Trixie sighed in relief and set her completed paper on Miss Brown’s desk as the class filed out of the room. The teacher looked up at Trixie and smiled.
“Glad to be finished?”
A broad grin spread across Trixie’s face. “Yes, ma’am! I really enjoyed the research, but the writing,” she shuddered. “Well, I just hope you take the research into account when you’re grading it!”
Miss Brown smiled. “Always, dear. What was your topic?”
Trixie grinned impishly. “Why, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, of course.”
“Of course.” Miss Brown nodded. “I’m not surprised, since technically it is still an unsolved crime. Not a particularly happy moment in American history, but an interesting study. I look forward to reading your paper, Miss Belden.”
Trixie waved good-bye and headed for her locker. It was Friday, February 14, and she had no plans. In fact, she was completely on her own with no plans. Honey was taking the train to New York to meet Brian for a date. Mart and Di had planned a romantic dinner at a restaurant in White Plains. Even Moms and Dad were going to the Manor House for an adult party with the Wheelers and Lynches. Luckily, Bobby was spending the evening with the Lynch twins. It’s bad enough I have no plans for Valentine’s Day. If I had to take care of Bobby, I’d really be in a bad mood.
She shrugged her shoulders and struggled to find the textbooks she needed to complete her homework. I can always get a head start on homework. Why not add cleaning to the list, she thought gloomily. Slamming the locker door shut, she ran straight into Dan.“Whoa!” he smiled, and bent to retrieve his scattered books.
Trixie blushed. “Sorry, Dan. I wasn’t paying attention.”
He smiled. “So I gathered. I’ve been standing here for five minutes, waiting for you to notice me.” He nodded towards her locker. “It looked like you were giving your books some pretty rough treatment. Tough day?”
Trixie blushed harder and looked away. “No. Actually, it was a good day. I handed in a major term paper. Freedom!”
Dan smiled indulgently. “And what are you doing with your freedom?”
Trixie’s smile vanished.
Dan raised his eyebrows. “Experiencing a case of the Valentine’s Day Blues, are we?”
Trixie rolled her eyes. “Of course not. Valentine’s Day is an over-marketed holiday designed to force people to spend money and bolster the economy.”
Dan nodded. “Yup.”
Trixie continued. “It was invented by the greeting card industry to help them get through the post-Christmas slump.”
“It forces otherwise happy people to feel out of place for not being in a relationship.”
“You’re preaching to the choir, Trix.” Dan waited until Trixie had zipped her jacket and gathered her backpack. “No plans for the evening?” he asked casually.
“Nope. Everybody’s out on dates.”
“Jim’s not calling you?”
Trixie blushed. “He called yesterday to say he had a project meeting tonight.”
Dan nodded.“What about you?” Trixie asked, eager to shift the conversation away from her relationship with Jim.
He shrugged. “I haven’t decided yet. There’s not much to do around the cabin, but...”
Trixie nodded. “At least you have Mr. Maypenny for company. I’ll be talking to myself while I dust the living room.” She paused. “Well, there is always the No Dates Allowed party.”
Dan raised his eyebrows. “You wouldn’t.”
Trixie shrugged. “It’s better than serenading a dust cloth.”
Dan steered her towards the bus. “No. It isn’t. That party is just an excuse for extremely horny guys to find lonely, desperate girls. Which you’re not.”
“Well, what do you suggest? Want to tag along on one of my brothers’ dates?”
Dan grinned. “I don’t think we’d live to tell about it, if we tried. We’d be in serious violation of the Third Wheel Code.”
“There’s a code now?”
“Oh, you didn’t know?” Dan picked a seat on the bus close to the other Bob Whites and gestured for Trixie to sit with him. “Let me enlighten you with the intricacies of said Code.”
“No Mart speak, please,” Trixie pleaded.
“Within a group of friends, it is permissible to horn in on somebody else’s date when invited. However, special occasions nullify the invitation; i.e. birthdays, celebrations, holidays. These invitations must be refused. Even if you find someone to escort you, as a Third Wheel, it does not qualify as a double date and is in violation of the Code. There are exceptions, but these must be used sparingly and do not apply to today’s circumstances.”
“Didn’t I request no Mart speak?” Trixie wondered out loud.
Dan continued. “It is, however, permissible to find a friend of the opposite gender who is also in the position of Third Wheel, and spend the special occasion with them, as long as there is no obligation on either party to make more of the evening than the other party wants.”
Trixie frowned. “What?”
Dan laughed. “Want to go to a movie with me? We can go to a chick flick and make fun of the contrived plots. What do you say?”
“Well, it does sound like more fun than homework or cleaning. Of course,” she pretended to examine her nails. “You do realize I’m also giving up an evening of watching never-ending jewellery commercials. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, you know.”
Dan snorted. “I’m sure Honey would love to hear about her replacement. She just might have a word or two to say on that subject. What a pile of … ” Dan stopped himself and focused on the topic at hand. “Does that mean you’ll go?”
Dan smiled. “I’ll pick you up at seven. We should be able to catch the double feature.”
Trixie settled back in her seat and watched her friends. Suddenly, it wasn’t quite so irritating to see Mart and Di holding hands and giggling. She smiled as Honey stared dreamily out the window. It really was sweet how Brian and Honey acted around each other. Maybe the day wouldn’t turn out so terribly. After all, Jim had called the evening before, and she was actually going out to the movies. It could be a lot worse.
Promptly at seven, Dan arrived in his ’77 Volare. Trixie threw a jacket over her red sweater and picked up her shoulder bag. She raised her eyebrows as Dan hopped out to open the passenger door for her.
“Are you turning chivalrous on me?” she asked in surprise.
“I figure one night a year won’t kill me.” He grinned. “Plus, the door doesn’t always open. Sometimes it needs a little persuasion.”
As they drove past the Wheeler’s driveway, Trixie asked,“So, what is Regan up to? Does he have a hot date?”
Dan groaned. “Not you, too. Half the girls at school are grilling me about Uncle Bill. I know he’s good looking and all, but really!”
Trixie snorted. “I was just curious. I always wondered what became of Joan.”
Dan shrugged. “He doesn’t tell me stuff like that. Although,” he waggled his eyebrows, “I did see a copy of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus in his apartment last week.”
“Wow! That’s kind of – “
“Mysterious?” Dan teased.“Well, maybe a little.” Trixie admitted.“I know. I’d ask him, but I don’t think he’d appreciate the interference.”
Trixie looked thoughtful.“Forget it. He’ll tell us when he’s good and ready.”
Trixie nodded. “You’re right. I just can’t help wondering sometimes.”
When they pulled up at the theatre, they were surprised by the amount of people waiting in line. After waiting for several moments, they purchased their tickets and struggled through the crowd into the theatre proper.
Scanning the room, Dan remarked, “It looks pretty full on the main level. Want to try the balcony?” As Trixie hesitated, he continued, “I promise I’ll be a perfect gentleman.”
Trixie laughed. “I wasn’t worried about that.” She eyed the staircase and shrugged. “Why not?”
After settling themselves in the old, but well-maintained, luxurious seats, Trixie began watching the people around her. Giggling, she turned to Dan. “You’d think they would at least wait until the movie started.”
Dan turned to follow her gaze and almost dropped his popcorn as he observed a young couple lip-locking vigorously. He rubbed his hands on his jeans. “Maybe the balcony wasn’t such a good idea,” he commented.“Well, once the movie starts, we won’t be able to see them.”
Dan nodded and offered her the popcorn. Trixie accepted it, and tried not to watch the couple making out. She sighed. If I were here with Jim, instead of Dan, maybe I wouldn’t see much of the movie, either. She stopped herself. You’re not officially dating. Get your mind out of the gutter! Luckily, the movie started, and Trixie focused her attention on the amusing, if predictable, obstacles overcome by a couple in love. By snorting their way through the sentimental scenes, Trixie and Dan managed to strip away any dignity the movie may have possessed in the original filming.
At the intermission, Dan asked, “Well, did you enjoy the movie?”
Trixie smiled. “I enjoyed making fun of it!”
“What? Steve Zahn doesn’t do it for you?”
Trixie shrugged. “He’s okay. A little too much like Mart for my taste, though.”
Dan nodded. “I see your point. Ready for the next one?”
By the time the opening credits rolled across the screen, Trixie knew she was in trouble. The late nights of research and writing were finally catching up with her. Five minutes into the movie, she felt her head jerk suddenly. Two minutes later, she gave up and leaned back in her seat.
Trixie tugged impatiently at her navy pleated skirt. Aunt Alicia smiled sympathetically. “We won’t stay long. I promise. We’ll say hello to the Walters, socialize for a while, and then you can go home and you can put on those trousers you seem to enjoy so much.”
Trixie grinned. “We’ll stay as long as you like, Aunt Alicia. I love meeting new people. I went to all the work of putting this silly outfit on, I might as well show it off.”
“Good girl. I think you’ll enjoy yourself. The Walters always have an interesting assortment of guests.”
The door opened, and their hostess greeted Trixie and Aunt Alicia.“
It’s good to see you, Alicia. And this must be your niece, Beatrix.”
Trixie winced at her formal name, but didn’t correct her. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Walters. My aunt speaks very highly of you.”
Donna Walters smiled and led them to the parlour. “I think you know everyone here, Alicia. I’ll let you introduce your niece.”
For nearly an hour, Trixie enjoyed meeting several people. She was involved in a discussion of the merits of higher education for women at co-ed universities when the doorbell rang. She looked up as Donna opened the door to a handsome redhead.
“I’m sorry I’m late, Mrs. Walters. It’s been a busy day at the precinct.”
Trixie’s ears pricked up, and she studied the newcomer carefully. He was tall, probably 6’2”, and powerfully built. He walked with an air of confidence, an easy grin gracing his handsome face. His rusty red hair was slightly askew, no doubt from the hat he promptly removed upon entering the residence. A light smattering of freckles across his face made Trixie smile. I wonder if he dislikes his freckles as much as I despise mine. Of course, on him they’re kind of cute…
Trixie blushed as the young man caught her staring. He disarmed her nervousness by smiling and approaching her.
“I don’t believe we’ve met,” he began.“I’m James Frayne.” He extended his hand and shook hers firmly.
Trixie was saved the trouble of a reply by the appearance of Mrs. Walters.
“I see you’ve met our famous detective, Miss Beatrix. Detective Frayne has recently been promoted, based on his work to eradicate the flow of liquor.”
Trixie’s eyes brightened. “How exciting! I would love to hear about your work, Detective Frayne.”
James shrugged his shoulders. “I’m sure you don’t want to hear about my job. Half of it consists of paper work, and the other half is often dirty and depressing.”
“On the contrary,” Trixie exclaimed. “I happen to be very interested in law enforcement, especially in regards to prohibition.”
Mrs. Walters smiled. “I’ll leave you to yourselves, then.”
Trixie tucked a stray curl under her form-fitting cap as James studied her intently.
“I assure you, Mr. Frayne, that you will not offend me by discussing the more sensitive nature of your work.”
Alicia looked up from her conversation. “Oh, my, no. I can’t think of anything that would offend my niece. In the field of law enforcement, at least. In fact, only recently she assisted her local police department in the apprehension of a jewel thief. She was instrumental”
“Aunt Alicia, I’m sure Detective Frayne isn’t interested in that.”
James’ eyes lit up as Trixie blushed prettily.
“Oh, but I see it’s now my turn to be contrary. Please, tell me about your experiences. A jewel thief, you say?” And he turned to her with such an attentive expression that Trixie found herself outlining her latest escapade.
“The thieves turned out to be migrant fruit harvesters from Georgia,” she concluded. “They preyed on women who were careless with jewellery during the hot summer months. They probably would have gotten away with it, but they quarrelled, and lost the most valuable jewel they had stolen.” Trixie shrugged. “It didn’t take a genius to figure out that they wouldn’t leave town without it. Our neighbours hired one of the pair as a chauffeur. Once we figured out his references were forged, it was easy to trap him.” She frowned. “Unfortunately, the other man escaped.”
Detective Frayne nodded in understanding. “So, you do have an idea of the frustrations that come with crime-solving.”
Trixie smiled and chose not to tell the good detective that there was an excellent chance she had solved more cases than he. Instead, she steered the conversation toward the hot topic of the day, prohibition.
“The war of the speak-easy goes on, then, Detective?”
James smiled grimly. “Always. It seems we are continuously one step behind. It takes time to infiltrate the mafia, and our agents simply haven’t gotten very far.”
“I can see how it would be difficult for a man to rise to a higher position in the organization,” Trixie said thoughtfully.
A hard edge entered Detective Frayne’s eyes, and for the first time Trixie noticed how very green they were. “Make no mistake, Miss Belden. We will have order in the city of Chicago.”
Trixie bit her lip and nervously studied her reflection in the full-length mirror. Her sequin-covered top was form-fitting and stayed in place only by the virtue of two tiny straps. She pulled restlessly at her skirt in a futile attempt to cover more of her legs. This is exposing more skin than my regular under garments, she lamented.
“Are you sure the skirt is supposed to be this short?”
Jessica raised her eyebrows. “Honey, our costumes don’t normally have skirts.” She appraised the new back-up singer carefully.
“You look fine. Everyone’s nervous the first time on stage. You’re gonna knock ‘em dead!”
“Thanks, Jessica.” Trixie took a deep breath and pursed her heavily lip-sticked mouth. “Here goes nothing!”
An hour later, Trixie collapsed at a small table with a glass of soda. Her hands had stopped shaking, but her stomach was still unsettled. Allowing herself a small smile, she conceded that the performance had gone well, much better than she expected. The men had been so distracted by their costumes (or lack of), that her mediocre singing had gone largely undetected.
She closed her eyes briefly, and then discreetly studied the patrons of the speak-easy. Most of the regulars were there, as well as plenty of regular Joes looking for a good time. She suppressed a shudder as she watched the “professional” girls leave with their clients and hurriedly dropped her eyes as Albert Anselmi walked across her path of vision. Time to put that high school acting experience to work, she told herself.
Looking up, she saw Albert eyeing her hungrily. Trixie waited until he was almost to her table before glancing up at him and batting her eyelashes.
Albert eased into the seat beside her and nodded appreciatively. “You looked mighty fine up there, Trixie. Didn’t I tell you you’re a natural?”
Trixie looked up with intentionally wide blue eyes. “Do you really think so, Mr. Anselmi? I wasn’t at all sure that I hit all my notes.”
He smiled patronizingly. “You did just fine, honey. Now, why don’t you and I go somewhere else, and we can talk about your next gig?”
Trixie placed her hand on Albert’s arm. “Let’s just stay here for a while. Don’t you want to buy me a drink?”
At the touch of her hand the hungry look in his eye threatened to become ravenous. “Whatever you want, little lady.”
Trixie dropped her eyes and smiled shyly. “I’ve got you just where I want you.
The air in the small office was stifling.
“Miss Belden, what are you doing?”
Trixie weighed the anger in his voice against the genuine concern and bit back the sharp retort on the tip of her tongue.
“I’m helping you.”
Detective James Frayne raked a hand through his hair. “Miss Belden,”
“Trixie,” she interrupted.
James’ eyes softened. “Trixie. You’re not helping if I’m awake half the night worrying about you.”
She paused, startled by the image of Detective Frayne lying in bed, losing sleep over her.
“I’m sorry,” she finally said. Recovering quickly, she continued.“But you have to admit, my information is good.”
Detective Frayne sighed. “Yes, it’s good. And that has me even more concerned. Do you know with whom you’re dealing? From whom you’re getting this information? He has to be pretty high up to know the things he does.”
Trixie bit her lip. “I know.”
James shook his head. “Trixie,” he hesitated.“I don’t want to see you get hurt. Or do something you’ll regret.”
Trixie caught his meaning and blushed furiously. “I can assure you, Detective Frayne, that I am not doing anything that I could possibly regret!”
She spun on her heel and tried to leave, but James was out from behind his desk in a heartbeat and grasped both of her arms firmly. “Not so fast,” he commanded.
Trixie raised her eyebrows, but didn’t struggle.
James’ lips were set in a thin line. “Be careful. Do not let them find out what you’re doing. I won’t move on any information you give me until you come across something big, and I know you’re out of danger.”
His grip had relaxed, but Trixie stood still, searching the eyes of the handsome detective. She nodded briefly, and stepped out of the office. Ignoring the eyes of the curious officers, she held her head high and stepped out into the busy city street.
The room was crowded, smoky, and loud. Trixie winced as she was jostled by a couple dancing energetically, and “accidentally” groped by an obviously inebriated man. Uncomfortable and feeling ridiculous in her three inch heels and racy dress, she pushed her way through the dancing couples, and finally leaned one elbow on the bar.
“The usual, please, Rick.”
The handsome bartender smiled at her while shaking his head.“Ever going to step up to the real stuff?”
Trixie winked. “A girl’s got to stay on her toes in a place like this.”
Rick handed her two drinks and gestured to the far corner of the room.“Mr. Anselmi is looking for you.”
Trixie smiled flirtatiously and tossed her blonde curls. “How do I look, Rick?”
“Like a million bucks.” Rick’s answer was quietly sincere.
She picked up the drinks and headed for the table in the corner. Placing the drinks in front of Albert, she leaned over far enough to draw his attention to her cleavage.
“Looking for me?” she asked in the sultriest voice she could muster.
He managed to raise his eyes to her face and reached out to draw her into the seat next to him. She pressed up against him as she sat down and watched him toss back the whiskey.
He grimaced as he set the glass down, but allowed a sly grin as his arm snaked around Trixie’s waist.
“I missed you on stage tonight.”
Trixie shrugged nonchalantly. “You know I don’t like performing.”
“That’s too bad, ‘cause I sure miss seeing you in that little costume.” His highly alcoholic breath was tickling her ear, and his hand was no longer content around her waist.
She gently removed his hand, but leaned forward to stroke his cheek.“You’re in a good mood today.”
A slow, cruel smile crept over his mouth. “Let’s just say that someone’s going to get their come-uppance real soon.”
“Well, I’m sure they deserve it,” Trixie soothed.
“You bet they do.” His words were beginning to slur.
A waitress appeared with two more drinks, Rick close behind.“Your car is ready, Mr. Anselmi.”
Albert rose to his feet unsteadily. Rick quickly took his arm and glanced at Trixie. She sighed and took Albert’s other arm. Together, they supported him until he collapsed in the back of his car. Rick looked at her doubtfully.
“I can’t leave right now. Do you think you can get him back to the hotel okay? I’m sure his driver will take you home.”
Trixie nodded slowly. “That’ll be fine, Rick. I’ll make sure he gets home okay.”
The drive to the hotel was short. Within moments, the driver of the car was helping Trixie guide Albert to his room.
“Fifth floor, please.” Albert’s voice was still thick, but the rest in the car seemed to have sobered him slightly. Fishing the key from his pocket, he waved it in front of Trixie.
“So, all I had to do was get drunk to get you to come back to my place?”
Trixie smiled. “Shhh. I’ll order a big pot of coffee for you when we get there.”
Unlocking the door, the driver asked, “Shall I take you home now, miss?”
Trixie studied the silly smile on Anselmi’s face and shook her head.“I can find my own way home. I’ll just make sure he gets to bed.”
Albert grinned lecherously. “Oh, I’ll get to bed, alright.”
Trixie groaned inwardly as the driver left. This better not backfire, she thought as she closed the door.
She watched as Albert sank onto his bed.
“I think I’ll just take a little rest,” he grunted.
You do that, Trixie prayed. When she was certain his eyes were closed, she began routing through the bedside table and dresser. Aside from a deck of playing cards decorated with scantily clad women, she found nothing of interest. Her heart raced when Albert’s voice caught her off guard.
“Watcha lookin’ for, honey?”
She smiled sweetly at him. “Just the number for room service. You look like you could use some coffee. And maybe a sandwich?”
Albert’s face turned a pale shade of green at the mention of food.“Just coffee, please. The hotel operator will put you through.”
Trixie nodded and made the call. She was pleasantly surprised when she heard a knock at the door only a few minutes later. Upon opening the door, however, she found not a waiter, but a man she knew from the bar. The man with dark, slick hair looked at her contemptuously before roughly pushing her aside so he could enter the room.
“Anselmi, tell your woman here that we need some privacy.”
Albert sat up unsteadily, but nodded.
“Trixie, honey, I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”
Trixie nodded, surprised at how quickly Albert sobered at the sight of Jack McGurn. She gathered her purse and jacket, and watched discreetly as Anselmi went to the bathroom and came back with some papers.
“I got the names right here, McGurn.”
“Good. He’ll learn not to take shots at me.”
Both men looked at her pointedly, and she knew she couldn’t stall any longer. She smiled brightly and took her leave, wishing that she could take just one look at the papers.
Trixie sighed. “That’s all I know, Detective Frayne. McGurn wants revenge on someone who took shots at him.”
James looked across the desk to the attractive young lady. She was dressed stylishly, much more so than the day they had met. Her blond curls were carefully coiffed and held in place. Her full lips were accentuated by the bright shade of lipstick she wore. But, what held his attention were the dark circles under her eyes.
He moved from behind his desk to sit on the front corner. “Are you having trouble sleeping, Miss Belden?”
Trixie looked up sharply. “I’ll sleep just fine when I know what’s happening. Something big is going down, I’m sure of it.”
Detective Frayne nodded. “Capone is still in Florida. I don’t think they’ll make any big moves until he’s back.”
She shook her head slowly. “I don’t think they’re waiting. It sounds,” she paused, “personal. I’m not sure Capone’s even involved.”
James felt the familiar sinking feeling in the pit of stomach at Trixie’s next words.
“I know where he keeps his papers.”
“Who? What papers?”
She sighed. “I was in Anselmi’s room at the Lexington Hotel last night.”
She stopped when James stood up abruptly. His eyes blazed hotly.“His hotel room? Are you crazy? What were you doing in his hotel room?”
Trixie stood up and returned his fiery gaze. “I was trying to gather information. That’s it.” She paused and took pity on him.“Anselmi was drunk. Much too drunk to…” her voice trailed off. “Let’s just say I felt fairly safe going to his room.”
James shook his head. “You are one brave lady, you know that?”
“I thought the word was crazy.”
He smiled. “Yeah, that too. Anyway, you found his notes?”
“Not exactly. McGurn showed up, and Anselmi went into the bathroom, and came back with some papers. There’s nowhere else the papers could have been.”
James nodded thoughtfully. “So McGurn wants revenge on someone. A lot of people have had run-ins with him over the years. We’re going to have to narrow it down.”
Trixie nodded. “Exactly. I’ll go back to Anselmi’s room and get a look at those papers.”
“Go back to his room? You got lucky once, Miss Belden.”
“Trixie,” she interrupted.
“Trixie,” he agreed. “You got lucky once. Why don’t you let us handle it from here?”
She snorted. “Do you really think you could get onto the fifth floor of the Lexington Hotel?” She looked up at him pleadingly.“You know it’s not safe for a cop.”
“But it’s safe for you?”
Trixie smiled. “If I get caught, I think Anselmi would be a whole lot happier to see me in his room, than you.”
James narrowed his eyes.
“Oh, please. I’ve got Anselmi where I want him. I can do this, James.” She decided to appeal to his sense of civic duty.“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a step ahead, for once?”
He was weakening.
“All I have to do is encourage him to drink, take him back to his hotel room, wait until he passes out, and then search the bathroom.”
“Is that all?” James sat back down behind his desk, set his elbows on the desk, and his head in his hands. “Trixie ” His voice softened. “Do you have any idea how dangerous this is? What if he wakes up and catches you with the papers? What if he doesn’t pass out and expects,” he stopped abruptly and banged his hand on the desk. “Darn it, Trixie, you’re going somewhere I can’t send back-up.”
Trixie pleaded with him. “Look, James. I know it’s risky, but Albert trusts me.”
James frowned at the use of Anselmi’s first name
“And I don’t think getting him drunk will be a problem. If I’m bringing them, he’ll drink. Rick will help.”
James’ frown deepened. “Are you sure Rick doesn’t have ties to Anselmi you don’t know about? It’ll get ugly if this comes back at you.”
Trixie rolled her eyes. “I’m not going to tell him anything. I’ll just say we’re celebrating, and he’ll keep the drinks coming. And before you ask, I’m still drinking soda.”
James held up a hand. “It hadn’t even occurred to me to ask. Scout’s honour.”
“So, we’re agreed, then?”
He sighed. “Why do I get the feeling it really doesn’t matter if I agree? You’re just going to go ahead and do what you want anyway, aren’t you?”
Trixie winked. “We’re beginning to understand each other, Detective Frayne.”
“James,” he corrected.
“James,” she repeated, and wondered what it was about calling him by his first name that gave her such a thrill.
Trixie shivered and closed the bathroom door behind her. “Stay asleep, stay asleep, stay asleep,” became her mantra as she tried to calm her nerves.
This is it, she told herself. He’s finally drunk and passed out. It’s your only chance to look for the papers.
She leaned against the door and studied the room carefully. It took only seconds to ascertain that the only viable hiding spot was the cupboard under the bathroom sink. She knelt on the floor and pulled on the cabinet door, closing her eyes and repeating her mantra as the door stuck, and then opened with a loud pop. Listening intently, she didn’t hear any movement from the bedroom. She breathed a sigh of relief and pushed aside rolls of toilet paper and bars of soap.
In the back of the cabinet, her fingers closed around a shoebox. When she lifted it out, her eyes grew wide. The shoebox was decorated in pink tissue paper. With red construction paper hearts. And fluffy little cotton balls. She suppressed a snort, and idly speculated whether the box was a kid’s Valentine craft project, or a gift from a crush.
Opening the box, she found a stack of neatly folded papers. She eagerly opened them, and read what appeared to be a who’s who list of alcohol suppliers. Her eyes grew wide. This was definitely a dangerous list. On another sheet, she found the names of drivers who were willing to transport alcohol illegally. She scanned both lists quickly, but didn’t recognize any names. She shrugged.
I’m sure the police will know what to do with these, she muttered.
Digging deeper in the box, she found a pocket-sized calendar. It was flipped open to the current month, and the fourteenth was circled with a heart. She had to giggle. He must be more of a romantic than I thought. At the very bottom of the shoebox, she found several small red paper hearts with initials on them, Cupid’s arrow striking through the letters. That’s strange, she thought. Usually lovers’ hearts have two sets of initials, but these only have one.
She shrugged and pulled a notebook from her purse, determined to copy as much information as she could. Her hand was aching by the time she had finished copying the two lists. She bit her lip and eyed the hearts. They seemed useless, and yet… She had copied the letters from only one heart when she heard a low groan and shuffling coming from the bedroom. Her heart in her mouth, she replaced the items from the shoebox as accurately as she could, and shoved it back in the cabinet. When she heard the footsteps head for the bathroom, she hurriedly flushed the toilet and ran some water in the sink.
Throwing the door open, Anselmi stumbled into the room and pushed her aside. Grateful that he didn’t seem upset to see her, Trixie left Albert to his business, and retrieved her coat and purse. When Anselmi appeared again, looking pale and shaky, Trixie smiled sympathetically.“I’ll just leave you to get some rest now.”
Barely even glancing at her, Anselmi headed straight for the bed and crawled in. Trixie smiled and let herself out. That was almost too easy, she thought.
Trixie lay awake in the coldest part of the night, and listened to the wind howl against her window. Something wasn’t right. It’s been a week since I found Anselmi’s papers. A week since I gave the information to Detective Frayne. James. She smiled to herself and remembered how pleased James had been to see the lists. They both knew that it would still require a lot of hard work, and solid evidence, but finding the lists was a good start to stopping the flow of illegal liquor.
But the lists, in and of themselves, don’t tell us what they’re planning. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep, but the back of her eyelids showed not the inky blackness she longed for, but displayed the images from the decorated shoebox. Two lists, a calendar, and some hearts. Is he planning something special for Valentine’s Day? She frowned. I’m the closest thing he has to a girlfriend, and he gave me a box of chocolates tonight because he said he wasn’t sure if he’d see me tomorrow. Trixie’s eyes grew wide with dawning recognition. She sat up so abruptly that she smacked her head against the slanted ceiling above her bed.
Ignoring the sparkling stars dancing in front of her, she pressed a hand to her forehead and ran for the telephone. She fished Detective James Frayne’s card out of an untidy drawer and dialled as quickly as her shaking fingers would allow.
“It’s tomorrow, James, I’m sure of it,” Trixie blurted out as soon as he picked up the phone.
Still half-asleep, he responded, “No, Trixie, it’s still today. It’s not quite midnight yet.”
“No!” Trixie tried to curb her impatience. “Whatever McGurn and Anselmi are planning – it’s for tomorrow. Valentines Day was marked on the calendar, but we celebrated today because he thought he might be busy tomorrow. It’s tomorrow, James!”
“Okay.” James tried to clear the sleep from his mind. “It’s tomorrow. But what are they going to do?”
“The initials. It’s got to have something to do with the initials on the hearts.”
“The ones you didn’t have time to copy down?”
Knowing he couldn’t see her, she stuck out her tongue. “What about the one I did get? What were the initials?”
She could hear the rustling of paper in the background.
“G. B. M.” James paused. “You don’t think…”
“I think I do.” Trixie’s voice was serious.“Has‘Bugsie’ Moran ever shot at McGurn?”
“Yes. A while back, Moran tried to take out McGurn with a Chicago typewriter while he was in a phone booth. It was a near thing.” James let out a low whistle. “Well, this is a bit of a predicament. I can’t ignore a threat to a citizen’s life, but I’m certainly not interested in protecting George Moran, one of the biggest names in the liquor trade.”
“There are plenty of people who think that the police should just step back and let the gangsters shoot each other. Saves the expense of a trial and imprisonment.”
“What do you think?” James asked quietly.
Trixie paused. “I don’t know. I guess when it comes right down to it, I can’t turn my back on crime. I’d like to let them take care of themselves, but it would only lead to anarchy and vigilantism.” Sighing, she added, “I wish we knew what they’re up to. I just hope no innocent bystanders get hurt.”
She could feel him nod. “Well, I guess I’ve got some phone calls to make. If we keep tabs on all the players, we might be able to make some arrests.”
His voice was warm and rich. “I think that’s supposed to be my line, Miss Belden.” Before she could remind him to call her by her first name, he continued. “You did a good job, Trixie. I’ll let you know as soon as I know anything.”
“I’m just supposed to sit around and wait?” she asked incredulously.
James allowed himself a small chuckle. “It doesn’t feel so good, being on the waiting end of the game.”
She rubbed her temple. “Not when…”
“Not when you care about the person?” James asked softly.
“I suppose so,” she acknowledged good-naturedly, if slightly reluctantly.
“I’ll be sure to be careful, then.”
Trixie hung up the phone and went back to bed, knowing there was no possibility of sleep.
Unable to bear the waiting for one second longer, Trixie slipped out of her apartment and down to the corner where a young boy she knew would be selling the evening newspaper.
Marcus greeted her enthusiastically. “Hey, Miss Belden! I got a paper right here, waiting for you.”
Trixie smiled in gratitude and handed the boy a coin, hoping against hope that there would be some news to set her mind at ease. One glance at the headline told her all she needed to know. Hand over her mouth; she sank onto a bus stop bench.
The feature article was titled: Six Men Gunned Down - Al Capone Responsible?
With steadily rising horror, Trixie read how six men in Bugsie Moran’s operation had been murdered, execution style. And if the words weren’t enough, there were photographs. Horrible, sickening, fascinating photographs of the men lying on the floor in their own blood.
Unable to focus on the words of the article, Trixie stared at the photograph. This was the work of Jack McGurn and Albert Anselmi. The man she had shared chocolate with last night, the man she had flirted with, the man whose hotel room she had searched, was capable of waking up in the morning and killing six men in cold blood before breakfast. She barely noticed the person who sat down beside her and gently removed the paper from her cold clutch.
“I was hoping to tell you personally.”
Detective James Frayne searched her eyes. With relief, he saw the shell-shocked horror replaced with hot fury.
“How did this happen?”
James folded the paper and tucked it beneath his arm. “It appears as if McGurn, Anselmi, Scalise, and maybe one or two others did the job. Two of them were dressed as cops.” He tried unsuccessfully to hide the disgust in his voice. “They went in posing as police officers, had the men line up against the wall, and shot them. Then they walked out, pretending two of the men were being arrested. Everyone who heard the shots assumed the police were already involved.”
“It was a good plan,” she conceded.
James smiled grimly.“Maybe. They didn’t actually get Moran. Seems he was late for the meeting.”
Trixie closed her eyes and tried to erase the pictures from the newspaper from her memory.
“None of your cases have ended in murder before. It’s okay, Trixie.”
She looked up in surprise. “You know about my cases?”
“You didn’t really think I would let you try to infiltrate Capone’s organization without knowing something about you, did you? I called a friend in the Westchester County Police Department and he told about some of your exploits. He also told me the gangsters were more likely to need protection from you, than the other way around.”
Trixie nodded. “He’s right. If I ever see Anselmi again…”
“I hope you never do. For his sake, and yours.”
James smiled. “And mine, too. It probably wouldn’t look too good if a Detective beat the snot out of him just for thinking about my, well, for thinking about a girl the wrong way.” He tightened his grip around her shoulders as she moved closer to him. “Please tell me you’re giving up your career as a back-up singer at the club.”
She nodded. “I plan on sticking to jewel thieves, con artists, and gun smugglers from now on.” She laughed at his chagrined expression.“With back-up from the proper law enforcement agencies, of course.”
“Of course,” James murmured, and kissed her soundly.
Trixie sighed happily and relaxed in his arms. Suddenly, the thought of working closely with the police seemed like a very good idea, indeed.
Trixie opened her eyes slowly, and gradually become aware of the movie theatre. Blushing as she remembered the final moments of her dream, she took a quick sip of her drink and tried to focus on the movie. And immediately regretted both actions. She fought desperately to keep from spewing the pop as she watched the antics of the actors.
“Did they just do what I think they did?”
Dan grinned. “Oh, you’re awake, are you? And here I thought you were using sleep as a form of self-preservation to avoid having to see the movie. There’s still a half-hour to go.”
“Has it all been like this?” Trixie gestured to the screen where actors were engaged in activities she would definitely not be telling her parents about.
“Pretty much. Let’s just say, this movie would make the Wedding Crashers blush. Want to head out?”
Trixie nodded, and they were soon in Dan’s car and headed for the highway.
“So, feeling rested?” Dan teased as they drove.
Trixie groaned. “I’m never going to live this down, am I? I can’t believe I fell asleep at the Cameo.” She shook her head. “And I won’t be getting extra butter on the popcorn anytime soon. That was one strange dream I had.”
“Oh, really?” Dan looked at her curiously. “Want to share some details?”
Dan raised his eyebrows and smirked. “Say no more. So it was that kind of dream, was it?”
“No, no. If you must know, I was,” she paused and chuckled in embarrassment, “I was in Chicago trying to take down Al Capone.”
Dan rolled his eyes.“All by yourself, I suppose.”
“No, actually, this time I had help. You’ll be pleased to know I was working closely with the authorities. Very closely.” She ended with a dreamy look in her eye. Dan raised an eyebrow, but chose not to comment.
As they pulled up to Crabapple Farm, Trixie sighed in relief.
“Good. Moms and Daddy aren’t home yet. At least I don’t have to worry about interrupting anything.”
Dan chuckled. “You make it sound like that happens all the time. Surely they don’t...”
Trixie held up a hand to silence him. “Don’t start. You have no idea what it’s like. Why do you think we all slam the door when we come home? Although, for a while there today, I really thought I was in the clear. You wouldn’t believe what Daddy gave Moms for her Valentine’s present.”
“After all you’ve said, are you sure it’s appropriate to tell me? I’m not eighteen, you know.”
Trixie snorted. “He started off well. He came in with a big red heart-shaped box. You know, the kind with over-priced Valentine’s candy.”
Dan nodded. “Can’t go wrong with candy.”
“That’s what Moms thought, too. She was gushing over it. Then she opened the box.”
His curiosity got the better of him. “Well?” he finally asked, when it became clear that Trixie was milking the story for all its worth.
“Veggies. Moms made Daddy go on a diet because of the high cholesterol reading at his last check-up. Let’s just say, it hasn’t been going well. He bought her a veggie platter, and had the deli put it in a heart shaped box.”
Dan’s eyes were wide. “He didn’t.”
“Oh, but he did. He thought it was funny, too, until he saw Moms’ face.”
Dan started to chuckle as he pictured the scenario. “So what makes you think there’s going to be something to interrupt tonight?”
Trixie sighed.“Apparently Daddy anticipated the cool reception. As soon as he saw that the veggies weren’t going over very well, he pulled out a card.”
“He saved the day with a card? Man, I’m going to have to take lessons from your dad. He’s good!”
“Not just any card. He found the very first Valentine’s Day card Moms bought him. I think he might have altered it, though. Neither of them would let any of us kids see the card. You know, I may have to‘accidentally’ find it.” She paused, and shuddered.“Then again, maybe not.”
Dan smiled. “It’s probably for the best your parents didn’t let you see it. You know, corrupting young minds, that sort of thing.”
“I’ll go to questionable movies for that, thank you very much.”
Dan grimaced. “Sorry about that. I didn’t pay attention to the ratings when I checked the listings. My fault.”
Trixie looked at him surprise. “No problem, Dan. I had a great time. Really.” She leaned over and surprised him with a kiss on the cheek. “It was very sweet of you to spend Valentine’s Day with me, and I appreciate it.” She hopped out of the car as Dan raised a hand to his cheek. “See you tomorrow at the club meeting?”
Dan looked up in surprise. “Um, yeah. Of course. I’ll be there.”
Trixie smiled as he drove away, wiping the lipstick smudge from his cheek. Valentine’s Day had turned out pretty well, after all.
1. Thank you to Dianafan (Mary N.), my lovely editor. You rock!
2. Thank you to my dad, my other editor. I don’t know if he’s “lovely” or not, but I sure appreciate his help!
3.Originally posted February 13, 2006 on Misty's awesome site.
4.This is a submission for the Valentine’s Day CWP 2.4. The required elements include:
5. All of my information on the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was taken from the Internet.
6. Al Capone, Albert Anselmi, and Jack McGurn were real people. No one was ever convicted of the St. Valentine’s Day killings.
7. The Wedding Crashers is a movie I saw recently. I offer no opinion on it, other than to say that I did actually blush. I do not have permission to mention it.
8. Random House owns Trixie Belden, and I do not have permission to use her. No profit is being made from this story.
Copyright 2006 by Ryl
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