“Are you sure you don’t want to say goodbye to Suyeon-noona? She’ll definitely put it in her heart, you know?”
Maru said that as he put his seatbelt on. Geunsoo replied that he said goodbye to her in his heart.
“I saw that you seemed to be acquainted with Mr. Nam Joongyeon.”
“I was surprised as well. I only saw him once before, but he remembered me.”
“It’s a good thing that a reporter remembers you.”
Geunsoo started driving. The pile of papers on top of the dashboard started shaking. It seemed to be a script.
“You can have a look. It won’t be a problem as long as you don’t talk about it elsewhere,” Geunsoo said.
Maru nodded and opened the script. On the cover was the word ‘Detective’ in a simple font.
“No, that’s the project name. The title hasn’t been decided yet.”
“So sometimes you shoot before the title is even decided, huh.”
“In the pre-production stage, usually a project name or a tentative title is used. It’s mostly like that for security. That’s why there are times when actors show up to an audition not knowing what the title is.”
“Doesn’t it help with promotion to reveal it early?”
“They’re being cautious because the project might not see through to the end.”
The car entered an 8 lane road. Considering that it was Sunday, there was little traffic. Getting caught by a single traffic light might make them as slow as a snail though.
Maru flipped over the cover and had a look at the contents. Traces of editing and some notes left by Geunsoo could be seen. The story was about corrupt policemen just like he heard at the restaurant last time. A policeman who was acknowledged for his skills at a young age and was promoted quickly, one day witnesses the corruption of his superior. A detective filled with righteousness would persuade his superior or report the crime, but the character Geunsoo played used that event to threaten his superior to go up even further. Another policeman, played by Sungjae, also witnesses it and tries to get his respected senior back on the right path, but in the end, he too becomes a corrupt policeman and puts all the events under the rug.
“Hyung-nim, you die in the last part, huh?”
“It’s a simple case of evil being punished.”
“Without a witness, a villain is a hero.”
“I wonder what real policemen would think when they watch this movie. They must think that it’s absurd, right?”
“That’s actually based on a real event.”
“A real event?”
“There are some changes, but apparently, it’s almost all real. It should be interesting. I’ve always wanted to play a charming man with a hint of lunacy.”
“If you think about it, you died in Twilight Struggles as well so perhaps you are quite fated with dying characters.”
“Now that you mention it, it's true.”
Maru closed the script and put it back on top of the dashboard. The trend in film these days was plot twists. There probably wasn’t a movie pamphlet that did not include the word ‘twist’ among the ones displayed in cinemas. Even family movies contained plot twists these days. Perhaps thanks to that, plot twists, which were a sign of fresh things, had become rather old-fashioned recently. In that sense, he thought that this script was pretty interesting. The story progressed without any sudden reversals. The story ended with the smaller evil being engulfed by the bigger evil, and there wasn’t anything that was hidden in that process. He didn’t know how the director was going to play this out, but according to the script at least, it was a pretty simple movie where the audience could just follow the characters on the surface. He was reminded of director Park Joongjin’s ‘Those Guys’ that he watched before. Perhaps the film industry was moving on from the boring plot twists trend.
“I’ll say this beforehand, the director for this film is quite peculiar.”
Geunsoo then said that he wasn’t as peculiar as Maru. Maru stared at Geunsoo.
“I believed myself to be an extremely normal person living a normal life.”
“What you believe and what actually is might be different.”
“I’m not peculiar.”
“Sure you aren’t.”
Geunsoo turned the wheel. The car entered a residential area. Going past the dominos of buildings on either side, they were met by a rather weak-looking bridge, as well as a 3-story building that towered above the others. Geunsoo stopped the car in front of that building.
Getting out of the car, the first thing Maru saw was a standing sign that said ‘Coffee of the day’. A pastel drawing of coffee, bread, and cats looked quite cute. He raised his head to look at the signboard above the sunshade. ‘Cat & Coffee’. It couldn’t be simpler.
He saw some people sitting down with ŀȧptops through the glass window. Next to them were some cats. Tired-looking cats and coffee-drinking people. It was literally just ‘cat & coffee’.
“Ah, ma’am. Where’s hyung-nim?”
Geunsoo seemed to know her. The lady, who was reading a book behind the counter, pointed above. Geunsoo nodded and walked towards the stairs.
“She’s the wife of the director you’re about to see.”
“Ah, I see.”
There were photo frames along the wall of the staircase. They were small - about two hand-widths wide - and they were all focused on cats. There were standalone photos of cats and some photos where a person was hugging them. Just as he thought that this was a café where cats were the alpha and the omega, there was one photo that caught his eyes.
A lady was hugging three puppies. Maru wasn’t knowledgeable about breeds of dogs, but he did know the breed of those dogs with vicious-looking faces - bulldogs. The lady, who was hugging three little bulldogs in her arms, had the happiest smile in the world. Perhaps because he saw some dogs in a world of cats, Maru stood there and appreciated that photo for a while.
“What are you doing?”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
Just then, he heard a voice. It was from the table by the window. At the same time, he felt something prick his hand. The spotty cat scratched him with its claws. He looked at the cat which turned around in a haughty manner. It seemed that he wouldn’t be able to get close to that one.
“That one’s pretty sėnsɨtɨvė. He always attacks when a stranger reaches out to him. So you need to suck up to him a little.”
The man that approached him gave him a square object. It was some kind of item packed in a plastic bag with a picture of a cat on it.
“If you give it that snack, you can touch it once.”
Maru followed the man’s words. He ripped open the packaging and took out the snack. It was some kind of squishy jelly, and it smelled pretty good. It was similar to a strawberry smell. He put it on his palm and approached the spotty cat. The one that peeked out from the corner raised its tail and ran towards him. Maru flinched at first since he thought he was going to get attacked again, but the cat just quickly snatched away the snack from his hand.
“Now you can touch it.”
Hearing the man’s words, Maru reached out. He couldn’t believe that this was the same cat as the one that scratched him.
“They’re pretty sneaky.”
“It’s fine while he’s still eating. Well, after that, you’ll become a stranger to him again, so watch out.”
Maru stroked the cat’s hair and turned around to see the man. The round silver glasses entered his eyes first, and after that, he saw the rough-looking beard. As for his age, he seemed to be in his late thirties. Unlike his messy beard, his hair was quite neat. As for his stature, he was neither big nor small. He seemed to be around the Korean average.
“Han Maru, right? I told Geunsoo to bring you here because I wanted to see you once.”
The man reached out to him. Maru shook hands with him.
“Han Maru, sir.”
“Have you heard about my name?”
“I heard that you were director Lee Jincheol.”
Geunsoo, who was listening from the side, blinked his eyes in confusion.
“Did I tell you that?”
Geunsoo smiled in understanding.
“Now that I look at you like this, you look like a normal man. I thought you’d have some more… mad elements in you.”
“I’m an ordinary student.”
He sat down when Lee Jincheol offered him a seat. Just then, Jincheol’s wife, who was watching the counter on the first floor, came up with some drinks.
“The three of you aren’t going out or anything, right?”
“My wife, I’ll obediently stay at home today so don’t worry.”
“You always say that.”
The married couple lightly kissed after that. Maru was rather taken aback by the events that unfolded out in front of him as he was drinking.
“We’re still newlyweds,” Jincheol said.
“Hyung-nim. I never knew you could be a newlywed when you have three kids.”
Geunsoo shook his head in resignation.
He was definitely peculiar, alright. Maru put down his cup on the table.
“Well then. Shall I hear your opinion about this store?”
“It’s an interesting store.”
“In what sense?”
“That there are cats mixed amongst the people.”
“Looks like this is your first time at a cat café, huh.”
“Yes. It is.”
“Good, then one more thing. Do you like cats or dogs better?”
“I don’t particularly like either of them.”
“Then try to like cats. Cats are definitely better than dogs.”
Just then, he was reminded of Junmin, who was a dog-lover. He thought about what would happen if he put those two together.
“The president of your company would be a better man if he raised some cats.”
Maru felt like this man knew what he was thinking. Maru smiled awkwardly before drinking a sip.
“Honey, come here for a moment.”
He heard a voice from downstairs. Jincheol told them to wait before going down the stairs.
“Is he acquainted with the president?”
“Yeah. Though, Junmin-seonbae is trying to avoid him since he tells him to raise cats every time they meet.”
“So even the almighty president has someone who he has a hard time dealing with.”
“I told you he was peculiar.”
“Does he direct films on top of managing this store?”
Hearing that question, Geunsoo shook his head.
“He doesn’t manage the store. This building belongs to him. So ‘manage’ doesn’t really fit the situation. He doesn’t care whether it’s profitable or not.”
“...The building belongs to the director?”
“Why? You thought the director of an indie movie would be poor?”
Maru subconsciously nodded. A director of an indie film that Geunsoo had known for a long time. Since indie movies were called such because of their independence from capital, the profits would be low, so he thought that the director wouldn’t be that wealthy. But it turned out that he owned a building.
“Director Lee… sorry, I’m kinda used to calling him that. Anyway, that hyung-nim’s passion for film is not ordinary. He never took it as a hobby. He’s always serious as though his life is on the line. It’s just that his wallet is pretty thick.”
“I’m starting to get confused by the definition of indie films.”
“It can be called an indie film in the sense that one hundred percent of the creator’s wishes are reflected in it. Also, that hyung-nim always uses the budget tightly. Just because he has a lot of money doesn’t mean that the shooting environment is good. He’s quite meticulous when it comes to things like that.”
“For now, I get that he’s not shooting a film because he’s short on money. Oh, but I heard that this film was a commercial one.”
“Because we got investors. Both that hyung-nim and I are charmed by indie films, but that doesn’t mean we despise commercial movies. Who would hate movies with lots of airing cinemas?”
Geunsoo smiled and picked up his cup.
Maru turned around to look at the café. Arts activities when he was well-off, huh. Considering that art historically used to be something unique to the high-class, it wasn’t so strange that the director was wealthy. Perhaps he had a bias towards indie films for being ‘minor’.
“Why would he want to see me?”
“I don’t know. There might not be a big reason for it, so don’t think about it so deeply.”
Just then, the spotty cat walked over from the corner and sat down on Maru’s thɨġhs. Maru laughed in vain when he saw the cat boldly claim his thɨġhs as his.
“Ooh, Picky approached you first, how rare. Looks like he’s taken a liking to you.”
Jincheol said those words when he returned.
“So his name is Picky, huh.”
Maru reached out and tried to touch the cat. However, just as his hand was about to touch its head, Maru had to pull his hand back quickly. The cat was glaring at him and was clearly telling him that it would scratch him if he tried to do what he was about to do.
“Congratulations on becoming his exclusive chair,” Jincheol said while laughing.
“Have you two eaten yet? I haven’t had my lunch yet. Why don’t we eat some lunch/dinner?”
“I’m good with that.”
“I’m hungry, so let’s eat.”
Jincheol made a circle with his fingers.
“Good. I’ll go buy some things to eat, so play around with the others here.”
Maru looked at Jincehol who went off before looking at the cat on his thɨġhs while sighing. The cat was yawning.
“You have it good.”
Meow - the cat meowed in a low voice.