One of the officers throws a coffee cup at the wall, where it breaks and stains the wall. The older policeman’s name is Jim, and his son, the younger officer, is Jack. They are, as usual, sitting at their desks across from each other, typing up the notes about what they did that day. They don’t get along, as they come from different generations: Jim thinks computers are magic, while Jack takes computers for granted. Jack writes his report, while Jim carefully crafts stories (he wanted to be a writer in his youth). They both have photos of the same woman—Jim’s wife and Jack’s mom—on their desks.
The narrator doesn’t identify which officer threw the coffee cup—but Jack seems the more likely culprit, given how frustrated he is with the situation. Here, the narrator highlights examples of the officers’ generational differences, such as how they view computers, and attributes their interpersonal problems to these differences. However, previous passages have insinuated that it’s really Jim’s overprotectiveness that causes problems, not just that he sees computers as magic.
Jim also has a picture of Jack’s older sister on his desk, but she never comes home for Christmas. This is the biggest difference between the two men: Jack doesn’t chase his sister anymore. It’s impossible to tell when her substance abuse started, but a few years ago, Jim discovered that Jack had liquidated his savings to send his sister to rehab. But she checked herself out after two weeks, and he never got his money back. She sometimes calls asking for money to fly home, but though Jack sends the money, she never comes.
Learning that Jack liquidated his savings to try to help his sister shows that he tried to put his parents’ advice to help anyone he can into practice. But when she checks herself out and continues to ask for money, Jack discovers that perhaps his sister is someone he can’t actually help. This also suggests that helping people isn’t one-sided: the person receiving help has to want it for that help to work. Jack’s sister and the man on the bridge didn’t want help, but perhaps the girl who didn’t jump did.
Now, Jim watches Jack type. Jack is clearly frustrated; he wants to prove himself to the bosses before the Stockholm folks show up. Earlier, Jack stormed into the staff room and snarled that one of the witnesses knows something—and how can they lie when the robber might be dying? Now, Jim throws his coffee cup. He’s even more frustrated than Jack, since he can’t help his son. Jim cleans up the mess while Jack fetches them both fresh coffee (he knows this means a lot to his dad). Jim apologizes for interfering in the interview, and they return to their work. The narrator reveals that they’re both right: the witnesses aren’t telling the truth.
This passage and previous passages have highlighted that a key part of being a parent is wanting to help one’s child. Jim is compelled to throw his coffee cup because in this instance, he can’t help—though it’s not entirely clear why he can’t help, as a police officer with the same access to witnesses and such as Jack. But the narrator continues to emphasize that in this situation, it’s the police versus the witnesses—the witnesses are the ones foiling the police’s efforts.