Frayed Not: The Hangman’s Tale, Chapter II (Revised)

These are just some of the outlines (roughs) for a book I’m actually working on…really. I am. Thoughts are always welcome.

CHAPTER TWO

“It’s not murder if I’m issued a warrant. It’s how things are done.”

 

It was easy to find Old Bristle’s High Sheriff at half-past 7 in the morning as long as you didn’t look for him at his home or office. So, Jack trudged his way toward The Vomiting Hound, Old Bristle’s public house that sat adjacent to venerable St. Mildew’s Golf Course. He was doing his best to hold back the disgust (and the jealousy) of having a hanging take place on his gallows without his participation. No matter how you look at it, the proper hanging of a man was not a task best left to amateurs. To do the job right, you needed a trained, licensed hangman.

 

Careful calculations must be made with the subject’s height, weight and general build taken into acount. A noose too tight coupled with a drop too long could result in a decapitation, which didn’t go over well with the kiddies, or the High Sheriff for that matter. Capital punishment administered by a civilized government shouls at the very least appear to actually be civilized. A hangman worth his weight in sawdust should go about his business in a humane manner. Pulling off a chap’s head like a grape from a stem could be a little unsightly. Even though you would be right to point out, “dead is dead is dead, ain’t it?”

 

Jack was heir to the long-held Thrumble family profession of Court executioner for County Pithly. His father and his father’s father’s father had all been charged by the High Court to carry out the death warrant issued from the local magistrate’s bench — and they did so with efficiency and reliability. Sandbags weighted to match the condemned man’s countenance were used for a few practice runs. The rope was always new and carefully inspected. Jack the Hangman wanted a very quiet and docile corpse. A few minutes spent in preperation could avoid a comical headless jogger making his rounds about the square. Bad form for a professional man.

 

Local chicken thieves and pickpockets were to be disposed of with as little muss and fuss as possible while serving as a warning to any aspiring criminals. It wouldn’t hurt if a bit of flair were utilized for the sake of the onlookers.

 

Hangings were very much a part of the public’s social life in Old Bristle. It was one of the few events that could draw the villagers together in the town square for anything other than a drunken brawl. So, the Thrumble men made a great show of the intricacies of their craft for the entertainment of their audience. Dramatic yanks on the heavy rope, a stylish looping over the hooded man’s neck, all adding a sense of hushed drama to the severe proceedings. Jack Thrumble was a professional and he took his job very seriously.

 

Arriving at work and finding an already yanked wanker swinging from his pole irritated Jack no end. “Bloody pissers,” he spat. “No respect for the profession.”

 

Jack never felt the remorse one might think would haunt a hangman. Quite the contrary, in fact. Taking another man’s life was certainly wasn’t an afternoon playing Whack-A-Mole at The Vomiting Hound, but it wasn’t cause for long drawn out speeches, wailing cries or the gnashing of teeth either.  Actually, it was a fine line between murder and the dispatch of a death sentence. The only difference between Jack and many of the men he dropped through the false door to their demise was that he had someone’s permission. A man in a robe and a wig, a man much smarter than Jack, had signed, sealed and forthrightly issued an Affidavit of the Maintenance and Execution of a Sentence of Death as ordered by the High Court. In other words, a note from the mucky-mucks allowing Jack Thrumble to throttle by the neck some poor sot in a manner as prescribed by law without fear of his own prosecution. A license to kill, if you will.

 

Jack was indifferent to the men who became his customers. He didn’t know them or their crime nor did it matter. They usually spoke little and Jack was always hopeful the frightened men would wait until after the trap door swung open before they soiled themselves. That was a mess for the undertakers to tend to, the bloody scavengers anyway.

 

Only once was did Jack converse with a client on the gallows. After refusing a hood to hide his face in death, the mangy thief was slowly marched up the thirteen steps and his feet positioned in the center of the trap door. Once the noose had been tightened around his neck, the prisoner looked about his surroundings, turned to Jack and in a loud stage whisper said, “This set-up doesn’t look to be very safe.”

 

The crowd roared with laughter. Jack threw the lever just the same, but it took all his strength to hide his begrudging grin. Leave ‘em laughing, thought Jack. Leave ‘em laughing ye poor bastard.”

 

But, this morning, as he made his way to the The Hound, Jack wasn’t amused. He needed a constable, or better yet, the High Sheriff himself to come to the square and inspect the scene. Look for clues and maybe, just maybe, find out who devised the cadaver pendulum currently keeping time at Jack’s gallows. For the sake of his profession’s dignity, he needed Johnny Law to sign-off on the crime.

 

Hopefully, local law enforcement wasn’t already sotted. It was, after all, half past 7 and the day starts early in Old Bristle.

 

 

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3 Comments on “Frayed Not: The Hangman’s Tale, Chapter II (Revised)”

  1. Ian Says:

    Excellent to read this latest instalment, Phil. I loved it (natch!).
    Just one, nitpicky little remark that may mean nothing: I cannot recall when this takes place, but the word ‘eanker’ wasn’t commonly used until the 1940’s, I believe. I don’t know much about writing protocol, and it’s probably a moot point, but just thought I’d mention it.


  2. I would like to credit Groucho Marx for the gag in the previous chapter. I re-worked it (and will again) but it sounds just “too Groucho,” don’t it?
    As for Wankers…well, just play along if you can.


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