Novel 3: Act III, Chapter 2, Scene 1b

TOC page here.

Mustapha and Diana have made it to the center of the labyrinth to inform Bill Knight’s wife of his death. She takes it well, then asks if it was “one of the other bums” who killed him.

Mustapha said, “No. Did you watch the news this morning?”

“Briefly. Obama and Congress, yelling at each other instead of doing anything.”

Diana said, “Local news, Ms. Knight.”

“Oh, that. No, I never do: it’s garbage.”

Mustapha explained; Knight cut him off partway through. “Like that other bum, last month? Oh, god.” A hand to her mouth. “Oh, god. Did he… did he suffer?”

Diana said, “Hard to say, ma’am. We know you’re in shock, but we’re hoping you can help us.”

“Help you catch the Reaper, you mean? How am I going to—never mind. Of course: what do you need?”

Mustapha said, “When was the last time you spoke with your husband?”

“Three days ago? We had lunch, at Krog Street Tacos. I wasn’t thinking straight, because I was starving, and I brought back margaritas for both of us.” A long pause: she looked inward, and breathed. “Talk about embarrassing. But he sat there and ate lunch, with it right there the whole time. He said it was a nice test, and that he wasn’t even tempted. Which I later felt bad about for not quite believing. Then, when we were finishing up, there was a mom with two preschoolers, and he just handed her the drink, said she looked like she could use it.” She began to weep. “Oh, lord: what am I going to tell the boys?”

Mustapha said, “We’re very sorry for your loss. Did your husband talk about anything at all that might,”

“No. He’s—he was—happy. Even on alcohol, Bill is a real charmer. As he stopped drinking, and things became clearer, he started paying more attention to what was around him. We’d have lunch and he’d tell me stories. The kinds of things men without jobs and with lots of time on their hands would get up to. Pathetic, but in the hands of a good storyteller, they really said something about the human condition.”

Diana said, “Did he ever talk about the other victim? A guy named Alex Dawson?”

“Sure. He was broken up about that. The other guy was still in denial about his alcoholism, but Bill was convinced that with time and effort he could help him out. He said… oh, right: something about maintaining contact until the guy had a breakthrough or bottomed out. I don’t know how much y’all know about alcoholism, but you can’t make someone stop drinking. They have to decide to do it on their own. There were a couple of other guys he kept a look out for, too. So then… Oh, god, my poor husband… The Reaper… Would you excuse me for a moment?”

Mustapha said, “Take your time, Ms. Knight.”

The key takeaway here is that she loved him, but he wanted to stay out on the streets for a while longer. But we just in the last chapter heard someone else say she was making him stay on the streets longer, in order to confirm his sobriety. Who’s fibbing here?

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