Sister Anna Alm, A Poor Clare

Sister Anna was grateful to have the old priest on the grounds today. She had been fighting with the groundskeepers about the fate of a bat who had flown into the building through an open window in the narthex; the groundskeepers had wanted to kill the little creature, seeming to take a cruel delight in the prospect and Sister Anna was not having it.

It did not matter to her that the bat had disrupted morning prayer where she and her sisters, Poor Clares one and all, had gathered to pray the liturgy of the hours as they did every day at the Basilica. The Sisters were not about to allow an animal to be hurt even if it shat all over them as it flew above their heads while they prayed the divine office.

Life was precious, even the life of a bat.

Sister Anna knew that she would have prevailed in her contest of wills with the groundskeepers; they may have been responsible for the building and its maintenance, and her demand that they capture and release the poor-creature may have been outside her normal sphere of authority, but she was more than a match for the group of men who had gathered in the transept to exterminate the little thing, and tiny as she was they were punching above their weight class in dealing with her, something that each of them was aware of even as they protested her demand.

Having Father Luke on hand to channel her will brought the matter to a resolution quicker, and his intervention allowed the men to walk away from the dispute with their pride intact. Once the old priest had listened to them he issued his judgement, ordering them to do as Anna asked, “If they knew what was good for them,” he said sardonically.

More than one of the Clares cracked a silent smile as Farther Luke warned the men to mind their manners, and Sister Anna thanked them for their good will as she walked out of the Saint Mary’s Basilica with the other nuns toward the van that would return them to their Parish.

She looked around her and over toward Jewett’s Park. It was hot and humid in the morning, the sky was greening and the air smelled of rain. They had a couple of stops to make on their way home, and she was eager to get on with the day.

Anna was looking out the window sitting in the passenger’s seat next to the driver as they crossed they crossed the bridge over the railroad and approached Lagoon, she saw a young man she knew crossing the street in front of the Walker Library: it was Johnny Holiday a boy from the orphanage up the hill from Saint Joan of Arc.

She imagined that she perceived a darkness hanging over him that had nothing to do with the thick clouds gathering in the late morning sky, and suddenly she was worried for him.

Imogene d’Alsace (The Woman in the Well)

Imogene woke in the darkness; she could not move. She had no sense of her body or anything around her accept the dark.

This was not the utter darkness of the abyss; it was the near blackness that belonged to the witching hour on a moonless night.

From the place where her body lay, the place to which she felt bound, Imogene looked up through a long tunnel of nothingness, up to a small round disk across which passed the starry night, and laying there she tracked the tiny silver pin pricks of light.

The last thing she remembered was being attacked by Amelie Elmquist, a mad-woman who came at her with a kitchen knife, and upon recalling that memory Imogene realized that she was laying at the bottom of her well…she was dead.

She had argued with Amelie who had fallen into a rage and killed her, who must have then dumped her body in the well and left her rotting in the elements. Her spirit was restless, she was disconnected from the earth and she had no sense of how much time had passed since her demise, or why she had woken to the world at this moment.

She waited, she listened, she wondered if there might be a medium nearby who was calling on her specifically, or perhaps clairvoyant who was seeking contact with any spirit who might be anchored in the vicinity, the way that murdered people often are. But she sensed nothing of the kind, not the presence of any medium whatsoever, and she gave up speculating after a time.

Imogene was determined to wait, and then she sensed something; she felt a warm light in the distance, glowing in the darkness.

Imogene struggled, she focused her will on the light and warmth but she could not go to it. She was fixed to the spot where her murdered corpse lay rotting; she was trapped.

Imogene returned her focus to the light, this time she concentrated on drawing it to her, then it came to her in power like the onrushing bear. The light entered her home, the great bear spirit was searching for something, perhaps looking for her.

It stopped over the dried pool of blood her murdered corpse had left on the floor, and Imogene was pulled from the well to that spot.

She saw the bear was not a bear at all, but a tall young man who had been frightened, but was now calm and curious.

Imogene stretched and reached toward the aura of the man, barely brushing him with her essence, but when she did they were joined and she knew who he was.

In that moment he began to recede from her, disappearing into the void; Imogene was helpless to do anything to prevent it. She called out to him and begged him to remember where she was, at her house in the woods, near the quaking bog.

As she called out she knew he had heard her, and she was sure that she had imparted at least one gift to him.

She had bestowing on him the gift of sight.

Herbert Pond (Commissioner of Parks)

Herbert Pond sat at his desk in the turret of his house, on the third floor of the mansion that had been built on top of King’s Hill, built for him, the Commissioner of Parks.

From his window he was able to surveil the parking lot and headquarters of his police force, the “rangers” as people called them…without affection. From where he sat, he could see over the tops of the hills and through the trees of Lakewood Cemetery; looking west-north-west he could see all the way to Loon Lake; looking south and west he could see across the Robert Sadler Bird Sanctuary, and over the Rose Gardens, all the way to the other lake, the lake named for Harriet Lovejoy.

He sat quietly, watching the pale moon fade as the rising sun pushed it over the horizon. The aching in his joints told him that there would be a storm. It bothered him, but that was not the only thing bothering him.

He had received a phone call from Karl Thorrson, a man who had proven to be a reliable, though vexing ally in his struggle to wrest power from the hands of the commissioner’s most prominent adversary, the ancient and esteemed Colonel Albert Forrester.

Thorrson had informed him of his plan to make a move on a popular tavern at the edge of Saint Anthony’s red-light district. A place called The Round-Up, a few blocks from Miller’s Field and under the protection of the Colonel, and the Fifth Precinct of the Saint Anthony Police Department, which the Colonel controlled.

Thorrson had consolidated power along Lake Street, doing so without much resistance from the Colonel. He had taken over and consolidated the gambling and prostitution markets, the sale of contraband and most of the protection racket as far east as the bridge to Pig’s Eye and as far west as the Big Island on Lake Minnetonka.

The commissioner believed that the Colonel was becoming less and less interested in the streets of Saint Anthony, he was impossibly old and he had become obsessed with finding suitable marriages for his daughters. He was thinking of his legacy.

Thorrson was engaged in a hostile takeover of crime in Saint Anthony, doing so with his blessing. But the commissioner was also taking the time to ensure that the Colonel was being compensated for his losses. However, the Round-Up posed a unique challenge, the proprietor had a relationship with the Colonel that would be difficult, if not impossible to get around. The commissioner had thought he had made it clear to the imposing Karl Thorrson that he wanted him to wait on the Round-Up. He did not agree with Thorrson’s timing. The gargantuan was overeager, in too much of a hurry seize this last little piece of territory, no harm could come from waiting…in another year the Colonel might just be gone, old age finally catching up with him.

This morning he understood that he was losing control of Thorrson, he was unable to dissuade him from the course of action the crime boss proposed. So, he decided to place a call to his estranged wife, Helga Magnusson, to give her a piece of information regarding her husband and her missing lover, Bjorn Elmquist, information that she had been waiting for.

The commissioner did not think it would be a good use of his resources to engage in a direct confrontation with Thorrson, so he decided to complicate the giant’s life by turning his wife into his enemy; violence would come from it, and chaos would follow, of that much he was certain.

Helga Magnusson

Helga Magnusson sat in the back seat of the cream-colored sedan with Celene Forrester while their mutual friend, Dr. Peirce Johnson chauffeured them about town.

The car belonged to Celene, or to her father to be precise, the notorious Colonel Forrester who was the most powerful man in Saint Anthony. The three of them had spent the afternoon together, primping and preparing for a night on the town, smoking opium and ingesting various other substances apart from the alcohol that Celene appeared to drink like water.

Helga covertly hid the scant amount of substances that she actually imbibed, while giving Celene and Dr. Johnson the impression that she was keeping up with them.

Helga had an agenda.

She was in Saint Anthony pretending to be her twin sister. It was a game she had played with Ingrid many times before, and they were good at it; she was getting away with it. Helga was certain that neither the foppish Pierce Johnson, who seemed to be preoccupied with something else entirely, nor the reckless drunken debutant suspected a thing.

She and Celene had dressed themselves like ladies of the night, wearing nothing but scanty lingerie, while donning clear plastic raincoats to keep them dry through the storm. They left Pierce’s house just as it was beginning to rain, together they visited a couple of speakeasies where wealthy people met anonymously to explore their hedonism.

She and Celene danced like lovers as Dr. Johnson watched and fretted, but Helga was only killing time until she would be able to rendezvous with her husband, the crime boss Karl Thorrson.

Karl had no idea that she was here in Saint Anthony. Karl had no idea that she had tricked her sister into leaving town for the day. Karl had no idea that Helga was posturing as her Ingrid, and he had no idea that she intended to kill him.

Helga left her companions to make a phone call, by which she confirmed that Karl would be on his way to Ingird’s Studio, and that he should be there soon. With little time to spare she corralled her companions, suggesting that they go to the warehouse for more fun. She was not surprised that the two of them were eager to go with her.

On the ride from the Bohemian Café at Jewett’s Park to the studio off Lake Street Helga became fixed on her desire for vengeance, as such the illusion she had been casting for her friends began to crack.

When they pulled up to the loading dock and she saw that Karl had already arrived, her heart began to pound with a heady mixture of bloodlust and fear.

His end was near!

She had come to hate the monster she was married to, the man who had turned into a grostesque thing, and she was intent on seeing him dead.

Stan Morgan (Park Patrol)

Sergeant Morgan took the call coming over the radio requesting a response to a disturbance at the Round Up on East Lake Street. He and his partner were just a few blocks away doing patrols around Powderhorn Park; the storm had made for a slow night and he was tired of driving around the perimeter in circles.

The call came from Lieutenant Standish, Stan had grown up with him and knew him well, a guy who was born bad and without a friend in the world. It didn’t bother the sergeant so long as Standish kept his dirty business to himself and didn’t ask Stan to do any cover-up work for him, not that he would refuse a direct order, but there was nothing he hated more than cleaning up after a brute like him.

They were on the lookout for Karl Thorrson and he wasn’t hard to spot, they saw him running down Lake Street, as large and fast as a locomotive. They were half a block away when they saw the gargantuan turn into an alley.

Sergeant Morgan directed his partner to go around and enter the alley from the other end of the block. They came to the north end in time to see a cream-colored coupe pull into the alley in front of them, he couldn’t see inside the vehicle, through the heavy rain, but he joked with his partner about the man they were following as he pointed at the car: “The fat man was probably running to be on time for his date.”

His partner laughed, it was hollow.

They waited until they saw the cherries and the search light belonging to their back-up turn into the alley opposite them, then they rolled in themselves, stopping in front of a loading dock where the coupe was parked.

He called their location in then got out of the car into the heavy rain; he went over to the coupe and tapped at the window until the gentleman in the front seat rolled it down a crack.

He was lanky, with thin hair and a beak for a nose. Sergeant Morgan asked for his identification and while he waited he took a look at the blonde in the back wearing next to nothing and pouting at him like he was some kind of sucker

He recognized her; he was looking at Celene Forrester and he knew that she was trouble.

Before the driver was able to furnish his credentials Morgan heard a cacophony of mad laughter, followed by a woman’s scream coming from inside the building. Lightning struck, he felt waves of thunderous force crawl up his legs and into his spine, the lights went black, and without thinking about what he was doing he was heading for the warehouse with one of the rangers from the other squad was hot on his heels.

Burt Girard (Squad Car – Park Patrol)

Officer Girard cursed under his breath when his lieutenant came into the duty room and ordered him out to investigate a situation on Lake Street, in the red-light district.

It was raining hammers and nails and he was in the middle of a ham sandwich, but when Standish came into the room with orders he knew better than to talk back; he and his partner got to their feet and put on their rain gear without delay. They were out the door and in their squad in less than five minutes.

Girard got behind the wheel, drove north down the King’s Highway, merged onto Dupont Avenue and took a right turn on Lake Street. There wasn’t much traffic west of Nicollet Avenue. They drove with the cherries rolling and moved through the traffic lights.

There was a crowd gathered out front of the Round Up where Lieutenant Standish told him the incident had begun. Crowd control was the job of the 5th Precinct, he wasn’t going to stop for that. Standish told them to be on the lookout for Karl Thorrson. Girard didn’t know him by sight but he knew that this Thorrson was a heavy hitter, new in town, some kind of crime boss running the rackets on Lake Street, and people said he was ten feet tall.

The young ranger doubted that.

They were given an address, told to take a sweep through the alley between 4th and 5th Avenue.

So he took a left turn down the corridor and drove in slowly; right at the entrance to the alley there were two 5th Precinct beat cops huddled together under an awning with their backs against the storefront. One of them looked to be having some trouble, the other looked up at Girard as he passed them by. The look on his face suggested that he was seeking some assistance.

To hell with them, Girard thought. I ain’t getting wet for a couple of city cops.

His partner had the same idea and didn’t say a word.

They turned on their search light as they got into the alley.

Officer Girard thought he saw someone slip into a gap between two buildings. Probably just a junkie, he thought to himself. A radio car came toward him from the opposite end. They each stopped in front of the loading dock of a warehouse that belonged to the giant they were looking for. There was a cream colored coupe on the ramp with a couple inside.

Then there was a blinding light, and a thunderclap so loud it shook them in their cars; all the city lights went out for blocks.

They heard a woman screaming from inside the warehouse, Girard decided he had better go in.

Tom Kaplan, Bar Back at the Round Up

Tom Kaplan was glad to be working, glad to be at the Round Up, and glad to have a place to be on a stormy night.

On this night he was particularly glad to be there because his older brother had come in with his pals from the ROTC; they came all the way from Pig’s Eye and the University of St. Thomas with money in their pockets and they were making him feel like a star.

Tom was busy, the room was crowded and he would have done anything to be finished with his duties so he could join his brother for a pint of beer, but he was having the best night of his life seeing his brother with his college friends, watching them sing songs and tell stories. He was determined to follow in his brother’s footsteps.

Tom was busy pouring drinks and clearing tables when the giant, Karl Thorrson, came into the room. Tom thought it was funny, the giant stood at the bar right where a little man who couldn’t have been more than three and half feet tall had been sitting minutes earlier.

He didn’t know who the giant was but his boss did, and Tom could tell that the huge man made him nervous. Tom couldn’t hear what they were talking about but they seemed to be arguing. Then big man ordered a round of Aquavit for the house.         

His employer, Mr. Holmes snapped his fingers and nodded his head at Tom, and Tom got busy pouring, he even had to go into the basement for extra bottles.

Tom served the drinks and poured one for himself, then he joined in with the room while the giant raised his glass and silently toasted everyone.

As soon as the moment was over the big man and his boss appeared to resume their quarrel. Then the giant’s hand shot out like lightning, he appeared to barely flick his boss on the shoulder with two of his fingers, it was enough to send Holmes flying backward into the wall.

Everybody saw it.

His brother and his brother’s friends came to their feet and began to push the giant out the door, it took all of them to do it. Tom got the feeling that if the big man had not let them, he would not have been moved.

Tom was determined not to be the only guy standing around doing nothing. He tabulated the man’s bill, grabbed the bowler that had fallen off his giant head and onto the floor, and went outside to make sure that the bill was paid.

It was the right thing to do.

When he got outside the big man was coming to his feet. Tom had a hard time believing that anyone or anything could have knocked him over, but apparently his brother’s friends had suceeded.

The heavy rain felt good to Tom especially after the adrenalin that had been surging through his body when he was watching the struggle inside.

He approached the gargantuan, returned his hat and presented the bill. The giant threw his head back and laughed.

Tom looked at his meaty face, at the lifeless black glass set in his eye socket, he saw the jagged lightning bolt inlaid there, then he saw the rainbows jumping off it as he was consumes by heat and light.

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.