Novel 3: Act II, Chapter 1, Scene 5b

TOC page here.

Man, it’s been forever since I’ve updated this. I’m writing a textbook: I’ve written 171 pages of it in 36 days, and should have it done within a couple of weeks. It’s really got me out of the habit of dealing with this, which is frankly inexcusable if I want to take myself seriously as a fiction writer. But it’s been one of those things where I’m so focused on the other project that I kept skipping days at this, and there’s a real momentum factor in blogging, especially when you haven’t yet developed a real serious following.

Anyway. We’re in a makeshift autopsy room underneath Grady Hospital, where our characters are examining the body of what the text calls Mario, but which as I said before, is going to become a different homeless guy in the final version, because we’re going to save Mario to be the victim of Act IV. The key feature here is the eyes of the corpse: remember, the Reaper did creepy things with his victims’ eyes and Alex Dawson’s corpse had the eyes excised. Diana asks Posh the ME, “What about his eyes?”

“Well, that’s a bit interesting.” She drew their gaze to the mottled, greenish face of Mario, then used gloved fingers to spread open his left eyelid. “They weren’t excised, but they’re missing. This is the result of insect and rodent activity. There are bits of flesh here: it’s not a clean excision, like the other man and the Reaper victims.”

Posh shifted her fingers. “Now look at the other eye. What do you see?”

Jenkins peered over Mustapha’s shoulder. “Same thing.”

“No, sir,” said Diana. She pointed. “Look at those marks on the side of his nose.”

“Exactly,” said Posh. She stretched up the lower eyelid to reveal more marks. “Could I swear to this in court? No. But I think your killer was interrupted. He was starting to dig around, got the spoon around and under this man’s eyeball, and then was unable to finish.”

“Ugh,” said Jenkins. “Why I get paid to do you two’s paperwork.”

Posh said, “I don’t suppose there are high-definition video feeds of the outside of that building?”

Mustapha said, “This ain’t London. The tower across the street will have security cameras, but only on their own plaza.”

Keller said, “And six days old?”

Jenkins pursed his lips, sighed. “Okay, we got nothing, then. The word from on high is that this gentleman perished of exposure or perhaps self-harm. Stoph? Detective Siddal? Do us up an edited investigation. Doctors? You’re not under Chief Purcell’s authority, but this is a case where the chief is very much under the mayor’s authority. You want to follow up on that, I don’t blame you. But the word will be the same.”

Keller shrugged. “Won’t fight City Hall. Keep it bland and short?”

Posh chuckled. “There’s a joke in there somewhere. Very well, Captain: we mustn’t panic the city.”

Jenkins said, “Thanks, folks. Siddal, can you find us a next of kin?”

Diana got out her tablet and carefully photographed Mario’s chest. “Sir, nobody knows his last name.”

“I’ve seen you on a computer. Y’all can go, if you want. I’ll stay here until the mayor’s funeral guy gets here.” At their looks, “Hey, that’s what the mayor called him.”

And, chapter. If the killer was interrupted, maybe someone saw them. But of course this is on the fourth floor of a long-abandoned office building, so the only people likely to have interrupted the killer probably have issues with reliable testimony. And what these folks haven’t got to yet is that while the Reaper corpses and Alex Dawson were displayed, this one was hidden. This ain’t London, indeed.


Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 6, Scene 5c

TOC page here.

This part was both the most fun per word and the most time-consuming writing per third of the whole book so far. Here’s the other team of guys from the clothing van:

Mohammed Midou hailed from Senegal. “Call me Moe,” he said as he bent his long, lanky frame to put glasses of strong, hot tea in front of them. “Everyone else does. Ahmed called me a little while ago, said y’all would probably come by. I was watching football at a friend’s place when all that went down.” He passed Mustapha a piece of folded paper. “Call them if you want to.” He sat, sipped thoughtfully. “Man, this is the last thing Islam in Georgia needs.”

Diana said, “Have you ever had any conflicts with the homeless in that area?”

“No.” Another sip. “They ask for spare change; it is my… obligation, my duty to God, to give. So I don’t carry cash.” He drained the cup, quickly; Diana sucked on the bad tooth, which wasn’t getting better. “It took me nine years to get to America. If anyone had told me there were beggars here? I would have laughed. I thought everyone was the one percent, here.”


Mohammed Suleiman was from Yemen: he looked like a DJ at some tech club: nerd glasses, a T-shirt with a robot, cargo shorts. “Call me Sam. First year I lived here was in Clarkston, where all the refugees start? There was like twelve Mohammeds in our building. Plus Sam is Arabic for toxic, like Britney, so I get a laugh out of it. Can I get y’all a beer? I won’t tell. You mind I have one? Thanks. Me and Moe, we got way too much to do to be wasting homeless guys. They’re already wasting themselves, you know? And seriously? They’re not worth wasting. And the fancy calligraphy? Can’t do it. I only learned to read and write Arabic to get my grandmother off my back.” He hoisted the beer. “God bless her bitch ass.” A long swallow. “Oh, right: where was I that night? ESL class.”

Mustapha said, “Seriously? You don’t need to take a class.”

“Ha ha. Thanks. Teaching it, man. I was giving twenty-five people fresh off the boat a lesson on the eight different ways to pronounce ough. O-U-C-H, y’hear? Give me an e-mail addy and I’ll shoot you the roster.”

Neither of these guys had anything to do with Alex Dawson’s death. They’re the American Dream, 21st-century style. So much fun to write, so little to do with the real plot, but they make the book come alive. The real trick to this was toning them down and not using too many descriptors.

Imagine filming this part: the crew, setup, set location, casting, etc., all for what in a Law & Order episode would be about 45 seconds of airtime with two chung-chung breaks.