The Fox River Affair
It is Saturday, September 16, 1922. The city of Aurora, Ill., slowly merging into the Chicago metropolitan area, is booming with new industry, new culture, and new ideas. The first colour film has just been shown at The Bijou on the corner of Galena and State, and the City of Lights is living up to its name, with spotlights shining high into the crisp autumn air, marking various nightspots and shopping establishments.
Couples and groups of friends roam the streets, seeking entertainment at dance clubs, diners, and for some, speakeasies. There is a certain disdain for unjust law in this city, for some still live here who worked the Underground Railroad fifty years before. It is the height of Prohibition, but it is not uncommon to see a still placed out on a doorstep, or to hear the loud chatter of merrily intoxicated couples in the streets, or to see a man swig freely from a hip flask at the racetrack. Men wear well-cut pinstriped suits; women may seek the austere and androygnous garçonne look, or may wear light, simply cut dresses. Gone are the fickle days of frilly extravagance in dress; in are the practical days of simplicity and efficiency.
Yet the dazzling array of fashions visible on this night are unmatched even by New York City and, some say, even Paris itself. Located in the Fox Valley, Aurora builds and repairs a large percentage of the railcars now in high demand in the rest of the continent. Immigrants from all over the world, particularly Europe, which is only now starting to recover from its post-war economic depression, have flocked to Aurora. There is comparatively little sexism and little racism here, for minorities are in the majority. This is not to say that these things do not exist (indeed, universal suffrage is but a recent invention), but Aurora is more progressive than most, and proud of it. There are negro congregations, mixed-race neighbourhoods and schools, and a variety of cross-cultural activities.
But despite its joyful atmosphere and colourful facade, despite its wealth and progressive culture, every city has its dark secrets. There is the Mob and their constant struggle with the Feds. The Capones have recently taken full control of Cicero, but their influence and the influence of other gangs extends past West Chicago and into Aurora. Then there is the matter of the mysterious package found on a heavily damaged railcar at a roundhouse belonging to Chicago & Northwestern Railways… but that is a matter for another time.
Our story begins with a group of friends enjoying the entertainments provided by a beautiful Saturday night….