Searching for Home (Spies of Chicago Book 1)

Searching for Home

 

Spies of Chicago

 

 

 

by
Jessica Keller

 

Searching for Home (Spies of Chicago, Book One)

Copyright © 2014 by Jessica Keller

October 2014 Edition

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, scanning, recording, photocopying, or otherwise—without written permission from the publisher. For information visit:
www.JessicaKellerBooks.com

 

Cover by Steven Novak

www.NovakIlliustration.com

 

Edited by Eyrnn Newman, Jennifer Slattery, and Amanda G. Stevens

http://alittleredinc.blogspot.com

http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com

http://amandagstevensbooks.weebly.com

 

Interior Design by Polgarus Studio

www.polgarusstudio.com

 

This novel is a work of complete fiction. Names, characters, places, historical events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.

 

Summary

Two generations encounter the same truth—and neither will ever be the same.

 
For Amanda, who loved Nate first.

And Charity, who helped me survive the past year.

CHAPTER ONE

Chicago, Present Day

 

If her great-great-grandfather hadn’t already died a hundred years ago, Whitney would have killed him.

The faded picture of the man, like its duplicate in an antique pearl frame at Grandma’s house was unmistakable on the front page. Couldn’t the paper find something more substantial to print? They should cover the elections instead of a long dead rabble rouser.

Especially one related to her.

The store clerk tapped the register. “That’s a dollar even.”

Whitney fished change out of her jeans pocket and flashed an apologetic smile to the Suit behind her. When asked if she needed a receipt she waved it off. Zipping her hoodie, she pressed through the revolving doors.

Midday rain smacked at her face. She tucked her hair under her hood. Gray clouds lopped off the top of the Chicago skyline as they spewed wet fury onto the city. A stiff wind tossed scarlet October leaves and an empty Big Gulp cup scuttled down the sidewalk and into the crush of traffic on Wells Street.

With a leap, Whitney maneuvered over a puddle and jogged around the back end of a car attempting to enter a full parking garage. Her phone blared out the lyrics to Garfunkel’s
Bright Eyes
, causing her to stop in the middle of the sidewalk. She propped her purse on her leg and retrieved her cell. Someone jostled past her as she read the caller ID:
Owen.

Whitney closed her eyes and summoned a smile. “How’s the next mayor of Chicago?” She moved under the overhang of a side-street newsstand. Bad idea. Her great-great-grandfather’s eyes watched her from thirty newspapers. Whitney turned her back.

Owen cleared his throat. “Not good. Have you seen the front page?”

Whitney fingered her purse strap. “It’s nothing.”

“Nothing? You can’t be serious. They smeared my name and all but called for me to pull out of the race. My mother is not happy, which is putting it mildly. You know how she can be.”

Of course
. That’s who was behind Owen’s words. His overbearing mom. Also know as: his campaign manager. And the woman who decided upon first meeting that Whitney wasn’t good enough for her son.

“You’re being dramatic. They only mentioned you once.” When they said he was in league with a traitorous family.

How nice of them.

“Once was enough. Believe me.” Owen cursed. “They named you as my girlfriend and called my judgment into question. Something as small as this could ruin my chances. You know how cutthroat politics and public opinion can be.”

A lady crossing the street stabbed at an oncoming car with her umbrella as she shouted about having the right of way. Horns blasted, the racket bounded down the alley.

Whitney leaned her ear harder into the phone.

“I can’t hear you over whatever is going on,” his words terse.

Water dripped off the roof near where she huddled. The drops landed on her nose, and then cascaded toward the ground.

She shivered. “I didn’t say anything.”

“Well, you need to. I’m supposed to show my face at the ribbon cutting ceremony tonight but my mom’s freaking out about this story.”

“I’m sure the hospital could care less about the article after all the money your family’s given them.”

“You’re front page news.”

“No. My long-dead ancestor is front page news. It has nothing to do with me.”

“It does when your great-great-grandfather is named a fraud, riot inciter, and a cop killer. Wait, I’ll find what they said.” Papers rustled. “Oh, here we go.
A traitor among us
– it’s a catchy title. You’ll have to give them that.
Mayoral candidate, Owen Taylor, is known to date Whitney Dean who is the offspring of an anarchist rabble-rouser who, on more than one occasion, attempted to take over Chicago.
Do you want me to continue reading?”

She pressed a hand across her forehead. “No. That’s plenty.”

“And?”

“And what?” Whitney snapped. “What am I supposed to do? My job’s doomed, too. I’m sure Freddie isn’t going to be happy about this.” No doubt her part-time job at the squeaky-clean
Life in Chicago
monthly magazine would be cut with this news. As the columnist for the Friendly Chicago soft features, news of an ancestral anti-government murderer wouldn’t set well with the reading clientele made up of housewives, the elderly, and tourists.

The man at the newsstand reached behind Whitney to straighten a pile of
People
magazines. He glared extra hard at her right before he turned back to his three-foot section of space by the register. Whitney took the hint and stepped onto the sidewalk and continued down North Avenue toward the Chicago Historical Foundation near the intersection of North Avenue and Clark Street.

She turned the corner. “What do you expect me to do about this?”

The gargantuan red-bricked Moody Church emerged through the rain-haze. It’s Romanesque arches, polished doors, and stain glass windows looked like a cross between a European cathedral and a stuffy American church.

She could hear Owen tapping his pen against his desk. “Make it go away. That’s what you’re going to do. You’re a journalist—so giving the story a positive spin should be easy. I’m counting on you to do this for us. For me.”

“And how do you suppose—” Whitney landed in a puddle. “Come on!” She extracted her canvas shoe. Water sloshed around her toes as she shook her foot, sending moisture dribbling out the seams.

“I’m serious, Whitney. Figure out some way to exonerate this relative of yours or else we’re going to have to see a lot less of each other for a while.”

“Wait. You’ve got to be kidding. You’re dumping me for something that happened more than a hundred years ago? For something a dead man did?”

A horn blasted and she startled. Angled toward the parking garage entrance, a taxi driver scowled through his filmy window. If she didn’t have better manners she would have slapped the hood of the banana colored vehicle. Then again, she was the one standing in the middle of the street yelling into her phone. Etiquette dictated she offer the cabbie a sheepish grin and schlep the rest of her way to the other side of the street. Weird wet shoe squeaks and all.

“Did I say I was breaking up with you? No—”

“What else could your
fix-this-or-else
threat mean?” Whitney marched back and forth under the green overhang of the Chicago Historical Foundation’s doors.

“What do you expect me to say? I’m trailing Raleigh by only two percentage points in the polls, but after this—who knows? This isn’t some small town pig race—this is Chicago. My father died for this city. I deserve to win. But they’ll tear me to pieces if they get the chance and you just gave them the chance.”

“So that’s it. We’re done?”

“Stop phrasing it that way. My mom just thinks it’s best if—”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Do you have a better way of saying that I’m a disgrace to you and your campaign?” She dropped her voice as a troop of blue-haired grannies huddled together beneath the ladybug print of their golf umbrella.

“Yes. I do. I’d say on hold instead of we’re done.”

Whitney jogged ahead and grabbed the door for the old ladies, propping one door open with her foot and stretching to hold the interior door ajar with her free hand. With a nod to the women’s whispered
thank you
, Whitney stepped back outside. “On hold until I get rid of this story about my family?”

He sighed. “We just have to see less of each other for a couple days. That’s all I’m saying.” He paused and when she didn’t jump to fill the space he continued. “Besides, you hate all the glitz and glam at my fundraisers anyway. You’re always asking not to come so now you finally get your way.”

True, but to be told she
couldn’t
be there felt much different.

Whitney kicked her toe against the concrete foundation of the building. “You know this’ll all blow over. Stuff like this always does.”

“You’re probably right. And when it does, you’re back onboard to all my events.”

“I’ve gotta go.”

“Hey, I do care about you. And I’m sure you’re dead on about this all fading out of the news in a week or two. Raleigh’s sure to do something dumb enough to warrant attention by then.”

A chill raced up her spine. Stupid rain. “Sure.”

“Take care of yourself. I’ll call you soon.”

“Have fun at the ribbon ceremony. Bye.” She tapped the end button and then pressed the phone to her chin.

A CTA bus puffed by. An advertisement featuring a sports car printed along the side read
Something Better Waits.

Easy for them to say.

Whitney tossed her phone into her purse and pushed through the double doors.

With the bright lights and minimal decorations, the place lacked a historical vibe she figured it would have. Whitney stopped at the front desk to pay the five dollar fee. “Where should I go if I’m looking for city archives?”

The clerk smiled at her. “The fourth floor. Every piece of information that we have, and all the real historical documents are kept there.”

Ticket in hand, she headed toward the elevator, but the rattle of the steel cage set off warning signals in her brain. On second thought, she opened the access door to the stairwell and climbed to the fourth floor. With a shake, the surplus water in her hair scattered across the ground. Sure the blonde tresses looked about as managed as a lion’s mane, she entered the archive area.

All morning a thick queasiness had lodged into her throat making her feel like a snake with a rat-shaped bulge. The sick sensation dissipated the second she breathed in the smell of dusty old books and the hush of the large room encircled her with a sense of calm.

Two rows of wide tables filled the middle of the fourth floor, and shelves of books covered the outer walls. A red-haired woman occupied one table, books sprawled in front of her. A couple canoodling over a thin-paged journal sat at another.

“May I help you?”

Whitney jumped then whirled around to find a woman with silver-white hair hanging clear to her reedy elbows.

“Um. Yes, well, I don’t know how this all works.” She crossed her arm over the bundled newspaper tucked under her coat. The one baring the traitor’s face on page one.

The woman winked. “It’s simple as cooking turnips. Do you know what you’re looking for?”

“I want to find out about my family history.”

“Come with me. We’ll do a cursory check on the computer before I send one of my helpers into the archives.” The woman motioned for Whitney to follow. She moved to a circular desk situated on the far end of the room. A plaque affixed to the front read
Rita Warden, Curator
. A young man with floppy sheepdog hair shifted behind the desk to make room for the woman then returned to his task, which at the moment appeared to be sifting through a box of dingy trinkets.

“This thing always takes forever to load.” The curator punched at the keyboard with her pointer fingers. “There now,” she adjusted her glasses. “What’s the family name?”

The young man drew a tarnished badge out of the box with great care and set it on top of the desk. Whitney squinted to see the writing on the piece of metal but couldn’t make it out.

“The name I’m looking for is Ingram, Lewis Ingram. I’m interested in finding information about him from around 1880 to the turn of the century.”

After a minute of furious typing the woman scrunched her left eye and stared at the monitor. “Not finding anything on a Lewis Ingram. Ingram is here but no first name. It’s a common enough name, you see. And not finding it doesn’t mean he’s not here, it just means we haven’t cataloged his information yet. We’ll have to dig into the archives.” She twisted in her chair and touched the young man’s shoulder. “This sounds like just the project for Nate to help with.”

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