with apologies to Raymond Chandler

A man dressed in black stood in the doorway to the studio, holding a gun. “Get down, every fuckin’ one of you,” he said.

The studio audience stood and bowed and lay on the floor obediently.

The man in black walked on to the stage. The host was sitting next to his chair, still holding the microphone. His face was placid. The man in black stuck the gun in his face.

“You’re dyin’ today, man,” he said.

The host shrugged. “These things happen.” The report of the pistol through the sound system was enormous. The back of the host’s head disappeared.

The audience swayed and rustled like grass flattening before a wind.

The man in black walked up the stairs. He came to a thick-bodied woman with corded forearms and a face like a flower opening. “Stand up,” he said.

She stood. “You may kill us,” she said, “but there are more. And when you are done we will come back here with our handkerchiefs and our cameras and remember.”

She fell to the ground. The audience stood and shouldered past him. He was outside, looking in; they bowed their heads to the ruin of the woman.