This is meant to be a piece of historical fiction. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of history and the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely historic and a work of fiction to guide the reader through history in an engaging way.
The following may contain mild language and references to historical traumatic events. Reader discretion is advised.
The haze of the summer heat danced around in a tranquil glimmer across the street as I stood there, taking a break from sweeping the front porch of my old Victorian home. Boy! It was hot, the sweat dripped from my forehead and soaked through my linen suit. It would’ve been worse, but I had thrown my vest aside and was working in just a white button-up and my grey linen trousers. It was so hot that not even the birds were singing; my beard was so filled with sweat it felt as if I was just fresh from the bath. I stood there just staring into the street watching those heat waves just shimmer back and forth like gypsies dancing around in a field to the strained strings of their fiddler.
I decided I was too tired, and to go sit on the porch to rest these old bones. I couldn’t take it much anymore, seventy-nine years old may seem young to some – but not me, I’ve been too rough on myself. I sat in my rocking chair upon the beautifully ornate porch and lit my pipe. Gazing about my porch my eyes danced as the heat waves did, wandering over the designs that were carved within the wood. Swirling branches were carved extending throughout leading to dogwood flowers which were bold and beautiful. Outstretched within were roses with their prominent thorns reaching up to the heavens. One doesn’t see that much care in architecture these days, it being 1952 and all. Times are a changin’! I just sat there in the beauty of it all, puffing on my pipe and thinking back.
“Rose, would you please call the grandkids out here I want to continue my story I must tell them.” I called into the house from my rocking chair.
“Yes darling, I will” She called back
It was about that time that Robert and Lilly came barreling through the front door all giddy and excited for another one of my stories. Puffing on my pipe and drinking the water that Lilly brought me I began where I had left off.
After I had left The Infirmary, I decided to make my way down to the hotel and apply right then and there for the job. Looking up from the street I saw once again that beautiful striking torrent ripping up through the sky like a beacon of change. This was it; I was finally going to be free from my past!
It took me a good while to work my way down to the hotel through the busy street traffic of Parkersburg. The Infirmary sat all the way on the other side of the Avery District and a lot was happening between there and here, street vendors, trolleys, carriages, workmen and anything else in-between. All around me the city bustled – crowded would be an understatement. I bumped into people left and right, had I been like my old self I may have picked a few pockets but I was changing. I was trying to be better.
‘Oh! That’s a nice gold watch,’ I ended up putting it back anyway, I just didn’t have it in me anymore to do those things. One thing was for sure, my desire to do the things I once did was slowly subsiding. It was not long after I was rounding a corner and heard a voice cry out to me from up the street.
“If it isn’t our friend from a while ago. Seems as if he isn’t dead like we had heard!” the thick Italian accent that was engrained into my skull broke through the noise of the bustling city.
“Oh hell!” I mumbled under my breath as I started to run.
I ran as fast as I could through the street, jumping over fruit stands, dodging people who were strolling through the street.
“Hey!” a man yelled as I bumped into him at high speed.
I knew they couldn’t catch me. I peered back and saw them coming up faster. I rounded a corner and with a glimpse, I saw some Green Vests lounging around and drinking down an alley and turned down towards them as fast as I could.
I whistled to them and yelled “Italians! There comin’ fast!”
The Italians came around the corner in a flash, the Green Vests turned quickly. When their eyes met I knew it was on. The Green Vests started clambering down the street in a long line and the Italians held fast, five in. One of The Green Vests tossed me a shillelagh, and I felt those old familiar feelings take hold and I was back in the fight. I fought very little the urges that came next.
“So much for being good,” I said to myself, and swallowed down any doubt and I charged.
Swinging, I hit the first man across his skull, blood streaked across the narrow alleyway and onto my boot, which went unnoticed to me at the time. He went down and I grabbed him by the hair and dragged him out of my way, but as I did, I was struck with a blow to my back by a man’s fist. Swinging around I struck the man slightly off center and the shillelagh glanced off his shoulder, it was at that moment I saw what was happening around me. One man was down by my hand, the one I had just busted on the shoulder had fallen down. There was still three Italians and six of us, the others were making short work of the three fists, knives, clubs, and shillelaghs swung wildly into the mix. The chaos is too much to describe to anyone, but I knew we were winning.
The man who had fallen stood up with his arm limp. With his right hand, he reached for a pistol. I lunged at him with fury, the fire of violence built within me, my blood boiled, and I slammed the shillelagh into his wrist and it snapped and was disfigured from the blow.
He yelled in pain, his bone visibly exposed!
I snapped quickly with the shillelagh to his throat and he fell onto the dirt street, his body limp. I went for the gun as the struggle continued. I picked it up and fired the gun into the air, the boom echoed through the narrow alleyway, and all went quiet.
“That’s enough! Get out the lot of you!” I yelled
The Italians scattered like alley cats to an unexpected noise, just as quickly as the fight had started it was finished.
“Now run back to Daddy and lick your wounds!” I screamed after them.
All was still, and we stood fatigued and bloodied from our encounter.
“HA HA if it isn’t Cass, how are ya ma boy!” Stepping towards me was my good friend.
“O’ Murphy! How are you ya ol’ coyote?” I said embracing his arm and shaking it rigorously.
“I’m doin’ fine aye, looks like you’ve had some o’ that o’ Irish luck huh,” he chuckled back at me “If we wadn’t here you’d be in a bad way huh?”
“I was comin’ down from The Infirmary, and them Italians they tried to jump me like they did before, and I can’t be put back down. I’m glad y’all were here,” I said lighting my pipe.
“Let’s head on back to the docks, aye Cass?” O’ Murphy said turning away back down the alley.
“Murph, I can’t – I’m getting out. I’m going to go work at The Blennerhassett Hotel. I’ve got to be done with this way of life, I’m tired of running, I’m tired of the bruises and cuts, I’m just done.” I said puffing on my pipe reflecting on all that had just happened.
The feeling of shame and regret filled my body like a sickly-sweet poison that shot through my veins with a darkening chill. I was so done with this, I hate this feeling, but deep down something told me this was just the beginning of a new, darker, maybe even more sinister chapter in a different way than this. I hung my head down and we all stood quiet for a moment. It was O’ Murphy who broke the silence, for we all felt in some way the sickness that drove men like us.
“Alright, I’ll walk ya there, Cass,” he said in a disheartened tone, “the rest of ya scram. I’ll see ya at da docks dis evening!” he bellowed, and just like that they were gone silently as well as swiftly.
I drew on my pipe to push down all the emotions that boiled to the surface, as I blew out the smoke it flew in plums all around us, and I felt a little better. We walked on quietly at first then we started to talk about all the old times. I chuckled at referring to it as old times I was only sixteen, and I wasn’t that old.
“I thought of somethin’, Cass, they ain’t gonna let ya out, but I think we could swing it for ya, ya know?!” Murph said enthusiastically.
I was always planning, always figurin’, and I was doing some thinking too, but I didn’t want to be in it, period. He got to talking and that was that, I thoroughly understood I wasn’t going to get out that easy and I shouldn’t have said a dang thing about it.
“Here’s the plan, as a Lieutenant I’m sendin’ ya in as an informant to tell us everythin’ you can about da Blennerhassett Hotel and its operations. Furthermore, ya can start a base of operations on da inside, aye boy?” Murph said.
“I’ll have to think on it, Murph, I just, I… I want out.” I spoke
“Ain’t happenin’,” Murph said getting testy “I brought ya in Cass, I have to be the one to let ya go even with that ya gotta get permission from da uppity ups,” Murph said abruptly and with no emotion.
About that time, we rounded the corner, and there she was in all her glory, The Blennerhassett Hotel.
“This is where I leave ya, Murph,” I said, shaking his hand before heading across the street.
“Remember what I said boy! I’ll be around,” he said rounding a corner and vanishing from sight.
I walked across the street and in through the corner entrance of the Hotel. I was mesmerized by what I saw, my jaw dropped and I knew this was not for the poor, but for those well above my station in life. The beauty that surrounded me was unlike any other, it was as if nothing could ever fulfill me like this ever in my life. It was all I could do to not cry! I was taken aback and all I could do was stare at all that she was.
Looking to my left was a long wooden desk that spanned from one end of the open lobby to the other. Upon its nameplate, it read The First National Bank. Interesting, I never knew there was a bank in here. Peering out through the open swath of the lobby my eyes landed on the front desk which was on the far-right side which was connected to the mail office and the switchboard. It immediately hit me there was electricity here as well. I could not fathom that a place here in Parkersburg could have electricity, but it did. I walked up to the front desk and stood there in line, eventually it was my turn.
“Welcome to The Blennerhassett Hotel, my name is Mrs. Goldfinch, how can I assist you today?” She inquired with a thick Boston accent.
She stood there very militantly-like, peering at me through glasses with her hair cut just above the shoulders. I mumbled slightly and shifted my weight.
“Excuse me, mister, what is your name?” she said politely
“My name is Cassius Monroe; I saw an advertisement in the paper for a job.” I stumbled through my sentence
“Mr. Monroe, is it? Well, I’m sorry but you came to the wrong entrance, all those that wish to apply must go to the servant’s entrance. That’s the third door down the side of our building on Market Street.” She spoke so quickly with her Boston accent I had a hard time keeping up with her words.
“I’ve just come from The Infirmary and a certain Rosaline Campbell sent me to speak with Mr. Campbell,” I said with rebellion in my voice
“I’m sorry sir, but that’s not how that works.” Mrs. Goldfinch said sternly.
“I’m not moving! This is my dream and I will wait right here!” I yelled.
It was about that time that there was a stirring from around the corner and a man in a very fine black suit, wearing a thick mustache down around his lip, and a monocle sitting on his brow, started right towards me. Smoke billowed about him from his cigar which rested snuggly between his fingers.
“What is the meaning of this!” The man bellowed from behind his thick mustache puffing on his cigar as he spoke.
“This is a Cassius Monroe, and he, for one, is creating a ruckus here, demanding to see Mr. Campbell,” she said in an irritated tone. It was very hard for me to understand a word she said with that accent.
“And WHO are you!” I said loudly to the man now present in the lobby. He suddenly pulled his cigar from his lips.
You could’ve heard a pen drop; I had just realized how quiet it had become in the lobby. I heard my own heart beat and I knew I had done something wrong.
“My name son, is Mr. William Chancellor. I am the owner, and Mr. Campbell is away on business,” his words echoed through the silent lobby and I knew I had messed up
“My office, Mr. Monroe now!” He stated with composed assertiveness.
“It’s time for dinner everyone!” Rose called interrupting the story
“OH, come on! I gotta know if he busted you up grandpa!” Robert whined as we all trailed in for dinner.
About the author:
My name is Logan M. Saho I am the Concierge at The Blennerhassett Hotel. I have been in the tourism industry since my thirteenth year of life, I started out as a tour guide at the Beauchamp-Newman Museum in Elizabeth WV. I also since that time have become an early American period reenactor (1730s-1890s.) Beyond that I have a dual-degree in History and Political Science with a minor in communications concentrating on theatre. After my college years I worked as a living historian at Blennerhassett Island Historical State park for 2 years which geared my path to be working where I am today.