Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Jim Collins (OC Narrator), Charles Makley, Harry ‘Pete’ Pierpont, Mel/Johnny, Red Hamilton
Fandom: Public Enemies
Genres: Angst, Challenge, Drama
Rating (this chapter): G
Claim: For the 12_stories Challenge (Mel/Johnny)
Prompt: T 7; P 7: Loyalty
Prompt Count: (11/12)
General Summary: A newcomer to the Dillinger Gang learns the secrets of their success.
Chapter Summary: The new man wonders about the gang’s Mystery Man.
Date Of Completion: April 10, 2012
Date Of Posting: March 16, 2019
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1595
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: All chapters can be found here.
A man of mystery.
Charles Edgar Whitehall
I climbed into the car with Charles and Pete. Johnny, Red, and the Mystery Man took the other car. Classy for a gang to have more than one car. I sat comfortably in the back, scannin’ the streets for trouble. It got to be second nature when you lived on the edges of society like gangsters did. Cops and Feds were always snoopin’ around. I got no beef with ‘em but ain’t particularly fond of ‘em, either. They just mean trouble for guys like me, otherwise I got no objection to ‘em.
We ended up in a decent neighborhood. I’d taken note of our route and looked at the pretty girls walkin’ by while we were still in the city. The houses in this neighborhood were modest and well-kept. Nothin’ worse than a rundown neighborhood. I was an expert on that subject.
We piled out of the cars and I lugged my suitcase inside. It was a nice kitchen, all cheery and with flowered wallpaper. I liked it. I’d had enough of dingy flops to last me a lifetime. I’d heard that the Dillinger Gang liked to live high when they could. Not that this house was anything fancy, but it was sure above the places where most gangs tended to hang out.
“We’ll bunk the usual pairs,” Johnny said.
“That leaves me out,” Pete said.
“One of the rooms has room for three,” Red said, lazily chewing gun.
“Kid, you okay with bunking with Pete and Charles?” asked Johnny.
“Sure.” I figured that as long as I didn’t have to share a bed, I could share a room. Though come to think of it, Red hadn’t said if they were single beds.
All of us went upstairs. The room I was assigned was at the end of the hall. It was the biggest since it had a big double bed and a smaller one.
“I’ll take the small one if it’s all right with you,” I said as I placed my suitcase on the single bed.
“No objections,” said Charles. “I’ve doubled up before. Pete?”
Pete waved his hand okay and lit a cigarette.
I glanced back into the hall and saw the Mystery Man enter the room that Johnny had claimed. I looked forward to finding out who he was.
I didn’t bother to unpack. We might have to bug out at a moment’s notice so it made sense to keep everything in the suitcase. After stowing my bag in the closet I went downstairs. Red was in the kitchen and I asked, “Need any help?”
“Thanks. Could you cut up the salami? I’ll get the bread.”
Slicing up salami was easy. I found a head of lettuce in the icebox and tore off pieces for the sandwiches.
“I hope you like salami,” said Red. “It’s all we’ve got right now until I go shopping.”
A pot of soup bubbled on the stove. “We’re having soup and sandwiches?”
“Yeah, chicken noodle. Mostly it’s for Homer but there’s enough for everyone to have a bowl if they want.”
“How is Homer?”
Even though Homer getting better meant I’d probably be out of a job, influenza could knock a man for loop. Recovery could take a long time.
Red stirred the soup. “Jim, we really need you to keep quiet about certain things.”
“Sure, I will.”
“Good.” Red tasted the soup with a wooden spoon. “Nearly ready.”
I figured the ‘certain thing’ was the Mystery Man. I could keep my mouth shut.
When lunch was ready, everyone but the Mystery Man came down to eat. Red looked at Johnny, who shook his head.
“Sunshine’s feelin’ a little under the weather.”
“He ain’t got the influenza?” Pete asked sharply.
“No, he’s just tired.”
The lunchtime conversation was bantering and fun. We talked baseball, politics, and passed ‘round the latest gossip from our world.
“I heard that Kelly and his wife are in maybe Hot Springs, Arkansas,” said Charles as he drank a cup of coffee.
“They hobnobbin’ with FDR?” asked Pete with a smirk.
“No, that’s Warm Springs and it’s in Georgia.” Red took a bite of his sandwich.
“Y’know, Katherine Kelly’s the real brains of that outfit.” Johnny put mustard on his sandwich.
“Not surprised. Ol’ George ain’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree,” said Charles.
The men chuckled. Red stood up and lowered the heat on the stove. “I’ll keep this soup warm. Maybe you want to take a bowl up later?”
Johnny nodded. I thought it was interestin’. This mystery fella sure seemed to worry Johnny. I wish I could’ve seen ‘em together.
After lunch I volunteered to help with the dishes. Red happily accepted and we stood at the sink while he washed and I dried.
“I can do these if you want to go give Homer his soup.”
“I’ll do it when we’re finished.”
Everyone except Johnny had left the kitchen. He was ladling out the soup into a bowl.
“I’ll wash these up when we’re finished, Red.” Johnny fished for a spoon in the silverware drawer.
Johnny took the bowl upstairs. I handed Red a plate to dry.
“I…” I was going to ask about the Mystery Man but thought better of it. “You guys up for a poker game tonight?”
Red grinned. “Ready to get your pocket picked?”
“Ha. You might be surprised.”
After the dishes were done, Red scooped up a bowl of chicken soup to take to Homer. I made sure the sink was clean. It sounded all really domestic but I’d been with some gangs who lived like pigs. Actually, that’s doin’ a disservice to the pigs. I liked the way this gang kept things as clean as possible.
The poker game took place in the dining room. Bottles of beer were opened and cigars taken out as the small dining room was soon enveloped in a wreath of smoke. Bowls of peanuts were set out and we were in business.
Red and Johnny joined Pete, Charles and me and we soon had a good-natured game goin’.
“How’s Homer?” Pete asked.
“Better,” Red replied.
I dealt the cards, aware that I was probably being closely watched. A new guy had better not be dealin’ from the bottom of the deck. Not that I would, mind you, but a new guy has to be extra careful.
The pot was respectable for the first hand. I was almost embarrassed when I raked it in.
“Beginner’s luck, eh?” Pete grumbled.
I grinned. “Sorry, Pete, some of us are just lucky in life.”
When I won the second pot, Red joked, “Check that kid’s sleeves, Johnny.”
I quickly held up my arms. “Nothin’ up my sleeves, fellas.”
“Don’t worry, kid,” Charles said as he shuffled the cards. “No cardsharp would be dumb enough to start out winnin’ the first two pots.”
Relieved, I relaxed for the rest of the game.
About an hour later Red went up to check on Homer. When he returned he said, “Your peach is a bit fuzzy.”
“Ha, ha.” Johnny put his cards down as he stood. “Deal me out, boys. I’ll be back soon.”
Red sat down and Charles dealt the cards. As we played, Pete snorted. “Johnny better hurry back, otherwise all the cash will be claimed.”
Red grinned. “He’ll make it up.”
I wondered about the Mystery Man. Even in the shadows, he’d looked healthy enough. Was he a sickly type? Johnny certainly seemed loyal to him.
We played a few more hands before Johnny returned. He re-took his seat and said, “Deal me in.”
I wondered why no one asked about Johnny’s paramour. I assumed that the Mystery Man was a lover. I don’t know why, but it just seemed more than friendship.
No one was naming him. Maybe they wanted to see how, y’know, I got along with everyone and how I’d react to Johnny having a male lover. Like I said, some people are okay with this sort of thing and some aren’t. They probably just were makin’ sure.
So I didn’t ask. I figured I’d find out soon enough. With a flourish, I claimed another pot.
I was on my way back from the bathroom with my hair wet from the shower and feeling relaxed in my undershirt, shorts, and robe. I wished that I could wear pajamas but it just wasn’t practical if we had to get out fast. All I had to do was slip on my pants and throw on my shirt and I could take off.
I passed Johnny's room. The door was closed but I could hear the murmur of voices. As I approached my room I could heart Pete and Charles talking.
"So he 's a delicate flower?" Pete snarked.
"Aww, c'mon, Pete, cut him a break, willya? He ain't so bad."
”If he had balls we wouldn’t have needed to recruit outside the gang with Homer sick.”
“You know why Johnny doesn’t want him involved in our robberies.”
“He should take the same risks we all do.”
“He does. He might even take more risks. If he was ever caught…”
I could hear someone coming up the stairs. Had to be Red. I began whistling as I continued my way down the hall. By the time I got to my room, Charles and Pete were already in bed.
I pondered what I’d just heard. This Mystery Man was growing more intriguing by the minute.
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