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.

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.

Marie Beguine (A Forrester Maid)

Marie returned to the maid’s chamber, leaving Amelie alone once again with the young man the Colonel had brought into the house.

She wasn’t sure if she liked this Johnny Holiday, though she had to admit that he was a handsome fellow, tall and strong with a smooth complexion.

He was just the sort of young man that Amelie was fond of, and Marie thought it was dangerous to have him living in the house, even if he was in the guest quarters.

Amelie had already asked her for the key to his room, and she would have to give it to her even though Nils, the head butler would be upset with her if he found out.

Marie would much rather face Nils’ anger than Amelie’s.

Marie was worried for the Colonel’s older daughter. She had not been herself for months, neither of the girls had, but Amelie seemed particularly unpredictable, she even seemed to be surprising herself. There were times in the past few months when she had come to Marie to ask her what time she had come home, who she had gone out with, what if anything had she said about the things she was doing.

Amelie had become paranoid, and she drank strong liquor throughout the day. This troubled Marie.

The other servants had noticed as well, but none of them were as close to Amelie as Marie was. They enjoyed their gossip, but Marie thought of the girl as a daughter. She wanted her to be happy.

The common wisdom was that she had driven her husband, Bjorn Elmquist away, but Marie believed that something terrible had happened to him, though she did not know what it might be.

Amelie had begun to behave strangely shortly after the two of them were married, and it had been a short engagement. Bjorn was a gregarious and fascinating man, Marie loved to eavesdrop on him when he was regaling an audience with his stories, mostly the Colonel, who ardently admired him.

This new young man, this Johnny-boy, he had been hard on Amelie, and Marie did not like that. He had exacerbated her nerves causing her to spill her drink. Marie was happy to come in and clean things up, but she could tell that Amelie was deeply embarrassed by the mishap.

And it would not have happened at all if Johnny Holiday had simply been more polite. He must be something extra special to the Colonel to think that he could get away with that kind of behavior in the Forrester Mansion, Marie thought. And if that were the case all of the staff should know to let the boy have plenty of space.

It would be best if Nils handled his needs while he was a guest at the mansion, Marie said to herself.

She wanted nothing to do with him.

Karl Thorrson

Karl Thorrson was a giant, nearly seven feet tall with bones as dense as granite. His hands were as big as bear paws and his shoulders as broad as a draft horse, and yet despite his size he was graceful, light of foot like a dancer and as nimble fingered as a seamstress, and he only had one eye.

There was a large black stone in his other socket, studded with diamonds set in jagged line like a lightning bolt, when the diamonds caught the light just right rainbows jumped from his gaze.

The word on the street was that he could see with that rock in his head, that he could see even better than with the eye he was born with. People also said that he could see into the world beyond, they said that he had gouged his own eye out with a red hot iron to gain the power; they said he could see and talk to spirits and that he was haunted by them, ghosts were drawn to him like moths to a flame.

At the same time it was known that animals shunned him; people said he could command the lightning, they also said he was cursed by it, and the rain followed him relentlessly.

Karl Thorrson liked to believe the things people said about him, he encouraged such stories, he embellished them whenever he could, adding luster to their grandiosity.

The stories were only partially true.

On this day it was threatening rain. Heavy drops were in the air when he left Ingrid’s Magnusson’s bookstore on Lake Street. She had gone North to see her sister, his wife Helga, and Karl wasn’t happy about that, but he couldn’t stop her.

Karl was angry when he was at the reading room, he had an appointment to keep on Ingrid’s behalf, and he was impatient for it to be over. He was waiting for a professor from one of the local colleges, a Dr. Peirce Johnson who was a scholar of antiquities who was coming for a very precious book, the Albigensian Grimoire.

There were some passages that Ingrid had not yet been able to translate, and Johnson promised to be of help.

With his help he might raise the dead.

Karl Thorrson didn’t like the skinny little man when he met him, and he didn’t like hearing his name spoken out loud by some stranger in the reading room, a young man who had come in separately, asking for him. The giant did not intend to bother himself with making an introduction at that moment, but there was something about the young man’s voice that gave him an uncomfortable feeling almost from the moment he heard it.

Ms. Angela Guthrie, who was Ingrid’s assistant, dismissed the boy, and he left right on the heels of Dr. Johnson as if he were a highway man stalking his mark.

Karl didn’t like anything about the day, especially the heat and the oncoming rain that he was powerless to stop, despite what the people were fond of believing about him, that he actually had control of the weather.

Today he had business down Lake Street at a bar that refused to pay him for the protection he offered, one of the last hold outs on the strip. Karl wanted to get on with it, despite the feeling of nausea that had taken a hold of him.

He planned on taking care of the matter in person, rather than send his men a third time, just to see them get nowhere with the owners.

But he was wrong.

Dr. Pierce Johnson Ph.D., (Antiquities)

Dr. Johnson cursed himself as he walked away from the lake as fast as he could, gripping his cane tightly in one hand, not even bothering to swing it.

He was rattled.

He had been followed from the Ingrid Magnusson’s bookstore by a man who looked like he could be police, or a prizefighter. A tall and broad-shouldered man who had been sitting in a chair at the reading room when he arrived.

Dr. Johnson had finally gotten permission to examine the Albigensian Grimoire, he had been waiting for more than a year for it to become available and he was eager to look into its pages, both to examine its ancient lore as well as the modern interpolations that had been made by Lord Crowley and company.

Now he had lost it and he feared Ingrid’s patron: Karl Thorrson the one-eyed giant, would not let him live it down.

Dr. Johnson was not a brave man, nor did he aspire to be one, a fear of violence reprisal had haunted him since childhood. He was graceless and physical weak, despite his height, which gave him a somewhat imposing disposition.

When he realized he was being followed he panicked and began walking toward Loon Lake.

He was hoping that he was imagining things, being paranoid as was his wont; perhaps the man was not following him after all, he thought, but then the man turned with him and matched his gait.

When Dr. Johnson got to the lake he attempted to lose him in the brushes of the steep hill that formed a ridge on the east side.

It did not work.

That is when he decided that the man must be one of the Park Police, the notorious squad of uniformed gangster that were the bane of Saint Anthony.

He did not want to be caught with the book in his hands so he decided to hide it beneath some shrubs. Then he walked away, and walked right past the man feeling as smug as could be, telling himself that he had outsmarted the sleuth, pretending that he was the better man.

The feeling did not last.

He knew the man would retrieve the book. His heart fell into his stomach as he contemplated the implications.

He would need to do something desperate if he was going to survive this blunder.

He looked out over the surface of the water as he turned away from the lake, fearing that he would be sleeping there, eighty feet below the surface before the night was through.

Amelie Elmquist (Forrester)

Amelie Elmquist stood by her window in the antechamber of the wing she occupied in the Forrester mansion. She stood there watching her father, Colonel Forrester, as he interviewed a poorly dressed young man at length in the garden below her.

It troubled her.

She couldn’t peel herself away from her perch where she concealed herself behind the long white curtains, wishing more than anything that she could hear what was being said.

The staff was preparing a room for him in the guest quarters at that very moment. Until this morning she had not heard a thing about it. Nils, their butler. had kept the information from the staff and from her until this morning, though he had probably known for some days that her father wanted to put the boy up for a term of days, possibly longer.

Amelie positively loathed these kinds of secrets, they were disruptive and she had been feeling so out-of-control lately…

She had managed to squeeze a little information from Nils about the shabby boy, and what he would be doing at the mansion.

His name was Johnny Holiday, he worked for the evening paper, an aspiring journalist and a student at the University of Saint Thomas, across the river in Pig’s Eye.

Her father had enjoined him to do some research, Nils said, concerning Amelie’s husband, Bjorn, who had gone missing a few months earlier.

Nils told her that the Colonel, on account of his fondness for her husband, wanted something tangible to remember him by, a piece of prose to capture the essence of the man and remind him of their time together.

Her father was obsessed with stories, believing that narrative had a mystical quality, the way some aboriginal tribes believed that photographing a person could steal their soul, or rob them of their essence, as the renowned anthropologist Margaret Meade had reported.

Amelie suspected what it really meant was that her father was not satisfied with the notion that Bjorn had decided to leave her without a good reason, and without saying goodbye to anyone. The Colonel wanted to find out why he had gone, and he wanted someone who was unknown to both his friends and enemies to carry out the inquiry.

This made her nervous. She didn’t want anyone asking questions about her marriage. Bjorn was gone, her father should just accept it and move on; he would never be heard from again.

She watched them drinking coffee, while she drank a tumbler full of strong liquor, to settle her nerves and prepare her for own interview with the aspiring journalist.

She was determined to discover his purpose. Nils would bring him to her when her father was done with him, then she would but his heels in the fire.