These are just snippets of “Target.” I’ll eventually tie these story points together, some day.
At thirty years of age, she moved to Seoul, South Korea to start a new life. She never revealed her reasons for doing so.
Even though she was easily identifiable as Western, she altered her name from Rita Strong to Nu Ri Ta. It seemed appropriate.
That was twenty-five years ago.
During her first six years in the South Korea, she bounced from television network to television network as a technical director and production assistant until the formation of the Salp’uri Television Network in 1996.
She was hired immediately and quickly rose through the ranks, achieving the heavily sought after position of Team Lead Director. Some still thought it was crazy for her to personally direct some of the news productions, but she felt that doing so kept her in touch with those who worked under her. She took the phrase, “Please, take care of me,” seriously.
She remembered it as if it were yesterday. The man who had destroyed her life, killed her husband, her children, her animals, and burned her house down, all because she reported that he was allegedly into child porn, stared at her as the verdict was read. Of course, Adam Jones was guilty, yet he publically cursed her for ruining his reputation. As he was being dragged out of the court room, he swore he would get revenge.
That day, she laid a map of the world on her desk and threw a pair of d20’s on it. One landed on the United Arab Emirates with a 19. Thankfully, the other landed on the South Korea with a natural 20. She smiled, knowing only a gamer would understand.
The next day, she left the United States for good, leaving the heartache behind…at least, that was her intention.
After twenty-five years in South Korea, she thought she had reached that goal.
Then two days ago, she got a call from the prison where Adam Jones had been incarcerated. He had escaped and was believed to have left the country. Because of the threats he had made two and a half decades ago, the American authorities thought she should know.
She went over it and over it in her head. She had reported a fact. The mayor had child porn all over his computer. The story was not an exclusive. Other stations had reported the same thing. But, it was her report he saw and it was her life he destroyed.
And now, Adam Jones might very well be in South Korea, looking for her and a way to destroy her life, once again.
Sam Jeong Ho was a police detective out of the Gangnam district. They met about ten years ago when she was editing a package about a murder that had recently occurred and needed a police statement. He was intrigued by her, if for nothing more than she was an ex-pat from the United States.
Their relationship grew quickly, even though he was fifteen years her junior.
The young man was in a loveless arranged marriage. Divorce was out of the question as his wife would lose face with her parents. The wife knew of his extra-marital affairs and never complained. He even suggested she do the same, but she was shy by nature and could not do so. There were times when he felt he needed to perform his marital duties, which is why they had a couple of children, but those times were far and few between. Regardless, for all outward appearances, his wife was happy raising their children and required nothing from him a loving way.
At least, that was for all outward appearances.
Neither was quite sure how it happened. They were at a company outing where much Soju drinking was the norm. Nu Ri Ta loved the way Koreans partied. It reminded her of her beginning days of broadcasting in the 80’s.
Tam Shin remembered nothing of that particular night, about a year ago. Nu Ri Ta remembered the taxi ride and how Tam Shin was drunkenly flirting with her. In the morning, Tam Shin woke to see himself in bed with his Sunbae. He was surprised at first, but watching her sleep, he realized he had an attraction to her. He stayed with her until she woke up.
She was surprised to see Tam Shin in her bed, but it wasn’t the first time she found someone with her after a night of drinking. She just didn’t expect to find a boy, barely a man, with her. At the time, he was just eighteen. She was well old enough to be his grandmother. As the shock of that worked its way through her brain, he kissed her quite passionately and, to her surprise, she responded in kind.
That was the beginning of quite a scandalous relationship. Amazingly, though, when face to face with Tam Shin’s parents, his father approved. He even stopped her as she began a KeunjeoI bow. “Team Leader, you need not demonstrate your respectfulness to me. A Westerner coming to us in these circumstances … you are showing much more respect than any Westerner I know.”
It was not unheard of and was, in fact, more prevalent than was commonly known, that fathers of chaebol sons would buy the services of older women to train their boys in the appropriate ways of dominant and powerful men. This way, the fathers did not have to worry about the quality of women their sons chose to bed, and more importantly, were able to influence their boys’ training.
The only word that ran through the mother’s mind … the only word she could call this evil woman was shibseki (bitch or whore).
After a particularly stressful live newscast, Nu Ri Ta left the studio with her usual heartfelt appreciation. “Thank you. You worked hard.”
Her office wasn’t huge but larger than she really liked. On a high level floor, the window actually was the whole wall. While she was not afraid of heights, she always was a little uncomfortable being near the wall/window. Because of this, she had her desk, also a little too big for her liking, moved to a side wall, with a dressing divider blocking most of her view of the wall/window.
Sitting against the opposite wall was a sofa, which she used only to talk to friends and family, or for anything else of a personal nature. Today, she chose to sit there to process in her mind the call she had received from US authorities about Adam Jones. She hugged a throw pillow for comfort.
She heard a knock on the door, followed by the voice of Tam Shin. “Sunbae, may I come in?” She didn’t respond, so after about 10 seconds, he prodded, again. “Sunbae, please?”
“Come in.” Of all the people in the building, at that moment, Tam Shin was probably the only person she would talk to.
He apprehensively opened the door and let himself in, locking the door after him. He walked over and sat next to her on the sofa. She looked over to see his face, then turned her attention to the wall/window.
“Sunbae, what can I do for you?”
She sighed. He was not going to leave her alone. He got it from his father, Tam Young, the owner of the building in which Salp’uri TV resided. Plus, she had a deep weakness for this boy, Tam Shin-a
“The past has come to haunt me.” He reached for her hands and gently held them, waiting for her to share her fear.
She told him of the time she was a reporter in the US.
She told him of the story she reported one night on the evening news.
She told him of the story of a man who watched children being hurt and abused.
She told him of the revenge that man took and how he destroyed everything in her life that she cared for.
She told him of the court’s verdict and how he vowed to take revenge when he got out.
She told him how she didn’t think much of the threat as his punishment was life without parole.
She told him she was a fool.
Then, so frightened she could barely breathe, she told him of the criminal’s escape and the belief he had fled the borders of the US.
She looked into Tam Shin’s eyes with fear. “He’s coming here.”
He bowed his head before making his statement. “I want to keep you safe, but please forgive me. I am lacking. I will ask obeoji to use his security force to protect you.”
She smiled and caressed the boy’s face.
“I really wish you wouldn’t. I already am a stressor between your mother and father.”
He looked into her eyes.
“Can you see Hyungnim? Didn’t you see him last week?”
She brushed his long hair from his eyes.
“My, look how much my Hoobae has matured.
Nu Ri Ta arranged to meet Sam Jeong Ho in her office. They sat together on the sofa, sharing a small kiss, each holding each other’s hands.
In the ten years they casually dated, she never once told him the circumstances that led her to South Korea. He asked several times, but each time, she would say she wanted to forget the time before coming to her new home.
She told him of a time when she had a loving husband, two beautiful children, a dog and a cat, and a house that was too big, given to her by her grandmother years before.
She told him of her career as a reporter for the highest rated television station in a huge television market.
She told him of the story she had reported about a high ranking official, Adam Jones, having child pornography on his computer.
She told him how she was one of several reporters from various stations reporting this headline news.
She told him of the threats he made to her for ruining his life.
She told him of her devastation as she watched her house burn to the ground.
She told him of her emotional breakdown when she identified the burned remains of her husband and children.
She told him of finding her animals, burned and buried in what was left of her house.
She told him how she lost the will to live and how she resigned her reporting position.
She told him of the trial for, among other charges, premeditated murder of an adult and two children. She told him of the quick verdict of guilty with a sentence of life with no chance of parole.
She told him how the criminal had to be dragged out of court as he threatened to take her life.
She told him that was when she left the United States with no intention of ever returning.
Then, she told him that Adam Jones had recently escaped prison and was now at large, most probably heading for Seoul, searching for her.
Sam Jeong Ho stared at her, shocked. He wiped tears off of her face.
“I promise you,” he said. “I promise to find him. I will do everything I can to keep you safe.”
She placed her head on his shoulder and tried to let herself relax in his arms.
About a half an hour later, Tam Shin quietly entered her office and whispered to Sam Jeong Ho that he had Sam Jeong Ho’s car brought around.
“Please, keep her safe, tonight.”
She woke up finding herself in a back hug of a muscular man.
“You were here, all night?” she asked.
“Ani. I just came back,” joked Sam Jeong Ho.
She turned around in his hug and kissed him.
“I have to go to work,” she said, not wanting to go, really.
“So, do I,” he countered, not wanting to go, really.
Regardless, they struggled out of the warm and comfortable bed to prepare for their respective days.
“Oh, by the way. You have private security at your door,” he revealed.
“What? I told him not to tell his father.” She shook her head. “He never listens to me.”
Grabbing her in a back hug, again, he laughed. “Actually, in this case, I’m glad the boy ignored you. You’re safer, this way.”
He drove her to work and went to the precinct. He had a criminal to find.
She let the directors call all the news productions, that day.
Whenever she ventured out of her office, two men dressed in black suits followed her, and when she returned, they guarded her door.
Still, she didn’t feel safe.
Tam Shin checked on her several times, and Sam Jeong Ho called just as many times. It was nice to have people who cared for her. Even Tam Shin’s father showed up once to give some support.
At the end of her work day, she turned off her computer and experienced the worst pain she had ever felt run through her upper left arm and through her shoulder. She felt something hit her head, and wondered why blood just splattered onto her blouse. As she fell to the floor, through her partial view past the dressing divider, she saw her window/wall was cracking.
She saw two men in black suits hover over her, one talking on a cell phone. She saw Tam Shin and his father watch as she was loaded into an ambulance. She saw Sam Jeong Ho in the ambulance with her. She counted the lights as they passed above her over and over again. She tried to stay awake but the mask was the last thing she saw.
She opened her eyes in Recovery. Machines were everywhere, except for a nurse who greeted her with “Welcome back, Nu Ri Ta.” She spoke in English, probably to make her patient feel more comfortable.
In Korean, Nu Ri Ta expressed she was thirsty. When the nurse brought some ice and put one cube in her mouth for her patient, she commented that Nu Ri Ta must have been in Korea for some time to want to communicate in Korean over English. Nu Ri Ta tried to nod her head, but the nurse told her not to. She had to stay still for a while.
“Endure it for a little longer. The doctor will be here soon, after speaking with your guardian.”
“My guardian?” She wondered who that was.
Adam Jones – blames Nu Ri Ta for ruining his life.
Sam Jeong Ho’s wife – harbors resentment for her husband finding comfort with Nu Ri Ta
Tam Shin’s mother – outwardly hates Nu Ri Ta for the scandalous relationship Nu Ri Ta has with her son, despite the fact that her husband (her son’s father) seems to fully support the couple.