“I need you to bring back a body.”
Bone decided to drive off the end of the pier, but his foot had already slipped from the accelerator to the brake, a betrayal so automatic that the opportunity was missed before he could seize it.
Wind leaned against the hearse, rocking it on its springs as he sat and considered his orders. He considered corpses and the function of the vehicle he drove. He considered the drifting nature of his movements since the accident and slid out of the hearse before the spiral became inescapable, a long man wearing a black raincoat and fresh facial scars.
Dawn was a red rim of anger on the horizon as the storm gathered its strength and the wind tried to rip the door from his grip. Waves detonated against the rocks with loud explosions of white foam, the ocean matching the swirling fury of the storm clouds overhead.
“I need you to bring back a body.” Marching orders. He looked away from the hearse, remembering the last time he had seen such a car, freshly waxed and gleaming in the October sun. This one was dirt-streaked and hunched against November. He thought it more appropriate to its function. The Atlantic beckoned to him, and he touched the change in his pocket, thinking about coins for the ferryman.
“Some sonofabitch is standing out on North Pier,” old Vic said from the window inside the cramped Dock Office. His big-knuckled, arthritic hands were holding a bulky pair of binoculars he had owned since his time in Vietnam, and he adjusted the focus to see better.
“Yep,” the dock boss said from his perch at the rickety metal desk. The white paint was mostly gone and salt air had rusted the legs, but it held his ledger, dock schedule and overstuffed ticket book—he was a demon for writing tickets—and worked “well enough” as he liked to say about anything that didn’t need change. “Bastid asked to charter a boat out to the Isle.”
Vic turned away from the window with its view of fishing boats bobbing at anchor in the small bay. “Ain’t no one fool enough to run ‘im out there,” he said.
The dock boss leaned over and spit a mass of phlegm and tobacco juice into the Folger’s can he kept on the floor for just that purpose.
“Could be I mentioned that, and could be that’s why he’s standin’ over there on North Pier waitin’ on the Isle boat herself.”
Vic returned to looking out the window at the slim, black figure waiting alone. “Well I’ll be. Is that his hearse parked out there?”
The front door banged open just then and two fishermen bundled inside. “Gonna get big weather today,” a bearded fisherman in a thick sweater said as he headed over to the coffee pot and poured dubious-looking sludge into a Styrofoam cup.
“What you looking at?” the other newcomer asked, nicknamed Babyface for the obvious reason.
“Fella wants to charter a boat out to the Isle.”
Babyface and his partner exchanged looks.
“Isle folk are awfully jealous about their waters,” the bearded man said.
“Ain’t no one fool enough to run him out there,” Babyface said.
“If another body repeats that phrase, I believe I will shoot him,” the dock boss said, spitting a wad that rocked the Folger’s can. The bearded fisherman glanced in the can and gave the dock boss a nod of respect before taking a sip of coffee.
“Jesus Christ, this is awful,” he said, frowning at his cup.
“Second pot,” Vic said, and the other man nodded. The dock boss was in the habit of using coffee grounds at least twice to save money.
“Say,” Vic said as Babyface held out a hand for the binoculars. “What’d he want out there?”
The dock boss shrugged. “Didn’t rightly say, but he showed me a badge. A Federal badge no less.”
“FBI, DEA?” the bearded man asked as he put on a new pot of coffee. The dock boss ignored him.
“So you get a man with a Federal badge, which means he’s carryin’ a Federal gun, and he shows up drivin’ a hearse. Ain’t too hard to jump to a certain conclusion,” the dock boss said, not entirely sure what that conclusion was but enjoying the expressions on the faces of the two younger men.
“If Old Jenny gets her teeth into him, this Federal man might be finding himself in the back of that hearse on the return trip, badge or no badge,” Vic said.
“Yep,” the dock boss said.
“Yep,” the bearded man said.
Babyface surrendered the binoculars and echoed the common wisdom. Hell, everybody knew to avoid that stretch of the Atlantic. Boats that didn’t had a habit of not returning to port.
Little Jack Frost Get Lost
Bing Crosby & Peggy Lee
Oh, little Jack Frost get lost, get lost
Little Jack Frost get lost.
You know you don’t do a thing but put a bite on my toes,
Freeze up the ground and take the bloom from the rose!
Oh, little Jack Frost go away, go away
And don’t you come back another day.
There’s lots of cold feet; all the lovers complain
You turned off the heat down on lover’s lane.
The bench in the park is alone in the dark!
So, little Jack Frost get lost, get lost
Little Jack Frost get lost
So, little Jack Frost get lost, get lost.
Little Jack Frost get lost, get lost.
You don’t do a thing but put the bite on my toes,
Freeze up the ground and take the bloom from the rose!
So, little Jack Frost go away, go away
And don’t you come back another day, get gone, go ‘way
There’s lots of cold feet, all the lovers complain
You turned off the heat down in lover’s lane!
The bench in the park is all alone in the dark…
So, little Jack Frost get lost, get lost
Little Jack Frost get lost
Get lost, get lost, get lost, get lost
L. J. Frost get lost
Songwriters: Seger Ellis & Al Stillman
I have often heard it scream. No, I am not nervous, I am not imaginative, and I have never believed in ghosts, unless that thing is one. Whatever it is, it hates me almost as much as it hated Luke Pratt, and it screams at me.
If I were you, I would never tell ugly stories about ingenious ways of killing people, for you never can tell but that someone at the table may be tired of his or her nearest and dearest. I have always blamed myself for Mrs Pratt’s death, and I suppose I was responsible for it in a way, though heaven knows I never wished her anything but long life and happiness. If I had not told that story she might be alive yet. That is why the thing screams at me, I fancy.
She was a good little woman, with a sweet temper, all things considered, and a nice gentle voice; but I remember hearing her shriek once when she thought her little boy was killed by a pistol that went off, though everyone was sure that it was not loaded.
It was the same scream; exactly the same, with a sort of rising quaver at the end; do you know what I mean? Unmistakable.
The truth is, I had not realized that the doctor and his wife were not on good terms. They used to bicker a bit now and then when I was here, and I often noticed that little Mrs Pratt got very red and bit her lip hard to keep her temper, while Luke grew pale and said the most offensive things. He was that sort when he was in the nursery, I remember and afterward at school. He was my cousin, you know; that is how I came by this house; after he died, and his boy Charley was killed in South Africa, there were no relations left. Yes, it’s a pretty little property, just the sort of thing for an old sailor like me who has taken to gardening.
One always remembers one’s mistakes much more vividly than one’s cleverest things, doesn’t one? I’ve often noticed it. I was dining with the Pratts one night, when I told them the story that afterwards made so much difference. It was a wet night in November, and the sea was moaning. Hush! – if you don’t speak you will hear it now…
Do you hear the tide? Gloomy sound, isn’t it? Sometimes, about this time of year – hallo! – there it is! Don’t be frightened, man – it won’t eat you – it’s only a noise, after all! But I’m glad you’ve heard it, because there are always people who think it’s the wind, or my imagination, or something. You won’t hear it again tonight, I fancy, for it doesn’t often come more than once. Yes – that’s right. Put another stick on the fire, and a little more stuff into that weak mixture you’re so fond of. Do you remember old Blauklot the carpenter, on that German ship that picked us up when the Clontarf went to the bottom? We were hove to in a howling gale one night, as snug as you please, with no land within five hundred miles, and the ship coming up and falling off as regularly as clockwork – ‘Biddy te boor beebles ashore tis night, poys!’ old Blauklot sang out, as he went off to his quarters with the sail-maker. I often think of that, now that I’m ashore for good and all.
Yes, it was on a night like this, when I was at home for a spell, waiting to take the Olympia out on her first trip – it was on the next voyage that she broke the record, you remember – but that dates it. Ninety-two was the year, early in November.
The weather was dirty, Pratt was out of temper, and the dinner was bad, very bad indeed, which didn’t improve matters, and cold, which made it worse. The poor little lady was very unhappy about it, and insisted on making a Welsh rarebit on the table to counteract the raw turnips and the half-boiled mutton. Pratt must have had a hard day. Perhaps he had lost a patient. At all events, he was in a nasty temper.
Bertie Maurice van Thal (1904–1983), known as Herbert van Thal, was a British bookseller, publisher, agent, biographer, and anthologist. Van Thal’s grandfather was a distiller (King’s Liqueur Whisky), and was a director of the theatre proprietors, Howard and Wyndham. Henry Irving and Harry Lauder were friends of the family. After the Second World War, he founded the short-lived publishing house of Home and van Thal, with his friends Margaret Douglas-Home and Gwylim Fielden Hughes. The house was known as a “mushroom” publisher, since it sprang up overnight after the war. Later he became a general editor of the Doughty Library published by Anthony Blond. Van Thal was a friend and publisher of the critic James Agate, whom he met in 1932. He had been impressed by Agate’s review of Wycherley’s The Country Wife. Agate once described him as looking like “a sleek, well-groomed dormouse” out of a John Tenniel illustration of Alice in Wonderland, due to Bertie’s tendency to dress in a dapper suit, bow tie, monocle, and black shiny shoes. He had deep familiarity with Victorian literature, opera, and Restoration dramatists. He was one of the first publishers to recognize the talent of Hermann Hesse, and reprinted novels by George Gissing and Theodore Hook. He also edited anthologies of detective and horror stories; the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran to 24 volumes, from 1959 to 1983. He edited an anthology of Hilaire Belloc for Allen and Unwin in 1970, and edited the papers of famous music-critic Ernest Newman. (Source: Wikipedia)
I thought Cropsey was a stellar documentary. So I’m eager to watch Killer Legends, this filmmaker’s second documentary about Urban Legends and there possible sources. Check it out, now, streaming on Netflix!
For those unaware, like I was, but apparently, social scientists are trying to re-brand urban legends as “contemporary legends.” Well, whatever the label, what these legends basically boil down to is modern folklore or oft told tales — usually with a macabre element or an ironic twist to them, deeply rooted in popular culture, with just a hint of plausibility to keep the gullible hooked enough to keep passing them along. These tales are used as fables, parables, possible explanations for strange occurrences or events, but, more often than not, they are used as cautionary tales that usually happened to a friend of a friend of a friend or someone’s cousin’s uncle. And one of the prime examples of an urban legend is the tale of ‘The Hook.’
It begins with a young couple parked in a secluded lover’s lane engaged in some premarital necking. And as hormones rage, passions heat up, and few hickeys are born, the music on the radio is interrupted by a breaking news bulletin revealing an escaped mental patient / mad-dog killer has just escaped from a nearby asylum / prison; and this fugitive has one very distinguishing characteristic: one of his hands is missing, and has been replaced with a stainless steel hook — which he used to murder several people. The bulletin ends with the authorities encouraging everyone to stay indoors until this madman is captured. Of course, the girl is frightened and wants to head home. The boy, who was >this close< to getting to second base mere moments ago, scoffs, saying the killer is probably miles away. And as the minutes tick by while they argue about what to do, a sudden scraping outside her door frightens the girl so much the boy finally gives up and drives away. But when he gets to her house, ever the gentlemen, he exits the car and hoofs it around the hood to get the door for her. And there, caught on the passenger side handle, hangs a torn-off stainless steel hook covered in blood.
You heard it right. At one point during the 1950-1960s, the “Hooked Man” urban legend had so infiltrated teen society, that Dear Abby featured the legend in her newspaper column.
A man and woman are in love, and after their date of dinner and a movie, they decide to go to a secluded spot and have some special quiet time alone with each other. They drive to a spot near the woods at a lookout point, which overlooks the city below. They turn on the radio to some soft listening music and begin to kiss, hug, and talk of their future together. As time goes by, an announcement comes on the radio telling of an escaped murderer that has a hook for a hand. The man blows it off however the woman starts to feel nervous and uneasy, as the place of the institution that this man has escaped from is just on the other side of the woods they are park at. She convinces her lover that they should leave, and the man, frustrated, speeds off in a frantic manner. They arrive at the woman’s home, and he gets out, opens her door to walk her to her front door. That is when he notices a bloody hook attached to the passenger side of the door.
According to popular lore, bloody hooks have been left hanging on car doors since the mid-1950s. It’s possible the roots of legends like The Hook and The Boyfriend’s Death lie in distorted memories of real life Lover’s Lane murders. There were actual cases of kids who’d gone necking coming back in pine boxes. The residue of news stories about those events would likely remain around for a while, mutating into cautionary tales with the addition of bloody hooks and scraping sounds on the roof of the car.
Real life roots or not, The Hook has been a legend for almost as long as anyone can remember. The key to this legend is the boyfriend’s frustrated response to the girl’s demand to end the date abruptly. Almost invariably, he is said to have gunned the engine and roared away. This behavior is essential to explain how the hook became ripped from the killer’s arm, and to underscore the moral of the tale. The boyfriend’s frustration stems from sexual denial. His girlfriend’s insistence on getting home right away puts the kibosh to any randy thoughts he’d been hoping to turn into reality that night, and he’s some pissed about it.