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.

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.