Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 6, Scene 5a

TOC page here.

In the last scene, we got a vivid story from a homeless man. Now, let’s hear a guy with a job and a place to live tell one:

Mickey Strauss from the Kidney Foundation was the picture of long-term fatigue and stress. He took one look at the sketch and sighed, then handed it back and massaged his temples. “Man, I do not need this. Y’all are going to take the van, impound it and keep it for like a month, aren’t you?”

Diana said, “Probably not a whole month.”

Mustapha said, “Right now, we just want to look at it, maybe follow up with your records where it was the other night. Were going to need a list of whoever has access to the van, too.”

“Sheeit. There’s two teams of guys that use it.” He looked across the office at the ancient filing cabinet, bursting with papers. “You just made my day. This is the thing on the news, right? You want just the Muslim guys? One of’em’s on the truck now. Ahmed; but he’s about as Muslim as you are.” He looked Mustapha up and down. “As I am. The other team, they’re both Muslims, from Africa. But different ends of Africa.” He caught Diana’s look. “We’re a nonprofit, we pay crap, we get new immigrants. Good people, hard workers. I don’t see either of them killing a bum. Not like that, anyway.”

Diana said, “What do you mean?”

“You ever had the pleasure of working around that shelter, Detective? Shit, what am I saying? You’re a cop: of course you know about that shithole. And I call it a shithole after, what? Twenty-three years now of working in charity. You cannot park a truck or any other vehicle within a block of that place, or those bums will break in and steal you blind—and if it’s locked up too tight, they’ll dent it, or piss on it. That lady who used to run it, the one who wouldn’t pay the water bill? She once told my wife that she encouraged them to pull shit like that, because she got off on pissing off rich people. Which, I’m all for that. But it’s not their cars getting broken into.” He looked at his phone. “Crap. What I mean is, I can see just about anyone going after some of the bums down there with a tire iron, but that creepy stuff?”

He slumped in his chair, took a deep breath. “The non-Muslim guy is the one with the temper. Clint. He’s got a record.” Diana must have made a face. “And part of the charity here is getting people who have made mistakes back on their feet.”

Mustapha said, “What did he do?”

“Beat up the guy who was f… sleeping with his wife. Now that was expensive. He’s done anger management, twice, but I can still maybe see the tire iron thing. But that Islamic hoodoo? Shit. Clint writes English like a first-grader.”

Two teams of guys use the van, so four suspects, five if you count Strauss, which Diana and Mustapha won’t, right away. Part of the intent here is to once again paint Peachtree-Pine as something other than a standard-issue homeless shelter: someone like Strauss, who’s spent his working life in underpaid do-gooder positions and has a file cabinet with actual paper to show for it, ought to be pro-PP, but he’s not, because he’s lived it. Complexity. But Strauss points us to Clint, even if Clint seems an unlikely suspect.


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  1. Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 6, Scene 4 | Julian Cage

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