“The hell with that,” said Holden. “You’re staying here. We’ll put you up.”
“Now, boys, I wouldn’t want to impose.”
“I don’t even know what that means, impose,” said Holden. “You’re staying here. This is a good deal. Best furnished apartments in the city, only eighty-five a month. Quiet. No one to bother you. Kids down the street will wash and wax your car for a buck. The owner, old man Reed, has his head up his ass, doesn’t know anything. Whaddaya say?”
“I don’t know.”
“Frank, we owe you more than we can repay for helping to bust us out,” Keating said. “You gotta let us put you up. At least until you start earning again.”
“You know, Jimmy and me, we have some jobs lined up if you’re interested,” Holden said. “We could always use a good hand. Any advice you want to give us …”
Both Keating and Holden were pleasant, intelligent, friendly, well-behaved high livers who dressed well and spent freely—just his kind of people—so Nash relented and moved into the Edgecumbe Court Apartments under the name Frank Harrison. Despite his initial misgivings—he never cared for the language his new partners used—he relished his stay there. He even struck up a friendship with the owner, a retired banker named Henry Reed, congratulating him on how well he kept up the apartment building and telling him that he enjoyed living there very much.
Meanwhile, Nash did indeed earn, pulling several profitable jobs with Keating and Holden, as well as a few of his own. He also fell in love with a comely cook from Aurora, Minnesota, named Frances Mikulich. Life was good—until Keating and Holden were arrested and ratted him out…
“It’s a place he knew,” I said. “He could have hidden his gold here.”
Nina shook her head slowly, almost sadly. “What is it they say?” she said. “You can never go home again.”
“I don’t know if I agree with that. On the other hand, there’s no garage.”
“For Nash to have returned his car to the dealership by eight sixteen, he would have had to unload it in broad daylight. This was a high-traffic neighborhood, even then. How could he get thirty-two heavy bars of gold inside the apartment building without being noticed?”
“Disguise it as something else.”
“That’s possible,” I agreed—but unlikely.
204 Vernon Street
It was a nondescript two-story house now covered with powder blue vinyl in the heart of an area we called Tangletown because of its confusing, meandering streets. There was a porch in front, yet somehow I couldn’t imagine the Barker-Karpis gang sitting there, watching the sun go down and calling out greetings to their neighbors.
The house was in a decidedly residential neighborhood called MacGroveland, and the people who lived there thought of it as the intellectual and cultural center of St. Paul, largely because Macalester, St. Thomas, and St. Catherine liberal arts colleges were located within the neighborhood borders. The rest of us thought MacGroveland—when we thought of it at all—was a bastion of self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-gratifying tax-and-spend liberal politics. I wondered aloud if the neighbors knew the history of the nearly one-hundred-year-old house and if they would have been thrilled or appalled by it.
“Thrilled, I think,” Nina said.
“From what you told me about that era, the hoi polloi loved these guys.”
“I don’t know if love is the right word,” I said. “Admired, maybe, for breaking the rules and getting away with it. For a while.”
I flicked a thumb at the three-bedroom house.
“This is where Frank and Frances stayed the night before leaving St. Paul for Hot Springs,” I said. “No way Nash would have stashed his gold here. Certainly he wouldn’t have trusted Creepy Karpis and the others. I just wanted to see the place.”