Shadows in the White City

Shadows in the White City by Robert W. Walker Read Free Book Online

Book: Shadows in the White City by Robert W. Walker Read Free Book Online
Authors: Robert W. Walker
    â€œI’ll not leave you here in the darkness contemplating murder.”
    â€œYou’ll miss your booze.”
    Philo held up a flask of whiskey. “Portable. Have some! You need it more’n I.”
    Ransom’s limp and need for the cane was now even more pronounced. His fatigue only added to his leaning on the new one, which Philo had gifted him at his hospital bed when he was still in a coma—and the steady thumping of that cane now felt like some sort of Chinese water torture to Philo.
    â€œWhy’re we standing in the drizzle, Ransom?”
    â€œBosch got word on where Denton has relocated his carriage.”
    â€œHow much did that bit cost you?”
    â€œDenton’s picked out a new killing ground, Lincoln Park. I’m sure of it.”
    â€œAnd you’re going to catch him in the act?”
    â€œI have my own flask to keep me company. You needn’t’ve come, Philo.”
    â€œYou’ve a strange sense of duty, Alastair. Duty to yourself.”
    â€œDuty to Polly, to Purvis, Trelaine, Chesley, all the victims, even that unborn child that Denton killed.”
    They had earlier climbed from a hansom cab a block away from the park’s cabstand, and now cautiously approached, in a roundabout fashion, through the dense woods of Lincoln Park, named for the fallen president.
    The park, Ransom said at one point, reminded him of a place he’d dreamed about while in the hospital fighting for his life. A place ever reminiscent of a somewhereland in Michigan where his parents had taken him as a child. “You’re not going to get all maudlin on me, are you, Rance?”
    â€œJust something about the two shores of the lagoon here…just like in the dream. Only in the dream, I was with a beautiful woman.”
    â€œWell, don’t look for me to help you out there, old friend.”
    Again Philo Keane thought of the terrible price a man like Ransom paid to the public at large. This determination to catch the Phantom for the safety of all Chicagoans had become a personal affair, a single-minded obsession to be sure, and yet if he were to succeed, it benefited all of the city. Benefited the lowliest street person to the Potter Palmers and the Marshal Fields. But at what price to Ransom? To his peace of mind? To his sleep? It had already cost Ransom dearly in so many ways. Worst of all, it could eventually cost him Jane Francis and any opportunity along those lines. It had cost Alastair friends as well, but Philo understood obsessions, and he understood his friend’s need for vengeance.
    In fact, Philo guessed it’d been vengeance that kept him alive.
    Philo wondered now if he and Alastair would be arrested at any moment for loitering and lurking, or worse if a copper came along and saw them amid the trees, two grown men playing hide-and-seek. Philo could ill-afford being arrested again. “If we’re arrested for pandering,” he complained, “it’s on you, Alastair.”
    But Alastair’s full concentration remained on the row of horse-drawn buggies and covered cabs at the cabstand, where Waldo Denton casually awaited the Lincoln Park strollers who weaved about the pathways, amid the greenery, locked in embrace, their eyes interested only in one another. Watching the strolling couples, Ransom realized how easily the Phantom of the Fair operated, using his hansom cab as central headquarters. He’d move about the paths of the park in his black uniform, strike like a shadow, murder with that garrote of his, set the body aflame, and be sitting atop his hack, an invisible man, all in a matter of minutes. Orchestrated murder.
    The lakefront Lincoln Park was a killer’s dream, a place where people allowed their common sense and justifiable fears and natural defenses to drop like stones one after another. A place to distract one from the horrors at one’s shoulder. Unlike the fair, this place kissed the senses

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