Pairings/Characters: Mel/Carter, Mel/Johnny/Billie, Louis Piquette, Baby Face Nelson
Fandom: Public Enemies
Genres: Angst, AU, Challenge, Drama, Holiday, Mystery
Warnings: Major character death, violence
Summary: While the Gangster Trio hides out after Little Bohemia, strange occurrences make a puzzling mystery.
Date Of Completion: December 17, 2010
Date Of Posting: December 21, 2010
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2513
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Merry Yule, khylara! I hope you’ll like this little offering of mine to go under your virtual tree! ;)
Also written for my 2010 Guns_Fedoras Public Enemies Fic/Art Winter Holidays Challenge. Prompts: Hanukkah, Christmas.
The entire series can be found here.
Sarah Jean O’Reilly
"Angel On My Shoulder"
Mel stood in front of the simple headstone, clutching his greatcoat up by his throat. The wind cut through his coat, but it was nothing compared to the ache that cut through his heart.
He turned away, leaving a small spray of white gardenias and a dreidel on the grave. A man in dark-blue greatcoat and fedora stood several yards away, hands in his pockets. Mel joined him, Johnny putting his arm around his shoulders as they walked out of the cemetery.
Mel appreciated the warm kitchen and fresh-out-of-the-oven gingerbread, Billie offering more.
“Thanks, darlin’.” Mel accepted the new piece and bit into it, washing it down with cold buttermilk.
“You’re welcome, dear.”
Johnny joined Mel at the table. It was already growing dark outside, the December days short. Billie set another tray of gingerbread into the oven and closed the door. She removed her apron and sat down next to Johnny.
“I’m sorry,” Johnny said softly.
“You didn’t kill him, Nelson did.”
Mel could still see that night in the Wisconsin woods…
Mel slid down the hill at a breakneck pace, horror washing over him as he saw the blood covering his lover’s head and chest. He rested his hand on Carter’s brow.
“Who did this to you? Dillinger?"
Please, it can’t be Dillinger. I couldn’t have been that wrong about him, could I?
Mel swore softly. That mad dog!
“Mel…” Carter’s voice was weak. “Be careful…I love…look out!”
Mel saw the figure bursting out of the trees, machine gun chattering. Bullets tore into his shoulder and side and he lay in the snow next to Carter, figuring he would be following right behind him into the beyond…
“You saved me.”
Mel’s soft Southern tones filled the kitchen. Billie’s sadness was reflected in her large brown eyes, Johnny reaching out to close his hand over Mel’s.
“Yes, we did,” he said. “Best thing Billie and I ever did.” She nodded her agreement.
“If you hadn’t saved me from Nelson...”
“Couldn’t let him cut you down like a dog.” Johnny was remembering, too. “He’d already shot you and was going to finish you off while you lay helpless. I don’t hold with that. Shootin’ a man who’s shootin’ at you is different.”
Mel squeezed his hand. “You and Billie…you gave me a reason to live after losin’ Carter.”
Tears shone in Billie’s eyes as Johnny leaned over and kissed Mel.
That night, Mel lay in bed, Johnny and Billie curled up around him, peacefully drifting off to sleep.
Johnny disliked venturing from the farmhouse to come into the city, but he needed to get his money from Syndicate lawyer Louis Piquette. He didn’t completely trust the shady lawyer, but he couldn’t put his money in a bank, now could he?
Chuckling at his own joke, Johnny walked into the alley behind Corrigan’s, a seedy bar that catered to the underworld. Even if he was recognized, there was little chance of getting ratted on…if they knew what was good for them.
Louis Piquette was smoking at the end of the alley, fedora low over his eyes. His greatcoat was expensive, but his shoulders were hunched against the bitter cold. December in Chicago could be brutal.
“Hey, yourself.” Piquette dropped his cigarette and ground it out under his heel. “Damned cold.”
“No kiddin’.” Johnny removed his hands from his coat pockets. Soft, calfskin gloves kept them warm. “I can’t hang around, Louie.”
“Yeah, yeah.” The rotound lawyer dug into his breast pocket and produced a fat envelope. “Here you go…” He swore. “Cops!” he hissed. “Get outta here!”
Johnny grabbed the envelope and took off like a jackrabbit. Shouts of, “Stop!” reached his ears but he kept going, skidding around a corner. He raced down the next alley, skidding to a halt as he hit a dead end. Cursing, he stuffed the envelope into his coat’s breast pocket and leaped to the top of the fence.
“Halt right there, Dillinger!”
Johnny could see the uniformed cop’s reflection in a nearby window, aiming his service revolver at him. Heart sinking, Johnny started to drop down to the ground when a cold wind brushed by his face, gusting toward the cop.
Johnny’s eyes widened as he saw the gust hit the cop with such force that he staggered backward, the gun knocked out of his hand. Johnny took advantage of his opportunity and vaulted over the fence. He ran for all he was worth, glad for the odd turn of events.
Billie put the lemon pie in the oven. The pie filling was good. She had used this Jell-O brand before.
She smiled as she set aside the Betty Boop potholders. She was in a baking mood lately.
Must be this farmhouse.
She knew they’d be on the move again, but until then, she was going to enjoy her domesticity. The farmhouse was bright and airy, especially the kitchen. All the appliances were modern, their gleaming white surfaces a nice contrast to older houses which still used Victorian-era equipment.
Billie cleaned up the baking utensils and bowls. She loved to bake, but the cleaning up wasn’t much fun.
The wind gusted outside. It had been rattling the windows all day, and a branch had fallen off one of the elm trees and landed on the roof.
As she plunged her hands into the soapy water in the sink, she thought of Mel. He still mourned his Cater, which was only right. If she’d lost Johnny…
The thing was, she knew she’d feel the same way if she lost Mel. She had fallen quickly and hard for the men in her life.
“You’d have liked Carter, Billie,” Mel had said once. “He was a true gentlemen.”
Billie considered herself lucky. After a lifetime of men treating her like a whore, she liked being treated like a lady.
She had just finished cleaning up when she heard a noise outside. Wary, she untied her apron and set it on the kitchen table. She peeked out the window, her heart racing.
She didn’t see anyone, but that didn’t mean a cop or G-Man wasn’t snooping around. She was going to have to check things out. Her men were depending on her.
Billie slipped on her coat and grabbed the broom from the utility closet. She walked as quietly as possible, jumping as a thump! sounded close by.
Billie clutched the broom handle tighter. Cautiously, she traversed the living room, watching the windows as she checked through the narrow pane of glass in the front door.
The farmhouse was isolated, its nearest neighbor miles away. Ash and elm trees shaded the house, but there was open space on all sides for several yards until the surrounding woods.
Johnny had said it was the perfect hide-out, and Billie agreed. She should be able to see anyone skulking around.
She crept back to the kitchen. Walking out the front door unnerved her. No, better to sneak out the back.
Trying to quell her shaking, Billie slipped out the back door.
She made a circuit of the house, looking for footprints or any other signs of an intruder. She saw nothing.
Maybe I just heard the wind.
A loud crack! startled her, and she was shoved hard from behind, yelping as she fell to the frozen ground.
Mel kept his fedora low over his eyes. His visit to Carter’s grave was solitary this time. He couldn’t explain why he felt the need to come back so soon, but he allowed the urge to bring him here.
He knelt before the simple stone, glad to see the gardenias and dreidel were untouched. He rested his hands on his knees.
“Carter, I am so sorry for what happened. It was so chaotic that night. I should have handled it better.”
He closed his eyes against the bite of the wind.
“You work too hard, Mel.”
Mel looked up as Carter entered his office. “Probably.” He felt himself relax a little at his lover’s presence.
“How about some lunch?”
“I could use some.” Mel could smell good things coming from the bag that Carter held.
Carter laid out the deli goodies: Reuben sandwiches and potato salad, along with fresh, piping-hot coffee. Mel laughed at the two giant pickles included in the bag.
“Are you getting suggestive, Mr. Baum?”
“No, just hungry.”
They both laughed.
Mel felt tears prickle his eyes. Whether a simple lunch or a night of passion, time spent with Carter had been special.
“We had such little time together.” Mel wiped his eyes with his gloved hand. “Sometimes I feel guilty that I’ve fallen in love with Johnny and Billie, but they saved me that terrible night.” He touched the carved letters on the headstone.
Suddenly a shot rang out, chipping the headstone. Whirling, Mel’s eyes widened as he saw his attacker emerge from the woods.
He grabbed his gun from inside his coat pocket, scrambling behind the stone.
“I knew you weren’t dead, G-Man! The papers said I killed ya at Little Bohemia, but that snivelin’ Dillinger stopped me! I knew he was a fancypants. Shoulda blown him away just like I’m gonna do to ya right now!”
A volley of machine gun shots peppered the headstone. Furious, Mel yelled, “Damn you, Nelson! You’re a pox on the face of the earth!”
Mel popped up and shot off a round, ruefully aware of only having a handgun against a tommygun.
Baby Face Nelson grinned, in his element. He ducked Mel’s bullet and charged forward.
Mel realized that he needed better cover. A large stone with an angel in full wings would help. He ducked behind other stones until he reached the Grafstein headstone. Nelson kept coming.
Mel fired twice more, deciding to head for the woods for even better cover. His foot tangled in a tree root that was exposed and he fell hard, his gun flying several feet away.
Mel twisted around to see Nelson standing over him in maniacal glee, his tommygun aimed at his head.
Johnny entered the kitchen. “Mmm, darlin’, that pie smells delicious…what’s wrong, honey?”
Billie was sitting at the table, putting a Band-Aid on her left arm.
“It was the strangest thing, Johnny. I thought I heard someone snooping outside so checked around when I was pushed from behind just as a big branch rolled off the roof. I would’ve been beaned!”
Johnny rushed to her, grasping her shoulders. “Who saved you?”
“That’s just it…no one!”
“Johnny, no one was around. I would have heard footsteps or seen them once I turned around. There was no one there, and I know I felt something push me!”
“Could it have been the wind?” Johnny smoothed a lock of hair from her forehead.
“No, there wasn’t any wind at that moment.”
Johnny removed his fedora and coat. “I had a strange experience with wind.” He dug the envelope out of his coat pocket.
“You got the money!” Billie clapped her hands.
“Yep. Louie came through.”
As he hung up his coat in the hall closet, Billie asked, “What about the wind?”
Johnny came back into the kitchen and related the events in the alley.
“Oh, Johnny, they almost caught you! That’s a lucky but strange gust of wind.”
“I know.” Johnny kissed Billie’s forehead. “Hey, where’s our Southern belle? I want to tell him this story, too.” At Billie’s odd look, he asked, “Is he okay? Where is he?”
“He went to Carter’s grave again.”
“Oh.” Sadness filled Johnny’s eyes. “He…I guess we might not be enough for him.”
Billie and Johnny turned to see Mel standing in the doorway.
“My god, Sunshine!” Johnny hurried to grab Mel, followed by Billie. “You’re white as a sheet! What happened?” Johnny blanched. “You’re bleeding!”
“It’s not my blood,” Mel said softly as Johnny led him to a chair that Billie pulled out.
“Whose?” Johnny asked.
“Baby Face Nelson’s.”
Johnny’s eyes widened while Billie gasped, a hand rising to her mouth.
“Where is he?” Johnny demanded. “Is he after you?” He instinctively started to go for his gun.
“He’s…he won’t be coming after us.”
Billie rested a hand on his shoulder. “What happened, Mel?”
“I was at Carter’s grave. Suddenly, a shot ricocheted off his headstone. Nelson was furious that the press was saying that he’d killed me…at Little Bohemia. I had to run behind a larger headstone with an angel towering over it.” Mel closed his eyes, looking like he was going to pass out.
“Get a glass of water, honey,” Johnny said, and Billie swiftly obeyed.
Mel opened his eyes and drank the water, taking off his fedora. He was shaking, and pulled his coat tighter around him.
“What happened next, sweetheart?” Johnny asked softly.
“After I returned fire, I…I knew I had to bolt for the woods. I tripped and Nelson was on me, ready to blow me away.” Johnny and Billie paled. “Then…the statue toppled over.”
“What?” Billie asked, puzzled.
“The angel statue…” Mel’s eyes were wide and luminous. “It just broke off, toppling on top of Nelson.” Mel placed a trembling hand to his temple. “He’s dead.”
Johnny and Billie hugged him, Billie whispering, “It’s all right now, sugar.”
The house smelled of fresh evergreen. They had picked out the tree in the woods and cut it down, hauling it back and settling it in a bucket in the living room. Billie had picked up some ornaments at Woolworth’s, and they used strings of popcorn and cranberries for garland. Tinsel was added, and a glittery angel was put on the top of the tree. Billie put on a record of Christmas songs, and she and Johnny danced to the sounds of Bing Crosby crooning the lyrics to Winter Wonderland, “Sleigh bells ring/Are you listening/In the lane/Snow is glistening…”.
Mel noticed that it had started snowing. He quietly slipped out, throwing on his coat and fedora, breathing in the sharp, clean air. He could see Billie and Johnny through the window, the glow of the tree lights a cozy sight.
Johnny and Billie had told him their stories, and he had begun thinking about all three occurrences. As the snow fell to dust his clothes like powered sugar, he smiled as he looked up at the sky.
“Thank you, Carter.”
He closed his eyes and let the snow dust him, flakes caressing his cheeks. Opening his eyes, he took a last breath of cold air and went back into the warmth of the house to rejoin his new lovers in their own winter wonderland.
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