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.