Author Blog

The Story of Robert A. Cahill’s Iron Box (Part 4)

Continued from previous blog post.  Be sure to read past installments!!

I still remember seeing Marie Cahill leave her home.  It was 3 o’clock on a sunny afternoon.  I was enjoying my tea as I always do by the study window where I can see the comings and goings along the street.  She wore a charcoal gray dress befitting a state of mourning and clutched the alabaster urn to her chest.

Three weeks passed before I saw Marie again.  Twilight was once my favorite time of the day.  Shadows and light seem to play a tug-of-war until, at last, the day always succumbs to sleep.  I used to sit on my front porch watching the lights begin to flicker on in the houses along the street. 

Marie’s car pulled slowly into her drive.  As she made her way up her walk I decided not to greet her.  She must be tired and grieving.  There would be time to catch up.  Just then, the ice settled in my lemonade.  The sound echoed in the still evening air.  Marie turned quickly to find the source of the noise.  I raised my hand in greeting but still hesitated to intrude.  I received a small wave back but Marie continued up her walk and into the house.

Then, suddenly, she was there, standing on my porch, panic stricken and inconsolable; confessing to me the story of the old iron box.

Robert A. Cahill would never return to sea.  The trip to the Atlantic would cost a pretty penny … her pretty penny … pennies adding up to the fortune she had married him for so many years ago. 

Instead, Marie descended into the basement of their home on the night before her departure.  Even the servants rarely traversed into the dank depths of the decaying cellar.  Marie made her way into the old boiler room.  Pipes crawled all over the walls and ceiling of the room, hissing and bubbling.  Far back, behind the hot boiler, small pipes coiled almost disguising an iron soot box from sight. 

Her hardened heart beat faster despite itself for what she was about to do.  The hinges cried out as Marie opened the box.  She discarded her husband’s ashes into the mouth of the small iron box before shutting it back tight and retreating. 

When her story ended, I remained speechless.  Marie’s eyes darted towards her house as if afraid of something there.  Her entire body shook. 

“Marie, what?  Why are you so frightened?” the words fell reluctantly from my mouth.

“He- he …is there …” her voice came in a hoarse whisper as she pointed to her house.

“His ashes?  Still in the box?”

Marie turned slowly to stare at me; terror drew deep lines in her brow.

“He… he’s not in the box,” she muttered, shaking her head.  “He got out.”

An unknown fear gripped my heart.  I could not speak.  I could not comfort.  I only stared back.  Marie continued to shake her head, muttering. 

Suddenly, she grew still.  Her eyes widened and a renewed fear swept across her face.  A choked scream escaped from her lips and she ran. 

No one has seen or heard of Marie Cahill since.  The house still stands empty … Somewhere in the basement is an iron box that was never meant to hold a roving sailor.

And so it ends….

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