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"The Way Business is Done"

It just occured to me that I've recently been neglecting any mention of my new stories. Shame on me.

Putting together my story collection Rising Above required the completion of two new stories, "Immortality" and "The Way Business is Done." The latter story is a fictionalized account of the legendary Chicago alderman and graft impressario Michael (Hinky Dink) Kenna, and his role in railroad magnate Charles Tyson Yerkes' illicit effort to gain a monopoly on the downtown elevated train system. I took substantial liberties with history, given that Kenna was opposed to Yerkes, who sought to buy the necessary votes in city council through Kenna's archrival, Johnny Powers. In my story, it's Kenna who's allied with Yerkes (or "Youngs") and is making the rounds of the aldermen, seeing who can be bought and who can be persuaded by non-financial means. Youngs needs 36 votes for the council resolution to pass, and Kenna is scrambling to get the last few votes he needs.

The Way Business is Done (excerpt)

    Even more than the Hall, I found manning the cigar shop to be the best way to keep my ear to the street, and hear about all the comings and goings in the neighborhood, all the scuttlebutt and gossip. At the Hall, the lushes would usually get quiet and morose, no matter how much hooch you plied them with, and be nearly useless for information. But at the cigar store, my patrons always enjoyed mumbling a few confidential words to me, under their breath, as I counted out and handed over their change. The store had a constant flow of people going in and out, unlike the Hall where a few lumps might sit silently for hours.
    In the cigar shop that afternoon, just such a valuable tip came my way. One of my regulars leaned in close and confided that a North Side alderman, a lone wolf named Schiller, had run into a bit of “trouble” with a neighborhood girl. Schiller had run his last campaign as a clean candidate, devout, with impeccable morals. And, to his credit, he had indeed conducted his council duties appallingly above board. He never accepted any of my offers, so I knew he wouldn’t bite on the Youngs deal. But his sudden predicament would mean trouble for both his marriage--he had married well, to the only child of one of the beer barons--and his aldermanic office, if revealed to the public.
    My loyal and chatty customer was barely out the door of the shop when I knew that I had Schiller cold, and would get his vote without spending a nickel. The fact that he was a fellow Catholic, and a fellow alderman on the council, made no difference to me.
    I had a business to run, as did Youngs.
    A brief whisper to Schiller, in the hallway outside chambers the next morning, was followed by the draining of all color from his beefy face and a few stammered words of reply, both of which assured me that I had his vote.
    That gave me 35, and at least a deadlock. But I had run out of other candidates. I would have to work on Lerner.

October 6, 2005 in Fiction | Permalink


Is this part of a short, a novella, or a full fledged novel? I'd like to read more. Apart from fudging names and roles, are you going to change history, or stick with the actual outcome? Just curious. As I'm not up on my Chicago history, I have no idea what actually, happened, so your answer wouldn't spoil the story for me.

I drive through Schiller Park on my way home from work each day, along Irving Park. I assume this town Is named after the guy you're fictionalizing.

Have you been submitted your work to journal? I read that you're unpublished. Any encouraging rejections, at least?

Posted by: Steve at Oct 14, 2005 5:36:24 PM