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A one-time resident of Chicago’s notorious Red light district, Maggie Lynch sets out determinedly to end her life of sin and find a decent job. But on entering the respectable world Maggie finds that deceit and greed are as rampant in corporate offices as on the streets she so desperately wants to escape.
158 pages, with a reading time of ~2.5 hours (39,561 words), and first published in 1916. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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Just what Mr. Doarty was doing in the alley back of Farris’s at two of a chill spring morning would have puzzled those citizens of Chicago who knew Mr. Doarty best.
To a casual observer it might have appeared that Mr. Doarty was doing nothing more remarkable than leaning against a telephone pole, which in itself might have been easily explained had Mr. Doarty not been so palpably sober; but there are no casual observers in the South Side levee at two in the morning–those who are in any condition to observe at all have the eyes of ferrets.
This was not the first of Mr. Doarty’s nocturnal visits to the vicinage of Farris’s. For almost a week he had haunted the neighborhood between midnight and dawn, for Mr. Doarty had determined to “get” Mr. Farris.
From the open doors of a corner saloon came bursts of bacchanal revelry–snatches of ribald song; hoarse laughter; the hysterical scream of a woman; but though this place, too, was Farris’s and the closing hour long passed Mr. Doarty deigned not to notice so minor an infraction of the law.
Hadn’t Lieutenant Barnut filed some ninety odd complaints against the saloon-keeper-alderman of the Eighteenth Ward for violation of this same ordinance, only to have them all pigeonholed in the city prosecutor’s office? Hadn’t he appeared in person before the September Grand Jury, and hadn’t the state Attorney’s office succeeded in bamboozling that August body into the belief that they had nothing whatsoever to do with the matter?
An anyhow, what was an aldermanic drag compared with that possessed by “Abe” Farris? No; Mr. Doarty, had you questioned him, would have assured you that he had not been born so recently as yesterday; that he was entirely dry behind the ears; and that if he “got” Mr. Farris at all he would get him good and plenty, for had he not only a week before, learning that Mr. Doarty was no longer in the good graces of his commanding officer, refused to acknowledge Mr. Doarty’s right to certain little incidental emoluments upon which time-honored custom had placed the seal of lawful title?
In other words–Mr. Doarty’s words–Abe Farris had not come across. Not only had he failed in this very necessary obligation, but he had added insult to injury by requesting Mr. Doarty to hie himself to the celestial nadir; and he had made his remarks in a loud, coarse tone of voice in the presence of a pock-marked barkeep who had it in for Mr. Doarty because of a certain sixty, weary, beerless days that the pock-marked one had spent at the Bridewell on Mr. Doarty’s account.
But the most malign spleen becomes less virulent with age, and so it was that Mr. Doarty found his self-appointed task becoming irksome to a degree that threatened the stability of his Machiavellian resolve. Furthermore, he was becoming sleepy and thirsty.
“T’ ‘ell with ‘im,” sighed Mr. Doarty, sadly, as he removed his weight from the supporting pole to turn disconsolately toward the mouth of the alley.
At the third step he turned to cast a parting, venomous glance at the back of Farris’s; but he took no fourth step toward the alley’s mouth. Instead he dissolved, wraithlike, into the dense shadow between two barns, his eyes never leaving the back of the building that he had watched so assiduously and fruitlessly for the past several nights.
In the back of Farris’s is a rickety fire escape–a mute, decaying witness to the lack of pull under which some former landlord labored. Toward this was Mr. Doarty’s gaze directed, for dimly discernible upon it was something that moved–moved slowly and cautiously downward.
It required but a moment for Mr. Doarty’s trained eye to transmit to his eager brain all that he required to know, for the moment at least, of the slow-moving shadow upon the shadowy ladder–the he darted across the alley toward the yard in the rear of Farris’s.
A girl was descending the fire escape. How frightened she was she alone knew and that there must have been something very dreadful to escape in the building above her was apparent from the risk she took at each step upon that loose and rusted fabric of sagging iron.
She was clothed in a flowered kimono, over which she had drawn a black silk underskirt. Around her shoulders was an old red shawl, and she was shod only in bedroom slippers. Scarcely a suitable attire for street wear; but then people in the vicinity of Twenty-Fourth Street are not over particular about such matters; especially those who elect to leave their bed and board at two of a morning by way of a back fire escape.