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.