Novel 3: Act III, Chapter 1, Scene 1a

TOC page here.

And now we begin Act III:

January overstayed its welcome, as usual: even the northern transplants began to complain about the cold and drear. Diana and Mustapha spent a week carefully tracing forensic evidence in the case of a fifteen-year-old prostitute found with her throat slashed in a construction trailer at the site of the billion-dollar temple to pro football towards which a cash-strapped city government had pledged $300 million of taxpayer money.

The girl was called Pretty Eyes, but nobody knew her real name, including her pimp, who was in the Bahamas at the time of her murder. He was genuinely distraught about her death, above and beyond the feelings of an owner toward his ruined assets. Well over a thousand people worked on the stadium: each of them had to be swabbed for DNA, and questioned. All sixteen of the workers who had prior records of violence against women proved to have solid alibis, and none of the workers’ DNA matched. Somewhere out there was a man who’d raped an underage girl and left her to die on a pile of blood-soaked blueprints, and who’d probably kill again. But he didn’t pluck out eyeballs or write in Arabic, and construction of the new stadium remained on schedule, and Pretty Eyes was black and destitute, so the media moved on quickly to the next scandal.

Mario remained buried. A report was filed, citing exposure, and his sister took a coffee can full of ashes back to Houston with her, and that was that. Even the commenters on the AJC website moved on from Islamophobia back to directing their racism at ordinary black people. A Georgia court ruled that the holders of the note on Peachtree-Pine could go ahead with foreclosure, but Claire Longstreet appealed, giving the shelter at least another year. Alex Dawson’s murder went into the cold case file.

Diana and Grace met Andrew for dinner: it was all very civilized. Andrew picked the place, so of course it was ultra high end, with fawning staff and girlfriend menus with no prices printed. Andrew made a great fuss over expensive wine and took three phone calls during dinner. Diana stared at him, from across the table, saw a handsome alpha male, and tried to really remember what exactly it was that had drawn her to him so long ago. She had a near perfect image of their first meeting in her head when Grace kicked her foot under the table in response to something preposterous her father said. The image disappeared in a flash, never to return. Tiny portions of weird fusion cuisine left both her and Grace still hungry. They went up to Buford Highway and found a place with no English on the menu, where they laughed about the situation over plates of spicy Szechuan chicken.

“You should have a TV rose contest, Mom,” said Grace. “You’re wealthy; you look good.”

“That sounds like a wonderful idea. We’ll call it The Cougar and the Rose. Better idea: let’s have one for you.”

“I’m not pretty enough for TV. Plus, the network would make the pool of guys be all those manly frat-guy types instead of cute hipster boys.”

Here we have a slice of life, the renewal of another month. Work, family, ongoing relationships. Nothing more, nothing less. Murder is a business like any other.

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