Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 2, Scene 2

Chapter 2 Scene 1.

Taking up where we left off, this gives us Mustapha, Diana and Keller going over the scene once again, and giving further depth both to M/D’s relationship and to the Reaper killings.

Mustapha’s voice brought her out of her reverie. “How many of the Reaper’s victims were strangled?”

“Three. No, four. But… those were all silk scarves.” She pointed at the groove incised in Dawson’s swollen throat. “This was a regular electrical cord.”

Keller laughed dryly. “Stoph, you never have to remember anything anymore, do you?”

Diana turned around and stepped down next to Dawson’s feet. “He makes me drive most of the time, too.”

Mustapha growled, “That’s because you get grumpy when I listen to classic rock.” He took a deep breath and stood up. “I’m glad you called me, Dee. This is… ambiguous, I guess is my word.”

“Looks straight-up to me,” said Keller. “Or else it’s a copycat.”

“Right. But ligature strangulation is outside the usual MO. Demographics are a little bit wrong, too.”

Diana nodded. “There are only two other male victims.”

“So he’s branching out,” said Keller.

“Maybe I’m just doing a little wishful thinking here,” said Mustapha. “It’s been a few months, and I’m still recovering from dealing with all the politics and other bullshit.”

“I thought you liked being the center of attention,” said Keller.

Mustapha jerked a thumb at Diana. “No, it’s her who likes to be on TV.”

Diana rolled her eyes. “That was a quid pro quo, and you know it.”

“You got Hollywood on the brain: don’t deny it. Anyway, Dave, you have no idea how many lunatics called in with tips about the Reaper.”

“Oh, Lord,” said Diana. “And we had to follow up on each and every one of them, just in case.”

“You were on vacation, so you missed the whole thing about the different saints in the different Catholic churches.”

Diana shook her head. “Four whole days of my life I will never get back.”

“Right,” said Keller. “But if you don’t work it like it is the Reaper–“

“And some college girl decides it’s a good idea to walk home alone,” began Mustapha.

“It’ll be all of our asses.”

Diana said, “So what I think Mustapha and I are really asking you to do, Dave, is take this poor fellow back to the lab yourself and don’t let anyone other than you and Dr. Posh examine him.” Diana caught Mustapha’s eye. “And then… well, not ignore evidence–“

Mustapha finished the sentence for her. “—sort of maybe give greater weight to whatever’s ambiguous.”

Keller stood up, grinning. “Was that your word of the day from your desk calendar?” He took his cigarettes from the pocket of his coveralls, then took two long steps away from the body before lighting up.

“Hey, it was her idea.”

“But you outrank her.”

“I have a partner with initiative.”

“That’s what they call it these days. But yes, I can pull rank on this if you want me to. Dr. Posh: well, that’s up to her.”

“Don’t worry,” said Diana. “I’ll ask her.”

“And it won’t be long before bigger fish come sniffing around.” Keller took out his specimen jar, opened it, and dropped the cigarette into it before closing it and putting it away.

They all flinched as the TV lights went on. Andrea Blitts from DNN was reporting from the sidewalk fifty feet away, and the crew from Channel Five was getting warmed up beyond her. At least the sergeant had done his job properly, so that neither the victim nor the investigators were in the field of either camera. Keller got back to work while Mustapha waved over a couple of patrolmen to stand in between the victim and the cameras, just in case.

He rejoined Diana at the curb. “So for now, this is just a public… I mean, garden-variety homicide. Let’s go find the girlfriend.”

Note how much attention here the media gets. This isn’t just background decoration: the media, and what it puts out to the public, is going to be a key feature of this novel. The public is going to “know” this is terrorism, or the Reaper, or both; and it’s going to be our detectives’ task to stay focused on the crime itself without making these kinds of assumptions, even when media pressure is going to inspire the higher-ups to insist they look at the murder in this way.

We also get more on Keller, but not enough to draw a conclusion: is he measuring his own smoking, or just keeping the crime scene clean? And we allude to Dr. Posh, whoever she is: a recurring character, if you read the short stories, but if you’ve just picked this novel up, this scene is intended to add depth to the forensic side of things without spending too much time on it.


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  1. Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 2, Scene 3 | Julian Cage
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  3. Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 2, Scene 5 | Julian Cage
  4. Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 2, Scene 1 | Julian Cage

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