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.

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.

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.

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.