“I didn’t ask,” Dahlin said.
“Just so,” I said. “Meanwhile, back in St. Paul, the O’Connor System had shattered into tiny pieces. The gangsters who had used St. Paul as a safe haven were being arrested or killed in droves. The cops and politicians who had given them that safe haven were going to prison or in the process of being publicly ruined. Brent Messer, in an effort to save himself, decided to go state’s evidence and testify against his friends. Probably he knew that such an act would ruin him as well, but he still had Jelly’s gold, which I am sure he intended to sell when the price was right. Among those friends Messer was going to rat out was John Dahlin, the owner of a construction company and sometime partner with Messer—and, as coincidence would have it, father to James Dahlin. John was crooked. I think James found out about it when he went to work for him. That’s why he quit. It also explains why he refused to discuss him with Kathryn. A short time later, Messer was killed—blown to bits in his car. Three weeks following that, Kathryn and James Dahlin moved back to St. Paul with their healthy, happy son, Timothy, where they all lived happily ever after.”
“Have you forgotten something?” Dahlin said.
“Kathryn met Louis Lepke in New York,” I said. “Lepke was head of Murder Incorporated. A few weeks later, Messer was killed by eastern gunmen. You think that Kathryn arranged the hit. That she had her ex-husband murdered. So did I. I was wrong. She didn’t do it.”
I went into my pocket for the folded sheet of paper and gave it to him. “I don’t know if this will make you feel better or not,” I said.
Department of Public Safety
Bureau of Police
City of St. Paul
September 23, 1936
Mr. Michael Kinkead
Attorney Ramsey County
St. Paul, Minnesota
Re: Wallace Jamie investigation of John Brand
I must say that I am impressed by the energy displayed by Mr. Wallace Jamie. So much so that I intend to see that he is appointed to the position of Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. I am sure I have your support in this. Unfortunately, I must concur that the information he gathered concerning an informant in the Ramsey County Attorney’s office, although telling, is hardly prosecutable.
Through Jamie’s efforts we know that Mr. John Brand of your office was in the same restaurant at the exact same time as Mr. John Dahlin on the day Mr. Brent Messer agreed to testify in our corruption probe. We also know that Brand was in the same restaurant at the same time as Dahlin on the day Messer was killed and that the following morning Brand deposited $5,000.00 cash in his bank account. However, as Jamie expressed in his report, we cannot prove that they actually met in the restaurant or spoke together. Nor can we connect the $5,000.00 to either Dahlin or the Dahlin Construction Company. As for the phone calls to New York City that Dahlin made the evening of his first meeting with Brand and immediately following Messer’s murder, we cannot determine with any accuracy with whom he spoke. What’s more, Dahlin had family in New York at the time and could easily explain the phone calls that way. (My information suggests that there is some estrangement between father and son dating back to the son’s brief employment in the father’s company, but whether or not it could be used to leverage the son’s testimony against the father is problematic since the son was in New York when Messer was killed.)
I agree with your conclusion that Dahlin had Messer killed in order to protect himself from prosecution, probably utilizing the services of the infamous Murder Inc. Messer claimed he was in a position to name individuals who conspired to defraud the city and county through building contracts. Who would he be more likely to name than Dahlin, with whom he had worked on more than a few municipal construction projects? Unfortunately, knowing is not the same as proving, as you well appreciate. Even with Jamie’s efforts, we simply do not possess enough evidence to bring this matter to a grand jury, much less secure a conviction against Dahlin’s considerable resources. My advice is that you dismiss Brand immediately for cause, but that you keep the reasons to yourself. If the public should learn that the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office was compromised, it would become even more difficult to secure future testimony against any gangster. As for Dahlin, certainly we will both keep a judicious eye on all of his future activities.
H. E. Warren
Public Safety Commissioner
When he finished, Dahlin looked up at me. There was an odd expression on his face that I could not read.
“’Course, there was no way your grandfather could have known of your relationship with Brent Messer,” I said. “Whether or not that would have made any difference …” I shrugged my uncertainty.
For the first time since we met, Dahlin smiled. The smile didn’t last long.