Wednesday – 11:00
I spent the entire ride back to base answering Thaddeus' questions about how everything worked. When they finally arrived at TRUCK-KUN, I went to my room and laid on the bed, deep in thought. Something about the sequences of events didn't make sense. I knew for sure that somebody had it out for me, but the differences between the first and second sabotage just confused me more regarding the culprit's motive. Did they want to kill me or just want me to fail?
One thing was certain. I needed to figure out who it was, and quickly. Since I only had one more attempt, that meant that I needed to narrow down the suspects first before setting up the third attempt and laying the bait to trap the culprit.
I called Terry to ask who was out during my second attempted mission and received a new list of names. Tamari and her pupil had been out on a mission. In addition, a couple of other R-rankers were out; however, neither of them had assignments the previous day. This time, Thomas was the one in the room with Terry around the time of the mission, and he couldn't have gotten there in time to pull off the trick. However, I didn't know the location of Timothy or if perhaps they somehow hacked the camera feed. But according to that logic, I couldn't eliminate anybody since anybody might be spying on me. So I would just assume that the person was there in person or had prime access to the camera feed.
After studying the new list and comparing it to the old one, I narrowed down the suspects. The only people who could have done this were Tamari, Teresa, Terry, Theodore, and perhaps also the twins. However, Tamari and Teresa would have been in each other's company, and it's unlikely that they were working together. Terry was helping out the twins at the time, and it was unlikely that they would be working together. Toby wasn't aware of any alibi that Theodore could have had, but it didn't matter. Most of the suspects didn't have an apparent motive for why they would have sabotaged him. Many of them were all friends, and only Tamari and the twins were still in the rankings. Perhaps it wasn't about the rankings after all. Maybe it was a personal vendetta. But if so, I couldn't think of one besides Tamari pulling a prank after getting angry with his honking joke.
Wait a minute! I thought to himself. Honking? The second attempt was a horn that honked loudly. Could she have done that as revenge for my joke? She had the motivation and the time to do it. She was in the garage and had a couple of minutes to attach it. But would she do that? And if so, what about the first accident? No matter how I slice it, it doesn't make sense. Unless there are two different suspects, but that's unlikely. Not even the twins could have - wait - what if the motive wasn't to kill me after all, or even drop me in the ranking, but to just have me fail in general?
An idea came to me. It was a long shot, but it was possible. I would need to set up a large hook to draw out the suspect and some outside help to help confirm the suspect's identity. With the new plan in mind, I went to the cafeteria for a lunch that hopefully wouldn’t be too unpleasant.
* * *
Wednesday – 19:00
The first thing I did after dinner was set up a time for his mission the next day. I would make sure to do it at lunchtime. That was a very unusual time to do a mission, but I needed to make sure that I could isolate the suspects while containing other agents in one area.
For the next part of this to work, I needed to make sure I had the suspects whereabouts while doing the mission. I walked over to the twin's room and knocked on their door. A moment later, Thomas answered the door and glared at me menacingly. "What do you want? You failed again and are here to congratulate us early to the top rankers of T-rank?"
"Not at all," I said. "But at the same time, you aren't far off. I plan on pulling off my third attempted mission tomorrow at lunchtime. Since the outcome of this mission will directly determine whether you become the top-rated agents in TRUCK-KUN, I figured we could celebrate the occasion with a special lunch at a fancy restaurant. Either way, I will be paying, so you have nothing to lose."
"My brother is out at the moment," Thomas said. They were the only T-ranked agents that shared a room. "I will share your offer with him when he returns, but I am sure he will accept. What time exactly would you like this to take place?"
"Well, my mission will start at 12:00", I said. "So get to the restaurant at that time and order in advance so by the time I get back, the food should be ready. You can order for me whatever you want."
"If you say so," Thomas said. "We will see you there and will celebrate our rise to being the top-ranked agents."
I told him which restaurant to go to and then moved on to the next part of his plan. I called Terry and Tamari and told them of my plan to catch the twins in the act, telling them that I was sure it was them. I had both of them set to stalk one of the twins and make sure that they didn't make any detours to sabotage the mission. In addition, I told them which restaurant they should observe, and told Tamari to leave Teresa in the lunch area to keep an eye out for the manager, just in case he showed up there.
That covered the simple parts of the plan, but it still left plenty of room for error, which is why there was still one final thing I needed. Unfortunately, this wouldn't be as simple to pull off.
I dialed a number from memory and desperately hoped that the person I was trying to call was still alive and had the same number. Even if the guy answered, this was a huge gamble. Not only could he choose not to help me, making his previous arrangements pointless, but if he got the upper brass involved, that would be an even bigger problem. Thankfully, luck was on my side.
"Hello," said a voice that I recognized, even though I hadn't heard it in over two decades.
"Hi," I said hesitantly. "It's s-"
"I know who it is," the voice interrupted. "Don't say names over the phone."
I remembered having paranoia like that. "I was going to say that it's so nice to hear your voice, but I understand your caution. I need your help."
"Why should I help you?" the voice shot back. "You just now contact me for the first time after transferring departments. That's pretty self-centered of you."
"You know as well as I do that we shouldn't even be talking now," I said. "I am only doing this out of desperation. I am retiring from the field one way or another after tomorrow, and I need one last favor before I do so. Consider it payback for the promotion that you received after helping me Isekai the kid detective."
The voice was silent for a minute and then said in a whisper, "Ok. I will help with one thing, and then all debts are settled between us. What is it that you want me to do?"
I sighed in relief and smiled. "I need you to keep an eye on some people. I will text you the list of names and descriptions shortly. Don't worry about sneaking into TRUCK-KUN; I have made sure they will be off-campus. I will send you the location of where they will be as well. Just make sure you keep a constant eye on them, especially at about 12:00. At 12:05, I need you to message me back about their actions during that time. It is important. Do you think that you can do it? All four of them should be in one location."
"It shouldn't be a problem," my old partner replied. "Remember, after this, we are even."
"Absolutely," I said, hanging up the phone. Seriously, my old partner in STEALTH had gotten so much stiffer over the years. I wondered if I would have turned out like that if I continued in that department. Thankfully, I would never need to know the answer to that question.
Everything set up for the final attempted mission, I closed his eyes and rested. I needed to be on full alert for tomorrow and had to be aware of any possible way that the culprit could sabotage me. I didn't think it would be a dangerous mission, but I couldn't be sure of anything yet. In the end, it was risky plan, but it was one that I needed to take. Looking at it from that perspective, it became clear what this plan was a huge gamble.
Hopefully my luck would continue to hold out.
END OF PART TWO