Dressed to Kill
Standoff at the Old Victorian B&B
Humboldt, West Virginia ~ October 11, 2003
As Molly hurriedly dressed for the occasion, so to speak, she remembered something her mother told her back in Ireland when she was a little girl.
One of her schoolmates, a boy named Albert, had been bullying her relentlessly for months. He was a head taller than Molly and a strapping farm boy, so a fight was out of the question – Albert would have mopped the floor with little Molly.
Her mother’s advice was, “Remember, Molly, sometimes, not always, but sometimes, the brain can win over brawn. Find Albert’s weaknesses, and you can find the right way to silence him. Think about that, love.”
She considered what her mother told her and, within a week, had made friends with Albert’s younger sister. Molly brought her colorful ribbons and sweet scones that her mother made, and the little girl began confiding in Molly about her brother.
It wasn’t long after that that Albert stopped bullying Molly. More so, he went out of his way to avoid her.
It turns out that Molly was blackmailing him. It seems that Albert was a chronic bed wetter, and there was another little matter of having been wet-nursed until he was nearly eight years old.
Albert became a subdued and quiet young man, never indulging in bullying again.
So, now in 2003, Molly whispered, “Mother, I need your wise counsel today.”
Molly fervently hoped that on this very day, in the moment nearly upon her, her brain would help her avoid the violence that must surely be planned for her.
She put on and buttoned the oversized quilted housecoat over her pre-arranged ensemble. Molly then walked to the large parlor, locked the deadbolt on one of the two access doors, poured a sherry, and sat in the brocaded wingback chair.
There, she calmly waited for the thugs to come to her.
Humboldt, West Virginia ~ May, 1945
When George returned home from occupied Japan, finding work was not a problem. After World War II and the wars to come, plenty of unexploded ordinances presented a significant hazard to civilians in Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
George’s expertise was in great demand.
For the many years he and Molly were together, he maintained a successful career working with the military, law enforcement agen- cies, and bomb disposal squads wherever his skills were needed.
Molly received many opportunities to teach mathematics at several universities, including WVU and MIT. Despite her considerable academic background, she preferred teaching at the local high school.
Perhaps part of her reasons for staying close to Humboldt was her love for the beautiful Victorian house she and George purchased in 1949. The glorious house sat upon a hill overlooking the village below.
The previous and original owner, a Mrs. Pageant, kept half of the area’s carpenters and painters busy year-round, maintaining the delightful gingerbread and col- orful exterior of this three-story “Painted Lady.”
This magnificent house sitting alone on a hill was the town’s focal point. By the early 1980s, George and Molly were both retired. They spent their days creating gardens and pathways and improving upon their beloved home.
As much as they tried, George and Molly were unable to have children. They put their energies, instead, into their parents, the house, and their community.
At some point, both of their parents had aged to the point that they were unable to manage their farms. Although they initially resisted, Molly persuaded both sets of parents to move in with George and her. There was plenty of room, and after George’s parents visited Ireland some years back, the two aging farm families became great friends.
Although childless, Molly and George were as happy and busy as any couple could be. The years passed quickly, and they buried their parents one by one. By 1990 they were empty-nesters again.
They both came up with the same idea at the very same time. One summer evening during dinner out on the porch, George said, “I’ve been thinking, Molly, and do you know what I think we should do?
Molly replied, “I’m not sure, love, but I hope that you are thinking we should turn our painted lady into an Inn.”
And, over the next few months, they did just that. Bed and Breakfasts were all the rage then, so they had a wooden sign made that said The Old Victorian B&B and set it at the driveway entrance. The local newspaper ran an excellent piece about Molly and George’s new venture, and the news spread.
The principal employer in Humboldt, a textile plant, sent Molly and George many company officials who frequently visited on business. A major state highway passed through town, and much of the B&B customer base were families traveling to nearby parks and a popular ski resort.
Business was good. The house was generally full of tourists from all over, attracted by the gorgeous home on the hill.
George and Molly were careful not to overcharge as some local accommodations did. After all, they both had modest pensions and no desire to be wealthy. Running the B&B was a labor of love, and the years passed blissfully.
Then Molly’s world started to collapse, beginning with a dire medical prognosis for George. An inoperable and aggressive brain tumor took her dear husband’s life in less than three months.
Molly was too busy in those few precious months to notice that the textile plant was shutting down and moving its operation out of the country. The vacuum left by the company’s departure completely devastated the area’s economy.
Adding to the financial damage inflicted by losing the largest employer in the region, a bypass was built around Humboldt a year later. This rerouting of the state highway resulted in a rapid loss of revenue for the town.
The writing on the wall was clear; Molly’s beloved community in the mountains was imploding. This situation was not unique; it was happening in many parts of the country at the time.
The fallout didn’t take long to be felt by nearly everyone in the area.
Rumors circulated of illegal meth labs and gangs forming in the worse parts of town. Opioids started creeping into the lives of the unemployed, a sizable portion of the community.
At the same time, the small Humboldt Police Department was dissolved for lack of funding. Crimes ranging from domestic violence to home invasions shot up sharply.
Law enforcement was now the sole responsibility of the sheriff’s department some 40 miles away. In an emergency, a call for help was nothing more than an exercise in futility.
The patina of social and material decay spread throughout the community. Those who could afford to pack up and leave did so. Molly, by dint of her nature, was not of a frame of mind, nor in a financial position, to go.
Within a year, lodgers had quit staying at the Victorian B&B as the property fell into disrepair, and new motels seemed to spring up over-night along the interstate, nine miles distant.
Humboldt was in all respects an abandoned community, left to its own devices to survive. Yet, a few like Molly planned to fight to restore Humboldt to the integrity and status it once enjoyed.
Molly knew that the typical rumors about “the weal-thy old widow living alone in a mansion on the hill” had persisted since George died. The very thought that she was sitting on a pile of money and jewels was laughable to Molly.
Her resources were modest at best. Yet, she knew that such outrageous gossip put her at a significantly greater risk.
Molly carried on despite the bleak world around her, and a handful of years passed.
Humboldt, West Virginia ~ October 11, 2003
Taking a sip of her sherry, Molly glanced around the parlor one more time, making sure it was arranged according to her plans.
At the foot of her wingback chair was a rectangular oriental rug that extended into the middle of the room. She placed a loveseat on each of the longer sides of the rug, facing each other.
Molly could see all four men from her chair simultaneously should they be convinced to sit there and enjoy a cordial with her.
She could hear the four men trying to break into the house. They were indeed not the sophisticated cat burglars of French literature.
She thought of her mother and George: Oh, how she wished they were here with her now, at least in spirit.
Molly considered how she had spent over a year in George’s upstairs office, reading every one of his manuals on ordinance and explosives. She liked to think that he was preparing her for something inevitable.
The sound of glass breaking from a side door told her that the thugs were now in her dear old house. She waited, watching the only unlocked door to the parlor.
Confidence and determination suddenly replaced her fear and apprehensions. Molly was ready!
To be continued in the next edition of The Pocahontas Times.