Don't kill here. He'll catch you and this is Texas.



Like ethereal, indecisive ghosts, curtains whipped wildly in and out of the open windows on either side of the front door, which was also open. Lightning flashed in the distance, but no rain fell. Thunder quickly followed. Despite the cacophony of the rising storm, within, the house was silent, dark, and it reeked of death. Somewhere, in one of many rooms, something terrible had happened. Something terrible that remained fixed in place in a manner of rotting stench, in a manner of echoing violence that would not be quieted until a stiffening, putrefying body was discovered lying on a lavish bed where murder had been done.

Eyes that were not eyes but pale, cataract, lifeless marbles, stared at a ceiling stained in crimson spray, its color growing brown with each hour that passed. A mouth, once perfect in form and heavily painted red, had pinched and pulled into a mask of death, exposing teeth gone yellow with an absence of the toothbrush. It was a mouth that smiled in great sadness. And it had a brother, a second smile, that had somehow blossomed beneath the chin. This was a sinister mouth, one that did not belong, and once, for a life span of seconds, it had choked on blood and poured blood out in a thick fountain, until the walls, ceiling and floor were painted with a horrifying pigment. At the shoulders, a beautiful, lacy dress that had once been white flowed out and down to cover abdomen and thighs. Upon the feet, black shoes, polished and gleaming, incongruously unmarked by the gore.

She had been beautiful hours before, indeed, was beautiful still, even in death. Her hair was long and reddish brown, matted here and there with clot. Her fingernails were painted brightly lavender, to match the color of a stylish shawl still lightly wrapped about the victim's upper arms. On her fingers, rings of diamond, of emerald, of simple, gleaming, eternal gold. About her ankle, a thick, expensive chain of silver. About her wrist, a tennis bracelet, also of emerald. Dangling from her earlobes, adorning a head pulled backward as it hung off the edge of the bed, were diamond earrings that had been purchased at the cost of thirty thousand dollars by a forgotten lover some time in the past.

The room was in order. Nothing save dried blood and the corpse from which it came were left to pontificate the violence done there. A delicate table and lamp stood silently nearby, mute witness to a crime hours old, a crime that had not been a struggle but a simple, silent, uncontested murder.

Nearby the bed, on a nightstand speckled in dull red paint that was not paint but congealed, desiccated blood, a phone began to ring. Five, ten times its electronic bells intoned before it fell silent. An hour later, the ringing began again. This time it sounded for twenty rings before it fell silent. Fifteen minutes later, the phone came alive again and didn't fall silent until a heavy, thick hand wrapped in latex picked up the receiver.

"Pecan Groves police department," the cop answered in a burly voice, trying not to see the blood that spotted the walls at eye level, trying not to disturb evidence a detective might deem important. The policeman was no detective, and, surveying the crime scene into which he had naively stumbled, was glad he wasn't and was entertaining serious doubts as to whether he ever wanted to become one. "Who is this?"

"Oh, Dear God," replied a female voice from the other end of the line. Already bordering on hysterics, the unknown woman began to cry, "Is everything there okay? I-I mean . . . I'm the one that called . . . I didn't- I didn't know, but I thought, I thought something must be wrong when . . . Oh, Dear God, Frank! Frank! Something's happened to our baby! Our baby girl!"

"Ma'am? Ma'am?" asked Officer Redman, struggling to keep the emotion out of his own voice. His eyes were tightly closed. Though he knew nobody was there to hear, he said, "Everything's under control. Everything's fine." Then he replaced the receiver and promptly felt his mouth fill with vomit. A professional, Redman had the presence of mind to exit the room, peeling off his gloves as he went. He made it most of the way downstairs and out the open front door before he let loose.

He was still leaning over his roiling guts, a string of spittle dangling from his lips, when the investigators from homicide arrived. One of them laughed stiffly.

"What's the matter, troop? Never seen a corpse before?"

"No," Redman choked, suddenly ashamed, suddenly angry upon hearing the detective's needling, snide tone. "No, I ain't, and I don't want to ever again."

"Too bad, 'cause you're gonna have to go back in there and show us every step you made, everything you touched. Why'd you enter without authorization, anyway? Was the door open?"

"Yeah. Open, unlocked, everything. All the lights were on, like she was . . . like she was expecting someone."

"She, huh? Pretty?"

"I guess so, yeah. Maybe real pretty before."

...(More Reading Here)

Half a Minute of Madness