It all started with the stupid puff piece.
Steve Benoit had been tasked with it by his editor when he rolled into the generic-looking offices of the Cape Cod TribuneMonday morning. Working for the Trib wasn’t exactly the journalism career Steve had dreamed of while going to the University of Massachusetts, but he was happy enough not to be grinding out computer user manuals like some of his peers were. The stories might be man bites dog level, but at least they were stories.
The industrial green walls of the office wrapped Steve in their insipid embrace as he entered the foyer, sipping his Dunks in an attempt to jump start his brain. As he headed to his cubicle his editor whistled and gave him the come on sign from over his own cubicle wall. The Trib was not a rich paper. Josh Crocker did not rate a separate office, but he did get a slightly larger cubicle than his underlings.
Josh was one of those old Yankee types: Tall, thin, pallid skin with a smattering of freckles. Straw-colored hair ran away from his forehead and collected in a limp ponytail that hearkened back to his heydays in the Seventies. As the years collected on his weedy frame his skin had loosened, giving him a soft doughy look despite his thinness.
“What’s up Josh?” Steve inquired, sipping his coffee.
“Norham has its 375th Anniversary celebrations coming up soon, and I want you to do a piece on early settlers.” Josh replied, sipping his own Dunks noisily.
Steve groaned inwardly, his post-weekend inertia combining with the last shreds of his Sunday football-watching hangover to make the thought of researching the local Pilgrims seem like the labors of Hercules.
“Haven’t we covered them pretty thoroughly?” Steve countered. “I could always pull up one of our pieces from a few years back and rework it.”
Josh frowned, the wrinkles of his face bunching and sagging in interesting ways.
“I was hoping perhaps you could head down to the BodfishLibrary and look through some of the original town records,” Josh said. “There’s several interesting families that settled along the shore of Teefer’s Bay. “
Steve winced. “Yeah, the Norham Sea Witch and Black Jack Bradford. Hasn’t that been done to death?”
Unlike other sections of Colonial New England, Cape Cod did not boast a lot of interesting characters. The Norham Sea Witch and her lover Black Jack Bradford were two of the more notorious.
Black Jack Bradford was a pirate, one of the few local Yankee captains that took up the trade. He had preyed on the Spanish in the Caribbean, The French off their holdings in what is now Nova Scotia, and even the Portuguese off the eastern coast of Africa.
The Norham Sea Witch was a woman, Anna Gallwick, who had supposedly ensnared Bradford with her sorcery. Legends differed about her. Some said she was born and raised on the Cape, others said that Bradford had installed her as his mistress at his house on Teefer’s Bay after meeting here somewhere during his travels. Stories were still told about her mastery of spells and potions, and of her great beauty. Darker stories were told about her midnight revels with the Devil, and her use of children in her magical workings.
Their unique love story had come to an end when local farmers had banded together to storm Bradford’s house and carryGallwick off to the gallows. Bradford supposedly had been summoned by her wizardry to rescue her, but a storm off the coast sunk his vessel, The Revenant. Gallwick had watched her lover’s ship founder in Teefer’s Bay as the hangman slipped a noose over her head.
Steve groaned inwardly a second time, busying himself with gulps of scalding coffee to hide his dismay from Josh. Although the Norham Sea Witch and Black Jack Bradford made for a good story, it was a story that had been told and told again over the years. The last things that Steve wanted to do on a Monday was head down to Norham’s venerable library and peruse their stacks of ancient moldering books for a fresh angle on the story. He was pretty sure no such angle existed.
“Don’t worry,” Josh said soothingly. “I’m not going to make you rehash that old chestnut. I was thinking about you maybe looking up the other families that lived along Teefer’s Bay. The Bodfishes, the Scalissons, the Phinners. Some of their descendants still live in the area. Maybe grab a camera and take a few shots of the bay and the houses around there. They still manage to keep a few of the really old houses up out there.
Steve perked up a bit with this. Between a few hours at the library and a leisurely drive to the isolated bay his day was pretty much booked. He decided to milk it a bit.
“I could get everything together by Thursday, maybe 750 words?” He said, an innocent look on his face.
“Wednesday”, Josh countered. And I want 1,000 words and some good shots. It might get a center spread if it’s good enough.”