Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts, 1796
Margaret Hennessey was resting. The heavy velvet curtains were only
half closed, and the beam of sunlight that drew a bright line across her
bed lit up the room. Resting, but not sleeping, although her health was
rapidly deteriorating. She could feel it; her life power was diminishing,
quickly fading away. She sighed, as she let her mind wander and lazily
gazed at the objects around the room. Her bed; the commode; a desk where
she would write her letters; the book shelves filled with books and
mementos from her long life; portraits on the walls. What did they all mean
now? Robert had been in his grave for nine years and had left her a very
wealthy woman, with the means to buy the distractions she needed to
survive. She had, in fact, almost managed to forget.
But now, as she had to face the inevitable, she could not help but revisit
the events that she’d buried in the past. The pills, powders and potions
Dr. Dawson had given her would not help this time; they would not buy her
absolution. Oh, she knew she was not to blame and that she’d spent her life
trying to make up for the horrors her family had committed long ago, but
she had never been able to shake the feeling that she could have done more
to prevent those unspeakable acts.
She had disowned her family and never spoken of them again to anyone.
Not even to Robert, her loyal and devoted husband, who’d adored her and had
tried to give here everything she ever wanted or needed, especially since
the tragic deaths of their son Joseph, his wife and their newborn baby boy.
He’d been fairly successful at that, but even he had never been able to
help her forget completely. All he could do was keep her secret and never
mention it again.
In many ways, the burden Margaret carried had made her a better person.
She loved Robert, but completely devoted her life to her grandson James,
who’d lived with her ever since he was a child. Margaret had made sure
James had the best education possible and taught him well. He was now a
fine young man, unspoiled by his privileged upbringing; a talented, smart
and generous man who adored his grandmother. And here he was, sitting in a
chair in the far corner of the room, watching his ailing grandmother;
watching over her. He, too, knew what was coming. He could not begin to
imagine how he would cope with the loss of his beloved Maimeó.
Although Margaret would chastise him for calling her that – she had
disowned her Irish heritage decades ago – she secretly appreciated the term
of endearment and would let him get away with it, as long as he only used
it in private.
Margaret watched him, as he sat silently, gazing at her with those big,
blue eyes and his long, blonde hair framing his handsome, masculine face.
Their eyes met, but no words were spoken. There was no need. He looked
tired, she thought. No; defeated. She sighed. If there was one more thing I
could do in this life, it would be to take away his pain for losing me, she
thought. But there is no preventing sorrow like this. It is as much part of
life as the joy, the love, the wonder and the treasures that come with it.
She sighed again and gave him a weak smile. James just nodded as if to
say that he understood. It was peaceful. Margaret’s gaze turned upward to
the canopy of her bed. At least she was grateful for one thing; her secret
would die with her and James would be able to live on without ever knowing
about it. With Margaret’s passing, the book on the past would be closed.
For good. She sighed and closed her eyes.
Margaret woke up when there was a knock on the door. Rose, her trusted
housekeeper, walked in and came to the bed. She had a worried look on her
“What is it, Rose?”
“There is a visitor, Ma’am, a… well… a lady. She is asking to see you,
Ma’am. I told her you are unwell and that you are not receiving anyone, but
“Who is she, Rose? Did she give a name?”
“No, Ma’am, she didn’t. It’s just that… she’s very persistent, Ma’am,
and, well… I don’t know. She’s…” Rose started to blush and looked at the
“Well, tell me, dear; she’s what?” Margaret was now wide awake and
trying to sit up. Rose reached behind her, to shake up her pillows, trying
to avoid Margaret’s look.
“Well…” Rose hesitated; “She’s rather… unpleasant, Ma’am.” She
swallowed, then said; “She scares me.” Her cheeks were aflame by this time
and she stared at the floor.
“What? She scares you? But…” Before Margaret could finish, they all
heard footsteps coming up the stairs and approaching the door. James jumped
up and walked across the room.
“Why, I never…” Margaret exclaimed, stunned at such brazen rudeness.
But she gasped when she saw the figure in the doorway and even James was
stopped cold in his tracks.
Without as much as a greeting or introduction, the black-clad creature
in the doorway spoke in an icy voice; “I heard you are dying. I thought I’d
stop by to say my goodbyes.”
“Well… as I live and breathe…” was all Margaret could utter.
“For now, anyway,” the lady in black snickered; “But you won’t last
much longer, will you? Hehehe…”
“How dare you…!” James exclaimed as he refound
his breath, and started to walk toward the woman, to throw her out. But
with a simple gesture of her hand the old hag stopped him before he could
take another step.
“Sit down, sonny, I am talking to my sister here.” James felt himself
being pushed backward, and, unable to resist the invisible force, landed
hard in his chair. Rose shrieked and ran out of the room. James’s face
turned white as a sheet as he tried to speak, but he couldn’t find the
words to express his outrage and astonishment. He turned to look at his
grandmother and was shocked at how old and tired she suddenly looked. She
lifted a hand and said: “It’s alright, James. Please, give us a moment…”
James stood up as his eyes filled with tears; “Are you sure, Maimeó? I don’t… I can’t…”
“I am sure,” Margaret sighed, “Don’t worry.”
“How sweet!” Ann said in the coldest voice, after James had left the
room; “He calls you Maimeó. For a moment I
thought you had forgotten you were Irish! And who is this young man, eh? I
didn’t know you had another garmhac.” Her eyes
narrowed as she studied her older sister’s face; “What’s his name?”
“There are many things you don’t know, Ann. His name is James. And it
is none of your business.”
“Don’t defy me, Margaret. Everything is my business!” she hissed, as
she approached the bed.
“Why are you here, Ann? I haven’t seen you in thirty-two years. What do
“Thirty-three, my dear sister. What do I want? What I have always
wanted. Revenge. Revenge for the death of our brother and for all the
deaths Celia O’Connor has caused in our family.”
Margaret frowned; “What are you talking about? You killed that poor
woman and her entire family!”
“The curse, Margaret! The curse!” Ann spat as she uttered the word;
“You heard her, right before she died. She cursed us! And I have made it my
life’s goal to destroy the last living O’Connor and to lift that curse!”
Margaret looked at her sister incredulously; “You are crazy, you old
hag. Have you wasted your life chasing after a superstition like that?!”
Ann stood up straight, as she stared coldly at her sister’s face. Then
she wagged her finger at her and said: “There are sixteen children’s graves
on Shepard Hill. All of them first-borns, dead before the age of thirteen.
All because of that evil woman! Aaahrrrgghh!”
Her face distorted with fury and hatred, Ann hit the blanket on the bed
with both fists, her eyes bulging and saliva flying from her mouth,
startling Margaret with the ferocity and power of her outburst. She bent
over backwards and threw her head into her neck, as she let out a howl that
froze the blood in Margaret’s veins. Margaret had never witnessed such
rage, such hatred. It seemed inhuman. She didn’t even recognize her
sister’s face anymore. Frightened like she had never been in her life, she
stared up at the lamia her sister had become.
“Sixteen? Sixteen children… dead?” Margaret stammered.
Ann got a hold of herself and seemed to calm down; “Sixteen children
dead. The curse is real, Margaret,” she said through clenched teeth; “There
must be one more O’Connor alive somewhere, and I intend to find him. Not
until he is destroyed will the O’Leary’s have peace.”
“Or her,” Margaret managed to utter.
“What?” her sister snarled.
“Or her,” Margaret repeated; “The surviving O’Connor could be a woman.”
Speechless, Ann stared at her for a moment. The very possibility had
simply never occurred to her. She’d always been convinced that her prey had
to be a man. Her eyes narrowed into little slits as she said: “I suppose
Margaret lay motionless in her bed, following her sister with her eyes,
as she paced around the room.
“I know you know something,” Ann said, as she pointed her boney finger
at Margaret’s face; “You are keeping something from me. You’d better tell
me what it is, or else…”
“Or else what?” Margaret managed scornfully; “You’ll kill me?”
“Don’t mock me, Margaret,” Ann replied coldly; “Death has no secrets
for me. I travel freely in both worlds now. I have powerful friends and
allies on both sides of the Great Divide, as you will soon discover. You’d
better give me what I want!”
Margaret felt a cold chill settling in her stomach. All of a sudden she
felt all empathy, all pity she’d still felt for her tormented sister fade
away. She understood that this woman was no longer a woman at all. She was
the Enemy, the personification of Evil. And this creature, this monster she
had become, was on the war path. Well, Margaret decided, if it is war she
wants, then it is war she’ll get. In this life, or the next.
With renewed strength, Margaret managed to sit up straight. With her
head held high, she looked Ann straight in the eye and said; “I am sorry,
Ann. I cannot help you. There is nothing I can do for you. All I see is a
woman who has dedicated her life to a cause of hate and bitterness. I pity
you. Now, go. Leave my house and don’t come back, ever! You are not welcome
Ann let out a loud growl and for a moment, Margaret thought her sister
would attack her and tear her to shreds with her bare hands. But instead,
Ann turned around abruptly and marched out the room without uttering another
His face white with fear and worry, James entered the room the moment
they’d heard the front door slam shut.
“Maimeó, are you alright?” he stammered,
close to tears; “Who the devil was that woman?”
“Language, dear!” Margaret scorned him, always the educator; “That was
my sister, Ann.”
James gave her an astonished stare and shook his head; “You don’t have
a sister. You never mentioned any sisters. You are an only child. I don’t
Margaret looked up at him with a sad look on her face. Oh, how she had
hoped to avoid this moment: “Sweetheart, I love you so much. But there are
things I must tell you now, before it is too late.”
She reached out and grabbed his hand, overcome with sorrow for what she
was about to do. James just looked at her in silence, waiting for what was
to come, overwhelmed by a sense of impending doom.
“Alright,” he said, straightening his back and blinking rapidly in an
effort to hold back the tears; “Tell me.”