The door to Chief Prosecutor Kim Jae-ho’s Office resounded with a rhythmic triple knock. After a quick once-over of his appearance, he waited for the anticipated acknowledgment from within.
With permission granted, Yi-soo turned the knob and entered quietly. The expansive room, more than double the size of a standard prosecutor’s office, was adorned with various potted orchids. Chief Prosecutor Kim’s fondness for orchids was a well-known fact, even within the ranks of the prosecution. Rumors circulated that he derived genuine joy from meticulously tending to each frond of his sizable fern each morning.
Consistent with his reputation, he was currently engaged in the meticulous care of his orchids. Yi-soo entered soundlessly, offering a slight bow.
“Chief, you summoned me?”
“Ah, Prosecutor Seo. You’re here promptly. Please, take a seat.”
Yi-soo’s response was succinct as she settled onto the spacious couch. The leather emitted a soft creak as Chief Jae-ho, having finished misting the plants, took his place.
In his mid-50s, he projected an air of gentility on the surface, yet his reputation painted a portrait of someone harboring inscrutable intentions. Outwardly, he could be amicable and compassionate, while possessing the capacity to deliver unexpected strikes from behind.
“How about a cup of coffee?” he offered.
Yi-soon declined, “No, thank you.”
“Very well. We need not prolong this conversation. Anything preoccupying your thoughts lately?”
“Nothing, Chief. I appreciate your concern.”
Trivial chitchat persisted. Yet, both Yi-soo and Chief Jae-ho were aware that their dialogue bore an underlying current of separate matters. It was as though their minds had synched, prompting Chief Jae-ho to cut to the chase.
“There’s a trial scheduled for 3 o’clock, isn’t there?” Chief Jae-ho asked. “Involving the defendant, Seo Jae-young.”
“Yes,” answered Yi-soo.
“I’ve heard you’ve been investing considerable attention into that case, Prosecutor Seo. My separate request to you was indeed well-placed.”
Yi-soo maintained her silence. Seo Jae-young happened to be the son of Chairman Seo Jeong-hyuk, a university classmate of the chief. A distinct disparity existed between the Chief’s intention in seeking her involvement and Yi-soo’s intention in delivering it.
Chief Jae-ho couldn’t have been oblivious to this dissonance. Despite this, he regarded Yi-soo with the shrewdness of a seasoned fox, fully aware of all underlying dynamics.
“Perform well in the trial later. You’re likely to encounter similar cases frequently in the future, and commencing on a positive note holds significance, doesn’t it? Soar high, Prosecutor Seo. Your foothold is relatively recent.”
The implication was unmistakable: if Yi-soo handed down a stringent verdict against Jae-young today, she would find herself on the chief’s unfavorable side. The chief’s stern countenance remained steadfast, showing little inclination to soften. Yi-soo responded, exerting inner restraint.
“I will give my best effort.”
She refrained from expounding on her approach. Over her tenure as a prosecutor, Yi-soo had grasped the prudence of avoiding unequivocal declarations. She recognized the peril in openly confronting corruption, especially as a fledgling prosecutor.
“Very well, Prosecutor Seo. You likely have a busy schedule, so please proceed.”
“By the way… I heard something. Is it true that your father is the Seoul Chief Prosecutor?”
As Yi-soo turned to depart from the Chief Prosecutor’s office after their initial exchange, she found herself halted mid-step. How had he come across this information? An expression of puzzlement furrowed her brow as she faced away from Chief Jae-ho. Swiftly parsing the situation in her mind, she pivoted on her heel.
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“Seoul Chief Prosecutor Park was my senior. Whenever your schedule permits, allow me to treat you to a meal as a gesture of appreciation.”
“Yes, I appreciate that. Thank you.”
Such a detail wasn’t one that a novice would casually pry into or stumble upon. Sporting a practiced smile, Yi-soo exited the prosecutor’s office.
An abundance of concerns already weighed on her mind. On days when the grapevine buzzed within the prosecution’s corridors, her fatigue grew to proportions even more overwhelming than her present state. Most importantly, she sought to avoid causing her stepfather any undue inconvenience due to her professional pursuits.
“My head is pounding,” Yi-soo muttered.
Releasing a sigh, she reached out to press the elevator button. Just as her finger was about to make contact, her phone nestled in her pocket vibrated. Retrieving her device, she illuminated the screen. A faint shade of skepticism flitted across her weary countenance.
[Can you spare a moment before the trial?]
[Meet me in front of the main building library.]
It was a message from Hyun-seong. Reading the unexpected contact a second time, Yi-soo’s brows knitted. What could have prompted this?
Ding. The elevator’s melodious arrival chime snapped her out of her reverie. The doors parted on either side. Today, an undeniable intuition warned her that it wouldn’t be a straightforward day.