Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Mel/Johnny, Carlo Marino, Tony Marcotti, Red/Homer, Harry ‘Pete’ Pierpont, Charles Makley
Fandom: Public Enemies
Genres: AU, Challenge, Drama, Holiday, (With A Touch Of Horror), Mystery, Romance
Rating (this chapter): R
General Summary: A decaying old house in a genteel Chicago neighborhood is the site of many strange and disturbing happenings. Special Agent Melvin Purvis is sent to investigate.
Chapter Summary: Mel and Johnny get answers about the strange happenings in the House at 1313 Maple Street…or do they?
Date Of Completion: October 13, 2010
Date Of Posting: November 15, 2010
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2293
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Written for my 2010 Guns_Fedoras Public Enemies Fic/Art Halloween Challenge. :)
All chapters can be found here.
Holds its secrets
And never lets
Those who enter
"The House On Maple Street"
Mel groaned as he came back to consciousness. His head was throbbing and his mouth tasted like cotton. His eyes felt irritated, and when he opened them, fear gripped him as he saw only blackness. Was he blind?
“Johnny?” he rasped, feeling around for his lover. “Where are you?”
For that matter, where am I?
He clamped down on his rising panic. He had to keep it together. He was a Special Agent of the Bureau Of Investigation.
And John Dillinger’s man.
Both titles meant something to him. He wanted to be worthy of both.
He just wasn’t sure that haunted houses were your average complication.
Mel crawled, hesitant to put his hands where he couldn’t see, but he only felt concrete.
I must be in the basement.
“Johnny?” he called again. A groan answered him this time. “Johnny!” He bumped into a body. He quickly felt for injuries but found none.
“Right here, darlin’.” Mel found Johnny’s head. “Oh, that’s a nasty bump you’ve got on the back of your noggin.”
“Did someone hit me?” Confusion filled Johnny’s voice.
“Maybe, but I think we were the victim of a gas attack.”
Mel nodded even though Johnny probably couldn’t see him. He helped his lover sit up.
“Some experiments at Bureau headquarters used gas.”
“Won’t that scorch our lungs?!”
“It’s not the World War I mustard gas. Just knocks you out and causes your eyes to water.” He rubbed his own eyes. “Can you…can you see anything?”
“It’s black as pitch in here!”
Relieved, Mel realized that he wasn’t blind. “Yes, I know.”
“My eyes are still tearing, and I’ve got a bit of a headache.”
“I’ve got a helluva headache.”
Mel chuckled. “Tell me how you really feel, suh.”
He could practically feel Johnny’s smile in the darkness.
”I feel that this place is enough to put anyone in a padded cell.”
“Yes.” Mel sobered. “Strange goings-on.”
“Is Red here?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where are we?”
“The basement, I believe.”
“What’s that thumping noise?”
Mel could here it, too, a steady thump! thump! thump!
“I don’t know.”
“Let’s crawl toward it.” A few moments of silence, then Johnny cried, “I see some light!”
“I do, too.”
A thin sliver of light showed at the bottom of a door. Mel stood, fumbling for a light switch but found nothing.
“That sound…” Johnny said thoughtfully.
“What?” Mel pressed his ear to the door. All he could hear was the muffled thumping.
Johnny snapped his fingers. “Counterfeiting!”
Mel stepped back just in time to avoid being hit by the door as it swung open.
Both men blinked as light flooded the room, a dark, hulking figure looming in the center.
“How are you gentlemen?” rumbled the figure.
“Curious, bud. What’s goin’ on?” Johnny asked, standing slightly in front of Mel. Mel almost smiled. Thugs were Johnny’s territory, apparently.
“Come on out, fellas, and we’ll show ya the whole operation.”
Mel knew what that meant, but he wanted to find out all he could, and maybe he and Johnny could get away before they were fitted for cement overshoes, though admittedly it might not be a Syndicate operation.
Johnny had been right. A huge machine for pressing counterfeit money was set up in the basement, the plates being stamped down into the fake paper.
There other men were in the basement, one working the press, one taking out the freshly-pressed bills, and the third watching Johnny and Mel as he snapped gum, dressed sharply in an expensive dark-brown suit and vest, a diamond stickpin in his tie. Italian leather shoes were shined, his fedora at an angle, shadowing his eyes. He was shaved but had a shadow, indicating a tendency toward a heavy beard that required frequent shaving.
Looks Syndicate to me, Mel thought. Maybe one of Nitti’s boys.
“My, my, my, Carlo, we’re bein’ graced with the heavy hitters,” said the dapper man to the big man.
The dapper man snapped his gum. His hands were in his jacket pockets and he removed one, a diamond pinky ring glinting in the harsh lighting from a bare bulb in the middle of the ceiling.
“We got us Mr. Jackrabbit Johnny himself. Hello, Mr. Dillinger.”
“Antonio Marcotti. My friends call me Tony.”
“Sweet little operation you’ve got here, Tony.”
Tony looked at Mel. “Carlo, we got us another big fish. Hoover’s pet! What’s the No. 1 G-Man doin’ hangin’ out with the No. 1 Public Enemy?”
Mel knew they were in trouble, but said, “I’m investigating what happened to Officer Joseph O’Grady.”
“Don’t know ‘im.”
Anger surged through Mel. “The young man who wound up in Collinwood Asylum after you scared him literally out of his mind!” Fists balled, he took a step forward. Carlo stepped toward Mel, and Johnny put a hand on his lover’s arm.
“You’ve got quite an imagination, Agent Purvis.”
“You did all the ghostly moanings and apparitions and chain rattlings to keep people away from this place!”
“We’ve made noises, yes.”
Johnny squeezed Mel’s arm slightly. “Tony, where are my boys?”
“Comfortable. Better to keep them in their accommodations for now.”
Johnny’s eyes narrowed. “Are they all right?”
“They’re fine, Johnny.”
“So, how about lettin’ my gang in for a piece of the action?”
Tony laughed. “You got chutzpah, Johnny-boy, I’ll give ya that.”
“Hey, seems like a good deal. Safer than robbin’ banks.”
“And keepin’ you and your boys alive.” Tony adjusted his tie. “And your No. 1 boy.” He cocked his head. “Are you payin’ this boy off, Johnny? Bet old J. Edgar would be interested in hearin’ ‘bout this, eh?”
Johnny’s smile was easy, but Mel could sense the anger beneath it. His man didn’t take kindly to threats to one of his own.
“Or maybe it’s not greasin’ the palm, so to speak.” Tony’s eyes glittered in the shadow of his fedora. “Maybe it’s more...personal?” Mel felt his body tense as his heart sank. “That it, Jackrabbit? You been greasin’ something’ else with this pretty piece of Southern sweet pecan pie?”
Johnny’s muscles tensed but he kept his face bland. “You’ve got quite an imagination, Tony.” He smiled, Mel recognizing its deadly quality.
“Oh, I don’t know. You were pretty chummy with Pretty Boy here, holdin’ hands and getting’ all gooey-eyed at each other. What about it, Johnny-boy? Is Pretty Purvis really good in bed? Bet he spreads his legs and lets you pound away, hmm? Or do you bend him over the kitchen table and just fuck his brains out?”
Johnny growled, “Why don’t you just shut your mouth?”
Tony laughed mirthlessly. “Hit a nerve, eh?”
Mel put a hand on Johnny’s arm, feeling the coiled muscles. Tony laughed again.
“Your rep’s gonna suffer, Dillinger. Who wants to admire a finnochio*?”
Johnny snarled but Mel held him back. “You’re a guttermouth, Tony.”
Tony shrugged. “I’m not the one fuckin’ a man, Jackrabbit.”
Mel felt his headache worsen as the press continued its interminable thumping. They seemed to be in cadence.
“Why don’t you keep your nose outta my sex life?” asked Johnny, his voice silky but deadly.
Tony snorted. “Believe me, finnochio, nothin’ would make me happier.” He adjusted his cufflink. “So, who’s the busone** in the relationship?”
Johnny ignored the jab. “Sure you wouldn’t want to go halfies with me and my gang, Tony?”
“I’ll see what Frank says to that.”
Mel hoped that he wouldn’t. Frank Nitti and the Syndicate were trouble, plain and simple.
“So, what’s next? Trick-or-treating? Halloween ball? Séance?” Johnny asked.
“Wow, guess the papers were right. You are witty.”
“The newshounds get it right once in while.”
Tony twisted his pinky ring with long, slow strokes. Mel felt distinctly uncomfortable as he felt the gangster’s eyes on him. Johnny edged closer to his side.
Tony smirked. “You nancy boys sure are nervous nellies.”
“How long do you think you can get away with this, suh?” Mel asked. “You have already attracted attention with your terrorizing of that young police officer.”
“I toldja I don’t know what you’re yammerin’ about with that copper. Carlo, shut up our pretty G-Man here.”
Carlo advanced toward Mel, who took an involuntary step back. Johnny scowled and moved to stand in front of Mel, not caring about Tony’s sneering. To hell with the Syndicate man’s prejudices. Johnny’s first priority was keeping Mel safe. Secondly, keep that beautiful face un-bruised!
Mel appreciated the gesture. It didn’t bother him to be the protected, because he knew he could be the protector in the next minute. It all balanced out.
Tony opened his mouth to sneer again when the door to the next room opened and Johnny’s gang burst in, waving their guns around.
“Well, now,” Johnny said, a satisfied smile spreading across his face. “’Pears the cement overshoe is on the other foot.”
Tony swore in Italian and Red came up to Johnny. “You two all right?”
“Just fine.” Johnny looked over his friend's shoulder. "Everyone else?"
"I'm gonna kill those goombahs for lettin' you guys get the drop on 'em!" Tony clenched his fists.
Johnny strutted toward Tony. "Let me just say, Tony-boy, that I'm not sure Frank would be happy that you were plannin' to knock us all off. Especially including a Federal agent whose disappearance would being down the heat."
Tony spat, “Doubt Hoover would care about a pansy agent!”
Johnny chuckled. He knew as well as Mel about Hoover’s ‘secret’.
“Well, I’d say he wants all of his agents to remain untouched. And there are friends of ours…” Johnny indicated his gang “…who would want revenge. I don’t think Frank would like the heat.”
“You’re a prick, Dillinger”
“Wow, witty comeback, Tony. Let’s see…”
All hell broke loose. The rest of Tony’s gang appeared and someone shot out the light. Curses and blows sounded in the dark, no one stupid enough to fire their guns. At least, not at first.
Flashes of gunpowder lit up the darkness and men yelled in pain. Mel didn’t know who was shooting, but he didn’t care. He could feel Johnny still close to him and grabbed his sleeve, pushing him down.
“We’ve gotta get to the door!”
There was a door to the next room, another to their own room where they’d been held prisoner, and the stairs heading up. Mel judged the stairs too risky in the dark, so he wanted to try for a doorway.
“Mel, I gotta…!”
“…get your head blown off? Come on!”
Johnny allowed Mel to drag him along as they crawled, hopefully below any flying bullets. Mel was glad that Johnny wasn’t fighting him. He wanted to be with his men, but the best way to help them was to stay alive and see if they could find a flashlight or something to illuminate the darkness.
Suddenly the temperature dropped in the room, chilling Mel’s bones. The damp smell of the basement was stronger as he shivered, feeling Johnny do the same. It was the smell of damp earth, of a grave freshly-dug.
Screams assaulted his ears as his breath came out in small puffs like it was a frigid Chicago winter morning. Terror crept up into his heart, his body shaking as he felt an overwhelming urge to flee.
“What the hell?” Johnny whispered.
“I don’t know.” Mel’s voice sounded strangled.
They scrambled into the short hallway between the rooms, Johnny grabbing a discarded flashlight from the floor.
“C’mon, let’s go back.”
Everything screamed at Mel not to, but he couldn’t leave Johnny’s men to some strange fate. “Right behind you,” he rasped.
The shooting and screaming had stopped by the time Mel and Johnny got back to the larger part of the basement. Johnny shone the light inside.
Mel gasped, grabbing Johnny’s arm.
The bodies of the Syndicate gang were strewn around the cement floor, blood bright crimson on their shirts and pants.
“Red! Homer!’ Johnny rushed toward his friends, who were sitting dazedly against the wall. “You guys all right?”
Red rubbed his forehead. “I guess so. At least we’re not shot.”
Homer moaned, clutching his shoulder. Mel checked him out.
“Looks like you’ll have a large bruise, but you’re okay.”
“Pete! Charles!” Johnny called.
“Over here!” Pete answered.
Johnny went over to his other men, using the flashlight.
“I’ll see if I can reach the door at the top of the stairs and let in some light,” Mel said, cautiously starting up the stairs. The musty smell of the basement mingled with the strong, iron-tinged smell of blood.
He missed a step, biting back a cry of pain as his knee impacted with the sharp edge of the step. He reached the top, fumbling around for the doorknob. Finding it, he pushed it ajar.
A strange luminescence drifted down the hall. Mel resolutely turned away, shutting the door firmly.
“Found a bulb, Mel!” called Red.
Gratefully, Mel went down the stairs as fast as he dared, gritting his teeth as his knee throbbed.
The lightbulb was switched on, and Mel wished for the darkness again.
“What a bloodbath,” Red murmured.
Johnny’s gang stared down at the Syndicate bodies. Some had been shot, but others looked as if they’d been sliced to ribbons.
“How could they be hacked up like that?” Pete asked. “Bullets don’t do that.”
“I dunno,” Johnny said. He looked a little green around the gills. He took hold of Mel’s icy hand, his own hand cold. “Let’s get outta here, boys.”
Everyone was happy to follow Johnny’s suggestion.
*Finnochio—(Italian slang)--Derogatory term for homosexual.
**Busone—(Italian slang)—The passive recipient in a gay relationship.