Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 3, Scene 3

TOC page here.

Last in this chapter we get the victim’s family. To homicide detectives, family are always the first place to look for suspects; watch Law & Order, and if there’s a teenage daughter in the family, she did it. Up until now, Diana and Mustapha had better leads, but now they’re back to square one. There’s someone out there who knew Alex’s movements well enough to impersonate Rosa. Is it any of these guys, and how can you tell?

Alex Dawson was survived by a father and at least three brothers, and all four men looked just like Alex. To Mustapha, it looked fake, like they were a bunch of actors picked to be brothers. All of them were drinkers, too; it was usually a little harder to tell with black guys, because they didn’t get the red in the cheeks and nose, but Mustapha had been pretty good friends with the bottom of a bottle back about 20 years ago, and he was hard to fool. The dad was already half in the bag on what smelled like gin and tonic, and Mustapha would bet his Mustang that the tallest brother had a pint bottle of something in his coat pocket. None of them looked surprised, but Mustapha gave them credit for being broken up about it, anyway.

“I don’t want you to think I’m cold, Officer,” said the youngest brother, who had already smoked three cigarettes in about five minutes. “But Alex’s lifestyle? We all knew where it was going to lead.”

The father shook his head. “Just tell me my boy died with a little dignity: can you do that?”

Mustapha knew Diana wanted to answer the question, but he also knew none of these guys wanted to hear it from a cute little white girl. “Mr. Dawson,” he said, “what did the patrol officer tell you when he came to get you?”

“He didn’t say nothing. I was at church; he spoke to Reverend Carter, and they came and told me Alex was dead. He done freeze to death?”

“That would be my guess, Daddy,” said the middle brother, who was about three sizes fatter than the other three men. “That or some kind of overdose.”

“Oh, dear,” said Diana.

“What are you saying, honey?” said the father.

“What church is that, sir?” asked Mustapha.

“Cascade Road Baptist,” said the youngest brother. “Reverend Carter has been a great source of support for our family.”

The youngest brother lit another cigarette. “Are you trying to tell us something, Detective?”

“Well,” said Mustapha, “I’m sorry to bring you bad news, but your brother’s death wasn’t an accident.”

“He’s going to burn in hell,” said the father.

The middle brother placed a hand on his father’s shoulder. “The Lord will have mercy on him, Daddy. Alex was a troubled soul.”

“I’m sorry,” said Diana. “I think you’ve misunderstood. It wasn’t a suicide, either; we’re investigating Alex’s death as a homicide.”

“He was murdered?” The father actually seemed happy about this, or at least happier. “Who done it?”

The oldest brother nodded. “A lot of those people Alex hangs out with were bad news.”

Mustapha held up a hand. “We don’t know who it was, folks. But we’re going to find out. Now, I know you’re not going to appreciate this, but we need to know where each of you were between about six and ten o’clock this evening.”

“Now wait just a God damn minute,” said the father.

Now the middle brother was holding his father’s hand. “It’s okay, Daddy. They always think family members are suspects.”

“Most of the time,” said the youngest, “they right.”

“I don’t mean no disrespect,” said the father. “I’m just upset because my son is dead. Even though I knew this was going to happen a long time ago. I was in church, and so were Tyrell and Charlie here.” He indicated the two older brothers.

“Two weddings and a funeral,” said the oldest brother. “We run an electrical supply company, and we do lights and sound for the church.”

“And if I went and talked to Reverend Carter,” said Mustapha, “he’d say you were there the whole time?”

“None of us killed Alex, Detective,” said the youngest brother. “I’m not much of a churchgoer, but I had my kids this afternoon. I took them to the indoor water park out by Six Flags.”

Mustapha panned his gaze slowly from brother to brother to father to brother. The middle brother was the only one that seemed hinky, but he looked like a lifelong small-timer. “Thanks, fellas. I’m sorry for your loss. When was the last time any of you saw Alex?”

“Fourth of July,” said the oldest and youngest brother at the same time.

“Came to the family picnic,” continued the youngest. “Behaved fine, too.”

The middle brother nodded. “First time in years he didn’t fall in the pool or try to wrestle the dog.”

The youngest brother started to laugh, then stopped, embarrassed, then laughed again. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“It’s okay, Ray-Ray,” said the father. “I seen him about two weeks ago.”

“You did?” said the middle brother.

The father nodded. “I just saw him on the street, on Memorial, when I was driving back from that job over in Kirkwood. So I took him out to lunch.”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” said the oldest brother.

“Cos I knew you were going to get that tone in your voice, Tyrell. And you were going to give me lip for giving your brother $50.”

“Dad!”

“You see what I mean? I knew he was going to spend that money on liquor, but he’s my own son.” A tear streamed down the man’s cheek. “My own damn son.”

“Mr. Dawson?” Diana used her polite social worker voice. “Can you tell us anything that seemed unusual about Alex, when you saw him?”

The man slowly shook his head. “He was the same as always. No place to live, no job, no future… but none of that mattered to him.”

Mustapha sighed. “This is going to be kind of an awkward question, but was Alex a Muslim? Did he ever talk about converting to Islam or anything like that?”

“Islam?” said the middle brother. “Don’t they forbid alcohol?”

The youngest brother was still trying not to laugh. “Alex never went to church since he was about thirteen.”

“It’s true,” said the oldest. “He never had any use for the Lord.”

Diana gave it one more try. “Maybe he was… trying to turn over a new leaf? Hook up with something that totally prevented him from drinking?”

The father snorted. “Girl, you never knew my son. A bottle of cheap whiskey was the only church he ever knew.”

Who done it? Any of them? In the final version, the brothers will be a little more clearly differentiated. But do any of them seem like they have any reason to kill their brother? Dad gave him $50; the middle brother is a little hinky; the youngest isn’t a churchgoer so is the most likely one to go for Islamic iconography. But none of them benefit directly from Alex’s death, and they all seem to have accepted him for who he was; so for now, another dead end, which is the main theme of this chapter.

On to Chapter 4.

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

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