~ the raven chronicles ~ 49

10 May

Fr. Michael Leavell, OP.
Sacred Heart Church
Raven, Ohio

November 22, 1932

We left the Wallace farm with our minds roiled by questions, and the acrid taste of the abominable pyre lacing our tongues. As the car rolled on through the desolate frosty countryside, Wallace silently looked out the window, preoccupied, no doubt, by imaginings of the possible horrors awaiting us once we reached the Echo Lake Grand Hotel. I cursed the day of my first visit to Sterns-Carson, and my hubris at thinking the presentation of a journal to Rhea Sinclair was appropriate or substantive. I ignored the tenets of my training and allowed myself to be lured into her web; she has used the consequent time and freedom to grow her power.

When the sight of The Twin Forks appeared in the distance, I suggested to Wallace that we should stop for a sandwich and a cup of coffee; he concurred, saying that he had not eaten since last evening. Upon reaching the entry to the gravel lot, I pulledindians win 1920 the sedan in and up close to the diner and then killed the engine. We both just sat for a moment, not saying a word to each other, ordering our thoughts before we entered the slipstream of mundane daily life inhabited by the majority of people in this world; those who are fortunate enough to live in ignorant bliss of the unseen demonic shades that stalk their cozy existence filled with concerns about the weather and the price of eggs and when the Cleveland Indians will repeat the 1920 championship season.

Wallace opened his car door, I followed suit, and we walked together into The Forks.

*****

We entered just as Clem turned out of the swinging door from the kitchen. As he delivered a plate to a man a few stools down the counter, the man looked up from the newspaper laying next to him.

I been drivin’ back and forth from Cleveland for the past ten years, he said, and I’ve seen some strange things along the way, but this ‘mauling mystery’ gives me the spooks.

You and me both brother, Clem said. I hope the cops get it figured out or it just goes away quick. Don’t need some ghost story scaring people into staying home and killing my business.

Amen to that, the driver replied, as he raised the salt shaker and doused his plate of food like it was aflame.

Clem noticed us as we sat down on stools closer to the door. A smile came over his face like a visit from old friends; he left the fireman before the shaker was back on the counter.

Father, nice to see you again, he said, guess appetite finally got the better of you; Mashed potatoes and meat loaf are on the blue plate today.

Clem, a couple of sandwiches and coffee will do, I replied.

I got a ham baked yesterday, some swiss and rye, how’s that sound, he asked.

Perfect, I said.

Suits me, Wallace put in.

Alright, coffee first, he said.

Clem turned and pulled two cups from the shelf and filled them from the big brass urn. I wondered just how many gallons of coffee were dispensed from that machine, how many eggs fried on the grille, how many slices of pie consumed in a daily tally at The Forks, and wished that my life consisted of such mundane accounting instead of the terrible reckoning business it had become.

Here you go, Clem said, placing the cups before us; I’ll get your sandwiches together, pronto.

Clem zipped like a cool breeze through the swinging door into the kitchen and left us to our coffee and our troubles. My cup had barely reached my lips, when the trucker down the counter addressed me.

Father, what do you think about this ‘mauling mystery’.

Wallace let out a low grumble in response to the inquiry; I gathered myself to give a reply that I hoped would discourage further conversation on the matter.

I suspect that there is an element of fanciful reporting to sell newspapers going on, I replied, and once the truth is out, we shall all find that there is not much real mystery or mayhem involved; Don’t believe everything you read.

I returned to my coffee and noticed from the corner of my eye that the man had apparently accepted my answer to be good as any, indicated by his turning the newspaper over to the sports news and returning to his meal.

clem pieClem delivered our sandwiches and we ate them like a job that needed to be done. After the last sip of my coffee, Clem asked if we would like some pie, on the house.

Don’t have time for pie, Wallace answered.

A look of disappointment came over Clem’s face.

The next time we’re in, I said, we’ll have pie.

And it will still be on the house, Clem said, before he gathered our plates and headed for the kitchen. Wallace and I stood to go and I laid a dollar bill on the counter.

Liberal with the tithings, aren’t you Michael, Wallace said.

Not as much as I’d like to be, I replied.

And with that, we headed out of the Forks.

*****

Just shy of noon, we pulled into the courthouse car lot. Aware of Wallace’s disdain for Sheriff Blackwell, I cautioned him to refrain from antagonistic interaction with the constabulary.

He fixed a look on me and said, If that galoot doesn’t act the fool, there’ll be no problem.

I certainly can’t guarantee that, I said, so for my sake, please suffer fools today.

Do my best, he said, and nothing more.

Alright, I sighed, do your best.

I opened the Sheriff’s Office door. The little warning bell tinkled and Thelma Snedeker looked up from her desk.

Morning Father, she said.

Good morning, Mrs. Snedeker, I answered; We’re here to see Sheriff Blackwell.

When she looked at Wallace, standing there with his shotgun at his side, her smile sagged, as if her day had suddenly taken a wrong turn.

The Sheriff has some men in his office, they’ve been talking for nearly an hour; Let me see if they are close to finishing up.

Thelma got up and walked to the closed door of Blackwell’s office and rapped lightly. A few seconds passed before I heard the Sheriff say, What is it.

Father Leavell and Mr. Wallace are here to see you, she said.

Another period of silence followed her announcement before Blackwell said, Show them in.

His invitation instantly piqued my curiosity and led me to conclude that whoever happened to be in that office was now part of our plan to raid the Echo Lake Hotel, or was, in the least, privy to that fact.

Mrs. Snedeker turned and said, You gentlemen can go in now.

I exchanged a brief glance with Wallace and we walked over to the closed door which Thelma opened as we arrived.

*****

As the office door closed behind us, I took in the tableaux before me: Sheriff Blackwell sat behind his desk, smoking a cigar; to his right, a nattily dressed gentleman sat in a captain’s chair, at ease and relaxed; another man stood to Blackwell’s left at the side of the desk; a third man, still in topcoat, leaned in the corner to my right, casually smoking a cigarette; all three of the men regarded Wallace and I with appraising glances.

Come in, Father, Blackwell said; Got somebody for you to meet. The Sheriff nodded at the man in the captain’s chair. This is Mr. Ness, come down from Chicago by way of Cleveland, here to check on that bunch at the Echo Lake Hotel.

Mr. Ness stood and extended his hand to me. Pleased to meet you, Father, he said; And who is your associate.ness and men

William Wallace, Wallace spoke up.

And prepared for action, Ness said; Glad to see a citizen concerned enough to take a stand against criminal elements in their midst.

Wallace didn’t reply, he just locked eyes with Mr. Ness, who after a quick once over of my friend, turned his attention back to me.

The Sheriff here has given me the rundown on the operations, past and present, at the hotel, he said,  and filled me in on the details regarding the recent murder of that prostitute from the Tavish stable.

Sadie Faire wasn’t a horse, I replied; She was an unfortunate soul who happened to get herself entangled with the wrong people.

Something like a smile crossed his face before Ness replied.

With all due respect, Father, I believe in the whore with a heart of gold about as much as I believe in the tooth fairy; She ended up a victim, I’ll grant you, but she made the choices that led to her demise, there is no sugar-coating that; I’ve seen enough sad cases like hers to believe nothing else.

What would you know of ‘sad cases’, I replied.

I work for the US Justice Department, he said, tracking bootleggers and whoremongers like Gareth Tavish; I’ve seen the proud, the profane, and the human wreckage they leave behind them; I say it not out of boastfulness, but the amount of tragedy that I’ve been witness to is not for the faint of heart. This Sadie Faire may have been able to deceive you, that was part of her stock in trade, but as a member of the Tavish crowd, I posit that she may have been involved in a game of cold-blooded murder. I believe that the rash of unexplained killings between here and Cleveland are the result of some kind of turf war between what’s left of the Tavish bunch and the remnants of Al Capone’s mob.

You are obviously privy to evidence that the rest of us in this room are not, I said; I would certainly like to hear all of what you know before we proceed to the hotel.

Fair enough, Father; In for a penny, in for a pound.

Ness took a seat on the edge of Blackwell’s desk and continued.

sam garibaldiThere was a certain Sam Garibaldi, a known Cleveland bootlegger and mobster, present at the Halloween massacre in the Tavish cottage. Also present was US Senator, Blake Watson, who was involved in repealing the Volstead Act. We believe that Garibaldi was there to kill Watson, both as an effective means to impede the legislation and to send a warning to other lawmakers involved in repeal. Our investigation confirmed that it was Garibaldi’s gun that killed Watson, and the Shivington girl.

What about the others, I said, Tavish had his throat cut, and Garibaldi died from a bullet to the head; And what of Mrs. Sinclair; Though wounded, she survived.

How is it that you are privy to all of that information, Ness asked.

I was there, in the aftermath, I replied; The first thing they did was call a priest.

Ness pulled a pack of cigarettes from inside his suit coat and offered it to me, I declined; He lit a cigarette, took a long draw, then exhaled before speaking again.

We believe Garibaldi had an accomplice whose job it was to not only kill Tavish, but, in a major double cross, to kill Garibaldi after he had killed Watson. Mrs. Sinclair was spared because her husband was part of the plot to eliminate both Tavish and Garibaldi; The infliction of the minor wounds on her person would help to throw suspicion off of Kendree Sinclair, who as it so happens, was in attendance at the Halloween Ball, but not at the seance.

I have it on reliable information that Tavish’s two closest associates, Sykes and Bloodworth are holed up at the Grand Hotel. I intend to arrest them on charges of double homicide.

I spoke with Bloodworth a few days ago, I said.

Ness exchanged glances with the man smoking in the corner then asked, What was his demeanor?

Scared witless, it seemed to me. He had been drinking, and drank the whole time we spoke with him. He told me Sykessykes couldn’t take it any longer. Killed himself.

Not surprised to hear that, Ness said; A double-cross is a fecund rat that eats its young. We’ve already arrested several of the Tavish thugs. A couple of them sang about the occult nonsense Tavish had used to bilk the swell crowd with his seances and such; Seems he’d hoodwinked his own cohorts in the process.

Ness took the last draw off his cigarette and spoke as he stubbed out the butt in Blackwell’s desktop ashtray.

All that remains is for the mask to be torn completely away and that whole operation will be exposed for what it really was; A giant sham.

I turned his completely logical explanation over in my mind, wondering all the while if perhaps this recounting by Mr. Ness was the reality of recent events, and my efforts to unravel what I had concluded to be a great mystery had been little more than tilting at windmills.

You seem perplexed, Father, Ness said; Do you know the facts to be different from how I have stated them.

As you state it, it all makes sense, Mr. Ness, I replied; I do have questions of my own, perhaps I will find the answers by following your lead.

He gave me a look of consideration. Alright, then, he said, I say let’s get about our inquiries, together, and see if we both come out the other side with satisfactory solutions in hand.

©2014 j.edwardfitzgerald all rights reserved

Advertisements

4 Responses to “~ the raven chronicles ~ 49”

  1. kimberly June 9, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    What? No time for pie? Lol

    “A double-cross is a fecund rat that eats its young”. Love that… excellent Mr Fitzgerald…

    • JEF June 17, 2014 at 7:33 am #

      …lightning from the muse…

  2. Teresa Blackburn June 15, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    Ed, this episode is pretty gripping…many good methaphors I must say. I let this one slip by me in the vast world of emails, but so happy to have discovered it this morning. A great read. I like how you have worked Elliott Ness into the story. Well Done.

    • JEF June 17, 2014 at 7:32 am #

      …he just showed up…unannounced…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: