Life, Once Again! - Chapter 369
He was going to throw his half-burnt cigarette into the ashtray, but he couldn’t. The tower of cigarettes that had some sticking out and looked like a Christmas tree was about to fall apart. He finally remembered that it had been a long time since he emptied his ashtray.
“Is it about time I leave?”
Dongwook stood up with the ashtray in hand. He emptied the ashtray into the trash can before opening the window in the living room wide open. The sunlight blinded him. He basked in the sun in the veranda for a while. He remembered some doctor on TV saying how people needed to photosynthesize as well.
He sprayed some deodorant around the house before going to the bathroom. He stood in front of the mirror and looked at his face. He had a stubble due to not shaving for quite a while. He foamed it up with some soap before picking up his razor. It pricked him a bit, perhaps due to the blade being old. He washed his face and hair before leaving the bathroom. He dried out his hair and shaped it with some wax and spray.
“I still look pretty decent.”
He took out some clothes from the closet. He wore a light blue shirt and a pair of denim pants. He picked up his bag, which contained his camera and his notepad. With that, he was ready to go to war.
He drove out of his apartment’s parking lot to the streets.
“First it’s ‘Number 8’, huh.”
He drove to a building in the outskirts of Seoul. Number 8. That was the name of a movie production company. It was known as a production company that steadily released many movies and didn’t seem to have any management issues, but the company suddenly collapsed while shooting their current work. The management-level people just vaporized into thin air.
He parked the car in the parking lot of the building before grabbing the elevator. There were nameplates of the companies and stores that were in the building. Number 8 was on the fourth floor, and someone seemed to have written a large X on top of it with a permanent marker.
The elevator opened.
‘I knew it.’
Dongwook could see a line of people in front of the elevator. They were blocking the entrance to the office of ‘Number 8’, which lied to the left of the elevator. They seemed to have caused a ruckus already as he could see some people lying on the ground.
Dongwook showed the people that looked at him his camera. Whatever little hope they had on their face disappeared immediately. It seemed that they were individual investors. There were quite a lot of old ladies. He bypassed the people that lied on the ground without any energy and opened the door to Number 8’s office. Fortunately, it wasn’t locked.
There were people inside as well. They all had vicious eyes. He took out his camera when he received suspicious glares, but it didn’t work this time.
“Who the hell are you?”
“A journalist? Why would a journalist be here?”
“Why would I be here? Because there’s a case here.”
“A case? Are you kidding me? Do you not see these people here? You journalist seem to take laughing at other people’s misfortunes as your jobs, huh?”
A calm-looking man in his fifties shouted at him. He looked like he wasn’t the type to get angry usually, but now he looked like he would send a man to the afterlife if he was given a knife.
“Sir, please calm down.”
The other people restrained him. It seemed that those people still had some reason in them.
Dongwook approached the middle-aged man who tried to shake off the hands of the people around him.
“I’m not here because I want to take joy in your misfortune. It’s not about money either. Our company took a bit of a hit because of the movie, so I’m here to investigate. Understand?”
Dongwook had been a journalist for 12 years. He had to smile back at vicious-looking policemen when he still worked for a TV station. He wasn’t that weak to be pushed back at a rage-consumed man.
The middle-aged man shut up and took a step back. Dongwook walked past him and went inside. There were various office supplies left inside. Though, the expensive items like computers and other machines seemed to have been taken by the investors already.
Dongwook picked up a piece of A4 paper which was on the ground. On it was a list of investor’s bank accounts.
“Man, they gobbled up a lot.”
Number 8 was producing a blockbuster movie with a scenario created by director Han Jungho. The production budget was 15 billion won. It was an unprecedented budget in the history of South Korea.
Number 8 was a pretty well-going company in the industry, and director Han Jungho was someone who sold two million tickets for his first movie which was a comedy. The actors were well-known as well, but the estimated production budget of 15 billion was too big. That was why they started taking individual investments. The minimum investment was 10 million won, and they promised to return shares in profits as well as secondary products. The people that were walking around in and outside the office were the individual investors. They were people that spent at least 10 million won, and some in the hundreds of millions, so the news that the production company went out of business had to be shocking for them.
“What do they think that money was… it was my daughter’s house deposit….”
A lady’s wail could be heard from the outside. Dongwook clicked his tongue. People like her always appeared in places like this. They would be fooled by the sweet words that they would get profits without losing any money and end up using money they shouldn’t, then ending bankrupt. What kind of investment in this world was without risks?
Dongwook looked around the office. He had heard that a police investigation would start today. He looked around to see if he could get anything before that, but it was too clean, as he had predicted. With that, it was clear to him that this was a scam that was planned.
Just then, he received a call.
“Yes, Mr. Geunsoo.”
-Journalist. Are you at Number 8 right now?
“Yes, I am. But I’m not getting anything.”
-I thought so. Oh, the staff that never received their pay is at our company right now. I thought you wanted to interview them.
“About that, can you please do it in my stead? If it’s too much for you, I’ll call the president. I have a lot of places to go to today.”
-Then, for now, I’ll record the things I get. Is there a specific question you’d like to ask?”
“I just want you to ask how hard their lives are right now in general. I’m going to use that emotional part when writing an article. But why are you doing that, Mr. Geunsoo? You’re an actor.”
-Since the movie stopped, I should do something at least. I emptied my entire schedule because of this, so I don’t have anything else to do.
“Haha, then I’ll leave that to you then. Do leave behind a phone number if anyone knows where the former president frequents.”
Dongwook hung up before leaving the office. JA Production was also involved in the movie that Number 8 was shooting. Geunsoo and Sooil were participating as lead and support roles respectively, and from what he knew, JA production also invested quite a bit of money into it under its name.
-Even if they do get caught, it’s not likely we will get our investment back like most other scams. But we can’t just stay around doing nothing because of that. We can’t just end things with a loss, so we need to do something.
Dongwook remembered back to the conversation he had with Junmin. Junmin didn’t seem to mind that he had lost some money. No, honestly, it felt like he even welcomed this situation. He was reminded of the words he heard from a senior journalist in the past. Businessmen like chaos more than peace.
After leaving the building, Dongwook had a look at the time. He had scheduled an appointment in a nearby coffee shop. He drove his car to the coffee shop which was around 10 minutes away. When he grabbed a table and emptied about half of his coffee, a lady opened the door to the coffee shop and entered. Seeing her looking around in unease, Dongwook realized that she was the one he was waiting for.
Dongwook waved his hand. The lady bowed slightly before coming over and sitting in front of him.
“Are you journalist Kim Dongwook?”
“Yes. You’re someone who used to work for Number 8, correct?”
“Yes. But my name is really not going to go on it right? You’re not going to reveal things like where I live and things like that, right?”
“Of course. It’s one of our rules to hide the identity of the informant in this profession. So don’t worry about anything and just tell me. Rather than that, you look very tired. Let’s grab something to drink before talking.”
Dongwook ordered a warm drink on purpose. The animals known as humans were quite simple and oftentimes made their decisions based on their feelings. A cup of warm tea would relax a person’s guard and would soften their lips as well.
After emptying about half of the tea, the lady sighed.
“I came to work and was just working like usual, but the president didn’t come. As a production company, it wasn’t that uncommon to have business meetings outside, so I didn’t think much about it, but he didn’t turn up for two days. It was around that time we received calls for payment, so all the employees looked for the president, but no one could reach him.”
“That happened a week ago, am I right?”
“When did those people come to the company then?”
“Three days after the president vanished. By that time, we employees were feeling uneasy as well and some people stopped coming. I was uncertain about what to do and it was then that they came.”
“You must have had a hard time.”
“Don’t even start. Some weird lady started pulling out my hair saying ‘give me my money back’, and I was scared to death back then.”
“People become violent when it comes to money, after all.”
“Yeah, you tell me.”
“What happened after that?”
“I didn’t leave the office and kept calling the president. But the only thing I got back was that his phone was off.”
“How was the state of payment?”
“Actually, I haven’t received my salary for four months as well. It should amount to around 7 million won. It’s not much compared to the people that were scammed, but right now, I’m about to be driven out into the streets because of that money.”
The lady sighed while shaking and eventually burst out crying. Dongwook pulled out some tissue and handed it over. After a while, she calmed down again before continuing her story.
“Three days ago, we started looking for where the president might be in secret, but we couldn’t even catch a glimpse of him. We even asked the owner of a restaurant that the president was a regular at, and the owner swore at us instead. Most of us employees haven’t received our salary so we are pretty desperate.”
“The president told you that you’ll receive a bonus once the movie shoot was over, right?”
“Yes. It’s a movie with more than 10 billion won invested into it. We thought that we’d receive our salary soon. Then, this happened.”
Dongwook consoled the woman before finishing up his interview.
“Here’s the list of stores that the president frequented.”
Dongwook handed her the interview fee. Although it was only 50 thousand won, the woman looked like she was about to kneel in gratitude.
“Then I’ll call you again later.”
After sending the woman off, Dongwook drove his car to the next employee. It was a woman this time as well. She was a university student who had taken a semester off, and she said that it was her first ever job. Her circ.u.mstances were similar to the lady before. The president suddenly stopped coming, and people just barged in a few days later. He didn’t expect that much from her in the first place, so he ended the interview quickly before leaving. When she asked him if she could get her delayed salary, Dongwook smiled bitterly and shook his head.
“Once the police get involved, it might become an issue.”
There was no bigger incident than this in the movie industry. After all, 15 billion won disappeared into thin air. It shouldn’t amount to that much considering the payment that was already paid, but from estimation, the president probably ran with at least 6 billion won or more. For now, he had to talk to the huge businesses, actors, and the staff.
“I wonder what my president is planning to do with this.”
Once a journalist starts digging deep into a case, their job would become similar to that of a detective. They would start digging into someone else’s personal history. Dongwook wondered what Junmin was going to do with this information.
He took out a cigarette before looking up at the sky.
“What nice weather.”
Just as he was about to get back in his car after smoking, he received a call. The caller ID was Choi Miyeon. It was his junior journalist who was currently working for a women’s magazine named Sharon, and she was also the one that was digging into a stinky, dangerous case.
“Yeah, what is it?”
-Senior, have you learned anything about the things I told you last time?
“No. I told you I’m not going to touch on it. I only lent you an ear back then.”
-I thought you’d say that. Then free up some of your time tomorrow. I have some things to tell you.
“Hey, don’t tell me you’re still digging into that? You should really stop it. If a magazine company keeps digging into the dark side of the entertainment industry, you won’t get any more ads.”
-I told you, didn’t I? That I’m resolved to quit. Anyway, we’re partners in crime, so free up some time. I found out some things about the woman titled ‘madam’ in the entertainment industry.
“We aren’t partners in crime. But wait, madam, you said?”
His junior hung up before he finished his question. Her personality still hadn’t changed. Dongwook clicked his tongue before getting in the car. He hated himself for becoming interested even though he knew that there was nothing good from sticking his nose into it.
He drove off. He still had a lot of places to go to.