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.
And then they just go steppin' on back and steppin' on back till
they was out the door again. Rookie told me he just slammed it,
liked to make it all go away. Ya with me, Agent?"
"Could understand his feeling. Been there, done that, which is why
I choose to dispatch. Two boys run to the cruiser and call the
precinct for help. Get me. I remember listenin' to both a them
talkin' so fast, so crazy, I could smell sulfur. I said to them,
'You boys best calm yourselves right down 'cause I can't make out
one word y'all're tryin' to say.' So they did, and I know to quick
send out another car, call the man in charge, wake him up, and
then, a course, all hell breaks loose. Real soon, you got your
newspaper boys, you got your TV lights, you got your rubberneckers,
ex cetra. With a homicide word flies fast, never mind what happens
when you got a double ax murder, you know what I'm sayin',
"I know." I said to the dispatcher, "Did the officer who found the
bodies get the names of the people staying at the motel?"
"No, ma'am. Let's just say those folks had the foresight to check
out real fast -- long as you call runnin' out the back door
"What about other people in the neighborhood? Did any witnesses
"Ma'am, that neighborhood is so low-down you don't want to know who
your neighbor might be, never mind listen to what he has to say.
Nobody seen or heard a thing. We figured right away, Forget about
"Were you able to trace the calls?"
"From the puppeteer?"
"What the hell is that, FBI talk? Did you say
"The man who called you twice. Disguised his voice."
"Oh, him. Nope. Nobody saw to tracin' that call."
"I find that impossible to believe."
He chose not to respond.
"Who destroyed your trace?"
"Ma'am, thought you said this was a spot check?"
"Hey, Agent, you're a pisser, you don't mind my sayin'. You want to
talk to someone else in the department? That'll be fine. But you
take it from this old geezer, who's been around a lot longer than
you, it is too late for stirring up shit. She dies in -- what is
it? Couple weeks?"
"Ten days? You see? There's no point. Now I got to get movin'. Got
plenty to do before I report to work tonight."
Yeah. He had plenty to do. Had to get back on the phone the minute
I hung up and report my call to someone. The bastard.
Excerpted from LOVE HER MADLY © Copyright 2001 by Mary-Ann
Tirone. Reprinted with permission from Henry Holt. All rights