Novel 3: Act II, Chapter 1, Scene 4a

TOC page here.

We’ve just added depth to Henry Buchanan, the shelter’s doorkeeper, and found out a little bit more about the elusive Red:

Back in the car, Mustapha said, “That Buchanan guy is like every other con: won’t say nothing about nothing, until you get him talking; and then, he’s a gossipy little bitch.”

“Your point is valid, but I’m going to have to phone the language police. He knew Red a lot better than he was willing to admit.” She fiddled with her phone. “I want Dave the friendly imam to see this picture of the writing on Mario’s chest, but I’m paranoid about leaks. We could drive up there, but if he has to be up before the crack of dawn, he’ll be asleep at this hour.”

“Yeah: good Muslims go to bed early. Maybe we could…” He trailed off into silence, Diana knowing better to say anything. Then, “Eyes. The killer didn’t scoop them out. Maybe I missed that?”

Diana put the phone away and got out the tablet. She flipped through photos. “No, you’re right. Wow, I should’ve had some of that coffee. The critters got to him, but no, his eyes weren’t scooped out. Maybe. Here, I’ll call Keller.”

She got the phone back out; Mustapha wondered, not for the first time, whether Diana would have an easier time of it if she just glued to the phone to the back of the tablet’s case. Her conversation with Keller was long and had more to do with Keller’s kitchen renovation than with Mario’s eyes.

By the time she hung up, he’d tuned out completely, made her repeat herself. “Keller and Posh are holed up in the basement of Grady, keeping Mario’s body away from potentially leaky minions. What were you thinking about?”

“Nothing.” He put the car in gear.

“What do you mean, nothing?”

“Nothing important. Something about taking apart the lawnmower engine.” He pulled onto Courtland, old reflexes from the bad days in Vietnam alerting him to the homeless guys lurking in the shadows. “If this guy’s the Reaper, I’ll eat the damn lawnmower. What got me thinking about the eyes. The Reaper wanted us to see what he’d done: the eyes were looking back at their own body. That detail leaked quicker than any of the others. And if you believe the profilers, signatures don’t change.”

“Right. But Alex Dawson was face down in that park—parklet—and it would have taken days to find him if it weren’t for those two guys out on a date. Hey, I hope that baby’s doing well.”

“What baby?”

“Never mind.”

“Oh, that baby. If it’s fine, it’s not our problem. Poor old Mario was there for days; half the Reaper corpses weren’t cold yet.” He slowed for a traffic light. “So number one, this person didn’t do his homework. I bet if I type Atlanta Reaper into Google, the first article that comes up is going to have the picture of the eyeballs on top of those church wafers.”

“Yuck. But yeah: you’re not squeamish, you could do a killer Reaper impression. What’s number two?”

What’s fun about writing a scene like this is that I can show the length and depth of their partnership through stage business and offhand comments. She’s enough of an introvert to know what it means to be an intuitive thinker, and to leave it alone; he is secretly impressed with her gadget prowess but is reluctant to admit it. Also, I can organically throw us back to the silly bit that opens the novel, because it’s exactly the sort of thing Diana would think, even if this weren’t a novel that has a running theme of birth and children.

As far as the plot goes, the Reaper had a clear signature, and these killings have a much blurrier one. Alex Dawson’s eyes were scooped out; but they weren’t displayed. Signatures don’t change: remember that. So is this guy lazy, or a different guy? Why half-ass the signature? Stay tuned.

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