Dahlin stared into my eyes as if he were searching for some truth and hoped to find it there.
“Let me tell you a story,” I said. I deliberately deleted all references to mothers and fathers from the tale to avoid interruptions. “Kathryn was very young when she married Brent Messer, a man twenty-three years her senior. He was well thought of in St. Paul society, famous, rich; he built her a magnificent house on Summit Avenue. I have no doubt that Kathryn loved him. At least for a while. Messer had many friends in both high and low places. He introduced Kathryn to them, seemed to enjoy introducing Kathryn to them. One of the men he introduced her to was a notorious bank robber named Frank Nash. Messer enjoyed carousing with what some people called ‘the trouble boys.’ It made him feel a bit notorious himself. However, his relationship with Nash was different. The two of them were partners of a sort; Messer was using his connections to help fence Nash’s loot. They spent time together, the Messers and Frank Nash. During one of those meetings, at the Hollyhocks Casino, Kathryn and Frank—let’s just say they were indiscreet and let it go at that.” When I said those words, Dahlin stirred in his seat but did not speak. “We don’t know why Kathryn slept with Frank. Maybe she was lonely. Maybe she genuinely loved him. Maybe it was just for the excitement. In any case, Messer somehow learned about the indiscretion. We can speculate that it made him very angry.
“On June 8, 1933, Frank Nash stole thirty-two bars of gold bullion from the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Huron, South Dakota, and stashed it with Brent Messer. The two of them—and their wives—were seen celebrating at the Boulevards of Paris nightclub in St. Paul later that evening. Nash and his wife spent June 9 with Alvin Karpis and the sons of Ma Barker at their hideaway on Vernon Street, where they learned that Karpis and the Barkers were planning to kidnap William Hamm. On June 10, to avoid the fallout that they knew was coming, Frank and Frances left St. Paul, leaving the gold in Messer’s hands. All the while, Messer was plotting his revenge.
“I believe that Messer, using Jack Peifer, an infamous gangland fixer, as a go-between, hired Verne Miller to murder Nash. Miller might have been friendly with Nash, but he was also a stone assassin, a killer for hire. The fact that Nash had been arrested by the FBI was only an inconvenience to him. The Kansas City Massacre wasn’t a botched rescue attempt, as most historians believe. I think it was a hit. Pure and simple. Apparently, Kathryn thought the same thing. When she heard about the massacre, she became terrified. She immediately ran to Europe to hide. The item about her vacation in the newspaper was a ruse. It got the name of her ship wrong as well as her destination. Truth was, Messer didn’t know where Kathryn went. She kept it a secret from him.” I pointed at the envelope on Dahlin’s desk. “The letters say so.
“While in Europe, Kathryn met James Dahlin. This was not a chance encounter. Apparently, James had loved Kathryn from afar and saw this as his opportunity to win her for himself. He was helped in this by Kathryn’s sister.” Again, I pointed at the envelope in Dahlin’s hands. “Kathryn fell in love with James. She used her knowledge of Frank Nash’s gold to blackmail Messer into giving her a divorce, knowing full well that the man was more than capable of having her killed as well. She did it because she wanted to marry James. Certainly James loved Kathryn; everything he did from that moment on was for her and for her son. He married her, even though she was carrying another man’s child. He then conspired with Kathryn to protect the child from Messer and bad gossip by convincing the world—and the child itself—that the boy was his son. This included bribing a ship’s captain to forge a birth certificate. They then exiled themselves from St. Paul, from their families, for fear that Messer might see the child and recognize himself. A remarkable thing, if you ask me.”