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Authors: Robert W. Walker

City of the Absent

City of the Absent

Robert W. Walker

I pay respectable homage to all the authors that've come before me, and from whom I've learned so much. We all build on those who've preceded us.

Contents

Chapter 1

Mayor of Chicago, Carter Harrison, a politician who split families…

Chapter 2

“Really, Mother!” Jane had thought herself alone, but her grown…

Chapter 3

When Alastair came on the scene of the shooting death…

Chapter 4

As Alastair watched Dr. Tewes—Jane Francis—go off to mesmerize the…

Chapter 5

Ransom grabbed a sunken-eyed scarecrow of a man leaning against…

Chapter 6

“Daaa night grew dark, da sky went bluuue, an-an-and down…

Chapter 7

A late night knock on a door in Chicago in…

Chapter 8

Ransom now stood below the corner lamppost at Van Buren…

Chapter 9

Philo Keane, acting in his capacity as police photographer, arrived…

Chapter 10

“Who bloody asked you here, Tewes?” Alastair's voice could not…

Chapter 11

As the cab they shared waddled along brick streets, the…

Chapter 12

The cool morning passed reluctantly but finally gave way to…

Chapter 13

With the black man dead, the killer shouted at his…

Chapter 14

For days and nights, Alastair Ransom made ceaseless calculations about…

Chapter 15

Ransom took Jane to the Palmer House, Chicago's premier hotel…

Chapter 16

“A ruined evening is it, miss?” asked a curious cabbie.

Chapter 17

The doctor had secured, cleaned, and prepared the black (and…

Chapter 18

From the coach, Jane Francis Tewes and her daughter, Gabrielle,…

Chapter 19

“Good Gawd, I said I was sorry. You're right. Whatever…

Chapter 20

Once again on the street, Alastair made his rounds. He…

Chapter 21

Ransom had told Pinkerton that he'd want records on Nell's…

Chapter 22

Ransom paced about William Pinkerton's office now, taking in the…

Chapter 23

Before going to see Dr. White Insbruckton, Ransom paid a…

Chapter 24

Alastair hadn't time to get back to Pinkerton before reporting…

Chapter 25

Little else remained to be done at the Dodge home,…

Chapter 26

Jane Francis Tewes could not sit still, her mind racing…

Chapter 27

Ransom dressed, leaving tie and collar off, grabbing his cane…

Chapter 28

While Ransom busied himself with how best to get vengeance…

Chapter 29

Scattered leaves intermingled with discarded leftovers, fish heads, and other…

Chapter 30

The following day, Samuel could be found nowhere, and the…

Chapter 31

Early in the day, news had gotten out that Dr.

Chapter 32

The lineup arranged at the Des Plaines Street station proved…

Chapter 33

“It was perfectly sad, Mother,” Gabby told Jane over breakfast…

Chapter 34

When they finally got to the Atgeld address of the…

Chapter 35

Alastair Ransom hadn't any idea of the whereabouts of Jane…

Chapter 36

Alastair had immediately climbed from the cab with his cane…

Chapter 37

At the same time that Alastair and Captain Shorendorf were…

Chapter 38

Ransom heard the echoing pleas of the two women he…

Chapter 39

The next day, things got worse for Alastair when more…

Chapter 40

Shortly, the efficient lawyer, McCumbler, had arranged for privacy with…

October 28, 1893, Chicago, Illinois, on the last night of the World's Fair

Mayor of Chicago, Carter Harrison, a politician
who split families and lovers over the issues of the day, a man both beloved and despised, lay dying of an assassin's bullet. The murderer's three consecutive shots left Harrison writhing in agony on his own Ashland Avenue lawn. His last thoughts for his family faded in and out with his pride in Chicago on this special night, as it had been a night of celebration. Harrison had presided over the closing ceremonies of the Great Chicago World's Fair.

Across the city, Inspector Alastair Ransom and Dr. Jane Francis Tewes lay curled in one another's arms. Alastair, sleepless, contemplated Jane's outward ladylike appearance and demeanor, her inner beauty, her caring, giving nature, and her magical lovemaking.

Jane also lay awake, contemplating and fearing that she might love this man, fearing what her own heart kept telling her—that it wanted him. That it wanted whatever Ransom wanted.

She'd even said so; out loud, she feared. She now whis
pered, “World be damned if things aren't right between us, Alastair.”

“What?” he'd sleepily replied.

“No matter, I will do whatever you ask…”

He liked the sound and beat and counterpoint she'd found.

“…Alastair…whatever you ask me to…”

“Jane, you needn't make promises that—”

“…even if you finally ask me…in the end…to leave…”

“Jane, you must not—”

“I must do what you ask me to.”

He was unsure where that had come from; likely some deep wellspring of desire within her? Something in her deepest recesses? A need to wholly, completely give herself over to someone she believed in? In a love she might trust above all things—or rather, dreamed of in childhood along with castles and fairy-tale worlds? Else she was truly in love with him on a level he had no prior experience with, save in his own imaginings with Polly Pete before her death.

But how was he to take this? Coming from Jane? An emotional rock up till now. How to play it?

Their lovemaking had been extreme and pleasurable, lights going off inside his head like those in the sky over Chicago's Lake Michigan on this, the last night of the World's Fair commemorating Columbus and worldwide progress since Columbus.
Isn't that enough in and of itself
, he silently asked, furled in her arms, her heart beating against his. Pleasurable beyond measure, in fact…it'd been remarkably pleasurable; he'd thought such spiritual elation impossible in any physical bonding, yet both the hardened detective and the seasoned lady surgeon had transcended this ground, this room, this city, and this plane.

Still, perhaps that was not enough for Jane, and perhaps she wanted more of him—
far more of him
. Perhaps she wanted him to repeat her words. Words she'd spoken to entice words from him? To join her as in a mantra—a chant they should together adopt when addressing one another,
and next she'd convince him that the two should marry, and God forbid, have children at his age. These rampant thoughts flitted through his mind along with an even more terrifying idea—his loss of freedom. Just as marriage to her must end the career of one Dr. James Phineas Tewes—her other self—it could end the career of one Inspector Alastair Ransom, should she, as a wife, demand he take a safer, cushier job, say that of a store clerk or haberdasher.

It'd never work. Besides, given his proclivities, his lifestyle, his set ways, he'd be doing her no favor whatsoever tying the knot; in fact, it'd be like tying her to a raging bull. This, in his mind, must be the end of it.

Bells began to toll all across Ransom's city and outside Jane's window. Then came the thundering of horses pulling police wagons. Aside from the fracas, something deep within, in the nature of self-preservation, roused Alastair from Jane's caress. The admixture of tumultuous questions and passions assailing Ransom with the staccato alarms created a strange wave of panic. A panic rivaling his most lovely moment; he just knew something awful had happened.

“Is it a fire?” Jane asked.

“Dunno. Could be.”
A fire on the final night of the fair
, he thought.
This could be disastrous
.

The bells and whistles sounded like a wailing, wounded animal. Again Alastair felt shaken by whatever it might be that'd occurred
outside
his inner storm—the eruption of passion ending in confusion. From what he could tell from the limited perspective of Jane's window on Belmont, the disturbance must be uptown. Somewhere near the fair, perhaps along Michigan Avenue. The two locations police in Chicago were sworn to protect above all else.

Ransom continued to peek out through lace curtains, his action sending a shaft of diffused gaslight into the room and over the bed, where Jane's reclining figure became silhouettelike, even fairylike.

“Damn…this can't be good,” he commented, ignoring her unconscious call for him to return to her bed. “I'd best go have a look.”

Jane climbed from her own wakeful dream, joined him at the window and wrapped her arms about Alastair, hardly capable of the reach. She was dwarfed beside him. “Whatever the problem, they may need my medical assistance, too,” she groggily muttered.

“Yours or Dr. Tewes's?” He turned as he said this, his eyes accusing. He'd long argued for an end to her dressing as a male doctor in order to attract patients to her clinic—or rather, the clinic below the shingle reading:
DR. JAMES PHINEAS TEWES
.

Jane squeezed him to her. “This is no time for old arguments, Alastair.”

“When the devil're you going to respect me on this? Give up this masquerade, Jane, please! It's seriously troubling, this…this situation, more so now than ever.”

“And why more so than ever, Alastair? Tell me. Say it aloud.”

She spent so much time trying to get him to speak about his emotions that it'd become a full-time job, and he knew this, and he knew what she wanted to hear, but a reluctant, thick ball of uncertainty sat lodged in his throat. “Because I am seen with you daily now. Everyone thinks I am seeing Dr. Tewes's sister, and it is growing increasingly difficult.”

“I couldn't agree with you more, but circumstances continue to dictate that Dr. Tewes be,
ahhh
…kept alive, at least for the time being. His bank account alone has to be dealt with, not to mention the practice, the rent, and there's Gabby's tuition at Rush College; her lab fees alone are draining me, and—and—”

“And indeed…and there's always another rationalization for your being an impostor, placing me in an impossible situation, yet whispering promises in my ear all the while.”

“It's not entirely about you, Alastair.”

“It affects me, and it is increasingly more difficult for me to—”

“Heavens! Why is it men always find the
‘me'
in everything? What's in it for
me
? How much trouble is it for
me
! We should enforce a new law, Alastair!”

“What new law?” He took the bait.

“That no male can ever end a sentence with
me
!”

“Look here, I'm thinking of Gabby, too! This is not easy on her.”

“Leave my daughter out of this.” At the same time, Jane realized that she'd herself used Gabby as an excuse. And as her voice rose along with her ire, she recalled the peace and strength she'd found in this man's arms. She had never felt such power stirring within her by anyone's touch once he'd gotten over how daring she could be. She guessed he'd been absolutely stupefied to learn how sexually imaginative, bold, knowledgeable, and naughty Dr. Jane Francis Tewes could be.

He broke into her thoughts. “How is it you can whisper unconditional love in one breath, love that dictates you do my every bidding, and the next you care not a whit for my opinion on important matters?”

“We're speaking of one matter here. Just this one matter,” she defended.

“And a large matter it is, especially if it comes to light.”

“I grant as much, but Alastair—”

“All right, Dr. Tewes, but I haven't time to sit about while you don your mustache and ascot and coat and remember your pipe and imported French absinthe-flavored tobacco. Or have you taken to snuff or chaw these days?”

“Don't be silly!”

“Look, Jane, something's happened out there,” he pointed to the window, “and I am duty bound to find out what.”

She realized from his tone that he wanted to escape her bedroom far more than he wanted to investigate another incident. “Of course, duty calls.”

Her facetious coy smile made Ransom grit his teeth. “Yes, duty calls.”

“Since when does Alastair Ransom put duty before a night of pleasure?”

“I think you know less about me than you think, Jane.”

She heard him stomp like a buffalo down the hallway and
out the front door, gone. “Damn it!” She hadn't wanted him leaving in a state of anger. Still, she lowered the window and helplessly shouted after him. “Duty is just an excuse to escape! You're drawing at straws!”

But it was no use. Alastair flinched but kept moving. He was gone in an instant, disappearing into the Chicago night after latching onto a hansom cab.

Jane Francis felt a definite chill at the night wind rushing in until she slammed the window down. She then looked down at her perspiration-soaked nightshirt, thought how remarkable the sex had been, and then growled, “God how that man infuriates me!”

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