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A note from puddles4263

4/7

Tatiana stared blankly down at the still slightly warm body. “You… you just killed him…?”

“Yup. He wanted to fuck with Erickson Steel, so I made sure he couldn’t cause any problems.” Helen’s lip curled upward into a sneer. “It was immediately clear that he was the sort that wasn’t worth leaving alive. I just didn’t know whether you wanted to investigate the body for clues who sent him. Otherwise, I’ll just find somewhere to put the body. Maybe I could just toss it into one of these furnaces…?”

Tatiana blinked rapidly. Her mind failed to start working properly for the second time of this conversation. Instead of having a normal response, she just mutely looked at the satisfied young woman that Randidly had assured her would help “take care of any difficulties”. Certainly, she looked like a perfectly normal individual.

And yet...

Was this what Randidly had in mind…? Tatiana wondered dully.

Shaking her head, Tatiana forcefully roused herself. Helen had dragged a dead body into her office, and she needed to deal with it. “Helen… ah… search him… But more than that… did you have any… proof of his activities?”

Snorting, Helen folded her arms. “Do you think a scavenger can’t recognize a bottom feeder? And scum like this dick wouldn’t come here on his own. He smells like a trained dog.”

Just what sort of nose do you have?!? Tatiana’s mind was screaming. But her face only twitched. Such was the depth of her Skill as an acting CEO that her inner turmoil didn’t surface in the least. Abruptly, Tatiana missed Vye. She was exactly the type of person who would be able to help Tatiana figure out what to do in this situation.

Well… If I frame it as this is an individual who Randidly trusts, I suppose it is fair to take her word as correct. Therefore, someone dispatched this man in order to cause trouble for Erickson Steel. The implications of that truth caused Tatiana to clench her jaw. Although it hadn’t happened yet, I knew it was only a matter of time until this happened. We couldn’t keep our hands clean forever-

Then Tatiana had a small heart attack. Her eyes went wide.

“You... didn’t-” Tatiana couldn't even force the words out of her mouth.

An interspatial watch was still on the dead man’s hand. Which, if he truly was dispatched by some foreign power to weaken Erickson Steel, meant that the other party was probably using the watch to keep tabs on its agent.

By recording all the audio that the watch detected, for example.

Audio of Tatiana and Helen casually speaking about the dead body.

Tatiana’s mind immediately went back through their conversation, hoping they had kept their sentences vague enough that there was nothing truly incriminating present.

“You… you just killed him…?”

“Yup.”

Tatiana flicked her wrist and destroyed the watch with a steel needle. It buzzed and popped, but it brought Tatiana no comfort. For the third time in two days, Tatiana walked over to her private cabinet and poured herself a stiff drink. So stiff that the bottle was emptied. For a long time, she was silent and simply poured the amber liquid down her throat.

Sighing, she twisted to look at her cabinet. She regarded the empty glass bottle sourly. This was supposed to last me for a month… Randidly…. Oh god, we fucked up this time.

“What’s wrong?” Helen asked in confusion.

Tatiana wondered where to begin.

*****

After listening to the recording, Evan Crane was grinning from ear to ear. Already he had used his contacts to mobilize the nearby police bureau. Now it was just a matter of waiting an hour or two for them to make an appearance at Erickson Steel and watch this infuriating card castle come tumbling down.

And after everything is over… I suppose it will be only me who is capable of picking up the pieces… Evan released a puff of smoke that he carefully shaped into a ring. The ring slowly drifted across the room. Evan pressed his lips together more tightly and blew a second ring.

The second ring shot out and pierced right through the first one without disturbing it. Although it was almost impossible, Evan’s smile stretched even wider. Today was a very good day.

But just as Evan was savoring the addicting scent of his victory, the communicator on his interspatial watch began to ring. Coughing lightly, Evan did his best to martial his face into a serious expression. Then he accepted the call. “Senator Heathridge, I assume you’ve heard the news?”

“Of course.” There was a slight pause on the other end of the line. Evan imagined that the Senator hadn’t heard the news and was now scrambling to find out what Evan was talking about. But very quickly, that fantasy was demolished by the Senator’s ruthless competence. “I’ve been trying my best to gather information on the movements of Randidly Ghosthound before I contacted you.”

“Ah, you noticed it too?” Evan asked with a wide grin. From what Evan had been able to gather, Randidly had been seen leaving Erickson Steel at an extremely high speed earlier in the morning. And now, without his leadership, the company was falling to pieces.

A perfect opportunity for a true leader to step in… Evan Crane was almost salivating at the prospect. Then the new engraving style for trains and the processing for Erickson Steel’s new line of high-end steel alloys-

“Heh, you’ve surprised me, Evan. I thought you would have been dazzled by this perfect opening to have noticed it.” Senator Heathridge chuckled. “But no, I thought it too… that this is too convenient. They reveal their big secret steel project on us and then make a blunder as vast as casually killing someone? This must be a trap.”

Evan’s jaw worked soundlessly for several seconds. This… is a trap…?

“Even I haven’t been able to figure out their angle, but there is no doubt that this whole scenario has been crafted to lure us out. But even so…” The sound of the Senator’s sigh came through the line. “It would be playing into their hands, but the chance is too juicy to pass up. I assume you’ve already contacted the relevant authorities?”

“Of course.” Evan Crane said reflexively. His mind struggled to cope with the arrival of these new facts. All of this was a trap. They were simply playing into Erickson Steel’s hands by trying to get them arrested for murder.

But… how would that even work…?

“Please, observe what happens when the authorities arrived. If you notice anything strange about the way Erickson Steel reacts… I might be able to figure out what tricks they have up their sleeves. Contact me when you finish.”

Then the Senator hung up.

Evan’s face twisted into a scowl. Gone was the boyish excitement about owning Erickson Steel. In its place, a stubborn resentment had planted itself in his chest. Despite the fact that Evan had previously been toying with the idea of going to watch Erickson Steel interacting with the police, the Senator’s order to do so sucked all the joy out of the activity.

Now it just seemed like a menial task.

And where the hell does he get off, acting so surprised that I noticed this was a trap, Evan thought furiously. His thoughts bubbled and multiplied, quickly filling his entire being with negative emotions while he waited for the police vehicles to arrive. It was almost a full hour later when the two vans drove down the road toward the front gates of Erickson Steel.

Although he might be inwardly furious, Evan was not careless in his disguise. Once more, he casually perused the small series of stalls outside of Erickson Steel while the police approached. Seemingly without any real goal, Evan rubbed his fake beard and wandered to look at the different discount metals that were for sale.

Two rather muscular men in police uniform stepped out of the van. After adjusting the holster of their manatech pistols, they sauntered up to the gate with grim expressions.

Senator Heathridge might be inwardly fearful this was a trap, but Evan delighted in the look of shock and fear that came over the guards as the police informed them why they were here. Unfortunately, it seemed like they were successful in convincing the police to wait because the two officers didn’t attempt to go into Erickson Steel.

Then again… if they had I wouldn’t be able to watch this-

“See something you like sir?”

Evan blinked. The owner of the stall smiled at him and pointed down to the ingots that Evan was ‘inspecting’.

“Oh? Oh. yes, of course. I’d like to have two ingots of this variety.” Evan said casually. After he had paid, he moved several stalls over, looking for less friendly merchants.

By the time Evan had another spot, an attractive young woman walked out of Erickson Steel and frowned at the police officers.

“Ma’am, based on the evidence we received, there has been a murder on the Erickson Steel premises.” The older officer said gravely. “We would like to ask you a few questions.”

“What? Why is it any of your business who I kill?” The woman asked. She sounded… genuinely confused why the police would care.

Both of the officers seemed to have caught her tone as well. “Ma’am… are you saying you are aware of such an incident?”

“Yep, I kill him. Why?”

The air around the gate turned strange. Evan wasn’t the only person listening. The fact that this young woman so casually admitted that she killed a man drew the attention of quite of few of the surrounding Erickson Steel customers.

“...ma’am, you will need to come with us so we can figure out the details of this incident. Please-” But as the one officer produced handcuffs, the woman resolutely shook her head.

“No. If that’s all, please leave.” Then she turned away.

The police officers paused. Then they looked at each other. Their eyes hardened. “Ma’am, if you don’t come willingly, we are permitted to use force-”

She swung her spear twice, so fast that Evan couldn’t follow either blow. The first shatter both of the younger man’s knees in a wicked low horizontal strike. The second attack seemed to have rendered the older man unconscious. The two police officers collapsed without being able to put up even a token resistance.

Snorting, the woman turned around and walked back into Erickson Steel headquarters.

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puddles4263

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