Pairings/Characters: Billlie Frechette, Doris Rogers, Melvin Purvis
Fandom: Public Enemies
Genres: Drama, Slice-Of-Cake, er, Life ;)
Spoilers: For the movie, natch. :)
Summary: Billie Frechette will never give up her man…but there’s no harm in civility with another one.
Date Of Completion: July 20, 2009
Date Of Posting: July 20, 2009
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2364
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: It looks like a series with another tea title, but it really isn’t. I seem to be in tea mode! *laughs*
I’ll probably be going to see the movie again this week, so if I’ve messed up any details of this scene, I’ll correct them.
This fandom is so much fun! I’ll be writing gen, het, and slash, because it’s all there! ;)
Billie glared up at her tormentor, savagely pushing down her panic at the numbness of her limbs. She had the blood of proud French and Indian women in her veins. She would never knuckle under to a lumbering coward like this G-Man, never give up her man.
She could smell his fear underneath the sweat of a hot day and exertion of whaling on her for most of it. She almost laughed again. Did this pale bumpkin think he was introducing her to something new? Her father had beaten her on a daily basis while her mother shrugged. She could take it.
She felt grim satisfaction at her jeering laughter of a few seconds ago. And her threat about Johnny was real. When he found out what this plug-ugly had done to her…
She steeled herself as the agent lifted his hand to strike her again, her heart pounding, her eyes closing against the glare of the overhead lighting.
The door opened and suddenly the agent’s hand was grabbed as her eyes flew open in surprise.
Billie saw a dark-haired man with luminous eyes and incredible cheekbones, dressed in a dark-blue suit and fedora, a greatcoat slung over his shoulders, and saw a fleeting glimpse of shame in those eyes. Then it was gone and his expression was neutral.
Barely a word was exchanged, but her handcuffs were removed, and the man she realized was Melvin Purvis told her to get up.
In the next moment, she was swept up into strong arms and taken out of the hellish room and into the corridor, Melvin Purvis carrying her down the hall, the scent of his cologne lightly tickling her nose. Another woman was with him and they brought her to the bathroom, Purvis settling her gently against the tiled wall.
“Do you need my help to…?”
She shook her head. “With Miss…um…”
“Rogers,” supplied the dark-haired secretary.
“With Miss Rogers’ help, I can manage.”
He nodded but said, “If you need me, Miss Rogers, call me.”
The secretary nodded in return, and then started helping Billie to the stall as Purvis left.
Billie underwent the embarrassment of the whole situation, but Miss Rogers was efficient and sympathetic, and it made things easier. After the woman helped her to a mirror, she cringed, and Miss Rogers produced a comb and lipstick, Billie gratefully taking both. There was no make-up available, but maybe it was better to show the bruises.
When Billie was finished, Miss Rogers helped her out of the bathroom and into Melvin Purvis’ office.
He stood when the two of them entered and came around the desk. “I know you’ve been sitting a long time, Miss Frechette. Would you care to stand instead, walk about?”
“Just for a moment, then sit.”
He nodded and Miss Rogers left them alone.
The office was neatly-ordered, a filing cabinet in one corner, a window with a good view of the city, and an oak desk with a satinwood finish. Billie took some steps, Purvis immediately taking her hand and lightly resting the other on her back for support. They walked in silence for several minutes, then she said, “I’d like to sit, please.” He helped her into the chair in front of his desk, and she noticed that it was cushioned, and a chair similar to the one she had been interrogated in was pushed against the wall.
The door opened and Miss Rogers entered, bearing a tray with a teapot, two cups, and cake on a plate. She set it on the desk, placing a plate in front of each of them, and smiled as she left with Purvis’ thanks.
Purvis picked up a teacup with a yellow rose pattern and the matching teapot. He poured for her and she accepted the teacup, and then he poured for himself.
She sipped the tear, her thirst ravenous. “It’s good.”
“It’s Earl Grey.” He set down his cup. “Would you like some cake?”
Her stomach nearly growled. “Yes, please.”
Light streaming in from the window glinted off his plain gold cufflink as he cut the cake with a silver knife. She could smell his cologne, a light scent that was pleasant and not overpowering. He set the slice of cake on a plate and she accepted it, taking a bite.
“Mmm, this is good.” The light, airy cake practically melted on her tongue.
“I’m glad you like it.”
“That’s a beautiful teapot.”
“Thank you.” He took a deep breath. “I am sorry about what happened, Miss Frechette.”
She swallowed her cake. “Yeah, well, it’s not surprising.”
He looked pained for a moment, then said, “I suppose you won’t tell me where John Dillinger is.”
Anger surged up in her and she wanted to sneer, “No, I won’t, you stupid flatfoot!” but she remembered his shamed look when he’d first entered the interrogation room and said instead, “I won’t betray Johnny.”
He tilted his head slightly. “Admirable.”
She laughed. “Really?”
He nodded. “Of course I would prefer it if you told me, but I can admire your loyalty to Mr. Dillinger.”
Pride filled her and she sipped her tea delicately. “Thank you.”
He took a bite of cake and washed it down with his tea, then said, “How did you meet Mr. Dillinger?”
His soft-spoken Southern accent soothed her aches and pains as she remembered her first meeting with Johnny at the nightclub, and she spoke of it while keeping the dreaminess out of her voice. She didn’t give the name of the club or who Johnny was with that night, but she saw no harm in telling the tale.
As she talked, she enjoyed the close-up view of the man sitting opposite her. She had heard him called the Clark Gable of the Bureau of Investigation. She almost laughed. He was a lot prettier than Gable, in her opinion! Since she doubted the guards of either sex would be attractive where she was going, or the prisoners, either, too beaten down by the life, she indulged in looking at Melvin Purvis.
Oh, she would never say he was better-looking than her Johnny, because he wasn’t, but he was on the same level. The high cheekbones and dark eyes and hair made her think that he might have Indian blood. She doubted that he would ever acknowledge that fact if he knew for sure. Her own experience as a half-Indian had brought home all too well the prejudice he would face.
She liked the sound of his accent and watched his graceful fingers curl around his fork, a gold ring on his finger. It wasn’t a wedding ring. It looked like the kind of ring you got when you graduated high school. It was probably from some fancy college.
He was slender, but she had felt real power in his muscles when he had picked her up and carried her.
He was different from her Johnny, on the other side of the law, but Johnny had a gentlemanly style that fit well with this man’s. Johnny came from the Midwest and Purvis from the South, Johnny from a hardscrabble background and Purvis from comfort, she guessed, but she felt that despite their differences, they had similarities.
Both genteel veneers covered men accustomed to blood and violence and guns and the seamier side of life.
Could Johnny have just as graciously served her tea and cake? Maybe.
As she ate the cake, trying not to devour it, she wondered if this was what Freud called ‘reverse psychology’. One of Purvis’ men had beaten her bloody, and now he was serving her tea and cake? Did he think he could trip her up, make her reveal something about Johnny?
Then again, maybe he just wanted to make it up to her for what had happened.
“Johnny and I connected right away. His father beat him every day, and that’s something I can relate to.” She saw a flicker of sadness in Purvis’ dark eyes and tried to ignore the pain in her limbs. “He’s got dash and style.” She finished her tea and when she set the cup down, he poured for her again.
“What about you, Mr. Purvis?”
He set down the teapot. “What about me, Miss Frechette?”
“I’ve seen you on the newsreels with J. Edgar Hoover. You’re a rising young star in the Bureau, aren’t you?”
He smiled slightly. She liked it. “I suppose some would say I am.”
“So, you’re really the Clark Gable of the Bureau?”
He looked startled, then blushed, and she laughed. He smiled again, wider this time, and she definitely liked that.
“Is that what people say?” His eyes danced.
She smiled. “That’s what I hear.”
“I fear that is quite a tall order to live up to.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’d say you give Gable a run for his money.”
He ducked his head almost shyly.
She sipped her tea again, regretting that she liked it so much. She wasn’t going to be enjoying such good tea in prison. Probably bad coffee, if she was lucky.
They ate and drank in comfortable silence, Billie astounded that she felt that way in the presence of a cop, but life was funny sometimes.
There was a knock at the door, and Purvis called, “Come in!”
Miss Rogers stuck her head in. “The guards from the county lock-up are here.”
He nodded and she closed the door.
They finished their cake and tea and then Purvis rose.
“I’d like to stop at the ladies’ room before they take me.”
He nodded, and then opened his desk drawer and took out a toothbrush still in its packaging, and a new tube of toothpaste. “The cake can stick to your teeth.”
She laughed, even though her stomach was churning. “Thanks. That was great cake. Lemon’s my favorite.”
“My mother is quite good with cakes.”
She struggled to stand, her limbs stiff again, and he helped her up. She took the toothbrush and toothpaste. He offered her his arm and she took it with a little smile as he opened the door.
Billie took the package from the guard and set it on the small table in her cell. She noticed the postmark and nearly threw the package against the wall, then reconsidered. Melvin Purvis hadn’t shot her Johnny, and besides, he was just doing his job. Johnny would have shot him if he’d had to.
She opened the package, eyes widening. She lifted out the tin of Earl Grey tea, then a letter. Opening the vellum paper, she read:
August 4, 1934
Dear Miss Frechette,
I know that prison life is not easy and lacking in the little amenities, so I hope that you will accept my offering of the tea you enjoyed so much in my office.
I know that are grieving, and if you choose not to accept the tea or answer this letter, I will understand.
She nearly crumpled the letter, then refolded it and put it in the small box that held her personal effects. If she didn’t drink the tea herself, maybe she could barter it.
She closed her eyes, her grief overwhelming her, and laid her head on her arms and cried.
Two weeks later, she answered the letter.
August 20, 1934
Dear Mr. Purvis,
Thank you for the gift of the tea. It is much appreciated.
I see that you’re in the news quite a bit. You shine in the newsreels as well as Gable does in the movies.
Thank you again,
Billie accepted the large package, noticing a different return address this time. Not his office in Chicago. Smart move. She doubted that ol’ J. Edgar would appreciate his top G-Man corresponding with Johnny Dillinger’s girlfriend.
She opened the package and a smile lit her face. She carefully took out the teapot, the yellow rose pattern similar to the one in Purvis’ office, and a delicate matching cup and saucer. This time there were several tins of tea, and she would be able to keep some for herself and barter some, and reward her most loyal lieutenants with the rest.
As the girlfriend of Johnny Dillinger, she had cachet in this place, attracting followers, and she accepted the role because it allowed her to take care of her own safety and help others. Any other cliques in this place wouldn’t mess with her if she had her own gang. She was pretty good at the diplomatic stuff. She set aside a tin for Lady Jane, and one for Big Rose. Never hurt to have more allies than enemies in a place like this.
She opened the final box. “Oh, my!” She breathed in the aroma of wonderful lemon cake.
She opened the letter, noting the different address again at the top and the date of two days ago.
September 4, 1934
Dear Miss Frechette,
I am delighted that you accepted my gift of the tea, and please accept this gift as well.
I have been in the newsreels, perhaps a bit more than I’d like, but my boss prefers a high profile, so I fear that you will see me yet again in that medium.
She smiled and took out a piece of writing paper and started her reply.
September 6, 1934
Dear Mr. Purvis,
Thank you for the tea set and all the other gifts. The cake will be a pleasant alternative to my usual fare.
I look forward to seeing you in the newsreels again. You should be the Bureau’s spokesman. You are far more telegenic than Hoover!
Are you going to be meeting the President when he comes to Chicago this fall? I find him and Eleanor to be interesting.
As she wrote, she breathed in the scent of lemon cake.
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