TOC page here.
We’ve already had a press conference, and now we’re going to have a TV interview. How these crimes play out in the media is a major topic of this novel: pretty soon, we’re going to get Internet comments. Nothing brings the id of Atlanta to the surface quite so quickly as a controversy over the homeless.
Ninety minutes later, Diana was in front of the cameras again, but this time only two cameras, in the DNN studio off Edgewood where the hipsters lived, resisting with all her will the urge to scratch the pancake makeup off her face. Andrea Blitts sat across from her, a sleek 21st-century prototype, more human than human, perfectly comfortable in the makeup. “There are a lot of white vans in Atlanta, Detective Siddall.”
“Don’t we know it. But someone told us they saw Alex Dawson get into one, and that means someone else saw that van, too. We know there are many, many people who come out and help the homeless: church groups, students, just regular folks. But what we don’t have is anything like a central registry for charitable people. So that’s where your viewers–”
“Yes; where they can help. Do you know someone who does freelance or organized charity work? Ask them to talk to us.”
“The Hotline’s right on the bottom of the screen.”
“Maybe they’ve seen a group who uses a white van. And not just any old van: a big commercial one, the sort that businesses use as delivery trucks. Andrea, can you put up the picture?”
“We sure can, Detective Siddall. So, Newshounds, if you’ve seen a big van like this near groups of homeless people, call the number at the bottom of your screen. Or star eight nine seven on your cellphone for the DNN Newshound Hotline, and we’ll pass it on.”
Once the lights were down, Diana slumped in her seat. Andrea remained pert. “Would y’all go the extra mile for a homeless man without the links to the Reaper or terrorism?”
“Apparent links. What we don’t want is panic. And the official APD answer to your question is that Mr. Dawson was a citizen and deserves our full attention.”
“The cameras are off, you know.”
“I’ve learned to watch what I say.”
“Where’s the fun in that?”
“More like, the non-fun of a public panicked by racism and fear?” At Andrea’s eyeroll, “I know. Despite the ratings bonanza terrorists or the Reaper would generate, you are a patriot, and public safety is your first concern.”
“Of course it is.” Her nose twitched; she briefly looked almost human. “I saw Grace’s film. The one about the Sweet Auburn district.”
“Oh, that’s one of my favorites. My little muckraker. Little: she’s taller than I am.”
“I still feel bad about–”
“Don’t. You were right. Did either of us like it, at first? No. But no matter how much I love my kid, she really isn’t pretty enough to make it big in front of the camera. So now she’s behind it, and good on you for helping her get there.” Diana stood up, detached the lapel mike. “I really need someone to peel this mask off me, right now. Time to go troll Renaissance Park for do-gooders who might have seen something.”
“You hear anything juicy? Call me, first.”
We move the plot forward a bit by getting the white van out in front of the sort of people who feel kinship with a corporate news station. We get a meeting between old frenemies, who understand that even though they want very different things out of Alex Dawson’s murder, their interests merge here, so it’s useful to work together. And most importantly, we get some background on Grace. Why is she in coveralls, smoking a joint, editing a film? Because Andrea Blitts told her she isn’t pretty enough for TV. Why and when and how did this happen? It doesn’t matter, because we get to see that Andrea, despite how she’s played for laughs as an android, is actually a responsible, sensitive person. People have layers—even homeless people, which is one of the points of telling this story.