From one single incident comes the stuff of great novels.

What mystery can you find hidden beneath the burnt orange sky photograph of J Gerald Crawford?

They stood there, one at a time, beneath a gilded sky of early evening, and said he was a good man.

They always do.

Police questioned them.

Reporters asked them questions.

Television cameras were shoved in their faces.

We walked from one house to the next in the small Fort Worth neighborhood, knocking on doors, apologizing for disturbing them.

Old houses lined the streets.

They were clean.

Trees shaded the yards.

Flowers gathered in small beds, the yellow petals of daffodils dancing in the wind.

The lawns were well maintained.

Most of them had fences.

And dogs were barking from behind the fences.

The neighbors were in shock.

It was easy to tell.

Women were wiping tears from their eyes.

Men were sitting in cane-backed chairs on their porches, and they were sadly shaking their heads.

They couldn’t believe the news.

It was such a shame.

He was a quiet man, they said.

Never caused any trouble.

Helped any family that had a problem.

Fixed their cars.

Mowed their lawns when they were sick.

He was a good neighbor to have.

And now this.

What had happened?

What had gone wrong?

Nobody knew.

He was a good husband, they said.

They remembered how he cared for his wife while she struggled to survive a cancer that finally took her life.

He never left her side, they said.

He waited on her hand and foot.

No man loved his wife more.

He had been a good father, they said.

His son played Little League.

He never missed a game.

Didn’t care if the team won.

Or lost.

He simply went to watch his son.

And that was all that mattered.

You could depend on him, they said.

He was a man of his word.

He was kind.

He was loyal.

He had worked for the same company for the last ten years.

It might have been longer.

Nobody could remember for sure.

He was always laughing.

Nobody had ever heard him say an angry word to anyone.

He read his devotionals with a cup of coffee in the shank of the day when he came home from work.

He was in church every Sunday morning.

He was a deacon.

He taught a Sunday School class.

So why, on a warm April evening, with the remnants of a chilled sun still hanging from a burnt orange sky and spring chasing the last cold days of winter away, had he kissed his sleeping children goodbye, taken his old pistol from the top shelf of his closet, driven twelve miles to an all-night tavern on the far side of Fort Worth, and left three men lying dead in the parking lot.

How could he do such a thing?

I don’t know.

But you do.

Or you will.

And when you get it all figured out, you’ll have a real good novel to write.

Please click HERE to find my Memoir of Sorts, The Man Who Talks to Strangers, on Amazon.

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