Brian has a dream of writing the great American novel. He knows that without a gimmick to set him apart from the rest of the pack, he'll never succeed. From reading Black Like Me, he gets the idea to masquerade as a homeless man to get the material to write the saga of those suffering from poverty. During his first visit to the local homeless shelter to gather facts, he is accosted by Zeke, one of the subjects of his research. In order to save his skin, Brian spills his guts to the huge black man. After hearing the story, Zeke sees value in the project for his homeless brethren, and pledges to help the wannabe paperback writer. Also on his first visit, a vision of loveliness, aptly named Angel, takes away Brian's breath and subsequently his heart. She turns out to be a fanatical Christian who is waiting for God to reveal the identity of her future husband. Brian decides to write a novel and make Angel the heroine ...
Brian felt a pair of strong hands seize him from behind just before he suffered the heat of being slammed into a brick wall, followed by the coldness of steel pressed against his throat. He could feel the vibration of each word from a menacing voice bounce off his trembling body.
"I don't know what your game is, mister, but I know you're not one of us."
"Don't shoot!" Brian screeched.
The coldness eased off and Brian's assailant started to laugh. "Don't shoot? This knife isn't loaded."
"That is a knife, huh?"
"Brilliant deduction, Sherlock." The laughing ceased. "Now, dude, talk fast and talk straight. What are you doing down here pretending to be a bum like me?"
Brian's face contorted into a grimace. "I didn't say you're a bum."
"No, you didn't. I'm confessing to the crime. Now spill your guts, before I have to do it for you – if you get my drift. Are you the fuzz?"
"Are you for real? Don't you know nuthin'?"
"I know that if you don't move that knife further away from my carotid artery, I'm gonna wet my pants."
The knife-wielder laughed again. "You sure ain't no cop, unless you're the best actor I ever saw. You make the cowardly lion look like the hero in Bravehart. What are you doin' hangin' out here at the rescue mission?"
Brian coughed and pointed to the knife with his eyes. The man withdrew it a few inches further from the trembling body of his victim.
Brian looked around him and saw that no one else was within hearing distance. "OK, you're right. I'm not homeless. But I'm not a policeman or FBI agent or anything."
"Then what the hell are you?"
"Can I wipe the sweat off my brow before it gets in my eyes?" "Whatever."
Brian hastily grabbed the sleeve of his shirt and wiped his forehead dry. "Thanks. You're not going to believe me."
"Give me a try."
"I'm an author."
"A book writer."
"You're right. I don't believe you." The knife moved toward Brian again.
"Cross my heart and hope to . . . live!"
"Sure sounds like a whopper to me."
Brian shrugged. "I told you. But it's true."
"OK. You gotta understand the publishing business. It's like major cutthroat competition. There are about a million people writing novels, but only a handful are being published every year. It's murder . . . ." Brian looked at the knife. "Ah, let me rephrase that . . . it's hell trying to break into the writing game. I needed something unique. Ever hear of the book, Black Like Me?"