Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 537
Anyone wanting to pay a visit to the Daedeok Company would first have to navigate through a set of thick bars blocking the staircase. Climbing up the stairs would get you to the front of a fire door, and the actual entrance beyond that was yet another uninviting steel door with depressing grey color.
Any prospective clients coming to see the export/import agents would most likely be left with poor impressions of this series of spectacles.
Once you step inside past the steel door, you were greeted by the office space that seemed smaller than what the exterior of the building would suggest. About half of the office space that should have been around fifty pyeongs seemed to be missing, and what remained were heavily partitioned by flimsy-looking dividers. Overall, the office felt claustrophobic.
Even so, this place had everything required to run a business. Samples of leather goods dominated one of the walls; photocopiers and water coolers, desks with typewriters, and even a spacious consultation table with two telephones on it. The latter looked perfectly fit for the purpose of spreading open the leather samples and examining them.
A large, wide table like this was a must if one wanted to examine the imported leathers from water buffalos and alligators. The overall atmosphere didn’t seem any different from a regular import agency office. And as luck would have it, the Daedeok Company really did import leather as its ‘main’ business. Of course, its main purpose for existence was something else, with the truth hidden within the vanished space of the office.
Inside the separated space, divided from the trade office by a brick wall…
Unlike the mostly-unmanned office on the other side, the five to six agents were busily doing their jobs in the agency. One of the agents located by the inner corner of the partitioned office stopped poring over the documents and straightened his back while stretching his cramped limbs.
A pair of narrow bloodshot eyes, protruding cheekbones, bristle and bushy beard, and a well-muscled physique… If he started swinging an ax around, people would’ve mistaken him for an extra in a fantasy drama series playing the role of a bandit. And he also happened to be the Daegu branch manager, Yi Dae-deok.
“That bastard, Jang Pal-soo, is too rough and slow-witted to be any good. If I leave it up to him, this punk might end up causing another big-ass incident like back in Sabuk. I guess a slippery punk is still better than an idiot, huh.” Yi Dae-deok muttered that before dismissively tossing aside a document he had been staring at.
Jang Pal-soo was none other than the culprit responsible for breaking the back and smashing the leg of Park Sam-chul, a farmer from Jip-eun Dari. Park Sam-chul wanted to earn money during the farming off-season for his daughter’s tuition fee, so he entered the mine on that faithful day.
The trio of National Security Agency agents dispatched to Sabuk’s martial law management branch office was caught doing something questionable, and the ripples from their actions spread far and wide. Funnily enough, their inhumane torture was not seen as problematic, but all the massive amounts of bribes they had pocketed were. Unsurprisingly, the internal audit bureau had a field day.
Bribes happened all the time but it was still in the early days of the Chun Doo-hwan regime and it needed sacrificial lambs to pacify all the fuss kicked up by the Sabuk incident.
As a result, the bulk of the blame fell on the agent with the shortest career of the trio, Yoo Young-chul, and he was fired from his post. His ‘heroic’ sacrifice meant that Jang Pal-soo got to keep his job in the National Security Agency, while Kim Young-no had to change his job to a cop. And then… The National Security Agency announced to the media that they had punished the corrupt agents appropriately.
It was said that, although mother nature was too vast for regular people to fully understand all of its rules, she still didn’t forget to punish the evildoers in the end. Jang Pil-nyuh hired Yoo Young-chul as her private chauffeur, then ordered him to disturb the remains of Mu Ssang’s father, Park Jin Bo. However, Samdi caught him in the act.
Obviously, the greatly-angered Mu Ssang would not let Yoo Young-chul go unscathed. The corrupt bastard didn’t even leave behind an intact bone and got buried in the deepest parts of Wolsong Mountain as nothing more than some piles of ashes.
Maybe the resentment of all the miners who either died or were left disabled permanently due to the aftereffects of torture had become specters that goaded the corrupt bastards to commit acts of idiocy again. Jang Pal-soo, who was the main instigator in that incident, was about to get his second run-in with the Angel of Death soon.
Even Yi Dae-deok’s voice was as loud as a bandit. He definitely did not match the image of what an export/import company president should look like or behave.
“Yessir!” A man in his late forties jumped up to his feet and rushed towards the branch manager’s office. As soon as he opened the door, he bent his whole torso forward ninety degrees.
“Not you! I’m looking for Jeong Pil-su. Damn it, why did you two f*ckers have to have similar-sounding names and confuse the living sh*t out of people, ah?”
“I see. I’ll call him right away, sir.” Jang Pal-soo got insulted for no good reason, but he still chose to dash down the stairs without complaining. This was the reason why the stone-brained Jang Pal-soo managed to survive in this organization for so long.
“Yes, yes. I’m on my way, sir.”
The reply could be heard coming from downstairs and was soon followed by the noises of someone rushing up the stairs.
“Did you call for me, sir?” Jeong Pil-su replied while breathing heavily.
The white name tag attached to his coffee shop uniform rose and fell to match his heaving chest. Yi Deo-daek had a really short fuse. Meandering about would only result in you paying dearly with your health.
“Obviously I called for you, otherwise why would you even be here? Anyways, couldn’t you hurry the f*ck up? Did you flush your military disciple down the damn toilet the moment you got promoted to the deputy branch manager?” Yi Dae-deok roared unhappily at his deputy.
“Oh my, boss! There’s no way I can rush up here faster than this. Besides, why aren’t you using the intercom, sir? It’s not for decorations, you know?”
“Shut up. Have you found out that guy’s identity yet?”
“According to the civil registry, his name is Park Mu Ssang, age twenty-six, and he’s the cultural advisor working for the French embassy, sir.”
“Say what now? He’s the cultural advisor?” Yi Dae-deok’s eyes narrowed even further.
What nonsense that was! An advisor in such a capacity was usually taken up by a high-ranking diplomat. In terms of South Korea’s Department of Foreign Affairs, that position would be reserved for a second or third-rank civil servant.
Of course, a spy often used the guise of an advisor to carry out their espionage activities. Sometimes, a young agent would be installed in that position to carry out special assignments. Even so, that position was not something a twenty-six-year-old little punk should be occupying, especially not a Korean that was not French in any way.
“Is he a dual-citizenship holder, then?”
“Yes, sir. He is. His French name is… Sbard Gulbeig, sir.”
“Gimme a f*cking break. I guess our country has become a lot more internationalized these days, hah? Any old cat and dog seem to get dual citizenship these days. Is he an offspring of someone high up or something?”
Animosity filled up Yi Dae-deok’s eyes. Politicians and high-ranking officials did all sorts crappy sh*t to prevent the military from conscripting their kids.
The method favored by the higher-ups of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the National Security Agency was to get their children dual citizenship, then sneakily have them ‘work’ for embassies and consulates of other countries. Obviously, all sorts of national secrets were being sucked out of them at this very moment.
“No, sir. Never mind being a kid of someone high-up, this guy lived a dirt-poor miserable life so far, sir. He has basically shoveled dirt all his life, it seems.” Jeong Pil-su smirked a little.
“You dumb f*ck. How can a dirt-poor punk like him be hired as an advisor for the French? When I was twenty-six, I was busy brewing coffee and jotting down memos for senior agents at the Namsan office!” Yi Dae-deok roared angrily again.
“Sir, should we just drag his ass in here?”
“No, you dumb sh*t! Man, not only your names are similar, even your thoughts are similar, too! France is not Congo or Gabon, get my drift? It’s a permanent member of the goddamn UN Security Council, for crying out loud. If it’s a French advisor, then hell, even the department head must tread carefully around him. Besides, I heard that he’s busy entertaining a whole bunch of foreigners in his home?”
“Yes, sir. It’s apparently a housewarming party.”
“Bloody hell. Someone here is stuck in an office, busy kicking some sense into some snotty kids throwing rocks around, yet some other lucky punk can throw a f*cking housewarming party with all sorts of foreigners lounging in his bloody house? Hey, Jang Pal-soo, you f*ck! Are you trying to kill that bastard or something? Hold yourself back a little, you dumb f*ck!” Yi Dae-deok roared even louder than before.
The pitiful cries of someone getting beaten up to within an inch of their life coming from a room deeper in the office gradually quietened down.
“Eh, I better fire that idiot’s ass or something. Here I am, getting pissed off about this whole thing, yet that idiot is making it f*cking worse. In any case. Tell me his family tree.”
“Sir. He’s a dirt poor nobody, but a strange nobody, sir. His father, Park Jin Bo, died when the boy was eight. His mother, Kim Mal-soon, is currently missing. His guardian according to our data is his uncle, Park In Bo. He’s has a prior record of theft at the age of thirteen, was chased out of his big uncle’s home, worked his ass off to pay for his own tuition to go to school, but during his graduation year, he was arrested for rape.
“He spent six months in detention but his sentence was suspended and he was released early. He worked as a doorman in a nightclub to attract patrons, then spent thirteen months as a Buddhist monk, before traveling to France at aged twenty-one. Sir.”
Jeong Pil-su proceeded to explain what he investigated for the past month in the simplest way possible.
“Huh. What a tear-inducing life story that is. But, how can an orphan with a criminal record be able to travel overseas? What kind of a connection did he use to do that?” Yi Dae-deok tilted his head in confusion.
An ex-convict could not leave the country without going through the National Security Agency’s background check first. If the records of that background check was still in the system, then Jeong Pil-su would know.
“Back when he left the country, the guarantor was none other than Consul Hamilton from Britain, sir.”
Yi Dae-deok’s eyes grew wider.
Consul Hamilton knew the ongoings of South Korea very well, and held an even greater influence than the actual ambassador. But to think that someone like him was in cahoots with some kid from the gutters? It sounded even more unrealistic than a tiger starting a family together with a house cat.
“How the hell did an orphan with no goddamn connection whatsoever get chummy with the British consul, of all people?”
“Sir. There was an incident back when Consul Hamilton was still an advisor. He was almost lynched by a mob of yangahchis in Gumi’s marketplace.”
“Aha, that. I remember it now. The British ambassador lodged a sternly-worded complaint to his excellency Mister President because of that incident, didn’t he? And that resulted in the Daegu branch commissioner and the Gumi district chief losing their jobs, even though they hadn’t done anything.” Yi Dae-deok slowly nodded.
After having his head bitten off by the president, the police commissioner established a special investigation division in the Gumi police station and proceeded to arrest every single yangahchi they could find. That was how that incident came to an end.
The current regime lacked legitimacy and could not even raise its voice at the foreign powers. Nothing good would come out of getting on the wrong side of a diplomat from a powerful country. Even that kid named Park Mu Ssang would’ve been dragged into this office a long time ago by Jeong Pil-su if it weren’t for his position as the advisor working for the French embassy.
Throw a punk, any punk, in the agency’s basement and feed him a concoction of ‘heart-warming meals’, and before long, he’d straighten up real nice and start singing about the times he got a bit too naughty for his own good.
“Yes, sir. It sure raised a lot of noise for a while, that incident. Back then, some random Buddhist monk showed up out of nowhere to beat the living snot out of those yangahchi idiots before taking the British consul to a hospital. And as luck would have it, the monastery Park Mu Ssang’s been polishing his noggin happened to be in Mt. Chung Saeng. I think that’s when they made contact, sir.”
“Oh, so you think Consul Hamilton was showing his appreciation? In that case, why did he go to France and not Britain?”
“Well, I guess he did whatever took his fancy, sir.”
“What did you say?”
Yi Dae-deok’s brow arched up in annoyance.
Sensing an impending danger, Jeong Pil-su quickly added extra information. “Sir, Park Mu Ssang is a Légion étrangère.”
“Légion étrangère! …What the hell is that?”
‘Huh? You’re supposed to be a branch manager, yet you don’t even know what’s a Légion étrangère?’
Jeong Pil-su narrowed his eyes to slits.
Yi Dae-deok was supposed to be a veteran of thirty years working for South Korea’s intelligence agency. A branch manager of his experience level should be able to figure out what his underlings were thinking of simply by taking a gander at their eyes. Knowing this, Jeong Pil-su deliberately formed an expression that said, ‘You don’t even know that, sir?’
This was nothing more than his twisted mentality wanting compensation for his battered pride by exploiting the superior officer’s ignorance.
Yi Dae-deok grabbed a brass paperweight resting on his desk and angrily hurled it at his underling.
The paperweight accurately smacked Jeong Pil-su in the shin.
“Ouch?!” Jeong Pil-su began hopping around on one foot.
“You f*cking punk, wanna die today?!”
“T-that’s what the French foreign legion is called, sir! Only the Gurkhas can join the Brit’s foreign legion equivalent, you see.” Jeong Pil-su, now thoroughly sobered-up, hurriedly stood at attention.
“What the hell? Give me a damn break. Légion étrangère? You think you are somebody important by rolling your tongue like that? Huh? Fine. So, what did he do there?”
“Well, sir. A man with no education and no possession will end up doing the most obvious thing, sir. Shooting at stuff.”
“Well, I’ll be damned. A Buddhist monk who’s also a mercenary, eh~? His life sure sounds f*cking complicated, doesn’t it?”
“Actually, it’s more like everything’s f*cking rosy for him, sir. His rank is that of ‘Major’.”
“What’s this ‘Major’ thing?”
“The Korean army doesn’t have an equivalent rank, sir. The closest I can think of is a warrant officer doing the role of a chief master sergeant leading non-commissioned officers, sir.”
“Now that’s even weirder. If he was actually an officer, then I’d have understood it, but the leader of all non-commissioned officers? Besides, all the chief master sergeants in our country are made up of stinky old men, no?” Yi Dae-deok tilted his head after failing to figure it out.
“I also don’t know, sir. Well, the only thing the mercenaries do beside eating is fighting, so he probably achieved some kind of a meritorious deed or something in the field.”
“You also don’t know? Hey, you dumb prick, you have the galls to say that to my face? You goddamn salary thief, finding that out is your bloody job. Probably, you say? Didn’t I say this already?! It’s your job to never be uncertain about things like this!”
Yi Dae-deok began glaring murderously. Jeong Pil-su was a bright kid but as expected of a punk hailing from Seoul, he was as slippery and twisty as an oiled-up eel.
“But sir, what can I do with the pathetically puny information budget you give us?”
“F*ck me, will you listen to this punk? Hey, you dare getting on my nerves just because you now have some experience under your belt? Can’t you get the money by ripping it off some hapless idiots?”
“But sir, times are tough for everyone out there, so in my good conscience, it’s a bit hard for me to do that.”
“Stop f*cking around, you punk. In that case, how the hell did you buy a car with the salary of a deputy manager?”
“I saved up like crazy, sir.” Jeong Pil-su remained brazen in his reply. That was because he knew that he should be considered a gentleman when compared to the behavior of other agents.
“Wow, you slippery bastard! Tch. Why is Park Mu-ssang staying in Daegu instead of where the French embassy is? I heard that he built himself a massive mansion?”
“The building at Bul-ro is under Park Mu-ssang’s name, but its usage is registered as the French cultural institute, sir.”
“Is that right? I see, so they bought the land using him as a proxy. Makes sense, since a foreigner will have a hard time trying to buy land in our country. Their purpose must be to collect information, then?”
“Could be, sir. My contact working at the French embassy said there’s no other available information besides that, sir.” Jeong Pil-su closed the file folder, concluding this eventful report.
“What a strange man that guy is. Reassess him as a third-level surveillance target and take over the operation.”
Whether his name was Park Mu Ssang or Sbard whatever, getting in the bad books of a diplomat sent by a powerful country would do no one any good whatsoever. A third-level target denoted a person of interest with unclear identity designated as a target of constant surveillance.
“But, branch manager!”
“Hey, you dipsh*t, it’s the president! The president!”
“…President. I’m already running into a problem with manpower just to keep an eye out on the target’s university activities, sir.”
“Install listening devices, wiretap him, or send Jang Pal-soo to tail him, I don’t care. Do what you think will work. More importantly, though, make sure not to scratch too much and have scabs fall on us.”
With that, Yi Dae-deok stopped giving attention to this matter.
Jeong Pil-su returned to being the owner of the coffee shop, but his head was still filled with worries. That saying of ‘don’t scratch too much and have scabs fall on us’? He heard that quite often back when he was still assigned to the Korean Central Intelligence Agency. It meant that one should do whatever it takes to get the intel, but in case of a ‘problem’, one would be hung out to dry by themselves.
“Argh, I don’t care anymore! I’ll just assign Jang Pal-soo to tail him, and install a couple of wiretaps in his house or something!”
Jeong Pil-su threw off the apron and headed to the bar on the basement floor. He had no idea that this path down to the basement was the figurative path leading down to the depths of hell.
Currently, Jin Soon was earning rave reviews after presenting jok-bal (pig’s feet), cold jellyfish salad and watermelon salad as midnight snack for the guests. Not wanting to play the second fiddle, Jang Shin also proceeded to prepare the Five Spice Sliced Steamed Pork and cold seafood-and-veggies salad mix. Yijihana followed up with sorbets and consommé too. But both men could not win against Jin-soon in the end.
Since the ethnicity and cultural preferences were rather diverse among the guests, over ten different types of alcohol were prepared. Makgeolli (raw rice wine), kumbokju (soju), champagne, Sciaccarello, various beers, and even tequila and Akra made their appearances. Plentiful dishes went perfectly with plentiful booze to deepen the evening’s plentiful atmosphere.
Mu Ssang spoke up. “Hey, Sang-han. Don’t hold back and enjoy yourself, okay? I mean, way back then, didn’t I almost finish off all the grapes in your family vineyard?”
He then pushed forward a bowl of watermelon salad toward Sang-han.
“It wasn’t just the grapes, though. Didn’t I deliver two dozen eggs to you every week or something?” Sang-han replied with a bright grin.
Buoyed by hope, Sang-han had finally regained his former confidence and a certain calmness. Sang-han’s mother, seeing how much happier her son had become, became so much warmer and brighter.
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“You wanna bring that up now? Right, I got to eat two dozen eggs every week for two years thanks to your help, didn’t I? Your chicken run was included in the family vineyard, so if I want to keep eating your stuff, you better get your vineyard back, right? How much?”
“How much what?” Sang-han asked back in a daze.
“I mean, how much for the vineyard that was devoured by your leg after you stepped on a mine? How much, if I want to get a loan for it?”
“How did you find out? Are you also a fortune teller or something?”
Sang-han’s eyes grew wider..