The Mothership Connection (3)

Part 1 and Part 2 of this story I’m excerpting about a cold-case murder on the Atlanta Beltline.

Here’s Part 3:

The Midtown Promenade and the Midtown Place center south of that, where the old Negro League ball fields had once been, were covered in surveillance cameras. But the walk up to the Beltline from Midtown Place was up a steep embankment; from the Promenade, it was a shallow drop. The security cameras showed the parking lot of the Promenade to be crowded very late into Friday night; after one o’clock, groups of people, mostly young and shaggy, began to straggle back from the park.

Mustapha said, “I thought you booted people who walk into the park.”

“Usually, yeah,” said the security guard. “But they all paid up. Special event.”

“I was going to ask about that,” said Diana. “Park usually closes at eleven.”

“But it was 4/20 yesterday.” The guy put an imaginary joint to his lips. “Big pot festival, lot of jam bands, chicks with armpit hair.”

Mustapha said, “Great. They see a guy digging up a grave, they’ll just giggle.”

They watched the video feed until dawn began to near. A few cars were left overnight, but the last people in the lot were a quartet of white guys who stood around a late-model SUV, engaged in a desultory game of Hacky Sack.

“What a cliché,” said the security guard.

Diana said, “Why do they all keep checking their phones? Oh, they’re waiting on the man with more pot.”

“No,” said the guard. “They’re waiting for 4:20.” He pointed at the time readout in the corner of the screen. Sure enough, once the readout said 0420, all four guys fired up their own joints and passed them around: then, after a few moments’ conversation, they piled into the car and drove away very slowly and carefully. The car’s plates were from Cobb County, the heart of conservative suburbia.

“Sorry we couldn’t help,” said the guard. “I’ll keep an eye open. Man, y’all would have made your arrest quotas for the month just hanging out there on Monroe and pulling them over. Keep one of them sniffer dogs with you, like you’d need it.”


But back at the Midtown precinct, the patrol lieutenant shook her head. “Orders. Leave them alone unless they’re a clear danger on the road. Same as drunk drivers. We start pulling over your average intoxicated driver, the restaurant and bar association will set the mayor’s hair on fire. And I’ll take stoners over drunks any day of the week: you can’t do too much damage when you’re only going ten miles per hour. What is it y’all were looking for anyhow?”

Mustapha said, “A needle in a damn haystack. And the needle might not even be there.”

But half an hour later, a patrol officer came up to the double cubicle Diana and Mustapha shared. Rick Gibson was a ten-year veteran, the rare kind of guy who didn’t cherish an ambition to make detective, or even sergeant. “LT sent me up, said y’all wanted to know about anything weird at the Midtown Promenade last night?”

“Sure,” said Mustapha. “We’re about to have tea; you want some?”

“No, I’m headed home. Thanks, though. What is it you’re looking for? Because there was potheads all over the place, but they don’t make any trouble long as you drive up on’em real slow. There was this couple, in the art theater there? They were the only ones in the movie, they get it on, we had to come in and give them a warning, send them home. Oh, and two guys at the Highlander got into it over which Sabbath album was the best, but we just made them pay their tab and told them to go to the park, smoke some weed and chill out.”

Mustapha poured tea. “This would have been a parking lot thing.” He explained the story.

“No shit? We’d have heard of somebody dragging a body around… hang the fuck on. Okay, I don’t know if this was related, but, there was this kid sitting in an old white Cadillac, back up there behind the gay cowboy bar, so right by where somebody would come off those train tracks. So we figure he’s waiting on someone, reading a book, but then we come back like two hours later, and he’s still there. We roust him, run him and the tags, it comes up he’s from Pittsburgh. Not the city; the neighborhood. The car’s his grandma’s, he’s got no record at all but he’s got a flag from the gang unit.”

Diana said, “Find me a kid from that neighborhood who doesn’t.”

“What I said. He’s real polite, no attitude, talks like a white kid. Explains he had uncles were in the game, so there’s the flag. But he’s not: he’s doing his damn chemistry homework. Says his pals conned him into giving him a ride, he’s thinking it’s a hip-hop show, turns out it’s the 4/20 festival. He don’t smoke, so he heads back to the car to wait for them. We call grandma, she confirms she left him the car, tells us to make sure he stays out of trouble. So, no harm, no foul. But now I’m thinking he could have been the lookout.” Gibson shrugged. “Maybe I’m just succumbing to prejudice, you know? But pot festivals are a white kid thing.”

They aren’t, really. But there’s a kid with a “gang tag”, so of course this will get followed up. Still no hip-hop: just a body; or rather, a missing body and an empty grave.

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  1. The Mothership Connection (4) | Julian Cage
  2. The Mothership Connection (5) | Julian Cage
  3. The Mothership Connection (6) | Julian Cage
  4. The Mothership Connection (7) | Julian Cage
  5. The Mothership Connection (8) | Julian Cage
  6. The Mothership Connection (9) | Julian Cage
  7. The Mothership Connection (10) | Julian Cage
  8. The Mothership Connection (11) | Julian Cage
  9. The Mothership Connection (12) | Julian Cage
  10. The Mothership Connection (13) | Julian Cage

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