“I honestly didn’t expect to get caught so easily,” Karina says as we are both escorted down the hallway and around the corner, handcuffed and guns pointed to our sides. “I really thought your plan was going to work.”
“I said it was a stupid plan.”
“Yeah, but I don’t know, that kind of stupid is usually the kind that works. You know?”
“Maybe we did something wrong. Was it the empty pizza boxes that gave it away?”
“Not sure. Maybe it was just too early in the morning for pizza.”
We pass by the same secretary I saw from yesterday, and I wink at her as I pass by. Her dazed expression indicates that Epstein isn’t exactly known for bringing in the same guests twice.
“I said that hokey line about saving you, and it was all for nothing,” I say. “I could have used that somewhere else.”
“Oh, but I’ll be fine. You can use it again and I’ll still swoon,” Karina says.
“That’s nice of you, but it won’t be the same. The swoon won’t be as fulfilling to watch if you already know it’s coming.”
“I’ll have you know, my swoons are top-notch. I was called Swoon-hime in high school.”
“I got called a lot of names in high school. Who knows?”
“My God, just shut up,” one of the guards snaps.
“This is why you always bring the gags, Gary,” the other guard says.
“Well, Mike and his crew were supposed to intercept them. Guess that didn’t work out, huh?”
I miss when Motokawa’s top men were on the case, not her… bottom men. None of them are particularly bright, but at least the good ones are sporting about the snarking-with-your-friends deal. These guys are far from sporting, which is probably why they got put on guard duty instead of assassination-of-a-teenager duty.
We enter Mayor Epstein’s office, and he’s already standing at the center of the room, in front of the deactivated vending machine, his hands behind his back. He’s smiling.
Just yesterday, I was in this office listening to the sad story of a man who gained everything but lost his own way. The story of a man who wanted to redeem himself however he could. It’s clear to me now that, regardless of what he tells himself, he doesn’t actually believe any of that.
I could have forgiven his illegal corporate cronyism with Dreamtech, even if it was at the expense of safety and possibly for nefarious reasons. I could have forgiven him sending thugs to beat me up in the hopes of stopping the Social Media Killer. I am not going to forgive that he refuses to actually ask forgiveness for the main problem in his life– he’s an asshole.
It was always stupid for Jones to have done the ridiculous things she has done, hyping herself up as the simultaneous savior and reaper of the city. But the causes she fights for… aren’t exactly things I disagree with.
…The friggin’ Mayor of Atlanta in front of me, and all I want to do is punch his toothy smile out.
“I see you have succeeded marvelously, Morgan,” Epstein says. “I knew you would lead me to the Social Media Killer, but I did not know you’d up and partner with her.”
“We’re not exactly allies,” I say. “I tried to stop her, but she–”
“No need for explanations,” he interrupts. “It’s all fine. The end result is all that matters. You’ve helped me, and you will be helped in return. I’ll reimburse you for all damaged done to your apartment, and pay for a year’s rent, all in advance. If that ain’t enough to settle things, then I don’t know what will..” He snaps and one of the guards tosses a pistol his way. He catches it and turns the safety off. “And now it’s time for you, Jones Burrow.” He points the gun at Karina.
“Wait!” I shout. “Wait, wait, wait! That’s not Jones!”
Epstein snorts. “What?”
“That’s my dumb friend who has nothing to do with this because I tricked her into helping me!” Karina shoots a nasty look at me but I continue. “I have no idea where Jones is right now and I couldn’t tell you even if you put a gun to my head.” Poor choice of words, gotta admit.
Epstein takes a few steps forward, continuing to point the gun at Karina. “I’m not a moron, Morgan.”
“Come on, Mister Mayor,” I say. “Don’t you want to like, explain your master plan or something like that? Talk about the Dreamtech helmets taking over the city and brainwashing everyone or whatever?”
He smirks. “She told you a lot, didn’t she? A little bit off the mark, but no, I’m not going to tell you anything about that. You just get to watch as the Social Media Killer is wiped from existence.”
Karina starts crying. “Please! I don’t want to die…”
“This is already getting old. What, do you expect some deus ex machina to come flying in through the window and save y’all if you delay this an extra–”
Out of the ventilation shaft bursts Jones, holding two knives in her hands and flying through the air towards Epstein.
She tackles him onto the ground; the pistol goes off in his hand and flies past Karina’s head, just missing her– but hitting the guard behind her square in the forehead. In that moment I rip the cuffs off my wrists and elbow the other guard behind me. He falls to the floor as well.
Jones grabs Epstein, pulling him onto his feet, and puts a knife up to his throat. “You, Ed Epstein, must be judged for your crimes against Atlanta. And that is exactly what I am going to do.”