The streets of Seoul were never entirely dark, even at the latest time of night. There were lamps on street corners, lights shining from apartment buildings and houses, and big signs still glowing even in the dead of night when most were asleep. The hours of the night were never entirely peaceful either, but that’s just life in a big city. Things never slow down all the way, they simply lessen their roar.
There was a small block of alleys that one police officer had been called over to inspect during this late hour. An anonymous caller claimed they heard strange sounds from this alley that sounded like a person in distress, but they had been too scared to look. Officer Han wasn’t sure what the caller meant by 'distress', but he knew it was his job to investigate.
“Probably just some drunk,” he muttered to himself as he glanced across the wide street. The other side of the street was full of different bars and clubs that were open almost all night, so it was likely that someone had left a party and then wound up in this alley, lost and confused. Well, he could sort that out pretty quickly.
“Hello?” He called out into the alley, but he received no response. He sighed, they could be unconscious at this point. He quickly pulled his flashlight off of his belt and flipped it on. There were some lights shining into the alley, but it wasn’t a very strong light and he didn’t want to be caught off guard by something lurking in the shadows.
But surely it was just a lost drunk. It had to be. He wasn’t sure why he was getting goosebumps.
“Come on out, you’re disturbing the people who live in this area,” Officer Han continued to call out into the shadowy alley. It was quite a long alleyway and it led out to another area, so he wondered if the person had wandered all the way out of the alley and into another street. That could be dangerous if they were really inebriated, so he continued to walk along and scan with his flashlight for any signs of life.
The sound of a metal can clattering across the pavement made Officer Han jump nearly ten feet in the air. He wasn’t sure why he was so on edge, but...where did that can come from?
He held the light of his flashlight on the metal can for a moment, and it appeared to simply be a crushed soda can. He slowly moved his light up to follow the trail of where it had likely come from.
He saw a pile of garbage bags stacked next to the building, and next to one garbage bag he saw a foot. Well, a shoe that was clearly inside of a foot. The shoe looked like a converse style sneaker, but it was utterly filthy and covered in mud.
That foot must belong to the person that had been making all the noise.
He sighed with relief now that he had found this person and he slowly approached. “Hey, are you drunk? Come on, get up,” he said. “You can’t disturb...people…” his sentence slowed to a halt as he now stood before what appeared to be four teenagers sitting with their backs against the brick wall. They were filthy, as though they had traveled a long distance through rough terrain, and their eyes were eerily dead looking. They weren’t looking at him, they were simply staring off into space.
“Who are you?” Officer Han asked as a nervous tone returned to his voice. He kept his flashlight trained on them, scanning their faces for a moment. Something seemed familiar about them, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
His eyes widened as he recalled some missing persons posters that had been pinned up in their precinct. That must be where he recognized them! But could it be possible that the missing boys were right here? Where had they come from?
“Hey...hey! Are you those boys? The ones that went missing two weeks ago?” Officer Han questioned as he crouched down to hopefully meet their eye line. The one he was in front of had unruly, wavy hair that was completely frizzy and messy and even appeared to have some sticks and leaves trapped within those dark locks. They looked like they had traveled from a forest, but they were in the heart of Seoul right now. How did they travel so far without being seen by other police officers? Especially in the state they were in.
The boy that was sitting next to the one with the unruly hair finally tore his gaze away from the nothingness they all seemed intent to stare at. His eyes were like deep, sad wells that couldn’t be understood. Officer Han couldn’t even imagine what kind of trauma these boys had been through.
“Hm,” Officer Han removed his phone from his pocket and pulled up a picture he had taken of the missing persons poster. It had the names of the boys, and he thought that trying to ask their names might bring them out of this stupor.
“Seo Cheolmin?” He asked as he looked up. The boy that was looking at him right now nodded. He had dirt smeared on his sun tanned cheeks and short black hair that was sensible in length but it was sticking up in every direction because of how greasy it was.
“Alright,” Officer Han nodded. “Kim Mujin?” The boy with the unruly hair barely glanced at him before he returned his gaze to the ground. Officer Han felt like that was enough acknowledgement for now.
“Yoo Jinhyuk?” The Officer asked again after glancing at the poster picture on his phone. The boy at the farthest end shifted a little, but he seemed very out of it. He looked like the boy in the poster, with his dark brown hair that was short and cut into a strange style, long on the top and short on the sides. He had a small nose and round cheeks, and Officer Han noticed he appeared to have dried blood on his hands.
“Ah, are you boys injured?” Officer Han asked before continuing to ask their names. If they were injured, which seemed likely by the state of them, it was far more important to get an ambulance here and get them checked over than to confirm their names. He scanned his flashlight over them again, and that’s when he noticed dried blood all over Cheolmin’s left ear, and a nasty bruise under Mujin’s left eye. All these boys needed medical care before questioning.
“Help us,” Cheolmin managed to say in a raspy voice. He appeared to be the oldest out of them, but he probably hadn’t graduated high school yet.
Officer Han nodded. “Hold on, okay? I’m calling for backup,” he said as he slowly stood up and grabbed his walkie to call for aid.
“You’re not going to believe this,” Officer Han said after requesting the appropriate backup and an ambulance. “I think I found those missing boys. The four missing boys from two weeks ago.”
“They fit the age range and they look like they’ve been through hell,” Officer Han said with a nod. “We need to get them secured before any news programs find out about this. There’s something really wrong with them, and I don’t think they need camera crews in their faces, you know?”
“Are they injured?”
“I think so, but I can’t really tell,” Officer Han tilted his head as he looked back at the boys. “But they’re all covered in mud and they haven’t said a word except to ask for help. They’re shell shocked, or something.”
“Assistance will be there in about ten minutes. I’ll make sure the press doesn’t come around.”