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Chapter 11

Double A and TF sat in his car parked across the street from her apartment. The blue light from the screen of her smartphone partially illuminated the car’s interior. “I did a search for Imperial Cola, but since they’ve long been one of the biggest employers in the city, the newspaper prints articles about them all the time.”

“Can you add the phrase ‘workplace violence’ to your search?” asked TF.

“I can add it, but their archive system is pretty janky...yeah, just as I figured—the results went from like a thousand hits to none.”

“What about just ‘workplace violence’?”

“Sure...okay, there are a dozen or so articles from around that time. Let me scroll through them real quick...no, they’re mostly about this sports bar called The Work Place that closed years ago after several people got shot.”

“That’s a shame,” said TF, “sounded like a real friendly tavern.”

“Hey, didn’t your friend say that the paper called it a training accident?”

“Yeah, try that.”

“I think we found it—hang on, it’s kind of hard to read on this tiny screen...wow.”

“‘Wow’ what?” TF asked. “Do you realize that you always say ‘wow’ when it’s something bad?”

“I don’t blame your friend for being pissed at I.C. The company’s official statement was that his dad’s neck was lacerated in a freak accident involving a letter opener and that he eventually succumbed to the wound...and that the other man fell to his death soon afterwards during a rooftop function.”

“That’s it?”

“The story goes on to state that the men were part of the junior executive training program...but there aren’t any further details—except that the company would reevaluate its training protocols in light of the two unfortunate mishaps.”

“Mishaps,” TF said. “That’s quite a story indeed. How could any reporter not see through such an obvious lie?”

“Imperial has probably been a mainstay of the newspaper’s revenue for more than a century. I bet they’ve paid millions in advertising over the years, so I imagine the paper thought it prudent to take I.C. at their word and let the police figure out the truth.”

“And then I’ll bet the Imperial executives circled the wagons, threw up their hands, and played dumb—vaguely suggesting that the incidents were merely the sort of misadventures that sometimes befall high-spirited young men.”

Double A nodded. “Sounds about right. With both men dead and without eyewitnesses willing to come forward, there probably wasn’t much to investigate.”

“Both men...no mention of Tom?”

“Let me doublecheck...Tom isn’t mentioned by name, but the article does say that a third member of the training group was unharmed.”

“That’s got to be Oblong, right?” asked TF.

“It doesn’t ‘got’ to be, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t.”

“I guess this evening turned out to be a pretty valuable fact-finding mission...I just wish I knew what all the facts added up to.”

“We’ll sleep on it.” Double A opened the passenger’s side door. “Maybe it’ll make more sense in the morning.”

TF opened his door too. “Sounds good.”

“What are you doing?”

“Getting out.”

“I didn’t mean we’ll sleep on it together.”

“I know that...I was just going to walk you to your door.”

“What for?” asked Double A. “It’s not like you’re dropping me off after the prom. I can cross the street on my own.”

“Of course, I was only trying to be—”

“Well, cut it out...I’d prefer to avoid having an awkward goodnight in front of my apartment building.”

TF shook his head. “This is starting to feel pretty awkward right here.”

“And whose fault is that?”

“I’m guessing you think it’s mine, though could it be that this awkwardness is also a little bit the result of your PMS.”

“People don’t actually say ‘PMS’ anymore,” Double A said. “You shouldn’t believe everything you’re told.”

“So, you’re not then?”

“What the hell does it matter if I am or not? It’s none of your business either way...I don’t like you like that.”

“Sorry, my mistake.”

“Damn right it is.” Double A slammed the door and then walked around to the driver’s side. “But if you want, you could come up just for a sec to read that article for yourself on my home computer.”

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