Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 7, Scene 5e (End of Act I)

TOC page here.

Remember that the previous post ended with Diana dreaming about looking through a peephole, which makes the first paragraph of this selection seem less awkward.

A ringing sound brought her out of her trance. She fumbled for her purse, got out her phone. Nothing. Two blinks of confusion, then, “Doorbell,” she said out loud. Up went Diana, down went poor Frey. She walked to the door, looked through her own peephole, raised an eyebrow, opened the door. “Officer Slaughter.”

“Good evening, ma’am. Sorry to—can I come in?”

“Sure. Want a glass of wine? Even a shooting you’re not responsible for can really get to you.”

“Yes. Thanks.”

Diana poured. They sat in awkward silence for a few minutes before she took pity on Slaughter. “What’s on your mind?”

“Ma’am, the gun. With that red tape on the grip? I’m pretty sure—no, I’m certain—that I’ve seen it before.” She took a sip of wine, then drained the glass. “I just… there was a guy at a bar down in Zone Four, he got in a fight with another guy, we showed up to restore order, that guy had the weapon in his back pocket. We confiscated it, put it in an evidence bag, Brown dropped it off at Property.”

Diana sipped. “Did you see him drop it off?”

Slaughter sighed heavily. “I needed to use the can. They’re homeless people, right? You can’t really judge them. They mostly just can’t get it together enough to function. But Reggie? They send his blood pressure through the roof. Lazy, criminal, entitled, animal: you’ve heard this. They get to him; he’s rough with them. He’s not a bad guy, just a real angry one. His husband took him apart in the divorce.” She looked into her empty glass. “I lied to y’all back there: I wasn’t so far behind him. I saw him throw the gun down.”

Diana made herself take ten long breaths, then handed her own still-full glass to Slaughter. “Crap.” She fetched her phone, opened a file.

“I’m sorry.”

“You’re fine. Thin blue line, is the problem. Let’s take your statement, and first thing in the morning…” She looked down at the phone. “Wait. Let me ask you this: does your family have more money than mine?”

A big, horsey smile. “Family money? I’m an orphan, on a cop’s salary. Your mother was a movie star.”

“Stepmother. My real mom died when I was a baby.” She stopped the recording. “I’m forgetting to have the right perspective here. If it’s my word against Sergeant Brown’s, and I go down, well, I can afford it. I’d be bored to death, but I wouldn’t really suffer. But you’d never work in this town again.”

Diana put down the phone. “Maybe it was an accident, bad trigger discipline. Let’s hope it wasn’t deliberate. Let’s protect your career. Can you still work next to him?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“What I mean is, does he know you saw him? No? Then stick with it, for now. You need to talk, come to me. Or my partner: he can keep a secret. That thin blue line is a cancer. Maybe I can talk to your lieutenant? Let’s sit on this until we have a clear plan.”

An hour later, Slaughter left, and Diana locked the door behind her. She made sure the windows and doors were locked; she turned off the lights; she fed poor Frey; she went upstairs and showered quickly, then dried herself, put on a robe, went back downstairs to fetch the laptop. Back in her room, she took off the robe, put the laptop on the desk, made sure the blackout curtains were drawn, and only then did she open and watch the video from her friends in Chicago.

The big reveal about Slaughter and the gun probably won’t come as much of a surprise even to people who haven’t been following the commentary. Anyone paying attention would have picked up on this: the only real surprise is that Slaughter ran fast enough to see Brown drop the weapon.

And Diana’s been sitting here musing on her special, unique nature, and fails to consider it when first trying to move Slaughter’s accusation into the system. Note the stagecraft with the wine glasses and phone: this sort of thing is challenging but fun to write, and always needs lots of editing to come out perfectly balanced. But now we have the B Plot set up so that it can play out through Acts 2-4. This leaves us with the A Plot (the murders of homeless men) and the C Plot (Diana’s reaction to her husband getting remarried). At some point, there’s going to be a very short and apparently irrelevant D Plot that will in some way reinforce the path toward the solution of the A Plot and perhaps one of the others.

But for now, we’re done with Act 1, even if we have no clear idea what the video might be. I’m going to do some real crime stories here and work on publishing my audio book, and will pick back up with Act 2 next week. Right now, for the record, I’m writing Act 3, Chapter 6.

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

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