You can read Part I of this collection of tales about Constable Royley HERE. This is part of a larger sequence of events in which I’m trying to expore this character for use in an upcoming script. Let me know what you think! I hope to have Part III up much sooner than it took to get from I to II.
Any man who is awake to watch dawn birth over the horizon is a dedicated craftsman, a certain kind of gift to mankind — a farmer, or a merchant, perhaps, aligning his wares along the market streets.
Constable Royley is simply a restless man without sleep, a man who spent the night cleaning blood from the floor of his carriage — the Magistrate’s carriage. The City”s property. He had scrubbed blood from the seat, had combed through the floorboard with water and bourbon — in between generous gulps of the latter — and even painted a new coat of paint along the steps that had stained when he’d dragged the body to the muddy ditch along the canal.
The hoggee ditch, as the Irish called it, consisted of wet sludge, a mud beyond mud, and if you were to step in this ditch without the proper cane or walking stick to use as leverage, you’d have more than enough trouble climbing out. Many Irish workers had fallen into this ditch, never to return, and lately more and more drivers who disappeared along the Erie Canal were said to be haunting passengers of the tiny steamboats entering the city of Albany.
Royley used the fear of this ditch to his advantage, though last night was the first time he’d buried a victim of his own acts. Typically, the Magistrate would provide a location, and a time for pickup, and Royley would only follow through on the final disposal. Young women who’d refused the Magistrate’s advances were sentenced to the fate of death, though the bludgeoned faces and bruised bodies led Royley to believe these death were slow affairs, and never painless.
When Royley was finally able to cover the body of the thief with enough sludge to hide his pale, freckled skin from the dawn’s light, he sat upon the heap of dirt and knocked back the remaining drops of bourbon, wiped his filthy brow, and prayed to the Lord above for a moment of rest. Not forgiveness or guidance back toward the light, but only for sleep. Rest would surely bring about a new epiphany of how he could escape from his Devilish duties. But that moment of rest was soon to pass, as the sun crested the horizon and Royley himself wandering the winding path back downtown.
The sunlight bothered him this morning, perhaps because he’d been outside all night, or perhaps because he’d emptied an entire bottle of bourbon between his belly and the cleaning of blood — or perhaps because the light reminded him of the path he’d strayed from when he buried the first of many of the Magistrate’s victims in the hoggee ditch six years ago. In any case, the city called for him, or more likely, his bed was calling for a few hours of wear.
Oliver Royley was born in Schenectady, but moved to the state capitol after his father, Matthew Longstrum Royley III, one of the last remaining Patroons, had finally sold off all his land and stock to the Van Renssalaers. Determined to live a life in service of the public, Matthew attempted to win a seat in the state senate. But in the waning days of the election, a man who Royley only knew as ‘Uncle Phil’ had come to visit with cold eyes and a sandy voice. Though very few words were exchanged between the old men, Matthew would never be the same, and his heart failed him two years later.
Uncle Phil (who Royley realized later was actually Philip Van Renssalaer, the richest man in all of Albany) stood behind his father’s chair, waiting for Matthew to sit. Matthew was a tall man, with a gaunt face that seemed to shrink in an inverse relationship to the amount of food he consumed each night at supper. Royley’s father tried to wait out Uncle Phil in the sitting game, but Matthew was a kind man, and simply nodded before taking his seat. Uncle Phil had remained standing, and Royley would always remember how the man had glanced in his direction – a discreet hiding spot behind the open door of the bedroom – before beginning to speak in that dry, sandy voice that surely commanded attention despite being scarce more than a whisper.
Matthew had stared at the floor a long moment, for too many minutes. Royley, the shy boy he was, watched his father, urging him with his mind. Speak! Look up at him, right in the eye, and speak! But Matthew remained silent, refusing even to move.
“Whether you intended to win or not, know this: if you continue to pursue that Senate seat, your boy will breathe his last breath before his next birthday.” Uncle Phil looked at Royley, smiled at him, and said nothing more as he walked from their home.
Matthew’s veins showed through the skin of his neck, and at his temples. He’d looked old, then, much older than before Uncle Phil’s arrival. “Go to bed, son,” Matthew told Royley. “It’s not for a boy’s eyes to see a man cry out of fear.”
“Why are you afraid, pa?”
“I said go to bed!” Matthew had stood so quickly that Royley fell backwards, bruising his back on the floor, a bruise that would be yellow and blue by morning and painful for days after. He and his father never spoke more than a few words between them for weeks after Uncle Phil’s visit.
Later, much later, when Royley added the title of Constable to his name, Philip Van Renssalaer would greet him with weary eyes and a disdainful glare. But Royley had proven his worth to the Van Renssalaers ten times over, having befriended young Abraham in their school days and defending the waif from muggers and thieves on their long walks home through Troy each night.
Abraham loved to call on Royley for deeds best done by men who knew how to use their hands to provide scars and broken bones rather than for writing. It was Abraham who’d put the Magistrate in place ten years ago, just after Royley had become Constable with high hopes of one day serving as Magistrate himself. But Abraham had other plans for Royley.
So long as Royley’s sister Claire remained Abraham’s wife, Royley must follow orders. “Nothing. You’re nothing without me, Royley. You remember that, and remember the name of your protectors. Remember who saved you from a life of embarrassment and torture. Never tell me no. Never tell me yes. You are to do as you are told, no more, no less. Your sister would thank you, if she could remember how to talk.”
“Right,” he would mumble, without so much as a glance up at Abraham’s face. He hated Abraham. Hated every pore in the man’s face, the dark mole on his cheek, just above his mustache. He hated the thought of Abraham’s hands on Claire, his body pressed to hers each night, pinning her down against her will. In Royley’s mind, it was always against her will. That’s why she refused to talk since the day after their marriage.
This morning, as Royley blinked out the bright pink of the rising sun, he made his way past the courthouse without a hint of irony. He passed Phil’s hardware and drug store with no hesitation, and then slipped through the back door of Otis’s Tavern. Otis’s was always open to Royley, ever since he caught Otis in the midst of a risque outing with Elsie Whipple.
Her dark stare flashed in Royley’s mind as he hunkered down in the back of Otis’s Tavern. Her pale face, her devious smile. Elsie could control the hearts of men in and around Albany, with the distinct and shameless goal of self-preservation. Any man with his wits could see that about her. Yet no one could resist. There was a warmth, a dangerous fire in her eyes that comforted the wicked deeds in the soul of the man unlucky enough to partake in her biddings. Elsie…loveless and alone, feeding off the men around her. Alone despite her marriage to John Whipple, and the inheritance he controlled in exchange of a comfortable living space amidst the home of the Van Renssalaers.
John had for many years found ways to have his fun outside of his marriage, which surprised no one, and yet Elsie refused to see it. She would watch him laughing and drinking with Abraham, returning home with the stink of whores and perfume on his clothes, on his breath, and yet she refused to believe he would do that to her. It wasn’t a betrayal to Elsie, no. She simply refused to believe that anyone would take advantage of her without her permission. This was the strangle she held on all men, and it showed yesterday when she retained Royley for the disposal of her childhood friend and neighbor Henrietta. She’d begged, she’d pleaded with Royley, but after years of cleaning up after the Magistrate, Royley’s ears had grown numb.
And yet he still agreed to take on the task personally. But he would have to come up with the plan later. First, another drink. And then, sleep.
Constable, please. Help me.
Royley stopped his hand, the bottle inches from his mouth. No, that wasn’t what she had said. Her words were more subtle, her intentions more disguised. He looked about the Tavern, the night’s events fading from his memory, dissolving like the morning mist that parted under the rising sunlight. Otis hadn’t unlocked the doors yet, so he was alone here, safe from the outside world, safe from the Magistrate and the Van Renssalaers. Yet her voice was clear in his mind, almost as though she was at his ear, whispering.
He looked out over the bar, stood up, wobbling on his feet. A cold chill trickled down his neck. He felt his hair rise above the goosebumps that drenched over his body in a wave. The voice sounded like the cries and whispers of Elsie, but it was impossible. It was early yet, and no one other than farmers would have the kind of mind to rise out of bed this soon in the morning. He was just hearing things – had to be. He swallowed the rest of the bottle, and collapsed to the floor.
It was not uncommon for Royley to be awoken mid-afternoon by Otis himself. He would welcome the dimwitted bartender later in the day, as long as her voice would stop calling to him.
Constable. It is time.
Royley opened his eyes to take in the sunlight through the open door, and then her legs fell, darkness enclosing upon him. He looked up, but with heavy lids – a full night behind him, a hearty drink in his belly, and the halo of sunlight behind her head. He felt a warm squirt liquid pour suddenly down his face as he fell into darkness, a cold whisper in his ear.
“How…” he uttered, before his eyes fell closed, a dim chill washed down his body before darkness, and warmth, and then silence.
END OF PART II.