Celebratory Gunfire

Personally, I don’t associate the two; but plenty of people do, here in Atlanta and all over the world. New Year’s Eve? Someone gets shot in metro Atlanta almost every year, not because of the usual causes like small-scale robbery or a conflict over a parking space, but because somebody decides to ring in the new year by pointing their pistol up in the air and emptying the clip.

This would be harmless but for what goes up coming back down at roughly the same speed. Here’s a local story about a beloved woman in an impoverished neighborhood sitting on her porch and killed by a local man engaging in celebratory gunfire. Looks like the cops got the guy, which will make Mildred Martin’s family slightly less sad—and also represents impressive police work. A bullet fired into the air can travel up to a mile in any direction: for those of you playing at home, the bullet will go farthest if you point the muzzle of the gun 45 degrees from the vertical.

So let’s turn this sad tale into crime fiction. Same situation, different victim: our purpose here is not to further upset Ms. Martin’s family. If it’s just Random Guy firing into the air and killing our victim, it’s tragic, but it’s not especially dramatic in fictional terms.

Nevertheless, it could be a good procedural story, as we have Diana and Mustapha drawing a circle on a map (or rather, Mustapha doing that and Diana using her tablet to draw a digital circle, and the two of them bickering about it) and then tracing a path through that circle, asking who heard gunshots, and gradually honing in on the source. They might even discover someone else using a firearm for a deliberate crime while they do it.

Better yet is to add irony to the story through either killer or victim. Have the victim be either someone who has just got the all-clear after a severe medical crisis, or just got out of prison, and is enjoying a day on the porch, free of anxiety for the first time in years. Have the perp be someone who has a really good reason to engage in celebratory gunfire: they just got out of prison, or got the all-clear from a medical crisis. For even more irony, have the shooter be celebrating life: his daughter just had the grandkid they’d all be waiting for.

Or make it deliberate. Have the shooter’s wife be the real shooter. She’s upset because when her abusive husband got put away for manslaughter, she thought he’d be away for fifteen years. But he found Jesus in prison, and Georgia is at the forefront of prison reform here in the USA (believe it or not, that’s actually true) so he’s released early, without enough warning for her and the kids to get away. Now Daddy’s back, and the wife is worried. So she serves Daddy a celebratory cocktail with some tranquilizers in it, then wraps his hand round the gun and fires, then has her friend down the street phone in the gunshots—the theory here being that Daddy, as a convicted felon, will go back to jail if caught in possession of a firearm.

Trouble is, the wife did not consider that what goes up must come down. So she’s all satisfied when the cops show up to take Daddy back to prison where he belongs; but only at the end does she find out they’re there for felony murder, not for illegal possession of a firearm. And only then does she find out that the victim is by happenstance someone dear to her.

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