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.


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  1. Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 7, Scene 5a | Julian Cage

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