Pairings/Characters: Charles/Doris, Mel/Johnny, Lily Marlene
Fandom: Public Enemies
Series Notes: Since my notes grew too voluminous for the header, you can read them here. The entire series can be found here.
Genres: Fluff, Humor, Romance
Summary: Charles takes Doris out for a night on the town to one of the hottest nightclubs in Chicago. They’re not the only ones with the same idea.
Date Of Completion: August 14, 2011
Date Of Posting: August 17, 2011
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2808
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Chicago was gay,
A sparkling gem,
A feather boa,
Jazz in the clubs,
Men in the tubs,
And the ladies
For one brief,
Gay was sublime.
Andrew J. Richards
“Ready to show me a good time, big spender?”
Charles smiled as Doris leaned over his chair, her slender hands on his shoulders.
“Sure thing, honey.” He patted her right hand. “You better get all dolled up. We’re gonna paint the town red!”
Doris purred, “I’ll wear my red dress.” She smiled as she saw Charles’ pleased reaction.
It was late on a Friday afternoon and no one in the Dillinger Squad was paying attention to them, full of their own plans for the evening. Some were going out on the town, others looking forward to a peaceful night at home. Usually a skeleton crew took weekend duty, but things had been so dead that their boss, Melvin Purvis, had decided to give everyone the weekend off. If something big came up, they could be called back in, but it seemed the gangsters were taking time off, too, by laying low. No banks had been knocked off in weeks.
Doris gave Charles a pat on the shoulder and returned to her desk, swaying her hips just a little to give him a show. Smiling, she picked up some papers and headed for Mel’s office.
He was on the phone, listening to who was on the other end. He frowned slightly, looking unhappy.
Not John, then.
She set the papers down, riffling through them to make sure she had brought them all in.
“Yes, suh, I…yes, I know, but everything is quiet here. No leads at all the last few days.” Mel listened again and rubbed his hand between his eyes. “Suh, I assure you, we are working diligently. We…yes, suh. But…yes, suh, I will.” Mel grimaced. “Goodbye, Director.” He hung up, sighing as he leaned back in his chair.
“The Director on the warpath again?” Doris asked sympathetically.
“Yes. I’m lucky to have my scalp.”
“And such a fine one it is, too.”
Mel smiled. “Thank you, dear.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I suppose you and Charles have plans tonight?”
“We do.” Doris primped her hair.
Mel chuckled. “Good for you. You deserve some relaxation.”
“So do you.”
Mel’s smile turned sweet. “Don’t worry about me.”
Doris’ smile was just as amused. “He in town?”
Mel just winked, and Doris laughed. She tapped the stack of papers. “Sign these before you go off gallivanting with your man.”
Mel saluted her. “Yes, ma’am!”
Smiling, Doris left the office.
At five o’clock, the agents and Doris streamed out, only Mel staying behind, though probably not for long.
Charles drove Doris home, promising to pick her up at seven as he went home to change.
She showered and put on the promised red dress, low-cut and made of silk with matching shoes, and re-did her make-up and hair. She chose a simple diamond choker and matching bracelet. Satisfied, she put on diamond teardrop earrings, glad that her mother had gifted her with these heirloom pieces. She never could have afforded them on her salary, and it had been a close thing that her family had considered selling the jewelry when things had gotten hard after the Crash.
It was seven o’clock by the time she was ready, and Charles promptly arrived as the mantel clock struck the hour. Dressed in a silver-gray suit and cobalt-blue tie, he looked stunning.
“My, Charles, you are looking handsome tonight.”
“Thank you, Miss Doris.” His pale blue eyes glittered with appreciation.
He helped put her coat on and escorted her out into the cold to his car.
“And where are we going?” she asked.
“You’ll see.” His lips curved into a secret little smile.
Charles drove them to the South Side and they parked in the nightclub district, neon signs advertising the various clubs. Doris felt a little thrill of excitement. She had heard about these clubs. They were all the rage!
Charles escorted her to The Purple Peacock, Doris laughing at the name. He grinned.
“You sure got some fancy-dancy names up here in Chicago, sweetheart.”
Doris smirked. He held the lavender-painted door open for her, the fake diamond border sparkling in the glow of the club’s sign.
They entered a world of noise, laughter, and music. Checking their coats, they were escorted to a table, a wreath of cigarette smoke hanging in the air. As the maitre d’ escorted them, Doris saw several tables with either two men or two women holding hands or cooing romantic nonsense at each other, mixed in with the tables with a man and a woman.
When they were seated, the maitre d’ handed them large menus with purple tassels, and Doris laughed after he left, taking their order for a bottle of wine. She shook the menu, the tassels bouncing wildly.
“You like this place, honey?” Charles asked with a twinkle in his eye.
“Oh, Charles, I do! It’s one of the hottest clubs in town!”
He smiled, pleased at her reaction. “Well, I figured it was time to check out this so-called ‘Pansy Craze’ the papers keep yammerin’ about.”
“They must have the cross-dressing performers here, huh?”
“I think so. Wasn’t that a poster of a beautiful woman out front?”
“Who may or may not be one.” Doris grinned, loving the illicit thrill.
The jazz was hot and the wine perfectly chilled. They ordered steaks and Charles entertained Doris with tales of Texas lawbreakers and the Rangers’ methods of tracking them down.
Doris suspected that a lot of it was tall tales, but she did not care. He was a humorous storyteller, and on a Friday night in a swanky nightclub, that was all that mattered.
She was enjoying her night out, pleased that she had such a charming boyfriend. Charles kept a gruff exterior during his work at the Bureau, but had allowed his gentler and playful side to come out around her. She took a bite of her steak and asked, “I suppose you’re a real good judge of beef?”
"A Texan always is, dear.” He cocked his head. “Why, is it too tough?”
“No, it’s delicious.” Her eyes twinkled. “Care to dance?”
“You think I can’t high-step with these city boys? Come on.”
Charles brought Doris out to the dance floor, and they ‘cut a rug’, as he said with a smirk. Doris had to admit that he was a good dancer.
Out on the floor were plenty of man-and-woman couples, but also homosexual men and lesbians. It looked a little strange at first, but Doris got used to the sight a lot faster than she would have guessed, figuring that anyone could dance. So what if the pairings were a little different? Though heaven knew what her parents and the folks back home would think!
Probably that Chicago has completely corrupted me. She laughed. And they'd be right!
The Purple Peacock was one of the swankiest nightclubs in town, second only to Diamond Lil’s in popularity, according to the Society pages in the Tribune. Even though the club was open about homosexuals, there were corner booths dimly lighted, possibly to ensure privacy and discretion for certain couples. Otherwise things were rather bright, the purple theme prevalent in the menus, tablecloths, and waitress uniforms, the women wearing short dresses with lace at the collars and cuffs, and the waiters sporting lavender ties with their black uniforms and white shirts. Even the band on stage wore lavender bow ties with their suits.
She had thought that pink was associated with homosexuals, but was fast learning that purple and its shade of lavender was another color used as code, though now the code was well-known, just like the men who wore red ties in New York in certain areas of the city to alert ‘those in the know’ about their sexual preferences.
The place was like the speakeasies of the recent past: full of light and laughter and music with booze flowing freely, but still with areas of shadows.
She wondered what it was like to live in the shadows, to have the love you felt for someone labeled deviant and sick, to forever hide in those shadows, with brief periods of coming out into the light. There were already rumblings in political circles about shutting down some of the clubs and stopping the drag balls at the Coliseum. It would be back to the underground way of living for the people here after that.
She thought of Mel, who not only had to hide his love for a man, but a gangster at that.
Doris returned her attention to Charles. While she was not here to see and be seen, she knew that she had quite a catch in her rugged Texan. Heads had turned at their entrance, looks of appreciation in both female and male eyes titillating her. She was happy to be here with her man, dining and dancing.
When they retuned to their table, Doris noticed a couple in the nearby booth. Both men, they were sitting very close together, whispering and nuzzling each other. They had chosen relative privacy, because while things were open right now, they could go back to the bad ol’ days of being forced underground in a second. The upper-and-middle-class folks who came slumming to these ‘fairy’ nightclubs like the white New Yorkers did during the Harlem Vogue enjoyed the aura of danger and deviancy, but would not hesitate to skewer anyone for their own gain if they could. So some of the homosexuals did not want to be in the spotlight.
Charles was talking to the waiter while her eyes widened. Was that Mel?
She narrowed her eyes, trying to see in the smoky darkness. She was certain that it was Mel. He was wearing one of his expensively-cut suits, though it was hard to tell what color it was in the dim lighting. The wink of a diamond tieclip made Doris extra-certain that it was her boss.
So that meant…?
She looked at the other man and felt a little thrill course through her. It was John Dillinger!
Excited, Doris watched the two men, love shining in Mel’s dark eyes, matched by Johnny’s. The gangster gently cupped Mel’s face, rubbing his thumb across his lover’s jaw.
Doris was delighted. She had never seen the two men together. They were a beautiful sight.
Suddenly, she realized that if Charles saw them…
Lawmen are always on duty.
She quickly turned back to the table. Charles was finishing his conversation with the waiter, who nodded and departed. She smiled charmingly, hoping that her eagle-eyed boyfriend would not notice the two lovebirds in the corner.
“You are such a good dancer, Charles,” she cooed.
He smiled. “I’m inspired by your beauty, darlin’.”
She slapped him lightly on the arm. “Oh, you sweet talker, you.”
Charles took a sip of his wine. “It’s easy with you, honey.”
Doris smiled, genuinely pleased but wishing that she was in Charles’ chair and he was in hers. She had her back to Mel and Johnny’s table while he could see right into the booth if he chose.
She leaned forward. “Dinner was lovely, Charles. How about we…”
The orchestra finished its number and the master of ceremonies, a short, barrel-chested man with black, slicked-back hair, hopped up on stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, The Purple Peacock is proud to present chanteuse Lily Marlene!”
Applause sounded as the emcee left the stage, replaced by a woman with platinum blond hair a la Jean Harlow, wearing a sequined lavender gown with elbow-length white gloves and a diamond bracelet and necklace. A purple feather boa was wound around her neck, one end drifting down her bodice, and she wrapped her hands around the microphone. In a breathy voice she said, “Thanks, darlin’. Now, how about a little song, luvs?”
More applause. Lily began to sing, and Doris was glad for the distraction. Charles was giving his full attention to the singer, so she risked a glance back at the booth.
Mel was twining his fingers through Johnny’s, a gentle smile on his face.
Her heart leapt. He really looked gorgeous when he smiled, especially all starry-eyed with love.
Oh, Mel, honey, you picked a dangerous one to fall for, but he sure is good for you.
Johnny leaned forward and whispered in Mel’s ear, the Southerner laughing as his smile widened.
Doris reflected that smile, quickly turning around, glad to see Charles still enamored of the singer.
She watched the woman’s movements as her mind raced to figure out how to keep Mel and Johnny out of Charles’ sight. The easiest way would be to leave, but she had to play this right.
She frowned. There was something off about this woman…her eyes widened and she nearly laughed. Of course! This club would feature this kind of act.
“What is it, honey?” Charles asked.
“Oh, let’s just say that boa is pretty handy.”
“Hides ‘her’ Adam’s apple.”
Charles grinned. “She’s pretty good, huh?”
Doris nodded and watched with fascination as the throaty singer sang ‘her’ heart out. Lily shimmied to the whistles and applause of the audience.
Doris did not care if the ‘normal’ couples thought it was all a big joke. She knew someone she cared for with a desire for his own sex, and she knew that people were just people, deep down underneath. Maybe some of the pansy scene was a little out there and could be uncomfortable, but then all the regular people had to do was get up and leave.
“I once had a secret love/All silken and sweet/The birds sang in the trees/And I went to my knees/Overwhelmed/With love for you.”
Doris wondered if Mel went on his knees for Johnny, shivering a little at the thought. She leaned over. “Good act, eh?”
The waiter arrived with their desserts: Black Forest chocolate cake with strawberries. Doris was in chocolate heaven. “Mmm, oh, Charles!”
His eyes twinkled as he too enjoyed his cake. He planned to eat it, too.
After finishing her dessert, Doris took his hand. “My, you have a liberal streak in you, Special Agent Winstead.”
“Could be handy.”
She rubbed her foot against his leg under the table. “How’s about we head on back to the ranch, cowboy?”
Charles signaled the waiter for the check. Doris took one last look at the lovebirds, but they were in a world of their own.
I hope the real world never crashes in on you, boys.
Charles paid the check and escorted her to the foyer, getting their coats from the coat check girl.
Once outside, Doris took a deep lungful of fresh air. As cold as it was, it helped clear out her lungs from all the smoke of the nightclub. She had taken her boyfriend’s arm and smiled at him.
“Thanks for bringing me here, Charles. Quite an eye-opener to mix with the unconventional couples.”
“You’re welcome, Doris. Yeah, plenty of unconventional couples in there, including your pretty boy boss and his gangster boyfriend.”
Doris stopped dead. “Wha…?”
Charles’ expression was very cool, but she could see a faint hint of smug amusement in his eyes.
“Do you think I’m a dope? I saw your boy spoonin’ with his beau.”
“Why didn’t you say something?” Doris sputtered.
“And spoil the fun? You can be pretty inventive, honey.”
“Oh, you!” She shoved him and stalked to the car, Charles following with a smirk. At the car he opened the door and she sniffed, “You are in so much trouble, Mister.” As she got in, she said, “But thank you.”
Charles shut the door. “I don’t see why I should do Hoover’s dirty work for him. John Dillinger isn’t botherin’ anybody tonight, so why not let him have his fun? Pretty Boy Purvis needs to unwind, anyway. He’s wound up too tight.”
Doris laughed as Charles went around to the driver’s side and climbed in, starting the car up and driving away.
Meanwhile, back in The Purple Peacock, Mel sighed happily. He nuzzled Johnny’s neck, inhaling the scent of his musky cologne.
“You have taken me to a wild and disreputable place, Mr. Dillinger.”
“And you love it.”
Mel smiled. “I love anyplace with you in it.”
“Oh, Sunshine, you are a romantic,” Johnny smirked but his eyes were soft.
As the crowd erupted into applause, feting Lily’s second set, Johnny leaned forward and kissed Mel.
“Tell that pretty secretary of yours she’s all right in my book.”
At Mel’s quizzical look, Johnny whispered in his lover’s ear, grasping his hand to calm him.
Their luck had once again held out, shimmering in The Purple Peacock.
So, do we need to see Mel and Johnny's POV in the next story? ;)