The Worst Mystery – Chapter 10: Bait

“JUSTICE FOR JONES! JUSTICE FOR JONES!”

That’s not one you hear every day. But you do hear it sometimes, which really shocks me, especially for a bunch of Labor Party people. Do they really think she was a supporter? Surely Jones was like, Green Party or something. Is. Hopefully is.

Yep, this is what we’re doing.

We’re gonna use the Labor Party protestors to cause damage to the auto-conbini and get it sent off for repairs. I’d say we were really lucky that the Labor Party mayoral primary debates are tonight, starting in just half an hour in fact. But really, there’s Labor Party protests like four times a month, so it isn’t really anything special.

Karina’s finally looking happy again. Well, happy is downplaying it. Positively giddy, is what I should say. On one hand, it’s good to see her in a better mood. On the other hand, it’s mostly at the idea of causing harm to a political party she dislikes. So I’m not sure that it’s a net positive.

“We’re actually doing this,” she says. “I’m speechless.”

“You aren’t speechless,” I say.

“It’s a figure of… um, speech.”

I flash a wink her way, but she’s already turned her attention back towards the small crowd of two dozen or so protestors yelling around at this random street corner. I very much doubt they have a permit to be here.

“SHAME ON YOU! WE DON’T NEED NEW! SHAME ON YOU! WE DON’T NEED NEW!”

While the sympathetic-for-the-Social-Media-Killer chants were vocal, the main line of protest is a rhyming condemnation of the New Hope Party that has, under Epstein, ruined the city with its anti-worker fiscal policies and all that kind of stuff. It’s catchy but the entire slogan amounts to little more than, “Yellow Team Bad.”

Most of the people here are young, and white, and angry, the three factors that combine to make up a large number of the rowdiest protests in Atlanta these days. Despite Aisha Baker’s dominance in the Labor Party right now, it’s not much of a surprise to see this entire protest group be mostly composed of college kids from SCAD Atlanta or something. In the past, people of color had dominated the Labor Party, but the rise of the New Hope Party kind of “dispersed” things, and it seems like the party these days looks less like the diverse rallies of its heydays, and looks more like a bunch of… well, people like me.

Like, this pasty girl with long black hair in front of me, holding up a sign that says “Aisha Baker Has No Bread” while shouting at the robots, kind of eerily looks just like an alternate me, a me that had chosen a different path in life, a me whose hatred for robots had turned into political activism. She even has glasses, just like I did in high school (what, I didn’t tell you I used to wear glasses? Yeah, right up to the time R8PR saved my life and my vision got cybernetically enhanced. Cool, ain’t it?). She looks like she genuinely believes her protests could help change the city for the better, and I really respect that even if I know the sad, cold truth that the system is simply rigged against all of us and there is no point in doing anything to try and fix it. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be a kid again, unlike my current self at the ripe old age of 22.

Well, this is certainly the part of Atlanta to be having a Labor Party protest, anyway. We’re on a commercial street near Buckhead, kind of closed off from the neon lights and holographic frenzy of the downtown, and more like a page out of some ritzy Old Manhattan night-on-the-town kind of rich people’s place. It’s got a big theater (or theatre, I guess) that hosts musicals and operas and stuff, and instead of ice cream shops it’s frozen yogurt shops. 

Normally, with a protest and a rich people street, I’d be complaining all about this, but the fact it’s a Wednesday night means there’s very few people out and about other than the protestors, and that’s going to make our plan way easier.

“The auto-conbini will arrive on this street in three minutes,” Lamar says. “We gotta rile up this crowd.”

“And how.” Karina’s staring at the crowd with some intense fervor.

“And how will we do it?” I ask.

“I think I have just the plan,” she says. “It might be difficult to pull off.”

It isn’t.

When the auto-conbini shows up, it parks on the street a couple car-lengths away from the protest and opens up its wares. At that moment, Lamar shouts, “Fuck those Street Chasers! Fuck robots!” and half the protestors follow suit. It is less than thirty seconds before they rush the vehicle and start screaming around it.

So, in the midst of all this chaos, I just kinda… sorta… take my fist and…

POP!

One of the tires blows out. The protest scatters immediately, us included.

I like to think of myself not as a criminal here, but as a thoughtful being who just wanted everyone to get home so they could watch their party’s political debate. It’s a lot better now that they’re safe and sound, rather than being on the streets!

Soon enough, the police come by and check things out, yell at a couple people and fill out some paperwork. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one who did any damage to the thing; some of the protestors must have keyed it and kicked it, because it’s covered in scratches and dents.

The three of us loiter in a nearby Kirk’s for a little bit (see, I knew my patience would pay off in a juicy hot dog!), and once the coast is clear from authorities, we take back off to the broken-down vehicle. 

“This plan is slightly less dumb than when we snuck into Mayor Epstein’s office as pizza deliverymen,” says Karina.

“It worked, right?”

“We’ll see about that.”

“And then you’ll be able to say you solved your very first case.”

Before Karina can protest that, Lamar points and says, “There’s the repair truck. Get ready to jump on.”

I kind of wish it were harder, because right now describing how flawlessly this plan is going, how phenomenally successful we are thanks to my tremendous skill in nearly every respect, but unfortunately, we jump on the back of the auto-conbini as the robot-driven repair truck tows it away, and it goes off without a hitch. What a tragedy that we didn’t have to risk our lives…

Whatever facility we’re going to, I sure hope it’s as easy as this.

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