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The Strange Case of the Brown Mountain Lights Session One Part 1 - Business Trip

Max_Writer

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

 

(After playing the Call of Cthulhu scenario “The Strange Case of the Brown Mountain Lights†from The Phantom of Wilson Creek by Andy Miller from noon to 5:30 p.m. today with Kyle Matheson, Ashton LeBlanc, Katie Gallant, Collin Townsend, Hannah Gambino, and Katelyn Hogan)

 

On Friday, June 10, 1927, the telephone rang at the home of William Avery Rockefeller, youngest son of business tycoon and millionaire John D. Rockefeller. William Rockefeller was sitting in his study, reading the newspaper and sipping bourbon on the rocks.

 

“Rockefeller residence,†he heard his man, Felix Crane, say as he picked up the phone.

 

There was a short pause.

 

“I’m sorry─†Felix started to say but then stopped.

 

Another pause.

 

“Yes sir,†Felix said.

 

The young butler came to the door of the study.

 

“Mr. Rockefeller?†he said.

 

“Yes, Felix,†Rockefeller said.

 

“Your brother is on the telephone.â€

 

“Tell him I’m busy.â€

 

“I tried. He already knows you’re not.â€

 

“Well, you’re getting worse at this.â€

 

“He’s figured things out, sir. He is … more intelligent than you give him credit for.â€

 

“He always does.â€

 

Rockefeller went to the telephone and picked up the receiver.

 

“William!†the voice of John P. Rockefeller Jr. came over the line even before he spoke.

 

“Yes John?†Rockefeller said.

 

“We’ve got some work for you. It’s going to be great. You’re going down to Morganton, North Carolina.â€

 

“North Carolina? Who goes there?â€

 

“There’s a man named Edington down there who owns a hosiery mill that father’s looking into purchasing. He was also not disappointed with what happened up in Aylesbury. Well done.â€

 

“Was he impressed?â€

 

“Uh … I don’t know if I’d go that far.â€

 

“Mmm.â€

 

“He couldn’t see any money in it. That’s what he said to me. But that’s fine. It makes the Rockefeller name look good. I don’t know who this fellow is that you’re with. I don’t know why you’re sharing the credit, but anyway … Morganton, North Carolina. Named Edington. Gladstone Edington. He owns a hosiery mill. We’ve been in works to purchase it. Father wants you to go down there and seal the deal!â€

 

“Seal the deal?â€

 

“That’s right. As a reward, he says you can go to a nearby resort called Brown Mountain Beach. If you want to take some friends with you, father will pay all of the expenses for you. Expenses to get down there, for you to stay at Brown Mountain Beach a week or so afterwards. Take some time off. Enjoy yourself.â€

 

“Wait. Hold on a second, John. You’re telling me my reward is staying in North Carolina longer?â€

 

“Yes. It’s very nice down there. Not a very exclusive place, but a very nice place, I understand.â€

 

“I doubt there’s anything good in North Carolina, John.â€

 

“Well, we stand agreed on that, at least. However, this needs done and this would, I’m sure, please father very much, if you can pull this off. This Edington, he seems ready to sell, but … he wants to talk to a Rockefeller face to face. I’m too busy. I have a job. And father’s busy as well.â€

 

“I-I had not forgotten that you have a job. I have not forgotten that. But thank you for the update. And tell father I will make sure it happens.â€

 

“Very well. Very well. Just figure out how much it will cost and we will wire you the money immediately. And as I said, you can bring some friends if you want. Have a good time. Enjoy yourself down there. It’s a beautiful part of the state.â€

 

“Well, that is one thing I have over you, John. I do have friends.â€

 

He hung up the telephone without waiting for a reply.

 

He picked up the receiver and telephoned Robert Ingerton. Unfortunately, there was no answer on the line. Hanging up, he wrote a quick letter to the man, telling him of going to Morganton and Brown Mountain Beach. He told Felix to see it was delivered before they left. He thought about telephoning Thomas Adler but then remembered reading the man’s obituary in the newspaper. It seemed somehow connected to the fire at Putney Mansion back in May but he couldn’t remember the details.

 

He asked Felix about Nurse Daughton and learned the man had her address. He sent his butler to her house to find a new group to take with them. He also told Felix to stop by the Providence Journal to put in an advertisement looking for help in a travelling job that would be compensated with fair wages. He noted to make sure it said “No hobos.â€

 

Felix left and Rockefeller tried to look up some information about Edington but wasn’t able to find anything much of interest.

 

* * *

 

Nurse Abigail Daughton answered the knock at her door to find William Rockefeller’s butler there. The man told her Rockefeller was going on a trip and asked if she’d be able to join him once again. She told him she was terribly swamped with work and had a really good read. What she didn’t tell him was that the book she was reading was Ann Bishop Parker’s diary, the book she’d recovered during the strange foray to Aylesbury, Massachusetts, back in April. She had been trying, without luck, to learn the spell from the book that allegedly allowed one to bind an enemy but she couldn’t quite figure it out.

 

When the man asked if she knew anyone else she could trust to go, she said she did. She gave him the name Evelyn Fairfield and provided him with the address as well.

 

* * *

 

Evelyn Fairfield answered a knock at her door and found a young man there who introduced himself as Felix Crane. He told her she had been recommended by Nurse Abigail Daughton and asked if she would be interested in going on a trip to North Carolina as a companion of William Rockefeller.

 

“Nurse Daughton, you say?†Miss Fairfield said.

 

“Yes, Nurse Daughton recommended you,†Felix said. “She said you were a friend of hers?â€

 

“Yes!â€

 

“We’ll be leaving Monday, June 13. If you’d be interested in coming, he needs companions to come along the trip. I’m his man. William Avery Rockefeller.â€

 

“Yeah, I’ll have my bags packed. Let’s go.â€

 

He told her they would meet on Monday morning, June 13, at Union Station at 8 a.m. He also asked if she had any companions she might be able to recommend. He noted Mr. Rockefeller was interested in meeting new people, though he had specified “No hobos.†She told him of an Alienist named Darla Greene who might be interested.

 

He took her name and address and thanked the woman.

 

* * *

 

On Saturday, June 11, 1927, Rockefeller was home alone and Felix was out running errands. The phone rang again and the man cursed. He always seemed to be just reaching a relaxed state when the device would interrupt. He answered it.

 

“Rockefeller residence,†he said. “Rockefeller speaking.â€

 

“Hello, this is Bricker,†a cockney voice on the other end of the line said. “Nigel Bricker. I saw your ad in the paper.â€

 

“You have a very distinct accent there, friend. Where are you from?â€

 

“Oh, well thank you for noticing.â€

 

“It’s hard not to notice.â€

 

“I’m from jolly ol’ London, I am.â€

 

“Oh, so you’re one of the Brits, eh?â€

 

“Yes.â€

 

“I’ve never been over there. Always wanted to.â€

 

“It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.â€

 

“Hm.â€

 

“Anyway, about the job.â€

 

“So, why is it that you’re contacting me?â€

 

“Well, you put the ad in the paper.â€

 

“What interests you? The money? The travel? The ‘No hobos.’â€

 

“Yes, the hobos.â€

 

“The hobos?â€

 

“Yes. No hobos. Hate ‘em, I do.â€

 

“Well, I’ll go ahead and tell you this, I’m not very good at talking over the phone. Most of the people I talk over the phone with I know in person and since I do not know you, it would be easier if you just came over to my place and met me. My butler is out and usually he handles these sort of things. So, why don’t you just come over here and I will give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as soon as I meet you.â€

 

“All right. I’ll do just that.â€

 

“All right.â€

 

Rockefeller gave him his address and rang off.

 

When the knock came from the door an hour or so later, Felix was still not home. Rockefeller sat there for a few seconds out of sheer habit and then almost called Felix before remembering the man was out.

 

“All right, what are you selling?†he said as he opened the front door. “What do you want?â€

 

The man standing at the door was very tall and fairly solid. He had a shaved head and it looked like his nose had been broken a few times. Rockefeller shut the door and locked it immediately.

 

“I’ll have you know that I do have a gun in here and you will not be able to rob the Rockefeller estate so easily!†he said.

 

“Sir, we just spoke on the phone an hour ago,†the man outside said. “It’s Nigel Bricker.â€

 

“You think I’ll fall for that!?! Wait, what did you say?â€

 

“How many Brickers do you know?â€

 

“What did you say? Did you say Nigel?â€

 

“Nigel Bricker.â€

 

Rockefeller unlocked and opened the door.

 

“Sorry about that!†he said.

 

“Oh no,†Bricker replied. “I’m used to it.â€

 

“A lot of people want my money and a lot of them look just like you. Don’t take offense to that but, I mean, you do have a busted face.â€

 

“Yeah.â€

 

“So, what do you do for a living? I must say, I do not see characters like you very often.â€

 

“My trade’s a mechanic and I do some carpentry on the side and do some other things.â€

 

“You say mechanic?â€

 

“Yes.â€

 

“Come on out here, I got something I need to show you.â€

 

He led the man around to the back of the house where a Cadillac stood in an open garage. There was room for another automobile in another open bay of the separate building.

 

“Can you take a look at this Cadillac for me, real quick?†he asked. “It’s been making a noise every time I start it up.â€

 

Bricker looked over the vehicle and quickly found the problem. A branch had gotten caught underneath the engine and was being ground up by it, slowly. When the car was started, it would make a terrible clatter, he thought.

 

“There’s your problem,†he said, pulling it out.

 

“Wow, you found that really quick,†Rockefeller said. “Usually, I’d have Felix look at it but he’s out right now. And I really do hate driving myself around but I did have to do it today. And I must say, I’m a little rusty on the driving.â€

 

“I can see why.â€

 

Rockefeller took a dollar out of his wallet and gave it to the man.

 

“Well, thank you Nigel,†he said.

 

“Thanks,†Nigel said.

 

“Thank you for finding that for me. That noise was driving me insane. You know, you’ve almost proven your worth today, Nigel. You seem to be handy and capable and aware of his surroundings and that’s what I look for in a man of your … sorts.â€

 

“Thank … you?â€

 

“You said you’re from England, yes?â€

 

“Yes.â€

 

“Have you ever been to North Carolina?â€

 

“North Caro-what?â€

 

“North … North Carolina, Nigel. Have you ever been there?â€

 

“No, I can’t say I have.â€

 

“One of the first 13 colonies that said ‘To hell with you’ to your king. Anyways, I have to go over there and I could use a man of your stature. Does that interest you?â€

 

“I wouldn’t be here if it didn’t.â€

 

“Well, you do not want to see hobos and, I must tell you, there might be some hobos in North Carolina.â€

 

“Uh …â€

 

“That place is backwoods and I don’t think there’s anything good in it but we have to go there.â€

 

“I’ll take my chances.â€

 

“Well, Felix should be arriving home shortly. Why don’t you stay for supper and we’ll see what other vagrants he has found.â€

 

He led the other man into the house.

 

* * *

 

Alexe Hernandez was depressed. She’d been a professional boxer, disguised as a man, for some years before her disastrous encounter with the little Chinese men at the house of Irene Kennedy about a year before. The gunfight had landed her in the hospital where it’d taken a month to recuperate. In the interim, her secret boxing life had been exposed and her career ruined. All of her lightweight boxing fights had been reviewed and the results of all of her wins, at least those recorded, had been reversed as well.

 

She had bounced from job to job over the last year and had noticed the advertisement in the paper by William Avery Rockefeller so had gone to his house on Saturday afternoon. Between jobs, she decided to see if he would employ her. She’d met the man before, when she’d been part of the party that accompanied him to Wisconsin in December of 1926.

 

* * *

 

“Nigel, would you mind getting that for me?†Rockefeller said.

 

“Oh … sure,†Bricker said.

 

He opened the door to find a large and solid but somewhat effeminate-person in men’s clothing who wore a newsboy’s cap. He assumed it was a man though he had longish hair. He wore baggy overalls and clothing.

 

“Uh … oi! Rockefeller!†Bricker called. “You expecting some tall boy or something?â€

 

“Yeah, I didn’t think you were Rockefeller,†Miss Hernandez quipped. “You seem a little beat up.â€

 

“Ooo! He knows how to play.â€

 

Rockefeller came to the door as Miss Hernandez tried to slip by Bricker. The dilettante didn’t even recognize her though it had only been six months since they had met. It didn’t really surprise her.

 

“So, I perceive you are here over that newspaper ad,†Rockefeller said.

 

“Oh yeah,†Miss Hernandez said.

 

“Well, I’m sorry to tell you I’ve already got one tall boy. I don’t think I need two.â€

 

“Oi, who you calling a boy?†Bricker said.

 

“I’ve got some pretty good skills,†Miss Hernandez said. “I’m a little bit of a fighter myself, so, I could be like a bodyguard.â€

 

“What, are you going to try to fight your way in?†Rockefeller said.

 

“Uh … well …â€

 

“I’m going on a business trip to North Carolina and I’ve already got my butler and this man seems like he can handle the other sort of fighting I might need on such a business trip, so why do I need you?â€

 

“Well, is he quick?â€

 

“I dunno. Are you quick?â€

 

Rockefeller turned to Bricker.

 

“No,†the other man said. “Quick enough though.â€

 

Rockefeller looked back and forth between the two.

 

“You two want to spar on the yard for my entertainment?†he finally said.

 

“Wanna have a go?†Bricker said to Miss Hernandez.

 

“I’ll fight you,†she replied.

 

“This has never worked before!†Rockefeller said.

 

He led them to the spacious back yard.

 

“No punches below the belt,†he said. “This is going to be a clean fight.â€

 

As soon as he stepped back, Bricker lunged at Miss Hernandez, not trying to hurt the woman that he still thought was a boy, but merely trying to land a blow. He struck her on the left hand and grinned. She swung at the man who easily dodged out of the way. Bricker grinned and she swung again and missed as he ducked to the other side. He jabbed at the woman but didn’t connect either.

 

“You should both stick to your day jobs,†Rockefeller said.

 

Bricker danced a little, showing off his footwork, and then Miss Hernandez struck him solidly in the left cheek, nearly knocking him off his feet. He tasted blood in his mouth and then swung at the woman, who dodged out of the way of the blow easily. Miss Hernandez swung wildly and slipped on the wet grass, falling on her face. Bricker brought his fist down but the woman rolled out of the way and he merely struck the grass.

 

Rockefeller started clapping and Bricker offered Miss Hernandez his hand. She went to take it and then pulled her hand back and ran it along her head, standing on her own.

 

“Good sportsmanship,†Rockefeller said.

 

Bricker swung at Miss Hernandez again and she laughed.

 

“Hey!†Rockefeller said. “Hey! It’s over, all right?â€

 

“It’s never over,†Miss Hernandez growled.

 

“Well, I guess that was … entertaining enough,†Rockefeller said. “Both of you stick to your day jobs because you won’t cut it as boxers in this world. Speaking of which, uh, your name, sir?â€

 

He had turned to Miss Hernandez.

 

“Alexe Hernandez,†she said.

 

“Alexe Hernandez,†Rockefeller said.

 

It all suddenly came back to him. He remembered reading about the scandal in the Providence boxing circuit in the newspaper and even remembered the woman, even then dressed as a man, accompanying him and his party to Wisconsin in December. He had not remembered it when they had gone to Wisconsin, but it all came back to him right then.

 

“The Alexe Hernandez?†Rockefeller said.

 

She sighed.

 

“So, you do know me,†she said.

 

“Unfortunately,†he said. “Unfortunately, everyone knows what you are.â€

 

“Oh,†she said.

 

“Nigel, you hit a woman,†Rockefeller said.

 

“That ain’t a woman,†Bricker said.

 

He looked at her more closely.

 

“Yes,†Rockefeller said, taking off Miss Hernandez’s hat.

 

“Oh!†Bricker said. “I see it now! Got a mean right hook, ya do.â€

 

“Yeah,†she said.

 

“That’s because she used to be a boxer!†Rockefeller said.

 

“Huh,†Bricker said. “Don’t really follow boxing.â€

 

“Well, you should.â€

 

“What?â€

 

“So, what are you doing here?â€

 

“I just need some cash,†Miss Hernandez said.

 

“And you’re still pretending to be a man?†Rockefeller said.

 

“Why not?â€

 

“Because you’re a woman.â€

 

“Uh - you didn’t notice until you recognized my name, so …â€

 

“So, you just want to lie to everyone you meet?â€

 

“Yes! Yes.â€

 

“Hmmm.â€

 

He looked at her for a moment.

 

“Just for my love of boxing, I will allow you to accompany us on this business trip,†Rockefeller said. “However, you will dress like a lady!â€

 

“Hmm,†Miss Hernandez said.

 

“And you will show the world what you truly are. Because, until they accept you for what you truly are, you will never be happy in this world.â€

 

“That’s got the right idea, it does,†Bricker said.

 

“I’ll do it for just this trip,†Miss Hernandez said.

 

“If you can promise me that, you will be paid fairly,†Rockefeller said.

 

“Pinky promise,†Miss Hernandez said, holding up her hand.

 

“I don’t …â€

 

“We used to do this in my country before I came here.â€

 

“I … do not do that. Verbal commitments are enough for me.â€

 

She spit in her hand and held it out to him.

 

“Give me something,†she said.

 

He quickly took the other hand and briefly shook it.

 

“Fair enough,†she said.

 

He invited her to stay for supper and looked for some woman’s clothing in the house but found nothing. Felix got back later that afternoon and Rockefeller invited him to join them for dinner as well. He told Rockefeller Nurse Daughton was not available but she had recommended a photojournalist named Evelyn Fairfield. He noted that if she was not affluent, as she lived in a boarding house, she was at least polite and very eager. Furthermore, she had a friend by the name of Darla Greene who was an alienist.

 

“And do these ladies dress like women?†Rockefeller asked.

 

“Yes sir,†Felix said.

 

“Good.â€

 

“Yes sir, they do.â€

 

“Well, good. Then we have a secondary goal of making sure Alexe realizes she is a woman and dresses as such.â€

 

“Uh … yes sir. I can get some clothing if need be.â€

 

“I was hoping that you would take her shopping tomorrow.â€

 

“Yes sir.â€

 

Felix turned to Miss Hernandez.

 

“We can take you shopping, if you like, Miss …?†he said.

 

“Hernandez,†she said.

 

“Yes, Miss Hernandez. I will get dinner.â€

 

Rockefeller asked for something Oriental and Felix said he’d see to it, but then Rockefeller changed his mind, asking for something of England for his new friend.

 

That evening, they had what Felix called bangers and mash. It consisted of sausages atop mashed potatoes served with onion gravy, baked beans, and peas.

 

“Fantastic, Felix,†Rockefeller said. “Thank you.â€

 

He turned to Bricker.

 

“Hope you feel at home,†he said.

 

“Just like me mom used to make,†Bricker quipped. “Too bad mom wasn’t a better cook.â€

 

“Yes sir,†Felix said, taking it in stride. “Well, it is my first time making it.â€

 

He told Rockefeller tickets had been procured and Miss Fairfield and Miss Greene would meet them at the station on Monday.

 

“Could you see if they would accompany you in helping this young lady shop tomorrow?†Rockefeller asked.

 

“I’ll make a telephone call, sir,†Felix said.

 

He contacted Miss Fairfield later that evening and she was happy to go.

 

“Felix, don’t go crazy with the checkbook, but make sure they’re happy,†Rockefeller told him.

 

* * *

 

On Sunday, June 12, 1927, Miss Fairfield, Miss Greene, and Miss Hernandez went with Felix to several stores and purchased a variety of clothing for Miss Hernandez. They also purchased some travelling clothes for the other women as well. Miss Greene was relatively tall with brown, curly hair, and hazel eyes. She seemed quite friendly.

 

* * *

 

On Monday, June 13, 1927, all of them met at Union Station. It took two days to travel south to Morganton, North Carolina, during which time, Rockefeller took Miss Greene aside and asked her to help Miss Rodriguez learn how to act like a woman.

 

Morganton proved to be a good-sized city with a population of about 2,800 souls. They passed furniture plants, hosiery mils, tanneries, and cotton and flour mills, and the city had a hospital as well. They stayed at the four-story Caldwell Hotel, a fairly new, brick building with fine accommodations.

 

Rockefeller began his negotiations with Gladstone Edington on Thursday, June 16, 1927, while the rest of his party enjoyed the various sites in Morganton.

 

Edington proved to be a southern gentlemen to whom the idea of hurrying anything was abhorrent. He told stories and talked incessantly and endlessly about his family and extending family, which apparently stretched across North and South Carolina and even into Georgia. He talked about cousins, nieces, nephews, second cousins, third cousins, black-sheep of the family, and all of the things Rockefeller hated: small talk. He even mentioned one of his second cousins was presently vacationing nearby. Rockefeller didn’t particular care so simply nodded. He was terribly boring and long-winded.

 

“Such an extensive family you have,†Rockefeller commented at one point.

 

“You haven’t heard about my other cousin!†Edington said.

 

Rockefeller groaned internally.

 

The two men met over the next three days as Edington wouldn’t settle on a price or even negotiate without numerous breaks, side conversations, and even meals. He took Rockefeller to his house, a nearby plantation surrounded by fields of cotton and tobacco. He also introduced Rockefeller to corn liquor and gifted the man a clay jug of the terrible substance. It wasn’t until Saturday, June 18, 1927, that negotiations were complete. Rockefeller even managed to lower the price from the original asking price by a little bit. It was, he thought, a good price.

 

Rockefeller also arranged for Miss Fairfield to come to the final meeting to photograph himself and Edington shaking hands as they made the final deal. She took the photograph to the Morganton News-Herald and was able to sell it to the newspaper.

 

Rockefeller thought about suggesting one of Edington’s family members could speak to his brother about joining houses, but then realized he was the only eligible bachelor in the family as John P. Rockefeller Jr. had married Abigail Greene Aldrich over 25 years before. William had only been a child at the wedding, himself.

 

* * *

 

On Monday, June 20, 1927, the entire group took the train to Hickory, North Carolina, and from there boarded the narrow-gauge Carolina and Northwestern Railroad line that led up into the mountains. They arrived at Brown Mountain Beach by noon and the place turned out to be very nice. Sitting on the river right next to the tracks, the camp had several cabins built with river rock and native wood, all outfitted with electricity, a small pavilion where meals were served, and Wilson Creek, wide in the area, for swimming or wading. One small building on the property housed a power plant that generated its own electricity. There was even an infirmary.

 

The area to the north of the small camping area was filled with new growth and the remains of the terrible fire that had swept down the valley in 1925. To the west, Brown Mountain loomed over Wilson Creek.

 

Though it was warm and hot during the day, it cooled off and was comfortable and nice at night. They were all introduced to something called “iced tea†which was a sweetened tea served cold. There was also a proliferation of lemonade. The food and drink at the place were all very good and they spent a few days there in comfort. It was very relaxing.

 

Miss Fairfield enjoyed taking photographs of everything in the place: the train, the cabins, the river, the mountains, just everything.

 

Rockefeller got a cabin for the women as well as a cabin for Felix and Nigel to share. He took his own cabin, of course. They met several people at the beach, including Mark and Angela Bailey from Charlotte, North Carolina, and their children Tammy and Tommy. They meet Mary Price, a pretty young secretary from Sanford, Florida; Mary Hale, a candy shop owner, and her friend Teresa Perry, a switchboard operator, both from Ashland City, Tennessee; William Burgess, a milkman from Abington, Virginia; and Jacob and Ellen Raxter from Saxapahaw, North Carolina. None of them were rich or even upper class but all of them were pleasant. Rockefeller was disappointed he was not meeting more socialites.

 

They also met a pretty young southern woman named Suzanna Edington. She was about 5’4†tall and slim with blonde hair and blue eyes. She wore fine but comfortable clothing and was very talkative. She had a thick southern accent.

 

“Mr. Rockefeller!†she said when she met the man. “I’ve heard all about you. Are you Mr. Rockefeller that saved all them children back in Massachusetts?â€

 

“Why of course I am,†he said.

 

“I read all about you in the papers. I just love you. You did something so good for them children.â€

 

“I love kids and hope to have some someday.â€

 

“Oh, well you know …â€

 

A tall, slim older black man, balding but with a beard walked up behind Miss Edington. He wore a nice suit and stared at Rockefeller.

 

“Well, you know, Mr. Rockefeller, I am a bit known around here and I don’t have no man yet,†she said.

 

The black man standing behind her cleared his throat loudly. She rolled her eyes.

 

“What is it Virgil?†she said.

 

“I just needed to clear my throat, miss,†the black man said still staring at Rockefeller.

 

“All right then.â€

 

“I’m Miss Suzanna’s … servant, Mr. Rockefeller.â€

 

“My guardian … sometimes. Don’t pay him no mind.â€

 

Miss Fairfield, standing nearby, took a photograph of the small group.

 

“Nigel!†Rockefeller called. “Would you mind coming over here?â€

 

“Yeah,†Bricker said, walking over.

 

“Stand behind me and clear your throat,†Rockefeller whispered to the large man.

 

Miss Edington soon met the others as well.

 

They spent the next few days swimming in the creek or wading and getting to know other people staying at the place. Miss Hernandez sat on a rock in the shade by the creek and watched people. Miss Edington spent a lot of time with Mr. Rockefeller, talking to the man and getting to know him. Virgil Thomas never seemed far behind, often watching Rockefeller from where he stood as he talked to the woman. Bricker occasionally walked over to stand behind Rockefeller and clear his throat.

 

“Nigel, I need you to stare down that black man any time he tries to clear his throat,†Rockefeller told him. “I will not be antagonized by these … North Carolinians.â€

 

“My understanding is, this man over here is your bodyguard?†Miss Edington asked him, pointing at Bricker.

 

“Well, I wouldn’t call him that,†Rockefeller said.

 

“They’re lovers,†Miss Hernandez said as she walked by.

 

“You wanna have another go?†Bricker called to the woman.

 

“This man, here, is under my employment,†Rockefeller said calmly. “And I could use a strong hand like him, just as I see you’re using your strong hand for … whatever it is he does.â€

 

“He only follows me because daddy won’t leave me alone,†she said.

 

Virgil Thomas had walked over.

 

“Yes, sir,†he said. “She is under my protection.â€

 

“Mmm,†Miss Edington said.

 

“And how old are you, miss,†Rockefeller said.

 

“I am 27.â€

 

“That’s old enough not to be under daddy’s protection anymore.â€

 

“Well, I’m still his little girl.â€

 

“I’m just here to keep her safe, Mr. Rockefeller,†Virgil Thomas said. “I assume you’re not a threat … because if you were, I would have to do something about that.â€

 

“After saving all them children, I don’t think he’s a threat,†Miss Edington said. “I think he’s a hero around here.â€

 

“Yes, Miss Suzanna,†Virgil Thomas said.

 

“So, you’ve got another ragtag group, I see,†she said to Rockefeller. “What y’all doing? Down here in North Carolina?â€

 

“Well, right now we’re just celebrating the deal I struck with your father a couple of days ago,†Rockefeller said.

 

“My father?†Miss Edington said.

 

“Was that not your father? Mr. Edington?â€

 

“Who we talking about? You never said the name.â€

 

“Gladstone Edington.â€

 

“Oh, that’s my second cousin. That’s daddy’s cousin. We have a lot of cousins.â€

 

“Sorry for that misconception. Yes, your family is very extensive.â€

 

“Oh, you wanna hear about them? I could tell you all day.â€

 

“It’s all very interesting, Mr. Rockefeller,†Virgil Thomas said.

 

“Perhaps another time,†Rockefeller said. “When I have a drink in my hand.â€

 

“Suit yourself,†she said.

 

Some alcohol was available at Brown Mountain Beach, though it was always under the counter and often called other things.

 

“I hope you wouldn’t mind if you want another person in the group,†Miss Edington said.

 

Rockefeller looked at her.

 

“I don’t believe we’ll be travelling very much,†he said. “I just believe we’ll be vacationing here for … a week, maybe more. See how my group likes North Carolina.â€

 

“That sounds fine enough to me,†she said. “If you’ll have me.â€

 

“You’re more than welcome to tag along. I just think that, uh, we’ll probably not be doing much. Not saving children. Unless, of course, there’s one drowning.â€

 

“Well, that’s a shame. I was hoping. But I’ll still hang around.â€

 

“Sounds fine. I think I’ll go take a dip. Nigel, you want to join me?â€

 

“Huh?†Bricker said. “Nah. I don’t swim much. I reckon I’ll have a cup of the─â€

 

“Well, we’re going to teach you!†Rockefeller said.

 

* * *

 

On the morning of Thursday, June 23, 1927, word came from Morganton that a young girl had been killed in the city and the newspapers, in addition to the story and photograph about Rockefeller purchasing the Edington Hosiery plant, ran a story about the murder. It read:

 


NEGRO ATTACKS WHITE GIRL, INFLICTING WOUND
CAUSING HER DEATH; WHOLE COMMUNITY AROUSED
――――――――
15 - Year - Old Girl Attacked By Negro, Skull Crushed, and Left in Dying Condition
――
MANY JOIN IN THE SEARCH
――
So Far All Clues Have Been Futile and Brute Still at Large.
――
Seldom, if ever, has this community been so stirred as by the brutal murder on Tuesday night
of 15-year-old Gladys Kincaid, bright young daughter of a widowed mother and trustworthy employee
of the Garrou Knitting Mill. All the circumstances in the case and such evidence as can be gathered
fasten responsibility for the crime on Broadus Miller, an Asheville negro, who had been employed
here for about two weeks with a construction gang on the new residence of Mr. and Mrs. Frank
Tate. Tuesday night excitement was at a fever heat and there is little doubt that the negro’s life
that night would have been worth very little if he had fallen into the hands of infuriated citizens,
hundreds of whom joined in the search for the alleged murderer and would-be rapist. Groups of
men stood on the street corner until far into the night, while hundreds scoured the country-side
around Morganton and followed up every clue that might lead to the location of the negro.
Yesterday practically all business took secondary place while the search was continued and the
story of the horrible affair and the question as to whether the negro had been found was on
everybody’s lips. Numbers of times reports came in that a man answering the description of Miller
had been seen at various places, but none of the rumors lead to anything definite. The most
exhaustive search yesterday was made in the vicinity of Lake James and the popular belief is
that very probably, the fugitive headed toward Asheville.

 

The story is the blood-curdling one of a pretty young girl the victim of a black brute, who in
overcoming her resistance fatally wounded her before he was able to accomplish his fiendish purpose.
The bloody iron pipe with which he dealt the blow or blows which crushed her skull just back of
the right ear was found near the girl’s body.

 

Gladys Kincaid left the Garrou Mill at the regular time Tuesday afternoon―5:30. Her mother,
Mrs. Mary Jane Kincaid, became alarmed when she had not arrived home at 6:30 and sent one of
the boys “up the road†to look for her. For several months Mrs. Kincaid and her family had been
living at what is known as the “Kinny†Kincaid place on the Fleming Ford road, a little over a mile
from the court square. The last person to see and talk with Gladys alive was Mrs. Ernest Whisenant,
whose home is not far from her own. Mrs. Whisenant had seen a negro man pass just ahead of the
girl―about 5 minutes, she says―and had remarked to her son on the iron bar he carried saying that
“he surely intended to keep the mad dogs off.†The girl’s tardiness to reach home caused the mother
to send one of the boys to the home of Mr. John Fox, nearby, and she and another went to the
Whisenant home. The girl’s brother and one of the Fox boys heard a groan and discovered her body
in a clump of bushes a few yards off the road, evidently carried up the embankment and pitched there.
As soon as help could be summoned, she was carried to Grace Hospital where every effort was made
to save her life, though from the beginning she had practically no chance. Without having recovered
consciousness she died Wednesday morning at 3:30.

 

Officers beginning at once an investigation learned that a negro filling the description given by
Mrs. Whisenant boarded at the home of Will Berry on the same road. Going there to make a search
they found a raincoat, the bottom of which was covered with fresh blood stains. The coat was identified
as the one worn by Miller on Tuesday. From that time on there was practically no doubt but that he was
the one guilty of the crime. The theory is that, knowing the girl’s schedule, he had waited at a lonely
spot on the road, had attempted to assault her and that she resisted so fiercely that he hit her in the
head harder probably than he intended and then frightened by his act and without accomplishing his
purpose thought to conceal her body until he could make a get-away.

 

When he left the bloody raincoat at Berry’s, he also got a change of clothing. On Wednesday
morning his clothes, discarded evidently after the rain at midnight Tuesday, were found in a clump
of woods near the river. This fact contradicted the report that had been circulated Tuesday night that
he had gone east and had been seen at the overhead bridge near Asbury’s.

 

Miller’s wife, who boarded with him at the Berry’s, and Will Berry are held in jail to await
developments in the case.

 

The funeral of the girl will be held this morning at Catawba Valley Baptist church, of which she
was a member. She is survived by her mother, three grown brothers, Willie, Harvey and Lonnie,
three smaller brothers, Walter, Cecil and Alvie and one sister, Lizzie. Her father, James Kincaid,
died in 1922. The Family being in rather strained financial circumstances, a popular subscription list
was circulated yesterday to raise a fund to defray the burial expenses.

 

Joining with the officers and others who have been searching for Miller are twenty-five or more
local negroes who are highly incensed at his terrible act.

 

The proclamation of outlawry issued yesterday morning is said at the court house to have been the
first here in a score or more of years. Probably feeling never ran so high in as many years. The State is
offering a reward of $250 and the county $250 for the capture of Miller

 

The local military company, Co. B 105th Engineers, which was on regular drill Tuesday night, joined
in the search, but had not been ordered out officially. They rendered excellent service and stayed on
duty throughout the night as volunteer assistants to Sheriff Hallyburton.


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