Listen to a Story for Free: “Rage Will Consume You First”

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Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 7, Scene 5c

TOC page here.

A very brief bit, before we end Act One after this scene. Mr. Haddad wasn’t a man of violence, but he’s dead now, because he pulled a gun on Sergeant Brown:

Two hours later, Diana, Mustapha, Purcell, Peña and Chief ADA Larry Quinn sat in Purcell’s office. “Nobody saw nothing,” said Peña. “I sent some guys out to roust all the bums–” He caught Diana’s look. “Sorry. Homeless citizens, in the park, but they all stayed away from the van on account of the warning. Brown’s story is short and sweet, and his partner’s blind.”

Purcell: “I’m relieved that Sergeant Brown was justified.”

“I didn’t say that. Sir. Ballistics has the suspect’s gun: let’s see where it came from.” A sour grimace. “But you’re going to have hippies on one side bitching about out-of-control cops, and the police union on the other demanding proof.”

Purcell said, “White cop, brown guy: let’s get out in front of that.”

Quinn said, “I don’t like the optics, but even were I convinced Brown threw down the weapon, I’d still have trouble getting it past a grand jury, let alone a trial.”

Purcell said, “Inspector, you found nothing at the man’s house?”

Mustapha said, “Boxes of stuff from Costco for delivery to the homeless. A terrified child. All kinds of books in Arabic.”

“Connection to terrorism?”

“How should I know? I can’t read Arabic.” Sergeant Yusuf from Traffic is flipping through them now. He’ll call me if he finds anything fishy. So far, he says it’s all Sufi stuff.” At their confusion, “Like, the New Age version of Islam. Meditation, nonviolence.”

Diana said, “The greater jihad is within. He’s not our guy. Why did he have to have a gun?”

Why indeed? We can see here the extent to which the media drive the reaction of the police. Purcell is less worried about Mr. Haddad than he is about the potential reaction to Haddad’s death. Quinn is more philosophical—because the real problem with police shootings is that they’re difficult to prosecute, for at least two reasons. Quinn doesn’t want to aggressively prosecute one cop because he knows the thin blue line means he’s going to get scant coöperation from other cops on other cases. Juries, especially grand juries with their undemocratic process, don’t want to second-guess a cop’s split-second decision. Even in an age where we’re a lot more cognizant of the potential for injustice in encounters between cops and (especially minority) citizens, jurors are reluctant to transform what might have been an honest mistake into a career-ending conviction.

We also find out that Mustapha can’t read Arabic, ostensibly his native language. Later, it will be explained not only that Moroccan is to Arabic like Spanish is to Latin, but also that the colloquial dialects of Arabic aren’t (or more properly, weren’t, until about 20 years ago) written languages. Also, we get to find out that there’s something akin to a New Age Islam, which most Americans probably don’t know.


Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 7, Scene 5b

TOC page here.

We’ve just found out that Mr. Haddad, the victim of mistaken identity and panic, was approached by cops waving guns instead of politely asking questions. Now we get to find out more about him:

Heather Stephenson, one owner of the East Atlanta Bread Collective, would have been the standard East Atlanta forty-year-old hipster chick in a vintage dress, but for the tears dripping down her face and the mascara streaks that accompanied them. “No, no, no!” she wailed. “You can’t. Hamid is the last guy who would murder someone. Or carry a gun. He’s like this kind of mystic Muslim. Total nonviolence. He was a baker, in Syria? You have no idea what he’s gone through. Shit, this is so unfair. He was in a refugee camp, he promised god or whoever that if he made it somewhere safe, he’d stay poor and give his money to beggars. You’re supposed to, in Islam? He’d take our truck, bring day-old stuff we were going to sell?” Horror dawned on her face. “Oh shit, the van.”

Mustapha said, “You’ll get it back in a couple of days.”

“No, it’s the kind of van y’all were looking for. Our old one finally kicked it. I was joking about it with my brother when I saw it on the news. I’m like crap, we better get that painted before someone thinks we’re the Reaper. And it never occurred to me that Hamid might take it. Shit! He wouldn’t know. Wouldn’t have known. He never watched the news: he had a lot of trouble with English, and he had total PTSD, so like violence on the news? No way.” She began to weep again in earnest. “Oh, fuck! Omar.”

Mustapha said, “Who’s that?”

“His son. He’s nine. The whole rest of their family was killed, over there.”


Two hours later, Diana was up in front of the cameras again. “Let me repeat that at this time we have no reason to believe that Mr. Haddad killed Alex Dawson or anyone else. Sergeant Brown had two separate reasons to believe that Mr. Haddad was a suspect. If Mr. Haddad had stayed with the van, Sergeant Brown and his partner would have been able to sort out that Mr. Haddad was an innocent man; but for reasons we’ll never know, Mr. Haddad ran, and then drew a weapon. Coincidence became tragedy, and now a man is dead.”

Andrea Blitts said, “There’s no connection at all between this man and the killings?”

“We have no reason to believe that. Other people in the homeless and charitable communities have confirmed that Mr. Haddad was well-known as someone who went out of his way to help the less fortunate.”

Channel Five said, “But he was Muslim.”

“So are lots of people who don’t commit murder. We wish he hadn’t run from Sergeant Brown.”

The guy from WRFG: “So you’re saying that running from the police is a death sentence?”

“Absolutely not. Pulling a gun on the police usually has serious consequences.”

But of course we already have to wonder where Mr. Haddad’s gun came from. His employer paints him as a peacenik, but you never can tell with people who have severe PTSD: that’s one of the many problems such people have. The irony is terrible, though: here’s a man who escaped from hell, devoted his life to helping the less fortunate, and got shot anyway. The only person in Atlanta not to have heard of the white van.

And then another press conference. As I’ve mentioned before, the media reaction to these killings and their investigation is a key part of the story. The real-life Atlanta media is absolutely dreadful: bottom-barrel fearmongering, stupid scandal, utterly racist depictions of black people, hysteria, a serious effort to avoid anything like real news, and sports sports sports. They’re going to become more important as the story goes on; Diana and Mustapha are going to end up fighting the media as much as they do whoever’s killing people.


Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 7, Scene 5a

TOC page here.

We left off with Diana searching the white van belonging to the putative serial killer and finding out that he was the Bread Man, not the Dread Man: he was delivering food to the homeless.

The van’s temporary plate came through after all, unsurprisingly to a bakery, the East Atlanta Bread Collective. When Mustapha brought back the dead man’s driver’s license, it only took a moment to show that Abdelraziq Ben Hamid al-Haddad, a US permanent resident for two years now, was employed there. “Aw, shit,” said Mustapha. “We’re gonna look like clowns.”

While he made some calls, Diana walked out of the circle of lights, the headache now in full force. She walked into the grass on the far side of the van, then stood with her back to a tree to shield herself from the worst of the lights. She pinched the bridge of her nose, did some breathing exercises. After a moment, she realized she was feeling sorry for herself and not for poor Mr. Haddad.

A rustling from the nearby bushes snapped her back into focus. She aimed the phone, activated the flashlight, saw a shadow. “Come on out,” she said. “I’m not going to shoot you.” The shadow remained still. “Or arrest you, or hassle you. Look, I’m going to reach into my bag and pull out one of my cards. Next time patrol cops hassle you? Get out of jail free.”

The shadow stepped out of the bushes and into the light. Still young, jug ears, neck tattoos. “Ma’am, I ain’t done nothing.”

“Of course you haven’t. But what did you see?”

“I saw that van. I stayed away. But then I saw it was Bread Man driving it. I’m torn, y’hear? Guy can’t speak English too good, but them muffins are the shit. But I had no time to make up my mind: Cops rolled up on him and got out waving guns. Little guy can run. That lady cop’s out of shape.”

“This is important: did the Bread Man have a gun?”

“No. I didn’t see nothing. But he was gone in a flash.”

As we’ve seen repeatedly, Diana will actually be friendly to homeless men, and this gets her a lot further than Sergeant Brown’s attitude. Of course, she doesn’t have to deal with them when they’re drunk and disorderly, either. What she finds is that Brown and Slaughter came out with guns waving instead of being polite. What she doesn’t find is whether Haddad had a gun in the first place.


How Not to Do Social Justice

Here’s a two-year-old article from Atlanta Magazine about how two non-black victims of homicide and attempted homicide in May 2013 received more coverage than the two black men who were shot and killed during the same time period. The white murder victim was Patrick Corona, who was shot during an armed robbery in East Atlanta, the center of hipster gentrification and a hot spot for such crimes. Atlanta Magazine earlier had observed that over a hundred people showed up for a vigil for Corona, and then that a reward had been posted:

After East Atlanta Village resident Patrick Cotrona was fatally shot last May, his sister Kate Cotrona Krumm drew attention to his case by posting a poignant hand-lettered sign on a telephone pole near the spot where her brother died. Block letters on a big sheet of cardboard paid tribute to a “brother and a kind and loving son and uncle and friend,” a Georgia Tech grad and computer engineer who “loved video games and beer.”

On Thursday afternoon, Krumm unveiled another sign—a massive billboard advertising a $25,000 reward for tips leading to the arrest of two people suspected in the death of her brother.

Cotrona’s death and the other man’s shooting got the attention of media and politicians; the other two men’s deaths did not. Blogger Mark Watkins starts off with some good journalism by giving us how each of the two black men died:

According to police, twenty-seven year-old Henry Omar Reeves was shot and killed just before midnight on May 18. Police and EMS responded to a 911 call of shots fired and person down in East Atlanta Village, and found Reeves on Metropolitan Avenue, dead with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was killed the day after Balkhanian was shot and less than a mile from where Cotrona was killed seven days later.

Drexel L. Berry died Wednesday, May 29, after being shot multiple times on Cooper Street, according to police. Around 2:30 that afternoon, Berry ran to a house on Pryor Street after being shot in the leg, arm, and back. He was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital, but died of his wounds. Berry, twenty-four, was shot less than a mile to the west of Turner Field, and less than two miles from where Balkhanian was shot.

This is great: let’s hear more. What led to these men ending up dead by shooting like approximately 100 other Atlantans in 2013? Was it love, or money, or robbery? That’s probably the case for 90% of them. Maybe there was something weird like the kind of stuff I come up with in my stories. It’s always possible, but most murders are prosaic.

Unfortunately, Watkins doesn’t bother to follow up. Instead, he goes for the now-standard (though not untrue) refrain that murders of non-blacks garner more attention than those of blacks:

Considering the similarities in time and location of the other two murders and that of Cotrona, it seems one notable difference is that Berry and Reeves were black. As it has been frequently observed, media coverage favors white victims.

Right: yes, it does. But why is the question Watkins doesn’t get to, any more than he does that of why Reeves and Berry were murdered. Why are murders of whites covered more? Well, racism is undeniably a part of it. But there’s also what’s news. Here are Atlanta Magazine‘s own stats on crime (for 2014, very similar to 2013). Of 84 murders, 65 were men who died of gunshot wounds, and at least 70 of the victims were black. Even more tellingly, 65 of the murders also had someone in custody at year’s end.

So yes, a black Georgia Tech graduate who liked video games and beer would probably get fewer politicians and column inches, though one would certainly hope the neighborhood would turn out for the vigil. But only some of that is due to everyday racism. The fact is that a white man dying in an as-yet (and still) unsolved murder is a statistical anomaly, and that’s a big reason why it raised so much attention.

Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 7, Scene 4

TOC page here.

Diana has just come from where nobody quite witnessed Sergeant Brown chase, then shoot a man. The man, called Dread Man by the homeless men Brown and his partner talked to, ran from the white van the police were looking for in connection with a ritual murder. She comes back down the hill to where the van and police cruiser are parked.

The squad car’s lights were still strobing; other CSI personnel had the white van surrounded with spotlights. The van was so brand-new that it had no markings at all, and a white temporary tag instead of real license plates. She groaned as she realized she’d forgotten to grab the dead man’s ID: the knee wasn’t hurting so much as making her aware of its presence.

She already knew from experience that running a temporary tag rarely gave enough information, but she took out her tablet and started the process, anyway. She walked up to Keller’s chief assistant Melissa, a woman who could look radiant in hazmat gear. “Can I open up the van?”

“As long as you put on a bunny suit first. Full protocol tonight.” Melissa pointed to her own van, where the plastic coveralls were stored.

Before Diana could respond, Mustapha’s Lexus pulled up behind the squad car. Mustapha got out of the driver’s side; Diana shaded her eyes against the squad car’s flashers to see the unmistakable toupée of Manuel Peña, head of Internal Affairs.

Peña wasted no time “Siddal!” he shouted as he came toward her. “Tell me who you shot this time.”

She burst out laughing. “It wasn’t me, I swear.” She filled him in.

“Reggie Brown?” asked Peña. “Wannabe soldier?” At Diana’s nod, “You do not want to get caught in the cover-up when he finally goes down.” Peña laughed; it was ugly. “Well, I’d love it if you were there, come to think of it. One of these days…”

Mustapha said, “Okay, lovebirds.” To Diana, “Where’s the scene?”

Diana pointed up the hill. “Where the lights are. I’ve already been up that hill. Can you get the suspect’s ID for me?” She patted her knee.

“Sure. Come on, Manny.” They walked away; Mustapha turned back. “Good shooting, for real?”

“Nothing says no. I wish there was a witness.”

“Was this our guy?”

“Get me an ID, let me in the van. I’m all for Sergeant Brown getting to be the hero: we can get back to the usual run of drive-bys and domestics.”

Mustapha went up the hill: Diana put on the bunny suit, then slipped a pair of nonslip booties over the feet. She walked around to the driver’s side door of the van, which the suspect had left open in his haste. The keys were in the ignition, the motor running. The cab of the van had the brand-new smell and the eerie emptiness of a new vehicle: not even any dust or crumpled receipts on the floor. On the passenger seat was a roll of plastic supermarket bags in plain white. Diana poked around with her phone’s flashlight: nothing.

She took the keys, slipped back out the door, around to the back. Melissa said, “Let’s hope it’s empty.”

Diana opened the door. The sides of the compartment were lined with shelves, mostly empty but for three shoeboxes at eye level and a pair of larger boxes on a bottom shelf. No weapons or restraints. No blood or other stains she could see. She used the edge of her phone to lift the lid of one of the shoeboxes. It was half-full of disposable plastic razors, all unused. Her eyebrows furrowed: the next shoebox was full of new toothbrushes, and the third of travel-sized tubes of toothpaste. “Oh, crap,” she muttered.

The first of the large boxes was full of muffins: big ones, the size of softballs, each in a clear plastic bag, all freshly baked and still warm. Diana’s mouth watered and her stomach sank at the same time. She felt Melissa come into the compartment behind her. “We are in so much trouble,” said Diana.

“What do you mean?”

“Not you; me. Indirectly. The officers went looking for this man because some other homeless folks said that the ‘Dread Man’ was driving it. But this guy wasn’t a kidnapper, or serial killer, or the Islamic Reaper.” She pulled the other big box from its shelf, flipped it open. “He’s going around giving food and hygiene supplies to the homeless.” She pulled out a plastic bag that held a loaf of what looked like sourdough. “Not Dread Man; Bread Man. We are so fucked.”

So there’s a double climax in this chapter: Brown shooting the guy, and now us finding out he wasn’t the guy. We’ve repeatedly spelled Brown out as a cowboy, so now we have to wonder where the gun the man was carrying came from. And we’ve got another victim, a guy doing some volunteer work, to add to the total. And of course with the recent emphasis on police brutality, a current-events hook for the story.

But there’s more: I’m setting you up. The whole tragic story here hinges on a misunderstanding: Dread for Bread. If Brown and his partner Officer Slaughter had heard Bread, they would have asked why, and found out, and been a lot less paranoid about approaching the guy. But they heard what they were looking for: something that told them there really was someone out there in a white commercial van, murdering and mutilating homeless men. So as of now, keep an eye out for other crucial moments where someone hears what they’re listening for and makes a bad decision.


Carjackings in Posh Neighborhoods

Last weekend, a woman was driving in the very, very old-school posh Ansley Park neighborhood, when she was carjacked:

A female driver was rear-ended by a stolen vehicle near Midtown on Sunday — and then carjacked by one of its passengers, Atlanta police said.

The incident, and six subsequent arrests, come amid growing crime concerns among Midtown residents.

According to the police incident report, the victim was driving on Avery Drive NE preparing to turn onto Beverly Road when she was rear-ended by a silver Jeep Liberty with four men inside. The victim got out of her car and attempted to speak with the driver of the Liberty, but he did not roll down his window.

The driver-side passenger then got out and “jumped into” the victim’s Ford Escape, police said. Both vehicles drove off.

She lost her car, purse and phone, none of which have been recovered. Fortunately, six people have been arrested in connection with this crime, so at least they’re off the streets for now. Here she was, trying to be the responsible citizen, and she loses a great deal. But at least they didn’t wave a gun in her face, like the carjackers near my neighborhood usually do.

Carjacking seems like a better career plan than armed robbery of stores. Do it quickly in the dark, and you have a pretty decent chance of netting yourself a couple of thousand dollars from a chop shop; robbing a store gets you a few hundred and has a lot more risk, b0th from getting shot by the store clerk or a bystander and from security cameras. Robbing stores seems like drug dealing: more or less a minimum-wage job, only with way more downside. Carjacking, done right, could theoretically be profitable—but of course, you have to split the profits at least three ways (jacker, driver of Jeep, chop shop). None of the three crimes makes any sense at all from a cost/benefit standpoint, but nobody ever said criminals were smart.

So if this were going to be a story, the drama would have to lie in what’s in the stolen car. It could be written that her ex-husband or whoever set her up to be carjacked, but the only place that goes is murdering her, and what makes this crime stand out to me is that other than the fender tap, it wasn’t violent. Imagine, however, the ex knowing the woman has something really important in the car: jewelry, drugs, bearer bonds. Pay the carjackers, get the goods, let them keep the car. This is ultimately foolish, because of course the jackers are going to flip on him, and even if he managed to do it so they don’t know what he looks like, it’s not going to take the cops long to settle on him as a suspect. It would be hard to pull it off as drama.

But in my stories, Detective Diana Siddal lives right down the block from where the carjacking happened. Imagine what happens if she’s out for a stroll.

Sexting and the Hot Car Death

Back in the summer of 2014, Atlanta made headlines when father Justin Ross Harris forgot to drop his 1-year-old son Cooper off at daycare and instead drove to work, leaving Cooper in a hot car where he quickly died. Children dying in hot cars is a chronic problem here in America: it is apparently surprisingly easy for chronically sleep-deprived parents to have their daily routine interrupted or changed and then just forget the kid is back there. I was lucky, because my kid never sleeps, so there was always noise to remind me she was there.

Harris was pilloried in the media because he had an ongoing sexting relationship with several women, some of whom were underage: the prosecution wants jurors to believe that Harris murdered Cooper because he didn’t want the burden of family. And to be fair, he did say to several of his… textees, that he wished he weren’t a family man.

Today, the court ruled that it wouldn’t “sever”, or separate, his trial for sexting with minors, which on the surface is a blow for Harris. The prosecution can now argue that a) he’s a scumbag and deserves conviction, and b) that his comments in the texts indicate that Cooper’s death was not a tragic accident but a deliberate murder made to look like one.

But I’m not so sure they’ll succeed. This is Georgia, and we can never underestimate the ability of juries to convict based on irrelevant but lurid details; but still, while Harris is indeed kind of scummy, the sexts really are a separate issue. How do you prove murder in a case like this?

The article makes clear that a few of the original details that made it seem as if Harris had been searching on his computer for things that could potentially lead to Cooper’s death turned out to be false or misleading. Wanting to see the genitalia of high-school girls is super cheesy and technically a crime (well, asking to see them is a crime) but none of it has anything to do with Cooper’s death. The link between action and intent is broken, or doesn’t exist. Besides, Harris seemed to be doing a bang-up job of being a lumpy, marginally-attractive thirtysomething father who could still manage to get teenage girls to send him sexts and pictures: why bother murdering Cooper, in this case?

Here’s my favorite part:

One minor, identified only as “CD,” told Stoddard that “Ross loved Cooper a lot” and he would never do anything to hurt the child, the detective said, adding that “CD” also told him that though he admitted cheating on his wife, Leanna, he loved her and would never leave her. She further said that Harris sent her images of him and Cooper — whom he called “smart” and “handsome” — vacationing at a beach, while she shared photos from her prom, Stoddard said.

At one point in their relationship, Harris discouraged her from dropping out of a technical school, the detective said. Asked why she sent him photos, she replied, “Because I really liked him,” she said, according to Stoddard.

The two conversed while Cooper was dying in the car, Stoddard said, adding that the communications were sexual in nature.

Yes, but the conversation’s existence doesn’t indicate intent. Also, Stoddard’s quote makes Harris appear to be a better father than the prosecution is arguing: he’s being a proper role model to her (aside from the pictures), and wants her to do the right thing.

Cooper’s death is a tragedy, but accusing him of murder is really a reach. Negligent homicide? Sure. Manslaughter? Could work: his obvious criminal negligence led to his son’s death. But murder? To me, it’s a bridge too far.


Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 7, Scene 3

TOC page here.

We left off at the proper cliffhanger point last time, with Diana unable to see the action but hearing Sergeant Brown shout “Subject down! All clear.” after firing gunshots at the man who was in the right kind of van and who Officer Slaughter overheard homeless men referring to as the Bread Man.

Now we shift from hearing to vision:

By the time she lurched to the summit, the scene was easy to spot: the two officers’ Maglites illuminating a patch of ground on the far side of the row of trees.

“Report!” she shouted while picking her way down to them, wishing she had a Maglite, then remembering her phone and using its flashlight.

Brown was standing, a little amped, a lot nervous, his flashlight beam picking out a trail for Diana. Slaughter was leaning against a tree, one hand to her mouth in shock, the other pointing the light straight down.

“Guy wouldn’t stop,” panted Brown as Diana walked up to them. “I was catching up. Then he had a gun.” Brown aimed the flashlight toward where a small, dark man in stained coveralls lay prone, a bloom of blood on his back and a cheap pistol next to his outstretched right hand.

Diana relieved Brown of his weapon. “We’re going to follow procedure here. To the letter. You know everyone’s concerned about police shootings. Tell me how it went so I can get out in front of the narrative when IAB shows up.”

Brown took a few deep breaths. “I ordered him to halt, he ran. I chased him back into the trees and up the hill, I started to catch up. He whirled, I saw the light reflecting off the weapon, I fired. Hit him twice, he wavered, brought up the gun, I fired again, he went down.”

Diana turned to Slaughter, who looked like she was about to vomit. “Officer?”

“I was… I was still coming up the hill when my partner fired. I could only see the top of Brown’s head, couldn’t see the victim—the suspect—at all.”

“Did you have the dashcam running in the squad car?”

“Yes, ma’am. Still is.”

“Okay.” She looked back and forth between them. “Right now, I’d say you’re going to be okay. But I’ve been through this four times, and it’s never easy. You want my advice? Don’t volunteer anything.” She looked at her phone. “Let’s bring the circus to town.”

Within minutes, the first of the wagons arrived. A response team, then Crime Scene: she and Keller made sure Brown’s and the suspect’s weapons were transferred into Keller’s possession according to protocol. They took Slaughter’s, too, for good measure. Next came Chief Purcell, who took Diana aside: “Good shooting?”

“None of them are good, sir. Nothing contradicts Sergeant Brown’s story; but there’s no other witnesses, either. Partner wasn’t there, but she looks ill. Which just shows she’s human.”

“Is this guy our Reaper?”

“No idea, sir. I haven’t let Brown or Slaughter out of my sight. You want to be responsible for them, I’ll–”

“Be thorough, Detective. No media: park is cordoned off.”

Good luck with that, thought Diana, as she walked through the trees and down the slope, using her phone to stay just to the side of the footprints in the dewy grass. Behind her, CSI turned on the klieg lights, making her shadow stand out in front of her. She picked her way down, turning around every ten steps to look back up the hill. One phone call to Andrew would get her a military-grade night vision camera, but thinking about that brought up the stirrings of a tension headache.

Looks like a “good” shooting, in the sense that Brown has done nothing obviously criminal. But of course neither Slaughter nor Diana saw what happened, so anything could be true here, and of course in normal literary fashion I’m going to keep it ambiguous until I’m ready for a big reveal. Brown could be telling the truth; he could have fired first and only seen the ground later; he could have thrown the gun down after the shooting, having kept a throwaway gun for just that purpose—this is sadly not unheard of in stories of police shootings.

Note Diana’s tension between protecting a fellow cop, doing what her chief wants, and finding out the truth. But instead of saying she’s tense about this, I have her do what a normal person would do with the tension, which is to shift it to something tense yet familiar. Thinking about Andrew just gives her a good excuse to have that tension headache. What are we going to find on the dashcam? What’s in the van? We’ll have to see.


Another Mass Shooting in Georgia

Right after a loser in Oregon shot up a community college, another one killed his family and himself here in exurban Atlanta:

“No, nothing’s going on,” Rebecca Manning told Forsyth County deputies Tuesday night.

Despite the argument neighbors saw and heard, Manning said nothing had happened between her and her estranged husband, the sheriff’s office said Wednesday. Hours later, she and her two sons were dead and her father critically injured, allegedly because of her husband’s actions, according to authorities.

You can write the story yourself: weak, violent man is thwarted; weak, violent man gets one of the millions of guns just floating around Georgia; weak man kills family and self. Depressing, awful, not even worth writing fiction about, all because it’s the script that weak, violent men act out at least once a day in America.

There are two types of this sort of mass shooting incident, both represented here. The guy in Oregon was the young, awkward but “intelligent” in a very narrow sense guy, whose creepy misogyny drives women away but whose lack of social skills make it impossible for him to figure out quite why. He’s steeped in bad science fiction and fantasy, where the geeky smart guy is ultimately awarded a hot girl, but despite his delusional self-regard, women actively avoid him. He thinks the Reddit Red Pill and Pick-up Artist advice techniques are actually helping. Sooner or later, the cognitive dissonance between his vivid fantasy life and his prosaic real one with its mediocrity turns to violence; and in America, violence means multiple deaths from gunshot wounds instead of “just” a knife or club.

The killer of Rebecca Manning and her sons is the second type: about forty, also pretty much a failure: an angry, stupid and fundamentally very weak man whose masculinity is incredibly fragile. He pushes his way through the weak(er) people around him, but when his personal or legal chickens come home to roost, he lashes out, because he needs to erase the witnesses to his humiliation. And again, since we’re awash in guns, this erasure is permanent in four out of five cases.

Entitled, thwarted beta males are a public health threat of the first magnitude. But what can we do about it? Change models of masculinity, and do something about guns.

With respect to fiction, the only angle I can think to pursue is to tell the story from the wife’s perspective. Why does she fail to protect her children when she has the chance?