Novel 3: Act II, Chapter 2, Scene 1b

TOC page here.

So once we set up the scene with Imam Dave and his creature comforts, we learn that jihadis preen for the camera but not-Mario’s corpse was hidden in an abandoned building and the calligraphy on his chest beneath layers of cloth. Now let’s move on to the next part of the scene, with Dave saying:

“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.

“Sorry, Detective,” said Dave. “I thought I noticed something.” He examined the photograph carefully, then nodded. “That’s interesting.” He turned the screen to face them, then pointed at one of the swirls. “See this dot? There should be two of them, not just one. They turned a T into an N.”

“Oh,” said Mustapha. “Now that’s blasphemy.”

“No, it just turns a word into nonsense.” Dave flipped the tablet back around, scrutinized it some more. “Here’s another one. J becomes a Scottish loch. Dot’s in the wrong place.”

Mustapha said, “I’ll take your word for it: I can read the alphabet, but never the fancy calligraphy.”

“Well, it’s not easy. I’m sorry I didn’t notice until just that. I confess I originally just read the first few words and remembered the rest.” Another click of the tongue. “I don’t think I’d make such a good detective, after all.”

Diana said, “You’re doing fine. Swipe backwards a couple of photos and tell me if one of our other victims had the same issues.”

“Certainly. Um…” He flipped back and forth several times, then did so more slowly. “I rather think not. The first one is correct. Perhaps your writer was in a hurry?”

“Maybe,” said Diana. “You’d think someone who knew how to write like that wouldn’t make mistakes.”

Mustapha said, “But the writing’s all neat. Poor Mario was moved, too. Even with wrong dots, you can’t write this smooth in a hurry.”

Diana said, “Then why make a mistake?”

Dave handed the tablet back to her. He said, “I’d say it was the hand of God, stopping this monster from profaning Scripture.” He reached for another wafer. “But I don’t think that would stand up in court.”

So now we get the real clue. The person doing the (otherwise perfect) calligraphy made a couple of mistakes the second time around. Why, exactly? As Diana says, someone who knows Arabic calligraphy wouldn’t make such a mistake, especially not if they were taking enough time to make things all smooth. So what’s going on here? Logic would suggest someone is going to a great deal of trouble to make it look like homeless men are being killed by some kind of crazy Muslim; however, things are never quite as they seem.


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