi-soo couldn’t help but recall the pervasive discrimination she had felt throughout her life. Entering law school only exacerbated this feeling, as she grappled with the burden of exorbitant tuition fees. Unlike her friends, she couldn’t escape the worries and pressures that came with financial constraints, and this memory weighed heavily upon her heart.

Lost in thought, she let out a sigh, the weight of her past experiences manifesting in that simple exhalation. In that very moment, a building caught her eye – a cafe situated diagonally across from Seo Jae-young’s imposing residence. The distance between them was a mere fifty meters. Mesmerized, Yi-soo felt an irresistible pull, drawing her toward that quaint establishment.

Cafe La vie en Rose beckoned to Yi-soo with its elegant French name. A quick glance at the opening hours left her slightly uneasy, as the incident in question was estimated to have occurred around 10 pm, an hour beyond the cafe’s closing time.

Undeterred, Yi-soo reminded herself of the importance of even the tiniest piece of evidence. With determination in her heart, she gently pushed open the glass door, and the soft ring of a doorbell welcomed her. Stepping inside, she found two tables occupied by customers leisurely sipping their coffee, creating a serene and tranquil atmosphere.

Taking in the green-themed interior adorned with numerous potted plants, Yi-soo’s attention was drawn to a tomato plant resting on a rattan stand. Soft classical music played in the background, casting a spell of harmony over the space.

As she continued her survey, Yi-soo finally made her way to the counter. There, a woman dressed in a white blouse and jeans welcomed her with a courteous smile, an OPP bag in her hand as if she had just finished packing something. The woman assumed Yi-soo to be a regular customer.

“I’m actually from the Southern District Prosecutor’s Office, Criminal Division 3. It’s nothing major, but there was an incident of special assault across the street from this cafe not long ago. I’m here for reference and wondering if you are an employee,” Yi-soo explained, choosing not to divulge too many details, but instead, producing her prosecutor’s badge from her back pocket.

The word “prosecutor” seemed to widen the woman’s eyes, and a moment of nervousness flickered across her features. Her gaze shifted to the ID card, and upon recognizing Yi-soo’s official status, she let out a small sigh and withdrew her hand from the cash register.

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