Authors: Edward Lee
NEW YORK CITY
“Cricket was fourteen when she died, while Mary was chubby—more squat-bodied—and blonde. Four years older than Cricket. They both died on the same day, incidentally. April 30, 1862. And, yes, they were murdered by Harwood Gast. Their bodies were discovered on May third by the town marshal.” Sute’s eyes thinned. “Where did you see the girls? In the hotel?”
Collier could only peer at the man. “You’re talking about ghosts as though you personally believe in them.”
“Oh, I do. Very much so. And though I may not have been totally honest with you during our lunch, I very much believe that Mrs. Butler’s inn—the Gast House—is full to bursting with ghosts. I believe that it is
with the horrors of its original owner…”
For Paul Legerski
Morris chopped off the girl’s hand with a hatchet, then guttered laughter. The poor mulatto wailed, her stump pumping.
“What’choo do that for!” Cutton bellowed. He hadn’t even gotten his trousers off before Morris had pulled this move.
Morris had giggled some spittle onto his shabby beard. “She’s mixed, Cutton, a mixed
And I paid her a dollar.” He was rubbing his crotch with the girl’s severed hand. “Mixed don’t charge but twenty cents nohow.”
Cutton could barely speak as he refastened his belt. “You’re crazy, Morris! The whore-mother in the other room’s gonna fetch Marshal Braden!”
The girl was shuddering beneath Morris’s spread thighs, entering shock. “Awwwwww, shee-it. Gast owns the marshal, and we work for Gast. We was just havin’ some fun in a whorehouse is all.”
Fun? Choppin’ off a girl’s hand is fun?
Cutton tugged a leather string from one of his Jefferson shoes and tied off the girl’s stump. “You’re about as smart as dog puke. This girl could die.”
Morris dropped the hand on the girl’s quivering stom
ach. “She ain’t gonna die, Cutton. Look, see, I’ll make it right.” He dropped a five-dollar silver piece on the floor.
“You’re one crazy son of a bitch. That’s the last time I go drinkin’ with you,” Cutton raged and walked for the door.
Morris couldn’t believe it. “Ain’t you even gonna take your turn?”
Cutton stalked out of the brothel into dusty darkness.
He’d known Morris a while now; they’d worked the Delaware track together. But it just seemed like that man had turned crazy since they’d signed on with Gast and his rail crew.
Number 3 Street stood dark. On the next block, he could hear they were still drinking at Cusher’s Tavern. But Cutton didn’t want to go back there. They’d ask him how it went.
The door flapped open behind him. Morris, with his kersey work pants back on, implored, “Aw, come on, Cutton. What’s your dander up for? She’s mixed, for God’s sake!”
Cutton walked off. He didn’t care that she was half Negro; it wouldn’t even matter if she were full.
Lynchin’ a slave for stealin’ or rape’s one thing, but what he done is just plain ungodly.
Cutton loped into more darkness. There was nothing left to do now but head back to the bunkhouse and get some sleep. He’d spent most of the day on his horse, inspecting track and making sure Gast’s slaves were up to speed.
Dog tired, I am.
All he’d wanted was a quick one with a whore.
“You done with your carryin’-on?” a soft voice stopped him.
Cutton turned at the crossroad. It couldn’t be someone from the whorehouse; that was the opposite direction. He squinted.
More feminine words: “You done or lookin’ for more?”
Cutton’s eyes fixed on the ghostly image: a curvaceous white blur. The shadow of a branch obscured her face.
“Lady, I just walked out of some carryin’-on that I didn’t care for at all,” he said. “Who’re you?”
“Come on!” And then a warm hand grabbed his and pulled.
She led him up the hill, brambles crackling. Nets of moonlight through the trees never quite allowed any detail, but as Cutton hustled behind her, he eventually could tell she was naked beneath the sheer gown.
“You ain’t from the whorehouse, are ya?”
A soft chuckle fluttered. “Just come on.”
Cutton grew half aroused just from the feel of her hand, that soft warmth over his calluses—that, and something more abstract, like anticipation. She seemed desperate as she led on.
“Where are you taking m—”
“Don’t talk! We’ll be at the house in a second…”
House. Something heavy slipped into Cutton’s heart.
There ain’t but one house up this hill,
he knew. A servant girl? But he’d heard that all of Gast’s house staff were Negroes. “You work for Mr. Gast?” he asked.
“No,” she giggled, “but I’m married to him.”
Cutton stopped like a grapeshot blast to the chest. He turned her around and looked her right in the face, a face like a beautiful blur, curly hair glowing the same color as the moon. “Shit! You ain’t lyin’!”
“Are you coming or not?”
Cutton froze. “You’re—you’re my boss’s wife…”
“Say it louder so the slaves’ll hear you all the way over at the Sibley compound.” Now the moonlight fixed on her; she seemed to glow. “My husband’s in Tredegar, at the iron works. He’s buying more track from a federal broker. He won’t be back until
” Her voice was
sweet as syrup. Next, she lifted one breast out of the gown’s top and simultaneously cupped Cutton’s crotch. “Come inside now…”
The great angular house stood like a shadowed mesa. He’d only seen it from afar, and didn’t care about it now. The door clattered; then they were in and she was guiding him up the stairs. Cutton ignored the sumptuous details of the interior, focusing instead on the sheer gown sliding around her rump, and the sides of her breasts swaying. Down a carpeted hall lined with framed pictures, then—
—into a room.
The room smelled bad right off, and usually when the room smelled bad, so did the woman. But Cutton stood corrected—or it should be said that he
corrected—when she immediately pushed him to his knees and raised her nightgown. It was that abrupt—no need for courting or sweet talk. Cutton had time to think,
What I get myself into? This is my boss’s wife!
when the next realization slapped him like a hand. He expected a downy patch of hair that matched the blonde tresses on her head but found a hairless pubis in his face instead.
Cutton had heard of women doing this—upper-crust women—but he’d never seen it himself. He stared in awe, frozen.
Shaved bald…ain’t that somethin’
…His fingers traced over the fresh white triangle.
A clean shave, too, hardly any stubble…
The bare stomach quivered before his eyes; then, something less than the Southern belle, she ordered, “Lick it.”
The soft buttocks was hot in his hands. She tasted like rosewater.
He couldn’t concentrate, however, and she seemed to sense this, her nails digging into the back of his neck when he faltered. Cutton’s mind swam as his tongue roved. Once he stopped, looked up at her face: “But, uh, Mrs. Gast, if your husband comes home early, I will be in
a bad way.” She skimmed the nightgown off entirely. “I told you, he’s buying more track!” And then she urged him all the way to the floor and sat on his face.
Her sex pressed down over his mouth.
Gast would have me killed,
Cutton suspected. Other men had whispered of this woman’s delights but was it worth it? Cutton gave her succor until she spasmed. Her white thighs quivered against his cheeks…
“That was lovely,” she sighed and rolled over. “The perfect way to begin.”
At least Cutton liked the sound of that.
“The bed, now,” she said.
The bed stank, but Cutton wasn’t a delicate man. She lay beside him, running her hands up and down the white body, fingertips twisting dark nipples. “I apologize about the odor. I’ll have to get Jessa to replace the mattress again.”
Again. Cutton guessed she’d had many men on this bed, most of them dirty from the field, and some of the slaves, too—he’d heard—right off the line. But what else did she say? A name.
Cutton realized. “What, uh, what about the maid? What if she hears us? What if she comes in?”
“The maid does what I say.”
“And your children. You didn’t even lock the door. They could walk in any sec—”
like all decent people at this hour.” She smiled at the implication.
Cutton was generally a man of good judgment; this was his employer’s wife, he should
be here, he should’ve walked away when he’d met her on the street. And if word got out?
Gast’d have me buried alive,
he felt sure. Couple men who worked for Gast had disappeared shortly after rumors, and several of the slaves had been executed in the field, for the same allegations…
Her gentle accent lifted. “Now, are you going to fuck me, or will I be forced to find someone else?”
Those words were all it took to erase Cutton’s good judgment as if it had never existed…
Two hours later, he lay exhausted. She kept her arms and legs wrapped around him, his member limp now but still in her.
Her horniness didn’t abate even after all Cutton had given her; she’d broken out in a prickly heat, her cheeks blushed along with her belly and the soft skin below her throat.
In a parched mewl, she giggled, “You’re quite the man, sir.”
Quite the DEAD man if’n I don’t get out’a here,
he thought. But his lust had been sated—his reason returned. “I gotta get my ass out’a here, Mrs. Gast.” He began to push off but her arms and legs tightened back around him. She wasn’t letting him go, wasn’t letting him pull out.
“Not just yet,” she whispered. One more thing remained for him to do.
Next morning, Cutton watched two strong-armers decapitate one of the nigrahs in the field. That was the first thing he saw when he dismounted his horse.
They’re killin’ another one…
Cutton hadn’t heard anything about it.
Bean and cotton fields lined either side of the several miles of track they’d already lain; Cutton understood that the beans were that newfangled one from the Orient, something called soya. The female slaves worked the field, while the men drove the spikes. It was a strange sight now…
Total silence stretched out over the sunlit morn. The hundred or so slaves who lined the trackway seemed to stand at attention, akin to a military formation, along with Gast’s white foremen and other hires.
“That’s a good clean cut,” Morris said from the field. The strong-armer who’d done the work had used an adze, a chopping tool like an ax but perpendicularbladed. Standing beside Morris, he held the Negro’s severed head for all—especially the slaves—to see.