TOC page here.
Diana and Mustapha went to 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. Now we’re tracking down one of these leads:
The fellowship hall of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church was cheery and grand: less blandly institutional than most Diana had been in. The stained-glass was beautiful, but while she supposed the bible quotes were appropriate, she’d never cared for religion and had to dampen down a raised hackle or two when the pastor, or minister, or whatever his proper title was, told her that providing breakfast to the destitute was a means to the end of saving souls.
Breakfast was delicious, however, and she could only pretend she wasn’t hungry twice before giving in. “Why we get up early and stand in line,” said Catfish, who with his bald head, protruding lips and voluminous whiskers really did look like his namesake. “They always run out of bacon before anything else. But it’s early, and Ms. Longstreet sent us to you.”
Big Steve was of average size in every respect Diana could see. “Who was it, ma’am?”
Catfish finished his biscuit. “Aw, man, it was Bill, wasn’t it?”
Diana said, “I really can’t say.”
Big Steve said, “You don’t have to. Process of elimination.” He raised his Styrofoam coffee cup; Catfish did a doubletake, then did the same. “God bless you, brother,” said Steve.
Catfish said, “And give you rest.” To Diana, “This is about the Reaper, ain’t it? Yeah. I’ll do what I can. What you want to know?”
This is mostly scene-setting, and more character for Diana, whose resolute rationalism is being set up here as a counterpoint to her terrible romantic decisions in early life. Also, it’s about giving these guys character, because the whole point of the book is to hammer home the idea that while homeless guys fall into about half a dozen archetypes, they all have a story of their own.