Week 3 Day 3: End of Line

Dodger. Why couldn't the woman just be normal for once?

Vangen was a mess as they sat him down. His eyes red and puffy, snot dribbling from his nose. Caecilia patted him on the shoulder, holding his hand as she scooted closer.

"You're not in trouble, Mr. Vangen. We just want to talk."

He wiped his nose with some tissues, barely able to make a coherent statement. Caecilia Cortez glared at Director Hong, who met her gaze with a firm stare, "I did my job. To the letter," He grumbled.

He'd been tasked with finding Petter Vangen and interviewing him about the "Stuff" company. Dodger had done the hard part, and now Hong brought Vangen in to an MCF office nearby. It was strictly voluntary, an invitation to lunch and a discussion. Hong had come in holding Vangen under the arms, the man sobbing uncontrollably and wailing for his mother, or brother; the accent and the blubbering made it unclear.

"Po… police?" He whimpered.

Caecilia patted him again, "If you want to go home, we can take you. You're not in trouble, we just want to have a friendly conversation. Do you understand?"

He looked up at her, then over at Hong, and back to her, "I didn't mean. I'm sorry. Not mean to be creepy to redhead girl."

Dodger. Caecilia sighed. Why couldn't the woman just be normal for once?

"That's fine, Petter. It's all okay. Are you feeling better now?"

He nodded his head, still slumped over in his seat.

"Let's get you something to eat."

"She asked about Stuff Company. I want to say, but… they all around…"

"Perhaps you'd better start from the beginning."

Hong slipped into the bathroom, catching Dodger leaning over the sink, rinsing out locks of her hair. She heard him enter and whirled on him with wide eyes, "What are you doing in here, you idiot?"

"It's a unisex bathroom. And you didn't lock it. What are you doing?"

She snatched up several paper towels, pressing it to her head, "I hit my head getting into my car. Thought I was bleeding so I felt around my scalp to check. My fingers were full of ketchup."

"Do you take pleasure in being a pretentious twit pretending to be a loveable screwball?"

"The fuck did I do?"

"You had us waste a week tracking down and harassing a mentally challenged man," Hong held up a notepad, and pushed it against Dodger's chest before turning and leading the way out of the bathroom, "You spooked him, then ran off with the wild idea that he was an anomalous ghost-whisperer or some shit. Read."

"I… what?" She glanced at the notepad. It had notes taken down by Hong of the interview with Cortez and Vangen.

"Final analysis," Hong explained without letting her read it all, "The guy's not anomalous and doesn't speak to strange people. He's mentally disabled and you cornered him without his handler and freaked him out. He thought you were playing games with him, so he played along. Fed you some shit from a movie. Fight Club or some shit."

"I didn't even…" She looked down at the notes, heart racing as she foresaw the pancaking layers of shit coming down on her for this, "What the fuck did I do wrong?"

Hong snorted, seeing Dodger apparently on the brink of a panic attack, "Calm down, Christ's sake. Story's clear-cut, exactly as it appears; Vangen starts a company, loses his shit somewhere down the line. Add copious amounts of alcohol and he's fried. Company closes down and he gets the help he needs. Good for him."

"What about the board? The lab techs, office people, no one knowing shit about each other? Who organized them and kept them up and running and paid for a decade?"

"Don't know."

"What about the products they put out? The profits they turned? Why can't we find any of it?"

"As far as we know, they probably dumped it all, or sold it on the black market."

"How did they get started? Did he tell you?"

Hong shrugged, "Guy says they had a packet of paper. Paper had some kind of portal on one side. Only had like four sheets."

"How did they make more of it? How did they make the miracle pills, the blacksmith robot, the whatever-the-fuck-else they've got floating around out there?"

Hong spread his arms out in a helpless gesture, and turned away to leave. Dodger crumbled up the paper and threw it at his departing frame, "There's more to this, Hong!"

"There probably is. If you find out what it is, you'll be a hero."

"What about his brother, Siggy? What if I find him and talk to him?"

Hong quickly knelt down, scooping up the crumbled paper, and tossing it back to Dodger, "I told you to read. There is no 'Siggy'. Vangen made him up. Alternate personality, alias, or imaginary friend, doesn't matter. Vangen himself doesn't even know why."

"Someone must know something."

"Someone probably does. But with the amount of people we've tracked down and talked to already, what are the chances of getting any definitive hold on this joke of a company, much less actually finding some of their remaining unsold products?"

Dodger cracked her knuckles, and pressed them into her lips, thinking back on all she'd heard and gone through thus far this month. "A lone nut starts a company, suddenly it occupies an entire office building and staffs hundreds, churns out anomalous products and makes a profit, and no one involved has any clue how…"

"Dodger —"

"It's like everyone in a single place suddenly gather together and start to dance. No one knows how to dance, or what kind of dance they're doing, yet they all dance, and they dance well. Better than average."

"Dodger, it's done. This is not worth our time and resources to pursue any further. These people aren't the only peddlers of anomalous garbage out there, and nowhere near the best. Personally, I'm fond of Wondertainment's crap. And Wondertainment actually donates things directly to us. What if we find a 'Stuff Co.' product and the owner doesn't wanna part with it? What then?"

Dodger kept her knuckles against her lips, hopes of any salvaging this situation dying away quickly.

"Enjoy your vacation, Dodger. When you come back, Cortez and Kone have got some work for you to do in Somalia. I recommend doing some research on a place called Laascaanood."

"Bye," She mumbled, slumping against the doorway, finally letting Hong get back to work.

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