Murder in Cross: December 1, 1840


Cross, Massachusetts, is afflicted by a great many ills. More often than not, those ills are directed outside of town. Our criminals tend not to pollute Cross. Occasionally, there are those who live in town and do not travel beyond the borders to commit their crimes.

On December 1st, 1840, Charles Raft committed a triple homicide.

He was a toymaker and peddler by trade. Charles lived off Main Street in a small house with his sister and her husband. Charles made a decent living traveling from town to town and occasionally returning to Cross to sort and prepare his stock. On the morning of the first, he left his sister’s house before dawn, as was his habit, but he was back before the clock had struck nine. He was in a fine mood, according to his sister, and whistled the entire time he was in his bedroom.

She told me this when I arrived at the home around noon, and she was more than happy to bring me up to his room to see him. Unbeknownst to her, I had tracked her brother from the farm of Jed and Maggie Smythe, who I had stopped in to see only a little past seven that morning.

I had found Jed and his wife dead, their infant son missing. Both the elder Smythes’ throats had been cut, and they sat dead at their kitchen table. There was a single boot-print in the blood, and a scrap of cloth that smelled faintly of whale oil, which Charles Raft used to lubricate some of the mechanical toys he sold.

When I entered the room, Charles Raft stopped whistling, and his sister started to scream. Her brother sat naked on the floor in front of his fireplace, the corpse of the Smythe baby vivisected on the rug in front of him.

Neither his sister nor his brother-in-law tried to stop me when I put out Charles’ eyes and thrust his head into the fire.

It took him several minutes to die, and it wasn’t long enough.


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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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