“Did you find something, Yeong-Don?” Cha In-Cheol asked while leaning over his junior partner ’s shoulder.

However, Gu Yeong-Don could only shake his head.
“No, Lieutenant.
It ’s all too clean.”


“Yes.” Gu Yeong-Don groaned.
“Starting from the CCTV cameras, we ’ve swept the area for any clues but couldn ’t find a single fingerprint or a hair strand, Lieutenant.
There wasn ’t a single trace or clue left behind on the scene.”

“Are you telling me not a single camera in that trail managed to capture something? How does that even make sense?! Are you implying that a ghost was responsible or something?”

“What can I do when the cameras really didn ’t capture anything, sir? After the victim entered the trail, she just magically vanished from the footage.
And no one entered before her, too.”

“Son of a…” Cha In-Cheol plopped down on his chair.
He wasn ’t disappointed by the lack of evidence.
No, it was just that this turn of events had confirmed that an even worse crisis was about to fall on his lap.

“Lieutenant, this crime is pretty much a carbon copy of the last one.
I think it ’s safe to assume that we have a serial killer on our hands.”

“…Which means there ’s a rough ride waiting for us.”

A serial killer was on the loose in one of South Korea ’s safest neighborhoods.
It didn ’t take a genius to imagine that not just the media, but even the higher-ups would grill them nonstop as if the poor cops were slabs of juicy roast pork or something.

Obviously, Cha In-Cheol would still do his absolute best to capture the serial killer.
That much was unquestionable.
However, his job would become that much harder if the higher-ups got impatient and raised some stink about wanting to control the investigation.
Those ’officers ’ with cushy offices and nice-sounding posts had little to no experience in the field, and they would issue stupid-sounding orders to hamper the investigation.
This was why Cha In-Cheol felt so deflated.

“Maaan, I ’m gonna get an ulcer at this rate,” Cha In-Cheol groaned loudly.

“Will a new task force be formed for this case, Lieutenant?”

“Probably,” Cha In-Cheol shrugged his shoulders, then quietly asked something else, “What about him, though?”

“Him? Who are you talking about?”

“You know, him.
The first person to find the crime scene.”

No, dear senior, please stop.
We ’ve already recovered and confirmed all the footage from the cameras around the cafe.
That young man, Kang Jin-Ho? He was inside the cafe during the time of the crime, Lieutenant.”

“You sure about that?”

“No, I ’m not sure.
No one can.
Who knows, Kang Jin-Ho could ’ve tempered with eveeery single camera inside the cafe as well as on the street!”

“Oho? You ’ve grown quite bold, eh? You even know how to be sarcastic and all?”

“I ’m telling you, Lieutenant, that young man didn ’t do it.” Gu Yeong-Don groaned loudly.
“You know I ’d at least take a stab at it if you ’re seriously suspicious about, I don ’t know, the sky being yellow or something.
But this time, you ’re wrong, senior.
This guy is totally clean.”

“Fine, fine.
I got it, you punk.” Cha In-Cheol pretended to get angry, causing Gu Yeong-Don to cower and shrink into his chair.
No one could predict what Cha In-Cheol ’s rough personality would make him say next.

Gu Yeong-Don didn ’t want to receive a barrage of abuse from his senior, so he quickly changed the topic.
“In any case, I don ’t think we ’re dealing with a simple perp this time.
I ’ve never seen anyone pull off such a clean crime, Lieutenant.”

Cha In-Cheol ’s expression grew gloomy.
“…He has to be one of the two, then.”

“Eh? What do you mean?”

“Either we ’re dealing with a master criminal who plans everything out, or…”

Gu Yeong-Don nodded his head in silence while listening attentively.

“…Or, this guy is a real effed-up psycho.”

“I get the first one, but what ’s up with the second one, Lieutenant?”

“You won ’t understand it even if I tell you.” Cha In-Cheol tutted away.

Gu Yeong-Don nearly threw his hands up in the air.
“I can ’t understand because you keep saying that.
Isn ’t it one of the duties of the senior to teach their junior?”

“Don ’t make me laugh, kid.” Cha In-Cheol shot up from the chair and exited the office.
He headed straight to the smoking area located at the back of the station, then mouthed a cigarette.


After lighting up the cigarette, he deeply sucked in the gray smoke before slowly releasing it back into the air.

’There must be something… ’

Kang Jin-Ho had to be hiding something.
That thought in Cha In-Cheol ’s head had already gone past the territory of ’suspicion ’ and into the realm of ’certainty ’ by now.
However, Cha In-Cheol also knew of his identity.
An officer in South Korea ’s police force like him couldn ’t one-sidedly attack a person based on ’feelings ’ alone.
No, he needed evidence first.

Besides, even Cha In-Cheol had to admit that Kang Jin-Ho ’s alibi was watertight.
In that case, he should also come to accept that Kang Jin-Ho was not involved in this crime.

That ’s the bigger thing to worry about here. ’

It wasn ’t ’starvation ’ that caused a predator to enter its most vicious and violent state.
No, it happened when another predator had dared to intrude upon its territory.

Cha In-Cheol shook his head to get rid of the ominous foreboding trying to invade his head space.
There was no need to get ahead of himself, after all.
Now was the time for him to do everything in his power to secure evidence and witnesses, then gradually tighten the net of investigation around the criminal.


Baek Hyeon-Jeong worriedly asked, “How about some breakfast, Jin-Ho?”

“I ’m not hungry this morning, Mother.” Kang Jin-Ho slowly shook his head.

“What are you even talking about? In times like this, you gotta eat lots to perk yourself up, you know!”


Baek Hyeon-Jeong learned about the situation and grew worried about her son ’s welfare.
The ’problem ’ with this situation, though, was with how she had decided to express her concern.

Kang Jin-Ho stared at the mountain of food waiting for him on the dining table and broke out into a bout of cold sweat.
“…Mother, there seems to be more food today than usual.”

“A person should enjoy a fulfilling meal when they are stressed, son.
Otherwise, you ’ll lose even more weight, you know! You ’re already just skin and bones, so imagine if you get any skinnier than now!”

“I ’m…
skin and bones?”


Kang Jin-Ho lowered his head to scan his entire body.
Since he had no unnecessary flesh on his frame, he did look kind of lanky on the outside.
However, even now, all those tightly-packed muscles hidden under his clothes were throbbing and bulging away, itching to be unleashed into the open.
So, for his mother to say he was just skin and bones…

Just how far removed from reality were her eyes whenever she was evaluating her son?

“Hurry and dig in, Jin-Ho.
You need to go to work, after all.”

“…Of course.” Kang Jin-Ho slowly nodded, then sat down on the chair.

This morning seemed pretty much the same as every other morning preceding it.


“Welcome,” said Kang Jin-Ho in a polite, dignified manner at the customers entering the cafe at infrequent intervals.

A case of murder and a case of serial murder only had a one-word difference, but the ripple caused by that change was much greater than that difference might suggest.
Even though it was still broad daylight, the number of people out and about was visibly fewer than yesterday.

Especially more so with a cafe that enjoyed a higher percentage of female customers compared to men—the lack of customers was so acute that Kang Jin-Ho could even feel it on his skin.

If Kang Eun-Yeong were here like before, male customers would have completely filled up the cafe, but how lamentable it was.
She was focusing on the TV show at the moment and couldn ’t come to ’work ’ at her father ’s establishment.

“You think it ’s really a serial killer?”

“Well, I heard the MO was the same.”[1]

“This is big news, so why are the media not covering it, I wonder?”

“I heard there was a report, but I think it ’s being buried.
You know what this suburb is like, right? What if a rumor about the murders gets around, causing property prices to crash? A crap ton of people will go up in arms, you know? No media house would want to deal with that.”

“You do have a point there.”

Kang Jin-Ho walked up to the two female customers chatting with each other and asked, “Would you like to place your order, ladies?”

“Ah, yes~.
For me, a cup of Americano, and…
What about you?”

“I want a cup of…

“Okay, please get her a cup of cafe latte.”

“Would you like them to be warm, ladies?”

Please cool them first, thanks.”

“Understood.” Kang Jin-Ho finished taking the orders and turned around to head back to the counter.

But then, a woman sitting closest to him called out to him.
“Excuse me.”


“I heard that the victim was in this cafe on the day of her murder.
Is it true?”

“…!” Kang Jin-Ho couldn ’t immediately reply.
He didn ’t even know what to say, anyway.
Should he be honest and say that was the case or deny the truth?

“I also heard she was a regular here.
Is that also true?”

“…Not sure, miss.” Kang Jin-Ho blurted out a vague reply and resumed walking back to the counter.

’Is this…
gossip? ’

A person had died.
But to these people, such a thing was no more than some random gossip floating around.
Of course, Kang Jin-Ho had no plans to criticize that woman or anyone else for gossiping.

Kang Jin-Ho was also not the type to sympathize and shed a tear for every case of murder reported on the news bulletin, after all.
He wouldn ’t act any differently from these people if the crime were not connected to him in some way.
But this time…


His thoughts were interrupted by the cafe ’s doorbell announcing the entrance of a woman.
Everyone ’s attention was focused on her next.
That was because they couldn ’t take their eyes off her fashion sense, which was so vintage that it might even be called anachronistic, and her hair combed up into a bun.
However, this mysterious woman seemed used to such attention as she didn ’t even get flustered once.

She leisurely headed toward the counter, then stood before Kang Jin-Ho.
He narrowed his eyes slightly.
“Dear customer.
I ’ll come to take your order after you find yourself a seat first.”

“Mister Kang Jin-Ho.”

“…?” Kang Jin-Ho furrowed his brow when this woman suddenly called him by his name.

“Did I surprise you? My apologies, sir.
I ’m merely someone who ’d like to speak to you on some matters,” said the woman.

Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly observed her for a moment or two before shaking his head.
“I ’m at work, miss.”

“Isn ’t it possible to spare me just a few moments of your time?”

“I believe I said I ’m still at work, miss?”

“Is that so?” The woman smiled softly despite his firm refusal.
She slightly leaned her head closer and whispered in a quiet voice so that no one else could hear her.
“Don ’t you want to know?”


“Who was responsible for that crime?”

“…!” Kang Jin-Ho clamped his mouth shut and didn ’t say anything.

However, that only made the mysterious woman smile as if she could read what was on his mind.
“Allow me to introduce myself properly.
My name is Lee Hyeon-Ju from the Korean Martial Assembly.
I was hoping to steal you away for a moment to discuss this event as well as what happened in the past.”

While saying those words, Lee Hyeon-Ju ’s expression was filled with confidence.
She was confident, knowing that Kang Jin-Ho wouldn ’t be able to refuse her after she said all those things.

“…I ’m still at work, miss.” Kang Jin-Ho replied flatly, his response unchanging.

“Listen to me, Mister Kang Jin-Ho,” Lee Hyeon-Ju spoke in a slightly exasperated voice.

But Kang Jin-Ho abruptly raised his hand to cut her off, then pointed at the exit.
“If you ’re not here to buy our drinks, I ’ll have to ask you to leave, miss.
My apologies, but this is a workplace, not a living room where people can discuss private matters.”

“Ah?” Lee Hyeon-Ju stared dumbfoundedly at Kang Jin-Ho.
“The information I wish to share with you isn ’t something you can find without my help.
This could even be a great opportunity for you, Mister Kang Jin-Ho.”

“If you wish to speak to me in private, please come after our closing time, miss.”

“Listen to me, Mister Kang Jin-Ho!” Lee Hyeon-Ju ’s decibel level went even higher, making Kang Jin-Ho frown a little deeper.
“I ’m here to help you! Don ’t you understand that?”

Kang Jin-Ho slowly took off his apron, then turned his head toward Kang Yu-Hwan.

“Yes, son?”

When you ’re just trying to make great content at bit.ly/3iBfjkV.

“May I step outside for a minute?”

But don ’t take too long.
Me serving the customers seems to decrease the number of customers for some reason.”

“…Understood.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded, then tossed the apron behind the counter.
He then took the lead and exited the cafe.

Lee Hyeon-Ju could only stare in stupefaction at Kang Jin-Ho walking away without saying a word, then hurriedly chased after him.
“Wait! Excuse me!”

Kang Jin-Ho continued to ignore her and walked toward the side street until finally descending the steps leading down to a dark basement parking lot.
Even at a casual glance, anyone could tell there wouldn ’t be a lot of people down there.

“What is he doing?” Lee Hyeon-Ju bit her lip.
She had never been ignored so brazenly like this until now! Her stubborn streak now fully engaged, she quickly followed him down into the parking lot.

’By the way, why is it…
so dark down here? ’

Even if this was an underground parking lot, it felt like the darkness down here was too excessive, considering it was still daytime.
Lee Hyeon-Ju sucked in a deep breath, then continued her way deeper into the parking lot.


A lone flicker of flame from a lighter came to life in the midst of the darkness.
Kang Jin-Ho standing in the corner of the parking lot was lighting up his cigarette.
After he was done, he stared at Lee Hyeon-Ju and quietly asked, “So, you wanted to talk to me?”

Lee Hyeon-Ju couldn ’t reply to that question.
She obviously wanted to say yes, but her lips remained sealed tightly shut as if someone had applied some super glue.
However, it wasn ’t just her mouth.
The rest of her body didn ’t want to budge an inch, as if paralysis had taken a hold of her.

’W-what ’s going on?! ’

Only the crimson ember of the cigarette light and Kang Jin-Ho ’s eyes were vividly burning in the darkness.

He felt different, even though he was still the same person as before.
The same person who had been talking to her back in the cafe.
But now, he…
He was no longer a human.

All he was doing was staring at her from within the darkness, yet he gave off a completely different vibe from the ’Kang Jin-Ho ’ she had been talking to only a minute ago.

It was as if…

“You want to talk?”

The one shrouded in darkness began to slowly close in on Lee Hyeon-Ju.

“MO” is an abbreviation of “modus operandi”, a Latin phrase that means “mode of operating”.
It ’s usually used in criminal law.

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