Sun splashed across the curry-combed backs of Napoleon and Josephine, the matched pair of chestnut trotters. Kop, kop, echoed the hooves against the cobbles of South Prairie Avenue as Yerkes urged the two horses to pass a slow milk wagon..
"Come on, show 'em what you've got!" Yerkes urged. Growing
frustrated, he nudged Napoleon on his left rear flank with the tip of the whip. Kop, kop, the horses sped
to a faster beat and swerved around the faded blue milk wagon. Yerkes's horses threw their combed
manes and whinnied shrilly. The old draft horses grunted back as the gleaming rig sailed on by, raising
plumes of powdered horse manure from the road. Awfully late for him to still be out delivering milk,
thought Yerkes. It's almost nine o'clock.
"Good God, man!" The small man seated next to Yerkes
coughed out as he almost choked on the road dust while stubbornly keeping a fat cigar clenched in his
teeth. "Why don't you wave a flag or yell 'tally ho' if you're going to do something like that?"
"What's the matter, Lyman? Afraid of a few bumps?" Yerkes chuckled. "I told you to give up smoking those things. What was it our own 'Dean Swift' said about cigars?.
"Er. . .you mean Swift, the meat packer?" Alderman Lyman asked, gripping the rail of the light four-wheeled rig with his left hand. .
"Yes, I certainly don't mean Jonathan. 'Dean' Swift said, 'No
young man is rich enough to go about smoking twenty-five cent cigars!' Sound advice, I'd say. Excellent
advice!" Yerkes whipped the two horses and they sped off at a run down an open stretch of road.
Lyman jerked forward and then back in rapid succession, clenching his teeth around his Havana cigar
and sneaking a sidelong glare at Yerkes. . .
"Lyman!" Yerkes shouted as the horses flew past the stately
mansions of Marshall Field and Levi Leiter. "He really refused you, did he? You are quite sure?"
Alderman Lyman gave up on the cigar and spat it out into the street. "Yes, sir! No doubt about that. Mayor Harrison told me to tell you that he was going to vote down your little milch cow. . .Chicago is not the Yerkes Dairy!" That's what he said. . .um. . .right before he showed me out.".
"Milch cow, is it? How unkind of His Honor! Did you not list all the benefits that voting for our Cosmopolitan Electric Bill would get him?" Yerkes yelled across to Lyman, his voice cutting into the wind.
"Give it up, Charles!" Lyman gasped into the head wind.
Yerkes reined in the horses suddenly.
"What did you say?"
"I said 'Give it up'," Lyman shrugged, "because the man is dead set against us."
Yerkes felt the blood rush into his neck veins, but strove for
calm. "Lyman, you didn't say the right words, that is all."
"Say the right words? There are sixty-eight council members in City Hall and sixty-six of them are bribable. I know. I bribed them.
But the mayor is dead set against you. I don't understand it. He never seemed such a 'Holy Joe' before, what with his deals with Mike McDonald and all."
"We'll see." Yerkes said as he handed the reins over to Lyman at the front portico of the mayor's house. "Walk them in Jackson Park for a few minutes. Maybe fifteen. This matter should not take much time to resolve." Yerkes jumped out of the rig and walked up the mayor's front stairs with a springy gait.
Alderman Lyman urged the trotters on, noting that hope never seemed to fail Charles, no matter the odds.
Yerkes hoped that the urgency he felt didn't show in his face as the maid led him into the mayor's parlor. The mayor was no ignoramus. Yerkes decided to take the direct approach. After the customary pleasantries, Yerkes confided how saddened he was that the mayor held strong opposition to any franchise over twenty years.
"Tell me, Mister Mayor, what do you want, anyhow?" asked Yerkes, during a brief pause in the conversation.
"Mister Yerkes," the mayor said in a calm, Kentucky-tinged
voice, you may not mean by that query what I think you mean. If I happen to misunderstand, if I
misinterpret its significance, please pardon me and consider my words unspoken. If I, however,
construe your question correctly, let me say, there is not enough money on God's green footstool to
induce me to vary my position in the slightest degree. Or-to put it in the vernacular-If that ordnance
passes over my veto, I'll eat my brown fedora, sir!"
Yerkes had to stand out on the corner for a few minutes until Alderman Lyman showed up with the rig.
"Well, that was speedily accomplished!" Lyman smiled, a bit unsteadily.
Yerkes took the reins and sank deep into thought as they drove
up Schiller Street. "What kind of sauce shall we send the mayor for his brown fedora, Lyman? Any
Lyman shrugged. The day, which had started out so bright and
sunny, was now taking on clouds from a front out over the lakefront.
"Looks like a front coming down from Lake Superior..." was all that Lyman could think to say. They drove back up Michigan Boulevard in silence.
As Yerkes came through the doors of his suite, he spied Harold Martinson bent over some fresh copy with his editorial writer, Hinman.
"Could you gentlemen join me for a moment?" Yerkes waved the two men into his office. Martinson already seemed a bit wobbly on his feet as he bobbed into one of the chairs across an expanse of green desk blotter from Yerkes. Hinman began to outline his new plan to tie Jane Addams in with the political machine in Ward One.
"Oh, that's all right, but it's been done." Yerkes gestured to the men to come closer. "Just driving back here I think I've struck the right chord for our times. You know that Altgeld doesn't have a ghost of a chance to be re-elected, since he pardoned those anarchists. Correct?"
Hinman and Martinson both nodded.
"It was the appearance of a highly-placed public official setting law and decency at nought. So, how does this strike you for a headline?" Yerkes spread his hands widely.
"HARRISON INSPIRES LYNCH MOB!"
"That's good!" Editor Hinman warmed to the possibilities of
this theme. "Why that's fantastic, Mister Yerkes! Just yesterday we had Mayor Harrison quoted as
approving those men who've been showing up outside of City Hall with nooses in their hands as a sign
to the Aldermen not to vote for your bill. . ."
"How about this one?" Martinson stood up, belched, blew his nose and then bellowed,
"HARRISON AND THE ANARCHISTIC TRUST PRESS WANT BLOOD TO FLOW IN THE STREETS OF CHICAGO!"
"No, I liked Mister Yerkes's first one better, Harold." Hinman drew on his little pad absently. "His was short and more to the point."
Yerkes interrupted. "HARRISON WANTS BLOOD TO FLOW. . .has the right ring to it. I do see what you mean about 'anarchistic', though. Harold, forget that for a headline. It's too long." Martinson nodded and the three continued batting ideas back and forth until there was a knock on the door.
Yerkes spoke to the receptionist for a moment outside the door,
then came back into his office. "I'm sorry. Something has come up. Could you two finish the headline
over in your rooms? I will check later to see how it is progressing."
After the two men had been ushered out, the receptionist showed Emma Klimova into the office. Emma had on a blue picot blouse that Yerkes approved of more than he had approved of most of her other dreary-hued outfits. He thought he detected color enter her cheeks as she looked down at the floor, standing before his desk.
"Oh, go ahead, Emma. Please sit down."
Emma perched on the edge of the chair in front of Yerkes. He smiled warmly, as if none of what had happened the day before had actually occurred.
"You didn't come last night. What happened?" Yerkes asked, raising an eyebrow.
Emma couldn't tell him about her frantic attempts to find The
Women's Pages newspaper, only to be told that they had no extra work and barely enough money for
the staff they already had.
She had tried, but it was no good. "I. . I just had some problems
at my lodgings and I had to stay for a tenants meeting."
"Oh. I see."
"But I still would be interested in that assignment, if you have it," Emma added. She looked down at her hands to betray no eagerness.
"Now, that is a problem, Emma. When you didn't show up, I
had to tell Martinson to give that story to someone. . .well. . .dependable. Ellen Creighton is going to do
"So, there's nothing for me, then. I am sorry to have bothered you." Emma started to rise from her chair.
"Wait, Emma. Sit back down. There is a little matter you may
be of some special assistance on," Yerkes said, beating his fingers together on his desk blotter.
"Sometimes I hate to be the bearer of ill tidings but this is it. Yesterday, I was going over the earnings
of one of my real estate properties. It is a gambling house. I'm sure you've been by it on Randolph
Street, the Hamilton Club. Well, to boil it all down, I was over there to see some renovation when
Mister Powers was instructing two of his. . .debt collectors. . .to go and rough up what they refer to as a
"I don't understand. . . ." Emma began.
"You will, Emma. "Those two 'bhoys' were each over two hundred pounds and they generally leave the clients who refuse to pay up for the coroner. Mister Powers was sending his boys out to collect from your brother Anton. Evidently, he had lost his whole pay and far beyond that to the limit of the house credit. I intervened and made good his loss."
"I promise to pay you back every penny, Mister Yerkes!" Emma burst out, hoping to avoid any other obligation.
"Now I thought you would say that, so I want to put your mind at ease. You don't have to pay me back and I don't expect any. .intimacy. . .from you, my dear. I just have one little job for you to do."
Emma felt trapped, but heard her voice say, "Yes, sir. Tell me what it is."
"You work at Hull House and have spoken to audiences about
the various summer activities for children, correct?"
"What I want you to do is to be my personal representative to brief our mayor on our new "Fresh Air Fund" for children that The Inter-Ocean is running. Just tell him all the benefits for the children, how much their little lungs will improve on the country air, and so on. You think you can do that?" Yerkes smiled like a country parson. He actually beamed.
"I think that won't be difficult, Mister Yerkes," Emma replied.
"I may need to pick up a few details before I go."
Yerkes pulled out a flyer from his desk drawer. He tossed it across the desk to Emma. Emma looked at the flyer a few seconds and nodded.
"One other thing, Emma." Yerkes smiled. "The stress of meeting so famous a man will be too much for you. You will stand close to the mayor and suddenly feel faint. In fact, you WILL faint. Fall close to the mayor, so that he will catch you."
"I will faint. . ." Emma repeated, as though this were the most natural thing in the world.
"Yes. And Mister Ryan will come in and photograph you being
held in the arms of Mayor Harrison. Good, isn't it?"
"Is it?" Emma asked. She didn't know what she was expected to say.
"Well, for me it will be. That's all you need to know. You won't have any trouble with such a simple assignment, will you? A child could do it." Yerkes said flatly. he offered no more explanation.
"No. I won't have any trouble and, thank you, for your help." She got up and went out the door, feeling light-headed.
After the maid showed her into the mayor's office, Emma unleashed a torrent of benefits of "The Fresh Air Fund". Her voice held and she gave a beautiful smile at all the appropriate intervals. Mayor Harrison, bemused, held out a freshly manicured hand for the flyer from the fund. This was the cue for which Emma had been waiting.
"Oh! I feel-faint!" She cried in a piercing tone, as she slumped towards Mayor Harrison, who-as expected-reached out to catch her. But as Ryan came rushing through the door, Emma recoiled from the mayor and protested.
"I can't do this!" Teary-eyed, she turned to the startled Mayor Harrison.
"You don't know what we were supposed to do. It's Mister Yerkes, you see. He paid Bill Ryan and me to entrap you, to-to- put you into a compromising light so that you would have to vote for his Cosmopolitan Electric Bill!"
"Oh, blackmail. I'm used to it. So. . ." The Mayor turned with a
smirk to Ryan, "how much he pay you, son?"
"Not enough!" chided Mayor Harrison, wagging a finger. "If you're going to compromise your honor by becoming accessory to blackmail at so early an age, you should have at least asked a hundred!" Ryan looked down at his cracked leather boots, saying finally that he had a sick little sister at home.
"My old friends around Chicago grew up on more sordidness than this. Why one day's press on Mister Yerkes beats this set-up! .
True, my wife is a fearful church-goer and this would, no doubt, upset her, but my voters? Hardly!" Mayor Harrison yawned and expanded his ample waist, so that the clip on his watch chain seemed in danger of shooting off. "Why, son, most of the wheelers and dealers of this town grew up on Kentucky river boats. However, there is something I cannot get over and that is the similarity of this plot to something that I saw at The Auditorium last week. . .
Hm. This one has a brother with Jonah's luck and that one has a sick little sister!" Mayor Harrison's piercing, blue-grey eyes gleamed with mischief. "Or could have been when Sarah Bernhardt was here last. . .?"
Emma bristled. "You may call for a policeman now. But it is true!"
Mayor Harrison ran a pensive finger along his silky mustache.
"No, Miss. You have misunderstood. I never doubted that it
could all be true. I am only bemused at how sometimes life imitates those saucy melodramas starring
Missus Leslie Carter. What's the one I saw her in last week? Oh! Zaza! Now I recall it."
Ryan looked down at the expensive Bull's Eye camera hanging
useless and incriminatingly around his neck.
"What's that albatross you have hanging around your neck there, son?" asked the mayor. Before thinking about his situation, Ryan began to list all the latest features of the Bull's Eye: its ability to catch the pose of a fleeting moment on the fly. The Bull's Eye's film came wrapped in dark paper and didn't have to be loaded in a dark room, according to Ryan, all smiles at being called upon to be an 'expert'.
"Yes, I expect Mister Yerkes spent a good deal on that little honey. May I see it?" the mayor asked. He fussed around aiming it and looking at the shutters and apertures. "Now we don't want to disappoint your boss, do we?"
"But . . . " said Ryan, now feeling totally confused.
It was late afternoon before the photo of the mayor and Emma could be developed. Ryan had come at the inopportune moment when the darkroom was in full swing developing the Seventh Regimental parade down Michigan Avenue to the Fair. Yerkes had his two editors in the office when Ryan brought in the finished product.
"Excellent, Ryan! Great shutter work! Yerkes motioned to his
editorial page writer to come around the desk and view "the photo".
"Look at this, Mister Hinman. Can you think of some inspiring
editorial about the dangers of having corrupt officials at the top?"
Hinman took the photo gingerly in his two hands, as though it
were a jeweled manuscript. "My, my. Caught every dimple on his chin, didn't it?" Hinman shook his
head. "If I were the mayor, I would start over up in the Yukon or somewhere. . ." They all had a good
laugh and Yerkes tipped young Ryan extra for his effort. "Yes. Get away from town for a few days at
least, boy. The mayor might have someone rough you up for catching him so . . . poetically . . . like a deer
stunned by a lightning bolt, as it were." Hinman, Martinson, and Yerkes laughed again and Yerkes
proposed a toast.
Martinson eagerly seconded, but as an afterthought lamented, "I
still think you ought to tie it in some way with that headline of mine: 'DON JUAN' HARRISON AND
THE ANARCHISTIC TRUST PRESS. . !"
"Pipe down and swallow this, Harold! I told you the public
don't care about 'anarchistic' any more!" Editor Hinman passed the claret into Martinson's shaky hand.
"That was last year's news.
They can't spell it and they won't read it. . . Here, just drink
"All luck to our speedy victory, gentlemen!" Yerkes held up his
glass and smiled at the dancing little bubbles. "To a bright future with the Cosmopolitan Electric
"Here, here! To an electrifying future!" chimed in the two editors.
"I think I'll make an early evening of it." Yerkes stretched his arms and got up from his desk. "We've blocked out the major points to hit on with the mayor, Jane Addams, and 'reform' in general." Yerkes picked up his boater hat and twirled it on his finger. "I know you will put up a good galley before you go. Pleasant dreams! Mine couldn't get much better!" Yerkes patted them both on the back and went out his side door. On the other side of the door, Yerkes let out a breath. He didn't know if he had a chance of succeeding and he wished that he could have been the one holding Emma. She kept coming into his thoughts.
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Waking the Dead
Copyright © 1998 Gloria McMillan and Fly Neleth Press. All rights reserved.