But he lived his life holding back a Richter scale rage that some people sensed, and few people saw until the last seven minutes of his life. When it broke loose, it surged out of his being through every crack and fault line of a long-weakening composure, an unstoppable event.
Early on the morning of January 12, Taylor, 25, rammed his car into a tree outside the juvenile shelter where he worked, accidentally or intentionally putting his head through the windshield. Then, spurting blood from a gaping wound in his forehead, he crashed through the shelter's front door and tore through the building, his rage building like a natural disaster whose trajectory carried him down 51st Avenue in Glendale. There Taylor pointed a handgun at a police officer and was shot to death. The Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette painted Taylor as just another black man on a rampage. They pointed out his conviction as a teenager for aggravated assault, and faulted the shelter's operator, Arizona Baptist Children's Services, for hiring a felon. They speculated that Taylor was despondent over not being drafted into the National Basketball Association after playing for coach Paul Westphal at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
Taylor's clergyman, Pastor Edward Carter, pronounced the R&G coverage "fly by night" and "sensational journalism," and he not only refused to talk to New Times, but also advised all members of his church to do the same. As one member of the black community said with a sigh of disapproval, Taylor was perhaps not someone to be written about because he was "just another black man who died of neglect."
None of which is true. Eric Taylor was not a street brawler or a hardened criminal. Nor was he neglected; he had friends and mentors pulling and pushing him most of his life. Despite his emotional problems, he had the kind of winning ways that made people bend over backward to help him.
"There was a kind of unstableness about him," says Garrick Barr, a coach for the Phoenix Suns who tutored Taylor at Grand Canyon. "But when you got to know him, you pretty quickly started rooting for him because you thought he was winning."
Taylor wanted so badly to lead an exemplary Christian life. He had a strong work ethic at school, at his job and on the basketball court. His high school and college coaches and teachers pointed to him as a success story, a tough kid from a broken home in the ghettos of New Jersey who'd gotten his priorities straight.
He was outgoing and friendly. He could not, however, cope with the pressures of life. His wife had left him and was taking his children out of state, apparently to escape Taylor's increasing emotional problems.
And though there were friends around to help him, in the end, Taylor needed more than they could give him.
Tragically, Taylor's roommate, Benny Knox, had taken him to a hospital on the evening he lost control, but Taylor was turned away, even though he was employed and had health insurance, even though he was talking about suicide and may have already attempted it, even though the ugly force inside him was shaking every molecule of his body, building to escape velocity.
Pastor Carter later asked the police why they had not shot to wound Taylor. Part of the answer is that police officers in potentially mortal situations always aim for center body mass to increase the likelihood of hitting the intended target and not an innocent bystander, and to hedge bets that an attacker will indeed be stopped.
For Taylor was beyond any man's control: Despite going through the windshield of his car, despite prodigious blood loss from his hands and head, he had torn apart doors with his bare hands. It took five bullets shot at intervals over 30 seconds to fell him. They passed completely through his body, through his vital organs, and had to be removed from just under the skin of his back, where they raised lumps.
Though he acted like a man on angel dust, there was not a drop of alcohol, not a milligram of drugs in Taylor's system. The autopsy turned up no sign of brain damage that might have explained Taylor's extreme state of agitation.
In the breast pocket of his bloodied tee shirt, medical examiners found "a business card . . . with a note on the back referring to Charter Hospital."
But his destiny was as unstoppable as his force. As his friend Darryl Williford later said, "I think Eric did it on purpose. I think he didn't want to live without his wife and kids."
@body:Camden, New Jersey, is a withered old city that clings to the Delaware River like flotsam washed up by Philadelphia's stormy urban overflow. Eric Taylor was born there in 1968 into a family that was so fractured that the coaches who virtually raised him and his brothers didn't realize there were sisters in the family until they met them at Taylor's funeral. All of the children grew up in separate foster homes.
Though Taylor usually characterized himself as a former street kid, his foster father, Floyd Watson, with whom Taylor stayed from ages 10 to 17, describes him as a polite child who came to him already in possession of a basketball.
"He was a very good child as far as I know," says Watson, who is a night custodian at Woodrow Wilson High School, Taylor's alma mater. "But the older he got, he did not want to hear the rules in my home."
When Taylor was in 12th grade, he and Watson argued over curfew times and Taylor decided to go live where his older brother Jeffrey was a foster child.
Sports kept Taylor out of trouble. He was an even better football player than a basketball player, according to his coaches, heavily recruited for college scholarships, but his heart was in basketball. His basketball coach, Bill Smothers, had always used Taylor as a good example of perseverance, of why his players should work hard and get into college. Smothers was new to Woodrow Wilson High the year Taylor was a freshman, and he remembers in his first meeting with the team that none of the players had much to say except for one brash kid asking bold but pertinent questions. It was Eric Taylor. "Right then and there I said, 'That's my man in the middle.'"
As a sophomore, Taylor led the team to a state championship. Smothers and the school's athletic director, Joe McColgan, knew him as a hardworking but excitable kid, well worth the high maintenance cost. As Smothers remembers, he was "one of those kids with a light in his eyes who needs someone to turn it on." If Taylor was contentious, Smothers says, "I like my players like that."
When Taylor was truant, Smothers would go to his house and drag him to school. Once when Taylor came late to practice, Smothers told him to run ten laps around the football field. Taylor refused and Smothers said, "Well, I guess you'll have to go home."
Taylor started jawing and cursing. Smothers turned to the team manager before he walked away and said, "When he's done yapping, tell him he's still got ten laps."
Taylor ran the laps, then came to Smothers to insist he'd run them for himself and not for Smothers. Smothers just said, "I'm glad you did do it for yourself--now get in there and practice."
And when it came time for Taylor to think about further education, Smothers told him outright, "You're going to college if I have to hit you over the head with a chair."
He didn't make it to college on the first try. After a few weeks at a junior college in Texas, a homesick Taylor came back to Camden to find a job. He also found the first of his troubles.
@body:Rick Barrett runs a weekend and summer basketball program for disadvantaged youths in South Jersey. It is sponsored by the AAU and the Adidas footwear company and mixes equal parts of basketball, SAT study classes and visits by motivational speakers. Barrett has been another mentor for Taylor.
"Eric had a problem with girlfriends," says Barrett. "He was real dominant."
His brother Jeffrey, his foster father and McColgan, the athletic director, all remember vaguely that Eric had beaten up girlfriends. In the fall of 1987, when he was 19, he was so enraged by one girl that he kicked in her front door and was arrested.
Joe McColgan went with him for his court appearance. The judge ordered Taylor to pay $100 in damages, and since neither Taylor nor McColgan had that much money with him, as McColgan remembers, "They put him in a holding cell and he started crying."
It was just as troubling for McColgan that many of the other inmates in the holding cell had been his students. "It was like old home week," he remembers, and they called out greetings to him. He borrowed the $100 and got Taylor out as soon as he could.
Near the end of the year, Taylor was in trouble again. He'd gotten a job in a Montgomery Ward warehouse. One night he tangled with his boss over how long he had been on break. The boss allegedly pushed Taylor, and in return, Taylor beat the man so badly he lost an eye. Taylor was sentenced to a year in prison.
Rick Barrett rescued him from prison--and from the streets.
Barrett ran into Taylor on the street by accident one afternoon and didn't realize that Taylor was on the way to a work-release job. Shortly afterward Barrett got a call from Scott Mossman, a coach at Grand Canyon, who was looking to recruit a power forward. Barrett recommended Taylor. Mossman followed up and found that Taylor was in prison, and so he contacted the judge who had sentenced Taylor and worked out his release. Taylor could go to Grand Canyon if he kept his nose clean--and he had to be out of the state of New Jersey within 24 hours.
"I remember the night," says Bill Smothers. "I was practicing at the high school with my basketball team when Rick walked into the gym with Eric. We talked to [then-coach at Grand Canyon] Paul Westphal on the phone in the gym lobby, and he asked me about Eric. I told him Eric was a very willful, headstrong young man, and you've got to control him. You have to break him."
Everyone held his breath. Eric Taylor was free to make something of himself. If he'd stayed in Camden, McColgan points out, the streets would have gotten him for sure. @rule:
@body:Grand Canyon University is a sleepy, mostly white, Baptist college on 33rd Avenue and Camelback Road, light-years away from the predominantly black and poor neighborhoods of Camden. Taylor's start was predictably rocky. He hadn't played ball for well on a year, and his personality was just as rough as his basketball skills.
"He would talk sometimes and it seemed like he wasn't making any sense," says Darryl Williford, who was his teammate at Grand Canyon and later his co-worker at the juvenile shelter. "You would think this guy doesn't have it all."
You had to listen to Taylor, get to know him, and once you got used to how excitable he was all the time, you realized he had lots of friendship and compassion to offer. He was loud and boisterous in a good-natured way. He said anything on his mind--even if it was more than others wanted to know. Williford got to like and trust Taylor well enough to invite him to stay at his stepmother's home.
"He seemed to me a guy who was looking for the right way to live his life, and when he got to Grand Canyon, he just seemed delighted to find a model to follow," says Garrick Barr, who was an assistant coach there. "When we brought him in, we knew that he was less than a model citizen and told him up front that at the first sign of trouble, you're out. We never had a problem."
As he became educated, Taylor spoke better, seemed calmer. "He had his priorities in line," says Williford. He was outgoing and talkative, willing to go far to make friends, tell a joke, play the dozens.
He found religion, and in the way of some evangelical Christian denominations, he touted it to anyone who would listen. He helped teach at summer basketball camps and was popular among the young campers. He was well-liked by his professors. His faculty adviser, Beverly Spitler, claims he would spend time with her teenage son, who was very fond of him. As for his academic performance, Spitler says, "There were many times you had to sit on Eric. His frustration level was short, but when he was happy, he had a smile that would go from here to eternity."
Taylor learned to channel his aggression on the basketball court. Bill Westphal, who inherited the head coach position from his brother Paul, says, "He had a fierceness to him, and you always knew that he could lose it."
On the court, Westphal says, Taylor was "a Dennis Rodman kind of player," comparing him to the explosive forward for the San Antonio Spurs. "He always had that bounce in his step and made the extra effort to get that rebound that's ten feet away from him."
But offensively, Taylor was not NBA material. His former teammates and coaches have said he didn't jump as high as he should for a man his size, that he didn't dunk well, that he didn't have good hands.
"I don't really think Eric thought he had a right to a tryout," says Garrick Barr. "Eric loved to play, but I don't think he had his life set on basketball."
He had set his sights elsewhere. In June 1991, he became the first person in his family to earn a college degree, a bachelor's in criminal justice, "the last person you'd expect to finish," says Darryl Williford, who himself has a semester's work left. And as on the basketball court, Taylor finished school through hard work and force of will, not natural talent.
In January 1992, he followed Williford and other former Grand Canyon basketball players and took a job as a mental-health technician at the Bunkhouse, a shelter run by Arizona Baptist Children's Services. The shelter is a halfway house for boys ages 8 to 18, who for one reason or another--truancy, abuse, juvenile delinquency--have become wards of the state.
Arizona Baptist Children's Services was aware of Taylor's criminal record. "We hired a young man who had a very limited police record as a juvenile," says ABCS president C. Truett Baker. "We knew he had a short fuse, but he never laid a hand on the children." And he had been recommended by Williford and other friends who were good employees of unquestionable character. One can tell volumes about a man by looking at his friends, and Taylor's friends are as clean-cut and straightforward as they get. Taylor had not had a blowup in five years; he seemed on the road to emotional maturity. Still, more than one friend has described Taylor as a time bomb or a powder keg. Perhaps the detonator depended on a precise sequence of stressors, namely work and women.
@body:Eric Taylor married Sonji Rhymes on June 26, 1992. Pastor Edward Carter officiated. They already had a six-month-old daughter.
No one seems to be able to describe Sonji in any more detail than that she was attractive and very, very quiet. Darryl Williford thinks Taylor met her in a club--but once he started going to church with her, he stopped going to clubs. She had a young son by another man, and among Eric's friends, her claim to fame was that she once dated former Phoenix Suns player Tim Perry.
As the wedding date approached, Taylor was beside himself with joy. Early on the morning he was to be married, Taylor was working the late shift at the Bunkhouse and, according to an incident report filled out by Arizona Baptist Children's Services, awoke from a nap and became offended by the content of a movie that another staff member was watching on TV.
The incident report says that Taylor "began shouting praises to God, jumping up and down and clapping his hands." By the time the staff member went to call a supervisor, Taylor had awakened several children and had them advancing on the staff member while chanting, "I rebuke you, Satan."
Doug Shouse, another Bunkhouse employee, did not witness the incident, but remembers that Taylor was "happy like a kid" during the encounter, not threatening. "When people first get saved, they have this uncontrollable zeal," he says.
Taylor was subsequently hospitalized under the care of a psychiatrist; the psychiatrist has been asked not to comment by Taylor's family. After Taylor's death, the Department of Economic Security, which licenses facilities like the Bunkhouse, sent a letter to C. Truett Baker at Arizona Baptist Children's Services, asking why it had not been informed of the earlier explosion. "The findings indicate that the agency has no documentation to verify that a previous serious incident involving this staff person on June 26, 1992, was reported either to the licensing unit or the placing agencies of the children involved," the letter said.
Baker denies allegations that the blowup went unreported to DES.
In January 1993, police were called to the Taylors' apartment to settle a family fight. Eric was leaving and taking his daughter, who was then a few weeks shy of her first birthday. Taylor and Sonji engaged in a tug of war with the child in the parking lot of the apartment complex. Sonji and the baby fell, and the baby struck her head; Taylor was initially charged with aggravated assault, and Sonji was charged with the same when police reviewed the file. In March the charges were dropped.
Taylor's friends were struck by how devoted he was to both children. When he was off duty, he always seemed to have Sonji's boy with him--at games, sometimes at work--so much so that Taylor's friends thought Sonji was taking advantage of him. When the child came down with chicken pox, Taylor stayed home from work to care for him. They envied the joy he seemed to get from the children, and how easily he seemed to get along with them.
He could not get along with his wife. The marriage lasted little more than a year. On July 19, 1993, Eric Taylor blew up during an argument with Sonji, and she called the police, who hauled him off to jail.
"He busted my lip, hit me in the chest, banged my head against the wall with his head in front of the children," she later wrote on a request for a restraining order against him. Then she detailed a history of abuse: "Harasses me at work (showing up and calling continuously, 7-19 to present). Threw me out of car (March 93)."
There were troubles at work, too, that may have helped ignite Taylor's flare-ups with his wife. Arizona Baptist Children's Services was being pressured by DES to keep Taylor under closer supervision because of his criminal record. He was no longer allowed to drive the children anywhere. The DES files reveal a flurry of letters from Taylor's former coaches that were received during the same week that he was jailed, vouching for his character and urging that he be granted more responsibility.
Arizona Baptist Children's Services stood behind Taylor. It felt so strongly about his popularity with the children and other staffers that despite the religious incident a year earlier and the jailing a week earlier, in a July 1993 letter to DES, the ABCS personnel director wrote, "If it was felt that Eric's emotional control was questionable at any time, we would not allow him to work with children in any of our programs."
Doug Shouse bailed Taylor out of jail the day after the assault on Sonji. "From what he was saying, it was a money thing," Shouse remembers. Sonji worked as a hair stylist at a salon on North 16th Street. Shouse reports Taylor as saying, "She wants to take my manhood. She makes money, too."
But by the time they got home, Taylor was remorseful, saying he should never have hit Sonji, that no one should ever lay hands on another person. "He thought she was right and he was wrong," Shouse remembers. "Sonji could do no wrong."
Still, Sonji moved out immediately and took the children with her, then filed for divorce in September. She later told police that Taylor was becoming fanatical in his religion.
@body:Taylor grew increasingly despondent. He stopped cutting his hair, which Shouse usually trimmed for him every ten days. The children in the shelter would joke that he was growing an Afro, like the Jacksons wore in the 1970s. When his friends tried to offer him advice, he let them know that he had everything under control and would handle things in his own way.
He became withdrawn. He pulled out of the adult basketball league in which he played with Williford and Shouse, telling them he "had to get things straight with his wife." Taylor told everyone that he was going to stay celibate until he got back with her. "He used to say he loved her and he'd do anything to keep her," Williford says.
Doug Shouse had played pro ball in Europe and Latin America and works as an agent in arranging foreign gigs for basketball players. He offered to get Taylor on a team in Brazil or Argentina so that he'd have time away to think about his problems and get his life back together. Rick Barrett, the coach in New Jersey, had already arranged for Taylor to play in the California Summer Pro League, where many NBA pros play in the off-season. And he was trying to get Taylor into an NBA rookie camp, not so much expecting he'd make an NBA team as to increase his marketability overseas. At Christmastime, Taylor went to Camden to visit with family and friends. He reunited with a son he'd fathered before he came to Arizona, and though he told Coach Smothers that he'd arranged to bring the boy to Arizona that summer to visit and meet his children here, he never once let on that he was having marital problems. And though he admitted to Rick Barrett that he and his wife had problems, he never mentioned that he and Sonji were separated.
Taylor still hoped to get back together with her. And he was carrying the great burden of being everyone's success story.
@body:Much of why Eric Taylor exploded for good on January 12 remains a secret held by Pastor Carter and by Taylor's roommate, Benny Knox. After Taylor's death, Knox told police that he had to confer with Carter before he could talk to them. Then he spoke somewhat freely about Taylor's being turned away from the hospital, though he wouldn't say which one. Glendale police records later suggested it was Charter Hospital, which was also implied by the card found in Taylor's pocket after his death. Officials at Charter Hospital have said they cannot reveal any records without a signature from one of Taylor's parents. None of Taylor's friends or coaches in Arizona or New Jersey knows where they might be, and Carter will not tell.
Carter refused to talk to New Times except to say that he "will come forward at the appropriate time to whoever I feel might be important enough to ask some significant questions."
Sonji Taylor, reached by phone at her parents' home in Texas, would only say, "I'm sure the people you spoke to don't have any insight into the personal problems that [Taylor] was dealing with. People already have preconceived ideas of what happened and I just don't see what else can be done about it. The people who know him know the truth, and the people who don't will give you whatever opinion."
The following chain of events, then, has been pieced together from police reports, interviews with Taylor's friends and eyewitness accounts. Sonji told Glendale police that after Taylor returned from New Jersey, he came to ask again if they could work things out. She told him then that she was pregnant with another man's child, and though Taylor said he still wanted her back, she refused.
The next week he banged on her door twice; she called building security to have him removed. The Sunday before he died, she saw him at church and he spoke briefly with her son, with whom he had been very close.
Doug Shouse and Darryl Williford both knew that Sonji's parents had come to take Sonji and the children back to Texas to get away from Taylor. They heard that Taylor had attempted suicide on Monday, January 10, but had been talked out of it. They had no luck getting any more information than that from the people at Taylor's church. Taylor came to work that day. He had shaved off his mustache, and was quiet and sullen. As Williford says, "We knew what the problem was."
Between noon and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Taylor worked himself into a fatal funk. An exterminator who had come to spray at the apartment building where Taylor was staying with Knox saw a "black male yelling and screaming like he was dying" outside the building. When he came closer to see what the problem was, the man, later identified as Taylor, started screaming, "You're killing them, you're killing them," as if he were hallucinating.
The exterminator went for the building manager, who called police. Taylor had gone by the time the police arrived. The manager later confronted Taylor about the incident, and Taylor frightened her with his excited demeanor.
At 1 p.m., Taylor started phoning his friends. "Get over here, man," he told his supervisor at the Bunkhouse, Terry Bruner. And though his voice was full of urgency, he wouldn't explain what was wrong.
Taylor called Shouse at about the same time, with the same vague urgency. It was out of character. When Shouse and Bruner compared notes, they sensed that Taylor was not in his right mind. Neither knew exactly where he lived and they were a bit afraid to go check on him, because "it wasn't Eric," Shouse says.
Then Taylor called one of Sonji's uncles, who came to his apartment at about 2 p.m.; Pastor Carter and Benny Knox arrived about an hour later. Taylor called Bruner again to say that he'd be late for work, and when Bruner suggested he take the night off, Taylor stoked up, asking if there were problems with his job performance. Then he said he'd be in at 5 p.m., but didn't make it.
According to the police record, Carter left Taylor's apartment at 10:30 p.m., Knox at 11:30 p.m. Sometime that evening, Knox allegedly took Taylor to a local hospital, but Taylor was not admitted. Carter later told police that after counseling with him, Taylor was "feeling good about where his life was at this point and how much other people cared for him."
@body:At 2:27 the next morning, Eva Olivas, a part-time employee at the Bunkhouse, heard a crash out in front of the building. When she looked out the window, she recognized Taylor's late-model gray Honda rammed up against an olive tree by the front door. She couldn't see that the car's windshield had been shattered by Taylor's head, and she couldn't see that Taylor was injured, but she did see a tall, black male unfold out of the car, half crawling from the driver's-side door. She assumed it was Taylor.
Then Taylor started screaming, a high, raspy, wordless howl, and it resonated at a pitch that recalled every terror Olivas had ever felt.
"I've experienced a lot of catastrophes," Olivas said. Indeed, she had been held at gunpoint by a robber at the shelter the summer before. But "this was a sick, gut-ugly feeling."
A neighbor to the shelter has claimed she heard Taylor shouting, "Save me." That may have been the case. But Olivas couldn't make out any words. She ran to get Sam Medulla, another staffer on duty.
Medulla did not know Taylor well, and he didn't recognize him at the door because Taylor's head was completely shaved. No one had ever seen him that way before. Medulla thought it was a stranger banging on the door, so he told him to go away.
The house shook with Taylor's pounding. When Eva looked back at the door, she saw a fist fly through the window and strike Medulla in the jaw. She grabbed a phone in the hall to dial 911. By the time she had punched the last digit, Taylor was inside the hallway, "like a cartoon of a man crashing through a door. It was like a Freddy Krueger event. It was powerful. You could not believe the feeling that was in this house. It was just force, uncontrollable force that was called up. I knew one of us was going to die."
Medulla wrestled free of Taylor's grasp. Olivas dropped the phone and ran out the back door without ever saying anything into the receiver. But Glendale police operators recorded an extended unearthly scream that seemed like a release of pure id, and Taylor shouting, "You bastard, you bastard." Then the scream started again, followed by banging and slamming and what sounds like, "Ohhh! . . . Jesus Christ! I want you! . . . Help! . . . Fuck Satan!"
Taylor rebounded through the house, tearing doors in half with apparently superhuman strength. Blood spattered on the ceilings, on walls, on light switches and the floor. "It was a blood bath," Olivas said when she eventually came back in.
Taylor burst into a bedroom where two 10-year-old twin boys slept, grabbed one by the neck and began slapping him. The children said that he was screaming "Hallelujah," and something about the Miami Dolphins. He woke the child's twin brother, who was asleep in the next bed, and sat on him. Neither child was seriously hurt, though paramedics later found Taylor's blood even in their ears. With his newly shaved head and his face covered with blood, Taylor was so unrecognizable and so out of character that the children later refused to believe it had been him.
At 2:33 a.m., Glendale police sergeant Brian France was speeding down Glendale Avenue to provide back-up assistance at the Bunkhouse. As he fishtailed north onto 51st Avenue, he glimpsed Taylor in his rearview mirror, walking down the center of the five-lane street. He called the police dispatcher as he made a U-turn, to ask if this could be the subject from the Bunkhouse. The officers who were already at the Bunkhouse responded that they needed him there.
France radioed back, "He's trying to two-forty some guy in the middle of the street," using the police code for an assault in progress.
A truck driver on his way home from work had stopped for a red light. Suddenly, the driver's-side door of his old Jeep jerked open, and he was looking into Taylor's enraged face.
Taylor said nothing, but grabbed the driver (who has asked not to be identified) by his jacket and tried to yank him out of the car. The driver had an automatic handgun on the seat next to him for protection, and he grabbed it, but Taylor wrestled it away, jumped back and pointed it at him.
"I'm gonna shoot you, I'm gonna kill you," he said to the driver. And then, the driver reports, "His hand jerked back like he was expecting a recoil." Because the safety was on, the gun did not fire.
France pulled his police cruiser in back of the Jeep, stood behind his car door and shouted, "Glendale police."
Taylor turned and slowly circled toward the police car. France saw the gun in Taylor's right hand, and shouted for him to drop it.
France retreated to the back of his car to use the trunk as a shield, and shouted again for Taylor to drop the gun. Instead, Taylor stopped, raised his arm and pointed it straight at him. France shot twice, striking Taylor in the chest. Taylor just flinched, lowered his arm, and came at France again. He muttered a single word: "Motherfucker."
France retreated again to the far side of his car trunk. He couldn't tell if Taylor still had the gun, but since Taylor was still advancing on him, he fired twice more. Taylor kept on. France raised his aim and fired for the last time.
Just seven minutes after he broke through the front door of the Bunkhouse, Eric Taylor toppled sideways and landed spread-eagled on his back on 51st Avenue. His face was a bloody mask.
It was 2:34 a.m., and Taylor's sightless gaze stared calmly into the heavens, his lips parted in an almost peaceful half-smile.