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Now Diana gets to cheer up by talking to homeless people. But here’s a guy who mostly talks back:
At the door was a skinny guy with enough wear on him to be homeless, but with a fresh haircut and clean clothes. And an attitude. “Ms. Longstreet said she already talked to y’all folks. She’s busy, today.” He didn’t even flinch at Cop Glare. “Go on: she’ll call you, she’s got something to say.”
Mustapha cocked his head. “Y’all have enough problems. You really want more?”
Diana went for politeness, like usual. “Perhaps you could ask Ms. Longstreet if she’d spare the time.”
The guy just stared back, then nodded. A shadow in a corner of the entryway got up and trotted inside.
Mustapha cleared his throat to give the guy an earful, but Diana got there first. “Maybe you can help us, Mr.–”
His mouth wrinkled. “Call me Henry.” She held up her phone; the guy turned his head.
“All right, pal,” said Mustapha. “Smile for the camera and cough up your ID.” At his hesitation, “Attitude will get you somewhere unpleasant, real fast. We’re trying to find whoever killed your friend Alex Dawson. Maybe save some other homeless guy’s life.”
“He wasn’t my friend.” But the guy relented. Henry Buchanan was thirty-nine, maybe five years older than Mustapha would have guessed. “I ain’t homeless,” he said. “I live here.”
“Cut the crap.”
Buchanan’s nostrils flared. “What I mean is, I’m back on track to getting my life together: I live here, and I work here. Right now, I’m watching the door, so Ms. Claire can get some work done without being interrupted.”
Diana said, “Mr. Buchanan, is this some kind of formal program you’re involved in?” The guy nodded. “What’s it involve?”
A long look, then a shrug. “Therapy. Counseling. Like a twelve-step program, only more one-on-one.”
“Is this a religious thing?”
Another shrug. “Submitting to the will of God is part of it.”
Mustapha said, “Yeah, but which god?”
“They’s all one, Detective.” Buchanan did a double-take. “Oh, I see what you mean, because of Alex. This ain’t no Muslim thing: that’s for Seventies boo-geois ni… black folks. Ms. Claire is a Christian minister. Jesus’ path is the one I’m trying real hard to walk. Are you saved, Detective?”
“Yeah, by the bell.” He pointed beyond Buchanan to where the shadow had reentered the room. The shadow was a woman—really, a girl, maybe seventeen once you took away the street. Buchanan turned, she nodded, Mustapha took pleasure in body-checking the guy as he went through the door. But skinny as he was, Buchanan still stood his ground.
So we wouldn’t notice this guy—your attention wouldn’t be drawn to him—if he were just the doorkeeper. There are all kinds of bells and whistles around Henry Buchanan that should clue us in to his being meaningful later on, just like we got all kinds of additional information about Bill Knight a couple of chapters ago.
He’s five years older than Mustapha thinks. So he’s less aged by the stress of the streets than most of them. Why? No idea, right now. He doesn’t flinch at Cop Glare, he backtalks them, tries to avoid being intimidated. A hard guy, and hard for it’s own sake, because he could just as easily have stepped and fetched and thus not attracted their notice.
But once he’s been put in his place, he relents and gives away more about the program he’s in than maybe he should have done. So, despite the attitude a useful source. Compare and contrast him with Ms. Claire, who we’re about to meet.