Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 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. But Big Daddy has a plausible claim that Thirty Ought died of natural causes, and that he hid the body because he feared he’d be held responsible for it way back then. Lastly, a gangster imprisoned for crimes back in the day tells our detectives he has a way for them to nail Big Daddy for murder… but it’s not quite what we’re led to think.
This time, it was Big Daddy who was resplendent in finery, while his lawyer was in a plain black suit. The hotel suite at the Ritz still smelled of weed smoke, even though the windows were open and the smell and sound of Peachtree Street traffic filled the room.
The lawyer looked at Diana and Mustapha with narrow, reddened eyes. “The hell you back here for? My client made bail.”
“For now,” said Diana. “But there’s no bail on murder charges.”
Shawty G’s bugged-out eyes made him look even higher. “Man, you think Big Daddy’s going to do any time, you wrong: snitches get stitches, even if it’s just on the autopsy table.”
“Shut the fuck up,” said Mustapha. “Haven’t you heard you’re under new ownership?” He pointed at Big Daddy. “Stand up.”
Big Daddy’s eyes were clear. “We are already negotiating in good faith with the DA’s office.” He remained seated.
The lawyer said, “And they know full well they’ll get nowhere prosecuting Mr. Oakes for Mr. Beatty’s death.”
“Natural causes, baby,” said Big Daddy.
Diana said, “Oh, we know about that. And you’re right: you’ll never do time for killing Mr. Beatty.”
Mustapha said, “But that’s not why we’re here.”
Diana smiled “No. You see, there were three of you in the New Pirate Mafia. Poor dear old Sweet T, died in the tub. Weed, boombox, accident. But we have a witness, and an affidavit, and… oh, yes, Mr. Oakes, you should look worried.”
A long, slow smile, almost genuine. “I’m not. If it’s the witness I’m thinking of, he’s in jail. A convicted felon.”
The lawyer stirred himself to say, “Not credible.”
“Not by himself,” said Mustapha. “He gets up in court, talks about how you picked up the boombox and tossed it in the bathtub, then laughed as you watched your partner twitch himself to death, the jury probably won’t buy it.”
Diana said, “But the Atlanta Police Department is a giant bureaucracy. It took us forever, poking around in a dusty warehouse on a hot spring day, but we found the boombox.”
“Sealed in plastic,” said Mustapha. “For seven years.”
“And guess whose fingerprints are on it, nice and neat, right where you’d grab it to throw it in?”
“Stand up, Big Daddy,” said Mustapha. “You’re under arrest for the murder of William Carter, a.k.a. Sweet T. You have the right to remain silent, but it don’t matter, as we have evidence and corroborative testimony. Come on, get up before I dislocate your shoulder pulling you up.” He saw Shawty G start to move. “Assaulting an officer will get you a lot more than stitches, kid.”
Diana unholstered her sidearm. “Just try us. Oh, and by the way; I talked to Christopher, who just as soon as Mr. Oakes here is convicted will own all of you instead of just half? He told me to tell you the enterprise is moving in a new direction, and that after today, you’re paying your own hotel bill.”
And that’s it. Misdirection: we haven’t mentioned dear old Sweet T for thousands of words now, but he was right there all along. Big Daddy spent a lot of time and effort covering up how he murdered his husband, but it never even occurred to him, let alone most people reading this story, that he might be held to account for his other partner’s death.
So I think I succeeded in writing a story about hip-hop, mostly because hip-hop is just the window dressing for a tale of murder and hubris. The classics always work.
Back to the novel next.