Rich Man, Dead Man

It was one of those hellish August nights when Priscilla Davis and her lover, Stan Farr, had their last drink and drove back to the Davis place. The Mansion it had come to be called, though mansion didn’t do justice to the eye-popping six-million-dollar sprawl of trapezoids and parallelograms and oddly sloping white walls that multimillionaire Cullen Davis had built to immortalize his marriage to Priscilla eight years ago. It was more on the order of a museum, something cool and impersonal and unassimilable, yet awkwardly apparent to the heavy flow of traffic along Hulen Street. Arranged as it was on the knob of a windy hill adjacent to the Colonial Country Club golf course in the heart of Fort Worth, the silhouette protruded from the landscape like an ocean liner.   

It was shortly after midnight when Stan Farr opened the heavy iron gates and they started up the hill to the garage. Five mongrel dogs tumbled at Priscilla’s feet as she looked for the key, then she noticed something wrong. Through the glass she could see the lights on the security panel, indicating that someone had opened the door during the three and a half hours they had been gone. Maybe it was Andrea, Priscilla’s twelve-year-old, or maybe Dee, her eighteen-year-old, had come home early. Anyway, the door that opened onto the breakfast room was unlocked.   

Stan Farr, the onetime TCU basketball player who had taken up residence at the mansion earlier in the summer, headed upstairs to the master bedroom and Priscilla went to turn off the kitchen lights. That’s when she noticed the lights shining unexpectedly in the basement and a bloody handprint on the basement door — Priscilla had no way of knowing that Andrea’s body had already been stashed down there. She took a tentative step toward the basement, then changed her mind and called out to Stan. He probably didn’t hear. As she started for the stairway leading to the master bedroom, a man emerged from the laundry room to her right. He was dressed in all black, wore a woman’s black wig, and kept both hands inside a black plastic bag. He said “Hi,” then shot Priscilla through the chest. At the sound of the shot and the scream, Stan Farr ran downstairs. The man in black shot Farr four times, then dragged him by the ankles to the kitchen. Priscilla staggered to her feet and shouldered open the sliding glass door leading to the courtyard. She held her long denim skirt as she ran, and told herself not to panic. She could feel the blood and the bullet hole through her pink halter top.

Later, she would remember hiding in some shrubs and hearing voices from the driveway. At first she thought it might be Dee coming home, and she thought Oh dear God, no not that! , then she was running down the grassy slope of the 181-acre estate, toward the homes of neighbors she never knew. She heard a scream and more gun shots, but she kept running. She banged on a door, screaming, “My name is Priscilla Davis. I live in the big house in the middle of the field off Hulen. I am very wounded. Cullen is up there killing my children. He is killing everyone…”

 

Rattling around in her six-million-dollar mansion, Priscilla thanked God Thanksgiving had passed and prayed now to get through Christmas. Sometimes as she fondled Stan Farr’s SAE ring, which fit her finger like a golden doughnut, she heard her own voice asking What could I have done? Sleep came hard and never lasted long. Though the mansion sprawled over more than 10,000 square feet, Priscilla had effectively reduced her living quarters to the master bedroom, the adjacent sitting room with the six-foot TV screen, and the enormous pink bathroom lined on three sides by twenty-foot floor-to-ceiling mirrors. The pink bath was her room, the only one in the mansion Cullen had not personally supervised; with its giant mirrors, sunken marble tub, crystal chandelier, and the catbox next to the bidet, it was the one place that reflected her personality. She loved to sit yoga fashion in front of the mirror, doing her eyebrows.  

Mostly she sat on the double queen-sized bed with the silver fox spread and the stuffed animals and yellow-haired rag doll with the pink dress, using the bank of telephone lines to talk to her friends Judy or Lynda, or playing Scrabble or backgammon with Rich Sauer, Stan Farr’s old basketball buddy from TCU days. There was always an armed guard downstairs, and the panel of lights on the bedroom wall told her that all locks were secure. Without moving from the bed she could adjust the three TV screens or talk to the security men or close the magnificent drapes to blot out the view of the downtown skyline. There was a cartoon of Eves on the nightstand, laminated photographs of Stan and her children, and dainty little signs, such as the one that said: “Love is being able to let go.”

Life had been reduced to a single ritual: every evening as the sun was going down, Priscilla walked through the mansion closing all the machine-operated drapes. She hardly set foot outside. Friends marveled at her tenacity; how could she stay there in that museumlike chill surrounded by art treasures and pursued by the ghosts of that incredible night in August? Maybe they didn’t understand; she had no choice. It was like a fairytale, only in reverse. Rich little poor girl, a prisoner in her own castle. After all that had happened, the price she had paid, Priscilla was not about to walk away now. 

Her oldest daughter, Dee Davis, born eighteen years ago when Priscilla herself was just a teenager, had come home from her freshman year at Texas Tech and personally supervised Thanksgiving dinner. Priscilla was thankful that Dee was alive: the feeling persisted that a mere slip of fate spared

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