Pairings/Characters: Billie Frechette (mention of Johnny/Billie), (mention of Melvin Purvis)
Fandom: Public Enemies
Genres: Challenge, Drama, Slice-Of-Life
Spoilers: For the movie, natch. :)
Summary: Before Billie can get on with her life, she remembers her Johnny on a special anniversary.
Date Of Completion: June 12, 2010
Date Of Posting: July 4, 2010
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 922
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Written for my 2010 Guns_Fedoras Public Enemies Fic/Art Summer Heat Challenge and for my 2010 Guns_Fedoras Public Enemies First Anniversary Celebration Fest!!!. :)
Billie Frechette disembarked from the bus, wiping her face with a handkerchief. Chicago was sweltering in the July heat.
The bus belched its way down the street, Billie smoothing the wrinkles of her cheap blue dress. At least it was new, along with her hat and shoes, courtesy of the state of Illinois, but clothes give to newly-released convicts would never make the cover of Harper’s Bazaar.
People walked by her on the sidewalk as she stared up at the marquee that read Biograph. The picture was, ironically, a Clark Gable movie: San Francisco, co-starring Jeanette McDonald and Spencer Tracy.
Butterflies flitted through her stomach as she moved toward the alley, crouching down to see faint bloodstains on the concrete. She touched it with trembling fingers.
It was July 22, 1936.
She hadn’t been able to come here on the first anniversary, and she supposed there wouldn’t be much interest in the second anniversary of Johnny’s death.
Just as well, I suppose.
Did she really want to share the moment with a bunch of gawkers?
She lightly caressed the warm pavement, a hot breeze ruffling her curls. The alley was deserted, a few stray scraps of litter blowing around as a cat sniffed around a garbage can.
Billie drew in a shaky breath. The heat was wilting her. Maybe…
She stood, grimacing at the stiffness in her legs. She would have to do more walking. There was little opportunity for exercise in prison. One hour a day in the prison yard wasn’t enough.
Billie clutched her purse. She had to be careful with her money until she could find out whether she could get her old job back at The Steuben Club.
Toldja I’d wind up back there, Johnny.
Sighing, she looked at the Biograph’s marquee. ‘Cooled By Air’. She walked to the ticket booth and purchased a ticket.
Inside was blessedly cool, as promised. Billie admired the glamor of the lobby with its chandeliers and rich, red drapes. She walked into the main theater, wondering where Johnny had sat that night.
You’d like a plaque on that seat, wouldn’t you, Johnny?
She smiled as she took her seat.
The screen flickered to life. The theme of Movietone News blared across the screen. Her eyes widened as a stylishly-dressed man appeared on the screen, gray fedora jauntily tipped on dark hair.
“Former G-Man Melvin Purvis shakes hands with Everett Sloan, publisher of his book, American Agent. Purvis left the Bureau, now the FBI, a year ago.”
Billie studied ‘The Man Who Got Dillinger’, except that he wasn’t.
The underworld had its grapevine, and even though the press had dubbed Purvis as her Johnny’s killer, he hadn’t even fired a shot. Somehow, that fit.
She remembered strong arms sweeping her out of a chair after she’d been brutalized by Bureau agents during interrogation, the scent of expensive cologne, different from her Johnny, and soft Southern tones that had soothed her jangled nerves.
She’d been helped by Melvin Purvis’ secretary in the ladies’ room, trying to salvage her dignity. Purvis himself had served her tea and lemon cake in his office, mortified by what she had undergone at the hands of two of his men.
He looked tired on-screen.
He wasn’t so bad for a Fed, Johnny.
The news rolled on, preparations underway for the Olympic Games in Berlin next month. Germany was an odd country, everyone running around and yelling, “Heil Hitler!” Everyone seemed to fall into step. Accustomed to Americans pulling this way and that, it was just very strange.
Billie let everything wash over her: the news, cartoon, short subject, and coming attractions. She watched the movie, remembering how much Johnny had loved everything about coming to the theater: the popcorn and Good ‘N’ Plentys, the features before the movie, the regal trappings and the refrigerated air in the summertime.
“You sure do love the movies, Johnny.”
“It’s the best way to let your imagination run wild, darlin’.”
A little smile played around Billie’s lips.
Billie took her time leaving the theater, met by a blast of hot air. She saw a crowd gathered at the entrance to the alley. Frowning, she walked slowly down the sidewalk.
A young man in chinos and a short-sleeved pale-blue shirt was at the edge of the crowd. Billie tapped him lightly on the shoulder.
“What’s going on?” she asked, fearful of a ghoulish gathering.
“We’re here to honor John Dillinger’s memory.” He pointed to the sidewalk. “That’s where he died, two years ago tonight at 10:30 P.M.”
“That’s what everyone’s here for?”
The kid nodded. He looked like a college student, his lightly-freckled face framed by short red hair. Billie felt comfortable with him as she observed the crowd: young, middle-aged, and old; men and women, well-dressed and shabby.
Johnny would have loved it.
The redhead pulled out a candle and Bic lighter.
“I’ve got an extra if you’d like it.”
“Sure.” Billie took the proffered candle, Red lighting it for her. Other candles were lit and people formed a circle, leaving the place on the sidewalk where Johnny had died free of spectators.
It wasn’t a circus, just a respectful gathering of mourners. Johnny was still remembered.
A single tear slid down Billie’s cheek. She didn’t know what lay ahead in the future, but she was only interested in the moment, standing here with other admirers of John Dillinger with candles flickering in their hands on a steamy Chicago summer night.
It was enough for now.