In my 20 years of journalism, I never thought I’d be writing a column about a 186-year-old bell being placed in the Witness Protection Program — but here it is.
It started out like most mob/dramas usually do — with a telephone call.
The voice on the other end of the phone told me it would be worth my while to get over to the courthouse in the afternoon.
Something big was going down.
The voice was right.
Police blocked off traffic, bystanders stood by and gawkers, well, they gawked.
What we saw was a massive crane anchor itself to the road, lift a giant, hyrdraulic arm to the heavens and hook itself to carefully wrapped yellow straps.
Those straps cradled a bell that had seen at least 160 years of history from either the top of the county courthouse, later to be moved to a dingy attic — where its toll went muffled.
Heck, even people inside the courthouse could hardly hear for whom it tolled anymore.
Apparently, in those 186 years, either the bell had seen too much, or worse, was a risk to spill its guts because, after it was gingerly lowered onto a trailer below, it vanished.
The rumors and jokes began immediately.
Was the government going to stash the bell in the basement of the courthouse and, as soon as people forgot about it, have it taken away on a lazy Friday to be burned and never heard from again.
Was it going to be sold for scrap metal, helping augment the county coffers so the newfound money could be spent on another county project?
Was it going to wind up at the house of some prominent county official, serving as some sort of ill-gotten trophy — like a hunter who mounts an animal head he didn’t shoot?
Well, where is the bell?
Truthfully, only a few people know. And they ain’t talking.
At least not publicly.
Commissioner Harry Foy asked staff about the status of the bell earlier this week.
County staff was mum, at first.
They said they could tell him, but in private.
They didn’t exactly say, “if I tell you, I’ll have to kill you,” and I didn’t hear ominous music playing in the background, but it all seemed like a scene from “Goodfellas.”
So, all county staff would say is that the bell is nearby and it’s safe.
I guess we’ll have to take their word for it.
Their have been no ransom demands, but there is a push for a fundraising effort to bring the bell back to the courthouse square.
We’ll see what happens.
Looks like this mob/drama will have a sequel — Bell 2: The return of the Ring.
Hopefully, the star attraction will ring; and won’t get whacked.