TOC page here.
On to the new chapter: a visit to Imam Dave to see if the calligraphy on not-Mario’s chest can tell them anything:
Imam Dave was just as fresh and chipper at 0400 this time as he’d been a month before; and he had a fresh box of vanilla wafers to go with their tea. ”This is troubling,” he said as he handed the tablet back to Diana. “It would be deeply troubling even were it not for public prejudices about Muslims. What can I do to help?”
“You never heard anything?” asked Mustapha.
“You told me not to say anything. Many conversations were had: it was generally agreed that this was blasphemy, an abomination, militantly against everything we stand for. But nobody spoke of recognizing the calligraphy, or of knowing anyone who would even contemplate such acts.” He nibbled a wafer, shrugged. “I wish I had better news.”
Diana said, “Tell us about the crescent moon, Dave.”
“It’s just a symbol, really. A new era, a new time. The Islamic calendar is lunar,”
“Yeah, we know,” said Mustapha. ”Why the crescent, though? Why not do it from full moon to full, or whatever?”
“It reappears from behind of the Sun, a reminder of God’s majesty.” Another nibble. “I’m sure it was meaningful in the pre-Islamic or Arab pagan culture, which though we have almost no written records, undoubtedly influenced early Islam a great deal. Ramadan as a holy month, for example, clearly has pre-Islamic origins. It was a truce month, so people could make money off the caravan trade without having to worry about raids by other tribes.”
Diana said, “Sure. There’s crosses and rebirths and virgin births and all the mystery cults that preceded Christianity.” She carefully refrained from saying that the moon passes in front of the sun, not behind.
Mustapha crunched on three wafers at once, washed them down with scalding tea. “I should know this, but I don’t: first day of the month, new crescent moon, good time to start something new?” At Dave’s nod, “Great.”
Dave’s eyes widened. “I must not have fully awakened. These both happened at the new crescent moon?” He downed his tea, poured another cup. “That’s… beyond the pale.” A sip of tea, and effort to calm himself. “You know, one thing that did occur to several of the worshipers here was that the essence of what we see in the media as Islamic… well, terrorism, is spectacle. They’re so fond of putting up really rather well-produced videos on YouTube, complete with barbarous anthems for a soundtrack.”
Mustapha grabbed for more wafers. “That caught our eye, too.”
“This seems… here, may I see the pictures again?” Diana handed him the tablet. “Yes: his shirts and sweaters have been cut open. Did you find him like this, or was it your CSI team?”
“Forensics,” said Diana. “The ME, really.”
“Yes. See, this is too subtle for jihadists. There’s nobody preening for the camera. There’s more to this than simple terrorism or some kind of public statement about Islam: it’s personal.” He stared off into space, for a moment. “That probably makes it more difficult for y’all.”
Mustapha said, “It sure does.”
“I will endeavor to keep an ear to the ground.” He handed the tablet back to Diana, then just as she took it from him, he reached for it back. They both fumbled for it, and it fell to the floor, landing with a slap that echoed in the quiet office. Dave stooped from his chair to where it lay face up. “Alhamdullilah,” he whispered. Mustapha supposed gluing the phone to the back of the tablet might not be such a great idea, after all.
So there’s very little to move the plot forward here, which isn’t the point. We’ve started a new chapter in this very short act, and we need to establish the scene, confirm Dave’s character, enjoy the rapport among the three of them. Mustapha is a seriously lapsed Muslim, Dave likes his creature comforts.
The real piece of information here is that to the eyes of a professional, there’s nothing here to connect not-Mario’s death to jihadis, because jihadis always preen. Now, the original Reaper killings were all about display, but there’s no display here: it’s all hidden. So either this is something that’s Islamic but not jihadi, or something else entirely. Stay tuned.