Friday, May 18, 2012

Ashes to Ashes

Lots of homeless mentions in Tami Hoag's novel Ashes to Ashes. It is the first book in the Kovacs/Liska series, but seems to star Kate  Conlan, victim advocate and John Quinn, FBI superstar. A serial killer has been dubbed the Cremator due to his setting bodies on fire after torturing, then murdering ladies. The detectives refer to the UNSUB (unknown suspect) as Smokey Joe.

Contemplating a twitcher, Kate decides the man is probably "living on his own, but not homeless. His clothes were rumpled, but not cast-offs, and his shoes were too good for homeless."

As yes, shoes wear thin quickly when living on the streets. Some would keep footwear clean ~ as clean as is possible given the circumstances. Shoes are heavy, so most only had one pair, what was on their feet, rather than carry around extra pairs. The weight of backpacks, put extra pressure on the feet; walk, walk, walking; all took its toll on the shoes; without income to replace them, we often walked 'round with holey footwear.

" on the street. They did what they had t do to survive. Beg. Steal. Sell a little dope. Turn a trick or two or ten."

"Virtually every kid on the street had lived a variation of that story." Main ingredients: abuse, alcohol, "a cycle of unhappy circumstances and dysfunction." Kate knows many social workers and law enforcement people who grew up in the same type of families "fertile breeding ground for the kind of psychological bacteria that warped minds and devoured hope."

A witness to the Cremator lighting fire to a body, appears to be homeless. Kate thinks, "Maybe they could be friends living on the street together after Sabin fired her..."

When trying to convince the "homeless witness" to stay at a safe house, Kate tells her "it beats sleeping in a box." That reminded me of cardboard box shelters erected along the river or behind graffiti covered factory buildings along the Metro train route.

Brass wants to arrest the witness as a suspect. Reminded there is no evidence to support an arrest, he says: "She's a vagrant.That's against the law."

Kate shoots back: "Oh, yeah that'll look good in the papers. Teenage Murder Witness Charged for Homelessness." True life, that one. Lose roof over your head, become instant criminal. Despite people dwelling on alcoholism, drugs, mental illnesses and abuse as causes of homelessness, poverty also plays a big factor. Pity the person who commits the crime of being unable, for whatever reason, to earn enough money for a home.

When the witness disappears, the detectives begin a search in areas "where the nocturnal creatures pass the hours between dusk and dawn." "A homeless shelter full of women with children. A Laundromat where  a wino with a thick halo of filthy gray hair sat in one of the plastic bucket chairs and stared out the windows until the slightly more fortunate night clerk chased him back onto the street."

Neighbor, Mike, quit his part time job working at AM/PM gas station/convenience store's laundromat. He said he would go in to clean up at 3AM; complained about homeless people hanging out at the 24 hour place, smoking, trashing the place. When he told the men they were not allowed to smoke inside, he got cussed out and blah, blah, blah. Mike said they would spill trash in order to take the plastic garbage can liners. I saw some of my peers doing that. How gross.

"The homeless guy was looking in her back window as if considering it for his night's accommodations." After Kate "hit the remote lock. The alarm system on the truck beeped loudly, sending the homeless guy scuttling back into the doorwell of the Suds-O-Rams."

Kate asks Kovacs, "Are you living in this car, Sam? There are shelters for people like you, you know." A bit of cop humor; Kovacs car littered with stuff.

"The only thing that can save you from disappointment is hopelessness. But if you don't have hope, then there's no point in living."

"I was looking forward to...", I started to say to the arse, Jet. He quickly cut me off as was his habit, saying, "Don't look forward to anything then you will never be disappointed." What I was going to say was "his visit", in an effort to dispel one of his unwarranted accusations, without starting another argument.

"The evil twin syndrome," struck a sour note with me. Characters were talking about serial killers, who often "referred to the side of themselves that was capable of committing murder as a separate entity." As did: "...chronically fearful, skittish, waiting for her attackers to come after her again~a common fear among rape victims."

More on hopelessness, evil twins and rape victims in future posts.

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