Dr. Kelly is dead
Among all of them, one picture stood out. The gangly child in the photograph, another Asian boy, was no younger than 14 and no older than 16. Naked, the boy smiles awkwardly, looking away from the camera while Dr. Kelly, also buck naked, his gray hair neatly combed, eyes vacant and mouth open, stands behind the kid and gazes directly into the lens. If Dr. Kelly’s jaw had slid preternaturally open, like a snake’s, so he could swallow the boy whole ten seconds after the picture was taken, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
Later, we found a picture of an older, gray-haired Dr. Kelly on a hotel-room bed, wearing only black briefs and the same Mr. Magoo-style glasses that he had sported during his Mackworth Island days. He’s holding a glass of beer. On the nightstand next to him, beside some Centrum Silver vitamins, sits the lube. The local sheriff’s office looked into the photos, but with no victim pressing charges, they weren’t interested.
Subsequent inquiries led us to believe that Dr. Kelly was with relatives, north of Port Saint Lucie, in Edgewater, Florida, and we found the house easily. Their screen door was open, and people inside came forward when they saw us approach. I felt like I was about to meet Beelzebub, but it was only Dr. Kelly’s niece and nephew. (They refused to give their names.) Before I could fully explain who we were, the nephew gave me the once-over twice and said, “Are you from that school he taught at up there?”
“No, sir, I’m from a newspaper,” I replied.
“Well, he ain’t here. He’s in Massachusetts, and he’s sick. Probably won’t last too long. I don’t suppose you’ll go to Massachusetts, will you?”
“Sir, if I came to Florida all the way from Maine, I can make it to Massachusetts,” I told him.
“We need to protect him, you know,” his niece said.
“We just want to interview him,” I said.
“He’s up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, staying with family,” the nephew said.
And that’s where Dr. Kelly died, last October, of “end stage dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease,” according to the death certificate. The photographer and I drove out to western Massachusetts once, but couldn’t find him. But recently, a routine records search popped up his death notice.
By the end, Dr. Kelly was so lost in dementia that, according to his sister-in-law, Josephine Kelly, “My husband would come back from visiting him and say, ‘Bob has no idea who I am.’”
Mrs. Kelly, whose late husband was Dr. Kelly’s brother, and whose home Dr. Kelly stayed in upon moving back to Pittsfield, his hometown, claimed that she never knew about his predilections. She was surprised and distraught. Dr. Kelly’s nephew and niece in Florida might have known, but his sister-in-law, tearing up as she spoke to me in her housecoat, was genuinely shocked. If she was putting me on, she deserves an Academy Award.
“I have seven children and Bob was around them all the time, and there was never any problem,” Mrs. Kelly said, before adding, “At least, not that I knew of.”
“It killed us to put him in the nursing home, but he was getting worse and being nasty. Not to my husband, but to me,” she said. ”I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for all those children.” I assured her that she had no need to apologize, but that the thought was nonetheless appreciated.