The local town father snarled and exploded into the bathroom where
Billy Margram was just pulling his arm down from the air above the shower
During the preceding few years Billy had descended through one then another of
numerous crash pad rooms of opportunity until he had ultimately become the
hamlet's sole street urchin spending most of his time smoking and drinking
behind the town toilet.
It was a rare moment for him to be out of the cold and cleaning up a bit.
His final washing.
If not firmly final, the beating was swift and brutal enough for the crashes and
shouts of anger to be heard by neighbors in the adjoining apartment and
outdoors, "This time Billy, you are going to learn to not steal."
A week later Billy, this kid who only hoped to get his life together and become
a police officer, was found dead on the street and nobody ever bothered to put
together the proximity of the beating (and his bloodied nose) with the time of
It was that kind of town.
A few years before that, on an evening two weeks before Christmas,
Clay Boone was left in charge of his younger brother while his parents went to chorale.
He heard firecrackers outside and knew it was his duty to check.
In the husky evening light teenage Clay descended the porch and turned right
toward the local gathering place, a grocery store deli with a few arcade games,
but he was jolted to halt seeing a figure lying on the ground just a few yards from his
The woman was dead, shot by her husband who was still in the phone booth outside
the far corner of the deli explaining to the police, "Just took out my old
lady, and I won't be taken alive."
Whether the guy was stating his actual plans or merely his assumed expectations neither
The first police officer to arrive was only told of some sort of domestic
dispute in Sugar Loaf, so he stepped unaware out of his cruiser and directly
into a .22 shell between the eyes. 
Almost immediately a large cadre of local police swarmed the spot with a furious
resplendent swirl of red, white, and blue patchwork putting the
lighting to shame.
They unleashed a torrent of gunfire that left only small pieces
of bone and flesh for the kids (Clay among them) to find the next morning while
they stood by the phone booth waiting for the school bus.
Years later local artisans would point to bullets in the walls of their shops
and recount the horror.
It was that kind of town.
The kind of town where the first murder for hire in the United States could (and
did) occur—but that was much earlier and
outside the scope of this writing.
Suffice it say nobody expected such a broiling cauldron of rundown decrepit houses and stupidly dangerous tension to become
crucible producing some of the finest art and creative products the world has
seen, but it has.
It is that kind of town.