Big Ed Delahanty Takes A Plunge
The young woman’s bare foot stuck out from under the brown quilt. Her toes were painted light pink. Breathing in short, shallow spasms, like a small bird trapped, she slept softly as the big man stared. Her bunk rocked slightly as the night train sped south out of Canada. The stubborn shadows in the corners of her berth swallowed the gaslight whole.
The man held an open straight razor. The metal, still quite sharp, had dulled in color to a dusky hue that perfectly matched the complexion of her face. He couldn’t remember why he’d entered her room, or what, if anything he’d intended to do once he’d come here. Perhaps he just wanted company. Perhaps he wanted more.
Bits and shards of the night began to come back to him, like jigsaw pieces from several different puzzles scattered about the floor. The conductor’s face, swollen and severe, pointing a finger at him. Terrified passengers looking at…him? A bottle of whiskey crashing to the worn, wooden floor beside him. He couldn’t remember holding it. The train whistle blasting as the train approached the international border. Black waves somewhere in the distance crashing against a barren shore. Why was he crying?
The big man grabbed her ankle firmly. He knew how to subdue without leaving a mark. So Norine no longer wanted any part of him. Well, this one would do. There was always lots of Pretty Polly to go around. At 35-years old, he was far from finished, no matter what she thought. The money was long gone, but he’d be back on top soon enough, then she’d come begging and pleading to have him back.
The cabin door opened behind him, and three strong toughs wrestled him to the ground. The woman woke with a start, cupping her hand to her mouth, stifling a scream. He looked up at her, a pleading in his blue eyes she couldn’t fathom. They brought him out to the club car in the back, the fight mostly having left him, at least for the moment.
He heard the wind howling outside as the train approached Niagara Falls in the dark. As a boy down in Ohio, his grandmother, from County Kilkenny, would tell him stories on nights like this of the banshees that prowled the night. She said that when the banshees come calling, someone was sure to die. On the night she died, the wind blew the shutters off his bedroom window. Now he knew she was out there, again, calling to him on this night, all these years later. And no amount of whiskey or blood could change that.
The train ground to a sudden stop on the cold, steel track. He was led to the back, handed his hat in the dark, and sent on his way. No more foolishness on this foul evening. Strangely, the woman with the pink toenails was there as well. Barefoot, with only a shawl over her shoulders, she, too, stepped down onto the track aside the hulking Irishman.
Seems her ticket stub was not quite in order, having expired over a year earlier, and under a different name. Seeing her as if for the first time, Big Ed took her arm firmly in his, a gentleman out for a stroll with his lady, as they stepped off together into the moonless night.
The night watchman upon the bridge called out a warning to them, but they didn’t respond. Big Ed heard the banshee’s wail, even if the barefoot woman did not. Her feet, stepping gingerly over the stones in the slats between the tracks, were cold now, and she longed to be back in her warm, feather bed upstairs in the farmhouse in Utica.
She clasped onto the arm of the big man, not knowing quite what they were going to do, but feeling unaccountably safe, even until the moment when the bridge suddenly ended without warning, as they plunged out of the July night into the darkness below.
In the millisecond before she went under the cold, black waves forever, she thought she felt not one, but two sets of arms, holding her soothingly until the darkness enveloped her in its firm, final grasp. Up above, a train whistle startled what was left of the evening, the faces of the men and women in the windows searching the darkness, seeing nothing.
Below: Ed Delahanty’s Obituary: (Source: Baseball Almanac)
DELEHANTY’S BODY FOUND.
Baseball Player Swept over Niagara
Falls—Woman’s Body Also
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y., July 9.—The body of Edward Delehanty, the right fielder of the Washingtonbaseball team of the American League, who fell from the International Bridge last Thursday night, was taken from the river at the lower Niagara gorge today. Relatives of Delehanty arrived here this afternoon and positively identified the body as that of the missing baseball player.
The body of a woman thirty-five years old was also recovered at Lewiston today. It has not been identified.
Delehanty’s body was mangled. One leg was torn off, presumably by the propeller of the Maid of the Mist, near whose landing the body was found. The body will be shipped to Washington tonight. Delehanty’s effects have been sent to his wife by the Pullman people.
Frank Delehanty of the Syracuse team and E.J. McGuire, a brother-in-law, from Cleveland, are here investigating the death of the player. They do not believe that Delehanty committed suicide or that he had been on a spree in Detroit. In the sleeper on the Michigan Central train on the way down from Detroit,Delehanty had five drinks of whiskey says Conductor Cole, and became so obstreperous that he had to put him off the train at Bridgeburg at the Canadian end of the bridge. Cole says Delehanty had an open razor and was terrifying others in the sleeper.
When the train stopped at Bridgeburg Cole did not deliver Delehanty up to a constable, as the Canadian police say he should have done. He simply put him off the train.
After the train had disappeared across the bridge, Delehanty started to walk across, which is against the rules. The night watchman attempted to stop him, but Delehanty pushed the man to one side. The draw of the bridge had been opened for a boat, and the player plunged into the dark waters of the Niagara.
Delehanty’s relatives hint at foul play, but there is nothing in the case, apparently, to bear out such a theory.