Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of this story about an empty grave found in an under-construction Beltline where we try to ascertain whether I can write a compelling story with hip-hop as the background. We just found out the kid with a “gang tag” doing his homework in the car the night of the pot festival is an aspiring rapper with a hip-hop pedigree that connects him to Big Daddy Jay, who a decade ago was a big star, but is now a producer, and recently out of jail in New York where he took the fall for a protégé. Then we heard from people who walked down what would become the Beltline late at night after the pot festival, where they say a guy digging a grave. Once Diana does some research, she finds out that Big Daddy Jay was married to one of the other men in the group, Thirty Ought, who has since disappeared, presumed to be hiding from the law but possibly recently disinterred from the Beltline. They confront BDJ in a club and he explains that he and Thirty Ought got married for medical insurance: Thirty Ought had multiple sclerosis. Diana gets a corrupt judge to allow them to disinter a new grave near another section of the Beltline, they find Thirty Ought’s body, and inform our aspiring rapper Christopher that he’s actually Thirty Ought’s heir, he owns half of everything, and if he helps them by snitching, he can have it all. Now, Big Daddy’s in jail, awaiting arraignment:
Big Daddy looked a lot smaller in a prison jumpsuit; but his lawyer more than made up for this in both bulk and adornment. “It is simply unconscionable to have brutally detained Mr. Oakes in the midst of his–”
“Oh, stop,” said Diana. “We all like to have our fun.”
“Well. Let’s keep this brief, so I can extricate my client from this insalubrious location before the close of business. Given the treachery of that young man, it would be a waste of everyone’s time to attempt to assert that my client did not relocate Thirty Ought’s body. We are ready to plead guilty on that, accept our punishment and move on. But Mr. Oakes did not kill his… er, husband. You see, back in 2006, Thirty Ought’s MS symptoms caused him increasing pain and suffering. He used narcotics to alleviate this.”
Big Daddy said, “I come home one night and there he is, on the floor, stone dead. I loved the man—not in the gay sense, mind, but like the brother he was to me—and I hated seeing him in pain. But I cried like a baby with him in my arms. I still don’t know if it was an accident or a suicide.”
The lawyer said, “And what you won’t find is any evidence of homicide.”
“Who cares?” said Mustapha. “Hiding the body, profiting from his disappearance: the jury can draw its own conclusions.”
Big Daddy grimaced. “Man, I panicked cause it was my place he was dead in. Y’all was hunting us down, I knew damn well if I called it in y’all were gonna pin it on me. I thought about pulling a number from The Wire and sealing him in one of them houses in Pittsburgh, but I didn’t have no tools and it was three in the morning.”
Diana asked, “So why bury him in Midtown? Not really your neck of the woods.”
“Well, that was why. All the fellas in Pittsburgh? They was pool sharks. Man, you got no idea how much money I lost playing pool back in the day. So what I used to do was go on out there where nobody would recognize me, go to that Dupree’s place in that shopping center, put in some practice. I knew about them old train tracks from when I’d go out to smoke some herb. Went up to New York, lost track of my roots, didn’t hear nothing about no Beltline till that snitch bitch Christopher told me. Tell you the truth, I didn’t know nothing about Thirty Ought’s will, either, or I’d have been giving the boy his cut all along.”
“Sure you would,” muttered Mustapha.
“It’s immaterial,” said the lawyer. “The body? He’ll do his time. It’s a misdemeanor, anyway. The death? We will fight all charges with all our resources. You can’t prove homicide, you can’t prove murder. Your DA’s office is too risk-averse to roll those dice; and in the event Mr. Quinn chooses to try my clients, we feel confident Mr. Oakes will be acquitted.”
Big Daddy leaned back, hands behind his head. “Reasonable doubt all around, baby.”
So, body disposal, not murder; or at least, not murder anyone can prove. Will our detectives be able to find a way to keep Big Daddy in jail? We’ll find out next time.