This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Sunday, December 4, 1768, Harbor Master’s Log – South, off Boston Lighthouse Island, an unidentified brig was observed in rough weather blown into Shag Rocks. Moments later it heeled over abruptly and sank due south of the lighthouse off Little Brewster Island. Rumored to be carrying sugar and an undisclosed amount of gold and gold artifacts. After interviewing several sailors claiming to be from the wreckage, it is believed there was no gold or other salvageable cargo. Subsequent searches revealed nothing different.
Wednesday, June 11, 1823, Harbor Master’s Log – Following three days of calm weather, the salvage crew of Lambert, O’Connell, and Merriweather discontinued their search for the wreckage of an unknown vessel south of Little Brewster Island. Claiming to have found only an unidentified ship’s bell and a ballast pile, it is further believed any salvageable wreckage has long since been looted or destroyed by the harbor currents.
Sunday, April 17, 1825, Boston Newsletter – A fire started in a wood building on Doane Street and later burnt six stores/houses on State Street and the entire east side of Kilby Street. In total, about sixty buildings were destroyed. Of note was the Branford O’Connell Family Pub, the Harpoon and Anchor, of which construction had just finished and the pub celebrated its opening two days earlier. The family, devastated by their loss, accepted gratuities from friends and relatives as well as payments to use their destroyed property and wine cellars as a dumping ground for brick and debris left in the wake of the fire’s destruction. Branford O’Connell died days later, doctors believing the devastation was too much for his heart, leaving everything to his only son, Clifford O’Connell.
Modern day Boston, Kilby Street
“Listen, you know this is a good property. Great location for the apartment suites you want to build. Nearby university buildings. Shopping center just down the street within walking distance. You’re just off the core area of the Old Boston Business District. You could still have underground and street level parking, a pub on the first floor, offices on the second and third floors, and at least a couple dozen apartments as well. There are even bus routes galore! You know it would be a wonderful income property.”
“I want to have an architect look at this before I commit.”
“Easy to do! I know for a fact the architects fees will be next to nothing since O’Connell Construction already has plans drawn up just for this location.”
“And you get double commissions for selling all the services as well?”
“No, no! It’s common practice to roll everything into one package. My real estate commission is the only thing I can charge you. But O’Connell’s sends more business my way if I send business to them. It’s a good arrangement and I’ve been working with them for years. Besides, they’ve been in Boston forever and you can’t find a better or more knowledgeable builder on all this stone and brick stuff. Moreover, O’Connell’s is huge on salvage. They have all kinds of original brick for an incredibly authentic building front.”
“Alright. Let’s look at some numbers.”
A few days later, O’Connell Construction offices, Boston.
Office manager Caitlin Gates finished a phone call and slapped the intercom button excitedly. “Hey Jeff! That screwy cousin-in-law of yours just called. Guess what?”
“Oh, Lord. Did he back into another porta-potty? This will make the fourth time!”
Laughing into her headset, “No. But you still can’t guess.”
Jeff O’Connell leaned back in his old, leather covered office chair. The wooden legs creaked precipitously under his six foot four, two hundred forty pound frame. “Okay… let me have it. What did he back over?”
“Nothing. That’s just it. He actually did something great! He sold the Kilby Property. And you know those old plans your granddad put together umpteen years ago? It looks like we might get to put them to use. The buyer wants us to bid on the new construction as well.”
“Aw, jeez… that means he’s going to want a double commission of some sort. I sure wish my niece had better taste in men. Oh, well. How soon are we supposed to meet?”
Two months later, Kilby Street, Boston.
After stapling the plastic encased building permits on the neighboring building, Kevin ‘Beaver’ O’Connell and his brother Michael ‘Digger’, walked the asphalt covered property checking for overhead wires and other possible obstructions. Satisfied that they could get started, they unloaded and checked over the equipment, ready to start tearing out the parking lot and prepping for the foundation and underground parking.
Beaver O’Connell, given the nickname because as a three year old he chewed through a back rung of his grandfather’s captain’s chair that sat at the head of a very old, very large dining table. Digger, so named because he could work all day with a backhoe and slice right up against buried power and utilities without bumping or damaging anything. He seemed to have a sixth sense about where buried wires and pipes were. He once showed how he could open a six-pack of beer (he said it was soda pop because “Ain’t no alcohol allowed on a construction site”) with one of those big Volvo excavators with a demolition jackhammer attachment. He did it without spilling a drop or tipping out the six-pack.
‘The Boys’, as their dad Jeff O’Connell called them, traded off the title of superintendent depending on who got to work first. Today it was Digger’s turn. Over the rumble of the excavator he shouted, “Hey Beav! Call Bobby and make sure she’s on her way here with the dump truck. I expect to have a load ready for her in no time at all! Let’s rock and roll!”
It didn’t take long for The Boys to have all the asphalt lifted and start in on the fill dirt underneath. About two feet below began the brick and building debris they expected. No problem. Keeping the loads of materials separated made it easy for them to dump their clean fill where it could be put to good use. With several construction projects going on simultaneously, they never ran out of places needing fill dirt of one sort or another.
No disposal fees.
And they could charge delivery fees!
Asphalt and fill dirt out of the way, the morning was progressing very nicely.
Into the old brick and digging it up, Digger stopped and hollered “Union break!”
Beaver came over to see what was going on. “What’s up, little brother?”
“Take a look at some of this brick. Looks like more than half of it is ripe for salvage. Got any projects you can think of that could use some nice fascia brick?”
Picking up a couple of the old bricks, “Dang! This stuff is nice. Most of the buildings must have been recent construction when the fire went through here. The mortar crumbles right off. I’ll call dad and see where he wants us to dump this at the yard. We can have some of the kids sort through it for salvage. Think we can get them to work for a penny a piece like dad used to get us to sort salvage brick?”
Laughing loudly, “You think your kids would work that cheaply? Mine would probably ask a dollar a piece!”
“Nah… I’ll just have my girls run over there. They’ll only charge a nickel a piece and still run circles around your boys!”
Once again, the competition was on. Kevin with his two daughters and Michael with his two boys, they seemed always to have one ‘argument’ or another going about who was doing better in school, who could work harder, and a myriad of other ‘my kids are better than yours’ challenges.
The twice-yearly pie-fight parties O’Connell Construction sponsored were always a hit with the employees and their families. The last one a bit unbalanced, if you will, as the four kids decided to gather all the cousins, nieces, and nephews to gang up on the parents. More than sixteen against one are murderous odds when it comes to pie fights. Each of the dad’s fell quickly with pudding pies smashed, squished, and shoved into any loose bit of shirt or pants and every inch of exposed skin and hair. The moms took a little longer, but went the same way as their menfolk.
Both of the boys knew their kids were going to be forces to be reckoned with as they got older. Kevin’s girls, 12 year old twins, both were going to be serious ball busters in short order. Michael’s boys, one eight months older than the girls and the other eight months younger, were also rapidly coming into themselves. Sports, academia, music and the arts… the kids never wanted for anything in the way of education. ‘Grandpa’ Jeff O’Connell saw to it they had the best of everything he could possibly hold sway over. And, of course, his grandkids held serious sway over him, too… especially the twins.
Evening came quickly this time of year. Between the crowded buildings of Old Boston, the shadows were growing deep. One last load of brick and they were going to call it good for the night.
As Digger squared a corner on the back of the lot, scraping down into the dirt and brick, his bucket hit something soft, lurched deeper, and then hit something solid. As these old building sites were often wont to have, it was probably an old septic crib. Typically, with creosoted wood for the top and stacked rock for the sides. Usually, they were found already caved in and filled. This one giving way like this was unusual to say the very least.
Rather than risk tearing into the neighboring property, Digger decided to stop here. With the bucket still buried halfway into the crib, he shut everything down. The excavator going suddenly silent, Beaver came over from his supervisory position near the front of the lot to see what was happening. Stumbling a little over the mad array of brick still needing to be hauled out, “Calling it good for the night?”
“Yeah, I think so. Check this out. It looks like an old septic crib. They built it across the property line. Gonna have to get the city inspector in here on this one.”
Both men clambered over the brick and debris to take a better look into the deeper shadows of the hole on the other side of the bucket. “Hey look at that,” Digger exclaimed. “Someone threw some furniture into the septic crib. That’s just weird.”
“No, wait a minute. Look at this, it looks like part of a door. Have you ever seen a septic crib with a door and paneled walls? Looks like someone built a really nice little priest’s hole here.”
“Hey! Very cool! That desk looks intact, too. Damn. You know we have to call Stevie to come out here and look at this. If he ever found out we’d destroyed some old desk, he’d castrate us.”
Steve was The Boys youngest brother. A bit of a loner, he wanted nothing to do with the construction company and instead struck out in antiques and antiquities. The Boys teased him in their younger days about Steve being a young man with an old heart. These days it was not so much teasing, as it was a truth. Over the years, he had put together a very nice little antique shop. It didn’t take long before his restoration skills had become well known and to be rivaled by none. Though they would not say it aloud, The Boys were quite proud of their younger brother.
Beaver stood, brushing the dirt from his knees. “Well, no better time to break than now. I’ll call him and see if I can get him here first thing in the morning. Six-thirty good for you?”
Digger laughed loudly, “Right! I’ll go ahead and start on the far corner in the morning. Stevie won’t be here until almost noon if I know him!”
Now both brothers chuckled and shot jibes back and forth about how their youngest brother was late for everything, even his own birth!
It was difficult for The Boys not to love their brother. For all the things he did differently from them, he was the most like their mother. She had been forever getting up late when they were kids. Steve loved to cook and spent a great deal of his early years with his mom in the kitchen. When she became too ill to do anything around the house, Steve just sort of stepped in as their ‘mother pro tem’. He was always looking after his older siblings and his little sister. Somehow, he managed to get their school lunches ready and was always helping if not actually fixing their meals at the end of the day. When their mother passed, Steve was the one that comforted their dad. He was the one that seemed to know what to say and what to do.
They admired him for his strength and his independence, even if they wouldn’t say so to his face. “Might make him all snobby and full of himself!” Digger would say.
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