"Miss Garam? Where are you taking us?" Bam's voice is tentative, scared.
The rapper answers him with an indifferent, "You'll know when you get there."
"This is kidnapping," Khun grumbles. He can't see a thing behind his thick blindfold, and he fumbles to take it off.
Garam scolds him immediately. "We're heading to my secret studio. I can't risk you guys knowing how to get there."
Khun scoffs. "So weird." He leaves his blindfold on. Maria mentioned something like this before, when she was trying to catch Endorsi and Garam in action. Maschenny hadn't even known the oldest member of Queen had her own studio. Bam's hands search blindly for Khun's. He misses several times - knees, thighs, no, Bam, my hands don't grow out of my crotch so please stop touching it! The singer does manage to intertwine their fingers at the end, but that's only due to Khun being proactive. Despite being abducted and blindfolded, Khun feels a semblance of relief at knowing that they're there together. God, what would he do if only Bam had been taken? "Damn," he mutters under his breath, "Mas and Maria both said you were being shady but isn't kidnap a little too much?"
Khun yelps when Garam turns a little too sharply and he gets flung against the car door. Bam flops against him, yelping when their heads bump. The mystery woman in the passenger seat next to Garam laughs, a loud, unabashed cackle that has the CEO wincing away from the sound and towards the door. "Damn, Dori wasn't kidding when she said y'all Khuns were savage. But I guess you don't get to be CEO of your own company at twenty-three by being a pushover, right?"
Garam grunts. "I'm not shady." Mystery Woman snorts. "What? If you've forgotten, you're not even supposed to be here," she points out. "You're supposed to be in hiding, remember? If he finds out, we're all screwed."
Khun's ears perk up. In hiding? "Oh! Speaking of secrets, Khun, did you get my note? Sorry for pulling your hair, but it had to be done. I gotta know what shampoo you're using, by the way. How do you get your hair so soft and silky like that?"
Bam nudges Khun. "I don't understand. What is she talking about?"
Khun rewinds his memories. When was the last time a woman had pulled his hair? The last time anyone had pulled his hair had been a few days ago when Hatz of all people started complaining about Leesoo's habits in bed. Khun wanted to bleach his brains out after hearing that. He really didn't need to know about his best friend's sex life. He'd yanked on Hatz's hair in return when the producer had teased him about his incredible lack of a sex life.
But of course - it was the note. The Post-It note Bam had found attached to his back at the Tower Music Awards afterparty, the message that haunts his search history, the reason why Khun is looking so deep into Jahad's past. This woman must be E.E. But who is she, really? He tells her that, and she laughs. "I'm a little disappointed you didn't connect the dots, Khun. I thought you were smart."
"Khun is smart!" Bam protests on his behalf. "But he's not so smart when he's not sleeping!"
An attack on his brains, immediately followed by one on his sleep schedule? Khun really isn't having a good day today. Think, he forces himself, who has E.E for initials, is connected to Jahad, knows several members of my family and is friends with both Garam and Adori?
"Eurasia Enne, ex-leader of Marchioness and former idol in Jahad Talent," he realizes with a whisper. He smacks himself on the forehead. How could he have missed it? "But you've been missing for years!"
"Eurasia Enne?" Bam shrieks. The next bend throws Khun right onto the brunet's lap. He shuffles off immediately and buckles them both into their respective seats to the best of his ability, cheeks aflame. He keeps Bam close, squeezing his hand tight when he feels the singer tremble. "What is going on?"
"I'm sure everything will be explained when we get to Miss Garam's studio," Khun answers with as much confidence as he can muster. "We'll be there soon, won't we?"
Enne laughs at them. "Ah, I see why Yuli thinks you're annoying now, Khun."
"I'm glad I don't disappoint," Khun grumbles. What does Yulia even have against him? It doesn't matter. He's definitely petty enough to talk BAM out of doing any collaborations with Yulia any time soon, even though he knows how much she wants to.
The car comes to an abrupt stop, and Khun hears car doors slam in synch when the two women exit. He and Bam are tugged out of the car not long later, pushed forward for a while before finally having the blindfolds ripped off. Of course, they find their way to each other instantly. "Oh my god," Bam whispers, grabbing Khun by the shoulders and looking dazed, "I was just in a car. A moving one. I've only ever been in Mr Laure's car, but we just sat in it and he didn't drive, it was just for the therapy, but I-" He sways a little, throwing his arms around Khun, pressing his face into the older man's shoulder. "I wasn't scared."
A smile sneaks onto Khun's lips. His arms snaking around Bam's shoulders as he pats the singer's head. "I'm so proud of you," he whispers, "you're so brave, honey." Not like me. "So, so amazing." Have I mentioned that I love you?
"Khun," Bam mumbles, embarrassment warming his cheeks, "you're making me blush."
Garam clears her throat loudly, and the two of them spring apart. "Cuddle time's over, boys."
Enne laughs, walking ahead. "Come on, Garam, don't be such a spoilsport. You and Urek used to go to my parent's band's fan-signs together, didn't you?" Garam makes a strangled sound at the back of her throat. "You've seen Bam when he was a baby, you know he thrives on hugs and cuddles-"
"Wait, what? Really? Is that why Mr Urek keeps calling me a baby?" Bam splutters.
"- and all Khuns are pretty touch starved! You've seen that face Maschenny makes every time Yuri pokes her, right?"
"Wha- That's not true!" Khun retorts weakly. Enne gives him a look. "Okay, maybe a little true."
Garam sighs loudly. God, you two are even worse than Yuri and Maschenny, and I've been living with them for years. You Khuns and your excessive PDA with the people you're most fond of. The rest of us live in this world too, you know."
"Don't be such an anti-romantic just because Urek's a little too aggressive," Enne chides her airily. "He's a pretty cool guy once you look past the desire to kick him on sight."
Garam passive aggressively unlocks the door to her Deep Sea Studio. "He's been trying the same tricks since we were, like, ten," she grumbles, visibly peeved. "It was fine when we were kids, but now he just annoys me. Stupid Hat Boy." She slams the door shut behind Khun and Bam. "Maybe I'd like him more if he tried harder."
Bam nods with the most serious of expressions on his face. "Mr Urek asked me how to 'woo' a person once... At the time, I told him I didn't know, but should I pass your message on?"
Garam leads them into a smaller room, the door painted in a color so similar to the wall Khun would've missed it. Her answer is a solid "God, hell no. Please don't."
Khun gasps at the sight of the interior design, instinctively covering Bam's eyes. The walls are covered with pictures and Post-Its, each one pinned to the wall and connected with string as red as fresh blood. There are various newspaper clippings: an entertainment article on the debut of The Outside and their rapid ascent to fame; an interview with Arlene Grace, nicknamed 'The Nightingale' for her beautiful soprano; the marriage of high-school sweethearts Arlene and V; the birth of their beautiful baby boy, Jue Viole Grace. The most jarring of all sits right in front of his eyes. World Weeps For Shocking Death Of Arlene Grace and The Outside's V, it writes, Only Son Jue Viole Grace Missing. There's a picture underneath of the crime scene, Arlene and Victor, lifeless dolls in their overturned car.
Bile rises in his throat, and Khun tries to swallow it down. It's been years, but it still hurts to look at, hurts to think about. He closes his eyes, but Garam clears her throat, forcing him to keep looking. A single droplet rolls out of the corner of his eye, rolling down his cheek. "Why?" He whispers. "Why the hell did you bring us here?" Enne shifts to reveal a mugshot of Jahad, the words 'PRIME SUSPECT' scrawled over his collarbones. "What the hell even is all this?"
He knows what it is. He just doesn't want to admit it. This is no simple crime board. It's an entire crime room. How long had Garam spent on this? Where did she get all those crime scene photos? Aguero would've found out if they were ever released to the public - not that they should've ever been. He inhales deeply, hoping the familiar smell of Bam's shampoo will make him want to puke a little less.
"Khun?" Bam asks unsurely, trying to remove Khun's hands from his face. "What are you looking at?"
"Something I'm not sure you'd want to see," Khun murmurs. His hand remains firmly clamped over Bam's eyes. "It's part of the truth you'd asked Rachel for - although I'm not quite sure how she plays in anymore - but I'm scared it'd be too much for you to bear."
"Khun, it's okay," Bam insists, "if Mama and Papa didn't die in an accident, I have the right to know. I need to know," he whispers. His voice cracks. "Khun, please."
The CEO swallows. "As you wish." He lifts his hand away.
Bam's gaze roams the room. Khun doesn't miss the way his eyes catch on the photocopy of the coroner's report; the map of all the important places the Graces had ever been; a photograph of his bloodstained black turtle plushie. He lets out a tiny gasp upon seeing the words written on Jahad's picture, a hand clapping over his mouth when he sees the grotesque pose his parents had passed away in. His eyes water as he lets out a tiny sob, backing towards Khun.
"I'm sorry for your loss," Enne mumbles. Neither she nor Garam dare to look Bam in the eye. They share a cautious glance between each other.
Tears drip down Bam's cheeks, leaving a mixture of grief and horror in their tracks. It hurts, knowing that there's nothing Khun can do except dab his tears away with a tissue, hold him close to the beat of his heart. He can't tell Bam it'll be okay, because he knows all too well that it might never be. "I don't understand," Bam hiccups. "How? Why?"
"My sister Yuram was a cop." Garam's story feels like something bigger than all of them, a foreshadowing of doom. "She worked the Grace case. Everything here came from her."
Bam nods blankly, golden eyes emotionless despite the chaos whirling underneath. "I remember her. She was quite direct when she brought me in for questioning," Khun recalls. "Not unlike you, in a way." He huffs. "I understand she had to find suspects, but did she have to treat me like one too? She asked me if they had any enemies, but the time, I couldn't imagine anybody holding ill intentions towards Bam, Victor and Arlene..." He eyes Bam, who is trying to connect the dots, eyes dark and darting from left to right like he's solving invisible formulae. "They're the best people I know." Bam had inherited one of his mother's best traits, the one that made everyone around her fall in love with her immediately. Even Aguero had adored the Grace family instantly. "Even Eduan couldn't say he hated Victor after they fought, although I don't know what they fought about." He frowns. "Who could even hate them?"
"That's the problem." Garam's blue eyes turn dead serious. "Victor did have an enemy - Jahad."