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them to him if his case turned out well. "It's better for you if you give us
the things than if you leave them in the storeroom," they said. "Things
have a tendency to go missing in the storeroom, and after a certain
amount of time they sell things off, whether the case involved has come
to an end or not. And cases like this can last a long time, especially the
ones that have been coming up lately. They'd give you the money they
got for them, but it wouldn't be very much as it's not what they're
offered for them when they sell them that counts, it's how much they get
slipped on the side, and things like that lose their value anyway when
they get passed on from hand to hand, year after year." K. paid hardly
any attention to what they were saying, he did not place much value on
what he may have still possessed or on who decided what happened to
them. It was much more important to him to get a clear understanding of
his position, but he could not think clearly while these people were here,
the second policeman's belly - and they could only be policemen - looked
friendly enough, sticking out towards him, but when K. looked up and
saw his dry, boney face it did not seem to fit with the body. His strong
nose twisted to one side as if ignoring K. and sharing an understanding
with the other policeman. What sort of people were these? What were
they talking about? What office did they belong to? K. was living in a
free country, after all, everywhere was at peace, all laws were decent and
were upheld, who was it who dared accost him in his own home? He
was always inclined to take life as lightly as he could, to cross bridges
when he came to them, pay no heed for the future, even when
everything seemed under threat. But here that did not seem the right
thing to do. He could have taken it all as a joke, a big joke set up by his
colleagues at the bank for some unknown reason, or also perhaps be-
cause today was his thirtieth birthday, it was all possible of course,
maybe all he had to do was laugh in the policemen's face in some way
and they would laugh with him, maybe they were tradesmen from the
corner of the street, they looked like they might be - but he was nonethe-
less determined, ever since he first caught sight of the one called Franz,
not to lose any slight advantage he might have had over these people.
There was a very slight risk that people would later say he couldn't un-
derstand a joke, but - although he wasn't normally in the habit of learn-
ing from experience - he might also have had a few unimportant occa-
sions in mind when, unlike his more cautious friends, he had acted with
no thought at all for what might follow and had been made to suffer for
it. He didn't want that to happen again, not this time at least; if they were
play-acting he would act along with them.
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