Jane Lovejoy, Patroness on the Strip, The First Day

When Jane Lovejoy’s husband phoned to tell her the news that he had been passed over for the promotion he had been hoping for, and denied the raise he expected, she knew that she would have to do something special to raise his spirits, and she knew that she would have to do the heavy lifting.

In many ways Richard was more fragile and temperamental than their four year old son, and he would need something special to soothe his bruised ego, Jane thought that a trip to Lake Street and an evening of debauchery was just the sort of thing he would need to keep himself calm…though she would enjoy it too, more importantly it would keep him distracted and keep him from turning his resentment and anger against her, or their son.

She sent the boy to her mother’s house in Linden Hills, and had the servants prepare a platter of food they could eat at room temperature, including a roast beef and a chicken that would keep well for hours in the ice box.

After her maid helped her with her hair and dress Jane sent all the servants home, then she poured herself a martini about a half an hour before Richard came home.

It was raining hard by the time he came through the door, but her timing was perfect. He had parked under the port cochere so he was barely damp. She greeted him in the parlor with a lit cigarette in one hand and a Manhattan made just the way he liked it in the other.

Richard came through the door with his shoulders sagging and the air of defeat about him. His face was set in a mean-grimace, but when he saw his wife standing in the light of the Tiffany chandelier, slender and blonde, with her make-up done in her signature sultry-style, his mood began to change.

He only paused for a second, as his sense of failure magnified for the span of a heartbeat before he let it go so that he could extend his imagination to the expectation of what the rest of the night promised.

He understood that his wife was going to spend her money pampering him once again, not to celebrate his success, but to compensate him for his poor performance at the Lumber Exchange.

The sting of shame melted away when he saw the hem of her stockings and garter belt below the fringe of her too-short, emerald-green dress.

She walked toward him with her pale thighs barely rubbing together, handed him the drink and the lit cigarette, and then kissed him lightly on the lips brushing them languidly with the tip of her tongue as he moaned with delight.

The house was quiet. He knew they were alone, and soon they would be headed to the strip, his wife would dope him up and let him smother his woes between the breasts of some immigrant girl, then she would call his boss in the morning and tell him that he was too sick to come in. 

John Fields – Patron on the Strip

John Fields was eager for a night of R&R as his lodge members called it…ribald-revelry.

It was his turn to pick up the girls, visit the apothecary and return to the lodge with enough cocaine and opium to keep a dozen people loose and up all night.

He was eager for it, despite the storm.

It was well before sundown but the sky had darkened as the rain clouds thickened and a genuine deluge had begun soak the city.

John was not deterred.

He navigated Lake Street in bumper to bumper traffic with his windshield wipers working overtime and merged into a line of cars filled with men, and some couples, all looking to do the same thing as he was doing, all hoping a pretty young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes would jump into their car for a night of sex and booze and drugs.

Since the end of prohibition Saint Anthony had become the most licentious city on the northern plains, a destination for those who delighted in the skin trade, and Lake Street was an open-air brothel.

It was the reason John moved here, that and his lucrative job at the grain exchange.

He rolled down his window when he pulled up to the curb in front of the apothecary; a teenage boy soaked to the bone took a handful of bills from John, counting it in a flash before pocketing the money.

“Two balls of cocaine, one opium,” John said to him.

The boy nodded and flashed some hand signs to someone John could not see and seconds later another boy came up to the car with a brown paper bag to hand him.

He pulled away from the street pharmacy and rolled down the strip a little farther looking for his next score.

He was just in front of the Round-Up when he saw a commotion at its front door.

And then a bright flash of lightning appeared to strike the sidewalk twenty-feet in front of him, its thunder shook everything, including him inside his car. He pushed on the brakes and came to a quick halt, and then he was rear ended.

John cursed his bad luck.  

Greta Swenson – Working Girl on Lake Street

Greta felt horrible, sick with fever and chills. It wasn’t the everyday sickness she experienced when she felt the deep-tissue yearning in her body when she needed her daily-fix. It was something else something that came with the end of summer and the rain, but she was working anyway because she didn’t have a choice.

Franky gave her something, a pick me up that burned as it went up her nose. It gave her energy, but it set her nerves on fire. She stood under the rain soaked awning hoping a man would take her somewhere for the night, one of her regulars, hoping that someone would get her out of the weather.

In spite of the downpour there was plenty of business, but nothing had been coming her way.

Greta didn’t have the hustle that night.

She took a spot around the corner from Franky’s Bar, a place where he wouldn’t be able to see her from where he sat, not that it mattered. The beat cops were patrolling and they would keep the girls active as they were paid to do. They would do anything short of beating a girl with a night-stick if she wasn’t turning tricks…or trying.

She had her eye on a young looking fellow by the newsstand. He was tall and had a nice face, though his shoes were a little tattered and his coat was somewhat threadbare.

He wasn’t paying attention to her at all. His eyes were glued to the opposite side of the street, like he was waiting for something to happen.

She watched him walk to the drug store where bough a bottle of brown liquor, and then stood in the doorway to continue his watch.

He had some money in his pocket, Greta thought. That was a good sign.

She was tired of being ignored by the cars on the street, and she was preparing to solicit the nice looking man, when suddenly there was a commotion out in front of the Round-up, the popular saloon across the street.

A giant of a man had been thrown out onto the curb. She had seen him once with Franky, and she knew that Franky was afraid of him. Greta didn’t know exactly who he was but if Franky was scared of him, he was someone to be feared.

The scene in front of the Round-up had the complete attention of the good looking man she had marked. He was watching closely as the bar back came out with the man’s hat in hand…and then there was lightning, a bright-white flash that burned her eyes and rattled every window on the street.

When she recovered from the crack and boom of the lightning bolt everything was in motion. The giant was running down the strip with the handsome young man pursuing him, and the beat cops fast on their heels.

Greta knew enough to know that there was going to be trouble.

Franky Lyons – A Lake Street Pimp

Franky sat at a small round table with two of his fellow operators. The rain had forced them all inside but they kept watch over the girls who were out in the weather getting soaked.

The three of them had been sitting together for a few hours, sipping brandy and comparing notes on the ups and downs of the skin-trade managed on this end of Lake Street.

Things were changing on the strip, they had been for the better of a year and now all of them were kicking up to Karl Thorrson, who had suddenly emerged as the biggest meanest guy in town.

It didn’t matter to Franky who he kicked up to, all that mattered to him was turning the wheel, keeping cash in his safe, clean girls and the right supply of dope to keep them in line.

The three of them sat in the window of the bar with his name on the sign, Frank’s, and they watched as the beat cops went up and down the strip, with their long coats and hats wrapped in plastic, swinging their billy-clubs, keeping an eye on the cars pulling up to the side of the street, the girls jumping in and out, packages of dope getting exchanged for handfuls of cash, with bag men carrying the loot to the drop spots.

As long as the beat-boys did their job there would be no need for any of the three of them to get wet that night.

It was only when Franky saw Karl Thorrson walk into the tavern across the street that he felt a sense of dread, like a bowling ball in his stomach; it cut against Franky’s sense of good order. He liked things predictable, and Karl Thorrson walking the strip by himself during this downpour was anything but.

Neither of his cohorts had noticed the man, and Franky didn’t say anything to them. He waited and watched and ordered another round of drinks from Estell.

It wasn’t until the lightning struck and the crowd began to gather outside of the Round-up that Franky gave any indication that there was something amiss.

When he saw Thorrson running away as if he were fleeing the scene of murder that Franky decided it was time to alert his friends to what was happening. The two of them immediately went outside to get the news, and with the beat cops having left the strip chasing Thorrson they suddenly had work to do.

Franky let them have it, he went to the telephone and dialed up his contact with the Park Police. He informed Lieutenant Standish what had happened. The Lieutenant was cold as ice, but he promised to send a radio car with a couple of uniformed Rangers down to check things out.

Kenny Babineau, Store Clerk

Kenny Babineau kept watch over the darkened store.

He stood at the entrance beneath the rain-soaked awning with a baseball bat by his side.

He had taken swift action as soon as the power went out, after the thunder strike shook the building and turned his knees to jelly.

He put the cash from the register in the safe, barred the backdoor and went outside to watch what was taking place on the street.

A crowd had gathered in front of the Round-up, standing in the rain around the body of a dead boy.

Traffic was still rolling down Lake Street. Headlights cut through the heavy rain and dark going east and west, or parked on the side of the street where people in cars waited for packages of dope or a girl to jump in the vehicle with them, illuminating by the red glow of taillights receding in all directions as cars pulled away from the curb.

It had been a long night, and it was getting longer with the baseball game cancelled and no radio to listen to. Kenny had to stay at the store and make sure that no-one broke in.

After about an hour the rain began to lighten, though it never stopped, a squad from the fifth precinct finally pulled up across the street followed by the Medical Examiner’s wagon. There was nothing unusual about seeing that on Lake Street.

One of the streetwalking girls told him that the boy who worked behind the bar had been struck by lightning after a brawl with Karl Thorrson.

It didn’t make any sense to Kenny, he knew who Karl Thorrson was, the new crime boss on Lake Street, he was a giant; no one would step into a fight with him unless they had a death wish.

Kenny Recalled the moment when the lightning struck across the street. He couldn’t see what was happening because at that instant there was a drunk kid standing in the doorway blocking his view, seconds later the young man ran off, he ran like the wind and a couple of minutes after that the thunder rolled through everything and the power went out as far down the strip as he could see.

Kenny watched the water as it flowed in sheets down the sidewalk, and with the deluge softening the overflow from the gutters began to drain.

This was August on Lake Street.

Larry Miller’s News Stand

Rain hammered the city, and Larry Miller’s newsstand took the worst of it.

The drains filled then the gutters, and the overflow flooded the sidewalk as Larry did what he could to keep his goods dry.

As soon as the silver dollar size drops began to fall the old newsy pulled everything off the sidewalk, stacking the papers and other bundles under the roof of his shanty, leaving the morning news on the sidewalk, using their bundles to try and divert as much of the water as he could away from the newsstand.

The roof was leaking and so Larry decided to use the evening papers to seal the gaps in the shingles of his little pitched roof, affording a little protection so that the rain was not streaming through unabatted, soaking his more valuable merchandise.

Larry was drenched and miserable with water pooling in his boots, and there was nothing he could do about it. He purveyed more than the news, and despite the heavy rain the flesh markets and drug dealing on Lake Street were proceeding like most other nights.

Bad weather wouldn’t stop the addicts from leaving their homes and apartments, or whatever filthy corner of the world they lived in, to find what they needed to get through the night.

Larry Miller had a job to do; not that he made any money for the part he played, a little bit yes, but hardly more than the cost of the protection he had to pay Karl Thorrson and his gang for the privilege of doing business on their turf.

They were a tough bunch, tougher than Colonel Forrester ever was when he ran the streets.

There were no days off, not for him, not in Saint Anthony; so he sat out the storm and waited for the night to be over.

After he did all he could to keep his goods dry and secure, he sat behind the counter of the newsstand and waited, watching the street, smoking a cigar.

Then he saw the man-himself; he saw the giant, Karl Thorrson crossing the street in front of him to enter the Round-Up. He went in with none of his men, and he had a propensity for violence.

To Larry Miller that seemed like an ominous sign, a sure indication that something terrible would happen to his friends who owned the corner bar.

Rebecca Mordecai

Rebecca reached into the porcelain bowl the table where her clients left her fee.

She had not given the proper reading to the young man who had just left her corner of the bookstore, but he had asked enough questions and taken a sufficient amount of her time to charge him.

They had not discussed her rates, and she had not checked to see if he had left her the right amount, but he had dropped something heavy into the dish, and she was curious to know if he was a cheapskate or a fair player.

She found the round metal object without looking, she felt satisfaction in knowing that it was some kind of coin, and not a stone.

It was heavier than a dollar, or even a five-dollar piece; as soon as she caught sight of it she knew that it was solid gold, her heart skipped a beat and sped-up rapidly, she brought it near to her face and adjusted her glasses for a closer inspection.

She saw that it was minted as a twenty-dollar coin, but she knew immediately that it was something special and worth much more than that, she could tell that it was old and there was nothing impure about it, it was worth more than twenty-dollars written on its face simply based on the fact that the price of gold had risen considerably since the coin was struck, but she also recognized it for what it was, a token of the notorious Colonel Forrester…the most powerful man in the city.

She had seen one like it once before, when she was a girl sitting in her uncle’s shop. He was a gun-smith specializing in custom firearms, and a tall-thin-blonde man with the most brilliant blue eyes came through the door to make a requisition. Her uncle told him that the order would take months to fill, but the tall man did not accept the answer.

He produced a gold coin and said in his lilting Scandinavian accent: “The Colonel” required the rifles with greater haste, it was urgent, he must have priority.

Rebecca had never heard of this colonel before but her uncle knew exactly who he was, and his manner of dealing with the man changed suddenly.

As he agreed to do what the man was asking she detected a dirty mix of chagrin and resentment in his voice, what Rebecca would now call a false obsequiousness, mixed with anger, resolve and a dash of helplessness.

He made only one demand of the man. He told him that he would have to leave the coin, that he would melt it down for use in the fulfilment of the order.

The man considered the demand, he appeared calculating and thoughtful. He didn’t say a word to her uncle while he reflected on the demand, after a few moments he merely nodded his head and left.

Her uncle turned to Rebecca and showed her the gold-coin. 

“Look at this,” he said in his thick Yiddish accent. “This belongs to a power we cannot stand against, power that can never be refused…you should know this.” He handed it to her. “Study it, and never forget it.”

Rebecca studied the marking on the coin, committing them to memory, the same marking she was looking at now.

She wasn’t quite sure what her uncle was talking about way back then, when she was just a girl, but now she was well aware of the powers Colonel Forrester used to run Saint Anthony, not all of which were of this world.

Ingrid Magnsson

Ingrid Magnusson left Saint Anthony right after she had her breakfast.

It was a four hour drive to the town of Avon, North and west of the city. She arrived around 1:00 pm, but her twin sister Helga who had called her that morning to demand that Ingrid come see her, wasn’t there.

Ian Green, the man who owned the house where Helga was staying, and the automotive garage attached to it, told Ingrid that Helga had to run to Saint Cloud on some kind of urgent business. He told her that she had left only about ten minutes before Ingrid arrived, which meant that her errand, whatever it was, would keep her for at least an hour, most likely more than that.

Ingrid was not pleased by this, not in the slightest. She only made the drive because her sister was despondent on the phone, imploring her to come.

Helga told her that she needed her, using a phrase they shared between them which they had not used since they were girls. By using those words Helga knew that Ingrid would feel bound to come, she would have no choice.  

Though she felt put out, she did the sisterly thing and she honored the call.

Ingrid had a demanding client scheduled for an appointment at her bookstore that day, and she was not able to reach her assistant, Angela Guthrie, to give her instructions. Instead she had to inconvenience her partner, Karl Thorrson, Helga’s husband, with the details of lending out a particularly valuable book to a professor at one of the local colleges, Dr. Pierce Johnson.

Dr. Johnson was something of a friend to Ingrid and Helga, though they both found him flamboyant and somewhat annoying. They had become acquainted in the old country, but Ingrid knew that Karl would not favor him at all. In fact, introducing the two of them might put Dr. Johnson in some jeopardy because Karl was not the type of man to suffer the presence of a fool, and Dr. Johnson was the type of man whose foolish became magnified in the company of men like Karl.

Ingrid was preoccupied with the book; she couldn’t stop thinking about it. She felt a deep foreboding about lending it to Dr. Johnson, even though he was well qualified to handle the material, there was something she could not ascertain, something about his motive causing her to question the wisdom of turning it over to him.

The tome in question, The Albigensian Grimoire, was very rare and coveted by many practitioners of the occult arts. Dr. Johnson had wanted to examine it for some time, and it had just become available. She had been hesitant, but he was almost a friend.

Ingrid had intended to make a final judgement that morning on seeing him, and now that was impossible, and so though it cut across her better judgement she decided to let it go.

She was still ruminating about the matter hours after her arrival in Avon, and Helga had not yet returned.

Ingrid grew more and more irritated and Ian green was absolutely no help to her. He was positively ignorant concerning Helga’s comings and goings.

At 5:00 pm she decided she had had enough. She took the back roads to Saint John’s University in Collegeville, a Benedictine institution not far away, home to the second largest library of ancient manuscripts in North America, treasures to a woman like Ingrid.

She wanted to visit an associate of hers, a monk who had access to the library. She hoped he would be available for dinner, and then give her a tour of the library. There were some documents she wanted to examine, and possibly acquire.

She was in luck; he was available. They dined at the guesthouse, after vespers he gave her the tour that she was hoping for.

While the food was bland, the conversation was good, and she found the brother amenable to making an exchange. He told her that he would contact her soon, he would deliver them to her bookstore…he wanted something more than money to complete the deal.

Ingrid was not surprised, she knew his proclivities and she dealt in all forms of capital, including flesh…she would get him what he wanted.

When they concluded their business it was late, too late to drive back to Saint Anthony, so Ingrid returned to the house in Avon.

When she arrived, her host informed her that Helga had gone on to Saint Anthony, and while there she had suffered some kind of accident. There was a nervousness in his voice that alarmed Ingrid. He told her that Karl Thorrson had called to give him this news. He ordered Ian to tell her to remain there with him. It was not a prospect that Ingrid welcomed, and Ian would not be able to stop her if she chose to ignore him, but she did not want to go against Karl Thorrson; brother-in-law or not, partner or not, he was dangerous.

She decided to wait there and find out more before she determined for herself what to do.

Angela Guthrie

Angela Guthrie was upset, worse than that she was terrified.

She had come to work at the bookstore like any other day only to find that her employer, Ingrid Magnusson was not there and she could not get into the store.

She waited outside.

It was hot and the air was thick with humidity, she feared her make-up would not hold out much longer if she had to continue standing in the sun.

She had never experienced this before. Ingrid had never been late; she had never not shown up.

After about fifteen minutes Angela walked up Lake Street, past the Elementary School, to Hennepin Avenue where she found a phonebooth.

She dialed Ingrid’s home.

No answer.

She dialed her studio, still no answer.

While she was at the phonebooth Angela watched a long black sedan turn onto Lake and a chill went up her spine as a wave of nausea rolled through her.

She knew the car, it belonged to Ingrid’s partner, Karl Thorrson, a notorious gangster. Ingrid swore he was more than that; she called him a sorcerer, and Angela had never been forced to deal with him before…alone

This gave Angela a deep sense of foreboding. She did not want to be near him if Ingrid was not present.

She put the handset back in its cradle and walked back to the reading room, fighting her fear, knowing that she was expected.

She watched the black sedan pull up in front and watched the giant-monster of a man get out, then she watched the car pull away, leaving him alone on the sidewalk outside the store.

As she approached him, she watched another car pull up and park. This one was gray and clean, and the engine purred smoothly as it went past her.

The man who got out of this car wore a gray suit just like his car, it was silky and shiny, he was tall and lean and good looking she thought.

The gray man was speaking to Thorrson when Angela stopped in front of them. He looked at her like he might carve her up on the spot.

She had never met him before but she knew this was Thorrson’s killer, the man people called The Wolf.

Ivan “The Wolf” Wolvenson

Ivan Wolvenson sat in the front parlor of his patron’s home waiting.

He was pensive. He didn’t like waiting. He was a man of action, but he never questioned his.

He had been told to retire to the house in Tangletown, a sleepy neighborhood with lovely cottages on the banks of the narrow stream named for the maiden Minnehaha, made famous by the poet Longfellow.

Ivan, who most people knew as The Wolf, was fond of sitting on a bench on the banks of the stream, allow his mind to move with it: up-stream to its headwaters at Lake Minnetonka and the Big Island where his patron operated a gambling house, and down-stream over the great waterfall, to the Mississippi, New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.

Today he sat in  the parlor watching the deluge take the city.

The storm was chaotic; and he didn’t like it, weather like this was not good for business.

His patron had sidelined him, telling him that he would go alone to the Round-up to make the deal. He would not even bring his ordinary muscle with him.

Ivan never questioned Mr. Thorrson, and so he sat in the parlor watching as the sun sank behind its veil and the deep-stormy night set in.

He was pensive. He didn’t like waiting. He was a man of action.

He let his mind ease into the stream flowing past the house, reciting in silence Longfellow’s epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha…

By the shores of Gitche Gumee

By the shining big-sea water

Stood Nokomis, the old woman,

Pointing with her finger westward,

O’er the water pointing westward,

To the purple clouds of sunset

He retreated to the interior space of his thoughts, reliving the poem as he had memorized it, waiting for his patron’s call.