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       Cape Cod's Figure in Black, p.1

           Bill Russo
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Cape Cod's Figure in Black


  Cape Cod’s Figure in Black

  By Bill Russo

  Copyright ©2016 Bill Russo

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. All pictures are held by commercial license and may not be duplicated by anyone without express permission.

  Cover Design by Bill Russo. It depicts an ethereal representation of the ‘Figure in Black’ behind the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown. Constructed over a three year period, in part with funds collected from townspeople, the memorial, which is the tallest free standing granite structure in the world opened in 1910 - the year in which this book is set.

  Table of Contents

  Chapter One: Leaving Gray Gables

  Chapter Two: 100 Traps for Lobsters and One Trap for a Rat

  Chapter Three: A Beautiful Diversion

  Chapter Four: Love Blooms on Feelings of Doom

  Chapter Five: Sandwich Spoiled

  Chapter Six: The E-I-E-I-O People

  Chapter Seven: Pursued by the Marx Brothers

  Chapter Eight: Through the Arboreal Arch

  Chapter Nine: Boston Girls, Boston Braves, and Boston Red Sox

  Chapter Ten: A Billet-doux and a Haunting too!

  Chapter Eleven: Meeting the 300 Year Old Princess

  Chapter Twelve: The Nobscusset Miracles

  Chapter Thirteen: Rebuilding the Ruins

  Chapter Fourteen: Back on the Train

  Chapter Fifteen: Karma and the Little Girl from Provincetown

  Chapter Sixteen: The Rod and Cod

  Chapter Seventeen: The Christmas Vacation

  Chapter Eighteen: Astounding News of the Lost Brother

  Chapter Nineteen: The Gallows?

  Chapter Twenty: The End of John Deer

  Chapter One:

  Leaving Gray Gables

  A mysterious looking man, dressed entirely in black with a wide brimmed hat on his head, sat at the counter of a diner near the tiny Gray Gables railroad station at the entrance to Cape Cod. Rays of light from the morning sun pushed their way past the greasy windows as he nibbled on his spare meal, consisting merely of bread and coffee. Awaiting the early morning train from Boston, he was the only customer.

  He drained the last of his unsweetened coffee and his cup was quickly refilled by a fidgety young waitress who appeared to be nervous and troubled. Observing redness around her eyes, he politely asked “Are you all right? You can tell me. I’m a friend.”

  The young woman knew of no earthly reason why she should unburden herself to a total stranger and yet there was something familiar about the man – perhaps it was that he reminded her of a kindly uncle, who helped her when she was a young girl, and had fallen and bruised her knee. More likely, he provoked a memory of someone who recently had been very close to her heart.

  For whatever reason, she unleashed a torrent of tears and spilled her whole sad tale to the bearded figure in black. His attire could equally have been worn by a sailor, a minister, or an undertaker.

  He listened wordlessly, only nodding now and then in the proper places. When she had finished, he said simply…. “Everything will be all right. All you have to do is get on the train with me when it arrives here at Gray Gables.”

  A few minutes later when the Cape Cod Railroad’s Engine Number Two steamed into the station, pulling a passenger coach, a mail car, and two freight cars; she decided to do it. Pulling off her white apron, she tossed it on a hook. With only a brief word to the cook in the kitchen, she followed the man of mystery to the boarding platform.

  From the mail car, the postal attendant pushed out bundles of the early morning broadsheets from Boston and New Bedford. Dated July 4, 1910, the headlines screamed - “First African American Boxing Champ! Jack Johnson Wins Heavyweight Title.”

  “I have no idea why I’m doing this,” she said as they walked gingerly around the piles of newspapers.”

  Moving quickly up the three steps, she walked into the coach and sat in the first empty cluster of seats.

  The figure in black sat beside her and said…. “Yes you do. You’re desperate and there is nothing but trouble for you in Gray Gables. No family, no husband, nothing in your future but the prospect of the growing shame as you trudge to work day after day in that dingy restaurant.”

  “How do you know this?”

  “We have things in common” he answered. “People who have similar problems know such things without being told.”

  “You cannot have any problem like mine,” she insisted.

  “Misfortune and ill fate know no gender. But never mind that. I have good news for you. The solution to your seemingly impossible situation is no further away than the very next stop – Monument Beach.”

  She asked again - “How can you know this?”

  “I cannot explain it to you, except to say that I do. When we reach Monument Beach you will remain in your seat. I will get off the train. A man will board. He will be carrying something that’s difficult for him to manage. He will sit in the opposite seat, facing you and set his burden down. Speak with him. You will help him and he will help you.”

  “Monument Beach! Next stop Monument Beach,” barked the conductor, as he worked his way through the coach, dressed in his dark blue uniform with gold buttons.

  As the train noisily squealed to a halt, the enigmatic figure in black made a silent, unnoticed exit.

  Almost immediately the young woman forgot about him and began to fret about why she had abandoned her job on a whim and boarded the Provincetown train with no destination in mind and very little in her handbag other than a lipstick, a small case of powder, a handful of coins, and five wrinkled, dollar bills.

  She was so wrapped up in her predicament that she failed to notice when a young red headed man carrying a fairly large bundle in one arm and a hefty suitcase with the other, sat down in the seat across from hers.

  He set his burden down and the howling that came from it jarred the young woman, whose name was Lucy Malone, back to reality.

  “I’m sorry for the noise miss, I just don’t know how to keep her quiet,” he said as he fumbled to pick up an infant, wrapped in a snowy white blanket. The crying only intensified when the child was held by the large, calloused hands of the man.

  “Let me,” she said, gently taking the baby from him. Immediately the little girl purred, closed her eyes, and slept.

  “I’m Jimmy O’Kelly. I don’t usually talk to strange women on a train, but I……”

  She interrupted him…. “Mr. O’Kelly are you calling me a ‘strange’ woman?”

  “No,” he laughed, “I didn’t mean it that way. It’s just that since the baby’s mother died, I haven’t felt like talking to anyone. But you,” he hesitated, “you are being so wonderful with the girl. She’s done nothing but cry for her entire life – four weeks now.”

  “But your wife doesn’t she….?”

  “The baby’s mother died in childbirth, Miss....?”

  “Lucy. My name is Lucy Malone.”

  Their conversation continued as the train rumbled through Sandwich, and then Barnstable. By the time the conductor called, “Next Stop Yarmouth”, the two had formed a bond.

  Lucy admitted that she had no set destination or plans and O’Kelly suggested that since she did so well with the baby, she should come to live at his home and take care of the child.

  “I can pay you a good
salary Miss Malone, plus you’ll have a roof over your head and good food to eat – as long as you don’t mind also being the cook, for I am barely able to boil water for the tea.”

  “Mr. O’Kelly, perhaps I’ll try it out and see if it’s a fit for all of us. Where do you live?”

  “The very next stop on the line, South Dennis. I’ve a pretty good boat building business and it keeps me quite busy, so you’ll hardly ever see me and you’ll have the run of the house.”

  “I am interested but won’t your wife’s family….”

  “I was not married to the woman and she had no family. It was my intention to marry her, I assure you. She had been sick all through the time she carried the child. I had promised her that after the baby was born and she got better that we would marry but…”

  She cut him off… “I’ll accept your offer and the baby is delightful. What is her name?”

  “Her mother never lived to see the child, but she instructed me to call her Hope.”

  Further conversation at that moment was cut off by the stentorian tones of the conductor.

  “South Dennis! All off for South Dennis! Next stop South Dennis!

  The couple got off the train at the Main Street station, next to the town hall, with Lucy carrying Hope, and Jimmy toting his heavy bag and Lucy’s much lighter one.

  By prearrangement, Crosby’s livery service had a carriage waiting for Jimmy O’Kelly at the station. The driver, Albert Crosby Junior, snapped his whip in the air and a spirited bay mare named Mehitable, quickly covered the three miles to O’Kelly’s home on the Swan River in Dennis Port.

  Lucy fell instantly in love with the house which was befitting a ship’s captain, what with its two floors as well as a full attic, several barns, outbuildings, a vegetable plot, and a rose garden enclosed by an ornamental wrought iron fence.

  “Surely this must be the finest house in all the Dennis Villages,” she exclaimed as they approached the front door.

  “Well thank you Lucy. It’s mostly for appearance you know. My shop is further down the river closer to Nantucket Sound, but I keep my office in the house and I want my clients to see that my property is neat and well kept. It helps the business, you see.”

  Lucy found that the inside was as tasteful as the exterior. Once she got Hope settled into a crib in a second floor bedroom, Jimmy gave her a tour of the property. She was delighted with the beautiful home and could not believe the good fortune that seemed to be coming her way.

  Lucy took wonderful care of the child and did an equally fine job as cook and house-keeper. Though neither of them said anything at first, they both knew that they were falling in love.

  It took less than three weeks for them to physically express that love, and another two weeks before they decided to share their darkest secrets.

  “Jimmy, before we get further involved I have to be honest with you. I have a horrible secret and after I tell it, if you wish me to leave, I’ll do so without complaint.”

  “Lucy, I too have a hideous past that I’ve been hiding from you and after I tell you about it, if you never wish to see me again, I’ll understand.”

  “Let’s talk about it after dinner,” Lucy suggested.

  She served Jimmy his favorite food that night – corned beef and cabbage with boiled red potatoes, tender carrots, and garden fresh corn on the cob.

  Together they went upstairs after the meal and put Hope in her crib. Their bedrooms were on either side of the baby’s room. Apprehensively, they went into Lucy’s bedroom to have their talk. Sitting on her bed, they were too nervous to use their lips for speech.

  Finally Jimmy broke the stalemate when he took her into his arms, kissing her long and hard. She stiffened at first but soon began responding and unleashing her pent up emotions and desires. As the intense heat between them soared, all thoughts of “The Talk” were postponed. When they awoke the next morning, which was a Sunday, they finally did set themselves free.

  “I’m not much good Lucy. I’ll tell you the whole mess. I lied. I was never going to marry Hope’s mother. I dumped her when she told me she was going to have the baby. I met her in Boston last year. I was there in connection with the discussions of building the Cape Cod Canal. I represent a group of boat owners and builders who helped get the project funded. I was going out with Mary - that was her name - for a few months just to pass the time while I was in the city. It was never really serious.

  “I certainly didn’t give a thought to marriage. When she told me she was going to have my baby, I abandoned her. I’m ashamed to say it. But I did – I left her. I gave her money. I know that doesn’t make it right, but I just want you to know that she didn’t have to worry for one second about money.

  “When she got sick, I went back to Boston and stayed with her. I felt that at the least, I owed her that. The doctors didn’t tell her, but they were virtually certain she was going to die – perhaps even before she gave birth. She had a heart problem. I lied to her right up to the day she finally did pass away, by telling her we were going to get married. She had no family. I had her buried in Kenmore Cemetery.

  After her death, I was at the lowest point of my life. I felt so much remorse for what I had done that I was not sure I could live with myself. I……”

  “Stop, Jimmy! Stop right now!” Lucy demanded. “You were kind to her and acted honorably. You took care of her expenses and you stayed with her. The man who ruined me did none of those things!

  “Like Mary, who gave birth to Hope, I had no family. I didn’t even have a real place to live. I had a tiny room, in the attic above the restaurant where I worked. It was so small there wasn’t even room for a table and chair - just a bed and a small bureau.

  “When the first man came along that seemed like a gentleman and expressed an interest in me, I fell. I fell all the way. I would have done anything for him. I should have known something was wrong. He never really took me anywhere except to hotel rooms for what was mostly just his pleasure.

  “He’d bring me presents like flowers and candy but would never take me to Vaudeville shows or fancy restaurants, though he had plenty of money. When I told him I was pregnant with his child, the first thing he said was ‘how do I know it’s mine?’

  “He knew, Jimmy. He knew that he was my first and only man. He dumped me less than five minutes after I told him he was going to be a father. He said he was already married and I should ‘take care of things’. He left me and he never offered me a cent and if he did I probably wouldn’t have taken it from him. Compared to him Jimmy, you are a saint.

  “Just when I was at my lowest point,” Lucy continued, “a quiet man all dressed in black, came to the restaurant at Gray Gables. He ordered only coffee and bread. I don’t know how, but he knew my troubles and he told me everything was going to be okay. I said to him……

  “Lucy, did this figure in black have a beard and was he wearing a wide brimmed hat?”

  “Yes Jimmy. How did you know?”

  “I started to tell you a few minutes ago that when I was at my worst point, back in Boston, I was thinking about killing myself. The only thing that stopped me was Hope. I loved that baby from the first second I saw her. I couldn’t take my life and leave her without a father. But still, I was so miserable that I didn’t see how I could go on.

  “I left the baby at a nursery at went to the dirty waters of the Charles River. I know that I wasn’t going to jump in – but I felt like I wanted to. A strange man, all dressed in black, sat next to me on a bench. He said, ‘Hello Jimmy’. I asked him how he knew my name and he didn’t know how he knew, but he just did. He told me that he wanted to help me. He seemed to know everything about me. He said that everything would be fine.

  “At first I thought that the man was crazy, but there was something about him that was familiar. I can’t explain it, but I soon began to trust him and believe everything he said. Lucy, I’m sure that it was the same ma
n you met. He told me that I was to take the Cape Cod Train from Boston and get off at the Monument Beach Station. He said I was to stay overnight in Bourne and then get on the first train the next morning. He instructed me to take the first empty seat I saw and that the solution to my problem would be sitting opposite me. The seat I took was the one across from you!”

  Within a month Lucy Malone became Mrs. Jimmy O’Kelly. Within five more months she delivered a beautiful eight pound baby boy. The child had curly red hair, just like its real father – and just like Jimmy’s.

  “Oh Lucy, he’s got my hair. Can we call him Jimmy Junior?”

  All that Lucy could manage to say through her joyful tears was, “Thank you Jimmy Senior”.

  The O’Kelly’s two children, Hope and Jimmy Junior; were eventually joined by two other girls and two more boys. The six O’Kelly kids were good students and fine Cape Cod citizens. The O’Kelly family members lived long and successful lives and their descendants dwell happily on Cape, to this very day.

  But what of the shadowy man dressed in the colors of night?

  Chapter Two:

  100 Traps for Lobsters and One Trap for a Rat

  After he got off the train at Monument beach, the figure in black immediately walked to the Sandbar Hotel where he paid cash in advance for a week’s lodging and went straight to his room.

  The rushing sound of a Northeaster roared into his ears although the room’s single window was closed and there was no wind. His eyes refused to focus. A light touch of his fingers to a faint scar that ran from his right eyebrow straight up into his hairline produced the effect of a figurative boulder crashing down the craggy hills inside his head. Dislodging many others on its way, the boulder tumbled down through his cranium before crashing at the base of his brain with the force of a landslide.

  He collapsed on the bed with a ‘headquake’ that would have driven most men to the highest point they could find, in order to jump to their death. To the figure in black, it was simply one more routine brain eruption – just like all the others over the last seven years.

 
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