Daylight breaks through the trees in Highlands Cemetery, on the eastern outskirts of Ottawa, Kansas, at exactly 6:52 AM. Tombstones cast long shadows toward the west, almost as if pointing to lawless towns of history, like those trampled by Quantrill’s Raiders in the aftermath of America’s Civil War, veterans of which lie beneath the Highlands Bermuda grass, their names slowly being erased by lichens, rain, and blowing dust. Rebecca Stitcher’s gravestone casts no shadow. Nor does her mother Isabelle’s. Both are rectangular pieces of granite, lying flat as Kansas itself, with names carved into the mottled red igneous rock, almost like shallow streams spelling out their histories of interactions with the prairie storms. The grass has still not established completely over the women’s graves. A dark gray cloud bank blends in with the western horizon. Two miles way, the one remaining Stitcher, Naomi, Rebecca’s sister, lies in her bed, staring at the ceiling, her left arm down along her side under the covers, her right arm bent, her right hand holding a semi-automatic pistol, a .45 caliber Glock 21, lying across her chest.
She raises the pistol, pointing at the ceiling light—a pink, fluted, upside-down glass shade held with a brass knob—and pulls the trigger. She pulls her left hand out from under the covers, works the slide, and pulls the trigger again. She’d learned how to do that from watching crime shows on television. Over and over, she dry fires, practicing her trigger pressure exactly as she read online that she was supposed to do. In her mind the pink glass shade is someone’s face. She doesn’t know who that person is, but it’s the person who killed her sister. Naomi imagines the face. She aims at the right eye and pulls the trigger. She hears the clink but in her mind it’s really a bam!