On the night of April 6, 1985, Mike Hanlon is drunk. He has been bar-hopping and is now sitting in the public library with his diary. He thinks about the members of the library’s board of directors, most of whom are the descendants of lumber barons. These were the people who changed Derry from a “sleepy little ship-building town into a booming honky-tonk.” Derry, during the first twenty years of the twentieth-century, was “all boom and booze and balling.” The “good folks” from West Broadway who descend from the barons would take the library away from Hanlon if he happened to publish anything about the Legion of Decency, the fire at the Black Spot, the execution of the Bradley Gang, or the affair of Claude Heroux at the Silver Dollar.
There is a conspiracy of silence among the officials of Derry to avoid confronting the unpleasant aspects of the town’s history. They prefer to think, instead, that a handful of industrious and self-reliant men created a decent town out of a place that had been a hotbed of sin. The lumber barons were the “good folks” of West Broadway. Hanlon uses this term ironically because he knows, from his father, that they are the same people who conspired to burn down the Black Spot.
The Silver Dollar was a beer joint and, in September 1905, the strangest mass murder in the history of the United States occurred there. A few old-timers claim to remember it but the only one whose testimony Mike trusts is Egbert Thoroughgood, who now lives in a nursing home. To help Mike understand Thoroughgood’s accent on the audiotapes, he gets the help of the folklorist Sandy Ives. Thoroughgood describes Claude Heroux as very sly, which made his hatchet-wielding episode in the bar so surprising. Heroux was someone more likely to light fires in the woods.
Egbert speaks with a Northern Maine / French Canadian accent, which indicates that he has not completely assimilated into Derry. What Egbert indicates about Heroux being “sly” is that he was someone whose violence would have been secret—nothing like the bold act he commits in the bar. The likelihood of his lighting fires in the woods also suggests that he tried to sabotage the lumber industry.
In the spring of 1905, there is some talk about union-organizing. Maine workingmen are traditionally anti-union, but Claude Heroux sees unions as a chance to talk big and spend a lot of time drinking. In May of that year, there is a big strike, which Claude and his organizing friends consider a great victory for their cause. According to Egbert Thoroughgood, Davey Hartwell was responsible for Claude’s being involved in union-organizing. Claude loved Davey deeply. Thoroughgood reasons that Claude loved Davey in the way that a dog loves its master.
Maine workingmen are anti-union due to the belief that unions are inherently Socialist and that they interfere with traditional New England beliefs about thrift and self-reliance as the keys to success. Claude only becomes involved in union-organizing because of his love for Davey and his sense that the gatherings give him an excuse to spend more time with his friends.
Four of the organizers spend the night at the Brentwood Arms Hotel. Four check in, but none of them check out. Amsel Bickford and Davey Hartwell are later found floating face-down in the Kenduskeag. Bickford has been decapitated and Hartwell is missing his legs. Pinned to the back of each man’s shirt is a paper with the word UNION written on it.
Maine loggers are hostile to union organizing because of its perceived association with a Socialist political philosophy. The Derry loggers view union organizing as such as a threat to their way of life that they viciously murder Bickford and Hartwell to make examples of them.
Claude Heroux spends the next weeks swearing that he will get revenge on those who killed his friends. That summer, there are lots of fires, likely started by Heroux. No one brings him to trial for arson, perhaps out of fear of what he will say on the stand. Then, on September 9th, he goes into The Sleepy Silver Dollar, which is full of loggers drinking beer. Heroux enters with a woodsman’s double-bitted axe in his hand. The barman brings Heroux “a schooner of beer, two hardcooked eggs in a bowl, and a shaker of salt.” He orders himself another schooner, drinks it, and belches. After he finishes the second, he excuses himself to Egbert Thoroughgood, who is beside him, and walks to the table where the men who work for the “lumber potentate,” William Mueller, are playing five-card stud.
What they probably fear from Heroux is that he will implicate people in power for the arson. It is also possible that his suspected acts were assignments from lumber barons to destroy the fields of their rivals. Whatever the reason for the authorities’ refusal to try Heroux, the lack of punishment emboldens him to get revenge against those who killed his friends. Heroux walks into the bar very calmly and normally, as though this night were like any other.
A man named Floyd Calderwood has just poured himself another whisky and is setting the bottle back down when Claude Heroux chops off his hand. Heroux then buries his axe in Tinker McCutcheon’s head. Calderwood tries to pick up his right hand with his left. Eddie King is next. He begs with Heroux to spare him; he has just gotten married. Heroux brings the axe down into King’s belly. Meanwhile, conversation and drinking continue in the rest of the bar.
The scene in the bar is bloody and crazed, but the other patrons carry on as though they cannot see what Heroux is doing. They reveal a tolerance and lack of shock that will come to characterize Derry’s general attitude toward violence.
Mike turns off his cassette recorder and asks Egbert Thoroughgood if he really did not know what was going on. Thoroughgood says that everyone knew, but it was politics to them—town business. While men at the bar went on talking about weather, Claude Heroux went on cutting. Stugley Grenier gets out his pistol and fires a shot that strikes the head of the ax. Heroux goes after El Katook next, who asks the axeman to stop. Grenier fires another round, which gets nowhere near Heroux. El Katook says that he was out of town during the murders of Heroux’s friends. As El Katook tries to escape the bar, Heroux decapitates him. El Katook crawls another three feet with blood spraying from his neck. Stugley Grenier goes running down Exchange Street and is the only one to escape the cutting party at the bar.
As with the murder of the Bradley Gang and the burning of the Black Spot, the town is quietly tolerant of Heroux’s murders. They also may believe that Heroux was somewhat justified in attacking those who had killed his friends, and thus standing up for their honor. On the other hand, the murders were also political—the result of a war between union organizers and anti-union people, fighting over the future of labor in the town.
Claude Heroux stands puffing and blowing and “covered with gore from head to foot.” He then goes over to the card-strewn table where his victims were sitting. He kicks over one of Eddie King’s remaining legs. Five minutes later, some sheriff’s deputies come in and take Claude away. The bars boom with news of the slaughter. A righteous fury stirs, leading a drunken mob to release Heroux from jail, carrying him on their shoulders down to Canal Street where he is lynched. His was the only lynching to occur in that part of Maine. Thoroughgood notes that none of this made the Derry News.
The mob carrying Heroux on their shoulders seems more like a gesture bestowed to a hero. If they were truly furious with him, he might have been dragged from the jail. Still, in keeping with the vigilante justice that was typical at the time, Heroux is publicly hanged. None of this ends up in the newspaper, just as the Bradley Gang’s murder didn’t, because the town wants to forget that it happened.
Mike asks Egbert Thoroughgood if there was anyone present at the bar whom he did not know, someone who seemed a bit out of place? Thoroughgood remembers “a comical sort of fella” doing flips, juggling, and doing other tricks. Thoroughgood falls asleep shortly after telling his story and Mike realizes that Pennywise the Dancing Clown was there all along. Mike is, again, contemplating making the calls to the other six. They are adults now but they nearly killed It twice. They no longer believe in tooth fairies or Santa Claus but they believe in It, which is the source of Its power. It feeds on children because It can feed on their willingness to believe. Mike is still frightened.
Just as Mike recognized Pennywise from Will Hanlon’s old photos of Derry, he also recognizes the clown from Egbert’s story. Mike is still reluctant to call the others back to Derry, understanding that they have moved on with their lives. However, he knows that, despite their growing up, they know of and believe in the evil that persists in Derry. Mike also knows that It retains the power to frighten him because he believes in It in the same way that children believe in Santa.