This is a narrative with the elements of noir: a murder; an investigation; a back-story full of twists and turns so suitable for flashbacks; a femme fatale, dating both son and father; a reputable man fallen from grace; a hefty life insurance claim—it has it all.
We begin in a garage. A husband and wife quarrel, while someone sneaks up with gun. The woman is shot dead, “execution-style”, according to the Houston Chronicle. Close-up to a “nefarious” high heel on the brake of a car: synecdoche for the get-away vehicle. We do not know who these shadowy figures are.
From there, the plot sequence can take any number of routes: most likely, the suffering of William Fuller, a twenty-one year-old boy diagnosed with sickle-cell leukemia, must be accentuated, as is his burgeoning relationship with Tyonne Palmer, his beautiful but suspicious caretaker.
Then, there’s his father’s church burning down, belonging to Pastor Tracy Bernard “T.B.” Burleson. We’d have to ascribe some motive to that incident, but it works well to reveal the affair Tyonne Palmer is having with the Pastor/father! That’s a dun-dun-dun moment if I’ve ever came across one.
All this leads up to, of course, a trial and a murder: the murder of the pastor’s wife, Pauletta Burleson. Who is Pauletta Burleson, we are not so sure, but we do know this: she had a $60,000 life insurance policy. Who aspires to this bounty at this stage of the plot is up for grabs: could be the good and righteous Pastor TB Burleson, ready to get rid of that nag of wife to be with the young and sly mistress; could be Tyonne Palmer, out for hers; or maybe our suffering protagonist William Fuller who may not be as innocent and as vulnerable as he seems…
If this all seems too silly or I seem to be getting a bit carried away here, I submit that this sort of conjectural plotting goes on in a courtroom every case. Prosecutor Kari Allen is going for father-exploited-his-guiless-son-to-be-with-mistress-and-score-the-insurance angle (“He manipulated his son, who is easily manipulated,” she said in opening arguments on Monday); the defense seems to be scapegoating Tyonne Palmer at the heart of a jealous love-triangle/square/whatever that led William Fuller to murder his stepmother.
A big narrative choice remains: whose perspective do we follow here? Who’s quasi-objective, committed to finding the truth? The prosecutor? Defense? Jury? You tell me. With the storm of dirt and deceit over the players in this drama, nobody seems to be getting away clean.