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.

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.

Sam Olson – Editor at The Star

It was late morning when Sam turned his thoughts to his protégé, Johnny Holiday, while sitting at his desk, looking out of his window over Downtown Saint Anthony, with a view of city hall with its copper spires.

He wondered how Johnny had gotten along with Colonel Forrester, thinking that the interview should be over by now, and wondering what kind of arrangements the Colonel had made for him, what kind of a deal Johnny had struck for himself.

Doing work for the Colonel could be lucrative, Sam knew it from firsthand experience, though in his heart he wondered if he should have tried harder to steer Johnny away from the old man, because the work could also be dangerous too, as anything having to do with the Colonel Forrester could be.

Sam was fond of Johnny, he had known him for the better part of the boy’s life, watched him grow up at the paper, learning every job there was to do in the newsroom.

Sam told Johnny that he had recommended him to Colonel Forrester, for a writing assignment that called for first class prose.

Johnny was young, and he wrote beautifully but the truth of the matter was that there were a half a dozen more experienced writers he would have preferred to recommend to the Colonel if the only qualification was beautiful prose.

When the Colonel came to him asking for a recommendation he asked for Johnny Holiday by name, and really the Colonel was asking Sam if there was some reason that he should not offer Johnny this assignment, then informed Sam that he would appreciate it if Johnny came to the work believing that Sam had made the recommendation on his own.

Sam starred out his window looking over the city watching the clouds approach, telling himself that no harm could come from recommending Johnny to the Colonel, and curious as to what the assignment entailed.

He sipped his coffee, turned his back on the city and returned to the stack pilling up on his desk.