“I could fill out an Information Disclosure Request form, but I figured this would be easier.”
Shipman led me to her desk. She sat behind it while I settled in a chair in front. Morning sunlight streaming through window blinds illuminated artfully tangled hair that was the same color as her freckles. Shipman was an attractive woman when she smiled, not so much when she frowned. She was frowning now.
“What are you up to this time?” she asked. Another woman who knew me well.
I came this close to telling her the truth, then thought better of it. There were already too many people who knew about the existence of Jelly’s gold; I probably should have sworn Nina to secrecy.
“Nothing even remotely illegal,” I said.
“That would be a nice change of pace,” Shipman said. “Seriously, McKenzie.”
“Seriously, Jean—I’m doing research on the gangsters that used to roam the city back in the day. I went upstairs, but records doesn’t have anything. The department purged all of its files in the early eighties. Except for homicide.”
“I think we have stuff in old boxes from back then, but I don’t know what’s there.”
“Is there a problem with me taking a look?”
“Probably, if I thought about it long enough.” Shipman studied me from across the desk as if she were indeed thinking about it. “Why are you doing this?”
“A friend asked me for a favor. A lit major at the U. He thought I might get better cooperation over here than he would.”
“A favor for a friend. I should have known. C’mon, McKenzie, let’s see what we have.”
Surfing through several boxes, it didn’t take long to discover that despite the O’Connor System, there were plenty of homicides committed in and around St. Paul in the early thirties. Three Kansas City mobsters were slain near White Bear Lake. Bank robber Harry “Slim” Morris (a.k.a. “Slim Moran,” “Slim Ryan,” or “Slim Ballard”) was killed in Red Wing. Murder Incorporated hit bootlegger Abe Wagner and his partner in St. Paul’s Midway District, not far from where I live now. The Barker-Karpis gang killed two police officers during a bank heist in Minneapolis, and Fred Barker murdered an innocent bystander in St. Paul’s Como Park while they were switching getaway cars. None of them involved Frank Nash, which wasn’t a surprise to me. Murder wasn’t his game.
Yet there was a tiny fragment of information that made my hands tremble as I read it.
The SPPD had conducted surveillance on an auto dealership located on University Avenue not far from the state capitol that was suspected of supplying heavily armored getaway cars to the gangsters. The cars would come equipped with police radios and quick-release bolts so the crooks could change license plates in a hurry. The cops were hoping to get a line on “Shotgun” George Ziegler, a Chicago killer with ties to Al Capone’s syndicate; they suspected that he had been involved in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and was now working freelance for the Barker-Karpis gang. Instead, they came across something else.
A man identified as Oklahoma gunman Frank “Jelly” Nash was observed returning the 1932 Oldsmobile Series F Roadster he had leased from the dealership three days prior (see report filed 6/6/33).
The report said that the Oldsmobile had been reinforced according to Nash’s specifications to accommodate a heavy load—as much as an additional one thousand pounds.
The vehicle in question was returned to the dealership at exactly 8:16 P.M., Thursday, June 8, 1933.
The same day as the gold heist in South Dakota, I reminded myself.
“Jeannie, may I use your computer?” I asked.
Shipman reluctantly allowed it, watching over my shoulder as I asked Ask.com for the weight of a standard bar of gold—approximately 27.56 pounds. I multiplied it by thirty-two (using Shipman’s PC calculator). The extra load in Frank Nash’s car would have amounted to approximately eight hundred eighty-two pounds.
“Sonuvabitch,” I said. “It was him. He really did pull it off.”
“Who pulled what off?” Shipman asked.
I spun, cupped her face in my hands, and kissed her full on the mouth.
“Be still my heart,” she said.
By the way it was pounding, it was my own heart that I should have been concerned with.
Although I become upset—if not downright insulting—whenever I see people talking on their cell phones while driving, I was talking on my cell phone while driving.
“You believe me now, don’t you?” Berglund said when I told him what I had learned.
“Let’s just say I’m keeping an open mind,” I told him.
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m driving to the Minnesota History Center.”
“I’ve already read everything the Historical Society has on Frank Nash.”
“Yeah? What about the fences he might have worked with?”