When we are naked
In this world,
Is all we have.
Ashton Keller "The Price Paid" 1921 C.E.
“I’m gonna blow his brains out all over this fuckin’ alley!”
Johnny’s stomach contracted as he stood at the entrance of the alley, Baby Face Nelson with the barrel of a machine gun directly against his Mel’s temple.
Mel was kneeling on the hard ground, his hands tied behind his back, his face bruised, a cut over his right eye glistening with blood. His white suit was rumpled and stained with blood, his fedora on the ground a few feet away close to a set of garbage cans.
“I’m gonna do him just like the Outfit! One bullet clean through the head. Stinkin’ Fed. I’m sick of ‘em doggin’ us! And it’s even better that it’s Hoover’s pet.”
Red was at Johnny’s elbow, Homer, Pete and Charles behind them. They all had their weapons with them, but Johnny was deathly afraid that Mel would be killed in the crossfire.
Mel looked at him, his dark eyes calm. No doubt his lover was well aware of his precarious situation but refused to show any fear.
Just hang in there, honey.
Nelson was out-of-control. He hated cops but seemed really maniacal about the Bureau’s agents. Johnny was Mel’s only hope. He knew that Nelson admired him.
Time to turn on the charm, Johnny-boy.
“Jimmy, hey, man, I appreciate your frustration but it’s never a good idea to knock off a Fed. Too much heat.”
Nelson laughed. “Fuck the heat! The Feds are stumblebums. They’ll never pin this one me. ‘Sides, even if they do, I’m already marked for the chair. What’s one less Fed?” He pressed the gun harder to Mel’s head.
“He’s right. It won’t be wise to kill a Federal agent,” Mel drawled. He winced as Nelson grabbed his hair and pulled his head back.
“Shut up, Fed! Man, you sure got chutzpah, Purvis. Waltzin’ into my place at the Sherone Apartments, bold as brass, pretty as you please. It’s gonna be a pleasure to splatter your brains all over the brick wall!”
Nelson began to tighten his finger on the tommygun’s trigger.
Johnny nearly shouted but quickly kept his fear in check. “Jimmy, if you plug Purvis you’ll have every cop in the neighborhood come running. Let me take care of him.” With everything I have, Mel.
Nelson sneered, “He don’t deserve anything but a bullet, Johnny.” He laughed. “I ain’t afraid of no coppers!”
“Well, the Outfit wouldn’t take kindly to a body bearing their trademark.”
Johnny’s heart was racing. If Nelson didn’t listen to reason, he’d have to try something crazy. It was Mel’s only chance. The wind off Lake Michigan howled as it swept through the alley, Johnny grabbing his hat to keep it from blowing away.
“Just let me handle this, Jimmy.” He smiled while his gut twisted, tilting his fedora at a rakish angle. “I’d consider it a personal favor.”
Nelson was torn. Once his killing blood was up, it was difficult for him to restrain himself.
Not to mention that he’s crazy, Johnny thought grimly. His hand tightened on the gun in his pocket. He despaired of getting Nelson before he killed his Mel, though. He had to persuade this nut to back off.
The gleam of bloodlust was in Nelson’s eyes. Mel remained still, but his eyes never left Johnny’s face. He looked like he was saying goodbye.
Not goodbye, sweetheart, not yet. It ain’t endin’ in this godforsaken alley, that’s a promise.
Nelson stared down at Mel, a sneer on his face, and moved.
Johnny felt ice freeze through his body but Mel was thrown against the wall, a grunt of pain escaping his lips as his head hit the bricks hard.
“He’s all yours, Johnny.”
Nelson cocked his gun upward, flashed a grin at Johnny, and walked off.
Immediately Johnny was on his knees, heedless of his pants getting dirty. He put his arms around Mel tightly, quickly untying his hands.
“It’s okay, Sunshine, it’s okay. That madman’s gone.”
Johnny stroked Mel’s hair, feeling the other man slipping his arms around him and holding on tight. He could feel a slight trembling and didn’t blame Mel one bit. If Johnny hadn’t persuaded him otherwise, Nelson would have killed Mel in cold blood. His own blood ran cold at the thought.
“Johnny,” Mel whispered.
“You’re all right now.” Johnny pulled back and looked into his lover’s eyes.
Mel smiled a trifle shakily. “I know.”
Johnny frowned. He touched the cut over Mel’s eye. Mel smiled and grasped Johnny’s hand, kissing his fingers.
Johnny grinned, his eyes shining softly. Mel could always bring out the sap in him.
“Come on, sugar.”
Johnny helped Mel to stand, checking him over for injury, then caressed his face.
Suddenly he remembered that they weren’t alone. He turned, his arm around Mel for support as the other man listed slightly.
Red was smiling, and Johnny could see admiration and new-found respect in his and the other men’s eyes as they looked at Mel.
“Well, Mel, how about coming with us back to our place? You look like you could use a drink.”
“I could. Thank you, Red.”
Mel’s voice was soft but firm, accepting his fedora that Homer had picked up for him. Johnny kept his arm around his lover as his men formed a cordon of protection around their leader and the man he loved, and they now accepted. A man of courage was always valuable to have around.
Johnny smiled with pride as they headed for the car.