Book – The Dogcatcher

THE DOGCATCHER

 

 J. D. Porter

 

 Chapter 1

 

 

Chicago, November 1919

 Raven Griffith was holding on for dear life. Her horses had panicked and were pulling the wagon at a frightening pace down Forty-First Street. People jumped out of the way, giving her dirty looks when she passed them, as though she were some juvenile delinquent out for a joy ride on a dogcart.

“Whoa!” she shouted as she tugged on the reins.

Raven’s problem had begun as soon as she turned off of State Street. The horses’ heads were cocked, and their ears went up when they saw the angry mob. White people were milling around on a sidewalk in the black-belt with torches and clubs. She knew the horses were about to go from nervous to all-out panic, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. The backfire of the truck engine had sounded like a gunshot. That was all it took.

She had been assigned to deliver the team of horses to Rondell Boyd’s Livery Stable by her boss at the Animal Welfare Association. The animals had been abused and had killed their previous owner when, in a panic just like this one, they had rounded a corner too fast and overturned their wagon. Raven wondered if she was about to suffer the same fate.

“Whoa, damn it!” The words jarred her, even as she said them. It was not her habit to curse, but the horses weren’t the only ones in a panic.

Pulling back to stop them seemed to have no effect although they did respond to a tug left or right. She passed her destination and was fast approaching the busy Michigan Avenue intersection, where motor cars, people on foot, and street cars crossed her path. She was desperate. Instinct took over as she pulled on the left rein, steering the horses to the left side of the road, then began what she hoped would be a gradual turn to the right—into an alley. The horses calmed as they came off of the pavement and onto the quiet, dirt surface of the alley. When the wagon wheels hit the dirt, and the pulling became more difficult, they slowed even more. Raven continued to pull on the reins.

“Whoa,” she said quietly.

When they came to a full stop, Raven bent forward slightly and took a few deep breaths.

“That was a nice move.”

She didn’t need to look up to see who was moving up from behind the wagon. Rondell Boyd took each of the horses by the halter. They shied away from his touch, but he held on.

“You okay?” he asked.

She was also out of breath, so she simply bobbed her head up and down and allowed Rondell to take control. The horses were sweating and sucking air in deep breaths, but they calmed under his touch and his soothing voice. He led them into someone’s back yard and in a wide circle that took them back toward the street.

“What set them off?” Rondell asked.

“A mob of people back at State and Forty-First,” she said. She held the reins loosely and leaned back in her seat. “I thought the riots were over. Why are white people down in here again?”

“The troops stayed around for a couple of months,” Rondell said over his shoulder, “but as soon as they left, the Irish started picking at us.”

He leaned into the horses, pushing them off the street and into the front yard of his stable. Raven dropped the reins and rose from her seat, but he stopped her. “Hold on.” He looked up toward State Street and then continued through the barn and out the back. He directed Raven to get down and take control of the horses as he went to close the front door to the barn.

“You don’t think they’ll come down this far into the Black Belt, do you?” she asked.

“I don’t know what to think,” he replied. “I just know that with the troops gone and the police back to looking the other way, we need to be careful.”

Rondell Boyd and his wife Essie had moved north from Alabama a couple of years ago with two mules and a wagon. They had found work hauling fertilizer out of the stockyard, sleeping under their wagon until they could scrape up enough to buy this barn from a Jew named Greenberg. Rondell had carefully restored the structure and, Raven knew from her experience during the riots that he would rather die than see it destroyed.

Raven had known Rondell back home in Thomasville before he abruptly left town and returned to his people in Alabama. When she learned he was in Chicago she convinced her boss to work with him. The Association had placed numerous horses and mules into his care—some abandoned, some rescued from abusive owners—and all had thrived. He was a good man who looked after his animals, but she also knew him to be stubborn and opinionated.

“How did you get stuck with this delivery?” he asked as they each unhitched a horse and placed it in a stall.

“The Association is looking for an officer to work with horses, so I volunteered for this,” she replied. She smiled and continued, “I thought it would be an easy ride.”

She closed the gate and leaned on it to watch the horse nibble at the hay in the manger. He laughed as he took the halter, she handed him and hung it on a nail. Before he could say anything, their attention was drawn to the loud thump of something heavy hitting the front door of the barn.

“Boyd!” a voice shouted from outside.

Raven and Rondell looked at each other. He picked up a pitchfork and made for the door.

“Wait,” she said grabbing his arm. “Let me go out there.”

“Hell no,” he replied. “I ain’t letting you fight my battles.”

She took off the cap she was wearing and shook her head to let her hair fall around her shoulders. “If I go, there won’t be a battle to fight.”

He turned back to the door, ignoring her plea.

“What’s going on, here?” Rondell’s wife Essie had appeared in the barn.

“Essie,” Raven said. “There’s a mob out front and he won’t let me go out there to quiet things down. If they see him, there’ll be trouble.”

Essie looked from Raven to Rondell, weighing the options. A few moments later, Raven stepped into the front yard of the stable to face the angry men. She deliberately closed the door, pressing her back against the barn with her arms folded hoping Rondell would remain inside.

The small crowd before her grew quiet. They were young, not over seventeen or eighteen, and they undoubtedly expected the Negro whose name was scrawled above the door. Instead they faced a white woman with wild black hair and slate-gray eyes—a woman in trousers holding a pitchfork.

Raven kept both hands on the implement so they wouldn’t see her shaking, and she swallowed hard, hoping to dislodge the lump in her throat. She also carefully avoided looking directly at the torch in the hands of one of the men. She unconsciously kept her pitchfork pointed in his direction as though it might ward off the flames.

“Where’s Boyd?” one of the men demanded.

“He’s not here,” she lied. “You need to move on. There are animals inside, and I’m not letting you burn them up.”

“Then get ’em out of there,” shouted another man who rounded the corner of the building. He was squat with a square face and flaming red hair and he was followed by a dozen or so boisterous companions bearing torches, clubs, and rocks. They were laughing and jostling as though they had been drinking and they, too, came up short at the sight of a white woman in this neighborhood.

“I can’t get’ ‘em out. There’s nowhere for them to go.”

“What are you protecting that job-stealing nigger for? There should be a white man running this livery.”

“Who you calling a nigger, boy?”

Raven was confused. That was Rondell’s unmistakable baritone voice, but she was practically touching the barn door and it had not opened. Her eyes swung toward the voice as Rondell emerged from the shadows at the side of the building and the entire congregation of people shifted in his direction.

He stood holding an axe handle with his feet apart ready for action—a slender man with smooth skin that defied any attempt to guess his age. His deep voice, clever mind, and defiant disposition made her think he was pushing forty. Rondell was one of those Negroes who clearly did not like white people telling him what to do. He would probably have been lynched, had he stayed in Alabama. Now he might be lynched here in Chicago.

As she moved to head off trouble, Raven raised the pitchfork and pointed it at her opponents. The flash of a camera momentarily blinded her and gave her hope that the mob wouldn’t harm a white woman in front of a news photographer.

The little red-headed man clenched his fists and rose up on the balls of his feet and said, “Come on, boys. Let’s burn this place down.”

Raven gripped her pitchfork and felt Rondell move up beside her. She wanted to run away but her feet were rooted to the spot. She was relieved to see the crowd hesitate and to hear another man speak for the first time.

“Danny,” he mumbled to his red-headed companion, “Let’s move on. We can’t win a fight with a woman. The newspaper is here, and they will eat us alive. Mr. Sweeney won’t like that.”

At the mention of Sweeney’s name, Danny’s demeanor changed. His puffed-up presence deflated like air coming out of a tire, his fierce eyes became shifty, and he glanced over his shoulder at some invisible presence.

At that moment, Raven realized that this hateful mob—these men of violence—weren’t here on some noble mission. They were here at the behest of others. They were puppets whose strings were being pulled. Raven couldn’t help but worry. Who were the puppeteers and what could motivate them to foment such hatred and violence? Raven planted the pitchfork handle in the dirt and let the man approach her. She towered over him, her black hair billowing in the evening breeze.

“This ain’t over,” Danny said. He backed away from her and said louder as he glared at Rondell and moved away. “We’ll be back.”

They never came back. Boyd’s Livery stable and all the animals inside were spared, thanks to the courage of one woman—at least that’s how the newspaper reported it. The photograph of Raven Griffith holding off a mob with a pitchfork would become iconic both for the strength of one woman, and for her fierce determination to protect helpless animals. Her boss, however, was not impressed.

 

2

“What were you thinking?” Louis Hanson said as he confronted her in the office the next morning waving the morning edition of the Chicago Herald and Examiner. “You can’t go putting yourself in danger like that.”

Raven was relieved that Lou remained seated at his desk. It made her uncomfortable when they stood talking. She was nearly six feet tall, and she towered over Lou’s slender, five-foot, six-inch frame.

Raven had been looking out for the welfare of Chicago’s animals for over a year—hired by Lou at a time when America’s participation in the Great War had made jobs for women more plentiful. She had a passion for animals and decidedly little patience for those who neglected or mistreated them.

“If I hadn’t gone out there, they would have burned those animals alive,” Raven replied with more anger than she intended. She turned and walked back toward her table, mumbling loud enough for him to hear, “I’m tired of serving coffee to teamsters.”

“That’s your job.” He was practically shouting. “That’s why I hired you!” He gave her a long, appraising look, then continued, “Why don’t you put on a dress, clean yourself up, and find a man who’ll marry you. You could be an attractive young woman if you’d put your mind to it.”

He might have been genuinely worried about her, but Raven suspected the long-time Superintendent of the Animal Welfare Association simply did not like having a woman’s photo in the newspaper representing his organization—especially, Raven suspected, this impertinent young woman who had a way of getting under his skin. In all the time she had worked for him, he had only used her in their workhorse relief program, giving out thousands of bags of oats, carrots, chopped apples for horses; dog biscuits for dogs; and even coffee and doughnuts for drivers.

“This picture shows you pointing a pitchfork at Danny Malone and his brother Sean,” Hanson continued, holding the front page in one hand and pointing with the other. “Do you know who they are?”

Raven shook her head.

“They’re Sweeney’s Colts, that’s who they are. They’re gangsters and Brian Sweeney doesn’t like being bested. Those Malone boys aren’t going to forget you.”

His telephone rang, so she took the opportunity to ease out of his office. She knew of the so-called athletic clubs that dotted the Irish territory in the south end of town and recalled the murderous look in Danny’s eyes as she loomed over him in front of the stable. He would have burned that barn with the animals inside if she had let him, supported by his standing in one of the many Clubs, which were little more than gangs of bullies who liked to drink, fight, and assault outsiders. Their latest target was the thousands of blacks who had migrated up from the Deep South during the Great War and had taken up residence across Wentworth Avenue from their Canaryville neighborhood in what came to be known as the “Black Belt.”

Many of the clubs were tied to important Irish politicians and Raven wondered if Hanson was worried about the fallout that might affect his political standing. She didn’t know much about Chicago politics, but she knew palms were greased and favors were called-in even, probably, in the world of animal welfare.

She was hanging up her coat when Hanson approached her from behind. “Here,” he handed her a slip of paper. “Make yourself useful and go see about this.”

 

Opal Fassbender’s kitchen made Raven uneasy. Yesterday’s dishes were piled in the sink, pots and pans littered the stove, and Opal Fassbender herself—well, the term slovenly was as kind a term as Raven could conjure. It also reinforced her opinion of why she was here. This untidy woman had misplaced her dog, and she expected Raven to find it for her.

Mrs. Fassbender placed two cups of coffee on the table and plopped down opposite Raven. Her eyes were still red from crying.

“Tell me about your dog.” Raven said, trying to muster a tone of genuine concern. “Mr. Hanson’s note said she is a golden retriever.”

Mrs. Fassbender looked at Raven, and then said, “I let Molly outside to do her business yesterday afternoon, and when I went to call her in, she was gone—just gone.” She began to cry and through her sobs said, “I went up and down the street calling her. I asked the neighbors, and no one saw her.”

“Could she have just run off?” Raven asked.

“Oh no,” Mrs. Fassbender exclaimed.

Raven let her cry for a minute then asked, “Mr. Hanson sent me out here because you said Molly was stolen. Why do you think that? Did you see something suspicious?”

She blew her nose. “Arthur, the man next door, did. He saw a green box truck with two men in it driving slowly up and down the street at the time she went missing. It’s the only explanation.”

“Could I have a look at your back yard?”

“Of course.”

Raven slipped into her coat and wrapped a scarf around her neck while Mrs. Fassbender opened the door to the back porch. She stood in the doorway as Raven walked the perimeter of the yard. The white picket fence had turned to gray, and some tops were broken off, but it appeared solid with no breaks or holes under it. The garden itself was not much of a garden. Fall leaves had not been raked and weeds had taken over the planted areas. Raven could see her breath in the frosty air as she stepped carefully to avoid Molly’s droppings. She tested the side-gate, which was held closed by a spring. Her first thought was that the dog would have had somehow to pull the gate open to let herself out, but it wasn’t difficult to imagine the gate being held open by the mounds of leaves and sticks that littered the yard. The dog, Raven decided, had probably opened the gate with her nose and was gone thanks to the untidy habits of a careless owner.

As Raven concluded her walk-around and mounted the steps, Mrs. Fassbender seemed to be regaining some composure and said, “Lou’s a sweetheart for sending you out here.”

Raven had to repress a smile at the thought of Lou as a sweetheart. There was little to do here, but she didn’t want to rush off so she walked back into the kitchen and stood next to the table. “Have you known the Hansons long?” she asked.

“Mildred and I were in school together,” she said. Then she caught Raven off guard. “She’s dying you know—heart failure.”

Mrs. Fassbender was looking down at her coffee and did not see the shock on Raven’s face.

“No,” Raven said quietly, “I didn’t know.”

Raven sat back down at the table, mildly embarrassed—not because she did not know about Mildred Hanson’s terminal disease (why would she?)—but because she could not work up much sympathy for Hanson or his wife. Even though he had offered her an opportunity to do something she had a passion for, she found him to be irritating to work for and difficult to be around.

They sat for a moment in silence, and then Raven said, “Do you suppose I could have a word with your neighbor?”

“He’ll be at work,” she said. “He’s a switchman for the Illinois Central, the same railroad my husband works for.”

Everyone in this neighborhood probably worked for the Illinois Central. The rail yard was at the end of the block, near enough that Raven could hear the banging of the cars as they were switched and coupled.

Raven took a sip of coffee and eyed Mrs. Fassbender over her cup. There wasn’t much left to be done here. Perhaps Molly had been stolen, but it was more likely that Molly had simply chased a cat onto the next block and forgotten how to find her way home. That was not unusual for house dogs that are not accustomed to life on the streets. It was also unlikely, although Raven would not voice this, that a house dog would survive for long out there.

“We’ll be on the lookout for any golden retrievers that are picked up,” Raven rose to leave. “Are there any unusual characteristic that would help us identify Molly?”

She thought for a moment then said, “Not really, except for the red bandana that I keep tied around her neck.”

“That’s a big help,” Raven said at the front door. “We’ll be in touch if anything develops.”

“Tell Lou and Mildred I send my best,” she said to Raven’s back as she walked to the street. Raven just waved.

 

 

Raven’s chilly, fifteen-minute walk back to the office had cleared her mind and given her time to consider how she would approach Lou about his wife’s illness. In the end, she had decided the best approach was no approach at all. She would let him bring it up.

“How is Opal?” he asked from the door to his office.

“About as well as can be expected,” she said

“What do you think happened to her dog?”

“Well,” she began, “the gate to the back yard does not have a latch, so I think it probably just ran off. But I didn’t tell her that. I said we would be on the look-out.”

“Can I help you?” Hanson said, over Raven’s shoulder.

She turned and saw Rondell Boyd. Raven had never seen him in their office—didn’t even think he knew where it was located. Apparently, Hanson had never even met him, so Raven introduced them

“What are you doing here?” she asked Rondell after Hanson had returned to his office. She tried to hide her surprise, motioning for him to take a seat at the table.

He sat down and looked around. It was, Raven suspected, the first time he had been in their offices. “I need your help with something,” he said.

“Are those gangs bothering you again?”

“No, no. Nothing like that,” he said. “I know a man—a white man. He’s been real nice to me and Essie. He has two dogs that went missing this morning.”

Another missing dog case, thought Raven. It was odd how these things ran in spurts. Next week it would probably be a string of horse abuse cases.

“Do you want me to go down and talk to him?”

“I told him I would speak to you,” Rondell said. “He’s real upset. Says someone stole them.”

“Why does he say that? Maybe they just ran off.”

“No,” Rondell said. “Those dogs didn’t just run off. They is working dogs. He uses them to herd sheep down at the stockyards. You go talk to him. You’ll see.”

Raven glanced at Mr. Hanson to see if he had heard the mention of the stockyards. He had not, but Raven knew she would need to plan her next move very carefully.

 

 3

“Absolutely not,” Lou had said yesterday in response to Rondell’s request for help. Raven knew that Lou did not want his people entering the stockyards and causing trouble. The animals were destined for slaughter, so their treatment was not up for consideration. All she wanted to do was talk to Ozzie Bunton about his missing dogs. But Lou had been adamant. That is why she sat outside the back door to Rondell Boyd’s stable.

“Are you the lady from the welfare association?”

Raven had seen him approaching out of the corner of her eye but decided to let him make the first move. She stood as he approached and offered her hand. “I’m Raven Griffith.”

“Ozzie Bunton,” he said. “My friends call me Oz.”

He was half a head shorter than Raven with long gray hair that had not seen a brush in some time, and a thick Scottish accent. His eyes would have had a twinkle, had they not been so clouded with sadness.

“I understand your dogs have gone missing.”

“Aye, that they have.”

“Tell me about them.”

“A couple of real sharp lads. Black and white border collies, they are. I call them Thunder and Lightning.” His face lightened a bit as he described them. “We work the sheep pens down at the Yard, moving stock into the sorting corrals.”

“Is that where they went missing?”

“Oh no,” he said. “They went missing from my home.”

“And where is that?”

“Back of the Yards,” he replied. “Just the other side of Canaryville.”

The mention of Canaryville made Raven shudder. It was a tough neighborhood of Irish immigrants who worked in the stockyards on their western boundary and tormented the Negro community along State Street to their East. It was also home to Brian Sweeney and a host of violent Irish gangs. The Back of the Yards neighborhood was further west along the southern border of the stockyard and populated largely by Germans, Poles, and other Eastern Europeans. Raven wasn’t sure how this Scotsman fitted into all that.

“I’d like to have a look if that’s okay.”

“Aye,” he said. “We can cut through the stockyard.”

“No,” she replied. “My boss doesn’t want me to go in there.”

“We’ll take the long way, then,” he said. “Let’s go.”

They walked briskly toward State Street where they turned south, then turned right at Forty-seventh and continued the dozen or so blocks along the southern boundary of Canaryville. They spoke little—Raven out of her unease at being so near the territory of Brian Sweeney and his gang, and Bunton probably due to his natural taciturn character. When they arrived at the southeast corner of the stockyard, they stopped.

The first thing that struck Raven was the presence of the flies. They swarmed in great clouds, crawling in every bit of exposed skin. Raven had to keep her mouth closed. Then there was the smell. She thought she had a strong stomach for animal odors—urine, feces, even dead animals—she had smelled it all. But this was something else. She fought the urge to cover her mouth with a handkerchief. The odor made her eyes water and threatened to shut down her nostrils. And as she surveyed the scene before her from a slight rise in the road, she could understand why. For what appeared to be miles, certainly as far as the eye could see, stretched a massive checkerboard of wooden corrals and in them she could make out cattle and hogs of every description. The animals were being shifted down lanes, up chutes, and into adjoining corrals in some obscure, random chorography that probably made sense to the hundreds of men conducting it.

After she marveled at the spectacle for a moment, she said, “I don’t see any sheep.”

“Sheep pens are up this way,” he pointed up the street and began walking.

They walked past animal pens on their right and the Back of the Yards neighborhood on their left. Finally, he stopped and led her to a fence where two dozen head of sheep were being herded into a chute by two border collies. They watched for a moment as the dogs ran back and forth in stealthy movements and in response to whistles from their handler. They kept the sheep bunched-up and moving in the direction of the chute.

“My house is here,” he said, turning his back to the pen and pointing toward a neat, wooden bungalow. They walked across the street and stood in front of the home.

“Were the dogs in that fenced section of the yard,” she pointed to the side of the house.

“Aye.”

“And was the gate left open?”

“Not by me.”

“Could your wife have left it open?” she asked. “Or your children—do you have children?”

“My children are old enough to know better,” he said. “These dogs are not just our livelihood; they’re part of the family.” Tears welled up in his eyes and, for a moment, the thought the tough little Scotsman might cry. Finally, he said, “I hope you find whoever took my dogs before I do. I’ll murder the bastards.”

“I’m afraid there isn’t much we can do, Mr. Bunton. We’re not the police. We can’t go off and try to arrest anyone.”

He was silent, so she continued. “Has there been any unusual activity in the area recently—strangers about, or any suspicious vehicles?”

“No, not that I know of.”

“What about your neighbors?”

“They would na steal my dogs.”

“No,” she said quickly, “I didn’t mean that. Might they have seen anything unusual?”

“Nobody’s said anything.”

“Could we ask her?” Raven pointed to a large woman who was bent at the waist pulling weeds from the flower bed along her front porch.

“Lena,” Bunton shouted. She stood as they walked to the edge of her yard. “This lady is helping me look for Thunder and Lightning. Have you seen anything suspicious around her lately?”

Lena eyed Raven with suspicion as she spoke to Bunton. “No,” she said and resumed her weed pulling.

Bunton shrugged, and they returned to his yard.

“There was a box truck,” Lena said to their backs. They turned as she finished. “It was painted green and two men were in it. Driving up and down the street it was, like they were looking for someone—or some thing.”

 

 

“These are delicious,” Josephine Washington mumbled through a mouthful of food. “What are they?”

“What are what?” Lou asked.

Raven hadn’t heard the door to the office open. Lou hung his coat on the hook behind the door and shuffled over to the table. He looked tired. His thinning, gray hair had not been combed and his shirt looked as though he had slept in it. With his wife’s illness, Raven imagined, he probably had.

“Why don’t you join us?” Raven said brightly.

“What are those?” he said eyeing the half-dozen small, round pastries Raven had placed on the table.

“Those,” she said proudly, “are scotch pies. They’re filled with minced sheep meat—mutton I think—and they’re good.”

She looked at Josephine for confirmation, but the girl could only nod—her already-round face accentuated by her stuffed cheeks. Josephine, or Jo, as she liked to be called, had apparently wandered into the office while Raven was out and had become the Association’s newest volunteer.

Madge Bentley, the office manager, trundled out of her office, took one of the pies without asking, and walked back inside.

“Where did you get them?” He picked one up and took a bite, nodding as he chewed thoughtfully.

Raven hesitated, and then replied, “From the wife of Rondell’s friend, the sheep herder.”

Lou stopped chewing and looked hard at her, so she held up her hands. “I did not go to the Yards. I met him at Rondell’s, and we walked to his house.”

Lou sat down and continued chewing, so Raven pressed on. She described the dogs and their importance to both the Buntons and the stock yard operation and the circumstances of their disappearance. She watched Lou as she talked and thought she saw him relax as the spicy meat pie disappeared in his hand and he leaned back in his chair. After hearing of his wife’s illness from Opal Fassbender, she had a new appreciation for the pressure he must be under. She had no wish to make his work life miserable as well.

“And one of the neighbors,” Raven finished her story, “claims she saw a green box truck driving up and down the street. There were two men inside and, according to the neighbor, they appeared to be looking for something.” She paused for effect. “That has to be more than a coincidence. That’s the same kind of truck Mrs. Fassbender reported.”

She watched Mr Hanson for a reaction.

“I’m afraid there’s more,” said Hanson.

She watched him pick at his teeth with his fingernail and make a sucking sound with his lips before he said, “We’ve had other reports from around the city. Mostly about men rounding up stray dogs, but a few pets, as well.”

They sat in silence for a moment as the scope of the problem sank in.

“Why would anyone be rounding up dogs, especially stray dogs?” Josephine asked.

Strays were a problem all over the city. Raven wondered if this might actually be a blessing. On the other hand, she felt they needed to do something for the Buntons and Mrs. Fassbender.

“What should we do?” she asked Hanson.

“I wish I knew,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get the Board to allow me to hire more people, but they say we don’t have enough money.”

“What about more volunteers?” asked Jo.

“Who’s going to manage them?” countered Hanson.

Raven thought that was something she should offer to do, but she liked to work on her own. She had no wish to be saddled with a bunch of do-gooders. Still, they had to do something.

“In the meantime,” Hanson said to Raven, “I need you to go over to the zoo this afternoon. We’ve had a complaint.”

“Complaint about what?”

“They didn’t say. Just go over there and see how everything looks.” He looked at Josephine for the first time and said, “And take her with you.”

“What? Why?”

“Because I said so.” Hanson stood up to end the discussion. “I want you ladies going out in pairs from now on. It’ll be safer.”

The Lincoln Park Zoo had a reputation for excellence. It had been a fixture in downtown Chicago for half a century and boasted some impressive facilities, including a sea lion pool, an eagle flight cage, a lion house, and a birdhouse. Raven knew about zoos. Her father had built and now directed one back home. With all the animal abuse in the city, the zoo was the last place that needed attention, but she wanted out of the office. She nodded at Jo, snatched up her parasol, and walked out and into an afternoon that would turn out to be anything but a walk in the park.

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