Novel 3: Act III, Chapter 1, Scene 3c

TOC page here.

A continuation of yesterday’s post. Diana and Mustapha are at the shelter, in order to break the news of Bill Knight’s death to Claire Longstreet, and also to find next of kin and any leads, which they do. But Claire Longstreet has so far skirted their questions about the mysterious Red, the victim’s best friend.

But this time, Mustapha wasn’t willing to be patient. “You’re still stonewalling us. Who’s he in the program with? Bring them to us now, and where the hell is this Red character?”

Longstreet blew her nose, stopped the tears. “The program is confidential. I can talk to them,”

“No, Ms. Longstreet, we can. You can counsel people all you want; that’s your business. But homicide is ours. We got the mayor and the media on our backs, cos once people have their coffee this morning, they’re going to start panicking about the Reaper, just like last summer. Your ordinary Atlantan doesn’t give a shit about your program, or your confidentiality, and neither does the mayor. You can cooperate, or you can get your water shut off again.”

Her lips went white. “You can’t threaten–“

“I ain’t threatening; I’m predicting. Your… philosophy, whatever, that’s your business. But public order is the mayor’s. You do not want to be the one the TV people are saying is hindering the investigation.”

Diana broke in. “We really don’t want try to get them to talk about the sort of personal things that are why you have confidentiality; we just want to hear anything Mr. Knight might have said about anything suspicious he might have seen.”

Mustapha said, “That’s right. And bring us to Red, now.”

Longstreet said, “Now that, I cannot do.” At Mustapha’s growl, “I passed on your request last month, and got an unequivocal response back that his family feels any further contact with the shelter will only impede his recovery.” She flared her nostrils. “You can try me in the court of public opinion, but I’m not without resources. The homeless and the formerly homeless deserve dignity–“

“Sure they do. What we are trying to give Bill Knight here, by tracking down the guy who killed him.”

“So I will ask the other Lazarus Program participants if they want to speak with you, And I will ask them to try to find it in their hearts to do so. But I won’t tell them what to do.”

She jammed a thumb into the corner of her eyesocket, right next to the bridge of her nose. “I’m sorry; this is going to turn into a full blown migraine; and here I am worrying about my own problems when Bill’s family will suffer far worse. Go talk to Catfish and Big Steve: Catfish has been in my program for a few months, and Big Steve has been nosing around for a while now: I keep hoping he’s going to come join us.”

Note how well she responds under stress. We know she’s hiding something, because she would be way more apologetic and less defensive if Red or the other Lazarus Program participants were truly irrelevant to the deaths. Of course, they may be irrelevant to the deaths; just not to something else. We know from Diana’s conversation with Tommy Clyburne in the previous chapter that she has big financial backing that would generally prefer to remain anonymous.

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