I’ve been stressing out for the past few days contemplating whether I should give up my position as a coroner even after all these years of being successful at my job. I’ve worked hard to get this job for so many years. The thrills of new cases–new dead bodies–are like my high. I just can’t get enough of it. I’m living my dream. But I think I’ve gotten enough of it. Damn right, Jonghyun, Key, and Onew would lose their minds if they knew how I truly feel—how I need to quit and leave this all behind.
I only told them that I’m alright with Kai’s death—that I’ve toughened up and moved on—just to save my position. But it’s only been a few weeks since Kai died. Of course they would know I’m lying. Of course they would know how hard it is for me. But I’m just ridiculous. This is my dream—to be in an investigation team with my best friends. I don’t want to give it up. But I just feel like I have to give it up somehow.
When Minho and I were headed to Kai’s grave, I relayed on him what I’ve been thinking.
“Do you think that’d be okay?” I said to Minho, my closest friend in the team. I consider him almost my brother for we have been friends for as long as I could remember.
“Hey man, if that’s how you feel, I can’t really argue,” Minho said. “It’s been hard on me too and I’ve honestly thought about it myself. Since we got into this job together, I got your back on whatever decision you make.”
“What, so if I quit, you quit too? I can’t leave this position, then! This is your dream, too. Don’t make unnecessary sacrifices for me. If I leave, you stay, okay?”
“What’s the point then in being in this team if you’re not going to work with me? We’re in this together, Taemin. If you leave, I leave. Don’t argue with me on this one.”
The rest of the ride was silent. Even when we got out of the car and got to the place where my cousin was buried, not a word was said. And there we were just standing in front of Kai’s grave, staring at it without energy.
I personally haven’t cried yet. Part of me doesn’t believe this has really happened. I just know he’s dead but somehow it hasn’t completely hit me that he is gone.
Kai is my best buddy. I used to see him almost every day. Even now, I imagine him smiling around the house, flirting with his twin Sulli playfully when he felt like he wanted to tease, secretly holding in his emotions towards SooJung every time she comes for a visit, and laughing at me whenever I lose on his favorite video games. He’s such a cheerful kid whom I thought I’d never lose—not this early at least—and definitely not in that way.
For the past few months before his death, I’ve gotten a little busy and I haven’t got a chance to hang out with him. Didn’t even get a chance to say the things I want to say, do the things I want to do, or show him what I want to show as his cousin—as his hyung. Now he’s just part of dirt.
Have I missed out on a lot of things? Did he look up to me? If so, was it my fault that he committed suicide? It would be understandable since I took out my anger on him a lot when I get home from work extremely exhausted. My heart aches every time I remember him also getting impatient with me… Wouldn’t this theory be understandable since he used my pistol? Could he have been sending a message of hate to me all this time? And did he purposely not write a suicide note to drive me even crazier?
“Taemin, I have to go and give Sulli a ride home now,” Minho suddenly said. It then clicked to me that we have been here for about fifteen minutes. “Do you want to come?”
“You go on. I think I’ll stay here for a couple more minutes.” And so, Minho left me alone.
Finally, tears started rushing in me. Somehow, I just need to get it out now or else, I’d feel like a robot for the rest of my life.
“Why did you leave?” I breathed out. “Was it my fault, Kai? Was it my fault that you’re gone now? You could’ve written a note… just something! How about Sulli? Why did you leave her? You know she loves you very much. And how about SooJung? Man… man, you told me you’d confess to her that weekend! Why are you… why are you here?!” I screamed at the grave for my heart was craving answers.
How else would I cope if I didn’t know the cause of death to my own flesh and blood? I’ve solved so many cases but this is something I can’t wrap my head around. Why would he just put my pistol on his head that dawn? What has gotten into that rascal’s head? I had to know somehow. Thinking about it drives me crazy!
I fell down on my knees and started crying my heart out. I didn’t care if the cold winter air slowly numbed me. If anything, I wanted to die, too… but I can’t just do that. I don’t want to leave Sulli alone. She’s the only one left of our family. I don’t want her crying because of me, too.
Suddenly, my phone rang.
“Yo, bro,” it was Key, a member of the Sherlock Investigation team. “Come quickly at the address I’ll text you, Mr. Coroner.”
The call ended quickly and a text message popped up. I got up, wiped my tears away, and headed to the said address.
I arrived on the scene about thirty minutes later and saw a small crowd wondering what was going on outside a familiar building I think I’ve been too before. I saw Jonghyun near the entrance and he spotted me.
“Hey! Where have you been?!”
“Sorry, got a little stuck in traffic. What the prob-”
Just then, TaeYeon Noona and SeoHyun Noona went out the building, passing me and Jonghyun. SeoHyun Noona’s complexion looked dead and blank, wrapped in a black coat to hide the visible blood on her hands and leg as TaeYeon Noona dragged her carefully outside. Though TaeYeon Noona looked like a small body-guard because of this, she looked just as anxious and pale as SeoHyun Noona. That’s when I remembered, I’ve visited this place before since they both lived in this building.
When Key called me here, I really thought I would get my mind off my own personal problems by taking somebody else’s load of mystery, but I guess it’s unavoidable these days. Somehow the world wants me to deal with the cases of those close to me, and I am already scared of what I don’t yet know.
“What happened? Where is the scene?” I anxiously locked Jonghyun in the eye.
“It’s at the ninth floor on TaeYeon Noona and SeoHyun’s apartment.”
I ran to the elevator and before the door closed, TaeYeon Noona had run in again. I wanted to ask her what was happening, but her mind seemed occupied. I don’t think she even recognized me and that was okay. Seeing blood on SeoHyun Noona’s hands was enough to make me understand the seriousness of the situation.
Immediately, after stepping out of the elevator, I saw the police and medical team gathered around room 903. Their noise brought out curiosity to some of the neighbors and some were questioning what was going on. TaeYeon Noona, who rode in the elevator with me, hurriedly squeezed through and determined to enter her own apartment, but one of the officers stopped her.
“Let me in! SooJung is still in there!” she shouted, but the police gripped her arms tightly and pushed her. She bumped into me and almost stumbled down, but I supported her from falling. When she looked up, she recognized who I was and calmed down knowing I was part of the police department. Without any words, her tense gaze pleaded with me to find SooJung in there.
I showed my badge to the officers and they let me in. I looked for SooJung and there she was in a room fast asleep, as if she could not hear all of the stranger’s footsteps rustling around the wooden floors. I gently woke her up and dragged her out of the apartment before she could even decipher what was going on. When I reached the door, I gave her to TaeYeon Noona’s hands and told her to keep SooJung out of the situation.
Not too long after, I saw a body on a stretcher being carried out of the apartment. It was a man and it instantly clicked to me who that was. Jung YongHwa, SooJung’s older brother. I cannot even begin to describe the emptiness that shot right through me seeing his body covered like that.
Someone suddenly bumped into me, snapping my out of my shocked state. It was Key, and before he could follow the medical team, I gripped his arm and turned him around.
“What the hell is going on?”
“Oh, Taemin… ” he gulped, hesitant to say anything.
“Key!” I shook him, “What happened?!”
“Jung YongHwa… tried committing suicide,” he said.
In that moment, my heart sank. Suicide?! Again? And why him of all people?
Why Kai and YongHwa of all people?
This is unbelievable.
I dialed Minho’s number quickly as soon as I got out of the building. I had to tell him what was going on.
“Hello, Oppa,” Sulli’s cheerful voice echoed and I cursed internally for this wasn’t the time to talk to her right now—not her of all people. She’ll be devastated if she finds out YongHwa Hyung tried committing suicide just like how my mind’s pieces have been scattered around.
“Minho—ah, Sulli? Can you put Minho on the phone? I really need to talk to him.”
“Yeah? What is it?” Minho spoke a second later.
“Ah Minho? Minho… we have a serious problem. There’s- there’s another case of suicide and this is personal again. Come here quickly, this is an emergency!” At that moment, I saw SooJung anxiously looking at her chaotic surroundings and TaeYeon Noona was trying to coo her. I felt my heart being crushed at the thought of SooJung losing the only family member she had left. She can’t just be left alone like that.
“Sorry, I can’t hear you,” Minho said. “Can you repeat that?”
“Take care of SooJung tonight… she’s… she’s all alone and scared.”
“What? SooJung? What are you talking about? Taemin, are you alright? Where are you?”
“I’m in TaeYeon Noona and SeoHyun Noona’s apartment and SooJung is here, too. Please. Don’t let SooJung be alone for too long. Please bring her home.”
I ended the call and talked to Key.
“Are you one-hundred percent sure it was suicide?”
“Yo, there was a witness. And he was holding a knife, cutting up his own wrist, and almost slitting his own throat with his own hands.”
“Who’s this witness?” I angrily asked in disbelief, wanting to converse with this so-called witness, and Key pointed to SeoHyun Noona. I softened for she looked gravely frozen on her seat and I figured this probably wasn’t the time to talk to her. If she came to a state like that, I can assume she really saw it happen.
“That can’t be possible, can it? He’s…,” I sighed at the thought of who YongHwa was. He was a nice man. Sulli used to call him as the luckiest man on earth. It was true. A lot of fortunate things have been happening to him and he also just got engaged. Of course he would be happy with his life. But would my team understand that? Sometimes they focus more on the easy to be seen facts than the psychological facts. And they don’t even personally know YongHwa…
“What’s suicide is suicide man,” Key sighed and patted my shoulder. I wanted to argue with him but the man I am without any more energy, I didn’t say anything else. If anything, no one would understand the sudden thought I had in me. “I know it’s hard for you to accept situations like this from now on. I’m sorry man… Look on the bright side, though. The medics said Jung YongHwa is going to be fine. He’s not gonna die.”
“Really?” I felt a huge relief flow through me. I don’t want him to die.
When Minho and Sulli arrived, Minho ran to TaeYeon Noona and SooJung while Sulli walked up to me, questioning what had happened. I hoped I wouldn’t have to be the one to tell Sulli this unbelievable incident but I had no choice.
“What?” She blankly stared at me in confusion.
And so, I repeated myself, “Jung YongHwa tried to commit suicide.”
“No… No!” she angrily exclaimed. “Do you expect me to believe that YongHwa Oppa tried committing suicide after all the great things that have happened to him? He was offered a job to be a song-writer to a popular entertainment, he won the lottery just a month ago, and he proposed and got engaged. He already bought a small apartment and was already moving in with his fiancée. He was about to plan a trip to America to surprise his sister. He was going to get married! Don’t tell me those are all just some kind joke if he was just going to end his life!”
I understood everything she was saying. I’m sure all of us who were close to YongHwa Hyung are questioning this situation heavily because of those facts. Who would believe he would just commit suicide?
“Sulli, we don’t know what exactly happened,” I said calmly, seeing no point to argue with my cousin, who clearly had become the most sensitive after Kai’s death. “Through all of the things we know so far, we can only conclude it as suicide.”
“What kind of coroner are you!? You better look into this! Everything is not adding up!”
“Look, I understand what you’re saying but please be patient. It’s only been two hours. Besides, he’s not dead. He only lost a lot of blood. He’ll wake up in a few hours or a day and we’ll ask him then about what exactly was going on.”
“And what if he doesn’t wake up?” I scoffed at Sulli’s words. Key clearly stated to me that he was going to be fine. He won’t end up like Kai. Not this time around. I won’t let that happen.
“That is ridiculous, Sulli. He lost consciousness because of blood loss and they’re saying it wasn’t fatal. Don’t be too paranoid. He’ll wake up.”
Although I tried to sound certain, Sulli had now planted a seed of doubt in me. What if YongHwa Hyung really doesn’t wake up? What will we all do then? Just mourn? Grieve without exactly knowing what had happened in his heart or mind? This cycle shouldn’t happen again.
“Minho, don’t you think this is strange?” I said a few days later. “This doesn’t make any sense. There’s got to be something else.”
“And so I’m not only one who thinks like this, huh?” Minho said. “I’ve been thinking about it too and I think there’s something more to it. Something… totally different.”
“What is it?” I sat upright and listened.
“Would you believe if I tell you?”
“If I didn’t, would I still be in this team?”
“Okay…,” Minho sighed. “It’s something about Sulli. She was strangely affected by Kai’s death. Did you know about this?”
“About what? Sulli?” I said feeling a bit sidetracked.
“She’s been having visions or nightmares… Maybe apparitions of glitch-like figures at random times of the day. It’s not even that clear to me because she always sobs and trembles when she mentions it. It’s kinda freaking me out. I mean you know how she is—she used to be so proper just like you.”
“Ever since Kai died?”
“Then wouldn’t that just be considered as trauma?”
“Maybe… but I’ve searched things up a bit… There’s someone who has experienced the same thing.”
“What, like visions?”
“Yeah, and his situation matched the happenings around us. There was also suicide involved. Sort of…” He turned his laptop around and showed me a profile.
“This is Mr. Park Yoochun, Sulli’s boss. He was born to a family of rich company owners, and it says here that he has no siblings. But I did some research, and he had a sibling named Park SunYoung who died at the age five. And guess what, I couldn’t find any records of how she died, but what if it was suicide, too?”
“Wait, what does this have to do with anything? How even would a five-year old girl suicide?”
“Well why would Kai and YongHwa Hyung commit suicide themselves?” Minho said. “Sulli told me I was the only one whom she told about her experience with these nightmares and visions of glitches. She told me to keep it a secret and I did. But somehow, one day she came to me angry saying that I had told her boss these things, but I never did. Park Yoochun knows something. Should we poke at it?”
“Doesn’t it seem like we’re being a bit unreasonable?” I said. “Who would even believe us if we actually do find out the real cause—that it isn’t suicide?”
“It doesn’t matter if no one believes us in the end because this is already unbelievable as it is. I’m just craving for an answer. Aren’t you feeling the same way?”
“Fine. But this is only between the both of us. If anyone keeps questioning what really happened, just conclude it as suicide and stand firm on that until we really figure it out.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Mr. Park Yoochun said after we have broken the news of Jung YongHwa’s attempt on suicide.
“But we’re here for something else,” Minho said to him. “Do you know who this is?” Minho showed him a photo of Park SunYoung and his eyes dilated.
“Where did you get that?”
“This is your sister, Park SunYoung, isn’t it?”
Park Yoochun didn’t reply but the answer was written all over his face. “Why, what is this about?”
“We just gotta know what happened to your sister. It’s not in our records how she exactly died.”
“And why is this important?”
“Because we think it might relate to a current case.”
“Current case? What—your friends’ suicide? Tch!” he scoffed. “My sister died of hypothermia, not suicide. At what logic would a little girl even know to do such a thing!?”
“Hypothermia?” Minho and I glanced at each other.
“How so?” I questioned.
“We used to have a vacation house in Jeju, and one winter night, she went out the house and somehow got lost. By morning, she was found dead like a rock a few miles from our home. It turns out that she sleepwalked all the way there and froze to death. What more do you need to know? Are we done?”
“I’m… sorry to hear that,” I said and eyed Minho. I knew this meeting was useless and I hated it. We have become unreasonable detectives because of those “visions” or whatever they are that he claims Sulli sees.
“Maybe we just have to wait it out and ask YongHwa Hyung when he wakes up. Making these useless theories is a waste of my time.”
“Wait, you can’t just quit on me!”
“Yes I can. I’m tired, Minho, you know that. And I know I want to know what happened with Kai, but what you’re thinking is too far-fetched. South Korea has the largest suicide rate among the developed nations and I… I think I’m not surprised anymore about Kai’s death.”
“What? Dude, what do you mean?”
“It means I was the problem. I know damn well I was the cause of Kai’s death.”
“I wanted to believe in something else about Kai committing suicide, that’s why I wanted to investigate this with you, but when I think carefully, it’s all my fault.”
“Taemin, it’s not your fault,” he gently said.
“Then prove it to me! Prove how okay he was with me taking my anger out on him every night back then. Prove why he would use MY pistol to shoot his head! Prove it Minho!”
“What about YongHwa Hyung?”
“What’s his business is his business. Go ask SeoHyun Noona or TaeYeon Noona. Maybe they would know why he did that, but would they provide an answer for Kai’s death, too? I don’t think so. They don’t even know Kai that well.”
“Alright… but, you can’t just blame yourself like that. You don’t know what really happened! Wouldn’t you want to know?”
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” I said, my mind blankly functioning. “I’m gonna continue with my job, but I’m not going to investigate this any further.”
I left him there at my office and headed back home.
When I got in the apartment, I saw Sulli on the couch watching TV. She eyed me bitterly and I felt sorry that there is this sudden discord between us after YongHwa Hyung’s death. Things just weren’t the same as before these deaths happened. I think she also blamed me for Kai’s death and I couldn’t argue with that anymore.
I sat beside her and she intentionally scooted away from me.
“Please don’t treat me like this,” I said as I trembled. “I don’t want to fight you. You’re the only family I have left. And I know Kai committing suicide was probably partly my fault so please forgive me. I don’t want to lose you.”
“I never blamed you for Kai’s death,” she gently said, surprising me.
“You think I wouldn’t know you’re grieving too? If there’s anyone who should be sorry, it’d be me.”
“I’ve been avoiding you because of some… personal reasons I didn’t want you to know. Because if you would know, you’d be burdened by me.”
I stared at her in confusion. “What is it?”
“I’ve… I’ve been having these nightmares repeatedly… it’s Kai just walking around in a grassy field alone. But then, suddenly this glitch-like figure would come near him and he would take its hand. I always scream out to him not to touch it, but he does it anyway. Don’t you think it somehow relates to his death?”
And there it was again—what Minho claimed was true. Sulli was having these nightmares. But it is just too absurd to relate things like this to reality. It’s useless.
“It’s just trauma. Sometimes dreams give us information, but not something that we already didn’t know.”
“But I don’t just see that when I’m asleep. I also see that occasionally when I’m awake. Can you explain that?”
At that moment, I feared paranoia might have crept up on her after Kai’s death. It was understandable, but not good for this situation.
“Let’s go to sleep. It’s getting late.”
And I promise, when YongHwa Hyung wakes up, I’m going to prove to myself that Kai really did kill himself because of me. It’s nothing supernatural.