Chapter 11

The Libertines

The Wisconsin State Journal.  Sunday, July 11, 1920


Authorities are on the lookout for two confidence men.

“The money collected for the Frank Lloyd Wright center on Lake Monona was entrusted to two scoundrels last week who assured the trustees of said money that they would insure a rate of return in excel of 20% per year.  Even though the authorities held one of the men in custody for the time the money was in transit from the American Exchange Bank here in Madison to the offices of “The Investment House of New York,“ it was later determined that said investment house is in an apartment in a tenement apartment in a part of Manhattan that is not in the financial district.  The experts in the police department are investigating, and assure the trustees that arrests are imminent.”

It is said by some, that there is little difference between Saturday night, and Sunday morning, except that the sinners have better reason to see religion.

Sunday is the front porch that observers can use to look back at the last week, and play forward for the next.  In the homes on Keyes Avenue, there had been significant changes in the lives of the residents.

Emil was content, after a wonderful meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, and some vegetables from the garden and the market.  He had proposed opening a new bottle from the cellars of the Sicilian, and there were no complaints from the women of the household.  He had told the men at work of the new nanny, and one of the older ones warned him, “There is never good from the keeping of two women under one roof.”  But, Emil thought that the old guy, although a good mechanic, not a good judge of women and their character.  He had been in Madison since he was a pup, just after the conclusion of the civil war, and had gone through himself, three wives and one or two women who didn’t last long enough to get married, legal like.  Cholera, child birth, consumption, had all claimed one each, and two had died of infections of cuts in the barn or garden.  Little cuts, that got infected, and the women gradually got worse, until the grim reaper set them free. 

Dinner concluded, the men of the family, Emil and Artie retired to the porch.  Emil considered lighting one of the Cubans he kept here and at the dealership, usually lite there to celebrate a sold Buick.  But tonight, tonight was Saturday night, and he was already in good spirits without tobacco.  At seven o’clock, he went inside, and turned on the radio by the front window.  This was grand, having the radio where it could be heard on the porch. 

Shortly after, work in the kitchen concluded, Rosie, Nadia, and Jerry came out to join the menfolk on the porch.  There were just three stations that could be heard, before the sun went down, when the atmospheric conditions opened up the airwaves.  There was a nice music program on one, with a drama on another, and the third had a funny man with his companions.  Nadia was amazed by the whole thing, never having heard a radio program.  They enjoyed the radio, until it got dark, and for a good hour later.  About 930, Rosie, feeling the wine starting to wear off, asked Nadia and Emil if they wanted another?  Emil, noticing that the bottle was down to perhaps a glass or two, offered to get a glass for each of the ladies, and both agreed.  Nadia escorted Arties and Jerry upstairs and supervised their bedtime preparation.  Brushing the teeth, use of the toilet, followed by a last hand washing, and the two kids were off to slumber time.

Nadia glided silently down the steps, her training by the Cossacks so thorough, she used the outside of the steps automatically.  At the base of the steps, she could see outside on the porch, where Emil and Rosie were sitting on the glider rocking gently.  The light of the tubes in the radio inside, in the parlor shown out the window onto the porch, and Nadia could see that Emil’s hand was inside of Rosie’s dress, busy in a slow motion massage.  Rosie’s head was on his shoulder, the fresh glass of wine empty in the light of the radio tubes.  Nadia quietly retook her seat in the Adirondack chair.  Emil was aware of her presence, but Rosie was facing away, and was innocent of the presence of a witness. 


After the passage of a few minutes, Rosie stirred, the wine was making her few inhibitions that remained totally vanish.  She was in the arms of her one true love, her husband, her man.  She didn’t even remember that Nadia had gone on an errand of just a few minutes, and she let her hand that was free wander.  Soon enough, it found that which it has gone in search of, and Emil smiled, both with the pleasure of her touch, and the knowledge that the other woman in the house, the one the mechanic had warned about, was witness to the molesting of the man of the house by his woman.  She opened the buttons at the fly of his trousers, and fished out the object of her attention.  Bending over, the image of the French postcard in her mind, she proceeded to provide pleasure of a most wicked manner.  In the manner of a few minutes, Nadia saw Emil stiffed, and caught a little of a choking noise from Rosie,  silently, as was her manner, she arose, and left the porch, back  the entrance vestibule, and then up the stairs, all the way to the rafters of the attic.  On the porch, Rosie had regained her composure, and allowed Emil to lift her to her feet, and escort her inside, leaving the screen door as the only security, the front door open as was the fashion in those days.  A little unsteady on her feet, his arm was around her waist as they made their way to the second floor. 

In minutes, he disrobed her, and tucked her under a sheet, while he went to the bathroom, finished, washed hands and other parts, and wondered what the night would bring.  Rosie hadn’t imbibed of the laudanum this night, but the alcohol indicated a full and deep sleep.

Emil was a light sleeper, and the unknown quality of the night’s adventures made him sleep on alert.  It showed about 2 am on the windup alarm clock on the table, when he heard a tapping on the ceiling above.  He rolled out of bed, wearing a nightshirt, held together by only one button at the bottom.  He padded to the door, closing it as he exited.  Just then, the door to the attic opened, and Nadia was there, dressed in a slip. Without a word, she dropped to her knees, and greeted him with a kiss.  In a few moments, he was ready, and she turned and faced the wall.  There was little clothing to push out of the way, and they both were enthusiastic in their attention to the other’s pleasure.  Less than 10 minutes after he had left the bed, Emil returned.  Rosie’s breathing was regular, and normal for the breathing of someone who was still a little drunk.  She had not rolled over, and he returned to his side of the bed.  Sunday was church day, and they would have time to themselves after they awoke before they would have to arise to wash, dress, prepare and eat breakfast, then drive to church for mass. 

Three hundred feet down the street, the Swede was in his own bed, accompanied by the fair import from Norway.  After the night of the storm, the next night, in fact, when they retired, he had let her use the bathroom first for the toilet, then brushing of the teeth.  When she exited, she made for her room, and the Swede, somewhat resigned to sleeping alone again and closed the bathroom door and concluded his affairs.  When he opened the door, she was standing there, wearing just a slip, her hands crossed in front of her breasts, thumbs and first fingers on the straps.  Two steps out, and she asked.  “May I sleep with you?”

Her fingers worked some sort of magic, and the slip fell to the floor, the straps having been slip to the left and right, gravity then lending assistance.

“Yes, my princess, my bed is yours, as long as you wish.”  She gave two steps, and a hop, and the surprised man caught her as she launched herself.  Her arms around his neck, legs around his hips and thighs, any man not yet dead would have smiled and approved.  With her clinging on, he turned and took the few steps to his bedroom, and set her on the bed.  He went over to the door, and pushed the button that controlled the lights, and the only illumination from then on was the light of the moon, just rising, even at that late hour.  Not much of a church goer, for the Swede, Sunday had been the day he did the housework, the laundry, sweeping, mowing the lawn.  Now, with his housekeeper, he only would have to mow, leaving the majority of the day for recreation.  He was looking forward to exploring relaxation and fun, and she was perfect for the job.

Saturday night found the travelers well on their way to California.  A map of the country had been found, and at least now they knew where a city was in relation to their destination.  Midnight plus one minute found them on a freight train they had hoped on earlier in the day.  After the release from jail, the men had found three days of labor for each, and they had saved most of the money.  They were able to buy enough food for two days, and got some bottles from the Park Hotel bar and filled them with water for the journey.  The travelers had been staying in the basement room at the Park Hotel, and the head laundress was keep liquored up enough so she didn’t know, or if she did, didn’t care.  The box car they were in had had five bales of straw thrown in for bedding for cattle down the line, and this was good bunking for the men and women.  Anastasia was not drawn to the gypsy, and the other two men and two women were drawn to each other, and alternated as they saw fit.  Currently, Anastasia was listening to the four of them at the other end of the box car.  While she couldn’t see what was happening to who, she had heard the sounds often enough so there was no question of what the activity de jour was.  At her end, the gypsy was leaned up in the corner, while she was in the other.  It was not coldness, but wanting some attention, some physical reinforcement that she was attractive, and desirable that led her to crawl over to the gypsy’s corner.  In the morning, all the clothing was in place, and she was lying next to him, with his arm around her shoulder, and her top leg over his.  There was no church for the travelers that Sunday, although they were all grateful to whoever it was who ran things, for they had survived, they found food to eat in this land of plenty, and they enjoyed the company of the other travelers.  They truly understand that they had been blessed, they survived the Revolution, and the future looked good for them, at their destination, Hollywood, California.

Back in Madison, at the milk bar, the professional, Sheila,  a woman of many talents, had made a third customer happy back in the alley behind the establishment by midnight.  The night was still young, and she had made a liaison for an overnight with one of the regulars at the bar.  She cut him a break on the cost of her skill full application of talents, because she knew that she would be safe in his arms, and he was a cook in a café, and thus, one of the few men in the milk bar she would trust to make a good breakfast.  Plus, she would not have to skedaddle after breakfast.  She and he could share a bath and each other’s company.  She had been working hard and putting her money aside to invest so she could retire.  Perhaps she could surprise him, get him to marry her, and they could have a restaurant together.  Not the worst way to retire from her business.  The other investment was to buy rooming houses off of Langdon Street.  There was one that needed some repair, but it was right there on the lake, with two lots for frontage on the water.  Decisions, decisions. 

She noticed the woman who usually had a shiner had cleaned up since her husband’s last jailing.  Something must have changed, or she had learned how to duck.  Susan hadn’t learned how to duck, she had found that some laudanum in his coffee in the morning, and in his food at night, well not turning him into a zombie, had taken the combativeness out of his existence.  He was actually easy to live with, and the men at his job noticed that they did not have to hit him anywhere near as many times during the day, some days, not at all.  An improvement to be sure.

Susan had found that she enjoyed the male companionship at the milk bar, and the money from such companionship she was putting in a mason jar, in the basement, up in the rafters.  In a while, when there was enough, she would leave this town far behind, and head out, out to California, where there were oranges so plentiful that you could just walk off the road and pick all that you wanted.  And the motion picture business was booming, with a future for those who had a can-do attitude.  And she did.  She had learned to use the guy’s jacket to kneel on so her knees didn’t get dirty in the alley, and she could do. 

Angela, the singer, had got a promotion to teller at the bank her and the bandleader both worked at.  She was singing that night, and she had a voice like a bird.  People from out of town, the travelers who stayed at the Park Hotel across the street, frequently told her that there were bands in the big cities that needed singers like her, and she should go to New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, because her future was there, not in a speakeasy in a small town in the Midwest.  She thought that the sax man, also the male singer, was behind the promotion in the bank, but she liked his company anyways.  After the last song was sung, the band packed up and given a collective pat on the fanny and sent home, she should have gone home alone herself.  But, the house was awful empty with her father gone, and she invited the guy to walk her home, and have a Coca-Cola on the front porch.  As those things do, the Coke lead to a kiss, then another, they a hand, then a hand on the breast, then…..

In the morning, she made bacon and eggs and thick toast for him.  He wasn’t a bad man, he was a band leader, and a good singer, and besides, he had a job in a bank, making investment decisions, like trusting those two guys from New York with the money for the big new Frank Lloyd Wright building.  Imagine, 20% return on money.  Angella wasn’t an investment expert, but she knew that that has a huge rate of return.  How can they do that?  It seemed impossible to her. 

The Polish girl had been there earlier in the night.  Dancing up a storm, she had been alternating dances with three college boys, and the singer had noticed that when the hands were on the band side of the girl, they were in places that a mother wouldn’t have called appropriate.  When the band played, and she sang a slow song, she watched and thought that it was a miracle that the girl didn’t get pregnant right there on the dance floor.  Just before midnight, Marie and the boys went down the trapdoor into the basement passageway.  What Angela didn’t know was that the four took over thirty minutes to make the one minute trip to the exit.  Some say that going to church without sins, is a waste of the Lord’s time.  These ladies three, gave God a good job to forgive their sins, for they had called out his name many times on Saturday night, in preparation for Church going Sunday morning, to pray for his forgiveness.


The two nuns had decided that there was too much of a possibility of being detected by the Irish of the parish if they took part in the night life in their own neighborhood.  Their options were to go to the Green Bush neighborhood, where mostly Italians, Jews, and the few blacks in the town lived.  Nothing to worry about with the blacks, or the Jews, but the Italians were all Catholic, and as such, were possibly going to encounter the two during their daytime religious work.  Thus, the options were to take the train to Milwaukee, where the entire city was their oyster, or, go to the college area, in their own town, and enjoy the company of the late teens and twenty or twenty-one years old boys.  Because both women had spent their time in their teens in a convent, totally covered, their skin was that of a girl in her early teens, soft, free of any sun spots, or sun induced blemishes.  Acting somewhat shy, and not taking the lead, but rather, implying the path the lotharios should best follow, the two women could act like the fishermen of the bible, and cast their lines, hooking the wanted, and rejecting with good taste those that didn’t meet their requirements, although, on the nights the alter wine had primed the pump, their taste in men wasn’t that refined.  Alive, and not drooling seemed ok some nights. 

This night, they had taken the street car to the bottom of State Street, then headed to the lake, walking slowly, so as the take in the sights, and smell the smells.  Also, the better to see and be seen.  As they walked up Langdon Street, they sauntered past a three story rooming house.  Two young men greeted them, while sitting on a glider on the porch, with a bucket of beer from an ex-tavern over on State Street. After passage of the prohibition law, the Volstead Act, had put the tavern business on hold, the barkeep had changed to a business for pressing sheets for the hospital trade, with the liquor business moved all the way from the street level, to the basement, accessed by basement door, with an emergency exit to the restaurant next door through the basement. The tavern business was alive and well in the basement, and from the bend in Langdon Street over through the backyards, to Gilman Street, then to the backdoor of the laundry, was only about 500 feet. 

“Hello ladies, it was a hot dry day today, would you llike some refreshments to make your walk more rewarding?”

Using the Irish brogue that she had been born with, Sister Marie Clair replied, “You’re a brash one, young sir, talking to two women of education as if they were char maids out on a stroll!”

“No harm meant, ladies, just an invitation to join my dear friend John and I with a bit of liquid refreshment for the night’s charms.”

Looking at each other, Sister Michael Mary, dressed in a blouse of many buttons, and a high waisted   skirt, with sensible shoes, just not sensible like a nun would wear, looked at Sister Mary Clair, and said.

“It would be a shame to let that beer be wasted on those two ruffians, who knows what harm would come to innocent girls if we let them drink all that by themselves.  Who knows, we may be saving a kitten from a fate worse than death, or even more. I think that one for each of us would not delay us in our travels, and may save the innocent.

”Yes, young ruffians, we will partake of your beverage, but only one for each of us, and we insist, it must be in a clean glass.”

Fresh glasses were produced, and in about a half hour, another bucket of beer was procured from the basement.  During the time that Sister Marie Clair and her host were gone to fetch the beer, amazingly, the buttons, all of them, on Sister Michael Mary’s blouse seemed to have fallen out of their button holes, and the delighted gentleman found that her slip was loose, and after the blouse had slipped from her shoulders, so followed the slip, and there on the porch, facing Langdon Street, was found the two warm and friendly acquaintances, by Sister Marie Clair and the bucket of beer, with lad attached, about a half hour later.  Rather than being upset by being found with the boys lips firmly attached to her right nipple, while his had brought the left to full attention, Sister Michael Mary smiled the smile of the intoxicated to her girlfriend, and waved her to the other bench facing away from the street. 

With a template of seduction just three feet in front of them, Sister Marie Clair and her new found friend, after pouring the beers, played a game of catch-up with the two who hadn’t journeyed.  Not more than five minutes found the four as God delivered them, on the floor, one couple with the lady on top, one with the man.  Soon enough that changed also.  The police patrolman, on his foot rounds, heard sounds of merriment, but as Sargent had said, if you go looking for trouble, soon enough you find it, and then you have paperwork, and not much societal improvement to show for your efforts.  Better to spend your time looking for murderers, robbers, second-story men, burglars, near-do-wells, and horse thieves than trying to arrest all the fornicators in the Latin Quarter.  The sun coming over the roof of a house over on Gilman Street awoke the four out on the porch and after a trade of partners, the girls went to the communal bathroom in the rooming house to clear up as best they could. 

Making a quick walk back to the convent the errant nuns entered as they would, through the church, this time going down to the basement and coming up the steps by the side entrance to avoid the walk of shame in front of the eight o’clock service.  With a few steps across the hidden walk, they were back safe in the convent, taking a good bath, cleaning the stained civilian garb, then a late breakfast, and quiet prayer for two or three hours, in the privacy of their rooms.

As was the norm for people of his faith, Dr. Shapiro and the good Mrs. Shapiro, and the four little Shapiro children has gone to synagogue on Saturday evening.  The synagogue on the two hundred block of West Washington was, in 1920, a little aged, but still serviceable.  Some of the community thought that they should all chip in and build a new synagogue, but that would be decades in the future.  After Synagogue, there was the return trip home, the tucking into bed of the children, the oldest of which, just twelve, thought that she should be allowed to stay up and listed to the new radio, for there were many interesting radio shows on the air, even with only three stations that they could receive the signal from.

After the kids were all tucked into their beds, Dr. Shapiro would take the time to introduce Mrs. Shapiro to the lasted advances in the treatment of female hysteria, and its accompanying pleasures.  She had at first felt that his work was dirty, and unclean, but, after two treatments, the resistance to the third was just plain feeble, and then never heard again.  With her current enthusiasm, it was only a manner of time before there would be a new little sister or little brother for the children to help bring up.   The other Doctor, Doctor William Michaels was out with his fraternity brothers at the speakeasies on Regent Street, and Mills Street.  There was music at many of the establishments, and there was great merriment to be had, helped along by the glories of the demon alcohol, some of it aged 20 minutes or so, and some less, so that it was still warm from the condensing coils of a still in someone’s basement, usually not more than a block away.

Doctor Michaels, dressed as a college boy, was not a big drinker, but he didn’t mind buying a drink for whatever of the dark eyed, long brunette haired Mediterranean girls approached him.  They were so glad they had found a man with money, and a taste for their beauty, they rarely turned away, especially if he kept buying them alcohol.  Every speakeasy was in a house, and every house had a back yard, and every back yard had a bench or a chair or something to sit on, neck on, pet on, and consummate on.  If they couldn’t find something to sit on, the grass was ok too, if you checked to make sure there wasn’t any broken glass.  Some women say him as a favorite, but they seemed to get too grabby, and he didn’t like that.  He liked variety, and not something that would be permanent.  By changing speakeasies frequently, the girls didn’t know where to find him, and that was ok by him.  He knew how to find that which he sought, and he kept his freedom too.  He was not afraid of seeing these girls in the practice, for he figured that they got enough on their own.  Plus, they were poor, and paying a doctor for what they could get from any Johnny on the street for free, or perhaps with a dollar or two for their efforts. 

At the rectory, the midnight hour saw the two ministers of the faith, Father Flannigan, the new member of the clergy, and Father McDonald finishing their conversation in the second floor office of the priests.  The older had instructed the younger on the expectations of the flock, the content of the sermons they expected, and the special needs of the members of the parish, particularily the widows, the wives of the drunks, and those who couldn’t conceive with their husbands.  All of these needed help with their problems, and Gods own presence on Earth was endowed by the creator with the knowledge, wisdom, and ability to help these women with their problems.  The men, the men with problems, well they could be told to buck up, take the bull by the horns, pray to God, give thanks for the bounty, and share the grace, and the bounty with the collection basket.  There was also the care of the housekeeper, and the attentions of the choir leader, and the organist needed some degree of reinforcement that her playing opened the door to heaven. 

The newest of the new was also instructed in the procedures to drive the devil out of women with sin, and the draining of the devils work, done by the faithful on their knees, in front of the men of god.  This was the work necessary to insure the purity of the men of god, for the devil was testing them, testing them with the evil testosterone which had to be drained least it turn their minds to the devils work.  The faithful, particularly the widows seemed good at the draining, while those willing to conceive did not mind the application of the priest’s godly tool to drive the devil out of the women.  None of this was taught in the seminary, but Father Flannigan seemed willing to take on the challenges of seeing to his flock.  Gods work was mighty, and Gods work was to be done.

Out in the western suburb, just past the University, the Professor, and his house staff were exhausted.  They had met in the garden, hidden by the tall hedge that Karl had trained to be solid.  Worshipping the moon, they had disrobed, and partaking of the week cannabis, that Karl had some knowledge of, they piped it, smoked it, and bayed at the moon, like hounds.  Partners were used, and exchanged, and after a swim in the pond on the property, it all was done again.  Midnight fount the international cabal in the Professors private chamber, all sleeping the sleep of the exhausted.  The professors sleeping chambers were huge, and needed to be with two double beds fastened together, hinged at the top under the pillows so they could be scissored   apart to change linens.  No one could tell when one started, and the other ended, and they slept a peaceful sleep until dawn.

Church for these men of science, was the worship of strong coffee in the morning, fresh squeezed juice, and a full German breakfast, served by frauleins wearing just a smile and cologne.


Thus, the rising sun, that Sunday brought illumination to a small city, in a small State, in a country that offered opportunity to all that would just rise up and grasp it.





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