Monthly Archives: August 2014

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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Shepherd’s Winter – Part 34 – The Final Part

thP0CIL3KDTrap’s Revenge

Two weeks later over that same knoll walked an old man. Shepherd could tell he was old by his gait and stoop. Something was strapped to his back. As he drew closer he looked familiar to Shepherd.

“How are you doing? I am Ivan, head of the council. We met last winter.”

“Yes,” Shepherd said, “I remember you.”

“I wanted to speak to you about something,” Ivan said.

“Sure,” Shepherd said. “You have walked a long way. Have you eaten?”

Ivan said nothing.

“Come inside and let me feed you,” Shepherd said.

“It is not necessary,” Ivan said.

“Please come in,” Shepherd said.

Ivan placed his back pack on the porch as Shepherd showed him in. Shepherd quickly warmed elk and sliced potatoes.

“We will eat together,” Shepherd said as he placed the food on the table.

Ivan was quiet.

They began eating. Shepherd was curious.

“Tell me what happened between you and Dennis,” Ivan said.

“What ever he told you is the truth,” Shepherd said.

“Dennis and truth are strangers,” Ivan said.

“If Dennis killed my dog I would kill Dennis,” Ivan said. “And it is said you grieved heavily over your dog. He was a gift from a friend and the dog became a friend.”

“Yes,” Shepherd said. “The wolf stopped me.”

“The wolf stopped you?” Ivan said.

“Yes,” Shepherd said. “He pulled the rifle away.”

“Smart wolf,” Ivan said. “I have come to tell you that no one will ever bother you again. There will be no more Amarok.”

“That’s good to hear,” Shepherd said. “I hold nothing against anyone. I’m a stranger. I understand.”

“That is good you understand our ways,” Ivan said. “Our ways are changing.”

“And I’m not here to change them,” Shepherd said.

“But, Daniel told me about an idea you had for a radio station,” Ivan said.

“Maybe not such a good idea,” Shepherd said.

“I was hoping you would go though with it,” Ivan said. “It would be a good thing. It would be one way to tell the valley about who we are and our culture. It would be a good thing.”

Shepherd smiled. “To tell you the truth I have it all worked out.”

Ivan stood. “This has been a most enjoyable meal.”

“You are invited back anytime,” Shepherd said.

“And you to my home as well,” Ivan said.

They passed through the door. Ivan stooped down and opened his pack back. He pulled out a husky pump. “A gift from the council, my friend.” He handed the pup to Shepherd.

Shepherd held him up. “He looks like a good dog. Thank you and thank the council.”

Ivan smiled and strapped the back pack on. He walked a few steps away and turned. “A strange thing happened to Dennis a few days ago. He was killed by what appeared to be a wolf.”

“That is strange,” Shepherd said.

“It really uncomplicates things, doesn’t it,” Ivan said.

“I guess he wanted him for himself,” Shepherd said.

Ivan smiled, waved, and walked away.

The End


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Shepherd’s Winter – Part 33


Daniel and his family were with Shepherd and Trap when Pal was buried.

At the grave Shepherd spoke. “It is a terrible thing to lose a friend. They take a part of you with them. There are things that only Pal and I know about each other that no one else will know. What a good memory. I will miss what could have been. I suppose most importantly to me there is a part of him still with me.”

“He was a good dog,” Daniel said passing by Shepherd and hugging him.

The rest of the family hugged Shepherd.

Nan wiped a tear from Shepherd’s cheek and kissed where the tear was.

Daniel and his family drove off and left Shepherd and Trap alone.

“It would have been a good spring,” Shepherd said to Trap as they watched the snow machines dip into the stream bed. “I was hoping to have it with Pal. You were a good friend to him also, Trap. He looked up to you.”

The snow of winter quickly gave way to rain and mud. And one day while Shepherd staked out a garden he looked up and saw Trap disappear over a small knoll in the meadow.

He was now gone. In Shepherd’s mind that was good. It was who Trap was. He smiled and said quietly, “Remember us well, ole friend and stay away from anything steel.”


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