The Revolutionist by Robert M. Tucker
Publication Date: December 3, 2017
Wise Words Publishing
Hardcover, Paperback & eBook; 600 Pages
Genre: Historical/Action Adventure
Convoys of large wagons pulled by four and often up to six draft horses, Percherons, Clydesdales, driven by shouting, cigar chewing, whip cracking teamsters came empty to long lines of loading docks and left filled with barrels and crates and boxes of merchandise. The congested streets steaming with mud and manure left barely room to pass in and out of the district. Forced to stop and wait for the second time, Rittenauer and Luther finally left the cab and dodged and maneuvered on foot through the creaking groaning traffic punctuated by wet mucous-flecked equine snorts and trumpeting neighs.
They entered O’Riley’s office amidst a furor of angry shouting between an explosive flushed O’Riley and one of his supervisors who had the gall to contradict his boss. O’Riley paused and glanced at them. “What the hell do you want?”
“I found your man,” said Rittenauer.
A malicious grin replaced O’Riley’s snarl. “Good, then I can fire this one. Get your ass out of here, McNeil. You’re done. Go work in Packing Town. That’s all you’re good for, butchering cows and pigs, you bum.”
The equally fire-eyed supervisor looked Luther up and down with contempt. “You’ll be sorry, O’Riley. He don’t know what I know.”
“You don’t know shit, McNeil! You’re fired! I don’t want to see your face around here again!”
The livid lean-faced man in his rumpled workmen’s clothing and slouch hat raised his fist in defiance as he backed out the door. “You ain’t seen the last of me, O’Riley! The union’ll bring you down.”
“Feck you and yer union! You call a strike and I’ve got men waitin’ to take yer place.”
“You try to bring in any feckin’ niggers and there’ll be a war. There ain’t no work here for scabs, ‘specially nigger scabs! We’ll burn this feckin’ place to the ground!”
“I’ve heard enough of your scum! Get the hell out!”
Cursing under his breath, McNeil clattered out the door and down the wooden platform steps to the street.
“Can you beat that?” O’Riley looked over from behind his desk. “That asshole came in here and told me all the workers in my place and every warehouse here are in the union and they want to make demands. I told him to go feck hisself.” His bloodshot eyes flickered up and down making a quick assessment of Luther’s powerful body topped by his fearfully ugly face. “So, this is your man,” he spoke to Rittenauer. “I know you wouldn’t waste my time if you didn’t have what I asked for. He looks like he could stop a train.”
“Careful what you say, O’Riley. You don’t want to get on his bad side either.”
“Mmph, what’s his name.”
“Why don’t you ask him yourself? You gotta talk to him if he’s gonna work for you.”
“I don’t talk to my workers. I give orders. Other than that, I don’t want to hear anything back from ‘em.”
“My name is Luther Baggot,” Luther’s deep basso voice and guttural German brought O’Riley up short.
“You’re a kraut.” O’Riley decided then and there to address him in as polite a manner as he was able to invent, since being polite to anybody was not his nature. But he wanted this overseer to support him and only him, to be on his side.
“He used to work for Bismarck in Germany as a special agent in the secret service,” said Rittenauer.
O’Riley looked at Luther with a sudden new level of respect, stood and came around from behind his desk and extended his right hand, which nearly disappeared in Luther’s crunching grip. With the safe return of his hand, O’Riley stepped back and gestured to a second door opening onto the warehouse.
“I am interested to hear more about your work in Germany. Let’s talk as I show you the factory.”
Luther and Rittenauer followed him out onto the factory floor. The deafening thrum and roar of two hundred steam powered looms and ten thirty foot long finishing reels at the process end of wide dye vats through which the woven fabric was passed crowded the massive fifty thousand square foot warehouse. Dense, toxic chemical odors permeated the air, attacked the eyes and lungs and made breathing difficult. Most of the workers ‘masked their faces with scarves or bandanas and stuffed cotton or pieces of cloth into their ears. A few braved the daily intake of fumes and swirling cotton fabric dust that would eventually erode their lungs and brains and kill them.
As they walked along the main aisle, O’Riley attempted to shout over the din despite that Luther and Rittenauer could not hear a word. His description of the operation added little to what could be seen. The noise of the looms receded behind them, as they approached the cutting and shearing tables and progressed into the packing and shipping area. Large doors opened onto the loading docks where a crew of ten men hefted the heavy rolls of carpet and fabric onto horse-drawn wagons.
Luther mentally noted the ease with which finished product could be stolen by transfer to an unauthorized wagon and how small boxes of yarn and cut materials could be picked up and carried off amid the flurry of activity on the crowded dock. Four shipping clerks dashed back and forth verifying the product being loaded against their packing forms and bills of lading and demanded that the teamsters sign for their loads.
“How many people work here?” asked Luther.
“About three-hundred. I run two twelve hour shifts with four supervisors. They get two ten minute breaks and a half hour for lunch. I stagger ‘em by two sections so everyone has a chance at the commodes. Shows I’m considerate for their well-being. Anyone not at their station when the alarm bell rings gets their pay docked.”
“Speaking of pay,” said Luther, “what is mine?”
“O’Riley pays Pinkertons the fee and I pay you,” said Rittenauer.
“Don’t want it that way. O’Riley, you pay me my share and Pinkerton’s separate.”
“That’s not how we operate, Baggot. We have a separate contract with O’Riley and with you.”
Luther’s glare caused Rittenauer to look away. He had neither the strength nor confidence to argue with this man. “We can change the contract. Okay with you, O’Riley?” Rittenauer made the feeble offer to save face.
“Good for me.”
“First payment in advance and cash once a week,” said Luther.
“You start today?”
“I start today.”
“Good.” O’Riley individually shook hands with the two men and lead them back through the rumbling factory to his office.
After Rittenauer departed, O’Riley invited Luther to have a seat in his office. He grinned and struck a pose of confiding in his new hire. “So, Mr. Baggot, Luther, may I call you Luther?”
“That’s my name. I answer to it.”
“You have experience I can use not only here, but outside the plant. And that will involve additional special compensation for you that is between the two of us. Rittenauer and the Pinkertons don’t need to know about it.”
“What is it you are asking and how much will you pay?”
“I’ll get to that in a moment. First, I want you to establish a surveillance system in the factory. You used to work in Bismarck’s secret service, so you know about spies. I want you to set up a spy system. After you’ve had a chance to observe the workers, select one in each of the production areas. Tell them they will get extra pay for informing on any worker they see trying to cheat me. Of course, they have to keep their mouths shut or they will lose their jobs. Anyone finds out, they’ll likely end up with their throat cut in a back alley.”
O’Riley offered Luther a cigar from a handcrafted wooden box and conducted the ceremony of lighting it and his own. When both cigars were going and filling the air over their heads with wavering smoke, O’Riley continued.
“There are seven other textile factories like this one in Chicago. Even though we’re in competition, the owners talk to each other. We don’t want any more plants and we pay to keep it that way. We have friends and supporters on the city council, if you get my drift. It’s how business gets done here in Chicago. Hell, it’s done that way in every feckin’ city everywhere.” He paused to inhale and then exhale a ragged cloud of smoke.
“The garment workers union contract will run out this year. I had to run a closed shop for the last five years and grant concessions that cut into my profit. As soon as I heard about the contract, I kicked McNeil’s ass out when you and Rittenauer got here. McNeil is a union man. He ever shows his face in the plant again, take care of ‘im. You don’t have to do it yourself unless you want. You can hire someone.”
“What’s the second thing you want me to do?”
“I have another little business I plan to run on the side. I’d like you to take care of it for me. I’ll have you meet my contact, but not right away. I want you to set up here first and be sure we understand each other.”
Luther nodded slightly in acknowledgement. O’Riley was unscrupulous, but then so was everybody in Chicago, or so it seemed. The whole point of running a business was to make money and not let anything get in the way.
“I’m going to spend some time out in the factory. I have to watch the people before I decide who to ask.”
“Take all the time you need. And by the by,” O’Riley opened a ledger on his desk and dashed off a check for one thousand dollars.
Luther looked at it and nodded with a slight rise of his eyebrows.
“Later, I’ll double that. This is to get you started. Where do you live?”
“Good. When you visit the second shift, you can sleep here in the office. I have a cot. Do you want me to introduce you to the supervisors?”
“No, just point them out to me. I will introduce myself.”
“Here are their names.” O’Riley quickly jotted the names of the supervisors on a notepad and handed it to Luther. “The last two come on at six o’clock. I’ll show them to you before I leave.”
“You leave the workers alone here all night. They could steal you blind.”
“I have a Pinkerton’s security guard who’s here at night. He patrols the factory and he’s armed.”
“Then I’ll meet him. Who runs the production during the day?”
“I schedule all the work for both shifts and buy the raw material. I also have two maintenance men, one for each shift. We run all the looms and I can’t afford to have any go down for long. I pay them well, more than the operators.”
Luther started for the door. O’Riley jerked open a desk drawer and pulled out a blue bandana with a white paisley border design. “You might want to wear this around the looms and here’s cotton for your ears. You spend much time out there, those machines ‘ll make you go deaf and the fumes can kill you.”
Luther took the bandana and pocketed the ragged chunk of cotton. Carrying the bandana, he walked slowly along the aisles between the looms. He wanted the operators and assistants to clearly see his face for a while. He would wear the mask another day.
He paused to watch workers direct raw cotton through rollers aligned in a series in the head of the drawing frames that straightened the strands of yarn which were then spun and twisted on bobbins to tighten and compress the fibers. The spinners, mostly women, moved up and down the row of frames to detect and repair breaks and snags along with spoolers. Winders received the yarn coming off the frames and spoolers operated machines that combined single threads from ten to twenty bobbins onto one.
The speed and attention to detail the spinners demonstrated impressed Luther. They efficiently moved the product in sequence to various forming devices, balls of yarn, tubs for the weavers and cones, tubes, and reels that were moved to other sections of the plant for further operations.
As he walked slowly along in the weaving sector, Luther noticed the eyes of a particular woman followed him with unmistakable curiosity over the top of the bandana that covered her nose and bottom half of her face. Her eyes were dark and her hair brown, so Luther took her to be from a northern European country, but she could have emigrated from any region in Europe. She wore the standard long skirt and shirtwaist blouse seen on most women in the mills and factories. He decided he would confront and talk to her later in O’Riley’s office. For now, they were mired in the clashing sound of machinery.
Hillar Kuznetsov concentrated on positioning a loom beam, then began the rapid passing of a shuttle containing the weft back and forth across the warp threads rhythmically raised and lowered by a harness to create the weave pattern of a wide sheet of cloth. The yarn had been cooked dry on steam-heated drums in the adjacent preparatory process. The smell of a hot starch and oil mixture and odor of the yarn that had been passed through it rose to the warehouse rafters.
Having worked on looms for the past five years, Hillar was a skilled weaver. Since emigrating from Estonia with Finnish relatives, she had found employment in O’Riley’s textile plant starting as a filler in the weaving room. She advanced quickly and within one year learned the tasks of a creeler and beam warper and took over the position of one of the many weavers, a woman who had lost the four fingers of her right hand when it became caught and crushed in a moving loom beam.
She wondered who this tall man dressed in black with a partially disfigured face could be wandering around watching people at work in the factory. He did not talk to anyone, but intently observed specific individuals in different areas of the operation, then moved on. It concerned her that he might be singling out co-workers who would soon lose their jobs. There was no mistaking that he had looked steadily at her. She was one of them.website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Blog Tour ScheduleThursday, March 1 Feature at Teaser Addicts Book Blog Monday, March 5 Excerpt at What is That Book About Wednesday, March 7 Feature at WS Momma Readers Nook Sunday, March 11 Interview & Excerpt at T's Stuff Thursday, March 15 Feature at A Bookaholic Swede Monday, March 19 Guest Post at Passages to the Past Friday, March 23 Interview at Dianne Ascroft's Blog Monday, March 26 Review & Excerpt at Locks, Hooks and Books Tuesday, March 27 Feature at A Literary Vacation Wednesday, March 28 Interview at Donna's Book Blog Thursday, March 29 Wrap Up at Passages to the Past
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The Revolutionist is a great piece historical fiction. I was captivated with it right from the start. The author obviously did his research before writing this book. I was fascinated with the details and setting. Once I picked it up, I did not want to put it down until I was done reading the whole book. It is full of suspense, adventure, action, mystery and intrigue.
I give The Revolutionist a well deserved 5 stars and hope to read more by this author in the future.
I received this book from the author. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.