Hank Jeffers

Hank Jeffers had an appointment to keep at the Round Up.

He made it there well before the rain began to soak the city, he got there early thinking he might do a little business and take a few bets for his bookie before meeting the tall blonde lady who had become the biggest brightest star of his life, the loveliest person to enter his dreary little world for the better part of a decade…maybe ever.

It wasn’t in Hank’s character to complain; who’d listen? He would say if someone asked him, and the answer was…no one.

Hank was a few inches shy of four feet tall. He was quick witted and insightful. His parents had made sure that he had a good education, they ensured it by sending him to boarding school and keeping him away from them, their other—normal children, and their society, embarrassed by the fact that their first son had been born malformed.

After that he was on his own, formally disinherited and alone.

He was fourteen years old the last time he saw them, waving goodbye to their backs after they put him on the train to Fairbault, off to Shattuck of Saint Mary Preparatory School.

They never invited him back home for the holidays, they never wrote or returned his letters. There was a couple of hundred dollars left on account for him when he graduated, along with a message asking him to find his own way in the world and never come home.

It broke his heart, but he knew it was coming.

He had brothers and sisters he would never get to know. They would have children who would never know him, or that he even existed.

Hank wasn’t the type to hold a grudge, not then, not ever, so he turned away from his past and moved on.

Things could have been worse, he would tell himself. They might have sold him to the circus.

The priests at Shattuck encouraged him to enter a monastery, to join up, but he didn’t see much happiness in that way of life, and he had a hunger for adventure.

Hank wanted to see the world, and he made his just fine. 

While he waited for Angela to join him, he talked to a few fellas’ and took a couple of bets, then he sat at a table by himself in the corner where he watched the room fill up with boys from the Saint Thomas ROTC. They had come all the way down Lake Street to lift a few pints and ogle the working girls, without a thought for the rain.

When he saw the giant Karl Thorrson come into the Round Up he was both surprised and nervous.

The big man had taken over all the rackets on Lake Street, including the numbers racket that Hank was into, and so he was operating without permission, which could mean trouble for him. In addition, the gal he was waiting for, Angela Guthrie, worked for his business partner at an reading room that had his name on glass.

Hank and Angela had been looking for a way to get an angle on him and seeing him come into the bar while he was waiting for her, had hank imagining something bad had happened to her, and was about to happen to him.

However, it wasn’t long before Angela came through the door herself, looking out of place in the room, but not ill at ease. She handed Thorrson a journal of some kind and a small, metal money box, who slipped them into his pockets as if they were a child’s playthings.

Then he dismissed her with a glance.

Angela spotted Hank sitting by himself in the corner. She quietly walked across the room and sat down with him at his table, Thorrson didn’t even notice her, or pay any attention to her movements. To him, she was nothing.

Seeing that made Hank feel better.

Joe Samuelson (A Round-Up Regular)

Joe Samuelson sat at the end of the bar near the place station where the waiter picked up drinks, to carry to the tables.

The Round Up was the third bar he stopped in on his walk home. At each place he had a pint and a shot, talked for a little bit with whoever would listen before moving on.

There were two more bars along the way  he would stop at before getting home, but with the rain pouring down like it was Noah’s flood, Joe decided to stay in place and enjoy the company of the strangers he counted among his friends.

He sat on his stool next to a little man, barely three feet tall, they talked a bit about the numbers game, and the man offered to take a bet for him. Joe had talked to him before, though he could not remember his name, and he declined to place any bets because he wasn’t a gambling man.

The bright-eyed dwarf turned away from him and moved into the shadows then.

There was a group from the ROTC singing in the room. One of them was the older brother of Tom the barback. The whole group of them were having a lively time drinking with their captain at the center of it all, encouraging them to have a good time.

It was a welcome change of mood, Joe thought, compared to the atmosphere of desperation and fear that had fallen over Lake Street in recent years.

He ordered another beer and hummed along with them.

Joe had his nose in his pint and his head in his hand when there was a sudden commotion at the door.

A dark-haired giant walked in, and with him a murmur swept the room touching everyone but the gang of boys in uniform.

The giant went to the bar and ordered a round of Aquavit for everyone.

Joe had no idea who the giant was, but Gary Holmes did, the man who owned the bar, and he approached the juggernaut with hesitation, trembling, but not showing any sign of deference to him as he helped Tom pour the round of shots.

Joe watched as they spoke in low tones for a minute.

They appeared to be having some kind of argument, Gary shaking his head telling the big-man something the giant did not want to hear.

He was threatening as he encroached on Gary’s space.

Gary’s voice grew louder. His trembling and shook. His face reddened, as his body surged with adrenaline.

There was shouting.

Gary stomped his foot and ordered the man to leave, pointing at the door, his arm outstretched.

The giant’s hand shout out with blinding speed, he tapped Gary on the chest with two fingers, sending him flying backward into the wall of liquor bottles.

And with that mayhem broke loose.

Sandy O’Rourke (Beat Cop 5th Precinct)

Sandy O’Rourke caught up to his partner, wheezing and out of breath. He stopped, doubled over, and vomited into the rain filled gutter. What spewed from his mouth was little more than sputum and bile, and that minute he spent hacking with his head between his knees was the last long minute that he struggled for his breath.

His young protégé, Officer Randy Parsons, had taken off in rush, chasing a tall man in a long coat, who was himself chasing a giant down Lake Street, a man so large and menacing that he could only be one person—the notorious Karl Thorrson, the new crime boss over the city of Saint Anthony.

There had been an incident at the Round-up, a busy watering hole that Sandy was fond of drinking in. Sandy didn’t know what had happened but Karl Thorrson had been involved. There was a fight and then a terrible stroke of lightning struck down and a kid who worked behind the bar…maybe killed him…then Karl Thorrson took off running followed by the stranger.

His partner, Officer Parsons, who didn’t have the sense to leave well enough alone, took off after them, and Sandy followed suit. He didn’t even think about it, its what his training told him to do.

Sandy wasn’t sure how far they ran, four maybe five blocks or so. Thorrson and his tail turned down a dark alley and his partner had the wits to slow down to wait for Sandy to catch up, instead of going in alone.

Sandy was spent, he puked and clutched at his heart while his partner watched, unsure of what to do.

He fell to his knees in the pouring rain and pushed his hat off his head, finding some relief in the falling water as it washed his face clean.

His partner came up behind him and put his hand on his shoulder. “Are you all right old man?” He asked.

Sandy just nodded and shook his head in an uncertain motion, he didn’t have enough air in his lungs to push out any words.

Officer Parsons pulled him backwards, away from the curb and up to the windows of a store front. He got the old timer under an awning and set his cap back on his head.

Just then a squad car pulled up, it had the markings of a park police, radio car. Parsons tried to flag them down to get some help for his partner. He watched as the driver looked at him, with no emotion on his face, and no indication that he was willing to offer any kind of aid.

Parsons spat and cursed.

Sandy took his hand and tried to tell him that it was okay.

Another stroke of lightning hit the city somewhere nearby, and the lights went out everywhere, just as the lights went out from Sandy O’Rourke’s eyes.

Randy Parsons (Beat Cop 5th Precinct)

Officer Parsons was miserable.

He had left the Chicago slaughter yards and come to Saint Anthony to join the police force. He was young and strong, and happy to follow orders, but he had no idea what being a police in a city like Saint Anthony would mean when he came here, becoming little more than uniformed muscle, a pimp with a badge, less than that…just the pimps’ enforcer.

Three out of four weeks he worked the night shift on Lake Street, like a postman working through rain, sleet and snow, keeping the working girls busy, the brothels quiet, and making sure that the drug trade was uninterrupted.

His police salary allowed him to keep a small apartment on Dupont Avenue, a couple of blocks from the precinct. He took the cash that his captain doled out, the monies they received from the local crime bosses and stuffed most of it in a jar after giving up ten percent to the church.

He thought of his tithe as a way to do something good with the devil’s money, and he trusted the pastor at Joyce Methodist to do what was right with it, though he was wrong about that.

It was raining when Parsons clocked into the 5th Precinct; he passed Captain Dougherty in the locker room, grumbling in his brogue, harshly reminding him to keep the hookers busy during the storm.

Only the wicked got a break in Saint Anthony, Parsons thought to himself, and everybody else was expected to suffer for them.

He made note of what Captain Dougherty said, believing his work would be under scrutiny that night; he was determined to go hard on the girls, to set an example.

His partner, Sandy O’Rourke was late as usual, though no one ever bothered him. Sandy had been on the force for more than twenty years and had been busted down from Sergeant twice, but he was a personal friend of the Captain and so he could pretty much do as he pleased.

He was cheerful when he came in, whistling and smiling, and tipping back his flask.

“Its hot and wet out there,” he said as he winked at Randy. “We are on the beat from Nicollet to Chicago; so lets head out now.”

Randy didn’t have a say in the matter, he buttoned up his rain gear and followed the old man out the door, beating his night stick in his gloved hand thinking about how he might use it.