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, Gerry 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.
CULTURE ‘N’ GUSTO
Life is bearable.
"On Wisps Of Dreams"
The next several hours passed in a haze for Mel. He ignored the same questions that were shouted at him, pain flaring in his side as Reinecke hit him again and again. Dizzy and weak from hunger, he felt himself slipping away. A slap to the head brought him back to a harsh reality.
Everything was running together, his memories mixing with the present. He was numb to the torture, the pain becoming him, miraculously sliding away as strong hands cupped his face.
“Johnny,” he breathed.
“That’s right, darlin’.” Mel opened his good eye. “Aww, Sunshine. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
They were lying in bed, Mel not questioning the sudden shift in venue. They were in the safehouse, and Johnny caressed his cheek.
”You are beautiful.”
Mel blushed. “You flatter me, suh.”
”Oh, but it’s true, darlin’.” Johnny nuzzled his cheek. “You happy, Sunshine?”
“Very much so.” Mel grasped his lover’s hand and kissed the palm.
Johnny’s amber eyes clouded. “You gave up a lot for me, sugar.”
“I knew what I was doing.”
Mel put a finger to Johnny’s lips. “Hush, darlin’. No frettin’. I made my choice and I’ve never been happier.”
Johnny relaxed. “Still, Sunshine, if anything was to happen to me…”
Johnny shook his head. “We have to talk about it. You’re cut off from your family’s money and while Red and Homer might be willin’ to give you a cut of future robberies, no one else would. And you couldn’t get a job with that famous face of yours.”
“Just let me speak my piece, sweetheart.” Johnny caressed his face again. “There’s an account up in Canada with both our names, well, aliases.” He grinned. “Plenty of money to keep you in the style to which you’re accustomed.”
Tears prickled Mel’s eyes. “You’re too good to me, darlin’.”
“Only what you deserve.”
Mel cried out as another blow jarred his aching ribs. If they were broken, they would probably puncture a lung soon.
Maybe it’s for the best. I don’t have much of a future, unless you count Leavenworth.
“Tell me where Dillinger is!”
Mel winced as Reinecke practically screamed in his ear. “I don’t know.”
“Where’s his safe houses?” Doc asked.
“I don’t know. I only know the one you found me in.”
“What are his plans for leaving the country?” Rorer demanded. “Mexico? Europe? Canada?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where is Dillinger?”
“I don’t know." He moaned as Reinecke cracked him across the face, his cheek swelling.
“You scum,” Rorer said coldly. “You’re a cocksucking traitor, you fuckin’ bastard. How can you justify what you’ve done? You were our leader and you threw it all away for a piece of ass, you fuckin’ queer!”
Mel gasped as his leg was viciously kicked. He would be a pulp before they were finished.
“How can you stand yourself, Purvis?”
Mel said nothing. He felt guilty about his betrayal, but he was not about to elaborate on his reasons to Rorer or anyone else. They would only scoff at and mock him for his love, because homosexual love was not ‘real’, according to society.
“You’re a disgrace! You’ve disgraced all of us! You simpering nancy-boy.”
Mel looked up and glared at Rorer, who sneered. Clegg and Reinecke watched avidly while Doc was dispassionate, the ever-present cigarette in his hand.
“We’re goin’ out to dinner. Pity you can’t join us,” Doc chuckled.
The four agents filed out of the room, leaving Mel behind.
His head lolled back. He let his thought drift. He suspected that his past would be far brighter than his future, and daydreaming was going to be his favorite pastime.
“You sure class the place up, Sunshine.”
“I do?” Mel asked in amusement as he and Johnny lay in bed on a lazy Sunday morning.
“Yeah. All your poetry and literature that you can quote just raises everyone’s cultural I.Q.”
“Goodness, aren’t you savvy.”
Johnny smiled. “You know it, honey. I love me a man who’s got culture.”
“You’re no country bumpkin, sweetheart. You told me that you read a lot while you were in prison.”
“Got my high school equivalency back then, too,” Johnny said proudly.
“That shows drive and ambition.” Mel’s smile was just as proud.
“Aren’t you the flatterer?”
“But true.” Mel winked as Johnny laughed. He leaned over and kissed his lover, whose arms slid around him and drew him close, their heat rising.
Mel’s stomach growled. He was feeling lightheaded from lack of food.
A little smile tugged at his torn lips. Johnny had always appreciated his appetite…
“Mmm, I do love a man who loves good food.”
Johnny’s amused tone did not faze Mel at all. They were sitting in a little restaurant out in the country, Johnny highly recommending this place.
“Can I help it if I love friend chicken, suh?” Mel bit into the crispy chicken leg as Johnny smirked.
“You enjoy life with gusto, sir.”
“Do I?” Mel set down the chicken leg. “Do I really?”
“Sure.” Johnny cocked his head. “Why so uncertain, honey?”
Mel picked up his fork and poked at his mashed potatoes. “No one has ever said that to me. They generally think I’m pretty repressed.”
“That’s ‘cuz they don’t know you.” At Mel’s quizzical look, Johnny explained, “All that control means there’s some powerful passion underneath.” He grinned as Mel blushed. “You’re sure special, Sunshine.”
“Oh?” Mel took a bite of the buttery potatoes. They were quite good.
“Yeah.” Mel looked up to see Johnny’s eyes. Affection gleamed in their amber depths. “You’re not hardened like other men I know, guys damaged by prison and hard childhoods.”
Mel laid down his fork. His eyes were bright with emotion.
“I know you’re tough, darlin’. Someday if you come away with me, you’ll have to rely on that toughness to survive, but I like a man who is just as inclined to discuss books as he is to play poker or swill beer.”
Mel took a sip of beer with a small smile. “You are more cultured than you know, Johnny.”
Johnny’s smile reflected the sunny restaurant décor with its blondwood tables and red-checked gingham curtains and tablecloths.
“You’re a doll, Sunshine.” Johnny scooped up a forkful of mashed potatoes. “And you should try the corn. Indiana-grown all the way.”
“I thought I’d already had a taste of Indiana corn.” Mel kept his eyes low as he scooped up some corn.
“And fine Indiana corn it is, too,” Johnny said confidently.
Mel chuckled as he sampled the golden corn.
Mel was beyond tired. The gnawing pit of hunger in his stomach reminded him of nearly thirty-six hours without a meal. Pain throbbed in his eye, cheeks, and ribs. His leg ached where Rorer had kicked it.
He trembled as he thought of his possible treatment in prison. A cop, especially Hoover’s prize G-Man, could not expect pity in jail, though maybe going in with Johnny the way he had would net him a few points, though maybe he would lose them due to his sexual relationship with the gangster.
He grunted as he tried to get comfortable in the hard wooden chair, an impossible task.
He knew that rape was endemic in prison. Society was not aware of it, but cops and criminals knew what went on behind grim, gray walls. Unless they put him in permanent solitary confinement, he could expect frequent assaults.
Maybe he could just ‘check out’, dissociate himself from reality, live in a dream world if he tried hard enough. He would do well to practice now.
If I see a chance to escape, I’ll surely take it, Johnny, but I don’t have your gift for getting away.
The door opened again, and Mel said, “What are you going to do now? Tip my chair over while you kick me in the ribs?” He looked up, stifling a gasp.
Carter brought over a report to Doris, ostensibly to go over any typing errors he might have made, but actually to whisper to her, “We’ve got to get Mel out of here before they kill him.” He pointed to a word. “You in?”
“You bet.” The door to the squadroom opened and Doris groaned. “We might be too late.”
The thunderous face of J. Edgar Hoover glared at everyone. With his bullhorn voice he snapped out in his staccato delivery, “Where is the traitor Melvin Purvis?”
Sam was behind him, along with other agents from the Washington office. Hoover usually traveled with an entourage. Clyde Tolson was noticeably missing.
Sam directed him down the hall just as Doc and his men were heading out for dinner.
“White, what have you got for me?”
Slightly flustered, Doc said, “Not much, Director. He’s a stubborn one.”
“I’ll break that stubbornness.”
Doris winced as Carter sat down heavily in a nearby chair. The other agents buzzed about this latest development.
Doris’ phone rang. Sick at heart, she said, “Miss Rogers, Bureau of Investigation.”
“Hello, Doris, darlin’. How's my Sunshine?”
"APPLE OF MY EYE"
While you can.
You never know
When it’ll be
Johnny watched as Mel slipped on his dark-blue slacks over his Hanes boxers, sliding the suspenders up after he put his white silk shirt on. He took the comb off the dresser and ran it through his wet raven hair.
Johnny lazed in bed. “Maybe I shoulda joined you in the shower, Sunshine.”
“And what would your men think if you were late to breakfast?”
“That I was gettin’ lucky.”
Mel smirked. “Probably so, but since it is my turn to cook, I doubt that they would be too thrilled.”
Johnny slid out of bed, his naked body lithe and inviting. Mel stopped combing his hair, watching his lover approach in the dresser mirror. Johnny wrapped his arms around Mel, nuzzling his neck.
“I hate to be away from you, Sunshine.”
“Come home tonight then.”
Johnny sighed regretfully. “I can’t. It’s already worked out that we stay over at Cernocky’s. I’ve got business to conduct after we case the First National Bank.”
“Please be careful.”
“Always, especially when I’ve got such a handsome fella to come home to.”
Johnny grinned and backed away. “Ill jump in the shower as fast as a jackrabbit and be right out. Better use the Bisquick this mornin’.”
Johnny quickly showered and dressed, choosing a dark-blue suit and crisp white shirt. He put on a vest and buttoned it, heading out to the kitchen.
Most of the gang was already there, Homer setting the table as Mel poured out the pancake batter. If blueberries were in season he would have added some into the mix.
Red poured glasses of orange juice while Charles wandered in, yawning as he pulled on his suit jacket.
“Good mornin’, all,” Johnny said cheerfully.
“Good morning, John. Sleep well?” asked Red with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Oh, yeah.” Johnny’s smirk brought a snicker from Homer and an eyeroll from Charles.
“Where’s Sleeping Beauty?” Johnny asked. “Is Pete still in bed?”
“Damned if I know,” grumped Charles.
While the pancakes cooked, Mel sliced up an apple and arranged the slices on a small condiment dish. He placed it by Johnny’s plate with a smile, Johnny answering him with a smile of his own. He took his fork and speared a slice.
“Well, la-de-da,” said Pete as he came into the kitchen. “Are ya gonna drink your tea with your pinky extended, Lord Fauntleroy?” Pete rolled up his sleeves. “You can eat an apple with your fingers, y’know.”
“Sure, Pete, but a fork isn’t the end of the world.”
“Puttin’ on airs.” Pete glanced at Mel, who was stirring the batter.
“Sit down and shut up, Pete,” Johnny said amiably. He pulled out his chair and sat down.
“Are we going to meet…” Pete glanced at Mel against as he sat down “…at the usual spot?”
“Yes, at Cernocky’s.” Pete rolled his eyes again but drank his juice. Coffee percolated on the counter in the shiny silver pot but was not quite ready yet. “We’ll case the bank and meet with Alvin. He’s got a big score set up. Once we rake it in, we can go anywhere we want and never work again.”
Eyes gleamed around the table. Johnny was looking forward to this score. Alvin estimated it that it was three million dollars, a king’s ransom. An eight-way split would net them a cool $375,000 each. He and Mel could leave the country and go to Europe or South America, and he could make sure that Mel would be able to live in the manner to which he was accustomed. He would buy him the finest clothes and jewelry, rings and watches and tieclips, and those Belgian dark chocolates he liked so much. Maybe a book on poetry, too.
Happy with his plans, Johnny dug into the pancakes when they were ready.
Johnny was pleased at his gang’s acceptance of his lover. Well, some of them, anyway. Red and Homer accepted Mel, Charles did not care one way or the other, but Pete was still less-than-thrilled. He did not need their approval, but it made things easier. He preferred a harmonious gang as opposed to a suspicious one.
Johnny put on his dark-blue greatcoat and fedora, smiling at Mel. While his gang went out to the car, he pulled his lover close by his suspenders, kissing him deeply.
“Now, you stay inside, darlin’. No showin’ that pretty and famous face to the neighbors.”
“No worries, Johnny. I’ve got my new book and today’s paper to keep me busy. The laundry’s all done.”
“Aw, you’re sweet.” Johnny’s expression grew serious. “I don’t consider you a wife, you know.”
“I know, but we all pitch in. You are quite adept with feather duster and dust mop yourself.”
Johnny grinned. “You bet.” He brushed Mel’s hair. “You’ve got to stay safe, Sunshine. Don’t go breakin’ my heart by getting’ captured.”
Mel grinned. “I won’t.”
He kissed Johnny again and his lover smiled. “I’ll bring you back something from Cernocky’s. You’re the apple of my eye, after all.” He left the house with a jaunty “See ya down the road, Sunshine.”
The Buick went down the quiet main street of Cicero, noting the location of the bank. Red stopped the car and Charles jogged out, wearing glasses and his fedora low over his eyes. He went into the bank.
Johnny turned the radio on and Ella Fitzgerald’s rich, dulcet tones sang some cool jazz. A woman in a stylish hat and mink coat walked by, her brown hair neatly bobbed. A man with a pencil-thin mustache walked briskly from the opposite direction, his greatcoat expensive and his pearl-gray fedora perfectly blocked. He reminded Johnny of Mel in the elegant way he dressed.
He smiled as he thought of his lover. Mel was a snappy dresser, no doubt, one of the many things that had attracted Johnny to the shy, soft-spoken Southerner.
He loved Mel’s classiness. He loved his aristocratic bearing and elegance, his well-read mind and his beautiful body. He loved his prowess with firearms and his courage. He had read about some of his lover’s exploits before being assigned as the Chicago office’s Special Agent In Charge.
Most of all, he loved the way Mel looked at him with love in his eyes.
Charles came out of the bank and once he was in the car, Red drove off, planning their ‘git’ as Johnny made notes. They would make a detailed map for their getaway route. A second one would be drawn up in case there was trouble with the first.
“So, easy pickin’s or are we gonna have to work for our money?” asked Johnny.
Charles smirked. Older than the rest of the gang, his balding brown hair was combed over neatly, his suit a little baggy as he had lost weight recently. Johnny considered his mind as sharp as a tack.
“In-between. The vault’s good and strong, but there’s no mezzanine, so no guard up top who can shoot at us with bullets or tear gas.”
“That’s always a plus,” Red drawled, the men sniggering.
Charles grinned. “There’s a guard by the door but we can take care of him. There are four teller cages, and the manager’s desk is located by the vault. All fancy marble, of course.”
“Of course,” Johnny said dryly. “Nobody else can afford it.”
Pete snickered. “Jus’ the fat cat bankers.”
“Hell, yeah. We’re doin’ folks a favor by getting’ back at those bastards,” Homer agreed.
“And if we get some sugar on top outta the deal, what of it?” Johnny smirked.
“Danged right!” Pete said, slapping the top of the front seat.
It was a merry band of men that drove through the streets of Cicero.
"WAITIN’ AT THE STATION..."
For a train
That never comes.
Waitin’ at the station
That always comes."
‘Big Muddy’ Connors
Johnny and Red lingered over their satisfying meal at Louis Cernocky’s Crystal Room in Fox River Grove. The tavern was a favorite hangout of yeggs like them, and Cernocky always served good beer and wine and equally-good food. The gang had enjoyed steaks and baked potatoes and French green beans, and apple pie for dessert.
As the rest of the gang went off to dance with girls they had picked up at the bar, Red and Johnny stayed at the table, finishing their wine.
Red watched Homer as he danced, asking the waiter for another piece of pie. The big man had a healthy appetite but never seemed to get fat. Johnny envied that talent. If he had eaten like that, he would have weighed over two hundred pounds if he weighed an ounce.
Mel stays slender. Must be all that nervous energy.
Johnny had to keep an eye on Mel. When the Southerner was upset, he did not eat. If he worried until Johnny came back, he would probably eat very little.
When the waiter returned, Johnny asked, “You got pecan pie on the menu?”
“No, sir, but we got apple, lemon, and blueberry.”
”Could you set aside a lemon pie for me? I’ll take it when we leave.”
After the waiter left, Johnny asked a smiling Red, “What?”
“You got a hankerin’ for lemon pie?”
“Hey, it’s one of Mel’s favorites.”
“Along with pecan?”
Red sipped his wine. “I’ve never seen you so head-over-heels.”
Johnny leaned back, “He’s special.”
Oh, I got no doubt of that.
Red had never seen Johnny fall so hard for anyone before. His old friend was completely besotted.
It could have been an extremely dangerous situation. If Melvin had been playing Johnny, he could have gotten them all in jail by now. Hoover would have pinned a medal on him and given him the keys to the city.
Red had been suspicious of the soft-spoken Southerner at first. A wealthy G-Man with Hoover’s favor jeopardizing all that for a fling with the man he was supposed to bring in?
Except that it was not just a fling. Mel had given up everything to be with Johnny.
Mel had fit in despite the other gang members’ wariness, Pete nearly mutinying. He took his turn at chores without complaint despite being used to a Negro manservant taking care of him back in his old life.
Mel did not take part in their robberies, which suited Johnny fine.
“He’s not trained, and besides, I…”
“…don’t want him in the line of fire?” Red asked.
A little sheepishly, Johnny nodded.
“He’s a G-Man, John. Plenty of battles fought.”
“I don’t care.” Johnny’s mouth set in a stubborn line. “I can’t ask him to take part. Isn’t it enough he’s violated his principles by runnin’ off with me?”
“He chose to.”
“I know. Look, I’ll share my cut with him, so no one gets short shrift for a guy who doesn’t take part.”
“I didn’t think you would give him a full share.”
“I know. I just don’t want him to tear himself up over helping us plan bank robberies or anything. He’s conflicted enough as it is.”
“But not about you?”
Johnny smiled. “Not about me.”
Red hoped that Mel never betrayed Johnny. He doubted it after getting to know the man, but if it did happen, it would kill Johnny.
Literally, considering what Hoover’s plans are for him.
Still, Mel was either a better actor even than Gable, or he truly loved Johnny. The devotion in his eyes, his sacrifices to keep Johnny safe, even little things like cutting up the apple for his man’s breakfast…Red doubted it was all an act.
Life sure is funny. A gangster and a G-Man. Hah. Bet Jimmy Cagney and Pat O’Brien don’t fuck like rabbits, though who knows off-screen?
“What are you moonin’ about?” Johnny asked.
Red grinned. “Just daydreaming, my friend.”
Johnny smirked. He looked up and smiled at the newcomer heading for their table. “Hey, Alvin.”
“Hey, John. Hi, Red.”
“Hi, Al. Sit down and take a load off.” Red took out a cigar and offered it, Alvin declining.
“Sorry I couldn’t get here earlier.” The slender man blinked owlishly behind his glasses. He had the look of a college professor and the brains to match.
“No big deal. We already ate, but if you want something go ahead. My treat.” Johnny signaled their waiter.
“Don’t mind if I do.”
Alvin ordered prime rib, baked potato, and carrots. He enjoyed a glass of wine while waiting for his meal.
“So, what’s this train all about?” Johnny asked.
They were sufficiently far away from the other tables not to be overheard, the music from the band at the end of the room overlaying their conversation.
Alvin grinned. “It’s a sweet job. It’s a Federal Reserve shipment, a cool three mil.”
“Yikes,” said Red.
Alvin nodded. “An eight-way split will still give us a nice bit of change apiece.”
“You’re not kiddin’.” Johnny sipped his wine. “When?”
“In two weeks.”
“Rock Creek. I’ll have the gits ready when you arrive but if you can come a day early, Red can run the routes.”
“You got something cooking?” Alvin asked shrewdly.
“First National in Cicero.”
“Why risk it? The score’s worth plenty. You don’t need the bank’s cash.”
Johnny was prevented from replying by the arrival of Alvin’s food. He dug in enthusiastically. After the waiter left, Johnny supplied the answer.
“We need to pay off some bills.” At Alvin’s quizzical look, he elaborated, “Syndicate bills.”
“Ah.” Alvin chewed a piece of meat. “Better get that taken care of then.” As he ate, he asked, “So how you doing, John?”
Red excused himself to go to the men’s room and Johnny said, “Oh, doin’ fine.”
“So, your G-Man doesn’t get a share?”
“He shares my share.”
“Also good business. Mel doesn’t take part in the robberies so he doesn’t get a full share.”
“But you’re taking a risk and giving up half your share.”
“I take care of my man.”
Alvin cut his meat. “He must take care of you.”
“He does.” Johnny looked relaxed. “He’s not my wife, Al, but he’s who I’m going back to tomorrow after we pull the Cicero job, and that’s all I need from him.”
Alvin scooped up the meat of the baked potato and chewed thoughtfully. “No offense, but how can you trust a cop?”
Alvin smiled as he speared a carrot slice. “No such ting, my friend.”
“That’s all you got to say?”
“What’s more to say? You trust your G-Man.”
Johnny was not sure if Alvin believed him or not, because ‘Creepy’ Karpis trusted very few people, but he was the smartest crook Johnny knew.
That night Johnny began to get ready for bed. Charles and Pete shared one room, Red and Homer the other, and Johnny had this room to himself.
As he brushed his teeth, he realized that this was his first night sleeping alone since Mel had joined him permanently. Sighing, he rinsed his mouth out and rubbed his shoulder. He was going to bed in his pants and undershirt in case he needed to make a quick getaway, his shirt on the straight-backed chair, his coat and hat hanging on the back of the door. His guns were in easy reach on the nightstand and propped against the wall.
He climbed into bed. He was already missing Mel.
Hope you’re getting a good night’s sleep, Sunshine.
He pulled the covers up, suddenly cold.
At our feet
Before the world
"Cold, Cruel World"
The robbery of the First National Bank in Cicero, Illinois, went smoothly, the gang in-and-out before the cops even knew there was a robbery.
The $36,000 take was substantial, even though half of it was going to the Syndicate. The upgrade of their armaments and use of the safehouse cost money, along with medical services after their last job. Johnny thought it prudent not to cross the Syndicate. Pay off their bills and then hit the train was his way of thinking.
And after that, you and me out of the country, Sunshine. Free as birds!
Red drove them away from the bank, Pete and Charles taking care of the money. Johnny had gloried in the robbery, wondering briefly what it would be like to see Mel as part of the gang, holding a tommygun and looking like the sexiest bank robber in America, along with himself, of course.
They changed cars and drove back to Chicago, Johnny eager to reach the safehouse. He smiled as he looked down at the box containing the lemon pie from the Crystal Room. Mel would be more delighted with this than with the money.
Red parked the car in the back of the house, Johnny the first one out. He trotted into the house.
“Honey, I’m home!” he smirked.
He stopped dead. Gently dropping the box onto a chair, he drew his gun.
The living room was a mess. A chair was overturned, the couch jammed against the wall, and a vase was shattered, the shards spread across the rug. The lampshade was askew on the table lamp, and a picture hung crookedly on the wall.
All frightening in itself, but what chilled Johnny most was the patch of dark red blood on the gold rug.
Red came in and nearly bumped into Johnny. “Cripes.” He pulled his gun and called Mel’s name, too.
Charles, Pete and Homer came in, whipping out their guns. Homer looked at Red, who shook his head.
Johnny went to the kitchen, Red directing the others to different parts of the house. Everyone moved cautiously except for Johnny.
The kitchen was empty except for the dishes drying in the rack, and an apple on a cutting board. There was no knife. Had Mel used it when he was attacked? There was no blood in here. He turned to check the bedroom.
Red stood in the entrance of the kitchen. “He’s not in the house, John.”
The icy pit in his stomach tightened. “He’s gotta be.”
Johnny wanted to scream. He looked down at the floor, trying to control his emotions.
Pete came up behind Red. “That Fed took off on us?”
Red turned and glared. “Shut up, Pete.”
Johnny looked up, his amber eyes angry. “Mel did not skip out on us. Use your head for something besides a hatrack, Pete. The parlor was busted up. Someone came in and roughed my Mel up and took him away.”
Red and Homer exchanged a look as the blond came into the kitchen, followed by Charles. They obviously hoped that Mel was still alive.
Pete scowled. “So who took ‘im? The Syndicate? Nelson?”
“Could be worse,” Red said. At the gang’s puzzled looks, he elaborated, “The Bureau.”
Johnny was sick. “I wouldn’t put it past Hoover’s boys to draw blood.”
“He is a traitor,” Pete snorted.
Homer rolled his eyes. “Boy, Pete, sometimes you can be as dumb as a brick.”
Pete gestured rudely in reply.
“We gotta look for clues,” Johnny said impatiently.
“We gotta get outta here,” Red countered. “If the Feds did take Mel, they’re probably watchin’ the house.”
“Hell, yeah!” Pete agreed. “We gotta get out now.”
“You guys go ahead. I’ll look around,” said Johnny.
Red checked out the window. “I don’t see anybody. Grab your stuff. Maybe we can high-tail it outta here before we get any visitors.”
“Red…” Johnny frowned.
“Homer, pack Johnny and Mel’s stuff after yours. I’ll help.”
The gang dispersed and Johnny glared at Red. “We can’t just leave!”
“Use your head for something besides a hatrack, John.” At the echo of his earlier words to Pete, Johnny scowled. “No matter who took him, we have to scram.”
Johnny bit his lip. “All right. Thanks for packing for me and Mel. I’m going to look for clues.” He flexed his gloved hand. “Oh, don’t forget his granddaddy’s watch. It’s in a small case in the top dresser drawer.”
Red left the kitchen and Johnny grabbed a chair, keeping himself upright as dizziness assailed him, the enormity of what had happened beginning to hit him.
Aww, Mel, where are you?
Johnny sifted through the wreckage in the parlor, growing increasingly desperate as time ticked away. Red was right. They could not stay, but he wished that he could find something.
His mind kept drifting back to yesterday morning and his parting from Mel. Mel was healthy and happy and now he could be hurt and where was he?
He sighed, rubbing his eyes. A headache was coming on. He wearily got to his feet, trying to figure out his next move.
His men came in the parlor, dragging suitcases full of clothes and guns.
“Let’s go, John.” Red cocked his fedora and easily picked up his two suitcases.
Johnny picked up the pie box and placed it in his suitcase. At Red’s look, he said, “I brought that pie home for Mel, and I intend to see that he gets it.”
The Dillinger Gang left the no-longer-safehouse behind.
A DISH BEST SERVED COLD
Is a dish
Best served cold.
Just don’t let it
Get too old.
Red glanced at Johnny. His usually gregarious friend was silent, staring out the window of the Buick. In the backseat, Homer, Pete and Charles kept their voices low as they talked.
The drive through Chicago was at the speed limit. No way would he speed, attracting attention. He was no dummy. They saw no cops, just ordinary citizens going about their business.
Red wondered what scheme Johnny was cooking up.
Johnny was not planning much of anything except revenge, but against whom?
If it is Nitti, he’s gonna learn what crossing John Dillinger means, Syndicate or no Syndicate.
If it’s Nelson, I’ll machine-gun him myself. He should know better than to double-cross a fellow yegg.
And it’s Hoover, he’s gonna find out just how much an enemy Public Enemy No. 1 is.
He stared out at the passing scenery, not really seeing it. All he could see was Mel, smiling at him as he had sent him off yesterday morning.
I should never have stayed away overnight. You were too vulnerable. What was I thinking, leaving you alone?
He curled his hand into a fist.
Somebody is gonna pay.
The safe house in East Chicago would allow the gang to relax at least a little, though the irony of using a Syndicate safehouse when that organization might have snatched Mel was not lost on Johnny and Red. They led the rest into the new house.
The packing had been quick since they kept their clothes in the suitcases except for a shirt or two on hangers to get the wrinkles out. Travel kits were placed in bathrooms and easily snatched up fro a quick getaway.
There were three bedrooms to claim, and like the arrangement at the Crystal Room, the partners remained the same, leaving Johnny on his own when he should have been with Mel.
He dragged his suitcases in his room, going back for Mel’s. Opening his suitcase, he took out the pie box and went into the kitchen, placing it in the icebox.
“You still think he’s comin’ back?” Red asked.
Johnny shook his head, surprising Red. “No, we’re gonna go get him.”
Red smiled. “Now that sounds like my Johnny.”
Johnny answered his smile. “You betcha. We have to figure out who took him and where he is.” His eyes hardened slightly. “And, yes, I believe he was taken. If he had betrayed us, there would have been G-Men waiting for us back at the first house.”
“There would have if the Feds took him, too. So what do you figure? The Syndicate?”
“Seems odd, unless they didn’t believe me about paying off the debt and took Mel hostage.”
“If they did, they would have contacted you already.”
“True, but maybe we lit out before they could.”
“Maybe.” Red rubbed his face. “We could see that Mel fought his kidnappers.”
“That doesn’t help. He would have fought Nitti’s boys or the Feds.”
Johnny’s stomach knotted. Nelson might be the worse of the bunch: too unpredictable and a man who loathed all cops, but especially Bureau agents.
And especially Mel.
“George, it’s all right,” Johnny drawled.
George ‘Baby Face’ Nelson had his tommy gun trained on Mel, who was pale, his liquid-dark eyes huge in his face. He was standing in the parlor of their safehouse, Johnny in one entrance as Nelson stood in the other that led from the kitchen. His boyish face was scrunched up in rage.
“He’s a fuckin’ Fed, Johnny! He’s a rat and worse.”
“He’s all right, George. He won’t go runnin’ to the G-Men.”
“He is a G-Man.” Nelson’s finger tightened on the trigger.
Mel was as still as a statue but Johnny could tell that he was ready to move. He was inching toward Nelson himself.
“Ya know what I do with dirty coppers?” Nelson sneered. “I blow ‘em away!”
Johnny plunged toward Nelson as Mel ducked behind a large, overstuffed chair. Nelson yelled as Johnny grabbed his gun.
Mel came out from behind the chair and ran to help Johnny, the two of them struggling with the crazed Nelson, who seemed to have the strength of ten men. A bullet hit the ceiling, plaster raining down as the trio rolled around on the floor, knocking over tables and chairs. Finally Mel kicked Nelson in the groin while Johnny punched him in the mouth. He still had a deathgrip on the gun, but Johnny stomped on his fingers as Nelson howled in pain, letting go.
“You fuckers! Get fuckin’ off me!”
“Keep calm, George,” said Johnny, throwing the gun away.
Mel and Johnny finally managed to tie Nelson up. His pal Tommy Carroll burst in.
“What’s goin’ on?”
“Take your buddy out of here,” Johnny said. “We don’t take kindly to death threats.”
Tommy’s blue eyes widened but he kept his counsel, shoving Nelson toward the door.
“You got a traitor in your gang, Dillinger. You can’t trust a copper, no matter how much you bribe ‘im!” He glared at Mel. “You’ll pay for this, Fed!”
After Tommy had hustled Nelson out, Mel said, “Whew! Rather volatile, wouldn’t you say?”
Johnny smiled, a surge of love bringing his arms around his lover. They held each other tight.
“I’d rather it be Nitti than Nelson,” Johnny ground out.
“Yeah.” Red frowned. “I’m not really sure it’s the Syndicate. They would have contacted us by now.”
Johnny snapped his fingers. “I got a quick way of finding out if Mel was taken by one of our suspects.”
“Oh?” Red watched as Johnny, still clad in his greatcoat and fedora, strode to the wall phone. He quickly dialed a familiar number.
“Hello, Doris, darlin’. How’s my Sunshine?”
but a man scorned is just as dangerous."</i>
Doris’ blue eyes widened. She kept her voice low as she asked, “Where have you been?”
“He’s in trouble.”
A pause, then, “Is he there?”
“Yes.” Doris looked at Carter, who was listening intently. “They brought him in early yesterday morning and have been interrogating him ever since. It’s bad, Jack.” She deliberately used his other nickname as she always did in these phone conversations.
She could hear the strong concern in his voice. “They’re working him over, trying to find out where you are.”
“And he won’t give me up.”
“He’ll die first.”
A hiss of breath sounded over the line. “Can you meet me at The Yellow Daffodil at six?”
“They close at six.”
“Damn, that’s right. Okay, what about five?”
“I’ll be there.”
“Be certain, darlin’. You could get in big girl trouble.”
“I know. See you at five.”
Doris hung up the phone. Carter said, “I’m going with you.”
She nodded. “We can leave at quitting time and still make it. It’s only a few blocks from here.”
She glanced around. “I’ll tell you on the way.”
Inside the interrogation room, Hoover looked at his former star agent with contempt. He waved Clegg to shut the door, leaving only him and Mel in the room painted a bilious green.
Mel felt the aches and pains of his body acutely. His wrist was raw from the handcuff and his throat was parched. He dearly wanted to lie down in a comfortable bed, preferably in Johnny’s arms, but that was never happening again.
Hoover slowly approached. “How could you, Melvin?” At Mel’s silence, the older man scowled, “How could you betray your ideals, your friends and colleagues…me?”
“You aren’t, otherwise you never would have done it in the first place.”
Mel sighed. “It was never about you, Jayee.”
“Oh, I beg to differ, Agent Purvis.” When Mel looked up, he saw the coldness in his former boss’ eyes. “It’s always been about me and you.” He sighed. “Remember how we started out? We both believed in the Bureau’s mission, our mission.”
“You see? You can’t help but use your pet name for me, dearest.”
Mel refrained from saying that it was a nickname that Hoover had requested that he use. There was just no arguing with him sometimes, and right now he was too tired.
“Now, Melvin, I understand the allure of the criminal. In our business, it’s all too common. We spend so much time thinking about these lowlifes that we become perversely fascinated with them, therefore we might start sympathizing with them.”
You should work on your persuasive skills, Jayee, Mel thought with a touch of amusement.
“Now, I’m willing to admit that John Dillinger is a charmer, even comely, but he’s just an ill-educated farmboy with nine years of hard time already under his belt. There’s no future there.” Hoover was standing very close to Mel now, his legs almost touching his former agent’s knees. “I’ve already put out the word that the situation is dire. You were kidnapped and we’re still looking for you. That’s for general consumption. Here, officially I can say you took a bribe, or better yet, were deeply undercover.”
“Very clever,” rasped Mel. “But if I’m undercover, why am I allowing…the likes of Rienecke to beat me up? Why not…just tell them what they want to know?”
“That’s the problem of undercover work. Sometimes you have to suffer.”
Mel closed his eyes, trying to keep his stomach from reacting to his throbbing headache.
“The people here know I ran off with…” Mel gasped as his shoulders were grasped hard. He opened his eyes, blinking at Hoover’s face so close to his own, his dark eyes blazing with messianic fervor.
“They can be silenced! If they want their jobs, they’ll keep their mouths shut. You will be re-installed as my No. 1 G-Man, ruling at my side, a hero greater than you were before.” He shook Mel. “Don’t you see? You can be what you were destined to be!”
“And what…do you want in return, Jayee?”
“You.” Hoover brushed his lips over Mel’s. “After you give me Dillinger.”
Mel jerked back. “Sorry, Jayee.”
Hoover’s grip on his shoulders tightened painfully. “Then we’ll let him go.”
Mel thought that he had heard wrong. “What?”
Hoover cupped his face. “Come to my bed, and I’ll let Dillinger get away.”
Mel wrenched his head away. “He’s already long gone.”
“Tell me where he is!”
“I don’t know where he is.”
“Liar!” Hoover backhanded Mel across the face, then did it again, the chair nearly falling over with the force of the blow. “Ungrateful wretch! I gave you everything, and you threw it all back in my face! You prefer that scum Dillinger? I’ll see to it that you never see the light of day or him again.”
Through blurred vision, Mel saw Hoover’s rage. He felt rage of his own build up.
“I will never give Johnny up!”
“Then you are doomed, Melvin.”
I probably am.
Said to his merry men,
‘Tis time to storm
My true Beloved.
Sir Malory Arthur
"The White Knight
And His Beloved Fair"
Doris looked up as Hoover came barreling out of the hall. “He stays here tonight.”
“In holding, sir?” Sam asked.
“Right where he is.” Hoover’s eyes glittered. “Good enough for a traitor.”
Carter scowled, but kept silent. He had no desire to be noticed, especially not right now. He and Doris exchanged a look.
“But, sir,” Sam protested. “It’s really not proper to…”
“Cowley, just do as you’re told. Traitors get no special treatment.”
“Yes, sir.” Sam’s words were obedient, but his jaw was set hard.
“Time to go to dinner, gentlemen,” Hoover said. “Sam, I need to go over some things with you. Doc, I need your report.”
“Yes, sir,” Sam and Doc said. Hoover indicated that Rorer, Clegg, and Rienecke were to join them.
“All right, people, time to go home,” Hoover said. It was not a suggestion.
Doris stood and put her hat and coat on, Carter a little slower. She smiled sweetly at the Director, her stomach churning. She and Carter left together, and Doris whispered, “Take your time. We’ll make it.”
It was busy on the street as office workers streamed out of the Bankers Building and other places. Doris matched her pace to Carter’s, though her heart was pounding.
Risky business, Doris. Very risky business.
They reached The Yellow Daffodil, glad to get in out of the cold as they went inside. Doris casually scanned the restaurant, her pulse increasing as she saw the man they had come to meet.
Johnny hung up the telephone, Red leaning against the kitchen counter.
“The Feds have him.”
“I’m sorry, Johnny.”
“Doris says they’re workin’ him over.” Johnny stared at the yellow-sprigged wallpaper. “It’s real bad.”
Red walked over and squeezed his friend’s shoulder.
Johnny turned around. “I’m going after him.”
Red frowned. “I know you’re upset, but think about it, John. How can you walk right in there and take Mel?”
“Just like I walked out of Crown Point. I can do this, Red.”
Johnny put a hand on Red’s shoulder. “I know it’s risky. If you and the others don’t want to do it, I’ll understand.”
Red shook his head. “Johnny, we’ll back your play, but this is crazy! You can’t walk into the lion’s den without gettin’ your head bitten off.”
Red looked into Johnny’s eyes. “All right, I’ll gather everyone.”
Johnny smiled. “Thanks, Red.”
“Yeah, yeah,” grumbled his friend. “Hey, guys! Parlor, right away.”
A few minutes later, Johnny walked into the parlor, his gang looking at him inquisitively.
“The Feds have him.”
“Damn,” Charles said quietly.
“Yeah.” Johnny took off his gloves and touched his fedora, the very image of the dashing gentlemen, only his men knew better. They could read the turmoil in his eyes and hear it in his voice. “I’m going to get him out.”
Homer pushed away from the wall that he had been leaning against. “Johnny…”
Johnny held out a hand. “It’s okay, Homer. This is all strictly voluntary.”
“It’s not that. I’ll back you, but how can we pull this off?”
“With a lot of planning.” Johnny looked at his men. “They’re workin’ him over, trying to get him to tell them where we are. Mel will never tell.” His voice trembled slightly. “He’ll die first.”
There was silence for a minute, then Charles said, “Like Homer says, we’ll back your play.”
Johnny smiled. “Thank you.” He hitched his shoulders. “Let’s start planning.”
Johnny’s eyes met Doris’, and she led Carter over to the booth in the corner. He stood as she approached.
“Glad you could come.”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” said Doris. She and Carter put their hats and coats on the coatrack. “And this is...”
“Carter Baum.” Johnny smiled. “Mel told me a lot about you.”
“Not all good, I hope.” He laughed at their faces. “Hey, a guy has to have some kind of a reputation.”
Johnny smirked. “I like you, Agent Baum.”
“Thank you, Mister…uh, thanks.”
Johnny winked. “All right now, where’s my Sunshine bein’ held?”
“The nineteenth floor. He’s in an interrogation room in the hall off the main squadroom.” Doris sighed. “He’s chained to the chair.”
“Yeah.” Doris rubbed the back of her neck. “Handcuffs, wrist and ankle. He’s been in that chair since yesterday morning. The only water he’s had is what Carter and I have given him.”
Johnny’s face hardened. “You said that he was bein’ worked over.”
Carter spoke up. “He is. He’s pretty battered.”
“So your Bureau plays rough.”
Carter grimaced. “Not everyone approves. Our SAC, Sam Cowley, does his best, but Hoover rules with an iron fist.”
“Hoover.” Johnny sipped his hot chocolate. “Now there’s a piece of work.”
The waitress came over and Carter ordered a hot turkey sandwich, Doris selecting a chicken salad sandwich. Johnny requested roast beef, French fries, and green beans.
“Better fuel up. It’s gonna be a long night.”
Carter and Doris nodded.
“Got room for one more?”
“Charles!” Doris looked around fearfully. “What are you doing here? Who’s with you?”
“No one.” Charles slid in the booth next to Johnny, who tensed. “Relax, son, I’m not here to arrest you. I’m here to help you.”
“Why, Charles?” asked Doris.
“Let’s just say I don’t cotton to the way our former SAC is bein’ treated.”
Admiration shone in Doris’ eyes. “You can trust this man, Johnny.”
The gangster looked at the Texan for a moment, sizing him up. “Mel says that you’re one of the finest agents his Bureau’s got.” Charles nodded. “I like your confidence, Agent Winstead.”
Charles ordered steak, baked potato, and green beans, and Johnny said, “I’ve got my men with me. Red’s here, and the others are in a restaurant a few doors down.” He adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses. “Are you sure that Mel’s still in that interrogation room?”
“He was when I left a few minutes ago,” Charles said.
“How did you find us if you just left?” asked Doris.
“I overheard you say you were comin’ here.” At their alarmed expressions, he said, “Relax, no one else did.”
“What’s the security like?” Johnny asked.
“Minimal. If they were holding Purvis in a cell, there’d be a Chicago cop guarding him.” Charles smiled at the waitress who brought their food. “As they’re keepin’ him upstairs, there’s just regular security.”
“Better for us, then.”
Carter frowned as he took a bite of his sandwich. “The security might be scant, but they could still cause us trouble. The guards make regular rounds, and then there’s Hoover and the other agents to consider. What if they come back after dinner?”
“They won’t,” Charles said. “Hoover wants to hold a meeting over dinner at The Lakeshore Club.”
“That tony place?”asked Johnny.
Charles nodded as he cut his steak. “He’ll preen like a peacock while he holds court. That dinner will be a long one. It’s doubtful they’ll come back, at least until we’re long gone.”
“Shouldn’t we go now?” asked Doris, putting down her sandwich.
Carter shook his head. “The guards are in the lobby until seven, and besides, too many people around.”
Charles nodded. “We can get in and out right quick later.” He glanced over at Red a few tables down. “Hamilton gonna be the lobby man?”
“That’s usually Pete’s job,” Johnny grinned. “But, yeah, Red will keep things nice ‘n’ quiet in the lobby, if we need it. Doris, you and Carter use the elevator to get upstairs. Charles and I will take the stairs.”
“Where will your men be?” Carter asked.
“In a car a few feet down the block. Charles is behind the wheel, Pete’s ridin’ shotgun, and Homer’s going to be in the hat store, keeping his eyes open.”
“Sounds like one of your damned bank jobs,” muttered Charles.
Johnny chuckled. “Organization is the key, cowboy.” All good humor left his face. The dangerous John Dillinger replaced the genial Gentleman Johnny. “I want my Mel back before they hurt him any worse.”
“You’ll have your man back before the night is out,” Charles promised, and Carter and Doris nodded.
Johnny hoped so, for both his and Mel’s sakes.
SCENES FROM A RESCUE
As heroes found,
That life is profound
When faced with sound
Axel P. Brown
"Sound And Fury"
Johnny drank his hot chocolate, outwardly calm, but Doris noticed the faint tremor in his hand. She wondered what his thoughts were. He was used to tense operations, but he had always carried off his bank robberies with élan. The stakes were so much higher now.
She sipped her own coffee, checking her watch. The proprietor of The Yellow Daffodil had locked the door, only unlocking it to let customers out. It was 6:30, the restaurant closing at six because they opened at six in the morning for breakfast. The remaining diners were finishing up their meals.
The foursome at the booth lingered as long as they dared, waiting for seven o’clock. Red had already left to join the rest of the gang.
Doris smiled at Charles. She was amazed that he had thrown his lot in with them, but he was even more attractive to her now. He looked up and met her eyes, smiling back.
They were the last customers left, and Charles put down his coffee cup. “We should go and let these nice people close up.”
Doris noticed that it was 6:45. Close enough.
Out on the cold Chicago street, Doris and Carter headed back to the Bankers Building. Johnny nodded to Red, who was walking briskly past them on his way to the building.
Charles looked at Johnny. “You’ve got guts, I’ll give you that.”
“Thanks, Agent Winstead.”
“I won’t even get after ya for involvin’ Doris. She has a mind of her own, that one. Even if you told her not to do this, she would.”
Johnny grinned. “She’s quite a woman.”
“Damned straight.” Charles pulled his fedora brim a little lower. “And I gotta say, you’re a loyal one.”
Johnny’s smile was a little brighter. “It’s easy to be with Mel.”
“He must be some charmer.”
“Oh, he is.”
Charles snorted as Johnny laughed. “We’d best be goin’ to get your man.”
“That we should.”
The two of them walked down the street toward the Bankers Building.
Mel feebly clawed at the handcuff. His wrist was throbbing. The skin had been rubbed raw by now, and on his ankle, too, from the other cuff. He yanked on the wrist cuff in frustration. His head pounded and his stomach fluttered with nausea. Slumping in his chair, he whispered, “Johnny.”
J. Edgar Hoover was holding court, just the way he liked it. Sam was to his right, Doc to his left. He missed Clyde by his side, but his longtime companion had stayed behind in Washington, perhaps sensing Hoover’s desperation to get Mel back.
The Lakeshore Club was swanky, all dark wood and glittering chandeliers and thick, plush, wine-red carpet. The food and drinks were of high quality, and maybe the wine could soothe the burning in his gut.
How dare that ungrateful wretch betray him in the worse possible way! Why, he had made a star out of that man. Melvin Purvis could have had the world delivered to him on a silver platter, tied with a big, red bow, but had spurned it all for gutter trash like Dillinger.
Really, it was all so insane! Melvin could be by his side right now in this prestigious club, looked up to by the other Bureau agents and the civilians casting glances their way from the other tables.
Instead he had chosen to run around with low-lifes, hiding in safehouses and never knowing where his next meal was coming from, instead of dining on the sumptuous feast spread out before him.
Melvin was gorgeous, but did not have a brain his pretty head.
Doris and Carter took the elevator up to the 19th floor. It would have been too cruel to force Carter to walk the stairs.
As the doors closed and the elevator began to rise, Doris said, “You really are a good friend, aren’t you?”
Carter chuckled. “I hope so. Mel’s always been one to me.” His smile faded. “After Little Bohemia, I was at a loss to understand what had happened and why Mel had disappeared. I feared that he was dead, and when I learned that he was alive but with Dillinger, that hurt.”
“I can understand that.” Doris glanced up at the floor indicator. “You didn’t know about his feelings for Johnny. It must have seemed like a terrible betrayal, but I can’t believe that he deliberately messed up that operation to let Johnny get away, like some of the agents believe.”
“No, that’s not Mel.” Carter ran his thumb up-and-down his cane. “I want to apologize about earlier.”
He shook his head and met her eyes. “I was upset by Mel running off with Dillinger. He betrayed us here at the Bureau for the man he…we…were supposed to bring to justice.” He sighed. “Maybe I wanted to punish him for that, I don’t know, but I thought about it last night after seeing him so beaten up.” His eyes were haunted. “Doris, the Bureau betrayed him. All this thuggery…we’re no better than the gangsters! In fact, we might be worse, because the gangsters don’t pretend to uphold justice.”
Doris sympathetically patted his arm. “It’ll be all right, Carter.”
He smiled a little. “Let’s go rescue Mel.”
The elevator dinged as it reached the 19th floor, the doors sliding open.
Johnny hiked up the stairs, adrenaline pushing him on. He was impressed by Charles’ stamina. The lean Texan was barely breathing hard. He had to have at least twenty years on Johnny. As they reached the 16th floor, Johnny halted.
“What is it?” Charles whispered.
“Thought I heard somethin’.” They both listened for a minute, but all was quiet. “Guess I was wrong.”
“Let’s wait a minute to be sure.”
Johnny nodded, leaning against the wall. He craved a cigarette, but there was no time. He hated waiting, but patience was required in operations like this. He just was anxious to get to his Mel. He glanced up the stairs.
“You’ve really got it bad, don’t you?”
Johnny looked at Charles, a small smile on his face. “Yeah.” He scratched his head. “Darned if I know how it h happened.”
“I wouldn’t fret on it much, son. That Southern belle of yours is a pretty piece, all right.”
“I know.” Johnny laid his head back against the wall. “I can’t help but feel that Mel would be better off without me, though. Seems like I’ve brought him nothin’ but trouble.”
“Trouble he’s willin’ to take on.”
“I know.” Johnny pulled his fedora lower over his eyes. “But I don’t like him suffering."
Johnny smiled. “That he is.” He squared his shoulders. “Let’s go get him.”
Mel was so tired. All he wanted to do was sleep and dream. He suspected that his suffering would increase a thousandfold once he was in Leavenworth or some other Federal prison. Would he be able to just check out and live on his memories when the guards and prisoners had their way with him?
He gasped as a sharp pain sliced through his side like a red-hot poker.
Maybe he would be spared a long life in prison.
Hoover was growing increasingly restless. He was tired of the syncophantic answers and toadying, at least for the moment. All bright young men except for Doc, the tough old Texan, and Reinecke, dumb as a post, but none could hold a candle to his Melvin. He missed honeyed Southern tones, stylish suits, and liquid-dark eyes gazing adoringly at him, as Melvin had done when they had first met.
We could be that way again, honey. You’re just too good to let go.
Hoover made up his mind. He would give Melvin one more chance.
“Boys, time to get back to the Bankers Building.”