I just smirked. Does he expect me to be moved by his words? Should I swoon and faint? “Then were you just making things up to criticize me? Do you think I am stupid? You expect me to believe your delusions?”
“If you’re not interested, then I’m not either. It doesn’t matter to me if this murderer kills the nobles and invades the royal palace. I don’t care whether this whole country burns down or not. I just wanted to call you over here, that’s all.”
“No, I don’t,” he said. “The only thing I want you to know is that I am only interested in you. Nothing else.”
“Me?” I asked. “Me? Someone who had killed countless people? I am a psychopath! I have committed a dozen crimes and murder in my past life and that has followed me even here. I have killed people here too.”
“Yes, you,” he said. “I don’t care about anything else.”
“Why?” I asked, “Oh, do you want to do more research on me? Do you want to analyze what a psychopath is and how they live? Or something along those lines?” I snapped.
“No,” he said.
“Then what is it?” I retorted. “I can’t find a plausible reason no matter how I look at it. The past is gone! It’s all gone! We are different people living in a different present. A different world! Why can’t you let it go? You don’t need to care about me anymore, alright?”
“It’s not gone! Everything is not gone!” He shouted. His eyes widened in surprise. I had never seen him ever raise his voice in both of his lives, combined.
He let go of my hand and took a step back. He covered his face in his hands and sighed. His breath was shaky. His hands dropped by his side and he looked at me.
“It’s not… all is not gone,” he said. “Not in the least. When you died, my life just ended.”
His eyes stared into mine. I couldn’t understand him. I stood there staring at him blankly.
[A police officer’s brutal murder pilgrimage…]
[A warehouse painted red in broad daylight…]
[Was there a person or a devil here?]
[Extremely necessary psychological tests on occupational groups who encounter violence…]
“I really don’t know why you did that. Everyone says that you were too immersed in your job and eventually lost your mind. Is that really true?”
He didn’t answer. Prosecutor Lee Jin-shik let out a sigh.
“If you claim occupational trauma, you can be spared to some extent. To be honest, you didn’t even murder an innocent. Those were gangsters who had committed god knows how many crimes. You could be sentenced but it could be reduced.”
He still didn’t answer. His eyes that were always clear and sharp and used to see through everything looked blank and empty at that moment. As though, his soul was gone.
“Ah, answer me, please. Why did you do it? Is it because of that dead woman? I heard you lost your mind when you saw her dead body. Were you close? Was she your lover?”
He finally shook his head. The young prosecutor sighed. Jin-shik desperately wanted a smoke. There was nothing left in the detective’s eyes. How did this person who had worked in the field for so many years do something like this? He had never been obsessed with anything in life. He always had a good temperament. Why?
Why the hell didn’t he just run away? Jin-shik wondered. Why did he call the police himself? He didn’t understand.
“Why on earth did you do that?” asked Jin-shik, helplessly. Seeing him like this made his heart ache.
“You know how you only realize something is precious to you when you lose it?” he said finally. “You recall how I regretted losing those bitcoins I had mined in my twenties? A faint smile painted his lips. But just as soon, it disappeared. He wasn’t someone who smiled a lot but now it felt like his smile had lost every meaning. “I realize now how little notice I took of the things and people who were precious to me. My life has no meaning anymore.”
Jin-shik thought about it a while. “Were you close? Was she your informant? Were you lovers?”
“Would it have been better if she were? If we had been together, would that have made this more digestible?” he asked.
Jin-sik fiddled with a cigarette in his pocket. Who the hell came up with the law to prohibit smoking indoors? He should have bought some nicotine patches. He desperately needed nicotine in his body right now.
Jin-shik hadn’t seen the woman’s body in person. It hadn’t been his case. He had heard about it from another officer. Apparently, her body had been a mess. It seemed as though she was tortured very brutally. He didn’t know what had happened for those bastards to do something like that to her.
It had been some rotten gang. The leader had been assassinated in a fight with another gang and considerable people from the gang were either arrested or killed. All that were left had been the puny members who had killed the woman. And the police officer had snapped and slaughtered them. For the woman. Who was she?
“It’s like time has stopped,” he said, “since she is gone, everything feels meaningless.”
“Seong-hoon,” said Jin-shik, “You aren’t young. You know these feelings pass over time. Time will heal you. Why are you being like this? She is gone and you can’t change that. But you still have a life to live. Just cooperate with me here. We can reduce your sentence. And when you are out, you can still work as an investigator. I will help you when you come out. We should find a good lawyer. Do you have anyone in mind?”
Jin-shik tried to persuade him for the last time. He had been trying for an hour. But any light that he had seen in his eyes disappeared once more. Like a dimly lit light-bulb going out, shrouding the world in darkness.
It hadn’t been very long after Seong-hoon was sentenced that Jin-shik heard about his friend’s death in the prison by assault. His body was taken out of the prison by his brother and cremated without any funeral procedures as befit a great police officer.
Jin-shik never found out who the woman was and what she had meant to his friend. However, on cloudy days when he smoked, he could still see his friend’s lifeless eyes. Jin-shik soon quit smoking because he couldn’t bear to remember those empty eyes anymore.