Old Black Maggie – Episode 7

thR85X3ITUThe Murder of Billy Rhinehart

Several days passed before Gary patronized Russell’s Market again. He had convinced himself that Old Black Maggie was near and waiting for him to return. After scouting the neighborhood for hags and anything suspicious Gary entered Russell’s Market like a speakeasy patron.

“Hey, Mr. Russell,” Gary said, “Has Old Black Maggie been back?”

“Nah,” Russell said, “She hasn’t been back sense you paid the nickel for the dog food. She’s only been in here a couple of times ever that I know of.”

“I wonder what brought her to this side of town?” Gary said.

“You followed her home, right?” Russell said.

“Yeah,” Gary said.

“Did she see you following her?” Russell said. “She must have, she said something.”

“I was careful,” Gary said.

“She’s wily,” Russell said. “She’s managed to get away with who knows what.”

“But why did she come into your store?” Gary said.

“Don’t you get it, kid,” Russell said. “She knows you followed her and she’s out to get you. You got to be careful, son.”

“You ever heard of Billy Rhinehart?” Russell said and grabbed an orange soda from the cooler.

Gary stood curiously as Russell opened the bottle and took a large swig. He wiped his lips with his sleeve.

“Who is he?” Gary said.

“A kid about your age,” Russell said. “He got hit by a car about ten years ago; died in an instant.”

“What does that have to do with Old Black Maggie?” Gary said.

“Billy used to hang out down at the park,” Russell said. “They say one day Old Black Maggie came walking through the park. Everybody got to wondering about her; where she lived. Billy was a big talker. He said he was going to find out about her. He followed her. He said he peeked in her window. She was boiling some stew. Billy swore to god there was a finger in it. A week later he gets hit by a car.”

“How is that linked to Old Black Maggie?” Gary said.

“She was the only witness,” Russell said.

“What about the driver?” Gary said.

“Old guy,” Russell said. “Died on the spot also; figure it out for yourself.”

“Does that help?” Gary said.

“What?” Russell said.

“The orange soda,” Gary said and walked tp the cooler. He pulled one out and opened it. He dug in his pocket for change.

“I’m 2 cents short,” Gary said.

“That’s okay,” Russell said, “Pay me the next time you’re in. On second thought, I‘ll just put it on you family‘s book.” Russell opened a drawer beneath the cash register and fingered through the charge books. He found Gary’s families and marked it.

Gary walked solemnly from Russell’s Market and toward home. He moved as far away from the street as he could. Every car that rolled by held the potential for death by Old Black Maggie’s curse.


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Old Black Maggie – Episode 6

thKEKGXICHSleepless Night

Gary entered the house from the back door. As he shut the door he looked down the alley to see if Old Black Maggie followed him.

“Somebody chase you home,” Gary’s mother, Betty, said while chopping vegetables for the supper meal.

“No,” Gary said. “Well kinda.” He flipped his shoes off.

“Who?” she said.

“Old Black Maggie,” Gary said placing the loaf bread on the table.

“I hardly think you would have to run from Old Black Maggie,” she said. “She has to be at least 75 years old.”

“She has special powers,” Gary said.

“Like what?” she said and turned to Gary.

“She just has them,” Gary said, “She’s a hag.”

“She’s strange,” she said, “But she’s not a hag. I remember when she was younger. They say she was quite pretty when she was young.”

“All I know is that I don’t want her near me,” Gary said.

“Than stay away from here and don’t tease her,” she said.

“I gave her a nickel at Russell’s so she could buy some cat food,” Gary said.

“Well that was nice of you,” she said. “I don’t think you will have to worry about any curses at this point.”

“Russell said that don’t make any difference,” Gary said. “Hags are in the business of curses and it makes no difference whether you do good or bad to ’em.”

“Well, Russell ought to know,” she said and added sardonically, “he owns a grocery store.”

Gary ran up the stairs to his room and looked out the window. It wasn’t quite dark yet. His window overlooked the alley that ran beside their home. He strained to see where the alley intersected with the next street. Behind a tree he saw a shadowy figure. He rubbed his eyes and it was gone. “Only a hag can do that,” he murmured.

That night Gary woke several times and moved the curtain aside with his finger just far enough to look out into the alley. Dogs barked throughout the night. A siren was heard and the lonely distant whine of a truck’s tires on the highway. The city seemed dead, but Gary was certain Old Black Maggie was hard at work either doing an evil deed or plotting her next one.


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Old Black Maggie – Episode 5

thN1F1CPM8The Nickel

A week passed and the talk about Old Black Maggie quieted.

Gary saw her downtown, but quickly avoided crossing her path. She now seemed more evil than mysterious.

Later that afternoon Gary went to Russell’s Market to buy a loaf of bread. He laid it on the counter.

“That will be 19 cents,” Russell said.

Gary handed Russell a quarter and Russell gave him 6 cents change. Russell was about the say “thanks.” The door flew open and a harsh breeze swept in. It was Old Black Maggie.

She quickly grabbed a can of cat food and stepped in front of Gary. She placed the can slowly on the counter. “How much,” she said mysteriously.

“15 cents,” Russell said with a nervous smile.

“I only got a dime,” Old Back Maggie said.

Everything seemed to stop. The clock above Russell behind the counter seemed to hesitate ticking out the next second. Russell extended credit only to regulars in the neighborhood. He licked his lips and tugged at his collar.

“I got a nickel,” Gary said and he placed it on the counter.

Old Black Maggie stared at him with one eye wide open and the other squinted nearly shut. “What is you name?” she said with a gravelly voice.

“Gary Tanner,” Gary said.

“Thank you, Gary,” Old Black Maggie said. “You are a nice lad. Don‘t follow me any more.”

Russell stood like a soldier at attention. She scowled at him and quickly left the store.

“She knows your name now, boy and she knows you followed her,” Russell said. “She’s a hag. There is no such thing as an act of kindness with her. She’ll find out where you live and haunt you. You shouldn‘t have given her your last name.”

Gary said nothing. He cradled the loaf of bread in his arms and slowly walked to the door.

“Get home before it’s dark, boy,” Russell said. “She works best at night. Run, boy, run.”

Gary ran from the store and after a half block slowed to a fast walk, but looked around to see if Old Black Maggie was near.

He passed though the park by way of a winding brick walk. Running next to the park laid two sets of railroad tracks hidden by thick shrubs. The shrubs moved as if some one were in them. He ran to the exit of the park and looked down the railroad track. Walking slowly and hunched over like an evil vision was Old Black Maggie moving away as if by levitation.


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Old Black Maggie – Episode 4

The Murder of Gisele LaSwain

“It was just before the war. Things were good in town. Everybody was working and guys had money to burn. Guys go down to the strip club and watch the pretty ladies down there. Nothing wrong with that, you look and don’t touch. They’re really respectable girls. It’s an art, like dancing.”

“There was this beautiful dancer, she was going to the top. Her name was Gisele LaSwain. She was beautiful and talented. She could sing like a canary; sweet and soft. She had songs that could tear your heart out. She had moves like… Well never mind, she just had moves.”

“Old Black Maggie comes into the Rathskeller one cold winter night. She smelled awful. Like a rag that’s laid in the alley for awhile. She sits at the bar and ask the bartender for a shot or rum to chase away the chill.”

“The bartender tells Old Black Maggie to skedaddle. Old Black Maggie demands a shot of rum. The bartender says to let me see the money first.”

“Old Black Maggie puts a curse on him. Then she turned to Gisele LaSwain and says in a real eerie voice, ’Satan was a beautiful angel that fell from heaven and so will you.’”

“Well, the bartender signaled for the bouncer to give her the bum’s rush. She was squawking and kicking like a like a chicken being chocked. The bouncer tosses her out on the sidewalk.”

“That night Gisele LaSwain plunged to her death from the top of the Waldo Hotel. It was just at Old Black Maggie said; she plunged from heaven, a fallen angel. My, she was beautiful.”

“Nobody could prove anything, but two nights later Old Black Maggie came back in the Ratheskeller and the bartender set a shot of rum in front of her, no questions asked.”

“I got to get back inside boys and close up the store,” Russell said. “You boys best be getting home. I’ve seen Old Black Maggie walk down the street in the middle of the night plenty of times.”

Everyone disbursed to their homes. Gary didn’t sleep that night and neither did the other boys who were at Russell’s Market that night.


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Old Black Maggie – Episode 3

The Murder of Crosely Twins

“The Crosley twins,” Russell said.

“The Crosley twins?” Gary said.

“Two beautiful little girls,” Russell said. “Gone, just like that, never seen again.”

“How did that happen?” Whipper said.

“The Croselys lived in a little house on East Elm about four blocks from here. It was a hot summer night. I remember it well. The fire department opened the fire hydrant on the corner just down the street so the kids could cool off. It was quite a time. The store ran out of ice and pop.”

“The Croselys put their girls to sleep for the night and opened the window from the north to catch the cool breeze off the river. The Croselys sat on the front porch sipping lemonade.”

“It was one of those nights that no one could sleep. You just knew something bad was going to happen. You knew that night somebody would fall asleep and never wake up.”

“Finally the Crosely’s get tired. They are the last ones to turn off their lights in the neighborhood. The next thing you hear is a scream like you will never ever hear except from a mother. I heard the scream all the way over here. I’ll never forget that night.”

“Mrs. Crosely checked on the twins just before she went to bed. They were both missing.”

“People said Old Black Maggie was seen walking down an alley that night with two suitcases. Lord only knows where those suitcases are now. If one was able to get into the basement of the Bickford Mansion it is likely they will find them there. And it would not surprise me if there delicate throats were sliced from ear to ear.”

“Was there any blood?” Whipper said.

“None was reported, but why else would a mother scream the way Mrs. Crosely did?”

Russell tossed back a swig of orange soda and wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his forearm. He looked at all the boys. They gazed upon Russell as though a sage and leader.

“The worst was the hoochie coochie girl from the San Jaun Strip Club. Now don’t tell your parents I was telling you about that place. You can get into big trouble talking to young boys about stuff like that. So you got to swear.”

Everybody agreed to keep it among themselves before Russell continued.


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Old Black Maggie – Episode 2

thETNWMB9ZThe Murder of Doc Ellsworth

Walter Russell was the son of Joseph Russell who opened Russell’s Market in the 30s. Walter was a short round man with round glasses. He was bald with wispy oiled hair. He always wore a white apron with smudges of dried blood from butchering at the meat counter and dirt from handling boxes.

He stepped outside and underneath the light that lit the store’s sign. “So you guys want to hear about Old Black Maggie.”

Everyone agreed.

Everyone had already heard nearly every story about her. There was a collective hope that new ground might be broken or a fact not previously revealed, true or imaginary.

“There was the murder of Doc Ellsworth 30 years ago. He was found all bloated and floating in the river. It was Old Black Maggie who found the body. Everybody was looking for him. He’d been missing for months.”

“Didn’t he rot?” Allen said.

“His body came up from the river with the spring thaw. He was last seen New Years Eve. He drove home from a party. His car was found two miles from the river. How did he get there? Old Black Maggie killed him and drug him there. Somebody said they saw Old Black Maggie dragging something in the snow that night. She found the body and collected the reward. She’s a clever woman, she is.”

“How did it happen she killed him?” Donnie said.

“They say she pretended to fall in the street. Doc Ellsworth got out of his car to help her. He’s doctor. He has a code of ethics to help people. When he bent down that’s when it happened.”

“What?” Gary said.

“In a flash she pulls out a switchblade knife and slices him from ear to ear. They say if it’s done right you’re dead before you hit the ground.”

“How do they know that’s how he died?” Gary sais.

“A policeman who worked for the force came into the store one night. He said there were things about the investigation not revealed to the public.”

“Like what?” Gary said.

“Near where they found Doc Ellsworth’s car there was a pool of blood and when his bloated body was fished from the river his neck was sliced from ear to ear. Now keep that quiet.”

“There’s one more thing,” Russell said. He stooped low and whispered, “his heart was missing. Ripped right from his chest.”

Everyone winced.

“You guys thirsty?” Russell said nonchalantly.

Without a word everybody marched in to the store and pulled a bottle of pop from the cooler and paid Russell. Everyone went back outside and began to murmur.

Russell came back with an orange soda.

“What else?” one of the boys said.


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Old Black Maggie – Episode 1

thR3ZWOY6AMysterious Old Black Maggie

Old Black Maggie roamed the streets of Kokomo, Indiana and children mocked and chanted:

“Maggie, Maggie old black Maggie
Ugly and smelly
And her cloths are shabby.”

No one was really sure who Old Black Maggie was. She was as much a part of the downtown landscape as the stores and the cannon at Highland Park and probably just as old. Her clothing was drab and hung like Spanish Moss from a bald cypress. She wore a black beret cocked to the side of her head. Rumor had it she kept a Derringer tucked in it.

Gary Tanner followed her one day to an apartment attached to a much larger handsome Victorian home near an exclusive part of town. All the way to the apartment she looked over her shoulder to see if anyone followed, but Gary kept at least a block away. He was certain of not being detected. It was a creepy mysterious look over the shoulder. She hunched deep into her coat. There was a slight hump in her back. She had an old craggy face with a nose that hooked low. She wore a constant squint of the right eye.

As soon as Gary saw where she lived he rushed back to the other side of town to his neighborhood. Everyone was gathered in front of the neighborhood grocery, Russell’s Market.

There were about ten kids in all ranging from age 10 to 14. Gary was 14.

“Get this guys,” Gary said. “I followed Old Black Maggie. I know where she lives.”

“Does she live under the tracks that goes over the river?” Donnie, a thin red headed boy, said.

“No…” Gary said and was interrupted.

“Does she live in the shack behind the graveyard?” Allen, a short chubby boy, said.

“No…” Gary said.

“She sleeps in the ally behind Palmer’s Restaurant and eats their garbage. In the winter she sleeps in steps to the basement,” Donnie said with finality.

“Look guys!” Gary said. “None of that is true. She lives a small apartment attached to the old Bickford Mansion.”

“The one with all the vines?” Allen said.

“Yeah,” Gary said.

“It has twelve chimneys; one for each person killed there,” Allen said.

“There has never been a murder in that house,” Gary said. “Okay, but will it make you feel better if they are called suspicious deaths?”

“They say there’s bodies buried in the basement.” Whipper, a small boy said.

“I bet Old Black Maggie knows where everyone of them is,” Donnie said

“I hear she killed ‘em and ate ‘em,” Whipper said

“Mr. Russell knows about Old Black Maggie,” Allen said. “Let’s go inside and ask him.”

“We all can’t go in there,” Gary said. “He’ll chase us out.”

“I’ll go ask him to come out here and tell us about her,” Donnie said. He darted inside and came out after a moment. “He said he’ll be out in a minute. He said he’s got plenty of stories about Old Black Maggie.”


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