Tuesday, June 28, 2005

On the Road Again 

I've been traveling, which is one reason I've been so slow to update the content around here. On my return from my recent trip to Montreal, I wrote the following for Blottered. It's not up over there yet because the Krucoff media empire is experiencing technical difficulties. So I decided to give MT loyalists a sneak preview of the post.

The Headless Whore of Montreal

A woman’s voice announced from the loudspeaker that Air Canada flight 750 from Montreal to LaGuardia would be delayed another hour, so I ordered another Molson Export and a shot of Canadian Club. I had been in the airport for three hours already. I had no idea how much I had already had to drink.

The rumor had spread among the other would-be passengers that rain and fog in New York were causing the delay. Time was that no-one in their right minds flew through a storm sober, especially not the pilots. That had all changed after Islamic militants weaponized three planes on September 11, 2001. Ever since, airplane passengers had been forced to endure their voyages as sober as, well, as an Islamic militant. A small victory for someone and a small defeat for someone else, I suppose, and I’m pretty sure I am among the elses.

I wasn’t sure if I was drunk yet but I was certain I would be if they announced another delay. In that case I wouldn’t even try to board the plane. I would turn in my ticket, arrange for a flight out the following day, and go to see a whore named Mary Gallagher in Montreal’s Griffintown.

From the nineteenth and into the twentieth century, Griffintown was a working-class Irish neighborhood, Montreal’s version of South Boston. It survived waves on immigration, floods and economic depression but was eventually leveled by an unstoppable menace that wrecked so many North American cities in the middle of the twentieth century—urban planning. They tore down the Griff and put up an industrial park.

These days the Griff is mostly remembered for Mary Gallagher, a thirty-eight year old prostitute whose corpse was found mangled in the apartment of colleague in June of 1879. Gallagher’s death had put an end to a three-day drinking-binge she had been on in the company of Susan Kennedy and a stevedore named Michael Flanagan. Some say Kennedy and Gallagher fell-out over money or the attentions of Flanagan. Given their profession, I suppose it could have been both. They found Gallagher in Kenndey’s apartment, her head and one-hand severed from her body. Kennedy was convicted of the crime.

This might have just been one more gruesome murder in a neighborhood that had its share but for the fact that seven years later someone swore they saw headless Gallagher near the spot where she was murdered. Now they say she returns every seven years. Last night was the seventh anniversary of her last manifestation.

I drank down my whiskey. I had by now convinced myself that waiting around on a warm night in Montreal for the ghost of a headless prostitute had far more promise than spending another hour in the airport bar.

“We will begin boarding flight 750 to New York’s LaGuardia airport,” the loudspeakered woman announced.

I raised the glass of Molson to Mary Gallagher. I wasn’t going to get to watch for her after all. Maybe next time, Mary. Maybe next time.

[Prostitute slain in 1879 said to return every seven years--Montreal Gazette]