Mary Reed was the wife of Timnir Reed, the butcher. She was a beautiful woman, and by all accounts a kind woman. When she disappeared from Lover’s Hill some fourty years ago, she was missed by many who lived near the docks.
Oh, but whatever happened to Mary Reed?
Timnir Reed still lives in the same cottage near the docks. Still butchers and sells meat from his stall in the market at the center of towne. Still mean as ever. Still avoided by all folk who have a choice in the matter. Still despised by those who deal with him in the market. Still feared and hated by the children who grow up near his cottage. He is a man both unfriendly and without friends.
Tis true that old Timnir grew even more bitter and bastardly after Mary went, but already he was a most foul tempered man, given to shouting and punching at folk all over towne. Tis true that he was a right menace to the people of the docks, and remains so today. Tis true, the tale of him once purchasing two hounds from market, then whipping the poor beasts to death in front of his cottage. No one knows why, and Timnir never said. This was before he wed Mary.
Tis true that Mary Reed did on occasion carry bruises about her person, particularly about her arms and face. Tis true that Timnir could often be overheard shouting at Mary from within their cottage.
Tis also true that Mary Reed left Lover’s Hill without a word to anyone that knew her, and left with naught but the dress she wore and a small handful of silver.
Oh, but whatever happened to Mary Reed?
Mary’s family had a farmstead beyond the western bend, and folk looked for her there, but did not find her. Her family said that they had not heard from Mary since the previous summer, and they immediately set about blaming Timnir for Mary’s disappearance. The family had the Watch question Timnir and search his cottage, but no sign of deceit was noticed or noted.
Common talk at the time was that Mary’s family was pooling silver to hire a Dagger Man to go after Timnir. Nothing ever came of this, and common talk eventually moved on to fresher gossip. Those of us who lived near the docks of course kept an eye on old Timnir as the years went by, and we never stopped talking amongst ourselves about what may have happened to Mary Reed.
“He killed her, any fool can see that.”
“Slipped her beneath the river. Ate up by river dragons and catfish within days.”
“Buried her in the earth underneath his cottage. I heard that the irons never pried up his floorboards to look.”
“Old Timnir has friends among the irons, his father was one, or some such. The irons carted the body out of town for him. That’s why no one ever saw her leave towne.”
“My sister’s husband fought in the battles to take Florida from the Spanish, and he says that he saw Mary Reed in the city of Saint Augustine. Said she had a knife scar on her left cheek and was known by a different name, but it was certainly Mary Reed.”
“Her family has been hiding her on the farm beyond the western bend. She is an old woman now, and beyond recognition, but still she wears the gold band given to her by old Timnir.”
“He ate her, the devilish old butcher. Cooked her and ate her up. Threw the bones in the river. My father saw Timnir throw his wedding band into the river one evening after Mary disappeared. Wherever that gold band lies in the river’s ooze is where Mary Reed’s bones are moldering.”
“He sold her to the Cult of Choronzon, those hooded practitioners of the dark arts that meet in the necropolis on No-Moon nights. Whether he sold her alive or dead, no one but The Cult can say…”
“He cut her up and sold her at market. Meat is meat, and some poor soul who thought they were purchasing pig that day got more than they bargained for. Or less, depending on your view of it…”
Ah, but these are the words of dullards and drunkards, and those who do not and have not lived near the docks since Mary Reed was still in towne. I was born and raised near the docks. I was one of eight children who hid behind the hedges and watched mean old Timnir whip those two hounds to death in front of his cottage, the cottage just next to the one I was born and raised in. As a child, our father warned us to stay way from Timnir and his cottage, and this warning was one we never ignored. Well, that is to say that I ignored this warning only once, and that was the night that Mary Reed disappeared.
My brother and I had been lying in our bunks, giggling to ourselves over some clever quip, when we heard the shouting begin in Timnir and Mary’s cottage. This was nothing new to us, but this time the shouting was different. It was Mary doing the shouting this time, and Timnir was silent.
“Do not follow, or I shall plant this knife in your bulging belly, you fuckwit! I swear it!!! Done with you, and done with your poor excuse for love! I hate you and despise the day I laid eyes on you, you sour bastard!!!” Mary screamed from within the cottage. My brother and I looked at each other with wide eyes. I am certain we were both expecting the same thing: to soon hear Mary’s screams as Timnir throttled her. These screams never came though, and quickly we heard their cottage door fly open and then slam shut. After this, from within the cottage came the most hideous and forlorn sound I have ever heard. At first I could not make sense of the awful sound, but as it wore on I realized it was Timnir, weeping his heart and soul onto the floorboards of his cottage. The sound was haunting, and pained my very soul. It was a moaning torrent of absolute sorrow. I had never and still have never heard such longing and hurt before. I wanted to go next door and throw my arms around old Timnir, to quell the storm of utter despair that was battering him to pieces, but I did not. Of course I did not.
What I did do that night was slip through our half-shuttered window in my nightclothes, and then I followed Mary Reed round the back of Timnir’s cottage and through the alleyways to the docks, where I saw her pay a ferryman and cross the river, heading north. From there she could easily have headed to the western bend, where her family lives, but if she was headed to the western bend, why not secure passage on a barge headed that way down the river? I do not know. All I do know is that Timnir Reed did not murder his wife.
Common talk may colour the ideas of those who came after, but for those of us who were there, we know that some times the love dies before the lovers, as terrible as that may be.