Columns - 2015

    Murder of the first

    It was a morning like any other morning, except that it wasn't.

    There hadn't been that many mornings yet. And nothing like this had ever happened.

    When I arrived, there was a man. Lying alone in the field, motionless. What brought me here? His blood was crying out from the soil. Once, he was a shepherd. Now, he's the first murder victim.

    There weren't that many suspects, but having never investigated a murder before because there had never been one before, I didn't know yet that I was looking for any.

    His father was well grounded, his mother lively. Their records weren't clean -- there was an earlier incident of possession of an illegal substance, which led to their eviction. But they didn't seem like repeat offenders. It had been a long time since they spent their days raising Cain. Besides, who would kill their own son?

    There were no records of anyone else around, so I had to speak to the only remaining person I could find: his brother, the farmer.

    He was evasive at first. I'd ask him to provide straightforward answers, but he did not seem like he was able. He sidestepped, asking if he was his brother's keeper. I answered, "if not you, whom? And if not then, when?"

    He said that the last time he saw his brother was when both of them went to offer sacrifices. This was a compelling point: how could someone willing to sacrifice be a murderer?

    He held up under interrogation as long as anyone ever had before, which is to say not very long. He didn't give me the whole story chapter and verse -- because it took less than a chapter, really just a few verses -- but told me enough.

    It became clear that when his sacrifice was not accepted, but his brother's was, that he struck his brother in the head with a rock. He claimed it was the only way to get through his thick skull, but that was all he intended to do.

    He asked how he could know that would kill his brother, or even how he could know what killing was? I reminded him that we are responsible for our actions and their consequences, intended or not. He asked where that was written, so I wrote it down for him.

    I pointed out that he did know what killing was, because his brother had been doing it already to animals, such as when he prepared his sacrifice. He claimed he did not know the same would work on people, that his brother didn't hit animals over the head, but his argument seemed feeble.

    He then claimed that, after his own sacrifice was rejected, he needed to find another kind of meaning for himself in sacrifice. An interesting point: if his brother's sacrifice was accepted, perhaps sacrificing his brother -- the perpetuator of a successful sacrifice -- would be even more highly accepted, via some transitive property.

    An interesting point, but it didn't add up. There was no math yet, so the transitive property was inadmissible as evidence.

    In the end, who else could it be? He was the first of many things. The first younger brother, the first farmer, the first to have his sacrifice rejected, the first murder suspect, and the first murderer. Like his parents once before for a seemingly lesser crime, he was cast out.

    Calling him the first something, implies there will be more of them. But was he merely the first murderer, or was this a fluke?

    For the sake of mankind, hopefully this will never happen again. After hearing this story, I can't imagine how it could. That's why I wrote it. If it never happens again, it'll put me out of a job. But maybe there are better jobs to have.

    And there was evening, and there was morning. One murder.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who directed the Kander & Ebb musical murder mystery Curtains, running (appropriately enough) through Valenstein's Day. For past columns, other writings, and more, visit For exclusive online content, follow

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.