When Frank Lodge was his son’s Tommy’s age, his friend Timmy Timilty was murdered by a scion of a wealthy Yankee family, money as old as Beacon Hill dirt. A chap named Dudley Wilson. The District Attorney refused to charge Wilson with anything but manslaughter and the Judge, Ephraim Wheeler, did not even let it go to a jury, dismissing the charges and allowing the murderer to walk.
It was a peculiar sentence from Wheeler, notoriously a hanging judge, quite literally the last justice to preside over a murder case in Massachusetts in which a hanging occurred. Indeed, Wheeler attended the execution, coughing loudly in the front row in order that the final thing the condemned man heard before entering Hell was the rasp of the old bastard who sent him there.
But not this time, far from it, as several of the dailies ran pictures of Wilson and Wheeler smiling together after the hearing that exonerated the young man, an image crafted to show Irish Catholic Boston where true power rested.
Meanwhile, Timmy Timilty’s mother, dressed in widow’s weeds walked all the miles from the ancient stony Suffolk Superior Court House back to her Roxbury parish and immediately called on a priest to confess that she wanted the judge and the murderer to die and she knew she should not feel that way.
All the way there she disturbed everyone, from small children playing in the Common and Public Garden to older pedestrians who thought her a queer sight. Proper etiquette required a female mourner to alight from a coach and into a church and back, or at least have the grace to stay indoors in the case of a prolonged period of mourning. Deliberately, Mrs. Timilty displayed her agony at losing her son then seeing his murderer walk.
The weeds weren’t real weeds of course, nor did they resemble sea weed or rag weed, rather they comprised an ensemble of a long black dress with a bonnet and veil of the same hue. No one looked good in a black veil, it failed to flatter the face, causing the mourner to resemble a witch or a particularly malevolent ghost. It transcended death and sound fashion sense.
Unfortunate Mrs. Timilty’s trek caused her rented ensemble of widow’s garments to deteriorate each step back home, as the horses kicked up dust and she began to perspire, further destabilizing her aura from one of tragedy to high creepiness, yet she spawned all offers from Good Samaritans to pay for a carriage ride to her home. She felt obligated to present her poverty-infested grief in its reality, holding up a picture of her son like a chalice bearing the blood of Christ.
After returning home, she confessed to Father Ryan who counseled her that true justice resided in the heavens, though curiously he did not order her to say any Hail Marys or Our Fathers after her confession had concluded.
Frank Lodge and his friends heard a version of this story from Timmy Timilty’s sisters and decided to stage their own trial, so they hired retired prize fighter Young Kid Carter to murder the murderer, passing a hat at Tommy Feeling’s saloon, collecting $200.00, enough to keep Kid Carter on Mother’s Little Helper for weeks.
Maybe the repeated blows to the head had done it or the pollution to the brain by the druggy patent medicines and grain alcohol or perhaps some people just were created a certain way, but Kid Carter was crazy. He enjoyed killing women like Mildred Donovan up in Lynn, men less so since they presented a threat to him; but he lost his qualms once when Willy McPherson disrespected him at Garrity and Prendergast’s saloon, whereupon Carter expedited his enemy’s path to the afterlife with three shots from his revolver.
While Timmy Timilty’s mother continued her mourning, Dudley Wilson went to the Union Club and celebrated by playing billiards and drinking gin well into the evening (“so what will you do now you’re free, Dudley, will you run for office?”), afterwards retiring to a prostitute on Essex Street armed with a batch of fresh white roses. What a very good day.
Indeed, Dudley Wilson spent much of his free time at the Union Club or the prostitutes on Essex Street, or some vector in between, a fact ascertained by Frank Lodge who trailed him for several days. To Frank Lodge it felt as if he had embarked upon a Medieval Crusade, inhaling holiness every step he followed Dudley Wilson, consecrated by the free beers he received each time he returned to Roxbury to his friends with his report of the comings and goings of Dudley Wilson.
Frankly Lodge loved the work, tailored perfectly for his organizational skills, keen observational sense and patience in developing evidence and synthesizing it into a plan of attack. While he had never hunted in the forests as a youth, Lodge innately knew how to stalk prey, it seemed all too easy. He watched how Wilson held a glass or a cigar, which eye he favored, how he turned his head when he heard a loud noise. He noted the nights when Wilson drank stronger spirits and more of them and otherwise let his guard down.
Lodge wanted to share with Wilson how thoroughly he had distilled his life, barely reining his impulses, concealing his wish to could bump into the young Yankee swell, whispering, “Get your affairs in order, you do not know the time or the hour,” before darting away into a Boston alley. But no, he kept his powder dry, content to lay the trap for his prey and leave it to Kid Carter to perform the coup de grace.
He told Kid Carter of Dudley Wilson’s nocturnal habits and his hangouts, and while Kid Carter generally eschewed caution, he knew well enough that stalking Wilson outside of the Union Club was most unwise, the police would hang Carter at Boston Common before his gun or Wilson had gone cold. They had the right man tracing Wilson, so Kid Carter began a residency at Feeling’s, studying the accumulated information at his disposal like the professional he flattered himself to be, guzzling beer, dope and grilled meat.
Finally the conspirators had marked up their night for Dudley Wilson’s mock trial, seating Frank Lodge at the edge of the Boston Common, across from the Union Club, enjoying an apple while pretending to read the Scientific American. Blowing smoke rings with which he used to frame Wilson walking toward his Club, Lodge periodically feigned attention to the articles he pretended to read, with titles such as “Something About Balloons” and “The Bessemer Saloon Steamship.”
Alighting onto the brick pavement as he departed from the Union Club, Dudley Wilson sucked in the warm air, fresh from the cigar smoke of his mates, crowning his head with his new straw hat. A few children still played on the Common, but mostly swells with their dates congregated along Beacon Hill, replaced in a few hours by vagrants sleeping where they fell.
Not drunk, Wilson still had infused his being with enough liquor to feel pretty good about everything and everyone he encountered, full of charity for all, tipping his hat here and there, satisfied with his good meal, great company and soon, sex with someone who always did what he wanted.
As Wilson beelined toward his Essex Street junction, Lodge opened a satchel and withdrew a railroad oil torch lantern. After lighting it, he yanked it up and down once, a signal to a cohort down the street to pass the message along the chain of fourteen co-conspirators situated in the city streets that the plan was in execution. As Wilson walked, these men, some armed with lanterns, other just emitting loud whistles, others pretending to juggle, relayed the information to their next conspirator that the condemned man had just passed and appeared headed to his usual late evening destination.
Wilson saw some of these men along his route to the whorehouse, making him feel safe as he wended into the dodgier parts of the city, those laid waste in the Great Fire and rebuilt and largely repopulated with immigrants and merchants. To one of the conspirators, Wilson even stopped to say “what a very nice day it is,” to which he received the reply, “It is sir, watch yourself though, it gets tough nights sometime if you are heading in that direction.”
Wilson thanked him and marched on.
At the final stage of this chain, the fourteenth messenger received his signal and walked into a church on lower Washington Street where his friends had hidden Kid Carter in the rear, maintaining his sobriety for the solemn task to follow.
Once inside, the final messenger knelt, then jogged up the balcony steps to a giant pipe organ, on which he solemnly played an old funeral dirge, Dies Irae, roughly Doom is Upon Us, the sign to Carter and his handlers that Wilson’s trial had begun. Carter arose, gave himself the Sign of the Cross, shadow-boxed a bit, then ran out from the sacristy through the back of the church to the street. His handlers walked out to the altar, lighting candles for the success of the venture and the soul of Dudley Wilson, then joined Lodge for the trolley back to Roxbury.
Approaching his task deliberately, Carter divined Wilson’s scent up Essex Street, it was a strange part of town, not really any part of a neighborhood, more like an adjunct to the retail and theater districts, where somehow a number of very poor and unfortunate people did not want to live, but they gnawed out a place for themselves. In attenuated cogent moments, Carter plotted to kill Wilson in the prostitute’s room in Essex Street, rightly estimating that few police patrolled that area at night and if they were there, they were off duty.
Wilson no longer saw stout men with lanterns, he saw the usual unfortunates and slummers like himself. Along Essex Street, unacceptably old prostitutes, delirium tremens-ed sailors and perverts of all kinds found common cause. They begged along Tremont Street or Washington Street during the day and tried to sleep in the Common or Public Garden at night, but the police invariably broke it up by shoving a bill club into their ribs and ordering them to move on. The only time the authorities spent on Essex Street involved collecting protection money from the purveyors of exotic pleasures.
But the police never went into Essex Street at night, eminent Bostonians pretended they never wandered there and if you were stupid enough to end up there, you deserved what you got. British tax agents discovered that, tarred and feathered and forced to drink pots of tea under the Liberty Tree, and after that the area became strictly a repository for the demi-monde.
Wilson tapped on the front door of the whorehouse, did not hear anyone, so he let himself in and walked up a set of stairs to his favorite prostitute. She always knew he dropped by at the same two appointed times each week, he was predictable in that manner. He walked to her, handed her a red rose and kissed her on her lips, then she clasped his hand and led him into her room.
Wilson discriminated in the choice of flophouses he entered for illicit sex, he liked one girl who did everything he wanted. Her room was decorated in a typical suicide den style, cracked walls, a vanity for the not so vain and a stained sheet bed. Oddly enough, in sties like this, the wallpaper generally had already stained and peeled considerably, but here it had recently been rehung with robins and blue jays flitting about, a slight nod to civilization. Otherwise, Wilson felt soiled, but it was where you went.
She removed the diamond studded barrette from her hair, letting the ringlets of her black hair dance on Wilson’s shoulders. Wilson kissed her neck, moaning, “God Damn.” He undressed her as she lowered her right hand, running the tips of her fingers along his thighs.
Young Kid Carter barged into the prostitute’s room while she and Wilson made love. Carter rudely interrupted his privacy, boldly entering the room without the benefit of an invitation or the courtesy of a knock on the door. Outside, a second group of conspirators created a diversion, seemingly engaging in a loud and drunken brawl, all staged to drown out any noise that Carter chose to create.
“Help, I’m being set upon by thieves, help!”
“Aw shuddup and give us your money or we’ll blacken your eye!”
“Help, Help Help!”
Carter stuck a knife against Wilson’s jugular and said, ‘This is for killing an Irish Catholic boy and treating him like a fucking pig,” before snapping Wilson’s neck and methodically hacking off his head. The prostitute screamed but a lot of other prostitutes on the floor of the flop house screamed too, so her horror failed to resonate, particularly with the loud apparent donnybrook outside her window. Carter then raped the prostitute, reasoning to her that “you’re still on Wilson’s time and you have not completed your service. You better be worth it.”
He had his way, then afterward told the girl that he was a policeman and to never say a word about this, then traded his bloody clothes for the clean clothes that Wilson had cast of into a corner of the room. The same size as the late Wilson, Young King Carter cut the figure of a swell donning his new expensive suit with a still relatively fresh white rose as a boutonniere, clutching a dozen more roses.
That night Kid Carter returned to Feeling’s Saloon with Dudley Wilson’s head in a sack and the white roses in his other hand, collecting $200.00 and receiving a free drink from the house and most of his fellow patrons, who laughed at his story, particularly the part about getting Wilson’s prostitute for free, wearing the clothes of his victim.
The late Dudley Wilson got some free drinks too as some of the more twisted patrons bought him beers then poured them down the gaping craw of his decapitated head.
“I never thought much of Dudley Wilson before tonight, but this gentleman can drink all night and never get drunk.”
“But he’s going to have a wicked hangover tomorrow morning.”
“Don’t lose your head Wilson, old boy.”
“Wilson, you’re getting free ones all night, when are you going to buy a round, I thought that you came from money?”
Someone clamped a cigar in Wilson’s dead mouth and lit it up to the delight of most of those in attendance. Later that evening, a bored young man brought in some firecrackers and stuck them into Wilson’s head.
Feeling stepped in, “You take that fucking head outside, I won’t be picking off brains and bones from my bar! I run a Christian establishment.”
So the bar emptied and Dudley Wilson’s head exploded all over Dudley Street in Roxbury and the patrons went home, laughing and singing, graciously alive, Timmy Timilty avenged.
And I will take you back, Kathleen,
to where your heart will feel no pain
And when the fields are fresh and green,
I will take you to your home Kathleen.
Except for Frank Lodge, who never left the bar, nursing a beer, a fact not lost on Feeling who approached him and slapped him on the back.
“Doesn’t feel so good, does it Lodge, this lynching a man and desecrating his body, does it?”
“It’s okay, I’m okay, It’s okay I guess.”
“No it isn’t, otherwise you’d be out with the boyos rolling Wilson’s head up and down Mission Hill. Finish your beer, you won’t feel worse and you might numb yourself a bit until it all sinks in.”
“I thought what we were doing was right, obtaining justice for Timmy and his mother. It doesn’t feel that way now.”
“That’s because you aligned yourself with a lunatic like Kid Carter, a man who likes to kill. Even if Wilson had received a proper trial, he never would have swung from a tree, he’d be sipping tea with a dowager in Europe in three years. You’d have been better off leaving him to his whores who eventually would have given him brain fever, let his head rot away to die from the inside. You let him off easy.”
Lodge grimaced, “Probably should have let the bastard live.”
“Too late for that now. Now you have to live with yourself. What do you think keeps me in business, Lodge? Without regrets, I’d have gone broke years ago. My conscience is clear, I’m glad the son of a bitch is dead, I just did not want his head to blow up in my bar. You, Lodge, have an overdeveloped conscience.”
Lodge shoved his beer aside and threw his head back rolling his eyes. “You’re right Feeling, but I’ve got to face this one dead on.” Getting up, he exited the saloon to brace himself against the fierce unforgiving Roxbury air.
Dudley Wilson’s mother wore widow’s weeds, long black dress, bonnet and veil, at her son’s funeral, Young Kid Carter went west on the first morning train to kill again as the laughter in the saloons and betting halls in Roxbury reverberated all the way up Beacon Hill. Periodically afterwards, Judge Wheeler received packages containing parts of Wilson’s skull fragments at his home, his chambers or his club, once famously in a Christmas fruit cake.
Frank Lodge confessed to Father Ryan who only meted out to him one Hail Mary to recite for the absolution of his sins, hell you got more for farting in church. That day Frank Lodge applied to become a policeman for the City of Boston.
Donald Hubbard has written six books, one of which was profiled on Regis and Kelly and another that was a Boston Globe bestseller and Amazon (category) top ten. Two books have gone into a second edition and he was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame as an author in 2015. He has published thirty five stories in twenty one magazines and had a chapter from one of his books published in Notre Dame Magazine. He studied English at Georgetown and the University of Kent.