Read Shadows in the White City Online

Authors: Robert W. Walker

Shadows in the White City

BOOK: Shadows in the White City
7.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Shadows in the White City
Robert W. Walker

Shadows in the White City is dedicated to my son,
Stephen R. Walker,
who has loved me unconditionally from the day I met him.


Chapter 1

At Cook County Hospital, Dr. Christian Fenger was a god,…

Chapter 2

While Alastair lay on the operating table, Griffin Drimmer had…

Chapter 3

“Now that we're alone and out of earshot of everyone,…

Chapter 4

At the World's Fair, the chaos of hundreds of thousands…

Chapter 5

Gabrielle was suddenly standing before the seated Inspector Ransom on…

Chapter 6

Alastair awaited the arrival of the hansom cab as it…

Chapter 7

From the outside, the old stone structure called the Des…

Chapter 8

Ransom felt privileged to own one of the first indoor…

Chapter 9

Ransom had not been inside Moose Muldoon's since the night…

Chapter 10

Alastair found himself at his old wooden swivel desk chair…

Chapter 11

Below the train viaduct at Ravenswood and Ogden, the Southside…

Chapter 12

Dr. Jane Francis had fully recovered and had even managed…

Chapter 13

A phone call awakened Alastair after a long night of…

Chapter 14

Instead of finding Bloody Mary in the Levy section, he…

Chapter 15

Jane and Gabby had not been able to sit idle…

Chapter 16

Alastair made all due haste to the Des Plaines station…

Chapter 17

The carriage pulled up to the stables, and the hansom…

Chapter 18

Philo Keane did exactly as his good friend and police…

Chapter 19

Alastair pushed on through the black void, determined to gain…

Chicago, Illinois, June 7, 1893…1


Chicago Herald
exclusive by Thomas Carmichael

Despite two arrests in the case of the Phantom of the Fair (seven killings by garrote and incineration), both suspects are today free men, released due to lack of evidence against either man—one a photographer, the other a carriage driver.

Meanwhile, Inspector Alastair Ransom is credited with the most recent arrest in the case, now called a false arrest based upon conceit and harassment. In fact, if Mr. Ransom lives, he may well face charges of an extraordinary nature, not the least being incompetence.

In essence, police remain stymied by the
elusive Phantom, who no one doubts may strike again at any moment. The list of innocent lives lost to this fiend includes one unborn child, destroyed while in its mother's womb. When will public outrage over these crimes exceed our gratuitous fascination with murder? Masked as it is by the sheer growth of our great city. Masked as well by the commerce and the new skyscrapers rising up along our magnificent lakefront, and the marvels of modern invention and industry we see daily now at the World's Columbian Exposition.

At Cook County Hospital, Dr. Christian Fenger was a
his word
He also proved a capable showman. As faculty and doctors on staff taught medicine and surgery in connection with Rush Medical College, Cook County had a modest and typically adequate operating theater with well-worn equipment and staggered seating for just over seventy observers. The arena was a platformed, wooden-tiered wedding cake, so that from anywhere in the room, with good eyesight, anyone might look over Dr. Christian Fenger's shoulder. News had got out that he was performing emergency surgery on none other than the infamous Inspector Alastair Ransom of the Chicago Police Department, shot and mortally wounded. Despite the hour, the room bulged with the crowd.

Christian Fenger was, after all, known the country over as the best surgical mentor in the city. Watching him work to save a wounded copper with a hole the size of a woman's fan in his side proved fascinating and awe-inspiring. Indeed, such an opportunity proved irresistible to medical people—men and women. Indeed, it proved the best education a medical student could find in Chicago and all the Midwest.

It's a terrible thing what's happened to Ransom,
Dr. Jane Francis—dressed in the clothes and makeup of a male doctor people knew as Dr. James Phineas Tewe
s—shot by my own daughter.

Still, to see the operation so flawlessly done almost made it worth the experience. Certainly not for the patient, but for those who practiced surgery, and those like Jane who wanted to practice surgery, but could not. Christian was the penultimate surgeon. Watching him work again was, for Jane, like watching the miraculous before one's eyes. People spoke of how they wanted to see God's presence in things; if they only stopped to think of it—here it was, in the deft hands of one of His creations—Dr. Christian Fenger.

As these thoughts ebbed and flowed inside Jane's head while watching the master at work, she also realized that the man on the operating table was the man she'd fallen in love with all over again, and that he could as yet die—Dr. Fenger or no—of the trauma or infection. She privately admonished herself for “enjoying” the grand educational aspects of the moment. So far as surgery went, it was indeed remarkable. But it was also under circumstances that could end in the death of Alastair Ransom.

She had dragged her daughter, Gabrielle, into the theater to get a good position. But Gabby quickly became antsy watching Fenger perform surgery—not due to any squeamishness, as Gabby would one day be a skilled surgeon herself. Guilt had propelled her from the room. Guilt over having shot the patient. The
with Ransom weighed too heavily on her heart, causing her inability to watch or to learn. Dr. Jane Francis—
the real Jane Francis below the makeup
—stood transfixed at the delicate operation that may or may not save Alastair for this world.

Even mesmerized at Christian's skill, Jane felt torn. She wanted to learn from Christian, but she wanted to rush out as well. Go behind her daughter and hold her and tell her it was not her fault—that all would be well.
To lie to her.
To fill her head with all the clichés of comfort necessary at such times; clichés seldom true. To tell her that things hap
pened for a reason. That there is a purpose to all things great and small—regardless of one's limited perspective.

The city of Chicago itself had come about through either divine or satanic purpose, or perhaps both. The city could be seen as an enormous gift to cherish and nurture, or an enormous burden—a view that, if taken to extreme, might result in a desire to destroy it. Perhaps there was something of this dark emotion and purpose in the drive that sent a phantom night stalker scurrying about Chicago and the World's Fair for victims to garrote and set aflame. Perhaps not. Throughout history men of science, philosophy, theology, literature, even military genius were studied, but mankind must also begin to understand the genesis of the maniac, the deviant, and the killer. To understand the workings of the perverted mind in order to, perhaps one day, correct it, possibly through surgery.

Jane's daughter, Gabby, too, was fascinated by the possibility of understanding root causes of murder, and more of the population in general seemed curious, reading such works as Bram Stoker's
The Snake's Pass,
Mary Shelley's
and going to see Robert Louis Stevenson's
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
performed live onstage.

“What's to understand?” Ransom had once doggedly asked Jane, when he knew her only as Dr. James Phineas Tewes. Speaking to Dr. Tewes, he'd added, “You don't need to understand the inner workings of a ratty ferret's brain to know that a bullet will end its career.”

“We've got to understand the sort of prey you hunt, Ransom!”

“Understanding isn't apprehension.”

“But it could lead to apprehension if we learn to think like them, to study the darker reaches of the mind.”

“We all have our dark side.”

“But a killer has given his soul over to it! Why? We must ask why.”

“You ask why; I'll stick with when and how.”

Ransom's stubbornness had infuriated her both as Tewes and as herself.
Yet that same stubbornness and iron will might yet save his life, if he holds on,
Jane now thought.

Jane continued to struggle with what to do about Gabby at this moment.
Should I stay to see a genius at work, or go in search of my inconsolable daughter?

She chose to stay.
Gabrielle needs the alone time,
she rationalized; she'll understand: No one as interested in medicine as Jane must miss an opportunity to see Dr. Fenger doing what he did best. So Jane, in the garb of Dr. James Phineas Tewes, remained first at Christian's side and now in a niche of the operating theater, where young male interns from all over the city continued to arrive and crowd her.

She'd heard some remarks floating about the hospital that Ransom's regular doctor, a Dr. Caine McKinnette, a fellow rumored to be of low moral character, had arrived to look in on him and to consult with Dr. Fenger on the case. From all accounts, McKinnette was a pill-pushing quack who'd fed Alastair's drug habit; the man was known for replacing symptoms with euphoria. Jane had first recognized McKinnette as the man Fenger had cousulted before making his first cut. Christian had scolded McKinnette even as he interrogated the man about what chemical substances Alastair had been taking that might explain his breaking into Dr. James Phineas Tewes's home with a crazed drunken look and pointing a gun, crashing a tea party. “Hell I'd a shot 'im, too, if he'd come through my door like that!” Fenger had shouted when Jane told him the story.

Unlike the dapper Dr. Tewes—famed for dispensing magnetic therapy and phrenology—the aged Dr. McKinnette resembled Marley's raggle-taggle ghost as illustrated in Dickens's
A Christmas Carol
. McKinnette need post no bills, need make no claims, and need not one skill. On the other hand, Jane must post bills, make outrageous claims, and demonstrate extraordinary skills to survive as Dr.

James Phineas Tewes. In fact, she'd tacked up several of her posters just outside Cook County Hospital in an effort to gain patients. Her posters read,


Phrenological & Magnetic Examiner at his residence, 2
house north of the Episcopal Church



May be consulted in all cases of Nervous or Mental difficulty. Application of the remedies will enable relief or cure any case of Monomania, Insanity or Recent Madness wherein there is no Inflammation or destruction of the Mental Organs. Dr. Tewes's attention to diseases of the nervous system, such as St. Vitus's Dance and Spinal Afflictions has resulted in some remarkable cures. Having been engaged for the past ten years in teaching Mental Philosophy, Phrenology, together with numerous Phreno Magnetic Experiments enable Dr. Tewes to give correct and true delineations of Mental Dispositions of different persons. A visit to Dr. Tewes can be profitable to any and all who wish to better understand their own natures, and how best to apply their talents in the world at large.

Watching Dr. Fenger, Jane realized that allowing McKinnette to stand alongside him in the operating theater, although useless and in the way, left Jane to suspect that Christian Fenger was not above purchasing illegal drugs when circumstance called for it. This could be a nail in Christian's coffin, adding to abuses that could get him dismissed from Rush Medical and Cook County. His crown taken away. If information of this nature got into the wrong hands, it could also mean blackmail. Jane had enough infor
mation on Fenger to topple him if she chose to reveal what he'd confided in her at a time when he thought he was dealing with Dr. Tewes, while under magnetic and phrenological care.

Unable to continue the ruse with a man she so respected, Jane having been his student years before, had recently confessed her true identity to Dr. Fenger and had assured him that all his confidences remained safe within the purview of doctor-patient relations.

Christian had a lot of ghosts to deal with, but his hand was as steady today as it had been when Jane first came to his surgical classes ten years ago.

Still, Fenger had a habit, what people in her profession called
the doctor's curse
—morphine. Living daily with so much disease, suffering, and death, eventually it caught a man in its grip. No one staring into the abyss of human suffering as long as Dr. Fenger could possibly walk away unscathed.

She prayed his habit would not affect his handling of the blade over Alastair—a man for whom she felt deep affection. At one point, she'd debated whether to step in and protest, but she'd stopped short, seeing how in control Christian was. Then her faith was shaken anew at McKinnette's arrival. She didn't care for the degree of the palsied elder doctor's involvement in anesthetizing Alastair. The wrong dosage alone could kill him. Why this old fool McKinnette? Why not a younger man with more experience in this new field? She imagined that Caine McKinnette wanted to be on hand due to the notoriety this case must engender. Some measure of publicity for himself in the case, to improve his practice, to have some of the Fenger mystique rub off on him—a highly unlikely prospect. He'd even brought a newspaperman with him, same newsie who'd been at the train station the day Alastair had detached the loosely connected and incinerated head of a dead young man named Cliff Purvis and shoved it into Dr. Tewes's white cotton gloves and white linen suit.
Thom Carmichael for the
Herald, she thought now, no doubt
also seeing Dr. McKinnette for medicinal needs, and no doubt here to report how Dr. McKinnette had helped save—or attempted his best to save—the life of the last hero of Haymarket, Inspector Alastair Ransom.

How wide a web did Dr. Caine McKinnette spin? She could not say, nor could she concern herself entirely with him at the moment. Instead she softly whispered a silent prayer for Ransom even as she watched, fascinated, at the procedure. Fenger's hands worked over his friend with a deft precision she'd never seen in any other man.

Ransom was in the hands of God, on the one hand, Dr. Fenger on the other. The result of this tug-of-war would not soon be known.

So all across Chicago, in circles of wealth and power, and in circles of poverty and despair, in barbershops and taverns, the odds makers took all bets. But few men who knew him personally would say there was any contest, for Ransom remained the last survivor of scars from the Haymarket Riot. Jane Francis thought about the impact the 1886 Haymarket Square Riot had had on the city. It'd established new laws governing the conduct of police officials, and was a turning point in public opinion regarding unionist workers and unions, and it ultimately brought the first labor laws into being. Illinois led in this political arena—far ahead of New York and other states. Little wonder, people still called Ransom a hero.

Few would bet against Ransom even now with the Grim Reaper hovering over the big man, although the urge to count him out had a strong appeal for men like Moose Muldoon, who skirted the law, and men like Chief Nathan Kohler—Ransom's immediate superior—who abused the law from a high position.

Ransom, on the operating table, erupted in voice, saying, “Tewes has cures for everything…even baldness.” Ransom said these many words while under anesthetic. This sent up a wave of gasps and audible

BOOK: Shadows in the White City
7.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Breaking Free by Cara Dee
Jake Fonko M.I.A. by B. Hesse Pflingger
Pyro by Earl Emerson
Ghostlight by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Must Love Cowboys by Cheryl Brooks
The Marsh King's Daughter by Elizabeth Chadwick
Ramage's Signal by Dudley Pope
Where Does My Heart Belong? by Libby Kingsley