Tiffany slammed the car door and smacked Taeyeon’s shoulder. “Go!”
The tyres screeched with the friction of their movement, and the car shot away. Taeyeon’s steering swerved slightly in the first few metres before settling, and she dodged the thin traffic with ease until they were ten blocks away. She slowed down on a long stretch of road and melded into the more populated lines of cars.
They sat at the red light, behind three cars and in front of twenty more, as Tiffany finally caught her breath. She loosened her grip on the backpack in her lap and let it slide to rest at her feet. Then the grin took over her face.
“I cannot believe I just did that,” she said. She laughed. “I can’t believe it!”
Taeyeon glanced at her, smiling slightly. “How’d it feel?”
“Fucking amazing!” Tiffany slapped her palms on the dashboard in front of them. “Amazing!”
“Good,” Taeyeon murmured. She reached out and flicked on the radio, turning the volume down a bit so that it wasn’t deafening, and she watched as Tiffany started dancing along and laughing.
It went well. Tiffany had gone in, settled, chatted, flirted a little, and then she grabbed the bag and ran. This was all exactly as it was meant to be. She didn’t have to know what was in the bag, she didn’t have to know who she just stole it from, and she didn’t have to know the consequences of her actions. She did it. Maybe she thought it wasn’t anything important, because after all why would an organised criminal leave something important in a backpack under the table of three low-level thugs in a bar? So maybe she figured it wasn’t a big deal to grab it and run. Maybe she even thought of it as a game, a light and playful thing.
Because Tiffany just stole a bag full of medium-grade heroin from a gang reputed for gruesome retaliation.
And Taeyeon was going to sell it through her newly formed independent network of dealers while keeping some as a supply for the men at the rose tables.
But she didn’t have to know that. She did it anyway. It was the fault of carelessness.
“Hey are you hungry?” Tiffany asked suddenly, still smiling, breathless. “Let’s go get some food.”
Taeyeon didn’t look in her direction, keeping her eyes on the road for a moment. Then she glanced at her watch; she needed to report to her boss in thirty minutes. She looked up in time to see the light change. The car was set into motion while she checked the rear-view mirror.
“Oh come on, just have dinner with me,” Tiffany said, reaching out to poke Taeyeon’s shoulder. “Surely you don’t just live off coffee?”
Taeyeon shrugged. “I like coffee.”
“Then have coffee with me,” Tiffany pressed. She moved her hand over Taeyeon’s shoulder. “Come on, I just wanna hang out.”
“I need to see my boss soon.” Taeyeon shrugged away Tiffany’s hand. “I’ll drop you off at the club.”
Tiffany sighed. She ran a hand through her hair and settled back in her seat. “Whatever.”
The ride was quiet after Tiffany turned off the radio. Taeyeon knew she was disappointed. It surprised her that Tiffany seemed to want to get to know her.
Not only was Taeyeon a weird young woman who worked for a criminal organisation, but Tiffany was working for the police in an effort to deconstruct said organisation. Why did she want to be friends? Surely she didn’t know the secrets behind Yuri’s involvement in the organisation. And she certainly didn’t know what was going on in Taeyeon’s head. Yet she seemed to consider it a good idea to forge a connection with Taeyeon, and she was either playing or she was foolish.
The grey area could be hard to navigate sometimes.
“Do you smoke?” asked Tiffany suddenly.
Taeyeon glanced at her. They were nearing their destination. “No. Why?”
“It just seems like everyone else does,” Tiffany answered, looking out the window. “I just found it odd that I never saw you smoke, when the others in your line of work practically breathe nicotine.”
Taeyeon tapped her fingers on the steering wheel briefly. “I quit a while ago.”
Tiffany didn’t question her further, and when they reached the club she got out of the car without a second glance. Taeyeon watched her walk. She checked her watch. She went to see her boss.
“Now, regarding your next meeting…”
Taeyeon made sure not to look at Yuri. The room was dark, with only the desk lamp on to illuminate them. Their boss sat in his chair, and he didn’t blink.
“He’s an important man. Make sure to get a good deal out of the negotiations. He likes to think he has the upper hand. Remind him of the truth if needed.”
Yuri nodded, and Taeyeon blinked. Their boss flicked his gaze away for a moment before he looked at Taeyeon.
“At the end of the month, Tiffany will no longer be necessary. You’ve done a good job, we’re almost at our first goal, and soon the next stage of our plan can begin. I’ll let you take over the club by yourself.”
Taeyeon didn’t hesitate to nod.
Their boss grimaced. “I know what you’ve been up to, Taeyeon. This is your last chance. And if you move to defy me, you will all be dead.”
No one said anything else for a long time. Their boss looked at Yuri in a way that made them both certain that he knew. There was no real deception after all, and they were all a single step away from oblivion.
Taeyeon wasn’t scared. She had known that if he didn’t already know, he would find out, and she’d been ready to die because of the threat she posed. He had big plans, and he was ruthless in trying to achieve them. Any movement from her in the direction she was poised to pursue would go one of two ways; freedom or death.
He let them leave his office, and they walked through icy darkness towards Taeyeon’s car in the parking lot.
Everyone underestimated Taeyeon. She made sure of it. She was just a girl, she was just a lackey, and she did exactly as she was told without a care in the world. Her heartlessness seemed strange and it made it easier to keep people away from her. Even better. The best thing for her life was for people to think that she had no heart and no mind of her own.
So she smiled. Even though the boss knew she had been branching out into her own operation, he still thought he could control her.
He was wrong.
“What are you going to do about Tiffany?” asked Yuri as they reached the car. Her breath made a trail of whiteness in the air. “Will you kill her?”
Taeyeon looked at Yuri over the roof of the car. “She will no longer be necessary, he said. After everything she has been involved in, she must die.”
“You know she’s important to my case,” said Yuri. “You’ve never had a problem with my deception as a police officer, and you seem to have no concern about Tiffany working for me. Could you maybe not kill her and give us a chance to do what we’re here to do?”
“Just because I never had a problem with your attempt to convict my boss doesn’t mean I want to join you.” Taeyeon leaned forward, resting her arms on the car. “I’m not stupid.”
Yuri stared at her for a long time. There was absolutely nothing going on this night; no traffic in the streets, no planes overhead. There weren’t even lights on in the buildings around them. So when Yuri watched Taeyeon, it was as if she was confronting a dead world.
“What are you planning?” breathed Yuri. “He said he knows what you’ve been up to, and so do I. You’ve been building your own little business. Why? You work for one of the biggest guys around, why are you doing something on the side? Are you going to branch out and become a competitor? Surely you realize that’s suicide.”
Taeyeon didn’t say anything at first. Then she shrugged, and broke their eye contact. She unlocked her car. “Just making some extra cash. Do you need a ride?”
“No, thanks,” Yuri said immediately. She was frowning now. “You’re really weird, you know that?”
Taeyeon paused with her hand on the door handle. She shrugged again.
“Will Tiffany be safe?”
Taeyeon smiled at Yuri. “Tiffany’s a little weird, too.”