Saturday, May 28, 2016

When Time Forgets

This short story is more of a character study for a minor character from my NaNoWriMo 2015 (the same book that The Long Way Home is from). I hope you enjoy.  


"Saw your mom today while I was out." The classy octogenarian Korean woman spoke into the cellphone she held in her right hand, while with her left, she flagged a passing Seoul taxi.
"She didn't recognize me," the woman informed her husband of sixty-odd years.
"We knew this day could come eventually, Naomi," the aged voice on the other end answered. "I didn't expect it to be today, though."
"I don't think any of us actually expected it," Naomi answered. "She was just sitting there. I walked over, said hello. Those brilliant blue eyes stared at me, and she smiled. Thought I was some crazy old woman come to talk to the bright young thing."
"Bright young thing? Never expected Mom to be called that ever again."
"She was all of thirty years."
"Thirty. It is near time, isn't it?" He paused. "I suppose your mother was trying to find her birth parents."
"Your mom said they might wander down to Gwangju. I told her they would love it there. I showed her the picture of the two of them at Niagara Falls. She didn't realize I was talking about them. Thought I was talking about some random women."
"She'll remember eventually."
A taxi slowed down. Inside, Naomi told the driver to go to the train station.
"When will you arrive home?" Her husband asked.
"Two hours or so. I planned to return to the hotel, but after this encounter ... I want to come home. She'll leave again. Almost like dying twice, I suppose."
"It'll be for the best, I think."
"I didn't think it would hurt so much to talk with her. To see her like that. I wish you had come up to Seoul with me."
"I would have been a blithering idiot, Naomi. Neither of us needed that. You were always the sensible one who could handle anything that happened.” His voice cracked. He paused to collect himself. “Did you at least get a photograph?"
Naomi snorted. "Of course I did."
"Joo-won will pester you the entire trip home for that photo. Our grandson the scholar. He's to meet you at the train station."
"All right." Naomi fell silent. "She looked lost."
"Mom?"
"No, mine. I could see her talking with a couple. How do you tell them that everything will change? They'll lose their ways, find a new life, and live it to the fullest extent. They'll have grandchildren and great-grandchildren? They'll laugh and cry. They will find love in the strangest ways. How do I tell a thirty-year-old woman this when she believes she's visiting Korea for a short holiday while her best friend finds herself?"
"Time travel is tricky, my dear. Mom always said that. Sometimes you roll well, and sometimes you flunk." He sighed. "But at least you got to see them both, one last time."
"Our lives are nearing their end, and theirs are just beginning."
"Take heart, my love. For them, we don't even exist yet, and one day, Mom will remember back to the day she talked with you, and smile. I think you gave her the strength to make it."
"That's enough then. Ah, I'm at the train station. I'll be home in a couple hours." She looked at her wristwatch. "Have you felt the world change? They just went through the painting."

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The King's Ransom

This is another story set in the world of the Gwion. Known, in part, as the Forty Isles, each island has its own history, sometimes brutal. In this case magic plays an important part. The inspiration for the story was taken from a quote I found on Pinterest. It's been used several times in other stories, so the idea must resonate. 

Considering the world the Gwion live in, it isn't surprising kings could, and would, use magic to their own advantage. With no one to stop them, those who control life, control everything. 

The King's Ransom

The king had a crown studded with twenty jewels each of various size, shape and color. They were worth the king's ransom, it was said. How much is one man's life worth, Caitlyn wondered as she took three steps through the small wooden door on the side of the North Tower in the capital district.
She was one of the royal jewelers who worked to prepare the most priceless and rare jewels for the king. The twenty he wore in his crown were the ones he brought to the jewelers for the crown he wore every day. The royal coronation crown was only for special occasions and rituals. The everyday crown was simple enough - merely a gold band with the twenty jewels.

The crown was ugly, but the king wanted it, and what could the royal jewelers do save do their king's command?

Two days ago, the king had discovered another jewel he wanted added to the crown, and demanded the royal jewelers to do so. It was said to be a rare and extremely valuable gem from a far-off land on the other side of the world. The most recent diplomatic entourage had brought the jewel according to the inside sources.

Now, Caitlyn was to gather the crown and jewel after the king had approved the instillation of the jewel. It was a simple task, but the royal hallways were many and confusing and a wrong turn could lead to a person's death.

It wasn't her death, though, she saw through the crack in the door. The king stood before a dark male, one of the very who was part of the diplomatic mission from the far-off kingdom. The diplomat appeared tired and weak, but his shoulders remained back as the king pointed his finger at him and spoke some ancient word.

The legends returned - those dark things she had never been able to confirm - that the king retained his youth from the blood of youth. Surely it couldn't be, but ... The man had vaporized and clattered to the floor in the form of an orange topaz.

"And that's why you ended up in here?" A man inquired from the cell across from Caitlyn.

"It is," she confirmed.

The man's stool creaked. "What's the real reason - you lied about being pregnant?"

Caitlyn leveled her gaze on the older man. "Just because you cannot imagine what the truth is, doesn't mean it still isn't the truth. Besides, I wouldn't be locked in prison had I lied about being pregnant by the king - I would be dead."

The man leaned back. "Fair enough. So what will happen to you, do you think?"

Caitlyn shrugged. For the past month she had been kept in the prison below the royal chambers.
There were four cells down here, and all were filled with three people, save her cell, which only had herself and no other.

The other three cells all had men inside them. In two of the cells were men held because they opposed the king. Those in the cell across from her, where the man sat, were those who were traitors to the kingdom.

Though, one could argue, that all were traitors since they opposed the king.

All except Caitlyn who had only observed something no one was supposed to know. The others believed her, to one extent or another. After all, why else would she be there? A lying woman was easily extinguished.

"You think you'll be able to leave here, Caity?" Manuel, one in the cell beside her, inquired. He had only arrived three days ago because he spoke against a new tax.

"Now, Manny, you're too knew here to be asking foolish questions like that," Renauld, the eldest in the four cells, admonished. "I've been here twenty years now." He jabbed his finger towards Caitlyn.

"When the king demands for your appearance, make certain you bow and say you will serve only him."

"And what good will it do?" Manuel asked.

"I didn't die, but was sentenced to time here." Renauld turned to look at Caitlyn. "Remember that your life is more important than anything else."

Two years passed before Caitlyn was called before the king.

Two years had offered her plenty of time, and as she walked the hallways to the king's royal chamber, the only sound she heard was her own shackled footsteps and the heavy metal clank of the guards march.

During the two years, the king had aged terrible - though it was only around his eyes. His eyes were dark, masking pain only he could feel. His hair, however, remained the same chestnut color it had been two years previous. His body remained the same svelte figure of a man in his prime.

Along the wall of the room stood the royal jewelers. All twenty of them, many of whom were her family. They stood with heads bowed, silently accepting.

None dared look at her.

"You are Caitlyn Goltsmythe," the viscount intoned.

"I am."

"You are charged with treason. How do you plead?"

"Not guilty."

The viscount looked up. "Not guilty? Then why have you been sentenced ..."

The king held up his hand. "You do understand the repercussions of being found guilty, do you not?"

"My life, I would assume."

The viscount lowered the book in his hand to see Caitlyn. "And what have you been doing these past
two years?"

"Reading."

"What?"

"Books in the royal library. I have been a model prisoner, and the guards allow me to spend most of my days reading."

"Yet you have never attempted to escape?"

"It is well-known that the king's men will track any and everyone who escapes. If I must live my life in a cage then so be it."

"You are brought forward today to discuss your sentence, and yet you plead 'not guilty.' That does not sound like a woman who has repented."

"Whoever said I had anything to repent from?"

The king slammed his hand on the chair. "You have conspired to discredit me before the kingdom.
You traitorous wench!"

"For what purpose?"

Quiet, Caity, Renauld's voice hissed in her ears. He wasn't there having died the previous winter, but perchance his ghost hovered around her.

Caitlyn ducked her head, and said nothing else.

"You have a choice then, Caitlyn Goltsmythe," the viscount said.

Caitlyn looked up.

"To prove your innocence, you must bow before the king."

Simple. Beg for your life.

Taking a deep breath, Caitlyn moved back, but in doing so, the king moved forward, and the sunlight glinted on an orange stone.

Caitlyn stilled.

The room gasped.

Bow, Caity, Renauld's ghost insisted. He's changing his mind. You just said a life in a cage is well enough. 

Caitlyn shook her head. "Kill me if you must, but I will not bow to a king who wears a crown emblazoned with jewels of those he has killed."




Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Water Mage of the Mageless Isle

This story fits into a larger series I'm writing, but it acts as a character study for other kingdoms in the fantasy world. Not all desire magic, and some actively reject it.

“First Year Njeri, remain after class today,” Hubert Teacher ordered as the bell rang for the end of classes.
Njeri sighed, but remained in her seat. Around her, a few of her friends gave her sad faces, but none tarried. While Hubert Teacher wasn’t especially mean, he was strict. Besides, he was a known member of the ruling party, and therefore anything one said could be used against them later.
All of the teachers at the Royal Military Academy on the Isle of Itzal were members of the ruling party as was required by law. To teach there, one had to be a member and have no magic whatsoever, but on the Mageless Isle, no one had magic. If it was discovered, the child was either killed or abandoned or sent to live in one of the other kingdoms in the Forty Isles where mages did live.
Njeri sketched in her notebook until everyone had vacated the room. She was a gifted artist, according to her step-father, and would make a wonderful military member. As a ranking member of the Royal Party, Njeri’s step-father had managed to get her into the academy despite the fact she wasn’t from pure bloodlines.
Just what was it that Hubert Teacher wanted?
The door clicked shut. “First Year Njeri, it has come to my attention that you excel in two things. First, you are an excellent artist who can recreate anything you see. Second, you’re an exceptional swimmer. Are these true?”
“Yes, Sir, Hubert Teacher.”
“Then I need you to do something for me, if you are willing to risk an adventure.”
Adventure? Life was meant to be filled with training while at school. Adventure came later, at least that was what all the other teachers insisted.
“What sort of an adventure, Sir?”
“I am unable to disclose said information unless you agree.”
“Does it involve risk to life and limb?”
“Possibly.”
“Should I warn my mother I may never see her again?”
“Probably not.”
“Very well, Sir, then I accept your adventure.”
The door to the adjoining room opened and a third year student entered. Not only was the individual a third year, but he was also the king’s second eldest son. Not the one who would inherit the throne, but one who would ultimately lead the military into any battle his brother waged.
Like many on the isle, he was fair-skinned with dark brown hair. He stood a head taller than Njeri, but it was the piercing golden eyes which held her attention. Everyone said the prince - no Third Year Kaknab was friendly, but he didn’t seem especially so.
“Third Year Kaknab; First Year Njeri. You two will be working together with me on this task,” Hubert Teacher explained. He pulled out a map of the school grounds. He motioned for both to relax as he began his explanation, “For our up-coming teacher evaluations, we are to take two students each and train them to accomplish a given task. I chose the two of you because of your excellent skills.”
“He means we both are the best swimmers in our classes,” Third Year Kaknab explained.
“Among other reasons, Third Year,” Hubert Teacher corrected. “Now, our mission is to find the pair to this item.” He pointed to an ugly cat statue on his desk. “The oc were at one time worshipped as the gods on this island, but the practice has long-since died out. However, two of these statues, this one and its mate, are part of the school’s artifacts. One has been hidden, and we need to recover it.”
“This sounds more like a treasure hunt than anything else.”
“It is, but that is precisely the point - working in small teams to apprehend, capture or take the item. The other teams which will be working will either attempt to take the statue themselves, protect said statue or cause trouble for us.”
“Where is it hidden?”
“Beneath the school, here.” Hubert Teacher pointed at a location on the map. It was at the edge of the school’s lake, and only accessible by two narrow bridges. “It’s located in a room in the lower portion. We can access it by water, but only the two of you can swim that distance then be able to fight any attacks.”
“Where will you be, Sir?”
“With you. I’m the only teacher who can swim that distance and still put up a fight, but the others don’t know that. It will be to our advantage.”
Njeri studied the map for a few moments. “You expect us to enter through the window there?”
“There’s a small staircase which leads inside. We’ll access it there.”
“Someone will be guarding it, Sir,” Njeri pointed out.
“Most likely the weakest members of the team. A last resort.”
“And what are we to do with it when it has been taken?”
“Return it to the headmaster.”
Third Year Kaknab shrugged. “Sounds simple enough. When do we begin?”
“In a fortnight. We have fifteen days to prepare for this. Are you both ready? You will have to be able to swim every day, and also train with me after classes.”
“Yes, Sir,” both students answered.
“Well done. We’ll begin with training tonight.”
That night, Njeri stumbled back to her room where she never bothered to change out of her training uniform, but fell across her bed mindlessly toeing off her shoes. What had she gotten herself into? She was by far the weakest member of the team. The other two were both male and older than she was, not to mention taller and stronger. They could last longer than she could.
Her only advantage was illegal on the Mageless Isle, but how would anyone know she used magic when she was surrounded by water?
Ah, but her team would know, wouldn’t they? If they had been any other members of the school, risking her magic might have helped, but one was a stickler for rules and the other a teacher. No, best not to use her magic. Better not even to hint at having it. After all, no one knew she had it even after fourteen years of living.
She could continue along just as she had been. Safe. If her magic was discovered, who knows what would happen.
The following fourteen days moved in a blur as they trained and swam. Most of their training involved working as a unit to swim towards the tower. As the morning of the test approached, Njeri stretched beside the waterside, waiting.
“You came early,” Third Year Kaknab greeted.
“I was already awake.” Njeri lifted her arms and arched her back. “You came early as well, Third Year.”
“I was already up,” Third Year Kaknab answered. “I told you to call me Kaknab. We’re a team.”
“Ah, there you two are,” Hubert Teacher greeted. “Ready?”
“Of course.”
“From what I can tell, we were correct in our assumptions about the two weakest members of the defense team acting as guards. Our larger problem will be when they learn of our escape. Along both bridges, two other attacking units as well as two defending units have placed long range catapults armed with heavy logs. If any of those should hit near us in the water, we could be in trouble.”
“Then we don’t let them know, Hubert Teacher,” Kaknab suggested.
The starting gun echoed, and all three went to the water’s edge and started to swim. While everyone was engaged above, they would swim across the lake, capture the item and return it to the headmaster. Each was equipped with a bag to hold the oc statue.
Above them, the noise of battle - yelling, screaming, cracking wood and even more cacophony resounded, but the lake was quiet. Nothing more than an early morning swim. Thankfully, the sun had only started to rise above the mountains surrounding the lake, providing enough light to see, but not enough to make them obvious in the open water.
The water lapped against the stone pillar of the tower. A narrow ledge circled the tower about two meters above the lake’s surface. Footholds inside the tower provided the only access. Kaknab, the fastest climber of the three, scaled first with the rope he had brought to tie around a hook in the wall. Dropping both ends into the water, the other two were able to scale the wall at the same time. They entered the room the two windows and the doorway.
Three of the members in the room were apprehended, but a fourth, who had just started up the stairs, screamed and yelled for reinforcements below.
“Didn’t expect a fourth team member,” Hubert Teacher muttered, tossing the statue to Kaknab. “I’ll hold them off, you swim.”
Kaknab started to the door, but stopped as a heavy wooden rod dropped before him. “None of us are getting out this way.”
“I’ll take Hubert and his minions!” Festus Teacher bellowed. “Come with me, men!”
“He’s using two of the grogs from Third Year’s battering team as support,” Hubert Teacher commented.
“Can we take them on?” Njeri asked as Hubert dropped the statue into his bag.
“Most likely not, and manage to escape,” Hubert answered. “At least, you can’t fight them, and Kaknab is our fastest swimmer.”
Njeri held out her hand. “I’m smaller, and will be able to dodge the items better. Plus, I can swim underwater longer than either of you.”
Hubert Teacher and Kaknab glanced at each other and shrugged. Hubert Teacher handed over the bag. “Once you reach the headmaster, a signal will be given.”
Njeri waited a moment after tying the bag around her chest then dove into the water. She sank down, regulated her breathing, and shot forward. Extending her feet behind her, she pushed against the water, dodging past and around the logs as they entered the water. The water threaded around her, becoming one with her as she pushed her abilities to their limits. She never had this sort of chance to use her magic. A ball of water wrapping around her like comforting blanket. The lake bottom approached quickly, and with a final thrust, she propelled towards the surface, leaping forward, away from the lake and onto the path where she left her watery world behind.
The headmaster stood in his tower, watching the proceedings. Taking the outside wall, she began climbing along the craggy stones. At the top where the headmaster stood, looking over the edge, her face a mixing surprise with impressed.
At the top, Njeri paused only a moment to catch her breath before standing with shoulders back in a sharp salute. When the headmaster motioned for her to relax, Njeri pulled out the statue and handed it to the headmaster. “I am under Hubert Teacher’s command, Headmaster.”
The headmaster signaled for the flare to be sent, signaling the end of the training.
“You have done your team and your family well, First Year Njeri. I am assigning you and Third Year Kaknab to special training from here on out.”
“Yes, Ma’am, but …” Njeri stopped.
The headmaster chuckled. “You thought it was an assessment for the teachers. It was, but we also wanted to gauge how well our students performed. You will continue training with Third Year Kaknab under the tutelage of Hubert Teacher.”
Muscle-memory brought her arm up in a salute and propelled her legs past the headmaster when her dismissal was given. It was supposed to be over after Hubert Teacher’s assessment. Now she had to train with them even more?! Using her magic to propel them to victory had been one thing, but …
“Just what have I done?”
“Won us the prize, I should think,” Kaknab said, slapping a hand onto her shoulder. “Well done, First Year.”
“How did you arrive so quickly?”
“Quickly?” Kaknab laughed. “You’ve been standing here for a good ten minutes worrying over something, and you were up with the headmaster another ten minutes. Once the signal was given, everyone was carried by boat back to the tower. We arrived a few minutes ago.” He thumbed over his shoulder. “He said we should let you rest.”
“Are you all right? You swam faster than I thought you could,” Hubert Teacher observed.
“Fine, Sir.”
“Good. You deserve a long break after what you did today, but you’ll have to suffice with dinner out.”
Kaknab grinned. “That’s more like it. I’d rather have food than a break, Sir.”

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Long Way Home

Here's the first of my Year of Short Stories. This one was actually the result of one of my novels and a recent experience of walking my bike home. The setting is the Japanese Occupation of Korea during the 1920s. 

Remember to comment what you think about it or visit my Bridgette ni Brian Facebook fan page (here). 

The Long Way Home
Parents should worry more about themselves then what their children may or may not be doing.
If parents worried more about themselves and less about their children Kyong-ae would not be walking along a dark road in the middle of nowhere, having to look over her shoulder every three steps.
Oh no, if parents worried about themselves, she wouldn't have to bother taking the long way home, but could have taken the short-cut even if it passed close beside the Japanese police barracks. Of course there were the stories of them raping Korean women and girls; taking them inside their prisons and beating them mercilessly. Not all the rumors were false, of course, but at least there were people!
The Japanese didn't cause that much trouble if no one knew she was there, but the long way - supposedly safe way home- took her through a long narrow pass where the land rose on either side of her.
Bandits and rapists could lurk beyond where she could see.
At least the other way there were lights to banish the darkness.
Stupid parents.
Snap.
What was that?
Most likely a cat.
Maybe a dog.
Maybe not.
Maybe it was a monster. What was it the Missionary O'Rourke called those monsters? Oh, right.
Banshee.
But, banshees were from Ireland where Missionary O'Rourke's grandparents came from. A banshee from Ireland surely couldn't have followed a couple to America and their grandson all the way to Korea. That would be absurd.
If it wasn't a banshee then what was it?
The bike creaked and jangled in a puddle.
It had to be the one time she wore her silk clothes. Now she would have to wash them because she wasn't paying attention.
Parents should mind their own business.
Swinging onto the bike, every stone could be felt.
The tire was flat.
Why did the tire have to be flat? Couldn't it have waited until morning? It was bad enough she had to walk through this section because there were too many puddles to navigate under a moonless sky. A flat tire?! Surely the gods did not smile upon her.
Rattling reeds clattered in the sudden breeze.
Something felt ... Off.
The river wasn't far away, and the marshy land where the two rivers met always reeked, but something else drifted along the wind. A sweet, irony smell as though a great deal of blood had been spilt.
Kyongdok, her good-for-nothing older brother, said the plains had once been the sight of a great battle, and that on certain nights, the blood of those slain could still be smelled. The sounds of their battles heard cracking on the wind.
A scream ripped through the air.
It took everything to keep the bike upright.
Ghosts?
No; ghosts didn't exist. They were sent by the Devil to harm those who disobeyed the Heavenly Father. "Lord, keep me safe and protect me," Kyong-ae whispered.
The best thing to do was to turn around and take the short cut.
But, no. The tire was flat. Best to keep walking forward.
Why did the tire have to be flat tonight of all nights?!
The slick slice of steel cut through the air.
Guttural whimpering followed, yet the strange hypnotic voice reciting stranger words nearly drowned out the sobs of a grown man.
No. Nope, It wasn't going to happen. Whatever happened after this night - Lord willing she survived - the short cut was the only way she would go home; Japanese and parents be damned.
The bike hit another puddle, thankfully it was dry, but everything in her basket jangled.
"Damn," she grunted, using one of the words Kyongdok taught her because learning English was only disruptive if one learned bad words.
The voice stopped.
A light swayed closer.
No, nope. Not happening tonight.
"Whenever you are scared, run to the light," Missionary O'Rourke always said.
This was probably not what he had in mind when he said that, but tonight it was practical. At the base of the hill closest to the light, she would be hidden unless the voice came down. The embankment, thank the gods, was too steep for any mortal to descend at night.
The light swung high over her head, never coming close enough in its orb to even touch her metal hidden amidst the reeds.
The last jostle had knocked her handkerchief out of the basket, and there it lay like a flag in the middle of a puddle.
The light paused.
The voice grunted and the light faded.
Only her initials were on the handkerchief, and it wasn't important enough to save tonight. Maybe tomorrow.
Maybe the following day.
Probably should wait two days, and bring Kyongdok with her, just to be safe.
If in doubt, he could bring that revolver he kept hidden from their parents.
Possibly his friend in the resistance could come as well ... with his revolver. Shooting practice.
A final, gut-wrenching scream sliced the air.
The light remained in one place, dancing, until part of it separated and moved farther down the road.
Down towards the path she followed.
Was the light voice going to block her path?
It couldn't be walking back here, could it?
No. That would be absurd. Everyone knew light didn't double track.
No, the light would proceed forward and ...
It stopped.
Could it be coming back?
No. It stopped.
Ah, it guarded the end of the road where the pathway came back up.
Light might not backtrack, but Kyong-ae surely could.
The bike had a flat, though.
The gods did not like her.
She kicked the stand down and sank onto the grass. So long as the light remained at the end of the road, she would remain where she was.
The smell was overwhelming and her stomach churned.
Should she even attempt to see what was happening? It was her responsibility to help those ... What if there were more lights, though?
Stay put.
Help.
Stay put.
Help.
Stay put.
Looking won't hurt anyone.
Ah, but light voice was at the other end of the road. If she did have to get help, how could she get past it and manage to survive?
Stay put.
The light stood still.
The grass was wet.
Her silk dress! Water was horrible to silk, and now she had to clean even more. Looking wouldn't harm anyone.
Parents should learn to trust their fifteen-year-old daughter's common sense.
Even if she didn't.
The fire was in the center of a strange circle where three men slept naked. For some reason, each had a red cloth across his neck, as though a piece of cloth at their necks would cover their nudity.
Sometimes men could be strange.
Were they sleeping? Maybe it was some strange modern Japanese ritual.
Could be something from America. Missionary O'Rourke said there were strange people there.
They weren't white men, though.
Nope, definitely Korean ... Or maybe they were Japanese.
They looked Korean; probably Korean.
Shouldn't they be cold, though?
The light voice remained at the other end, and wouldn't be able to see her through the flame.
They could rape her, her mother's voice warned.
"They won't harm me," Kyong-ae assured herself.
How she knew they wouldn't harm her, she didn't know, but she knew.
The first man reeked and the red cloth wasn't fabric.
Back at her bike, the flat tire seemed to disappear and the road flattened.
Light voice had disappeared in the night.
Probably back to see what the earth-shattering scream had been.
For two long moments, the light danced along the ridge, the voice below it, as Kyong-ae pedaled towards freedom.
She skidded to a stop in front of her house and put the stand down. Inside, her parents slept. She left her things in her basket and ran back outside towards the police barracks.
There was a Korean there who went to church with her cousins. He was young, but seemed good. Surely he would listen to her. "Taewon," she gasped out to the first soldier she saw.
"Taewon?" The man scratched his head. He pointed inside.
Another soldier joined them. "Who's that?"
"One of his sisters, I guess," the first said.
Taewon was in his early twenties, cute in a strange gangly way. He sat at his desk with his head in his hands. "Taewon? You don't know me, but you know my cousin brother, Kyong-dong."
Taewon looked at her. "Kyong-dong's cousin sister?" He looked around, pushing away from the desk. "Did something happen to him?"
Kyong-ae shook her head and pointed towards the big light with the men clothed in their blood. "Bodies. Near the river. I think they've been murdered."
"Lieutenant?" Taewon called to a Japanese man in his early thirties. "Someone has reported seeing some dead bodies by the river."
The lieutenant looked over at them. "A girl? Is she reliable?"
"You wouldn't be asking that question if I was a boy, so why should you ask it if I am a girl?"
The lieutenant lifted an eyebrow. "Very well. Where are the bodies?"
"Near the river." A map. A map would help.
Taewon handed her his notebook and a pencil.
"I know where it ..."
"Lieutenant Yuguchi," their commander called. "Bodies found by the river."
"See," Kyong-ae insisted.
"Yes, Sir," Yuguchi answered. "We're on it." He looked at Kyong-ae, "Can you make it home alone?"
"Of course. I ran the whole way here by myself."
A smile tugged at the edge of Yuguchi's mouth. "Good woman. Off you go."
A woman was she? Of course she was. She had managed to bypass a strange light voice intent on murder, made it home alone and then to the station to tell the police. Of course she was a woman.
Maybe her parents would finally let her take the short cut home.