The following is the Prologue to Second of All, the second book in the Downey Series. It is necessary to read First, I Love You prior to reading Second of All.
On a quiet, tree crowned street – or as quiet as a street in Chicago could be – there stood a house both conspicuous and dismissible. This incongruity was made possible by a stately old beauty that caused it to stand out amongst the slightly more worn historical homes that buffeted it, and yet by itself, the home held no special appeal or architectural feat to charm a jaded tourist. The house had changed hands many times in the nearly 120 years since it had been built, most notably in a rousing game of poker during the Dirty Thirties when it was owned by an Alderman. It had been known for its speakeasy parties in the Twenties and had an addition designed by a renowned architect in the Fifties. It was listed on a number of historic architecture tours, but these things combined didn’t match its crowning jewel of worth. The house had many little hiding spots, hidden recesses, and faux panels that had allowed it to harbor a breathtaking amount of illicit alcohol, guns, bomb making material, money, and stolen items over the years.
When its current owner took possession of the house only the most obvious hiding spots were revealed to him by the previous occupants, a very respectable doctor and his artist wife. As far as he knew the authorities didn’t know about any of the hiding spots, but its owner knew for certain they didn’t know about the one he had installed by his own hand. Inside the old and well-trod wooden staircase of the narrow butler’s pantry leading from the kitchen to the main staircase of the home was a step that slid out and a smallish person – or a person with a strong enough incentive – could carefully lower themselves onto the ground about four feet below and shimmy underneath the larger wide main staircase of the house leading to the second floor.
The blue prints of the home did not indicate a pocket here, something he had seen to himself by greasing the right palms, and the butler’s pantry had long since been blocked off in the kitchen. If one knew about – or happened to find by diligent exploration – the panel in the wall of the main staircase that opened to the old passageway, one would only find canning materials and timeworn, dusty household cleaning supplies deliberately frozen in time from the moment it was sealed up. Only the owner knew that through the hidden stair step in the butler’s pantry, under the main staircase, was an ad hoc room with crates full of memories, leverage, and money. Beneath these were buried gold bricks and a fireproof box of untraceable guns.
But it was none of these things the owner was after today.
Instead, the object of his desire was a dilapidated old trunk, lowered below before the jimmy-rigged staircase was sealed back together. Inside the trunk there were a myriad of disguises and fake passports, all expertly crafted by a former government official the owner had collected on his rise to power. He wasted no time on any other objects in his path, simply made his way directly to the trunk. After he dragged it forward he removed his gloves and quickly unlocked the latches, chuckling at his own absurdity of locking something in a place hidden from all but him. The lid knocked back and dust and dirt flew everywhere causing him to break out in a coughing fit that lasted longer than he wanted to admit was normal.
While he deftly donned the cloak of anonymity that would get him through the next phase of his plan, his eye spotted a silver brush handle and the corner of a picture that had been dislodged when he dragged the trunk forward. He crouched forward and liberated the photo from its spot. His heart stuttered a bit as he looked at the faded and worn candid photo of his parents, capturing a moment both intimate and pure. It made him long not only for the irretrievable past but for the illusive future, for the opportunity to recreate that moment for his own children, maybe even grandchildren.
But he had work to do first.
–Copyright 2012 Genevieve Dewey, All Rights Reserved