Summary: Halloween Night Fright
Adam Cartwright’s account of the conspiracy and chain of events that led up to the night of the 31st October 1852. We knew what had to be done. We knew that in a civilised society we would be deemed as murderers, assassins . . . . What had driven three law-abiding men—Sheriff Roy Coffee, Doctor Paul Martin and I—to become co-conspirators?
We let you, the reader, be our judge and jury. You tell us, would you have done things any differently?
Re-edited my thanks to Cheaux. Rated: T WC 2525
The Devil’s Angel
August 1852—Virginia City
The chicken pox virus cut a swathe through Virginia City sending blistered children and adults, Abigail Jones included, to their beds. I did schoolroom duties until Miss Jones recovered. A few days prior to her return, she had the temerity to fall over a frog’s hair and break her leg. A temporary schoolmistress was found.
Ada Bond was a tall, skinny, sharp-featured woman of about my age. “Straight up and down, no mountains to climb,” was one of the less crude remarks bandied about. To my mind, a rounded bosom and shapely butt were not necessary requirements in the teaching of children.
The good Sierra mountain air had a remarkable effect on the plain Miss Bond. Within weeks, the pointy features had softly rounded and her figure curved in a more womanly fashion.
I had become much taken with Miss Bond; Little Joe had not, complaining her temper was as changeable and ugly as her face and christening the teacher Miss ‘smellytwitchystick’ which only earned him a serious talking to.
Cattle, livestock, even small pets from town disappeared, later found butchered, their hearts and livers ripped out, their bloodless carcass’s left to rot. A number of hunting parties were organized and Hoss and I rode on one such mission. We returned with two dead wolves and a puma; another party bagged a bear. Life returned to normal.
Joe and school never were good companions. He complained daily that as Hoss didn’t have to go to school neither should he. He couldn’t ‘learn nothing about busting broncs in a smelly old classroom.’ Thinking that he was just upset not having his big brother along with him, I suggested he try and get on with the new teacher, help her, show her where things were and suchlike. He smart mouthed that as ole ‘smellytwitchystick’ had found her way halfway across America, from New York to Nevada, she surely didn’t need him to show her around a room that wasn’t much bigger than Hop Sing’s kitchen. Another serious talking to followed; the kid though was always good for a laugh.
September 1852—Ponderosa/Virginia City
The disappearance of the Mason children from the orphanage put everyone on edge. Three days later the finding of their bodies mutilated in the same way as the dead animals sent every parent, their children clutched to their breasts, scuttling to the safety of their homes.
Roy Coffee calmed and smoothed as only he could, but terror twists people’s minds. Ordinary God-fearing people, having no one to blame turned inward upon themselves and outward against their neighbours.
The decision to keep the school open was taken; children were ferried back and forth. I became Little Joe’s keeper—no change there. At Pa’s insistence and Roy’s request, I stayed in town during the day to assist with the investigations.
I had been in the search party, alongside Clem, and witnessed a sight that will remain with me until I die . . . two little bodies lying side by side, alabaster faces as if in repose. Then, on the raising of the rough blanket that revealed the brutality beneath, I was not alone in scrambling from the cave in horror to dispel the vile bile from my mouth.
I began seeing Miss Bond every day and we became more than close, which didn’t please Joe. He actually begged me to take up with Abigail Jones instead. Oh, that I had listened.
On the disappearance of another child from the orphanage, the edgy unease in town escalated into panic. Overheard children’s chatter—Little Joe being the chatterer—his exaggerated description of Miss Bond’s dramatic changes in personality and appearance, comparing her to a scary, blood sucking, vampire witch . . . these words found their way to the ears of the terrified.
How easy it is for frightened people to whip themselves into a frenzy as destructive as any bull whip on a tender-skinned back. Roy and Clem, with very little help, handled the blood baying mob, whilst I, dragging the ‘storyteller’ by the scruff of the neck, scooted out of town with the teacher hidden in the back of the wagon.
When a day later the runaway turned up, the townsfolk hailed me the hero of the hour. Miss Bond was exonerated, but her nature was not so forgiving. She was determined to leave, and as Abigail Jones was ready to return to her class, I escorted Ada to the stage for Carson City, telling her I would visit her the next day. The woman had me bewitched; she seemed able to read my thoughts, her eagerness for intimacy that I, against my better judgement, just as eagerly obliged, was overpowering.
At dinner that evening, the banter was flowing. I was teased regarding my relationship with Miss Bond. Pa joked that Joe had found out the truth that, “it was better the devil he knew, than the devil he didn’t.” Joe’s eyes widened. Did Pa mean that Miss Bond was a devil? No, Pa explained, it was an expression. Joe had always complained about Miss Jones, but Joe found Miss Bond was worse. Joe persisted. Was Miss Jones the devil? Reinforcing his words, Pa confirmed nobody was the devil. Joe fell quiet then proclaimed that he didn’t think Miss Jones—although she was weird—was the devil, but if Miss Bond wasn’t the devil, she sure as hell was the devil’s mistress. At that, we all fell quiet. Joe’s big green eye’s scanned the table finally coming to rest on Pa’s furiously reddening face. Joe’s famous lost puppy dog look found no purchase. Realising he had over stepped Pa’s boundaries of respect and decency, mumbling an apology, he stood from the table and questioned his bedroom or the barn? Pa pointed to the door, the kid sloped out of the house, tail very much between his legs. Giving it a few moments, both Pa and Hoss’s eyes were on me waiting for my reaction. Of course, I knew the kid hadn’t any idea of the implication of his words. Within seconds, we were laughing fit to bust.
“Dadburn, iffun shortshanks don’t learn ter think ‘fore he speaks, I swear he’ll have no hide left on that skinny butt ‘fore he’s twenty.
Wiping the tears from his eyes, Pa told Hoss he agreed but reckoned Joe would be lucky to make twelve not twenty.
In hindsight, ‘Out of the mouths of babes’ seems a more appropriate expression.
My next visit to Carson City was a disappointment for Miss Bond was nowhere to be found.
On my return, Little Joe had disappeared and with no Miss Bond as a scapegoat, the town was again in uproar. Thankfully, Joe was found, though barely alive. As he always rode his pony too fast, it was surmised he had fallen down an outcrop of rocks. A vigil was kept at his bedside.
When Roy turned up before breakfast that morning, I knew it was more than just a social visit. The wire from Placerville didn’t mix with hot biscuits. Passing me the paper, I read the dreaded words . . . the body of a local child had been found in exactly the same condition as the Mason children.
Roy Coffee was sorely distressed not just over the death of another child but because his investigations had led nowhere and believing that if he had been able to make an arrest the child would still be alive.
Rushing downstairs, Hoss advised Joe had regained consciousness and was calling for me. I could barely see the kid between the sheets for all the bandages. His pallor was as white and waxy as a candle’s, those green expressive eyes loomed from grey sockets, his look of terror cut through me, his eyes flicking back and forth from Pa and Hoss to Doc Martin. He appeared to be terrified of everyone except me. The look of fear took on a longing cry for help. Thankfully, the doc honed into Joe’s distress and ushered Pa and Hoss downstairs to eat, leaving me at the bedside. Joe visibly relaxed; tears fell as the whispered jumbled, mumbled words spilled from his lips. I held him close, gently rocking him until his eyes closed. By the time Pa and Hoss returned he was sleeping peacefully.
Roy, Paul and I left immediately for the small abandoned house on the perimeter of town where we found such horror, more than evil, such heinous malignancy. Roy and Paul were no doubt made of sterner foundations than I. The stench and implication of what had taken place in the underground root cellar of the ramshackle dwelling simultaneously hit my mind and my gut. Gagging, I staggered back up the dirt steps without managing to stumble any further and emptied the contents of my stomach onto the floor of what had once been a kitchen.
October 1852—Placerville/Virginia City
Alighting from the stage and following the preordained plan, I acquired a buggy. Miss Bond I found at a small boarding house. She was flattered, delighted to go for a ride, and we discussed a number of frivolous, everyday matters. I had to keep my wits about me and remain in control without giving the teacher any cause for concern.
I now knew very well her purpose . . . I was nothing but the seed for her spawn. As I gazed at her unnatural beauty, my whole being was sickened, my skin crawled at her touch, but I had to push my feelings away. My suggestion of stopping for a picnic brought a gleam to her pretty, ice blue eyes. The purchased hamper was stowed under the back seat, an uncorked bottle of chilled wine ready for pouring. It wasn’t difficult to slip the powder, given to me by Paul, into her glass. True to the doctor’s word, she was unconscious within moments.
It would mean having to ride through the night, but the path I knew well and the moon was on my side. Miss Bond lay trussed and hidden under a blanket beneath the back seats. Paul estimated twelve hours before I would have to administer a second dosage. I estimated it would take me three days with brief stopovers to feed and rest the animal. I had no appetite, and the teacher was a fussy eater, now I knew the reason why. As much as I disliked it, I drove the stocky little pony hard. Fortunately, it was a strong, sturdy animal.
At precisely the prescribed intervals, I stopped to drug the teacher and I was making good time. It was the third day; I looked to be at the house by dusk.
31st October 1852—Virginia City
Paul and Roy were already in attendance, with grim faces we prepared to bring the conspiracy to its dreadful conclusion.
The teacher was groggy but awake. Removing the blanket, I could see her beauty already fading, the blue eyes darkening with hate, her face, gaunt and grey, which had nothing what-so-ever to do with the journey or medications. Without the regular top-ups from her pernicious concoction, she/it was reverting to type. As I dragged her into the house, Roy lifted the wooden door to the foul smelling dungeon beneath our feet. Little Joe had only told me about the house and his escape and I prayed that he had not in fact entered the cellar. Roughly, I pushed her down the dirt stairs. We all followed and with another thrust, she fell sprawled onto the cot, onto the blood soaked mattress, the heavy, cruel chains and shackles clanked a welcome. She spun round, hissing and spitting, ranting incomprehensible words. We were determined to do what had to be done. On the signal from Roy, three bullets slammed into the teacher. We watched horrified as her body transmogrified . . . no longer the fresh-faced, blue-eyed beauty, but a wizened, haggard grey-skinned crone, a depraved monster. It was over . . . or so we thought.
Out into the clear evening air, Roy took the oil lamp and threw it into the open chasm. Within seconds the ruins were ablaze, not much was left of the dried up old timbers as they crackled, spat and danced, lively fuel to the flames. Standing a short distance away, we passed between us the bottle that Paul Martin had the foresight to bring with him, grateful for the sharp, raw whiskey.
Paul was one hundred percent certain that the residue in the bottles and jars strewn on the floor and shelves was blood. He had sent sample tissue slivers of the hearts and livers to San Francisco for laboratory analysis and he had no doubt they would be confirmed as animal or human. As the flames died down, each man’s thoughts were his own, but we were all of the one conviction, we had no other choice. Whilst we waited for the fire to cool, we took it upon ourselves to dig a grave. Regardless of what it was that we had destroyed, a burial was the least and only Christian thing we could do.
When we went back down into that hell hole, there was nothing left but dust, cooling embers and the chains, still too hot to touch. Doc figured the fire hadn’t been burning hot enough or long enough to have reduced the bones to ashes and there was no sign of molars. As sickening as it was, we searched every part of that unholy place and there was not a thing in the debris of that sunken room to indicate any trace of life—human or otherwise.
Little Joe’s whispered, jumbled words suddenly made awful sense. Held prisoner at the old Morgan house by his teacher, he managed to escape by pushing her down those stairs. He fled in terror; he couldn’t remember anything else and in his weakened, confused state he mispronounced the teacher’s name…Miss Aba Don, he said. Not Miss Ada
Bond…Abaddon. I mouthed the word. Roy and Paul turned their drawn, haggard faces to me. I didn’t realise I was speaking aloud.
“Abaddon, not Ada Bond. ‘The Abaddon’…Hell…Devil….The Destruction.”
“What the devil yer saying boy?” Sheriff Roy Coffee’s wrinkled face blanched at the explanation when Doctor Paul Martin quoted chapter and verse.
“Revelations 9:11: ‘And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon’. ”
Hebrew – Abaddon – One of the devil’s fallen angels.
Greek – Abaddon – Destruction.
Chapter End Notes
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
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