There was something odd in the tone of the dispatcher’s voice when he called to tell me a person needed picking up at Bramlett Road late one summer night in 1947. I shuddered when I heard the name of the street. I did not want to go anywhere near that area, especially at midnight. But I drove a Yellow Cab, and it was my job to pick up a call when it came. So I swallowed and headed toward Bramlett Road and the slaughter yards.
I’d been out of town when “the incident” happened. I call it an incident, but it was murder, plain and not so simple. A fellow name of Brown who drove a cab with our company was robbed and stabbed to death in his cab. Next day a man named Willie Earle was picked up by the police the very next day and put in jail for the crime, though he denied doing it.
Then a bunch of hotheads who drove cabs for our company gathered together, passed around a bottle of whiskey and talking about “getting” the fellow who’d stabbed Brown. One of the men went out and borrowed a shotgun, and the mob drove to the jail, grabbed Earle and threw him in the back of one of the cabs. The hotheads took him to the slaughter yards and they dragged Earle forcibly from the cab and started beating him. A man pulled a knife and waded into the mob with it, and Earle shouted: “Lord, you’ve killed me!” That’s when the fellow with the shotgun put a bullet in his head, reloaded, and shot him twice more.
When the mob was sure he was dead, they climbed back into their separate cabs and fanned out, each heading back to the city by a different route. Eventually word got out and thirty-one fellows were arrested for the crime. But they were all acquitted by a jury of their peers.
After the incident, the slaughterhouse section of Bramlett Road got a bad reputation. No one in the cab company much liked driving there, especially at night. Folks claimed it was haunted by the ghost of Willie Earle.
I shivered as I pulled onto Bramlett Road and slowed down to look for my passenger. No one was there. I parked the cab and got out to have a quick smoke while I waited.
All at once, the temperature around me plummeted. I froze in place, suddenly terrified, as someone moaned in terror from the other side of the road. The sound scraped my nerves raw. I could hear the unmistakable thud of hammering fists and the darkness was filled with swirling black silhouettes pounding on something…or someone. I fumbled for the icy-cold door handle as a man shouted agony: “Lord, you’ve killed me!” I threw myself inside the cab as a gun exploded, cutting off the man’s cries. The shot was swiftly followed by two more.
I squealed the tires as I spun the cab around. A tall, battered figure that glowed just enough for me to see its lolling head, the blood-stained, dead features, the knife-torn clothes blocked the road in front of me. I gasped, floored the gas pedal and swerved around it, heart hammering so hard it hurt my ribs.
I was still trembling when slammed into the office a few minutes later and told the dispatcher I was quitting. Then I grabbed my things and headed for home lickety split. There was no way I was going to Bramlett Road ever again. And I never did.