Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 5, Scene 4a

TOC page here.

The last scene ended with Diana and Mustapha talking about Claire Longstreet’s letting her pastoral counseling efforts be called the Lazarus Program. Longstreet ended with “Like I said, I didn’t make up the name.”

In the car, Diana said, “But she didn’t change it, either. She’s letting her clients call her Jesus.”

“And she sure doesn’t look like a Mexican dude.” Mustapha pulled the car away from the curb, waved at Officer Slaughter, who waved back, and at Brown, who didn’t. He turned right onto Peachtree, eyeing the hospital on the other side of the street. “I don’t blame her for being paranoid, though: I can just see the hospital admins wanting to turn this block into offices, maybe a hotel for people visiting their families.” Right on Linden, right on Courtland, heading downtown, past the crowds of homeless milling about on the corner of Pine. “But did she murder this poor guy because he was about to spill the big secret? Whatever that was? We’re spinning our wheels, here.”

Diana said, “Someone’s out there, with voices in his head, and he’s Arab, or Muslim who knows Arabic, and god is calling to him.” She squirmed in her seat. “But then there’s the van. And figuring out Alex has a girlfriend, and taking the trouble to look enough like Rosa to fool Mario.” Before Mustapha could speak, she said, “Who, I admit, has no business on a witness stand. But whoever was in the van fooled Alex, too. That level of planning is incompatible with voices ordering you to kill.”

Mustapha drove down Courtland, between the big hotels, into the zone that used to look neutron bombed but was now getting rebuilt with apartment buildings for students on their parents’ budget. “So there’s two of them, one of those folie à deux things where there’s a prophet and his enabler.”

“Oh, I didn’t think of that one. Sure.” She sighed. “I’m thinking, someone is messing with us. With the city, I mean. And then the question becomes why? Who benefits from sowing chaos, or what happens when we’re focused on this rather than looking out for other things that might happen?” She flipped open the cover on her tablet. “I’m overthinking this. Your idea is better.” She started tapping. “How did our new friend Henry Buchanan wind up in jail?”

Mustapha crossed Edgewood and the streetcar tracks, gunned it up the hillinto Georgia State territory alongside Hurt Park, then found himself swerving over to come to a fast stop at the corner of the park.

Diana braced herself with a knee against the dash. “Careful, cowboy.”

Mustapha pointed across her. “They’re feeding people, in the park.”

Diana kept her eyes on the screen. “Let’s go to Sweet Auburn Market, instead.”

“Feeding homeless people.”

Now she looked up. “Oh, and the women are wearing headscarves.”

They’ve wanted to know about Islamic groups feeding the homeless, and here we are. This short subscene is basically a transition from one scene, Longstreet, to another, where they’ll talk to the Muslims feeding the homeless. But as a writer, these are the best opportunities to add depth to the story. I could have just said, “They drove down Courtland until they came up on a Muslim group feeding the homeless,” which would be workmanlike and sometimes is even a good idea. But here, I can get a few things done:

  • I can redouble, twice, the role of large-scale development in the story. And the second one’s organic: we can see it happening in a second part of intown, for a different but similar reason.
  • I can update their theory of the crime through conversation, not just narration or giving someone’s thoughts. It’s really improbable that one person would commit this precise sort of crime; so maybe two perps would make more sense.
  • I can bring Georgia State slowly but doubly into it, as the university is another big driver of the development.

And all this in just a few paragraphs of conversation. Sometimes, this can be fun.


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

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