0. Introducing the mission.
As her boss kept explaining the operation, Lea’s throat tightened more and more. It wasn’t usual in her to see going undercover inside a criminal organization as anything other than her own version of working nine to five, but she had also never seen such a complex and hermetic system created by the biggest scum of society.
That, the woman could at least give them credit for. They were quite smart to have so much power and go so undetected.
“Basically, every single company and brand under Kellam Group is for money laundering” Lea’s boss, Captain Font, stated as he guided the small red dot of the laser pointer to the evidence being projected in front of his subordinates. “Clothing brands, nightclubs, talent agencies, and record labels. Los Angeles, Tokyo and Seoul. We were ordered to act on this as it has become an international issue and these are highly dangerous criminals. I’m aware this is unexpected and that some of you had been told by fellow officials this month was authorized to take care of your personal affairs, but it’s a no go.”
Individual profiles of the criminals went over the woman’s head despite the constant nudging from the coworker on her side, and even the stares of her own boss — the sinking feeling of absolute despair at the mention of personal affairs was eating her alive.
What would she say to Sam? Would she still want to marry her after coming home from God knows where?
Am I even going to be the same?
With a flinch, a quick shake of the head like a wet dog, and posture back to being proper from being as slumped as her thoughts, Lea answered in an off-tune, screechy squeak. “Yes, Captain?”
“Keep your mind in the operation, Detective” Sternly, the middle aged man stated, the room in dreadful silence “I don’t care about your personal situation right now, and you certainly shouldn’t either. The pledge you made is right here, so pay attention to my words or you’ll be off to Seoul only to die. Am I being clear?”
Stupid fucking pledge. I can’t believe I once loved this.
“Detective Watanabe, your side job comes in quite useful right now, that’s why Seoul is where you’ll be sent, as I said.”
Back to casual presentation behavior, Mr. Font sighed as he changed the slide, which was covered in some familiar faces. Famous singers. Idols. Actors. You name it — the elite of Korean entertainment, all criminals.
“This is the people we could corroborate are involved in drug, human, and gun trafficking from the data gathered both online and onsite in Los Angeles” Kev, an associate in charge of digital investigation, said with a shakier voice than the previous man talking. “Most of the activity is concentrated in their Nightclubs and Record Labels — which is why we sent Detective Watanabe’s work under an alias for her to play the part as a rookie producer, and get inside both evironments.”
Lea’s mouth was sealed shut, or she would inevitably scream — nod, nod, nod. That’s all she could manage.
Reasons were obvious — Japanese father and Korean mother so she could speak both languages with ease. According to Korea’s standards, she was beautiful, which was an almost infalible bait for men doing nasty work. Under 30 years old, being one of the youngest female Interpol Undercover Agents, but also at an age where she could access any nightclub she wanted in the most exclusive areas of Seoul.
Even if she was older, it was easy to fake a passport. It’s the Interpol.
All that in mind, Lea took a deep breath. There was no option. No time to dwell.
“Okay. Will the DEA be involved?”
“It’s an important drug case, so yes.” Captain answered. “We’re giving everyone the basic info, and to those travelling, info on everything and everyone you need to know about. You’ll meet the DEA agents there. You know how it goes.”
“When do we depart, boss?” Dan, Lea’s closest friend in the team and possibly the strangest person she had met, asked casually.
Both feet on the desk, just skimming through the pages of confidential information like it was a roadside Diner menu. Superiors allowed it because the man was more machine than man. He had never even gotten scratched.
Dan was valuable.
“A week. Tie loose ends, say your goodbyes, kiss your partners or maybe break up with them, snuggle your pets, whatever you need to do. Just do it. There’s nothing certain after this, you just need to get back alive.”
Instantly, Dan looked back at Lea. She just stared at the front, eyes dead, and not moving a single muscle. It worried the man — he loved his friend, and loved her fiancé like a sister as well. He couldn’t begin to imagine how the words their boss said must’ve struck her if they did him.
These news with a fully organized wedding two weeks away sounded like hell. That made him glad that he was the one joining her in Seoul — if Dan wasn’t there to keep Lea focused, she could definitely die.
Way worse than not being married.
“Tako” Jokingly, Dan called his friend — who was still glued to her chair — after the meeting was dismissed. No response. “For fuck’s sake, Tako!”
“Don’t call me that!” With a slam on her desk and a growled yell, Lea stood up and looked straight into the tall man’s green eyes. “Why? Why?! I’m not a fucking octopus! Why do you call me that?! Sam also —”
“Oh, so that’s the issue” He sighed, placing his arm around the petite woman’s shoulders and urging her to leave the conference room with him. “Wanna have a drink before going home? I know it might be hard to face Sam right now.”
“She’s so excited planning the final details for the whole thing, dude. So excited. How can I do this to her?”
Tears were long overdue. Dan Moore admired how Lea sat through a 3 hour meeting and shed none, knowing what it all meant for her and the love of her life. How tough it was to be accepted by their families. To be comfortable around them. He knew it all, and saw the happiness in both of them. Never did he think he would see something other than that in the two women.
“So… you’re breaking it all off?”
The question was cautious, but the answer came instantly. “Yeah.” Forest eyes wide open, Dan tried to look away for a moment. “Sammy deserves something safe and stable. We’ve been together for over ten years, and since I’m doing what we do I fear for her more than for me every single day. I mean, I put her in danger indirectly, and put myself in danger, but now I’m gonna be in the other side of the world, not allowed to talk to her. It’s cruel. She shouldn’t be dragged into it all.”
Determination was something that Lea had in excess, sometimes turning to stuborness and into a brutal flaw — since their academy days, Dan knew better than to try and change the strong agent’s mind, even in moments of vulnerability. She would never see a way other than hers, even if that meant digging a hole and burying herself alive without taking a chance to keep living.
Just like that moment. Dan was watching as Lea threw the beautiful love story with her Highschool Sweetheart away — no questions asked. And he couldn’t say a word.
So they walked towards their cars in silence, knowing exactly where to meet, both heads hung low for the same reason but with completely different feelings.