GILDED AGE CHICAGO HISTORY MYSTERIES:
1894 Pullman Strike
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Myth Of History
Myth Of History
Nominated for a Reader's Choice Award as Best Historical Mystery
Nominated for a Lovey Award as Best Traditional Amateur Sleuth
“An engrossingly detailed read that brings the time period vividly to life in a way few authors are able to do and at the same time provides an excellent mystery tale that leaves the reader thinking long after the book is finished.” -- Epinions
Freddie Simpson is on top of the world. The year is 1894 and the cub reporter has been assigned to cover his first big story. The corpse of a factory girl is discovered floating in the Chicago River. The police believe she fell to her death through a faulty bridge guardrail. Freddie’s elation quickly turns to suspicion when he sees a vagrant hovering around the scene of the accident. The reporter wonders if the girl fell or if she was pushed through the railing.
Progressive Era Priorities
Freddie catches the first train to the suburbs to seek the assistance of his wealthy, eccentric friend Evangeline LeClair. The pair trapped a killer the year before and Freddie hopes Evangeline will help him investigate the girl’s death. Unfortunately, she’s already knee-deep in a civic investigation of her own.
The heiress not only teaches English to immigrants at a social settlement in the slums but she’s also been appointed to question disgruntled workers at the Pullman Palace Carworks just south of Chicago. Gilded Age tycoon George Pullman has refused arbitration and the Pullman labor strike has disrupted national train service. Roving mobs have torn up tracks, derailed trains and set fire to the remains of the White City fairgrounds. The situation needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
Dinner Party Doubts
Evangeline helps Freddie indirectly by inviting him to a dinner party hosted by Martin Allworthy - the owner of the factory where the drowned girl worked. The shocking guest of honor turns out to be the vagrant from the river – Desmond Bayne. He’s wearing fine new clothes and has just been hired as the supervisor of Martin’s factory. Freddie believes that Desmond is blackmailing Martin. But why? Evangeline still refuses to get involved. She insists the Pullman Strike must take priority.
Evangeline’s priorities shift radically once blackmail turns into murder. Martin’s wife is poisoned and a psychic medium named Serafina is blamed for the crime. The amateur sleuths both spring into action but exposing the real murderer proves trickier than they anticipate. The killer strikes again, this time targeting the one person who could clear Serafina’s name. Will the detectives run the culprit to ground? Against the backdrop of a city in flames, an innocent woman’s life is at stake.
April 23, 1894
Desmond Bayne woke from a fitful sleep--the only kind possible when he was huddled in a frayed overcoat, in the filthy corner of a concrete loading dock on a dank and windy spring night. His eyelids fluttered open briefly and resettled themselves.
There it was again. He thought he’d heard voices. Voices coming from below by the edge of the river. Indistinctly, he heard the low rumbling of a man’s voice. He couldn’t catch the words. The wind carried them in the other direction but the tone was coaxing, seductive.
The girl’s voice, more shrill, carried farther. “No, I said stop! Heights make me dizzy!”
Desmond edged out of his corner, but all he could see was a hulking shadow that leaned against a wooden guard rail fastened to the retaining wall of the river. The next sound he heard was the crack of dry timber and the girl’s scream. Desmond leaned even farther forward in time to see the shadow split in half. One part tumbled into the churning, oily water. The other part stood above, looking down.
The shrill voice cried, “Help me! For God’s sake! You know I can’t swim!”
The demi-shadow standing above seemed to be craning its neck in the darkness, trying to focus on the hapless creature struggling to keep afloat.
The waves frothed around her as she tried to tread water. “Why...won’t you...do something!”
The garbled cries became less and less distinct over the rush of the current. Desmond could hear the desperate pitch of her voice rise in volume as her body sank.
The demi-shadow turned and, without an appearance of undue haste, walked away from the last ripple disturbing the surface. The river resumed its serene course. Desmond waited long enough to make sure it had and then, with all due speed, he followed the sound of retreating footsteps.