Ned McAdoo and the Molly Maguires

Ned McAdoo and the Molly MaguiresByClaire and Jim Castagnera

© K&C Human Resource Enterprises 2006

Prologue       

The man was tall… six feet, at least… maybe seven.  Or was he floating a foot or two above our hunter green carpet?  Most of his face was hidden by a shaggy black beard and handlebar mustache.  But his… oh, Christ almighty, those eyes.  They were two glowing coals, each one orange, shimmering and radiating from a deep black socket, almost like the craters of two recently-active volcanoes.  Or — it occurred to me later — two glowing embers of anthracite coal in some 19th century fireplace.  And the mouth.  It was open about half way and what I could see of the inside was bright and bloody red.       The body, which walked or floated slowly toward the foot of the bed, was dressed in a black, funereal suit of rough wool.  The sleeves of the coat were too short and the long, powerful-looking arms hung down at the man’s side, the ghostly white fingers fully extended but relaxed.  Except for the eyes and mouth, the face, which had an exceptionally high forehead crowned by a thinning crop of ill-cut black hair, was so white that I could have believed it had been dusted with flour.                                                                                           The specter did not so much speak as moan its message, which sounded to me like “Juice dish.”  The words meant nothing, yet the voice frightened me even more than the messenger’s appearance.  I tried to kick off the covers, intending to leap out of the bed and run for it.  In my panic, as I was a little ashamed to recall later, I gave no thought to Judy, asleep beside me in our queen-sized bed.     I found that, despite kicking and flailing my arms and legs like the panic-stricken coward I was, I couldn’t get the bed clothes off my body nor extricate myself from the bed.  The apparition was hovering directly above me, still moaning “Juice dish, Juice dish,” while I too moaned and wailed like some Irish banshee in a fairy tale, when I heard a third voice in my right ear.  It was a soft and gentle female voice amidst all the male caterwauling that seemed to fill up the small dark space of the bedroom.  At first I hardly heard it.  But, accompanied by a gentle yet firm shaking of my trembling right shoulder, it persisted until it got through to the agitated recesses of my frantic brain.     “Ned,” the gentle voice said.  “Ned, darling.  Wake up.  It’s all right.  You’re having a dream.  Ned, wake up,” it insisted.       I discovered that I could sit upright.  And so, I did.  I sat bolt upright in bed and the blanket and sheet fell down into my lap.     The rescuing female voice, I was happy to hear, was still there in my right ear, which seemed the only sane part of my head.      “Ned, wake up,” it persisted.  “You’re having a nightmare.”I turned and was somewhat startled to see my wife beside me, her soft, plump hand holding and gently shaking my shoulder.  “It’s all right, honey.  Just wake up now.  Okay?”      I turned and looked into the big, green-gray eyes that were just a few inches from my sweat-covered face.  The two big tears, one dangling precariously from the corner of each of those warm, reassuring eyes, looked to me like tiny crystal balls.  They caught the light coming in from the electric candle on the table in the hallway.  I felt relief flood over and down through me. My whole tense, stiffened body relaxed.  I’m surprised, thinking back, that I didn’t just collapse like a pile of cloth.     Then I remembered my ghastly visitor.  I snapped my head back toward the ceiling.  There was nothing there, except our ceiling fan, rotating slowly, creating shimmering shadows as its blades alternately reflected the soft, yellowish light from the hall.     “It was Kehoe,” I finally spoke to Judy.  “It was Black Jack.”     Her gentle voice did not contradict this mad assertion.  As if I had told her that Archie had just called, she asked in matter-of-fact tones, “What did he want, honey?”     “I’m not sure,” I replied, her calmness catching, my own tone of voice level and fairly soft. “I don’t know.  Something about juice, I think.”     “Juice?”  Judy was as puzzled as I.  Or was she amused and just pretending to be interested, as she did sometimes when I tried to tell her about some of my cases?  “What about juice, darling?”

     “Don’t know,” I mumbled, as an irresistible urge to get back to sleep came over me.  I checked the clock on my night stand: 2:02 AM was the digital reading.  “I don’t know.  Maybe he was thirsty.”

Download and read the entire novel at: http://www.rider.edu/2564_3589.htm

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