In this excerpt, Detective Mock drops in at a fleabag hotel to speak with a snitch who has strong connections to the Georgia Ku Klux Klan.

(Mock) was driving through the stretch of Ponce that cops called the Jungle. This had once been one of Atlanta’s proudest streets. But two decades of white flight and official neglect had taken a toll. The Jungle was a long swath of flophouse hotels, abandoned buildings, empty lots, liquor stores and take-out joints. A lot of the city’s white hookers worked this strip.

Some of them operated out of the Diablo Motel, a four-story eyesore that had been a luxury hotel in its glory days. Now, streetwalkers rented rooms by the hour, and end-of-the road drunks and small-time hoods by the week. The Zone 2 boys were in there a couple times a week.

He hung a right, pulled into the small half-circle driveway in front of the Diablo, got out and pushed through the revolving wood-and-glass front door. The carpet was wine-colored, so greasy and grimy he wished he had some newspaper to walk on.

In its glory days, the lobby had been the size of a ballroom. It had long since been partitioned off to make more rooms, and now was about 12-by-12. It held a cigarette-scarred registration desk, two faded purple chairs with an ashtray on a table between them, and three telephone booths along one wall.

Behind the desk, a big-chested blonde, in a light blue men’s shirt and enough makeup and eye-shadow to sink a battleship, was grinning ear-to-ear as he pushed through the door.

“Hey, Cleveland. What you doin in these parts?”

“Hey, yourself, Maggie May.” He had known her for years. Her name, when she came up from Macon at age fifteen, had been Peggy Ann McDaniels. He had arrested her a half-dozen times when he worked Vice, tried to set her on the straight and narrow. He had never succeeded, but she didn’t stay on the street long: She was too smart for that. Maggie Mae had been running a string of girls out of the Diablo for fifteen years. “What you know good?”

She grinned. “Ain’t nothing good out here, man.” Under her easy tone, he heard a tremor of fear. Her face was so tight, it looked like her skin might crack. She knew he worked Homicide now. She was worried that his visit was about one of her girls.

He got to it. “I need to talk with Charlie Mack Hulsey.”

Her face relaxed. “He’s in Room 412. I better call if you going up.”

Mock had seen Charlie Mack’s room. He didn’t relish the idea of going back up there. “I’m not going up. Tell him to come down.”

From The Moaning Bench © 2016