“A very wise man once said”—actually it was the actor Chris Tucker in a scene from the film Rush Hour 2, but I didn’t tell Berglund that—“behind every big crime is a rich white man waiting for his cut.”
“So you’re looking for a rich white man?”
“That pretty much covers it.”
“Good luck. In the meantime, I’ll be looking into some private collections for letters, diaries, that sort of thing. I’ll contact you later. We’ll arrange a meeting to compare notes.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I said.
“By the way, those men yesterday, I haven’t seen them. Do you think they stopped following us?”
I watched a red Chevy Aveo cautiously round a corner in my rearview mirror.
“No,” I said.
The Minnesota History Center is a sparkling gem of a building located on a high hill overlooking the sprawling State Capitol Campus, the majestic St. Paul Cathedral, the Xcel Center, where the Minnesota Wild play hockey, and much of downtown St. Paul. Still, it was difficult to reach, especially from police headquarters. A lot of corners needed to be turned and a lot of stoplights needed to be waited on. Which made it easy to spot the red Aveo following me. I figured it must have picked me up when I left my home early that morning and tailed me to the cop shop. I cursed myself for being so careless that I didn’t detect it sooner.
I couldn’t make out the driver or his passenger, but I was willing to take bets that it was Ted and Wally. I could have lost them easily enough—it was hard not to—only I didn’t want them to know I had spotted them. Not yet, anyway. Still, they had to speed through a red light to keep pace.
“C’mon, guys,” I said aloud. “Are you even trying?”
Eventually, I led them up Kellogg Boulevard into the History Center’s pay-as-you-go parking lot. I might have taken my chances at a meter, except it was Monday morning and you do not want to park illegally in downtown St. Paul in the morning. Parking enforcement officers are expected to document an average of fifty-five violations a day—two hundred seventy-five each week—and for reasons that maybe a psychologist might be able to explain, they just go crazy in the mornings, especially between 9:00 and 11:00 A.M. It’s worse on Tuesday mornings when they write enough tickets to meet over 20 percent of their weekly quota. Not that the local government minds. Since the PEOs generate three million bucks a year in revenue, the City wishes they would become even more fanatical more often.
The parking lot is cut into four tiers on the side of a hill. I managed to find a spot on the top tier nearest the door. The Aveo parked at the bottom. I pretended not to notice it as I made my way to the History Center.
A wonderfully wholesome-looking blue-eyed blonde, a true Nordic princess, sat just two tables away from me in the Weyerhaeuser Reference Room of the Minnesota History Center Research Library. She was examining the contents of several file boxes scattered around her. Normally I would have given her a nod and a smile, for I believe that true beauty must always be acknowledged (even if Nina disagrees), except I was enthralled by the astonishing cache of 1930s data available for the perusing to anyone who took out a free library card.
Much of the information had been gathered by St. Paul historian Paul Maccabee, who donated eleven years’ worth of research to the Minnesota Historical Society after writing his remarkable book John Dillinger Slept Here: A Crooks’ Tour of Crime and Corruption in St. Paul, 1920—1936. Yet there was so much more as well—books, magazine articles, monographs, diaries, reminiscences, vocal histories, and an untitled, unpublished manuscript penned by some unnamed historian about Richard O’Connor, the man who started it all. Whether or not you consider St. Paul a small town today—and most of the people living across the river in Minneapolis do—it most certainly was a small town back then. Everyone seemed to know everybody else, and apparently a lot of so-called movers and shakers lived in each other’s pockets.
December 6, 1928
Ryan Hotel, St. Paul, Minnesota