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Chapter 35

Shots ring out at Shorty’s still

Shorty was still trying to fit the pieces together after the men left when he heard shots. Four, maybe five, and not far away. Two different guns from the sound, he figured. He grabbed a flashlight and his own rifle and headed in the direction of the gunfire.

In the distance he heard a car engine rev up, tires screech, and again a shot fired.

When he got to the flats near the road he saw a flashlight beam on the ground and approached carefully. On the ground he saw a body…and it moved slightly as he got closer. He recognized the sheriff’s uniform, turned the man over, and shined the beam in his face. “Deputy, what in Sam hell are you doing here?”

“I’m hit…in the leg…and I think in the arm. Hurts to beat hell.”

“I see…bleeding pretty bad.” Shorty ripped off his shirt and tied a tourniquet just below the deputy’s shoulder, another around the thigh.

“Can you move?”

“I think so. Am I gonna die?”

“Not if I can help it. I’ll help you into my truck and we’ll head for Doc’s office in Henderson. Up you go…”

To be continued...

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Chapter 36

A fast night-ride to Henderson

With the deputy propped in the front seat Shorty cranked up the Ford and headed toward Henderson. The deputy muttered, “I got a shot at them…think I might have hit one of them.”

Then, “Ouch! Can you hurry?”

As he turned onto Main Street Constable Ayer recognized Shorty’s car, and when he stopped at Doc’s office he and King made a beeline down the street.

“Got a wounded man here, Ben, bleeding pretty bad. Help me get him into Doc’s.”

Inside they laid the deputy on the examining table. “Good thing I hadn’t gone to bed, “Doc explained. “I’m just finishing up the autopsy report.” He peered over the top of his glasses. “What have we got here…besides a gunshot wound?”

Shorty filled in the blank spaces: How he’d had night visitors and somehow the deputy had been snooping around and got mixed up in the kerfuffle and it turned ugly.

Doc examined both wound carefully, finally stepped back and said, “He’s lucky. Flesh wounds and no bullets lodged in there. But if you hadn’t applied the tourniquets he might have bled to death.”

The deputy lay on the table weak and trembling. “Am I gonna make it, Doc?”

“Yes, you’ll be okay, but you’ll be here a few days before you’re up and around. You lost a lot of blood.”

To be continued...


Last edited by Don Osell; 10/11/14 02:36 PM.
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Chapter 37

News of the shooting traveled fast

The U.S. Attorney’s office had news of the shooting early the next morning. Meanwhile, the FBI agents in Henderson pressed their investigation at the casket factory.

On Rice Street in St. Paul the news caused panic. While it didn’t involve the men directly the heat was building up. “What if they start to connect the dots?” Harry said. He was on the verge of a breakdown.

Late that afternoon McGovern got a call from the lead FBI agent on the case in Henderson. “John, this place is a mess. They’re losing money hand over fist and there’s every indication they’ve been cooking the books. We can’t connect them to the murders but there’s fraud written all over the place.”

McGovern hung up the phone and took a deep breath.

“No rest for the weary,” the Irish lawyer sighed.

To be continued...

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Chapter 38

Shorty stops at Molly’s

The events of the night were about all Shorty could handle, but it was hard to rattle the man. He had a plan. On the way to Henderson early the next morning he stopped at Molly’s. She had just put the coffee pot on as Shorty stepped in.

“I don’t know about your night, Molly, but mine was long on excitement. Too long.” He gave her the shorthand version of what had happened.

She listened intently before answering. “This is getting dangerous, Shorty, I’m worried about you…about both of us. I can handle trouble but I like living, too. What are we going to do?”

“For one thing, Molly, I’ve got your back. You’re alone here and I’m moving into that vacant house across the road. I can be close by, especially at night. There’s safety in numbers.”

“I can’t let you do that, Shorty.”

“You can’t stop me either, Molly. It’s gonna happen. We can’t let these creeps get the best of us. I’m off to town now. Gotta check on the deputy. He means well but he doesn’t know when he’s in over his head.”

To be continued...

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Chapter 39

Body found in the Minnesota River at Carver rapids

It was Saturday morning when the report came in. A man’s body was found floating near the Carver rapids on the Minnesota River. The identity of the man was not released pending further investigation. Foul play was suspected.

Investigators from the U.S. Attorney’s office were fitting the pieces together. They met in McGovern’s office and the attorney spoke, “Unless I miss my guess, this is all part of the Henderson case. It appears as though the shooting down there Wednesday night set off a chain of events.”

He thought for a while. “We have little hard evidence but it’s time to play poker.”

“Play poker, chief?” one of the young lawyers said. “I don’t get it?”

“Liar’s poker…we call their hand,” McGovern said. “Here’s the plan.

“We’ll send two agents to call on Ma Barker. Tell her we’re closing in on the case…that she has to pull her gang out of Henderson totally or we turn up the heat big time. My guess is she wants no part of that. We can put the fire out on that front and continue to work on the rest of the case.”

“It might just work, John.”

To be continued...

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Chapter 40

The Deputy has an epiphany

The Sibley county deputy lay on a small cot in the back of Doc’s office. A nurse, Marie Traxler, came in occasionally to check on him. Change the bandages, even shave him. It was an unusual arrangement as Marie was the wife of Dr. J.F. Traxler, the other physician in town. But she had been a Red Cross nurse during the war and she went where she was needed in Henderson. She was a regular Florence Nightingale.

The deputy had a lot of time to think as he lay there. Had he made a mess of things? Shorty had saved his life. If he hadn’t come along, bound off his wounds and drove him to Doc’s office, he’d have been in the mortuary and headed for Brown’s Cemetery.
What did he want to do with the rest of his life? He liked law enforcement but had he been going about it in the wrong way?

These things he pondered as he lay on the cot in Doc’s office.

To be continued...

Last edited by Don Osell; 10/15/14 02:35 PM.
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Chapter 41

The FBI calls on Ma Barker

It wasn’t hard to locate Ma Barker. She hid out in plain view. “What’s to worry about?” she told her boys. “My apron is clean,"
though Ma was hardly the apron type.

The FBI sent two of its most seasoned agents to “visit” with her. Both had met and dealt with her before. They scheduled their visit early Sunday morning figuring it was not likely Ma would be in church.

They banged on her front door, firmly but not violently. “Good morning, Kate.” - a name she often answered to. “FBI. Agents Powell and Olson…we need to talk.” It was minutes before the door opened a crack.

“What the hell you guys doing here. Don’t you know it’s Sunday morning? Why aren’t you in church instead of pounding on people’s doors?”

“It won’t take long…but we need to talk. It’s an unofficial call.”

“Unofficial, my ass. Nothin's ever unofficial with you guys…but come on in and make it snappy.”

Inside the men sat at the kitchen table. “My boys will sit in,” Ma said, motioning at two men. “More cozy that way.” One of the men had his arm in a sling.

“What’s with him?” Agent Powell said, pointing at the man.

“He had a little accident,” Ma said. “State your business.”

“Happen down in Henderson, did it?” the agent persisted.

“Okay, that’s it. Outta here.”

“Easy, easy Ma. We have an offer you don’t want to refuse. To the point: Call your boys off in Henderson. That’s our message, short and sweet.”

“Hell, I don’t know nothin’ about Henderson. What is it?”

“We’re not here to negotiate, Ma. For the last time…you stay out of Henderson or we’ll turn the heat up in St. Paul like you’re never felt heat. Period. Over and out. If we come back again it’ll be with warrants and we’ll turn your place inside out and upside down.

“Been nice doing business with you Ma. Hurry up, you’ll be late for church.”

To be continued...

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Chapter 42

Connecting some of the dots

A lot had been going on in Henderson in just a few weeks. Two bodies were discovered under the factory floor, more than one visit from the Barker gang, and now, just downriver, the discovery of a body that had been identified as one of the casket factory owner. The cause of that was termed suspicious and still under investigation.

Where was it going from here?

Meanwhile, Shorty had settled into the house across the road from Molly’s roadhouse. In his spare time he was fixing up the place that had fallen into disrepair. With help from Zeke they had logged dead-on-the-stump butternut trees from the hillsides around High Island Creek and taken it to “Lay” Hermann’s sawmill on North 5th Street where it was milled out, planed and tongue-and-grooved. Beautiful wood, it was. Shorty paneled the old house in this beautifully grained, honey-colored wood. It was a show place.

But Shorty and Molly were still living under the shadow of the threats made by Ma Barker’s boys. The gang usually followed through on their words. When would they be back? And how were they going to deal with it?

Shorty took to sleeping in an upstairs room of his house with a clear view of the drive into Molly’s place, his rifle propped up in the corner by his bed, just in case.

To be continued...

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Chapter 43

An unaccountable quiet sets in

The Minneapolis Journal carried a story buried on page 9: “Body found in the river is identified.” Short and to the point it stated it was a male, 50 years old, and part-owner of a manufacturing facility in Henderson. “No cause of death has been determined, though authorities said foul play was suspected and the investigation is continuing,” the article concluded.

Later that week U.S. Attorney Johnny McGovern drove to Henderson and met with the county sheriff. “The factory is being padlocked,” he said. “Accounting irregularities…and the banks are foreclosing on the property. There’ll probably be a bank sale at some point. That’s up to the creditors.”

“Too bad for the town,” the sheriff responded. “It was good while it lasted.”

The attorney then stopped to visit briefly with Gus Buck and Win Working at the Independent office. “This is off the record, gentlemen, and if you ever breathe a word of it, not to mention print it, I will cancel our friendship,” he said with an Irish wink.

“What is it, John?” the reporter asked quizzically.

“I believe the FBI might have…I repeat, might have…had a conversation with Ma Barker and strongly suggested she pull her boys back from Henderson. If that’s the case, Molly may not have to worry about having night visitors again. [Pause…] Time will tell. We’ll see.

“Remember. You didn’t hear it from me.”

“Hear what, Johnny?” the Independent editor said with a return wink.

To be continued...

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Chapter 44

Prohibition is repealed

The Twenty-first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution repealed the Eighteenth Amendment putting an end to Prohibition. It was ratified on December 5, 1933, putting an end to the fourteen year experiment banning the sale of alcohol. As law went it was a total failure. At the end of Prohibition there were more places selling alcohol illegally than there were legal bars in the years preceding the law.

The mob elements controlled the distribution of most of the alcohol and organized crime was up across the country. Yes, the small-time bootleggers profited but the big money from the sale of alcohol went to crime syndicates; and there were zero tax receipts coming in to the government.

It was well intentioned law but a humongous social mistake.

The repeal of Prohibition was noticeable up and down the short Main Street of Henderson. In the first few months of 1934 seven beer licenses were granted.

In an issue of the Independent editor Buck announced, “Friday is beer day in Henderson.”

It was an overreaction but, as it always does, it leveled out.

To be continued...

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