Wednesday’s Other Mass Shooting

Everyone’s heard the news by now about the married couple who shot up the man’s work colleagues this past Wednesday: a friend of mine said, after the initial reports giving the shooters’ names, in a remarkable example of gallows humor: “It’s nice to see that Muslims have assimilated into American culture well enough to participate in ordinary workplace mass shootings instead of making it an Islamic thing.” But of course, the shooters turned out to be doing it for twisted-Islam reasons, so never mind, thanks for trying.

But there was another mass shooting this Wednesday, here in Georgia:

SAVANNAH, Ga. — One woman is dead and three males are injured after an early morning shooting Wednesday.

The shooting happened near the 100 block of West 33rd street around 1:00 a.m.

Savannah-Chatham police are still looking for the suspect. The victims range in age from 17 to 52. They are Jamond Heyward, 17, Brandy Council, 34, Jarrett Myers, 40, and Jeran Washington, 52.

Council died at the scene and the men were transported to a local hospital with what are being described as non-life-threatening injuries.

Right now, we don’t know anything about these people. It could have been a domestic dispute, or a drive-by, or a case of mistaken identity. The scariest part about 21st-century America is that there are so many potential proximate causes for mass shootings—and so many guns with which to do it. What would be the headline for days in nearly any other civilized country is second place for the day in ours.

I don’t care for guns, myself, but my opinion isn’t really all that important. I’ve written about guns before, so I’m going to let that do the talking. Here’s the first scene from an unpublished story, Stalkers, Zealots and Sentries:

Alvin Smith died as he had lived: surrounded by guns and the other paraphernalia of anxious masculinity. Detective Diana Siddall looked around the living room of the loft Smith had rented in Atlanta’s West Midtown neighborhood, which in the boom times had been overbuilt with condos for the aspirational, but even five years after the crash was half-empty and mostly rentals. The loft was a case study in what a long-divorced fortysomething woman like her Did Not Want: a weightlifting bench; a tremendous plasma television; posters of football players, of the text of the U.S. Constitution, of Barack Obama eating a slice of watermelon, for god’s sake. A workbench held many firearms, including an assault rifle mounted in the place of honor. In front of the television lay the long-barreled Patriot Arms .44 Magnum that Smith had been cleaning when it discharged, putting a neat round hole in the point of his chin and blowing the back half of his head over the back of the enormous, oversized brown leather recliner that was the room’s sole chair.

Diana crouched down, peered up at the stand. “Removed the clip but forgot there was one in the chamber?”

“Something like that,” said Dave Keller, chief of Crime Scene. “Gun fetishists all over the city are already feeling embarrassed on this idiot’s behalf.”

“Maybe a suicide?”

“Inconclusive. His hands test for gunshot residue, but they would either way.”

Diana looked up as her partner Inspector Mustapha Alawi cast a shadow across Smith’s body. “Hey,” she said. “Find any clues?”

A sardonic grin underneath his pirate’s beard. “Nothing but survivalist magazines to read, and all he has in the kitchen is light beer and ground beef.” He crouched down to look at Smith’s face. “No note, if that’s what you mean. Internet history is what you’d expect: porn, guns, the kind of bloggers who think Fox News is for liberals. Door was locked. He’s real pissed at someone named Alice, who I’m going to go out on a limb and say is his ex-wife. You want to put fifty bucks on this one, I’m going to take accident.”

“Yeah? I’m thinking this guy had a moment of clarity looking around this place, found his life insurance policy, saw the suicide rider and decided to muddle the issue.”

Keller noticed both detectives were staring at him. “Don’t ask me. I had all night here, I might could find something. But it’s Friday, and it’s ninety degrees outside: I’m guessing we got about half an hour before somebody else gets shot.”

 

Alice was indeed the ex-wife. Her clothes hung loose on her; she wore running shoes; her hair was the color of a fresh copper penny. She made an effort not to look relieved. “Cleaning his gun? I told him a thousand times those things would be the death of him. You better come in and have tea.” When they were served, she continued. “You’ll find a whole list of suits, countersuits, custody battles, and then a restraining order, just from typing our names into your computers. So I figure you’ll be suspicious–” She heard a thump from upstairs, and lowered her voice. “But just so you know, I was at Grady High School all afternoon and evening. Just walked in the door when y’all called. My son’s school play. Bye Bye Birdie, can you believe they still put that one on?” She sighed. “I’m going to have to tell him. Talk about mixed emotions.”

Mustapha put his teacup aside. “Ms. Smith, do you think there’s any reason your husband–”

“Ex-husband.”

“–would take his own life?”

“I thought you said it was an accident. Well, I always figured if Alvin was going to kill himself, he’d do it about thirty seconds after he shot me. For a few months after I got the restraining order, he seemed to calm down. Then, he joined this awful group of men who are even worse than he was. They egged him on to start claiming that I was abusing the legal system–” More thumps from upstairs, then footsteps coming down. Two boys, late teens, a matched pair of a type that hadn’t existed when Diana was young. Trim, pretty, buff, gay, had never even heard of the closet. The sort that made Diana’s own daughter sigh at the unfairness of it all.

“What’s up?” said the taller one.

“Roger, these are the police–”

“Oh, not Dad again.” The other boy inched closer to him.

“It’s complicated,” said his mother. “I’ll explain later. David, are you spending the night?”

“No, ma’am,” said the other boy. “My mom has a conference call; I have to get my sisters ready for school.”

“We just came down for snacks,” said Roger.

After they were safely upstairs, Alice shook her head. “I’m going to have to tell him. You see, Roger was what started it all. He used to like dresses, as a little boy. Alvin couldn’t handle it. I came back early from a business trip and caught Alvin beating Roger with a belt for being a sissy. Filed for divorce the next day.” She finished her tea. “As if anything could have beaten the sissy out of Roger.”

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