Pairings/Characters: Carter/Doris, Mel/Johnny
Fandom: Public Enemies
Genres: Challenge, Drama, Holiday, Romance, Slice-Of-Life
Summary: A collection of treasured letters and cards set Carter to reminiscing.
Date Of Completion: December 7, 2011
Date Of Posting: December 14, 2011
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2593
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Written as a Yule gift for the lovely khylara. :) Also written for the 2011 Guns_Fedoras Public Enemies Fic/Art Winter Holidays Challenge. Prompts: Christmas, Hanukkah.
The entire series can be found here.
In fading ink,
Cards funny and sweet,
Of our lives.
You were here.
Of our lives.
Sarah Jean O’Reilly
"Sealed With A Kiss"
Carter walked through the living room, leaning heavily on his cane. His leg was giving him trouble today, but that was just par for the course. Not that he played golf, of course. Who had the time or money for the rich man’s game?
Bet Mel could play a good game.
Golf had really taken off in the 1920s in America. All sports had become the rage for a public suddenly blessed with some leisure time, at least for those of the middle class.
Carter sat down in his favorite chair, looking out on a clear December day. He could feel snow in the air.
He was surprised to see a manila packet on the endtable. He and Doris rarely left this out. Too dangerous.
He opened the packet and smiled at the letters and postcards mixed in with birthday and Christmas cards. He picked up one merry card from Christmas 1934…
Merry Christmas, Carter and Doris!
All is well here. We are enjoying life with full-bodied richness. Hope all is well with you.
A.J. & Jack
Carter looked at the card, a watercolor rendition of a Victorian Christmas tree. It was the first communication they had received from Mel and Johnny since the madness that night at the Biograph. Mel had vanished after that night and Hoover had been apoplectic. Even Carter and Doris had been under suspicion at first as close friends of the prized agent, but gradually other leads had been picked up and tracked down.
I wouldn’t put it past the old bastard to tap our phones. Hell, he’s probably got agents snooping through our mail.
Mel probably thought so, too, which was why the cards and letters were signed with false names. Mel was the was the usual writer, though Johnny sometimes was the one chatting about their globe-trotting adventures. They had constructed a tale part truth and part fantasy, Carter was certain, all to throw off any snoopers.
His mind went back to a certain day in 1934 and he smiled…
“Why so nervous, Mel?”
“Hmm? Oh, I’m just tired, I guess.”
Carter looked sympathetic. “Things sure have been stressful lately.”
Mel walked like a tired man as he and Carter traversed the street, busy Chicagoans briskly passing them by. It was a warm spring day, rare for the city that was usually too hot or too cold.
A sudden gust of wind had them grabbing their fedoras. Carter said, “Let me buy you a sandwich. We can eat in the park.”
Mel nodded and Carter bought them turkey sandwiches with bottles of Canada Dry ginger ale. They went over to Grant Park and found a bench in the shade of an oak tree.
They ate and drank silently at first, then Carter asked, “Hoover’s on your case hard, huh?”
Mel rubbed his face. “Somewhat.”
“I know what that means.” Carter put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “He’s ridin’ you hard.”
“He’d like to.”
Carter shuddered slightly. He well knew that their esteemed Director had more than a professional interest in his prize agent.
“You’re worried about Johnny?”
Mel’s head snapped up. “Wha…?”
“C’mon, Mel, we bunked together during training at Quantico and we’ve been working closely for years. Don’t you think I know the signs by now?”
“I hope I’m not that transparent.”
“To me you are.” Carter squeezed his shoulder. “Oh, Mel.”
The Southerner looked at him with shining eyes. “I love him, Carter.”
Carter smiled. He knew then that Mel was well-and-truly smitten.
In the days that followed, Carter and Doris helped facilitate Mel’s secret romance. They were go-betweens and friends, just what the Special Agent needed.
Carter picked up a birthday card. Sent in 1940 from France, it was the last card that Mel and Johnny had been able to send until 1945 except for one. From the letters that they had been able to send, Carter and Doris had figured out that Mel and Johnny had fought the war in unconventional ways.
And then they sent a letter from Seoul in June of 1950. How they ended up there the day that the North Koreans invaded, I’ll have to ask when I see them someday.
Chuckling to himself, he opened the letter.
Dear Doris & Carter,
Jack and I are in beautiful Seoul, Korea. South Korea, that is. Business has taken us to this fascinating city. We were in Hong Kong last month and Tokyo before that. Hong Kong is a bustling city packed with people within dangerous distance of Red China. Japan is teeming with people, too, but everything is so much more orderly under General McArthur’s rule. It’s rather eerie at times.
The weather is wonderful here. We managed to see the cherry blossoms in Japan and here and took numerous pictures. Enclosed are a few snapshots.
Thank you for the pictures of the girls. They are truly growing up quickly! I know you must proud.
Well, tomorrow is Sunday and we will be spending it leisurely around the city.
‘Til next time,
A.J. & Jack
Carter looked at the snapshots. They clearly showed beautiful cherry blossom trees in full bloom. A far distance away were two men standing in front of the trees, dressed in sharp suits and fedoras. They were too far away to make out their features, but Carter knew who they were. He smiled fondly at the pictures.
A key rattled in the front door lock as Carter put the pictures back into the envelope. Doris called cheerfully, “Hi, honey, I’m home!” Shopping bags rattled as she walked in.
Carter laughed and stood. “Hi, baby!” They kissed and Doris asked, “We get something from the boys?”
“No, I found the envelope here on the table.”
“Yikes, we have to be careful. I’ll speak to the girls.”
“They’re old enough to be responsible about this.”
“I know.” Doris put her coat in the closet. She picked up the bags she had brought in. “No peeking!”
Carter grinned. “Okay, Mrs. Claus.”
“Ha! You wish!” She still wore her jaunty hat as she disappeared down the hall to the bedroom.
Carter sat back down, rubbing his hip. Doris came back ten minutes later, sans hat.
“Ready for some lunch?”
Doris paused before entering the kitchen. “Wonder where they are now?”
“Anywhere, knowing them.”
She laughed. “You’re right. Boy, I’m glad we’re not in Washington.”
“Yeah, I guess the Director considers Boston a backwater.”
“Then we get the last laugh.” Doris went into the kitchen. “Boston is a cultural hotspot.”
“Not quite New York.”
“No” she admitted, her voice carrying from the kitchen. “But nicer than D.C. I don’t care how fancy-schmancy that town gets. Perle Mesta will just have to get along without us.”
Carter chuckled. “Yes, dear.” He thought for the hundredth time how lucky he was. After being grievously wounded at Little Bohemia, Carter had spent months in the hospital. Mel had visited as often as possible once Carter was transferred from the Wisconsin hospital to a Chicago one, and Doris had been almost as frequent a visitor. Their courtship had started in that stark white hospital room and had resulted in marriage in 1936 with the birth of Melinda in 1938 and Jacqueline in 1941.
Now we’ve got 14 and 11-year-old girls. Heaven help us! he thought wryly. Carter looked down at the envelope. Has it really been 18 years since I saw you last, Mel? Time really has flown.
Carter opened the manila envelope again. He took out a letter from 1938 and opened it…
October 16, 1938
Jack and I were thrilled to hear about the birth of your daughter. How is Doris doing? Please accept the enclosed gift.
Things are fine here. We are enjoying the sunlight-on-the-sea and fine wine. The food is exquisite.
It pleases me that the Depression is lessening back home. It has been a long, hard road and is a blessing to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
I must wrap this up. Jack has arrived with a bouquet of yellow roses. He is quite the romantic at heart.
Again, congratulations to you and Doris. You will make fine parents.
Jack sends his love, as do I.
Carter set the letter down. There had been a similar letter to celebrate Jackie’s birth three years later. The letters were deliberately vague but Carter could read between the lines. Mel was incredibly happy even as a fugitive from justice.
The yellow roses were a special message, too.
Carter entered Mel’s office, instantly hit with the fragrance of roses. “Mmm, smells nice. A whole vase full! What’s the occasion?”
Mel took a deep breath of the roses set in a cobalt-blue vase. He was smiling and Carter decided that the look was good on him.
That of a man in love, of course.
Mel plucked a single rose and placed it in his lapel. “No special occasion. Just my favorite flower.”
Carter sniffed the bouquet. “Very impressive.” He grinned. “Appears that Johnny can afford the best.”
Mel blushed but said, “Yes. He is incredibly thoughtful.”
“That’s great, Mel.” Carter clapped a hand on his friend’s shoulder.
Mel’s smile grew even brighter. With a smile of his own, Carter went back out to the squadroom and walked over to Doris’ desk.
“Aren’t the roses beautiful?” she asked.
Carter kept his voice low. Despite the ringing phone and clattering typewriters, they still could be overheard if they weren’t careful.
“Very. Mel’s very happy with them.”
“He’s very happy all around these days. Love seems to suit Mel well.”
Carter grinned. He and Doris were co-conspirators in helping Mel carry on this dangerous romance. They knew the consequences and were willing to risk them. It somehow seemed right.
It still did. Carter slipped the letter inside the large manila envelope. Luckily he and Doris had been able to stay out of Hoover’s sphere of influence, at least physically. After their Chicago posting, Carter had been transferred to Washington in 1941, stayed there during the war as Doris took care of their daughters and managed to do some war work, and then he was transferred to Dallas in 1945. They had re-united with old friend Charles Winstead in Texas, and a year later Carter was posted to Boston.
“Do you want roast beef or turkey?” Doris called from the kitchen.
“Turkey.” Carter rubbed his hip. His leg was hurting, too. Time for some aspirin.
“We’ll be going out for a tree tomorrow. Want me to get the menorah down from the attic?”
“That sounds great.”
Carter levered himself out of the chair and used his cane to head for the bathroom. He looked out the window and saw snow beginning to fall. The forecast said that it would only be a light dusting so they should be able to get a tree tomorrow without difficulty.
He remembered the exact opposite weather in July of 1934 and the night that changed everything…
Mel had been jittery all day. Carter was finally back at work and worried about his friend and his gangster lover. The world was closing in around them.
He was tired all the time but the doctor had assured him that it was normal at this stage. Doris was keeping a solicitous eye on him but was even more worried about Mel.
Carter couldn’t blame her. Mel was looking gaunt and ill. He kept his jitters down but was still jumpy. Carter went into Mel’s office on the sweltering morning of July 22nd .
Mel was sitting at his desk with his head in his hands. He looked up as Carter shut the door behind him. Carter nearly gasped at the despair in his friend’s eyes.
“They’re closing in on him, Carter. Anna Sage is betraying him. I can’t get hold of him.”
“Yes, we will.” Carter walked around the desk and put a hand on Mel’s shoulder. “You and Johnny are a couple of sharp cookies. You can get out of this. You two are made for each other.”
Mel smiled. “Carter, your friendship means the world to me.”
Carter smiled back and squeezed his shoulder. The telephone rang, startling them both. Apprehensively, Mel picked up the handset as Carter drew his hand back.
“Yes, Doris. All right, patch her through.” Carter watched the emotions play across Mel’s face as he listened: fear, anger, frustration. “Thank you, Miss Sage.” He hung up. “She says they’re going to the movies tonight.”
“Either the Marbro of the Biograph.”
Carter felt his injuries throb. “We’ll figure it out.”
Carter shook out a couple of tablets and swallowed them, washing them down with water. It was funny how life worked, he reflected. He’d been shot 18 years ago and some days it felt just like yesterday.
Who would think that a nice, average-looking guy with a respectable Federal career and a lovely wife and kids could be the man who helped Melvin Purvis and John Dillinger get away?
Carter mopped his face with his handkerchief. It was the hottest day in history or at least felt like it. Even the sun going down gave them no relief.
Mel’s face was grim as he drove the nondescript Ford to the Biograph Theater. His grip on the wheel was white-knuckled.
“It’ll be all right,” Carter said.
“I hope so.”
Mel parked the car a few blocks away from the theater, the Biograph’s sign flashing in gaudy enticement on the neon-lit street. Agents were in the next car. Mel got out and talked with them, then returned to his car.
“Johnny’s already in there with Anna Sage and Polly Hamilton.”
“Go on in.”
Mel looked at Carter. “Doris…?”
“She’ll be waiting. I’ll take care of things out here.”
Carter smiled as he walked into the kitchen.
“What are you grinning at?”
“You make one heck of a wheelman.”
Doris laughed. “Believe me, that’s the only 'git’ I want to giddy-up on!” She put their plates on the table. “That Johnny was a cool customer. Mel was nervous but kept his head.” She laughed again. “Johnny said I was a cool customer, too. He thought I could give Red Hamilton a run for his money as a driver!”
“Good thing you all kept your heads because Doc and the rest of the boys were pretty ticked off when they realized Dillinger was gone.”
“And Mel.” They sat down and Doris asked, “How did Charles not track us down?”
Carter smirked and they exchanged knowing glances. “Just lucky, I guess.” He bit into his sandwich, pleased at the lettuce and mayo enhancing the flavor.
Doris crunched on a potato chip. “I wonder if they’re back in France?”
“Their last letter was from Italy. Must be some villa they’re renting. Who’d want to leave a set-up like that?”
“We should take a trip to Italy. It’s beautiful there and Mel and Jackie would love it.”
“I’ve got enough vacation time saved. I’ll see what I can swing.”
“That would be swell! I can start planning an itinerary.”
Carter laughed. “Efficient as always, my dear.” He squeezed her hand.
Italy would be a great place to visit, and he admitted to feeling excited at the thought of seeing Mel again, and Johnny, too.
Carter and Doris enjoyed their lunch as the snow fell lightly outside the windows.