Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 5, Scene 2b

TOC page here.

I got ahead of myself last time, and forgot to add in an important point: the two police officers who will end up becoming important to the narrative. So forgive me for mis-ordering things, but this very brief scene takes place before we meet Henry Buchanan:

Back in Midtown, Mustapha pulled the Lexus around Linden to Courtland and into the Third World. The block bounded by Peachtree, Linden, Courtland and Pine had been given over to the thousand or so men and a few dozen women who slept in the shelter at night and were kept out during the day. There were still a few restaurants and a salon making a go of it on Peachtree, facing the Crawford Long Hospital complex—Emory Midtown, now—that could probably generate a lot of food and retail traffic, but he’d bet two tickets to a Falcons game that none of the doctors, patients or visitors would dare cross Peachtree even at lunchtime. Courtland was just homeless standing or sitting on the sidewalk up and down the block: no wonder the fenced-in, weed-strewn parking lot that used to be a hip-hop club had never been redeveloped. The sunken parking lot on Pine across from the shelter could have been a shantytown if the structures were a little sturdier. The yuppie hive on Pine diagonally across from the shelter had a big, sturdy fence, and burglar bars on the AC units, something you hardly ever saw outside the ghetto. The Episcopal Church further down Courtland had an equally impressive fence surrounding its pristine lawn.

He tooted the horn so he could ease in behind the patrol car APD had to keep there whenever the shelter’s doors were closed; he got the stink-eye from a pair of guys in old Army fatigues before they grudgingly moved out of the way. Two patrol officers, a man and a woman, leaned against the hood of their car. The guy, a sergeant whose name Mustapha thought was Brown, was one of those gym rats who beefed himself up even further by wearing all of the body armor the department would let him get away with; the woman was in regular uniform and had a nice smile to go with some nice curves.

She recognized them right away. She held up her hand to the three guys talking at them, came over to greet Mustapha and Diana. “Detectives. Come by to interrogate a few of these folks?”

“Oh, hey, Officer Slaughter!” said Diana in Girl Tone. “Whose toes did you step on to pull this duty?”

A big grin. “Rotation, ma’am. Lieutenant got sick of people trying to pull favors to swap out of it, started putting everyone’s name in a hat.” She gestured at the crowd milling around them. “At least I’m not on traffic duty. You want to hear some conspiracy theories about your homicide victim? So far I’ve got Emory Midtown doctors, rich businessmen, Obama, Islamic ghosts, and three different kinds of aliens. Oh, and Satan, of course.”

Mustapha laughed. “Write that up in a report for your lieutenant. Is that Claire chick inside?”

Brown said, “Went into the zoo about an hour ago. Hasn’t come out.”

On the way across the street, Mustapha said to Diana, “Her name’s really Slaughter? They ought to make her a sergeant.”

“Nobody, and I mean nobody, has ever made that joke before.”

The first part is infodump, which sometimes just has to happen: the central issue here is that the blocks immediately surrounding Peachtree-Pine are blighted, especially in comparison with the shiny new areas around the neighborhood. Much of intown Atlanta was kind of a dump, back in the 1980s; but everything has grown up and gentrified, except this small pocket of blight.

Infodump is a real problem for novelists: it’s too easy to break the “show, don’t tell” rule. Sometimes it’s fine just to have a couple of paragraphs of narration, but it’s better if you can integrate it into the story, or in this case, Mustapha’s POV. So we’ll drive around the block. Most of this novel takes place in a very small radius, geographically, so it’s likely that I’ll end up putting a map in it, or perhaps some line drawings or photographs. Lots of people have a reason to want Peachtree-Pine gone, is the point here; and not all of their reasons are terrible.

Then we get two new characters: Sergeant Brown and Officer Slaughter. Note that we don’t get to talk to him: all we see is Mustapha’s POV, which is enough to tell us that a) he’s not important to Mustapha the senior Homicide detective, and b) he’s beefy and uparmored. Is this just regular old insecurity or is there something else afoot here? We don’t know yet, and we won’t for a little while; but introducing characters like this with a little broad brush makes it easier to integrate them into the story later on.

As for Officer Slaughter, she’s friendly, well-disposed, part of the network of women that someone like Mustapha is going to always find mysterious. What do we learn? She’s got a sense of humor about a bad detail, and can enjoy it enough to gather information. We’re shown, but not told, that the homeless people will talk to her.

Next.

 

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

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