The Farm Hand

By: Patrick R. Roden

There was a dense, low hanging fog forming on the grounds of the Maine State Prison in Thomaston. This time of year, late fall, was notorious for such occurrences. In a few weeks time, this entire lawn would be covered with blankets of fresh snow, but for now, it looked as though someone had taken a million bags of cotton and strewn their contents out amidst the trees.

Marshall Mahoney was at rest in his cell, he had a fairly good view of the grounds surrounding the prison, through his narrow window.  He marveled, once again, at the way that the eighteen foot fences, covered in razor wire looked as they sprung out of the fog in an almost surreal picture. He hadn’t been beyond the fence in nearly a decade and he couldn’t remember the freedoms of being a normal citizen. The madness of this stone structure, the sounds of other inmates clanking against the brickwork left Marshall feeling more and more depressed with each day. The nights were even worse for him.

Marshall was a small man in both frame and stature, only standing at five feet and six inches tall and weighing under a hundred and fifty pounds. Many people had referred to his appearance as “simple”, but he disagreed with that assessment. His jawline was that of a ruler, straight and long. With eyes that were a deep gray, much like the weather around him. His hair, slowly receding, trimmed close, had a considerable amount of “salt and pepper” coloring sneaking in around the temples. The only reason that he kept it trimmed, as well as his facial hair, was that the rules of this prison dictated it.

It was in July of 1894 that the authorities of Maine had decided that Marshall was a danger to society, a madman of unimaginable proportions. They had locked him up and thrown away the key, with eleven life sentences plus ninety-nine years. What most people asked, even Marshall himself was “what had Marshall Mahoney done? What crime or crimes could a man commit in order to be guaranteed death behind the walls of this eerie prison?” Twenty-two murders was his crime, but all the while he maintained his innocence. He had appealed to every court, every magistrate available to him, for a chance to prove his innocence. He had gone so far as to request the Supreme Court to hear his case, and yet it was one denial after another. He had not fully resigned his life to being here with these other men. He wanted so much more than this. He stared out the window, trying hard to recall what road he’d traveled to get to this point. It was bittersweet to think about the way all this had started.

Marshall had grown up just down the road from Thomaston, in the small town of Rockland. He’d grown up as a small, but headstrong young man. Always wore his overalls and plaid shirt to work in. For the vast majority of his life, he had spent it in and around this area, working odd jobs and selling what he needed to sell in order to get by. He wanted nothing more than to live a life that was proper, one reminiscent of the stories he’d read in the Bible. A life of poverty was all he had known and he honestly didn’t think he could handle being a rich man.

 He was about nineteen when he had taken a job with an old farmer, Rufus Calhoun, out off of Route 131. It was a sprawling farm with hundreds of head of cattle and more acreage than he could count. It seemed the perfect fit to his life. There was never a dull moment on the farm, always something to make him feel useful. Marshall was tasked with tending to the fences, milking, fixing the barn or hitching up the plow to the farmers mule. He enjoyed the work and it gave him the opportunity to live in a quiet place alone. The winters were always cold, but he had a wood burning stove to keep him company in his small bunkhouse.

One morning in late December, Marshall recalled that the Sheriff had made his way out to the farm. Marshall saw the Sheriff’s buggy up at the main house, but he had work to tend to so he headed the opposite direction. He assumed that the farmer was having a social visit with the Sheriff and he went back to his work. Right around supper time he headed back towards the bunkhouse to see the Sheriff’s buggy still sitting up by the porch. He walked up toward the house and stopped when he saw the blood running across the porch, there was a trail leading into the house. It looked as though someone had drug their feet across a length of the porch and gone in through the door.

“Mr. Calhoun, you in there?” he called out.

There was no answer to his call.

“Sheriff Copeland? Are you in there?”

Once again no response, he only heard the wind as it pushed slowly against the front door, giving off a muted squealing sound. Marshall walked up the steps and reached out for the door. There was no blood on the handle, but it was smeared across the base of the door. Ever so slowly he opened the door. Once again, he called out for his boss and the Sheriff.

“Mr. Calhoun? Sheriff Copeland? Anyone here?”

At a snail pace he walked into the main sitting area, there was more blood here. Off to the side of the low slung chairs that Mr. Calhoun used to sit in. Marshall could see a large pool spreading out. The deep red color, the thick strands that were slowly seeping away from the main pool were riveting to Marshall. He continued to move deeper into the room. Low and behold, just beyond the chair he could now make out the silhouette, lying face down on the floor. A foot away he could see another pool of blood and another body lying face up. The face was severely damaged, ripped open and bearing a pinkish tinge coated in blood. Immediately, Marshall ran from the house and threw up under a tree next to the Sheriff’s buggy.

Marshall found himself at a loss for how time flew by over the following year.  He had reported what he saw, he’d left the farm and ventured into Thomaston, gone right to the Sheriff’s office and spoken with a deputy. They’d investigated the happenings at the house and concluded that Marshall was the only person with access, the only person who could have done it. While walking the grounds of the farm, deputies found freshly dug holes. When a full search was conducted, the remains of twenty one people had been recovered. They were all carefully buried near the blackberry bushes, less than three hundred yards from the house. All of them had been bludgeoned to death and had their hair cut off. These cases were also “linked” to Marshall. With the supposition that he
murdered the Sheriff and his boss to cover his evil ways. Marshall was tried for the murders and eventually convicted.

The judge had told him, “You are quite possibly the most diabolical man I’ve ever seen. I hope you rot in hell for what you done. They were good people, honorable people and you snuffed out their lives.”

Marshall looked across the fog covered landscape before him. He thought that he could just make out the screams. He could see the faces of the women. He’d been here, all this time fighting against them, fighting against the madness. Deep down in his soul, he could feel it breaking away at every fiber of his being.

“Hello Marshall.” He could hear the deep and terrifying voice again.

“Marshall, you won’t survive till the sunrise. I’m coming for you.”

The slow, deep and powerful words kept coming at him. Quickly, he looked around the cell, from the door to the hallway and all downstairs along the first floor. No one, not a single soul in sight. He turned back and looked once more out the window. Squinting his eyes he could see it. Out past the first few trees, a man, standing there with a wide brim hat. He turned just long enough for Marshall to see his face in the waning sunlight. Marshall began to back away from the glass. He turned inward towards the hall again and saw another image far down the hallway. He knew these faces, they came in the night. They had followed him for years now. He turned once more toward the sink and bent forward to wash his face. He needed to clear his mind, to absolve himself of these voices. But, when he looked up from the sink, once more he saw those same faces staring back at him, fixed within his eyes, burning his soul as they said in unison, “Hello Marshall.”

Category: Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing