Chief Baranowsky, who escorted me from Mayor Epstein’s office back home, follows behind me as we make our way up the stairs.
If he’s expecting a goodbye kiss, he’s not getting one.
“Harding,” he says. “We received a report from a nice lady who heard terrible disturbances in your home the other night. We found traces of blood on your carpet and your apartment is completely destroyed. Why did you fail to report this?”
I wonder if that “nice lady” was my dear sister Marge…
“Is that a crime, sir? It was my house that was invaded. I didn’t feel it warranted a police report.”
I walk up to my apartment door, the knob currently bent in a strange direction. That means the lock probably doesn’t work. I wonder what my apartment looks like now? Probably not in the pristine condition I left it in…
Chief Baranowsky looks at the other officers down at ground level and then back to me. “Even so, you’re a special case. Ignoring us is irresponsible and unbecoming. We know you were involved in the chase near Piedmont Park earlier today, and we could book you on assault of an officer just like that.” He makes the gesture for handcuffing someone.
“Gotta love police officers violating civilians’ rights.”
“Watch your tongue. What I was going to say was, even if I feel this way, Coop Yates has vouched for you, and we aren’t going to take any action. Just please, cooperate with us when you can. We aren’t the villains here. Even Mayor Epstein means well.”
He’s a crony capitalist with a bunch of regrets, but I don’t know if that counts as meaning well. He did ask me to save the city from the Social Media Killer but it almost seems like he cares more about his own legacy than anything else.
Coop Yates, though? Different story altogether. He’s not technically a police officer, but he’s still influential in the city and his help when I first encountered R8PR is the only reason I’m alive today. I’m honored that he still cares about me.
“I’ll keep that in mind, sir,” I say. “As long as you can assure me the Burrow family is safe.”
“Mayor Epstein isn’t involved with their protection, but neither are you. So you gotta stop worrying about it.”
“Can I enter my place?” Hopefully their search didn’t mess everything up even more. If I find a bunch of yellow tape and a body outline in there, I’ll be really angry.
“Goodbye, Harding. Please keep us in mind.” The police officers depart, and I enter my apartment. Fortunately, it’s just like I left it. Unfortunately, I left it in a state of complete disrepair.
On instinct, I begin trying to sweep up some of the broken glass from in front of the TV and dumping it into the correct recycling bin. It’s proving to be quite difficult when one of my arms is currently immobilized by a cast.
I’ve heard broken glass is one of the most useless items to recycle, but Atlanta’s goal is to reduce ninety-nine percent of garbage waste, so they don’t leave anything to chance anymore. I feel bad for all those worker robots that have to sort everything, though. Those recycling plants are sure going to get busy after I send them half the contents of my apartment.
Is there anything here that’s salvageable? My fridge is fine, but it got unplugged and now everything inside of it has spoiled. Disgusting.
I start to go into my bedroom to see if everything is alright there. It’s an extremely small bedroom, and if it didn’t have a sliding door separating it from the living room you couldn’t even say that it was a room, but I–
Jones is standing in front of my bed, brandishing her knives upside-down.
I don’t have time to think.
I charge at her, swinging my free fist towards her and she dodges.
She punches me in the gut. I fall to the ground. Fortunately, she doesn’t pursue a further attack.
After catching my breath, I ask, “What the hell are you doing here?”
In a dramatic gesture, Jones drops her knives to the floor where, of course, they stick straight into my carpet. Geez.
“I want a truce,” she says.