We left off with Diana and Mustapha agreeing with the chief that Mario’s death was unlikely to be solved and that they had about three weeks until another monthly killing happened. But our detectives will continue to investigate. Here, they return to the shelter:
Mustapha tipped the thermos up again, thinking it might magically create another drop of coffee. Ddin’t matter, at this point. He handed it to Diana, who stuffed it in her bag as they walked up to the entrance to Peachtree-Pine. The same punk was at the door. “G’wan in, y’all,” the guy said with a smug grin.
Mustapha got right up in the guy’s grill, used his chest to shove hi back against the doorframe. From six inches above, he stared right down until the guy flinched. He kept his own voice low. “Do you really want Homicide detectives to have a good reason to know your name? Do you want us to find a parole violation somewhere?”
“Man, I got–”
“Nothing, is what you got. You wanna get your life together, you gotta learn to get along with other people. Here’s your first lesson: don’t fuck with us. Cooperate, or stay out of our way. And lose the attitude.”
Diana said in Cheerful Voice, “Have you been here all night, Mr. Buchanan?”
“Yeah.” He’d gone Yard Blank in the way of cons and ex-cons everywhere.
“And can others verify this? Then you have no earthly reason to attract our attention.”
He felt Diana slip in between him and the far edge of the doorframe. She started to walk back to Longstreet’s office, then thought better of it. “Say, Mr. Buchanan: since you’re such a helpful guy right now, maybe you can tell me about a guy you know, named Red?”
“Don’t know nobody by that name.” At Mustapha’s growl, “Ma’am.” At a louder growl, “I know of him. Before my time, hear?”
“Go on,” said Mustapha, easing up on the pressure just a hair.
“Ain’t much to say. Okay, okay. He… he went an’ joined the real world. Got himself clean, did the program, got back in touch with his kin out there somewhere. They got him an apartment clean out yonder in the suburbs, keep him near his sister and away from the temptations of the wanderin’ life.”
He stopped, looked back and forth at them both. “What y’all want? I ain’t met the man, and he didn’t come back to give the rest of us no pep talk.”
Diana shifted her gaze; Mustapha turned to meet it and grinned. He leaned into Buchanan again. “Cool story, bro. You oversold it, but it was plausible.”
Diana said, “Because most of it was true. Best way to lie. All Mr. Buchanan here did was shift it back in time.”
Mustapha stared down the guy until he wilted. “Red only left a few months ago, douchebag. The guy went through your program. You had group therapy with him.”
Diana said, “So why lie? Just force of convict habit? You see, I want to talk to Red. And now you’re getting in our way, after having been told not to.”
“Real politely, too,” added Mustapha.
“Indeed. I’m beginning to understand why Mr. Buchanan here has had such trouble holding onto a job.”
“One more time, punk,” said Mustapha. “Names. Dates. Addresses.”
Buchanan kept the Yard Glare up for a second, probably just for pride. Then, “Fuck, man. I truly do not know the brother’s real name. I think it’s Charles or something like that. When his kin came to fetch him, I wasn’t right up close. Last name? No idea; truth. His sister is one o’them stay at home moms, her husband they all called Doctor.” He screwed up his face for a second. “Miller? Tiller? I didn’t catch it. But it wouldn’t matter, cos Red wouldn’ta had the same last name.”
Mustapha backed off, let the guy have a foot or so of space. “Go on.”
“Well, now the brother, Red’s brother, I never heard a name at all. But he was a preacher. That might could help you.”
Diana asked, “Had you seen him before?”
“How did you know he was a preacher?”
“You been inside, or livin’ on the street? You know one when you see one.”
“When did you see these people?”
“At night; there was a party.”
Mustapha said, “She means, what date?”
“Oh. In the fall. Like, the hot part of the fall. But I don’t know where they was taking him. They looked like they was from the suburbs, was all.”
We’ve met Henry Buchanan before: he’s Claire Longstreet’s guard dog. But he knows how to roll over, and more importantly, he almost knows who the elusive Red is. Red, like William Knight earlier in the book, is on the way out of being homeless and back into the real world. But again, we have a throwaway line: the best way to lie is to tell the truth. Keep an eye out for more of that.