Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Jim Collins (OC Narrator), Mel/Johnny, Charles Makley, Harry ‘Pete’ Pierpont, 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: Jim gets to know Mel a little as he helps out.
Date Of Completion: April 14, 2012
Date Of Posting: March 24, 2019
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1752
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: All chapters can be found here.
Big Jim Grady
The Grady Gang
I wasn’t too surprised when I finally saw Johnny’s paramour. Pretty fancy word, huh? But I think part of me already knew.
Melvin Purvis was a little on the thin side, pretty and graceful as he moved around the kitchen. He cracked eggs into a skillet and proceeded to scramble them. Bacon crackled in another skillet as I said, “Good morning.”
He didn’t jump or flinch but looked around. “Good morning, Mr. Collins.”
His voice was smooth Southern honey. Little wonder that Gentleman Johnny was so charmed.
“All right, Jim.”
“Can I help?”
“Could you pour the orange juice?”
I took the pitcher out of the icebox and poured into five glasses. “Homer still sick?”
“He’s getting better but needs a lot of recovery time.” The former agent smiled slightly as he lifted a vial of red pepper flakes. “Job security for you.”
I laughed. “Guess so.” I pushed a lock of chestnut hair back from my forehead. I wasn’t as thin as Agent Purvis but close. A lotta guys underestimated me because they thought I was a pushover. “I, uh…”
“Yes, I am Melvin Purvis.”
I chuckled ruefully. “Sorry for the tongue-tied bit.”
“No worries. You must find it odd to have a former G-Man in your midst.”
“Oh, I figure you must be loyal or Johnny would never have you around.”
“You pick things up fast.”
“Thank you, Mr. Purvis.”
“Oh, we’re not so formal around here. “ Mel sprinkled more pepper flakes on the eggs.
He smiled again. “Thank you for helping.”
The table was already set so I took a seat. Mel scooped the eggs onto a large platter and set it on the table, followed by a platter of bacon.
“Help yourself. The rest will come in once they smell it.”
Mel poured us cups of hot coffee and sat down. I enjoyed the crisp bacon and the tang of red pepper on the eggs.
“This is a nice touch, the pepper.”
“I like to spice things up when I can.”
I just bet. Lucky Johnny.
Charles shuffled in as he yawned. “Aw, good, you’re cookin’, Mel. Beats Peter’s burnt toast and runny yolks.”
“I heard that!” Pete growled as he sauntered in, buttoning his shirt.
“And it’s the truth, too.”
I smirked. I really preferred Mel’s cooking in that case.
Charles eagerly dug into the food and Pete grudgingly ate. Mel ate small portions, patting his stomach.
“Still a little off.”
Johnny appeared in shirtsleeves. “Mmm, smells great, Sunshine!”
Mel smiled and again I thought, Lucky Johnny.
Johnny heartily ate the bacon and eggs, drinking his orange juice and coffee. Conversation was jovial around the table. Topics covered were politics and movies and it was like any other house in America except with guns and getaway plans.
After breakfast I volunteered to help Mel clean up.
“We’re holding a planning session in the dining room, Jim. Come on in when you finish helping Mel,” said Johnny.
Mel washed and I wiped. “You sure are a fine cook.”
“Thank you.” Mel handed me a soapy plate. “I don’t have a full repertoire of specialties but I have a nice list of recipes.”
“Cooking skills are always prized. I can’t tell you how many awful meals I’ve suffered through while on the run.”
“Ah, yes, some men are notoriously unskilled in the culinary arts.”
I was struck by the fancy way he had of speakin’. He must have had all kinds of education. I remember readin’ that he came from a rich family, so college was probably in his file. I wondered if he was only book-smart instead of street-savvy. Was Mel purely a sexual partner for Johnny or did he offer much more? How did he fit in? He sure didn’t have the same background we all did.
“How’s Johnny at cookin’?”
“Not bad.” Mel plunged his hands into the soapy water. “I’ve taught him some dishes. He has a good instinct for these things.”
I could feel that there was a double meaning here and hastily ducked my head to hide my smile.
We finished up and went to the dining room. I took the final empty seat at the table and Mel sat on the arm of Johnny’s chair, resting his elbow on his lover’s shoulder.
“Okay, we’re lookin’ at the Shawmut Bank right here.” Johnny pointed to a spot on the city map. “Charles has cased the joint. Charles?”
The older man smiled. “There’s a guard at the front. The bank is all one floor, no upper balcony. The vault is in the northwest corner of the bank.” Charles picked up a pencil and sketched a layout of the bank. “The teller cages are here.” He explained the rest of the layout.
“Charles is our advance man, Homer our outside man, Pete our lobby man, Red’s the driver, and I’m the front man.” Johnny looked at me. “Jim, you ever done outside work?”
“Good. You’ll take Homer’s job.”
I nodded, pleased to know what my role was in this robbery. It always made things easier.
I wasn’t surprised that Mel was not assigned anything. From what I’d overheard the night before, he didn’t take part in the robberies. Guess I couldn’t blame him. Must have been tough enough to turn his back on his old pals and throw in with the likes of us. I doubt he would’ve felt comfortable takin’ up bank robbin’.
Instead he rubbed Johnny’s shoulder while our leader led the meeting. I was impressed by the clockwork precision of the operation. The Dillinger Gang was tops in the country and I could see why. They knew their business.
“Where’s the nearest police station?” asked Red.
“About ten blocks. By the time they get there, we’ll be long gone.” Johnny made a sweeping gesture.
“You bet.” Spoken with the confidence of a true wheelman.
The meeting wrapped up and Charles went to the living room to read while Pete cleaned his pistol. Red went back upstairs to check on Homer.
Johnny hugged Mel around the waist. “Great breakfast this mornin’, hon.”
Mel smiled and kissed Johnny’s nose. “Glad you enjoyed it.”
“We’re short of groceries. It’s a miracle that you made that meal so delicious.”
“Well, bacon and eggs are good breakfast food. Though tomorrow it might have to be cream-of-wheat. It’s all we’ve got.”
“Oh, shoot. Well, looks like someone will have to make a grocery run.”
“I’ll go,” I said.
“That makes sense. No one really knows you.”
“That’s right. Those Feds won’t figure me bein’ part of the gang.”
Johnny stood, putting his arm around Mel’s shoulders. “We’ll bankroll you. Mel will give you a list.”
I got the money and list and was on my way, using one of the Fords. I knew where to shop, goin’ to the butcher’s and greengrocer’s, buying steaks, pork chops, onions, potatoes and staples like coffee, butter, eggs, and bread. At the fruit store I picked up pears, apples, lettuce and beefsteak tomatoes. I went to a little specialty shop and bought lemon and chocolate cookies and some cream-filled chocolates. I also picked up several packs of Wrigley’s chewing gun. I’d heard that Johnny was fond of gum. I bought packs of cigarettes, too. My last stop was at the liquor store where I got some bottles of beer.
I loaded the bags in the car and hoped I looked like an ordinary fella shoppin’ for groceries. Women usually did the shoppin’ but it wasn’t uncommon to see a man do it.
I tensed as I saw a beat cop ambling down the sidewalk. He twirled his nightstick but didn’t look my way. I got behind the wheel and eased out into traffic.
I felt lucky at not getting messed up by that cop. That would make one heckuva introduction to the gang, wouldn’t it?
As I drove I thought about Mel and the gang. He really was apart from them. It probably didn’t matter much as Johnny loved him, but I wondered if the guys questioned his loyalty. Pete probably did, from what I’d overheard, but I wasn’t sure about the others.
I’m sure Johnny only cared that the gang treated Mel with respect. He would’ve liked that they trusted him, but it was their right not to, I’d think.
I liked the guy (Mel, I mean), but who knows if he was on the up-and-up? Talk about a coup for Hoover if he could get his No. 1 agent in tight with Public Enemy Number 1. It would be the undercover job of the century!
But love made a man do strange things. Sure, sex could, too. If it was only sex it could drive Mel to take crazy chances and finally throw in with Johnny, but I figured love was part of the deal. A guy doesn’t give up everything he knows just for a tumble in the hay, no matter how good it is.
Back at the house I was greeted by Johnny when I pulled into the driveway. He helped me unload the grocery sacks.
“Good, you followed the list. Hey, you added a few treats!” Johnny approved of the cookies and chocolates. His eyes lit up when he found the gum.
“Shoppin’s okay,” I said. “Especially when I got coin in my pocket.”
Johnny chuckled. “We’ll provide the money and you provide the food, kid.”
I beamed. If anything, I’d at least be the chief cook and bottlewasher’s outside man.
As we put away the groceries I commented casually, “You seem very happy with Mel.”
I wasn’t sure if I should say anything, but if Johnny didn’t want me to, he’d say so. Maybe he’d be pleased that I showed an interest.
“I am.” Johnny paused in the act of taking the steak wrapped in brown butcher paper and twine out of the grocery sack. “Mel makes me very happy.”
“That’s good.” I took out the head of lettuce. “A man needs someone to love in his life.”
“I like your thinkin’, Jim.” Johnny’s smile faded. “It’s not easy for him.”
“He must consider it worth it.”
Johnny smiled slightly. “I hope so.”
“I know so.”
Johnny smiled and we put away the rest of the groceries as I thought excitedly about the job comin’ up.
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