Title: Somewhere, Somewhen III: Like Molasses In Winter (1/1)
Pairings/Characters: Mel/Johnny, Doris Rogers, Charles Winstead, Carter Baum, Sam Cowley, Polly Hamilton, Anna Sage, Clarence Hurt, Doc White, Marty Zarkovich
Fandom: Public Enemies
Genres: Angst, Challenge, Drama
Claim: For the 12_stories Challenge (Mel/Johnny)
Prompt: T 7; P 9: Risk
Prompt Count: (10/12)
Warnings: Major character death?*
Summary: Mel always knew what the risks were when he fell in love with Johnny.
Date Of Completion: December 22, 2011
Date Of Posting: May 26, 2014
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2668
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
The entire series can be found here.
Dance of doom.
It was always
And Other Poems
Of World War I"
Mel sighed as he rode the elevator up to the nineteenth floor of the Bankers Building. Another day, another battle with paperwork. Since his demotion after Little Bohemia, he had been relegated to paperwork worthy of a junior agent, not that of a former SAC.
Well, the good thing about that is that I’ve been able to sneak away to see Johnny without any awkward questions. When you’re no longer the Big Man on Campus, no one cares about your comings and goings.
Being second-in-command under Sam Cowley wasn’t so bad. Mel was considering leaving the Bureau, anyway. As long as Hoover remained in charge, Mel’s career was done.
Not much advancement for a fallen Golden Boy, Mel thought wryly. Besides, there’s Johnny to consider now. He wants me to go way with him.
The thought was certainly appealing. His future was looking more bleak every day.
He took out his handkerchief and mopped his brow as the elevator doors opened. The day was a sweltering one, reminding him of South Carolina. He was glad that President had thought to pack his favorite white seersucker suit. It surely came in handy on a hot day like this.
He walked toward the door marked The Dillinger Squad and opened it walking in to greet a smiling Doris. She was looking fresh in a floral print dress, a simple strand of pearls around her neck.
“My, don’t you look pretty, this mornin’, Doris.”
“Thank you, Mel.”
“Hmph. You’re pretty free with the compliments there, Mr. Purvis,” Charles grumbled.
“Sorry, Charles,” Mel said with a smile.
He went into his office. Sam had been given an office when he had been promoted over Mel’s head, but Mel was allowed to keep his old office as second-in-command. Grateful for the small favor, Mel put his fedora and jacket on the coatrack and sat at his desk, sighing at the mountain of paperwork on top of it. Ever since his demotion he had been inundated with paperwork as the agents had been directed to dump all of theirs on his desk. Carter and Charles rarely did, and Sam was careful to treat him with respect, but he was a man draped in disgrace.
And I can’t really care.
He smiled to himself. His ruined career was worth it.
He set to work on the paperwork.
Two hours later he pushed the papers away. He still had a batch to do but he was craving some soda pop. He got up and rolled down his sleeves and put on his jacket, grabbing his fedora. It was all right to wear shirtsleeves here in the office but not proper when he was out of the office.
He exited his office and went by Doris’ desk. “Would you like something from downstairs?”
“A Pepsi would be nice.”
“Coming right up. Carter? Charles?”
“I’ll take what Doris is having,” Carter said. “Come to think of it, I’ll come with you.” He patted his hip. “Getting a little stiff.”
“I’ll take Moxie,” said Charles.
Carter and Mel grinned. “Okay. Be back in a minute.”
The two of them left the squadroom, Carter shrugging into his jacket and putting on he fedora. He picked up his cane and followed Mel.
“What an oven,” Carter complained as he wiped his face with his handkerchief. They went into the elevator and Mel commiserated as the doors closed.
They rode down in comfortable silence, emerging into the lobby. Everyone was going about their business, buying newspapers and gum at the newsstand and sandwiches and soft drinks at the lunch counter. Hot coffee was also available but today was a lesser sale than Coke or Pepsi. The elevators were busy as people went up to their workplaces or for appointments. Important-looking men in expensive suits carried briefcases while women dressed for office work clicked on the marble floor with high heels.
This was Mel’s world and he was comfortable in it. He had always been a professional man, a graduate of the University of South Carolina and a man who had always benefited from society’s rules. His family had also benefited from those rules from antebellum times to the present.
Carter was not of the same privileged class but he came from a good family. He was a fine man and one whom Mel was proud to call friend. He tried not to dwell on Carter’s limp, a sad legacy of Little Bohemia. His guilt, once started, could be overwhelming.
“Do you want a paper?” Carter asked.
Carter went to the newsstand while Mel got their drinks. He was instantly pleased by the bottles’ frosty coldness and opened his with the bottle opener mounted on the wall. He took a swig, enjoying the cold, sweet taste.
“Couldn’t wait, huh?” Carter laughed.
“Nope.” He handed Carter his bottle. He carried the bottles for Doris and Charles in a bag.
“That’s a good idea.” Carter opened his bottle and took a long sip. “Mmm, delicious.”
“Nothin’ like a cold drink on a hot day.”
“Yep, nothin’ like it.”
They got into the elevator and rode up quietly, enjoying their sodas. Carter said softly, “How’s Johnny doing?”
Mel smiled. “He’s doing fine.”
They said nothing further as they continued their ascent.
Mel wondered where Johnny was right now. Was he sipping pop or trying to cool off in the park? Maybe he was roaming the World’s Fair or just trying to cool off in his room at Anna Sage’s boarding house. He wished that he could be with his Johnny right now, but they were seriously discussing plans to leave the country together.
Perhaps someplace cooler, like the North Pole, Mel thought wryly.
Doris and Charles were pleased to get their drinks and thanked Mel, who had paid for everyone’s drinks. He smiled and went back to his office.
Carter treated Mel to lunch at The Yellow Daffodil, a small restaurant a few blocks from the Bankers Building. They enjoyed turkey sandwiches with crisp iceburg lettuce and fresh tomatoes with side orders of potato chips. They both indulged in dishes of ice cream, Mel enjoying strawberry and Carter chocolate.
They returned to the squadroom and Mel headed to his office. He paused as he heard Sam talking in his office.
“She’ll call when she knows. Right, we’ll be ready to move when I get the call. Yes, sir.” The conversation ended as Sam hung up the phone.
Mel knocked on the slightly ajar door. “Come in!” Sam called.
Inside the neat office, Sam sat behind his desk. He brushed the hair out of his eyes and smiled wanly. “What’s up?”
“Any leads on our Public Enemies?”
Sam’s eyes slid away and Mel’s alarm bells went off. “Nothing right now.”
Mel smiled. “Good. It’s too hot to go chasing after gangsters, after all.”
Sam chuckled. “That’s for sure.”
“Well, I’d better get back to my paperwork.” Sam had the good grace to look guilty, though it wasn’t his fault.
Mel returned to his office and shut the door.
Something was up.
He would have to keep his ears open. Despite his air of contentment, there was always an undercurrent of worry. He knew that time was running out for both sides. Carter had nearly been killed at Little Bohemia, and so had Red Hamilton. Red was convalescing under Homer Van Meter’s care, according to Johnny. He hadn’t said where they were, which suited Mel just fine. The less he knew, the better.
Mel wandered out to Doris’ desk. “Who called?” he asked casually.
She answered in the same vein. “The Director.”
Doris drank her Pepsi. “A few days ago, he received a call from Marty Zarkovich.”
Mel’s gut clenched. “And?’
“He left the office soon after that.”
Mel went back to his office. Sam had gotten a call from Marty Zarkovich, Anna Sage’s boyfriend, and had gone for a meeting, probably with Anna.
Marty Zarkovich was an East Chicago cop rumored to have ties with the Syndicate. He was hardly trustworthy, but the Bureau made use of anyone they could. After all, it was the War on Crime, wasn’t it? Fight it by any means necessary.
Shoot to kill and ask questions later.
His blood ran cold. What was going on?
Mel finished his Pepsi and wished that it wasn’t so damned hot.
Mel and Carter went to dinner, this time Mel treating Carter. They went to a diner, The Bluebird, and Carter ordered meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans while Mel ordered beef stew with potatoes, carrots and celery.
“What’s going on?” Mel asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Sam got a call from Hoover. They’re waiting for more information before they move.” Mel leaned forward, lowering his voice even more. “Are they waiting for information on Johnny?”
Carter’s smile was sad. “I don’t know anything, Mel.”
Mel sighed in frustration. “I’m sorry, Carter. I shouldn’t drag you into my situation.”
“It’s all right, Mel.” Carter said gently as he took a forkful of green beans. “I know what’s been going on and I choose to be a part of it.”
“Be very careful, Carter.”
“Always.” Carter’s flashed a confident smile.
Mel pushed the spoon around his bowl. “My granddaddy died on a day like this in July. I was just a kid but I remember it was hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk for real.” Mel sighed. “I still miss him. He’d…he’d have understood what I was doing.”
Carter remained quiet but his eyes were sympathetic as Mel looked up. Smiling slightly, he took a dinner roll out of the basket and split it open to butter it.
They went back to the office. Carter wanted to finish a report before he left for the day and Mel thought it would be good to hang around for awhile in case something came up. As they walked into the empty squadroom a frantic Doris said, “Oh, thank goodness you’re back!”
“What is it, darlin’?” Mel asked, his stomach suddenly tightening.
“Anna Sage called. She says Johnny will be either at the Marbro or the Biograph tonight for a movie.”
“What’s playing?” Carter asked.
“Shirley Temple in Little Miss Marker at the Marbro and Clark Gable in Manhattan Melodrama at the Biograph.”
“Well, that’s easy.”
“Sam’s got both staked out just in case, but he went to the Biograph. He took Charles and a bunch of others with him.”
“That old hunter will have a bead on Johnny for sure,” Mel growled. He turned to leave and Carter caught his shoulder.
“Where are you going?”
“To the Biograph.”
“I’m going with you.”
“I can’t let you…”
“My choice, remember?” Carter squeezed his shoulder.
Mel put his hand over Carter’s. “Let’s go.”
Mel parked his Pierce Arrow several yards away. He and Carter could see the agents staked out all along North Halstead.
“They’re ready to execute him right out on the street!”
Carter’s face was grim as he silently agreed. He reached out and grabbed Mel’s arm as the other agent pulled out his gun. “What are you doing?”
“I have to protect him.”
“Mel, use your head! Stop thinking with your heart and think like an agent! Don’t go head-on. There’s gotta be a way to get into the Biograph without being seen.”
Mel took a deep breath. “Of course you’re right , Carter. I’ll go in through the back and get Johnny out of the…oh, no!”
Carter looked down the street. The patrons were starting to come out of the theater. Mel got out of the car while gripping his gun.
“I’ve got to warn him.”
Carter struggled to get out of the car. “You can’t! They’ll see you for sure!”
“I have to.” Mel looked at Carter. “How can I live the rest of my life if I don’t at least try?”
He wanted to scream but he knew that Mel had to do what was necessary. “Go,” he said softly.
Mel flashed him a smile and slammed the car door as he took off down the street.
It was stifling that hot July night. The shirt stuck to his back, the seersucker jacket on top of that. His skin glistened with sweat as he ran, his fingers in an aching grip around the trigger of his gun.
He could feel his fellow agents closing in as the patrons continued to spill out of the theater. He knew exactly what their orders were from the man in Washington.
"Don’t let John Dillinger get away again."
Mel’s heart pounded as he ran, his eyes frantically scanning the crowd. The lights from the stores and rooming houses were too bright, the voices of the crowd too loud as the heat pressed down on him like a great weight. His limbs felt heavy as he ran. He felt like he was in a dream, running and running but getting nowhere. His heart felt slow and heavy in his chest.
He saw the straw boater first, then the rich chestnut hair and handsome face. The slender body was dressed in a white cotton shirt with faun-colored slacks as graceful steps took Johnny away from Mel and straight into an ambush.
The two women flanking him were opposite ends of the spectrum: Polly Hamilton, young and vibrant as she jaunted down the sidewalk in carefree unconcern while Anna Sage looked around nervously, a garish orange skit standing out like a beacon…to attract Federal agents?
Mel shouted Johnny’s name as the man walked away from him. Everything felt like it was in slow motion: Johnny’s lazy, almost-loping gait, Polly’s swaying hips, Anna’s head swiveling, the various theatergoers laughing and talking and leisurely walking.
Mel saw Charles and Clarence step out of a doorway and begin their stalking, two of the best hunters in the Bureau. Sam and Doc were coming from their car and their guns gleamed in the light of the Biograph, the brightness the center of a street lined with electric signs. It blazed like a sun burning up those beneath its rays.
Mel had always understood the risk he was taking by carrying on a romance with John Dillinger. He knew that it might not end well.
For a moment he thought of his grandfather and the hot, sweltering day that was his last, but his voice echoed, “I’ve lived a good life, Mel. A man can leave this world in peace as long as he knows that.”
Mel was determined that Johnny would not leave him just yet. If he could distract his men just enough to allow Johnny to get away and come off as a bumbler to save himself from going to prison for aiding and abetting.
But even with lightning-fast plans, events were moving even faster. Charles and Clarence were aiming as Sam and Doc were starting to do the same. Marty Zarkovich and his men were running across the street.
Johnny turned as he heard his name shouted, Mel’s throat raw. He was turning so slowly…
Mel saw Charles take deadly aim and moved. Johnny’s amber eyes widened as he recognized Mel and saw the threats approaching.
Mel saw Charles and Clarence cock their guns and fire. There was no time. He made a split-second decision and lunged for Johnny, crying out as fire burned into his back. He felt a numbing cold as he looked at Johnny, shock and horror on the other man’s face.
“Johnny,” he gasped, his hands clutching his lover’s arms as Johnny grabbed him.
The bright lights burst like a nova as the cold spread through his limbs, heavy and crushing. He slid down as the white light turned gray, his name called over and over again in frantic desperation.
He had always known the risk, and had always known that it was worth it.
*Up to the reader whether or not Mel survives or not.