He had come to America with his parents when he was 17. His father, a mechanical engineer, had been wooed by a firm he had visited on behalf of his previous employer, and couldn't refuse such a wonderful opportunity.
He was what some might call a drifter, but that would be to paint too harsh of a picture. He was not really a loser, he just never felt very comfortable anywhere and so he kept moving around. Jobs were easy to find if you didn't mind menial work, cooking, cleaning, night shifts. he preferred restaurant work, since that was where the food was.
In the end, we would have to call him a loner. He knew he didn't really fit in very well, and he did not particularly like people. His tendency to share this fact early in his acquaintances tended to keep others at a rather formal distance.
Nothing would hold him where he was, and when he grew bored of a job, or encountered an unpleasantness in the form of a co-worker, neighbor, or landlord who rubbed himt he wrong way, he would simply move along.
He would find someplace to live, the cheaper the better, and half settle into a routine of working and sleeping. Reading was his one true passion. While he was not unattractive, he never seemed to click with the women who did cross his path, and cultural disconnects usually prevented him from pursuing much of a social life which might have yielded more appropriate company.
Define his reading list... make it interesting and eclectic.
Define his racial/national background - again, believeable and relatively innocent.
Social - a few bars - light conversation - nothing too intimate, nothing too obnoxious. Basically, an unknown to those around him.
Create, gently at first, and with him as a sympathetic character, some form of "terrorist disaster".
Gradually bring out the "clues" of the case - the skills the villains required, the ways they lived, and their ethnic origins. Slowly make it dawn on the reader that our "hero" fits the profile.
Introduce from the "social" days a character we knew "back when" who turns out to be implicated - a person who might have a slip of paper, a name, a phone number, connecting to our man, by one or two degrees of separation.
Allow him to be "Stranger"-like in that he does not impress anyone in the aftermath with his sympathy or patriotism (although his real thoughts are harmless and peaceful).
He gets caught up in the subsequent dragnet, and his lack of resources, cultural issues, and various circumstantial evidences keep him snared until the people's blood lust is peaking and the authorities make a "round two" villain of him. No matter what happens now, he is not "redeemable," or "rehabilitatable" due to the way his biography has been spread around, his photo published, his character demonised. The authorities must follow through on their accusations in order to justify their treatment of this man.
Gradually the net closes around him and he is executed for treason/terrorism/conspiracy. We, the readers, know all along that he had absolutely nothing to do with the violence...
© Huw Powell