Play It By Ear: Episode One

Gabriel Park gripped the steering wheel tight, eyes fixed on the hospital’s emergency entrance a few meters from where he was parked. His knuckles were white, and his lungs constricted as images of the accident filled his head. When a call from someone who identified herself as a nurse at the Seoul National University Hospital roused him from his sleep, he initially thought he was being lured into a voice phishing scam.

Until he went online and saw “East Genesis Project accident” trending all over the local search engines.

The photos were of the band’s trusty service van, turned on its side, surrounded by shards of glass. A short video uploaded by a random commuter showed paramedics attempting to pull someone out of the wreckage.

Gabriel ignored the next several calls—all reporters and journalists he knew, perhaps wanting to confirm the news—and wasted no time getting to the hospital.

He feared the worst.

Rain poured over this part of Seoul tonight, like the sky had something to mourn about. Taking a few deep breaths, Gabriel braced himself for the downpour, got out of the car, and made a dash for the covered entranceway. Just as he had expected, members of the press have already swarmed the space, armed with cameras and mobile phones, all set to broadcast whatever information they could get. A couple of them recognized him as he pushed his way through, but he wasn’t ready to give out a statement just yet. Not until he’d seen the band.

Not until he’d seen Fi.

“Hi.” Gabriel took off his glasses, which had fogged up immediately, and placed his ID on the counter of the ER’s nurses’ station. “I’m Gabriel Park from Amethyst Entertainment. I’m here to see our artists and staff. They were rushed here after an accident near Hannam-dong—”

The nurse on duty was a middle-aged woman who had a wary look in her eyes as she examined Gabriel’s ID through her cat eyeglasses. She peered at him. “Names, please.”

“Filipina Legaspi. Bae Junki. Song Minchan. Hong Yukwon.”

She typed each of the names on her computer and began reciting the information she accessed. “Hong Yukwon and Bae Junki are still in surgery. Song Minchan and Filipina Legaspi are currently under observation.”

“May I see them, please…” Gabriel’s gaze fell on the nurse’s ID. “…Nurse Han?”

Nurse Han motioned for a male nurse to come over. “Nurse Jo, please show Mr. Park where Mr. Song Minchan and Ms. Filipina Legaspi’s beds are,” she told her colleague, sliding Gabriel’s ID over to him. She didn’t let go of it, though, until she got his attention. “I hope you can do something about those press people outside too, Mr. Park. I’m sure you know our patients don’t appreciate the disturbance.”

“I understand. I’ll do something about it.” He gave her his most reassuring smile, and it was only then that he was given his ID back.

The smell of antiseptic tickled Gabriel’s nose in the agonizingly long minute it took for him to get to Minchan and Fi. Seeing bloodied and sick patients made his stomach turn. He had a severe dislike for hospitals, and if he had it his way, Gabriel would never step inside a hospital ever again.

The first wave of relief washed over him when he saw Minchan. Apart from the visible cuts on his face and the neck brace he wore, he looked fine. He also had his mother by his bedside. Gabriel introduced himself to the woman before checking on Minchan.

“I’m all right, hyung. A little sore, but I’m fine.”

“Good. I’ll come back and ask you a few questions about what happened…will you be fine with that?”

“Yes. Now, go see Fi noona.”

Gabriel found his girlfriend two cubicles away, asleep, but with brows knitted so tight she seemed to be having unpleasant dreams. Like Minchan, she had on a neck brace, but it was clear she’d suffered more trauma. Cuts and bruises marred the skin on her face, arms, and hands. The bandage around her left ankle suggested a sprain, or worse, a fracture.

His throat tightened at the sight. He clenched his fists to keep himself from pulling her carelessly into his arms.

Instead, he approached her as calmly as he could, pulled up a chair, and sat at her bedside. The painful knots in his stomach slowly uncoiled as he watched the rise and fall of her chest, her every breath tranquil, unlabored. Get a hold of yourself, Gabe. She’s still here, he reminded himself and blinked away the stinging in his eyes. This was undeniably a better scenario than the one that played in his head on the way to the hospital.

He ran his fingers very lightly along the strands of Fi’s wavy black hair. He could only imagine how scared she would have been, what thoughts could have flashed through her mind as their service van crashed.

He stayed with her for a few more minutes, dropped the softest kiss on her hair, and set off to work.

* * *

A calm, albeit stern expression lined Gabriels’ face as he stepped out of the hospital’s sliding doors. Right now, he was Gabriel Park, deputy PR manager of Amethyst Entertainment, and no one was allowed a glimpse of the disquiet within him as he faced the small crowd waiting there.

“Gentlemen, please.” This was the third time he emphasized the word, and the first time he raised his voice a couple of notches higher. “This is a hospital. The sick and injured people inside do not need further stressors. A press release will be ready for you as soon as we gather all the information we need, but for now, please…go back to your newsrooms or go home and get some rest. That will be all for now, thank you.”

“Mr. Park, just one question!” A guy from the back of the crowd yelled, hand up in the air, waving a mobile phone. “Is it true Steven Bae is in critical condition?”

Murmurs grew louder at the question. The small contingent of fangirls who stood vigil across the street gasped at what they heard.

“Was it the driver’s fault?”

“Are there any casualties?”

Gabriel felt as though all his blood rushed to his head. For a split second, he saw red.

“Gentlemen!” he bellowed. “For the last time: We will have a statement ready for the press as soon as we gather accurate information about the accident and the condition of all the members. Please vacate the premises immediately, or hospital security will be requesting assistance from the nearest precinct. Thank you.”

As he ended his briefing with a bow, Gabriel heard someone yell, “It’s Jo Yihwan!”

The mob of reporters turned around, and, like a pack of hungry wolves, ran toward their prey, who was walking from the hospital parking lot. Fangirls began to swarm the band leader as well, handing him flowers and stuffed animals to bring inside the hospital.

“Jo Yihwan-ssi, why weren’t you with the band tonight?”

“Oppa, himnaeyo!”

“Do you know how your band mates are doing right now?”

“How do you think this will affect your comeback?”

Shoulders hunched and with hands in his pockets, Yihwan kept walking with his head hung low, hiding his face under the bill of his cap. When the reporters and fans made it difficult for him to pass through, Gabriel walked over, elbowed his way through the crowd, and pulled the band leader out of there.

“Thanks,” Yihwan mumbled.

Gabriel gave him a firm shove. “Just keep walking,” he told Yihwan. And to the crowd, he had nothing but a stern glare.

They backed off.

Yihwan took his mask off as soon as he got inside the ER, allowing Gabriel a good look at his puffy face. His eyes might have been swollen, but Gabriel saw the fear in them when he asked, “Hyung, is everyone okay?”

“They’re going to be fine, Yihwan. Who did you come here with?”

“Just me…” he replied, his voice gravelly. Yihwan’s eyes scanned the room, possibly for familiar faces, for tangible signs that Gabriel’s words were, in fact, true. “Where are they? I want to see them.”

“Steven and Yukwon hyung are still in the operating room…”

“What? Why—what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know yet, Yihwan. I’m still waiting for—”

“How bad are the injuries? Are they going to be okay? Minchan-i eodiyeyo? Keurigo Fi-neun? Are they okay? I want to see them. Please.”

“Yihwan, you need to calm down…”

Tears streamed down Yihwan’s face when he shut his eyes tight. He pressed the base of his palms against his lids and shook his head while he spoke. “I was on the phone with them when it happened, hyung. I heard everything. Everything.”

Fuck, that’s terrible.

“I should’ve been there,” Yihwan mumbled.

“Hey.” He reached for Yihwan’s shoulder and squeezed it. “It’s not your fault. You couldn’t have done anything to stop it.”

When Yihwan sobbed into his palms, Gabriel looked away and ignored the stinging in his eyes. Perhaps later, when the dust has settled, he could have a moment to himself. But right now, he needed to stay calm amidst all this.

He patted Yihwan’s arm. “Come on. Let’s go see Minchan and Fi.”

[ BREAKING ] East Genesis Project Injured In Car Accident
Naver | October 14

Popular pop-rock band East Genesis Project got into a road accident in Hannam district last night, on their way back from the opening ceremonies of the Busan International Film Festival. Nearby CCTV footage revealed that the van was running at normal speed before it skidded out of control, turned on its side, and crashed against a cement barrier. Investigators believe last night’s sudden heavy downpour was the catalyst for the accident.

Fortunately, there were no reported casualties. EG Project’s drummer Steven Bae, however, underwent surgery for a wrist fracture. Bassist Song Minchan walked away with minor injuries.

Band leader Jo Yihwan was home sick at the time of the accident.

Amethyst Entertainment has yet to release a full statement about the incident.



[ +4,962, -79 ] I couldn’t sleep after seeing the news last night! Uri oppa-deul! ;;

[ +2,096, -3,807 ] Was that roadie bitch there too? I hope she got brain damage or something.

[ +1,745, -2,978 ] A major accident before a comeback has got to be a sign. Disband already, Poop Genesis Project!

[ +3,092, -145 ] These people wishing EGP and their staff members dead are the scum of society. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

[ +5,621, -204 ] Himnae, EG Project! I hope you all feel better soon. Kidarilkke!

Pre-order Play It By Ear on Amazon

Join the blog tour