2nd City

The Agency

THE CHICAGO WORKING Chapter 3

Late one night, in Bucktown, a lone figure, tall, wearing a hoodie and jeans, stepped into a streetlamp and looked up at an old church. It approached the building, looked at a large sign for the Burgess and Associates Agency, pulled out a canister, and spray painted something on the front, a bright pink curly villain’s mustache, right on top of the image of the bland, blond agent. It smirked at its handiwork, stepped back, and walked away into the shadows.
The next morning, the front of the church opened and a bland, blond man walked out to the sidewalk. He picked up his paper, turned, frowned. He walked over to the sign, cocked his head slightly at the defaced sign, then walked back into the church, closing the door behind him.
Meanwhile, Tycho, Ethan, and Don were at an Evanston library, pouring over old documents, spooling through microfiche, and browsing the internet. Between them they learned the following:
Burgess Agency had been around since the seventies or eighties, buying, renovating and renting properties from South Loop to Lakeview and more recently out into Wicker Park and Bucktown.
-Holabird and Root is an important architectural firm in the city. The “Root” in the name was John Wellborn Root, Jr., son of the Root mentioned by Ellsworth (who had been one of the great geniuses of early Chicago architecture and the 1893 World’s Fair… until he died before its completion).
-Two men left Holabird and Root in 1953 to pursue their own firms: Simon Ellsworth and John Michael Burgess. Neither had significant success. (See Chicago Working for more background on this, if you want it.)
-Burgess Agency is renting out a property -a converted church
in Bucktown, not far from the thrift store the sweats came from.
The group decides to head down to Bucktown to check out the property. The plan is for Don and Tycho to pretend to be looking for a place while Ethan scopes out the place from Tycho’s car. Ethan suggests they grab Joyce and have Joyce and Don pretending to be a couple, but Don told him it wasn’t the right time.
As Tycho and Don approached the house, they saw a sign with a bland blond man whose face had been given an additional pink curly mustache. Scraping away at the paint they saw a pudgy man in scrubs – Richard.
The pair began to accost Richard, and Ethan saw him soon enough and stormed towards him. Richard withered under the onslaught and confessed: he’d been given this job and a place to live by a Burgess Real Estate Agent in exchange for leaving the night he did and leaving Ellsworth’s door unlocked. He felt terrible about it, as he hadn’t wanted the old man to die. Now he was in possession of the old man’s will and ashes, and some crazy instructions about the disposition of said ashes. He’d hand that stuff over if the group didn’t go to the cops with what they knew of his role in Ellsworth’s death. An agreement was struck, and plans changed. Now Tycho was going to check out the property by himself while Ethan and Don got the ashes and will from Richard’s creepy basement apartment.
And creepy it is. While Tycho explores the lush, if somewhat lifeless condo being sold upstairs, weathering sometimes racist or homophobic comments, sometimes feeling like he was being looked over like a piece of meat, Don and Ethan were getting what they needed from Richard. Despite being the middle of summer and the A/C not running, it was incredibly cold in the basement. Ethan meandered into the storage room, moving along the walls, which were the same color and texture as the plaster they’d found earlier. He came across a strange bulge in the wall, cracked it open, and found an odd, round object, like a small bowling ball.
And then it looked up at him and grabbed him by the throat.
As the plaster man choked Ethan out, Richard slammed the door to his apartment in Don’s face, and Don ran into the storage room, only to narrowly avoid being waylaid himself by a second plaster creature. Don ran back into the hall, beating on Richard’s door, trying to get help. Meanwhile Ethan dropped his phone, which he’d been using for light, while trying to pry himself free, and his vision began to swim, stars lighting the edges of his awareness. (As a note, Ethan’s player had two dice to this roll – he failed it like four times before finally getting a success and freeing himself. He was about to start taking wound penalties that would have reduced him further.) Somehow, at the last moment, he broke free, scrambling into the hall. The pair ran up the stairs, past the descending Tycho and bland real estate agent, and into the front yard. As Ethan ran heedlessly into the street, a girl on a bicycle collided with him, sending him sprawling. Don grabbed him and helped him up, and the pair ran to Tycho’s car, which they couldn’t get into, having misplaced the keys.
Tycho played it as cool as possible, thanking the agent for his time, crossing the lawn, and helping the girl up; a girl who turned out to be Elsa, who was not happy. They put her bike in the back of the car and drove away.
Once out of Bucktown, tensions cooled a little. Ethan read Ellsworth’s will, which, along with a bunch of sacred geometry mumbo jumbo, asked the reader to sneak into “The True Chicago Public Library,” get an urn hidden in a vent there, burn anything else they find in the vent, and then bury his ashes, in the urn, on one of three properties listed in his letter.
So the group headed for the Loop. The stopped into a Walgreens to get Ethan some painkillers. Ethan also purchased a lighter and hairspray, which raised absolutely no suspicions.
“The True Chicago Public Library,” the group knew, from their discussions with Ellsworth, referred to the current Chicago Cultural Center. They made their way there, pausing to pat the bronze bull statue outside for luck. Inside, Don and Elsa kept watch while Ethan and Tycho opened a head-high vent. A few run-ins with curious parents and a watchful docent were diffused with some quick double-talk, and the group managed to get the urn – a metal triangular prism about twice the size of a football – and a leather folder marked “CHICAGO WORKINGFIRST FOLIO.” Ethan resolved immediately to burn it.
The quartet left the Cultural Center, returned to Tycho’s car, and drove into the warm afternoon, looking for a burial ground.

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