was sure close, Inez. If you
didn't break that window before
we went in, we never would have
made it out of the warehouse
alive. How did you know?"
intuition is highly underrated,
Jeff. Let's call it a day. I'm
ready to soak in a tub of Modern
Woman Bath Oil."
Inez and Jeff thwart the thieves
and keep Chicago safe. Join us
next time for another
featuring Inez Ingalls, Private
Eye. Until then, don't forget.
If you're a modern woman, Modern
Woman Soaps and Oils are made
with you in mind."
29, 1945, fading notes from
WBAC's studio orchestra signaled
an end to the premier episode of
Ingalls, Private Eye.
The "on the air" sign flickered
and went dark, sending Nic Owen
to a nearby chair to relax her
tense muscles and take a few
deep breaths. The relief left
her only faintly aware of a
compliment from studio manager
Frank Myers as he hurried by.
"You were great, Nic. Really
praise had a chance to sink in,
Nic reflected on her new career
as Inez Ingalls, star of a radio
detective show. Only eight
months earlier, the
working at an airplane factory
west of the city. For most of
her two years at the plant, she
had popped rivets into fuselages
of Douglas C-54 transport
planes. When an agent from the
War Department discovered she
had a voice well-suited for
broadcasting, she took on an
added duty—reading war bond
commercials. The Allied victory
brought not only an end to her
riveting and recording careers,
but a great deal of uncertainty
about what to do with her life.
had spotted the newspaper
advertisement for a female to
read ads and suggested she
audition for the job. While
standing in line with hundreds
of other women, Nic doubted that
she had the voice or the talent,
but like the War Department,
Frank Myers found her a perfect
fit for radio. He hired her on
the spot to read commercials and
work as understudy to other
female cast members, including
the star, Carolyn Park. Frank
told her she was learning the
part 'just in case.' He had not
suggested it was just in case
someone shot Mrs. Park two days
before the first episode aired.
Nic's new career began, quite
literally, with a bang.
after the closing notes faded,
Nic remained unable to stand, or
pry her fingers from the script.
She felt exhausted and guessed
it was her body's response to
suddenly relaxed muscles.
Instead of trying to stand, she
slumped further into her chair
and used the script as a fan,
waving it slowly so as not to
deplete precious remaining
never used a script."
She was amazing." Nic turned to
a dark-haired woman that she
remembered seeing at the back of
the studio during the show. Her
expression suggested she was not
there to strike up a friendship.
"I hope you
don't consider yourself the next
Carolyn Park. On your best day,
it would take more of a woman
than you to fill her shoes."
offensive words dissolved any
ailments, real or imagined. Nic
shot to her feet and directly
into the path of two piercing
dark eyes. "I barely knew
Carolyn Park, and I'm not trying
to fill anyone's shoes. Who are
looked about to respond, but
instead, a blank gaze replaced
her defiant stare, and in
keeping with her abrupt arrival,
her high heels clattered on the
floorboards as she hurried off
encounter gave Nic another
opportunity to examine her list
of pros and cons for working in
radio. As she returned to the
chair, she found it more
relaxing to examine the
surrounding architecture than
her unsteady thoughts.
Merchandise Mart, a massive
Deco-style building, spanned two
full city blocks overlooking the
Chicago River. Although no
stranger to the building, Nic's
visits never took her to the two
floors that housed WBAC radio
station. She recalled her
astonished first look at Studio
A, one of the three largest
spaces. Designers had removed
the ceilings from studios A, E,
and D, allowing them to span the
nineteenth and twentieth floors.
Their towering twenty-six-foot
high walls gave them the look
and feel of a cathedral rather
than a sound stage.
marveling at her surroundings
that first morning, Nic
unintentionally blocked the
doorway that Greg Devens was
attempting to enter with his
acoustic bass. Greg, a member of
the studio orchestra, had been
her first friend at the station.
The memory of that meeting sent
her in search of the tall blonde
musician for information, and
perhaps a little sympathy.
show, Nic. Very cool." Greg
spoke the often-cryptic language
shared by jazz musicians and
their supporters. He spent every
free minute away from the studio
practicing with the Torrance
Trio, a local jazz band of which
he was one-third.
Greg. It was a little scary, but
I had fun. I have a question. Do
you have a minute?"
that thin woman in the black
trousers? The one smoking a
cigarette by the back wall." Nic
gazed in her direction, but
rather than point, used the
rising finger to wrap a strand
of shoulder-length brown hair
behind her ear.
Nora Hahn. She and Carolyn Park
were close friends. I think they
started at the station around
the same time. Carolyn worked
here in the studio and Nora is
one of the writers. Their
offices are up on twenty."
"Why do you
suppose she was hanging around
during the show?"
shrugged as he moved the bass
from the stand to its case. Even
with his ample height,
maneuvering the instrument was a
challenge. Once it was safely
tucked away, he put his hands on
his lower back and bent backward
until something cracked. Nic
guessed by his satisfied grin
that he had achieved the desired
result. "Ah. Much better. I
should learn to grind a smaller
axe." The blank look on Nic's
non-jazz-speaking face said she
needed a translation, which he
supplied. "Play a smaller
instrument. Maybe Nora wanted to
see how you did playing Inez.
Why are you interested in her?"
on stage after the show and told
me that I wasn't Carolyn Park,
and shouldn't think I could fill
the lone figure. "Maybe for her,
an invisible wall around Nora,
but decided that rather than
allow the harsh words to scare
her away, she would engage the
woman in a conversation.
Unfortunately, Frank chose that
moment to call her to the stage.
"Miss Owen, you were great." His
enthusiastic hug increased her
embarrassment. "You were. In
spite of finding yourself center
stage on such short notice."
nearby clapped and Nic blushed.
The rose in her cheeks was a mix
of embarrassment and pleasure,
but the warm fuzzy feeling
dissolved when she saw Nora's
dark eyes staring, and two
now-familiar Chicago Police
Detectives glowering from the
cleaning crew discovered Mrs.
Park on the Studio A stage the
previous Saturday morning. In
O'Brian's mind, the fastest way
to find a killer was to harass
everyone remotely involved. He
and Jones spent the weekend
interviewing members of the cast
and crew at their homes. Nic, to
her chagrin, had earned a top
spot on the suspect list.
It was not
necessary for O'Brian to slam
the booth door to announce his
entrance into Studio E. Nor was
a microphone required for
amplification. When his grating
voice boomed through the
acoustically superb room,
mid-sentence. "Nobody leaves
until we finish our interviews."
Had the staff expected their
collective groans and boos to
influence the detective's plans,
they were disappointed. "I hope
none of yous mistook that for a
request. Keep your noises to
yourself and let's get started."
joining the force, O'Brian spent
a few years as a heavyweight
boxer. Twenty years at a desk
instead of a gym had taken its
toll. When he wrapped his arms
over his chest and smirked at
the irritated group, it was not
muscle stretching the seams of
already interviewed everyone,"
Frank yelled. "These people have
put in a long and difficult day
and should be allowed to go
home when we say they go home.
Why don't we start with you?"
The person close enough to
receive a poke from O'Brian's
stubby finger was Barney Mills,
one of the sound effects men.
Barney gulped. "You and me are
gonna have a nice chat in here."
O'Brian waved the engineers,
Harold and Stanley, from the
booth and escorted Barney
discussion took place, Detective
Jones left to gather employees
from the offices and other parts
of the station. Jones did not
have O'Brian's excess weight,
but when he returned and leaned
against the wall next to the
studio door, no one tried to
leave. His broad frame deterred
some, but the exposed firearm
beneath his partially open
jacket held the rest in check.
into Barney's interview, Nic
noticed that Frank and her
fellow performers had left the
stage. She returned to the band
area where Greg stood with
another member, Belia Malecek.
Belia, a gifted violinist, would
soon audition for a chair with
the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
If she knew what a huge feather
that was in her cap, it did not
to see Belia placing her violin
in its case with the tenderness
of a mother laying her newborn
in a cradle. Belia had
immigrated to the United States
from Czechoslovakia six years
earlier, but struggled with
English. That effort, and a
heavy accent, often discouraged
her from joining conversations.
It was not
her words, or the soft rolls of
blue-black hair that framed her
face and highlighted her rose
petal skin that intrigued Nic.
It was the glow in her eyes—a
glow that ignited when she
played her violin.
do you think they'll keep us?"
Nic faced the engineer's booth
as she spoke, leaving Greg and
Belia unsure who should reply.
spoke, her tone as ghostly as
the tremolo of a single note on
her violin. "I do not know. They
come to my apartment on Saturday
and act as if I kill her." She
and her father were the only
family members to escape the
Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia
in 1939. The rest disappeared,
and Belia lived in a perpetual
state of fear. O'Brian and Jones
did little to lessen her
they think you killed her,
Belia?" Nic could not imagine
the tiny woman killing Carolyn
Park, who had been an inch
taller than her own
five-foot-six inches. Of course,
a gun removed any size
"I am one
of the last people to go from
the studio that night. It was
after eight o'clock." Belia
glared at the engineer's booth.
"The Detective O'Brian ask me if
I am in this country legally. I
am," she assured Nic. "But I
know this does not make a
difference to police."
right after you, Nic." Greg
joined the conversation. "I
grabbed dinner and went to the
club to jam. O'Brian asked if
anyone saw me, and I told him
that I had my bass, and figured
a number of people could vouch
for me. He grunted."
One by one,
members of the troupe entered
the booth and returned to the
studio as limp as a towel put
too often through the wringer.
Everyone except Nora. Nic
watched her lean back in boredom
while O'Brian pushed his finger
in her face. If she cared what
the detective said, she hid it
well, and he appeared less than
pleased with her attitude. When
she left the booth, Nora
strolled past Jones and exited
the studio without looking back.
o'clock, Nic and Frank sat alone
on the stage while his
assistant, Alice Redding, had
her turn in the inquisition
booth. Nic did not want to talk
to O'Brian, but since she had no
choice, she wanted it over as
quickly as possible. She held
her coat in her arms and her
purse in her lap, ready to leave
when they finished.
clearly run out of patience with
the investigation but he did not
take it out on his star. "Tell
me, Miss Owen, is radio
everything you thought it would
She was about to add a more
inspired response but the door
to the engineer's booth opened
and Detective O'Brian waved her
over. Nic wanted nothing more
than to finish the interview and
go home, which was why she found
it extremely irritating that he
stood in the doorway blocking
your first show went real well,
Miss Owen. It's a shame Mrs.
Park never had a chance to do
the part. Your coworkers tell me
she was damn good. Put your coat
on. We're going to the station."
you mean we're going to the
station?" Had she heard him
right? "Why are you taking me to
the police station?"
know what's good for you, lady,
you'll shut your trap."
detective's warning did not make
it past her outrage. She
repeated her question. "Why are
you taking me to the police
station? You can ask me anything
you want right here. Am I under
arrest? Is that why you saved my
interview until last, because
you planned to arrest me?"
pulled her coat from her arms
and tossed it back. "Put that on
and shut up. Didn't anyone ever
tell you it ain't smart to argue
with an officer of the law?" A
pair of handcuffs appeared and
as soon as Nic secured the last
button on her coat, O'Brian
turned her around, put her hands
together, and snapped them on
her wrists. "You can wear these
until you learn to keep your
mouth shut. Don't make me gag
you, Miss Owen."
talking. She offered no
resistance when O'Brian shoved
her purse into the fingers of
her coupled hands, or as she
followed him to the elevator.
She tried to smile at Sam, the
operator, but as the reality of
the situation sank in, various
body parts failed to respond.
disbelief kept her silent in the
back seat of the police car. She
struggled to slow her racing
thoughts. Four hours earlier,
she starred in her first live
radio show. Now, she was
frightened, confused, and a
murder suspect, and it was only