This was the first call I made. Houston Police Department. Asked
them to track down the dispatcher working out of the Thirty-first
Precinct seventeen years ago, third shift, on duty from eleven to
Very efficient force down there, cop called me back twenty minutes
He said, "Now have I got Agent Penelope Rice of the FBI
"Count yourself fortunate, ma'am. Officer Melvin Hightower
dispatcher seventeen years ago Thirty-first Precinct is still
dispatchin' still workin' the third shift don't ask me why. He's
home asleep till five. Don't need to sleep far as I can tell.
Melvin's famous for the amount of rest he gets on the job."
He gave me Melvin's home phone number. I thanked him.
"Always a pleasure helpin' out the feds, ma'am."
At five o'clock Officer Hightower answered his phone on the first
ring. He didn't say hello, he said, "FBI?"
So I said, "Officer Hightower?"
Him: "Agent Rice?"
I let it go. "Yes, this is Agent Rice. Sorry to bother you at
"Expect it's urgent."
Very urgent. "Yes, it is. I need you to recall the work you did the
night Melody Scott and James Munter were killed."
"You and everybody else. That little guttersnipe. . . . Well, her
number's just about up, ain't it?"
He wasn't looking for an answer so why bother?
"About to get the big stick. I'll tell ya, it's all been coming
back to me like it happened last night, like I got a picture show
in my head. I'd be more'n happy to share my recollections with you,
Agent, but I do find myself wonderin' what interest the FBI might
be havin' at this late date. I mean, when it's too late to change a
'Let's just call it a spot check, Officer. We were involved in the
case before it went to trial."
"That so? Never heard that. But who am I? Dispatcher, is all. So
here I go: See, that night? I get two calls concern' the crime.
From the same guy. 'Course, he was fool enough to try to deepen his
voice second time. First voice, regular voice, guy tells me two
people got beat up, gives me an address, a motel, and then I get
dead air. Couple minutes later he's Mr. Deep Voice and says two
people, armed and dangerous, high on illegal drugs, are causin' a
fuss and gives me another address, a residence, then more dead
"I figure it's just some fool with an ax to grind. . . . Hey, now,
I didn't quite mean to say that, did I?"
"I guess you didn't."
"I don't take none of it lightly, Agent."
"Where was I? Oh. I send two cars out, two boys in each, hear from
my second car ten minutes later. Officer says, 'Melvin, we got a
coupla naked, stoned kids standin' in a bathtub fulla bloody
water.' More blood than water, he tells me. Says, 'Aint their blood
neither. Some, but most of it came off them, not outa them.
And there's a pile a clothes on the bathroom floor saturated with
blood.' Says, 'Melvin? A violent crime's been committed real
recent, some other location. You keep your ears peeled,
'Then as I remember he said he wouln't be gettin' much outa the two
kids till he brings 'em in. Says, 'Make a real big pot a coffee,
Melvin, 'cause I can see I'll be needin' six cups myself. Figure
these hopheads'll choose my squad car to puke up all the shit they
"Two kids, Agent, are Rona Leigh Glueck and her boyfriend, Lloyd
whatever-his-name-was. Forget. Officers come in, Rona Leigh wrapped
in a blanket, and she's laughin' and laughin'. First sensible thing
we make outa her is, 'I had me so much fun killin' that bitch I got
a pop ever' time the ax chopped her.' Then she goes totally
berserk, like a blind dog in a butcher shop, starts carryin' on,
screamin' and cryin' and laughin' all at once. Pukes right then.
Never puked in the squad car, oh, no, she waits till she gets in
fronta my desk. Toss her in the lockup with all the hookers, and
they're like to kick the shit outa her 'cause she's still pukin'
her brains out. But then they recognize her as one a their own and
clean her up. The boyfriend, he never said a damn thing.
"Then the other shoe drops. Two officers I sent to that motel?
Here's their story. They knock on a lotta doors, put up with a
lotta grief from the other guests, who figure they was bein'
arrested and don't know what for. Then they find the right room.
The boy's room.
Time to let him come up for air. "James Munter."
"Yeah, Munter, that was it. His room was unlocked. Officers open
the door, flip on the light, first thing they can make out? The
handle a that ax. Where it wasn't slick with blood said the wood
was almost white. The light comin' through the door behind them had
lit it up, is what that poor rookie kept sayin' to anyone who would
listen. Said the ax handle looked like it had a light bulb in
"The blade was embedded in the female victims upper chest. Senior
officer says to me, 'You wouldn'ta believed it, Melvin. A drip fell
right down on my shoe like suddenly it's rainin' blood.' Ma'am, our
two boys look up at this big red splash on the ceilin' and then
they step back real quick so's they won't get dripped on further.