In this piece, we have setting, plot, character and a little bit of theme:
Claire Longstreet was someone Diana should have met years ago but somehow never had. Most of their enormous circle of mutual acquaintances thought of the director of the Peachtree-Pine shelter as something of a saint, but what Diana saw was a brunette about her own age who desperately needed a great big Sunday dinner and twelve hours’ sleep. Claire’s long, dark hair hung limply over the shoulders of the man’s gray cashmere sweater that concealed most of her upper body. Her legs were long and slender in secondhand jeans, but the boots that rested on her desk were brand-new Timberlands.
“Detective Siddall,” she said in a low, throaty voice. “Nice to finally meet you. I just wish it were under better circumstances.” She closed her eyes and raised the large Styrofoam cup of what smelled like peppermint tea to her nose and took a long, deep breath. “Poor Alex.”
“Yes. We were hoping you could help us search for his killer.”
Claire put down the cup of tea. “People are superstitious, here. They’re all convinced that it was the Reaper.”
“We have no way of knowing that, Ms. Longstreet.”
“Claire, please. Rationality doesn’t always enter into what is believed around here. How can I help you? Would you like some terrible coffee?”
“You make it sound so difficult to resist.” Diana took the bag from her pocket and looked at the name on the card before handing it to him. “Alex Dawson? Is that a real name?”
Claire looked sad for a moment. “It sure is. His family has known this was going to happen for years, and they say they’re ready for it. But it’s not going to be any easier for them than it is for any of the families.”
“What can you tell me about him?”
“Alcohol. Alex just wanted to get drunk, and that was all that ever mattered.”
“Delirium? Or did he get in fights?”
Claire shook her head. “Neither one. Friendly and laughing, for the most part. And quite intelligent. Or at least articulate. But once he got himself a bottle, he was going ahead, straight down into the bottom of it, and there wasn’t anything you, me or anyone else could say that was going to stop him. How did he die?”
“Anyone here maybe have a problem with Alex?”
“You know I’m not going to talk about that. Everyone in the building except some of the staff has been inside since a quarter to seven, just like every night.”
“And none of them might have had a reason to hurt him?”
“Anyone with a bad enough attitude to have a real problem with someone like Alex has a bad enough attitude that he sleeps in one of the peripheral camps. You know where to look. If I really knew anything at all, I would at least point you in that direction. But Alex? He was too easygoing to hate.”
“And you’re not going to let me go into the dormitory and ask if anyone knows about anyone else having a beef with Alex?” Claire shook her head again. “I didn’t think so. But you can go in there and ask, can’t you?”
“Come back in half an hour and I’ll see if there’s a story to be told.” But Diana was only halfway to the front door before Claire called after her.
In terms of setting, what we have here is more of a physical description of Claire. The rewrite will probably give a very short description of Claire’s office and how it does and does not conform to Diana’s expectations; but perhaps not, because Claire’s outfit takes on that role for Diana. At some point, we’re going to have to go into the shelter itself, but this will wait for now.
For character, we’re more interested here in Claire than in Diana, who is maybe a tiny bit more of a recording angel than I’d like her to be here. Claire is telling us about Alex, but she’s also showing Diana a few things about herself, which implies that this needs a little dash of us being shown something about Diana through her perception of Claire. We see how Claire is very protective of her residents, and nobody’s fool. Claire is a fictional character; if you familiarize yourself with the Peachtree-Pine story, she’s intended to be someone brought in to replace the current leaders, and to take the center in a different direction.
Meanwhile, Alex gets a description guaranteed to make anyone but the most cynical Homicide detective think he’s the last person to get involved in criminal behavior. “Too easygoing to hate,” indeed. It makes Claire seem more suspect, as does her finding someone right away.
For theme, we have the contrast between tired and alert and between old and new in Claire, and an analogous dichotomy in Alex. We’ll see what happens as the detectives follow them both up.