Pairings/Characters: Charles/Doris (Charles does not appear in Ch. 3, 6, 7 & 12), Sam Cowley, Carter Baum, Mel/Johnny (Johnny does not appear in Ch. 1, 2, 4 & 5, Mel does not appear in Ch. 9, 10 & 13), Doc White, William Rorer, Hugh Clegg, Harold Reinecke, Jerry Campbell, Clarence Hurt, Homer Van Meter, Red Hamilton, Charles Makley, Harry ‘Pete’ Pierpont, J. Edgar Hoover, Alvin Karpis, Baby Face Nelson
Fandom: Public Enemies
Genres: Angst, Challenge, Drama, Hurt/Comfort
Rating: R overall
Claim: For the 12_stories Challenge (Mel/Johnny)
Prompt: T 7; P 4: Betrayal
Prompt Count: (5/12)
Warnings: (Ch. 4, 5, 6, 7 & 12: Beating victim)
Summary: How much will a man sacrifice for love? Once Melvin Purvis is captured by his former Bureau of Investigation colleagues, he finds out.
Dates Of Completion: August 5-September 11, 2011
Date Of Posting: April 6, 2012
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 20,937
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author's Notes: Written for the 2011/2012 History_BigBang.
Beta: The marvelous khylara! :)
All chapters can be found here.
The gorgeous artwork is by mella68. Larger versions can be found at her journal here.
J. Edgar Hoover
March 1, 1934
Sometimes Doris hated her job.
Oh, she liked it well enough most days. She liked being secretary and den mother to the men of the Dillinger Squad. They treated her with respect, and in this world, that meant something.
Most of the men in the office were handsome, from square-jawed Sam to sweetly-smiling Carter to willowy, graceful Mel. And, of course, rugged, blue-eyed Charles.
She was fine with the prohibition against women agents. She had no desire to spend endless hours on stakeouts in the Chicago cold or heat, or getting shot at by mad dog killers like Baby Face Nelson. Being a secretary was fine by her: usually regular hours and decent pay, and vicarious excitement to keep things interesting.
Today, though, was one of the days she did not like her job. There had been tension since early morning, when a call had come in from Washington and Sam Cowley had relayed the orders: Doc White was to take Rorer, Clegg, and Reinecke and head out, hot on Dillinger’s trail, except that Doris could have sworn she had heard Mel’s name mentioned.
And that worried her. The men sent on this mission had made no secret of their contempt for her former boss. Melvin Purvis had disgraced the Bureau by falling in love with John Dillinger and finally going off to be with him.
The official explanation was that he had been Dillinger’s informant and had fled once he had been discovered, but Doris knew the truth. She had been the go-between in the Purvis/Dillinger romance, answering the phone and transferring the calls to Mel.
She had never seen Mel happier during those months of the madcap romance, and she had learned to recognize Johnny’s handwriting, careful to pass along the letters and packages the gangster had sent.
It was all rather romantic.
Charles was talking to Jerry Campbell and Clarence Hurt, his fellow ex-Texas Rangers. They did not look happy, but then, then rarely did about anything.
She took a bite of her cream-filled doughnut. Mel had preferred lemon-filled, or strawberry. He had a sweet tooth, and had once received a package of lemon drops and dark chocolates from the charming Mr. Dillinger, which he had shared with her and Carter.
She missed little things like that, but knew that Mel was happy. She had seen the way that his eyes had lit up when speaking of his outlaw lover.
But falling for Public Enemy No. 21 carries its risks, doesn’t it, Mel? Oh, darlin’, be careful.
Sam came out of his office (Mel’s old office), walking over to Charles’ desk. He spoke with the Texans, and then came over to Doris and Carter.
“Any word?” Carter asked.
Sam shook his head. He looked ready to burst with frustration.
“Want some coffee?” asked Doris.
“No, I’m already jumpier than a griddlecake on a skillet.”
Doris chuckled. “Did you get that from Mel? It sounds like Southern down-home wisdom.”
Sam smiled ruefully. “I suppose I did.” He sighed as he lowered his voice. “I sure do miss him.”
“Me, too,” Carter said, suddenly very tired. He leaned heavily on his cane, his right leg shot up by Baby Face Nelson at Little Bohemia.
Doris said, “He’s happy now, but I agree with you.”
Suddenly there was a commotion at the doorway of the squad room, and Doris felt her heart plunge into her stomach as she saw Harold Reinecke shove his bloodied prisoner inside, closely followed by Doc, Rorer, and Clegg.
“Oh, Mel,” she moaned.
J. Edgar Hoover
Washington Press Club Speech
Clegg and Rorer were joking between themselves, Doc aloof but hard-eyed, and Rienecke was positively gleeful, shoving Mel hard and causing him to stumble.
Carter’s fingers tightened around his cane while Sam approached the men. Rienecke disappeared with Mel down the hall.
“What the hell is going on?” Sam demanded.
“We’re bringin’ in a criminal, Sam,” said Doc coolly.
“Roughed up, I see.” Doc shrugged. “He resisted arrest.”The three Texans were watching the exchange, and Doris could not tell whether they approved of the rough treatment or not.
Damn, they must be killer poker players.
She studied Charles in particular. He was cool and relaxed as he always was, his light-blue eyes missing nothing. Doris stood and dragged a chair over, Carter gratefully sitting down. He rubbed his bad leg, his face pale.
“That’s still no reason to beat him up like that.” Sam was controlled, but his voice was tight.
“Resisting arrest means you get into a scuffle, Cowley. Punches are thrown.”
Doris wished that she could wipe that cool, almost mocking, expression off Doc’s face.
“I can’t believe that Mel put up that much of a fight.”
“Well, ‘Mel’ is not who you thought he was, now is he?”
Sam scowled. “I’ll take charge of the investigation.”
“Sorry, Sam. I’m going to be in charge.”
Sam’s eyes narrowed as Doris felt her heart sink further.
“What are you talking about, Doc?”
“The Director said that’s the way we’re going.”
“Since I talked to him before we left on this little expedition.”
Sam looked furious. “We’ll see about that,” he said through gritted teeth. He turned on his heel and went into his office. Doris’ phone rang and she picked it up.
“Miss Rogers, get me Washington, please.”
Doris made the connection but highly doubted that anything would change. As she hung up the phone she said to Carter, “Hoover wants to hurt and humiliate Mel as much as possible.” She kept her voice low. She was only certain of Carter’s allegiance to Mel, though even he was conflicted.
“I’d say you were right about that, Miss Doris.”
Startled, Doris looked up to see Charles standing by her desk. Carter looked surprised, too.
How did he sneak up on us? Damn cowboy!
Still, she could not help but admire his stealth. The man could be amazing.
“Can you do anything, Charles?” Doris asked.“It’s up to Cowley, darlin’.”
Doris smiled at the endearment. She was definitely going to explore things with this cowboy, but there were more important things to think about right now.
She finished her doughnut, more out of nervousness than hunger. She and Carter stared down the hall, Charles lighting a cigarette and appearing nonchalant, but she could see the tension in his muscles.It was bad all around.
Doris skipped lunch, her stomach in knots, and as the afternoon waned, she wondered how long that cabal was going to be allowed to question Mel. Sam had not emerged from his office since asking her to put in that call to Washington.
Carter and Charles had gone back to their desk, and Charles received a tip via telephone and left with his Texans to run it down.Doris typed up letters and answered the phone, but she strained to hear what might be going on in the interrogation room. She thought she heard shouting, but it could have been her imagination. The only activity was the agents coming out at various times to drink at the water cooler, usually alone.
When Harold Reinecke came out, his knuckles were red and puffy, his clothes disheveled.
Mid-afternoon, she got up to use the bathroom and she entered the hall, the ladies’ room down at the end. She paused by the interrogation room door, the muffle of voices the only sound. After a few minutes she went down to the bathroom.
She did her business and as she washed up, stared at her reflection in the mirror. Could she really just go on back to her desk while Mel was suffering?
Doris walked to the interrogation room, sure that she heard a cry of pain. She grabbed the doorknob but it was locked. Rattling the doorknob, she pounded on the door.
The door was opened partway, and Doris silently cursed as she saw Rorer and Reinecke leaning over a chair, Mel probably the occupant. Doc White had been the one to open the door. He was relaxed, his hard eyes glinting at her. “You better get on back to your typewriter, Miss Rogers.”
“I want to see…”
He shut the door in her face.Fuming, Doris marched down the hall and into Sam’s office.
“What is going on, Sam? Why are you allowing this interrogation to go on?”
Sam winced. “I’m off the case permanently.”
“What?” She had hoped that Sam had gotten permission to take the case back.
Sam looked miserable. “Hoover put White in charge.”
“With those others? Especially Reinecke? Sam, they’re been working him over for four-and-a-half hours now!”
“I know.” Sam rubbed his eyes. “Mel made his choice.”
“He made a choice, but does that mean he should be tortured?”“Hoover wants to find out where Dillinger is.”“So they’ll batter him for it?”
Sam pursed his lips. “Hoover expects that information.”
“But, Sam, this isn’t the way to go about it!”
Sam’s brown eyes were troubled. “I know, Doris, but Hoover’s the boss.”
Doris crossed her arms. “You can stop it, Sam.”
The phone rang and Sam snatched it up. “Cowley here. Director Hoover, sir, how may I help you?” Sam frowned. “Yes, sir, but…Director, I don’t approve…yes, sir.” He slammed the phone down. “I’ve been summoned to Washington.”
Doris regarded him worriedly. “Do you think that he’s calling you on the carpet?”
“It could be.” Sam stood. “I’ll take care of Mel before I go.”
Relieved, Doris started to leave the office when Doc White came in. “We put Purvis down in holding.”
“Good. I’ve got to go to Washington. Doc, ease up. Remember that Mel was once one of us.”
Sam asked, “Would you book me on a flight to D.C., Miss Rogers?”
“Certainly, Mr. Cowley.”
Relieved, Doris went out to her desk and called Pan Am, arranging for a ticket. When Sam came out of the office she said, “You can pick up the ticket at the Pan Am counter. You’re booked on the 5:15 flight.”
“Thanks, Miss Rogers. Listen, finish that filing and then go home. This place is dead, anyway.”
Sam left the office and Doc went to his desk to begin typing up his report, Hugh Clegg coming back into the office with deli food.
Doris finished the filing and put on her coat. She realized that Mel had been brought in without a coat. She should stop by the holding cells and see if he needed anything.
She put on her hat and picked up her purse, heading downstairs once she left the office. At the entrance to the cells, she spoke to the cop on duty.
“Sorry, Miss, the cells are locked down for the night. No visitors.”
Frustrated, Doris left but was determined to get in early tomorrow to see him.
She headed out into the icy Chicago evening.
Cold and bright,
But I have you
To keep me warm
Doris was glad to get home. The wait for a streetcar had seemed endless as the cold wind blew off Lake Michigan, chilling her bones. She had welcomed the crush of bodies on the car, warming up until she reached her stop.
She hurried into her house, grateful for the furnace heat. It had been a long day, and she wanted nothing more than to heat up the leftover beef stew she had in the icebox and eat it while listening to the radio.
She put the stew on to simmer on top of the stove and a couple of loaves of garlic bread inside the oven. Hurrying upstairs, she changed into a blue-and-white-checked housedress and took her garter belt and stockings off, washing and draping them over the shower curtain rod to dry.
Doris found the simple tasks a way to unwind, to try and keep her mind off her former boss stuck in a dirty holding cell for the night. She hoped that he had some heat. Chicago was in the throes of a bitterly cold snap. She grew angry as she remembered the lack of a coat on Mel. He could not only catch cold, he could wind up with pneumonia.
She went down to the kitchen and ladled out a bowl of stew, changing the settings on the stove to simmer and took out the garlic bread. She cut some slices and put everything on a tray and brought it into the living room. Not wanting to wait for tea to brew, she came back into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of Coke out of the icebox, opening it with a church key.
In the living room she turned on the radio and while it warmed up, sat in her favorite chair while she sipped her Coke, then took a spoonful of stew. Chunks of beef, carrots, celery, and onions were the savory ingredients. Maybe she would take some to Mel tomorrow. She doubted that he was getting decent food.
Fibber McGee And Molly was the program that came on, and she was glad of a chance to laugh for a half hour as she ate her warm garlic bread and hot stew, frost glittering on the parlor windowpanes.
At the end of the program was a news update, chronicling national events, then the announcer said, “And the search continues for John Dillinger. He was last sighted in Muncie, Indiana, and is rumored to be holding missing G-Man Melvin Purvis hostage.”
Doris ate the last slice of garlic bread. The official story was that Mel was missing, since it would not have sounded quite so savory to say that he had run off with John Dillinger.
Even now with her friend captured, Hoover was busy trying to come up with a suitable cover story.
Probably claim that Mel was blackmailed or took bribes from Johnny. Anything but Mel running off in a homosexual love affair.
As the next program came on, Doris smiled as she remembered a day not so long ago…
“Hi, Doris, is Mel in?”
Doris smiled as she recognized the cheerful voice on the line. “He sure is.”
“Patch me though, willya, darlin’?”
“Comin’ right up.”
“You’re a peach, Doris, like my South Carolina peach.”
Doris laughed. “I can see why he fell for you. You’re quite the charmer.”
Laughter sounded over the line, rich and warm. “You flatter me, lovely lady.”
“Anyone who makes Mel smile as much as you do deserves flattery.”
Sounding pleased, he said, “Thanks, darlin’.”
Doris transferred the call. Still smiling, she went about her work, then gathered up some papers and went to Mel’s office. He was still on the phone but finishing up his conversation when she came in.
“I love you, too. See you.” He hung up with a sappy smile on his face.
“Sounds like all is well.”
Mel’s smile grew brighter. He really looked incredibly beautiful when he smiled. “To be sure.”
“Good. Nice to hear someone’s got a romance going.”
“Oh, now, I have seen Charles spending time over at your desk quite a bit.”
Doris smirked. “Sign these papers, Agent Purvis.”
Laughter spilled out of the radio as Bob Hope cracked a joke, riffing with good friend Bing Crosby.
Doris suddenly felt tired. Mel’s future was not looking bright. And how had he been captured while John Dillinger and his men had not?
“This just in: the Dillinger Gang struck again, robbing the First National Bank in Cicero this afternoon. There were no injuries or fatalities and the gang got away with $36,000.”
Doris set down her bottle of Coke. So they had been out on a job, probably ‘casing the joint’, as the slang went. Mel would have been left at the safehouse, and the tip had led the Bureau there.
So what now, Mel? Do Johnny and his men take off for parts unknown, leaving you holding the bag? You’d probably be happy to sacrifice yourself for your Johnny, wouldn’t you? That strong sense of chivalry and honor runs deep in you, doesn’t it?
Doris cleaned up and went to bed, exhausted from worry and wondering what tomorrow would bring.
The next morning, Doris got up early and ate a quick breakfast of Cream of Wheat oatmeal and buttermilk, putting last night’s stew in a thermos and venturing out in the cold to catch the streetcar downtown.
Today was even more bitter cold than yesterday. Doris shifted from foot-to-foot while she waited for the streetcar, trying to stay patient, but she was anxious to see Mel.
Once she arrived at the Bankers Building, she hurried down to the holding cells.
“Sorry, Miss, there ain’t no prisoners in there,” said the bored-looking cop.
Damn! They must have taken him upstairs early.
She thanked the cop and hurried up to the office. Entering the empty squadroom, she noted that the door of the interrogation room was closed. Sighing in frustration, she walked over to her desk and hung up her hat and coat on the nearby coatrack, unwinding her scarf. She set the thermos down on her desk.
She felt uneasy. Something was not quite right here. She stood for a minute, tapping her foot, trying to decide what to do.
Her gaze fell on the open door to Mel’s office. Technically, Sam’s office, but it would be always Mel’s to her.
She snatched the thermos up from her desk and marched toward the interrogation room. Just let those yahoos try and keep her from Mel! He needed something to eat. It had been too early for breakfast service down in holding.
Her heels clicked on the floor as she traversed the corridor. The Bankers Building was a sturdy, solid structure, built in the 19th century, and the dark walls and high windows seemed to fit the serious business of High Finance and Law Enforcement, to name just a few professions located in the building. The walls were thick, not cheap material at all, so the interrogation room was cut off from the rest of the office.
Doris was afraid of what she might find, but she would not be denied this morning.
She stopped in front of the door and rapped sharply. “Open up, Doc! I have breakfast for Agent Purvis!” She felt a certain satisfaction in using Mel’s old title. She knocked again. “Come on, Doc!” She thought she heard a noise. She rattled the doorknob, but it was locked.
She pulled out a hairpin and meticulously picked the lock after putting down the thermos. She heard a click!, and with a grim smile, picked up the thermos and pushed the door open.
Her eyes needed a moment to adjust. The light was off and the shades pulled down. Puzzled, she asked, “Doc?”
A croaking noise answered her as she wrinkled her nose. Did she smell urine? What the hell…?
In that moment, she saw a huddled figure in a chair several feet away. Horror swept over her as she fumbled for the light switch.
As the lights came on, the battered man in the chair groaned and lifted a shaking hand to shield his eyes.
Doris put the thermos on the table and rushed toward her friend. She wanted to moan as she saw his swollen right eye, bruised cheeks and jaw, cut lip, and his torn and rumpled clothing. His raven hair hung over his eyes, his usual neat combed locks in disarray.
“Mel, have you been here all night?”
His left eye blinked open, bleary and clouded with pain and exhaustion. “Doris?”
She pushed the hair out of his eyes. “I’m so sorry, Mel.”
He smiled slightly, wincing as he stretched his lip. “Not your fault, darlin’.” His movements were sluggish as he feebly moved his right arm, the clink of a handcuff chain sounding loud in the empty room.
Doris gasped as she saw the redness around his cuffed wrist. His right ankle was manacled to the chair leg, too.
“Oh, Mel.” Doris carefully touched his cheek.
“It’ll be all right…Doris.”
“No, it’s not! This is brutality!”
“Is this Hoover’s ‘professional young men of the best sort’? This is thuggery!”
Mel’s head lolled back. “Jayee…wants the information about…Johnny.”
“And you won’t give it to them.”
Mel looked at her with his one good eye. “I can’t give Johnny up.”
For a moment, Doris wondered if John Dillinger was worth all this suffering, but love made people strong.
And also make them sacrifice.
Doris knew Melvin Purvis pretty well. His sense of honor and chivalry would never allow him to give his lover up. Once he loved, it was forever.
Damnit! He’ll allow himself to be pummeled to a pulp before he gives up his Johnny.
“What do they want to know?”
“Johnny’s contacts, his safe houses, where he…is right now.” Mel’s breaths were short, as if it was difficult for him to breathe. “But…I don’t know his contacts…or all of his safe houses, either. Better…that way…until we were…away.”
“Do you know where he is now?”
“Not…exactly, but I have…an idea.”
Doris wished that he had no idea at all, though his interrogators would never believe him, anyway.
“Do your ribs hurt?” Mel’s breathing was growing more ragged.
“A little.” He grimaced.
That meant a lot. She noticed his parched lips.
”I’ll get you some water.”
“Oh, pee on the floor if you have to. If they won’t allow you to use the bathroom, screw ‘em.”
“Doris!” Mel sounded faintly scandalized.
“Well, harsh times call for harsh language.” Doris straightened and patted his arm. “I’ll be right back.” She hurried out to the squadroom and filled a Dixie cup with water from the cooler.
Once back in the interrogation room, she offered the cup to Mel, who drank greedily.
“Thank you,” he rasped.
Doris was about to offer him the beef stew when she heard voices in the squadroom. She kissed him on the cheek. “Stay strong,” she whispered, then left, grabbing the thermos.
Doris closed the door behind her, quickly locking it, and went swiftly to the ladies’ room at the end of the hall.
She heard the agents laughing and talking as they came down the corridor, and Doc’s voice boomed with false joviality, “Well, now, it’s a fine, bright morning, Mr. Purvis. I hope you slept well.” He shut the door behind him, cutting off Mel’s reply, if he had any.
Doris left the bathroom and quickly went to her desk. She set the thermos down on the blotter, her free hand clenching into a fist.
When the other agents began trickling in, Doris beckoned Charles and Carter over.
“They kept Mel in the interrogation room all night, chained to a chair! They haven’t given him any food or water or let him go to the bathroom. They’re beating him to a pulp!”
Both agents looked at each other, Carter uneasy and Charles looking put out.
“Well, damn,” said the Texan.
“Can’t anything be done?” Doris pleaded.
“White’s in charge,” Charles said, lighting a cigarette.
“So we just stand by and let this go on?”
Carter’s knuckles whitened on his cane. “Mel made his choice.”
Doris looked at him incredulously. Carter could not look at her and hobbled to his desk.
“So you’re going to say the same?” Doris demanded of Charles.
“Doris, honey, the orders come from Hoover himself.”
“Since when do you care about Hoover?” Doris hissed. There were too many ears around here.
“Listen, keep a cool head. We’ll figure something out.”
Slightly mollified, Doris began her work, though she continued to glance down the corridor.
It was quiet in the squadroom except for the clacking of her typewriter keys, and those of Carter’s. Conversation was low, and agents wrote reports and answered their phones. One man stood in front of the bulletin board, studying the collected photographic evidence.
Discouraged, Doris tried to concentrate on work, yet all she could think of was the man she considered a friend suffering in that interrogation room down the hall.
DEATH BY CHOCOLATE
Sir Malcolm Atterby
"A Soldier’s Memoirs
Of The Great War"
“You fuckin’, traitorous queer!”
Mel thought that he should be immune to such insults by now. After all, he had heard them for hours.
He grunted as Reinecke punched him in already-tender ribs, pain flaring up as he tried to breathe. Maybe one was broken.
He could smell Reinecke’s sweat, the fat man leaning in close to him. “You are pathetic, Purvis. Do you take it up the ass? Just like you to play the woman.”
For a moment, Mel’s mind drifted to pleasant images of him and Johnny together, but he reluctantly returned to his painful reality.
Rienecke was furious at his continued silence and slapped him across the face. “Where is Dillinger?” When Mel still did not answer, he yelled the question again.
“C’mon, Mel, give it up,” Doc said in a reasonable tone of voice. “He can’t elude us forever.”
“He…has…so far,” Mel said, pride creeping into his voice.
“Because of turncoats like you!” Reinecke snarled, backhanding him this time.
Stars whirled in front of Mel’s eyes. Shouldn’t he be numbed to this by now? He had bruises on top of bruises, and his ribs were on fire. His limbs were stiff from sitting in this wretched chair for…how many hours now?
“You’re a damned traitor!” Reinecke shrilled. He drew his fist back.
“Here, now, Harold,” drawled Doc, grabbing the other agent’s arm. “You keep whalin’ on this boy, and he won’t be able to tell us nothin’.”
“But he’s a fuckin’ traitor!”
“All for love,” Doc said lightly, but Mel heard the mocking tone. “Isn’t that right, Mel?”
“I’m not…going to say…anythin’, Doc.” Mel’s voice was strained as he tried to catch his breath, the pain in his side sharp.
“Hear that, Will? Hugh? Our boy here is clammin’ up.”
Rorer shook his head. “That’s too bad, Doc.” He leaned over Mel, his brown eyes piercing. “We could put you in such a deep hole in Cook County that you’ll never see the light of day.”
“Or how about Michigan City?” asked Doc, taking out his silver cigarette case and picking out a Lucky Strike. He lit it and blew a ring of smoke in Mel’s face.
Mel coughed weakly. He wondered if cigarette burns was the next tactic.
Clegg shook his head. “Melvin, how foolish are you?” He smirked. “Dillinger’s been playing you like a bass fiddle. He got what he wanted from you, all the inside dope he could ever use, and then dropped you like a hot potato. Now he’s off and running, leaving you holding the bag.”
“Hugh,” Mel said softly, “Mr. Dillinger is a smart man, and hopefully he is far away from here.”
He received another hard slap by Rienecke for his sentiment, but was satisfied.
Johnny, please get yourself far, far away from Chicago. My former colleagues are out for blood.
“You are one stubborn man, Melvin. I’ve always admired that about you. You were always like a bloodhound on the scent.” Doc blew out another ring of smoke. “Once you dig in your heels, you’re all in. I guess we’ll just have to work really hard to break you.”
Mel sighed mentally. He supposed he should not have expected less.
Go at it, Doc. You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?
He tensed as Doc motioned Rienecke over.
“You know this doesn’t set well with me?”
Doris looked up at Charles and sighed. “I know.”
“We can’t just take a page from Mel’s book and defy our bosses,” Carter said over at the next desk, but he clearly looked unhappy.
Doris tugged on a strand of her hair. “This is just so insane. How did they capture Mel, anyway?”
“They caught him at a house on the North Side. He was the only one there. The rest of the gang was off preparing to rob that bank,” Charles said.
“I wonder where Johnny is right now?”
“If he’s got the sense God gave a jackrabbit, he’d live up to his name and skedaddle out of town.”
“And just leave Mel to the wolves?”
“Do you really think there a romance goin’ on here, darlin’?”
“I do.” Doris’ tone was firm. “I’ve seen it second-hand.”
“Yes, I’ve seen it first-hand from Mel’s point of view, actually. I’ve never met Johnny, just talked to him over the phone. He’s a real gentleman.”
Charles smiled. “You’re a romantic, honey.”
“I hope so. Someone has to be around here.”
Even Carter had to smile at that.
“I wish Sam was here. I almost had him convinced that he should put a stop to all this.”
“And you’d be the one to do it, darlin’.” Charles looked proud, which in turn made Doris feel the same way. He put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out.”
Doris hoped so. She could not bear thinking of Mel trapped in that room, beaten on by the likes of Harold Reinecke.
How had it all gone so bad? She remembered the thrill of illicit goings-on not that long ago, with her right in the middle of things…
“Doris, would you be so kind as to mail this package for me?”
Mel held out a brown-wrapped square package as Doris pulled on her coat. She was meeting a friend for lunch.
“Sure, Mr. Purvis.”
“It will probably take you awhile at the post office, so you may go over your lunch hour. After all, you are doing me a favor. I don’t want to cut into your time.”
“Thanks, sir. I’ll mail it on the way back.”
She glanced down at the address, recognizing the alias as one that Mel used to send his outlaw lover letters.
“What is it? A dozen packages of gum?”
He laughed as he glanced around the squadroom. Only a few agents were still at their desks. “No, something a little sweeter than gum.”
“Were you shopping at The Chocolate Shoppe?”
“Best place on North Halstead.”
Doris thought of the little shop and grinned. “You’re a hopeless romantic, Melvin.”
He smirked. “I expect so.”
Doris picked up the package. “Don’t you worry. Mr. O’Reilly will get his goodies.”
“Thank you, Miss Rogers.” Mel handed her the money for the postal fee.
Doris had sat at lunch with the tantalizing package by her feet. It had been a lunch that had proven to be a source of endless amusement…
“Hey, Doris. How’s the girl?”
“Hi, Mabel. Oh, just fine, thanks.” Doris sat at the window table and carefully placed the package by her chair.
The Yellow Daffodil was busy with the lunch crowd, and Doris was glad that she had suggested this restaurant. It was only a short walk from the office, and it might take awhile to get served.
Mabel Abernathy was a pretty, slender brunette, her hazel eyes bright as she greeted Doris. She was wearing a dark-green dress that matched her hat, her coat hanging on the rack by the table.
“Glad you could make it. I thought you might be out on the manhunt for Dillinger and Nelson.”
“Ha! Not likely for a lowly secretary.”
“Oh, you’ve worked overtime when things get hot over there.”
“ I know, but things are relatively quiet right now.”
“Dillinger and Nelson cooling their heels?”
“They’re nothing alike.”
“Huh?” Mabel sipped her icewater.
“Dillinger and Nelson. They’re nothing alike. The Bureau has worked up psychological profiles of them, and Dillinger is a gentleman bandit while Nelson takes delight in killing.”
“Oh, ho, do I detect admiration for Public Enemy No. 1?”
Before Doris could answer, their waitress came over. Doris ordered the chicken salad sandwich and a side order of potato salad.
“I’ll bring you coffee, if you like,” said the waitress.
“That’d be swell.”
After the waitress left, Doris smiled. “I admire a man who knows his business.”
“Don’t let your boss hear you say that.”
Doris’ foot brushed against the package. “Oh, I’m sure he doesn’t mind if I hold a sneaking admiration for Dillinger.”
“Must be a liberal man, your Mr. Purvis.”
You don’t know the half of it.
“He’s a doll."
Mabel grinned. “He sure is pretty.”
“He’s not known as the Clark Gable of the Bureau for nothing.”
“Has he got a girlfriend?”
Doris almost choked on her water. “Not that I’m aware of.”
“It must bother him that Dillinger always gets away.”
“It sure puts him under pressure.”
They chatted a little more, then the waitress brought their orders and Doris realized that she was ravenous. She dug her fork into her potato salad.
“Well, I think it would be exciting to work on the Dillinger Squad.”
“It can be.” Doris picked up one half of her sandwich. “It’s also dangerous work for the men.”
“I suppose you’re right. All those shoot-outs!”
“Remember, the Kansas City Massacre was pretty bad.”
Mabel nodded thoughtfully. “No leads on that?”
“Some, but nothing solid.”
“That’s too bad.” Mabel grinned. “What’s in the package?”
“Hmm?” Doris was contemplating putting celery bits in her homemade chicken salad next time just like this place served.
Doris almost looked down guiltily at the package. “Oh, just some business.”
“Business?” Mabel arched an eyebrow.
“Yeah, you know, important papers and things.” Doris felt the thrill of nervousness. It was just a taste of what Mel must feel when he was trying to tapdance around as he protected Johnny.
“Sending love notes to Hoover?”
“Clark Gable Purvis.”
Doris knew that Mel had once admired Hoover greatly and still respected his original vision of what the Bureau could be. It was his current vision that bothered the Southerner.
“Aww, Mabel, honey, why would Mr. Purvis make kissy-face with his boss?”
“Are you kidding? Hoover’s practically got your boy on a leash.”
Doris took a sip of her coffee. “Really?”
Oh, Mabel, you really don’t know the half of it.
She shivered a little at the thought of Mel on a leash, but she knew who would be at the other end.
Mabel sniffed. “I hear things.”
Doris smiled. “I bet.”
“Go ahead, mock me if you must.”
“Darling, the only ‘mock’ I know is mock turtle soup.”
After lunch, Doris stood in line at the Post Office, seeing the Wanted posters of Baby Face Nelson, Machine Gun Kelly, and John Dillinger. Dillinger’s smirk was pure Johnny.
She felt a little nervous standing in line with all these upright citizens, sending her boss’ love gift to a gangster, but of course no one had a clue. Under Johnny’s smirking eyes, she went up to the counter.
That little foray had given her a taste of danger, and now there was danger all around her.
The agents from the interrogation room went to lunch, and Carter frowned at their joviality. As soon as the door closed behind them, he growled, “I’m going in.”
No matter what.
"Friendship And Other Poems"
“Oh, darlin’, you are so pretty.”
“Pretty? Johnny, sweetheart, I have a black eye, split lip, bruised face, and bleeding cuts, scratches, and wrist.”
“Now, Sunshine, you’re too analytical.”
Mel blinked, trying to see his lover. “I love you,” he said softly.
A warm hand cupped his face. “I know. I love you, too, darlin’.”
Mel drifted on his sea of pain, wishing that he could be with Johnny. It hurt him to think that he would never see his beautiful lover again. He would have a lifetime to dream of his Johnny, if he survived prison. The future was very bleak, indeed.
Was it worth a lifetime of disgrace, years, possibly a life sentence in prison for mere months of stolen moments?
He sighed, grimacing as the pain in his side flared up. He tried to breathe more shallowly, attempting relief.
He wondered where Johnny was now. Indiana? Wisconsin? Or all the way to Cuba or Mexico?
It’s all I can do for you, love, give you your freedom.
It was the most precious gift of all and he was happy to give it.
Remember me fondly, Johnny.
A tear slid down his cheek.
The door opened and he found himself not caring anymore. Let Reinecke and Doc and all the rest beat on him for another day. He would never talk.
Mel opened his one good eye at the sound of the saddened voice. “Carter,” he breathed.
Carter limped toward him, leaning heavily on his cane. His brown eyes matched his voice, and Mel felt guilty at the sight of the cane. Carter gently brushed the hair out of Mel’s eyes.
“Damn, what have they done to you?”
Mel groped for Carter’s arm, grabbing it. “I’m so sorry about Little Bohemia.”
“Wasn’t your fault.”
“I made all the…wrong decisions.”
Carter pursed his lips. “It was a crazy night.”
Mel looked at his old friend. “How are you doin’, Carter?”
Carter pulled a chair over and sat down. “Oh, you know how it is. One day is good, the next can be not so good.”
“The more important question is, how are you?”
Carter looked at the bruised and battered face of his former boss. It was sad, this turn of events, but of course Mel had made his choice. Still, did he deserve this kind of treatment? Traitor or not, he should not be treated this way.
“Was it worth it, Mel?” he asked sadly.
A small smile stretched the Southerner’s face, painful as it was.
Carter wondered at the depth of the love that Mel felt for the debonair gangster. Mel had literally given up everything for John Dillinger: his career, family name, trust fund…freedom. And yet he seemed happy.
Does Dillinger feel the same way? He’s left you to face your fate alone.
To be fair, what could Dillinger do? He was an escape artist, Crown Point the shining jewel, but it would take chutzpah to waltz in here and take Mel. Was even John Dillinger that bold?
“I’ll see if I can get you some water. Hold on.”
Carter limped out, heading for the water cooler in the squadroom. He filled up a Dixie cup as Doris came over.
“How is he?” she asked in a low voice.
“Probably more battered than when you saw him.” His voice was equally low. The other agents were listening.
“Damn.” She was at a loss as to what to do next. Even if she and Carter uncuffed Mel and led him out of the interrogation room, they would be stopped by the other agents. Despite their uneasiness with the treatment their former boss was suffering, they were also appalled at his betrayal and the way he had disgraced the Bureau. It was one thing to be on the take, but to fall into the bed of Public Enemy No. 1…that was heinous and disgusting. Homosexuals were regarded as sick deviants, though admittedly the Pansy Craze had made things a little easier on inverts.
Carter thought, Hoover’s keeping the homosexual angle out of the press, pretending that Mel had taken a bribe, and has even floated the idea that he had been kidnapped and framed. If Mel plays ball, he may avoid prison and regain his good name, though he could never work with these men again.
He headed back down the hall. These men know the truth. They would never openly discuss it, fearing Hoover’s wrath, but it would eventually leak out. Maybe years from now, but secrets this explosive never stayed buried forever.
Once back inside the interrogation room, he helped Mel drink. He noticed the reddened skin around the handcuff. He had to be irritated around the ankle since there was a tight cuff down there, too. It broke his heart to see the rumpled clothing and disheveled hair. Mel had always taken such pride in his appearance.
Mel gulped down the water, wincing as it stung his split lip. He was shaking slightly.
“When did you eat last?” Carter asked.
“I’ll get you something.”
The door opened and White’s Texas drawl said, “Well, now, ain’t this cute.”
Both men looked up. “You got something to say, Doc?”
“Better not get too close to Melvin, Carter. You might catch somethin’.”
Carter frowned. “Do you feel good, battering a defenseless man?”
“He’s getting what he deserves.” Doc shrugged as he lit a fresh cigarette.
Mel glared at Doc with his good eye. “Always knew you were an insufferable prig, Doc.”
“Prig, huh? Pretty stuck-up word.”
Mel said nothing more. Carter stood. “I’m getting this man a sandwich.”
“No, you’re not.” Doc blew out a ring of smoke. “You’re gonna leave and let me continue to interrogate the prisoner.”
“You mean beat him up some more.”
Doc shrugged. “We need to know where Dillinger is.”
“Away the hell from here,” Mel said defiantly.
Doc grinned, showing tobacco-stained teeth. “You’re a regular spitfire, Little Mel.” At White’s use of one of his nicknames, Mel frowned.
“I’ll give you this, Purvis.” Doc held his cigarette out, the ember glowing. “You’ve got more balls than I thought a priss like you would have.” He chuckled. The sound was not pleasant. “Bet Dillinger finds that interestin’, huh?”
“I’ll get you something to eat, Mel,” Carter said over his shoulder.
“I toldja, Baum. No fuckin’ sandwich.”
“Carter.” The ragged voice attracted Carter’s attention. He turned to Mel, who said softly, “You had better go. Thank you for your kindness.”
Carter’s throat tightened. Mel was still his friend. He grasped his shoulder, squeezing gently as they communicated silently. Reluctantly, Carter left.
Out in the squadroom, he met Doris’ eyes.
We’re getting him out.
Somehow, someway, Carter would see to it.