Thursday – 10:30
The time had finally arrived. I met up with Thaddeus by the garage and proceeded to Terry's office, who opened the door with a big smile.
"Greetings, Thaddeus!" Terry said. "We haven't been formally introduced yet, I am Terry."
"Hello," Thaddeus said shyly.
"I have heard great things about you," Terry told him and pointed to the corner of the room. "Your new uniform and equipment is in the over. You can change in here while Tobias and I talk outside."
"Thanks," replied Thaddeus.
"So what did you want to talk to me about?" I asked Terry once they closed the door behind them. "You clearly wanted to talk to me alone."
"I just wanted to know if there is anything you want to tell me," replied Terry. "Anything at all. You know that you can trust me."
I thought about it, unsure what to tell him and what not to tell him. On the one hand, I did trust Terry, but on the other hand, I was paranoid and didn't want anything to potentially disrupt his plans. I decided to compromise and tell Terry part of the story. "I was offered a job for the managerial position here at TRUCK-KUN, and because of that, I just want to finish up any remaining business that I have as quickly as possible."
Terry didn't look as shocked at the information that I thought he would. "Did the manager already inform you of this?"
"Yeah," Terry confirmed. "I spoke with him this morning, and he told me of his offer to you. I am impressed. Is that everything you wanted to tell me?"
"Yes," I lied smoothly, but I could tell that Terry was still suspicious. I would tell him everything tomorrow. I just needed everything to go according to plan first.
Terry then checked the truck one last time, looking everywhere for any tampering or anything that was out of the ordinary. I looked as well this time, just in case.
"Ok, I don't see anything that could disrupt you this time," Terry said. "Good luck out there. I will head out to the restaurant now to check on the twins. Bye."
"Bye," I said. "Thanks!"
I waited another minute until Thaddeus came out wearing his new uniform. "It looks good on you. Now let's go. We don't want to be late."
* * *
Thursday – 11:45
"Thaddeus," I said while nearing the target location, "this might be your last chance to ask me questions. Anything you want to ask?"
Thaddeus hesitated before asking the question. "D-d-d-do you ever think of what TRUCK-KUN is doing as something wrong or bad?"
It was an interesting question, and I wasn't sure how to respond. "Well, terms like wrong and bad are subjective. How do you mean them?"
"That you are using a person's soul without their permission to make a profit," Thaddeus replied."
"Hmmm, so are you saying that you wouldn't have a problem with it if we paid the targets?" I asked.
"No, that's not what I meant," Thaddeus replied.
“Well,” I continued. "Would you have any problems if people volunteered to have their souls used in such a way?"
"I mean...it's still...but..." Thaddeus seemed to be having trouble putting his thoughts together. "You still don't tell them. They are unwilling victims. The wrong part is TRUCK-KUN transporting souls without people's permission. Perhaps if people were willing and getting paid and told the truth beforehand, but otherwise, it's villainous."
"Actually, Villainess is an Isekai," I joked. "It's not half bad either. I still need to introduce you to anime. Though that wouldn't be the best place to start. Back on topic, it isn't much different than scavenging a person's garbage disposal and using things that you find there. It doesn't inconvenience the target and we profit off it."
"B-b-but it's not the same though," Thaddeus argued.
"Perhaps not," I said, "but we just do our jobs. Become manager and perhaps you can convince others in charge."
Something about Thaddeus' argument called out to me. It was something that I had heard before, but I couldn't remember where. It seemed like Thaddeus had more arguments to make, but he continued to struggle to get the words out in a cohesive way.
"Tell you what," I said. "After this mission, I will hear out all of your thoughts about it. We are nearing the target location, so we should focus on this mission first. Is that okay?"
"S-s-s-sure," stuttered Thaddeus.
It was time to start the mission.
* * *
Thursday – 12:00
The target arrived a minute later, casually listening to music through a pair of earphones. The plan this time would be simple since I wasn't interested in actually hitting the target but rather catching the saboteur in the act. Whether or not I succeeded, so be it.
A little girl was waiting by the crosswalk, and when the boy got close enough, I turned the light green allowing the girl to cross, then turned the light red again and slammed on the gas keeping a close eye on the target to see how he would respond. The boy wasn't flinching. Something was wrong.
I turned his face towards the girl in the middle of the road and saw that the light had turned green for the pedestrians once more. I tried switching the light red again, but it wasn't working. Since the boy didn't realize anything was wrong, he wasn't running into the street. I was then forced to slam on the brakes, causing the truck to stop a meter before the crosswalk. The mission was once again a failure.
It had all gone according to plan.
I wasn't sure how the culprit would mess with me this time around, but I was confident that the suspect would find a way. The anonymous person had fallen for my trap. Now I just needed to wait for the messages.
"Tobias," Thaddeus said. "W-w-what's going on? Why don't you continue? The target is still right there. You can make something work. I am sure of it. Perhaps drive over to the next block."
I shook his head. "There's no reason to anymore. I have failed."
"Why did you use the standard method when you always try something different?" Thaddeus asked. "I am sure that you could have thought of something extraordinary that would have worked."
"These past two missions were never about the target," I sighed.
Thaddeus stretched his head in confusion. "W-w-what were they about then?"
I didn't answer right away. I was expecting a message any second and wasn't disappointed. Right on cue, I got a text from Tamari. She said that the twins were both in the restaurant. Ten seconds later, I received a similar text from Terry. So far, so good, but I still was waiting on the ultimate confirmation.
Half a minute later, I received a text from an unknown number. Considering the timing, it must have been a disposable phone that my old partner at STEALTH had gotten for single-time use. He said that Tamari, Terry, and both the twins were at the restaurant and hadn't done anything suspicious during the last five minutes.
Perfect. That just left one remaining suspect. My phone buzzed for a final time, and I saw that the newest text had come from Teresa. I had suspected that Theodore had orchestrated his failures so that I would be more ready to accept the managerial position. This text would solve everything.
I opened the text and looked at the message, eyes opening wide as I read the contents in shock
"W-w-what's going on?" Thaddeus asked impatiently.
I didn't understand what he was reading. Teresa had just informed me that the manager was at the cafeteria for the last few minutes
This didn't make sense. I knew for a fact that I had narrowed down the list of suspects and had taken steps to ensure that they would all be watched during this final mission. There was no other conceivable way that somebody could have orchestrated everything as if they were all along.... then, with a shock, it all clicked. An idea sprung into my mind, and once there, I connected the dots until everything made perfect sense.
"I know who was responsible for all of my failed missions," I said out loud, knowing that the culprit could hear me. "It was you, wasn't it? Thaddeus."