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The Women on Whitehead Street


Bob Chassanoff

A Story of Treasure & Old Key West

"Revolutions produce other men, not new men.
The mold of the species is permanent.
That is earth's burden."
Barbara W. Tuchman


"Don't do it, Charley. Please don't cut me again," the Indian pleaded, tears and blood mixing on his cheeks.

"Tell me where you found those Spanish pieces of eight?" Charley Dardy asked, obviously irritated. "It's almost dawn. I been torturing you for over two hours! Where's the wreck with the Spanish silver?" And Dardy punctured a hole an inch deep in the Indian's buttocks with a rusty fishing knife, and twisted it. The Indian screamed in agony, hanging from ropes around his wrists, tied to the roof joists of the remote boathouse. Dardy had even tied his ankles together so the Indian couldn't kick out, and Dardy took pride in his thoroughness.

Dardy felt no remorse at the Indian's suffering. "Osceola's Seminoles killed my parents during the 1840 raid on Jacob Housman's compound," Dardy explained. "I was just a small child, hiding in the underbrush, and I watched as they bludgeoned my father and then used their knives on him. After that they raped and murdered my mother."

The Indian, Jacob Ivey, was a Mestizo, half-Indian and half- Spanish. The fact that Ivey was a Christian raised by Anglican missionaries in the Bahamas didn't trouble Dardy at all. He didn't care much for the English either. "Why don't you just talk, and we can end all this?" Dardy counciled, trying to sound sympathetic.

"Because then you'll kill me," Ivey said dejectedly.

Dardy nodded, understanding the logic of his reasoning. "All right. We'll keep going until you run out of blood." Ivey had cuts all around his torso, so Dardy cut away his blood-soaked pants.

"Charley, you're gonna go to hell for doing this," Ivey muttered painfully.

"Aw, you don't really mean that. You're a Christian Indian; your God will forgive me," Dardy said in a mocking tone. Watching others in pain never bothered him. "I'm gonna do to you, what I saw you savages do to my daddy." He grabbed Ivey's genitals and jerked hard, bringing the bloody knife close.

When it was over Dardy put Ivey's small bag of silver coins in his pocket and thought about what the Indian had finally said before he died. Harry Gorten, the carpetbagger on Big Pine Key, knew where the wreck was. Dardy knew Gorten was a stubborn Yankee and had that useless island to himself, except for his pretty daughter that lived with him.

Dardy picked up a lamp and peered around Jacob Ivey's small, cluttered boathouse, filled with old fishing gear, nets, and carpenter's tools. It was a shame about Ivey's sturdy fishing boat, but it would look suspicious if he moved it outside. Dardy put the lamp down on the floor, unscrewed the cap, and tipped it over until kerosene poured out on the old wood planking.

It was just before dawn, the air moist and cool, the sky dull black, starry, and with a brilliant, full moon. Dardy looked around to make sure he was alone and knew there was plenty of time for him to get away before anyone noticed the fire.

Fires were common on Key West. Clapboard construction, careless drinkers, and frequent lightning strikes all made it easy to use arson to cover up a murder. Dardy walked home slowly, occasionally gazing up to admire the clear, starry sky. He changed his bloody clothes, ate a big piece of corn bread with butter because it was time for breakfast, and walked to work.

Chapters - Prologue - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 -11- 12 - Epilogue

U.S. Federal Copyright 'TXU 603-893

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