Speakeasy Tonight – Neil Dresner Main Story Episode 4

Location: Heroine’s room (Interior) (Day)

I had the foresight to ask Mrs. Fitzhugh to freshen up the traveling clothes Momma had sent me to Chicago in …

… a godawful ankle-length skirt, high-collared blouse and a little jacket that would’ve looked great on an Iowa City librarian …

… and a ridiculous hat straight out of Queen Victoria’s closet.


Fitzhugh “If I may say, Miss, it looks very nice on you. Very … modest, but becoming.”

(Not sure WHAT it’s becoming … )

Heroine “If you like it, then I know it’s PERFECT for today.”

Location: Downtown hotel (Exterior) (Day)

I took a cab to the hotel where Dr. Bailey was staying. He was waiting just outside when we pulled up.

(Respectable. Not bad looking for a guy his age … but kind of a stiff. A little weasel-y around the eyes … )

Bailey “Miss [USER_FIRST_NAME], I presume?”

Heroine “You presume correctly, Dr. Bailey. My uncle is very sorry he couldn’t make it … “

Bailey “I understand that the forces of evil sought to strike him down. A pity. But such are the vicissitudes of war.”

(Hoo boy. He lays it on thick.)

Heroine “Um … yes … he’s definitely suffering the vicissitudes. But the doctors say he’s going to be fine.”

Bailey “Well, shall we get on?”

(So much for the pleasantries.)

Heroine “Yes, let’s.”

(The quicker we get there, the quicker we get this over with!)

Fortunately, he spent the drive reviewing his notes, so I didn’t have to make conversation.

Location: Temperance League – auditorium (Interior) (Day)

The Temperance League was housed in the annex of one of the big, downtown churches.

We slipped in through the back of the auditorium and were soon standing in the wings, watching the woman introducing Dr. Bailey.

She wore a hat the size of a Thanksgiving turkey and had a face to match.

I peeked out over Bailey’s shoulder to get a look at the audience.

(Yep. Just the kind of uptight upright folks I was dreading.)

Most were middle-aged or older women, all were dressed in their best Sunday-go-to-meetings.

(Just the kind of people I thought Uncle Charlie was going to be like … SO glad I was wrong about him.)

As the woman on stage wandered through her introductory remarks, my mind wandered back to last night …

(Neil handled himself well. I guess his battlefield experience must have kicked in … )

( … although I’m sure what we were looking at was nothing compared to what saw over there … )

(I suppose I ought to take what’s he’s been through into account. And he really seemed to care about those people … )

(‘Sfunny, when people are feeling fine, he couldn’t give a flip about ‘em, but when they’re sick, he’s Mr. Compassion.)

The matron onstage wrapped up her introduction. Dr. Bailey marched out to big applause.

Bailey “We all know the scourge of alcohol. We saw the damage it did in our streets, in our businesses … even in our homes and churches … “

Bailey “… and so we fought it. We fought and we WON! Six years ago, the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act went into effect. Prohibition came to pass … “

Bailey “In the years since, valiant, dedicated law-enforcement officers, prosecutors, and crusaders like yourselves have sought to enforce this good law … “

Bailey “… and even to defend it against those who would repeal it, those who say, “Prohibition doesn’t work. It’s bad for business. It creates more crime.””

Bailey “To those preachers of defeat and doom I say, you are wrong! Prohibition does work. It IS working … “

Bailey “Sobriety and propriety are GOOD for business, if you’re in a righteous business. The Volstead laws do not create crime, CRIMINALS create crime!”

(Big round of applause for Doc B. If this was a foot-stomping kind of crowd, they’d be kicking up a ruckus. True believers every one.)

Bailey “It was one of those miscreants, one of the ruthless men who profit by defying the law, who struck down the good citizen responsible for my presence here today … “

Bailey “Charles [USER_LAST_NAME], an upstanding local businessman and one of your own, could not be here because he lingers in the hospital … “

Bailey “… recovering from near mortal wounds delivered in RETRIBUTION for his good and moral works!”

(Wonder who told him that? Or did he just make it up for himself?)

Bailey glanced in my direction.

Bailey “His young niece is here tonight. She is taking up the sword Charlie [USER_LAST_NAME] has been forced to lay down for a time … “

(I am? Oh … no. He’s not going to … !?)

Bailey “Despite the risk, despite the peril, this young woman now marches in the vanguard of righteousness!”

(Oh, God! He’s … he’s motioning ME to join him out there!)

Bailey “May I present Miss [USER_FIRST_NAME] [USER_LAST_NAME]!”

The applause rose. It was even louder than before, maybe because I was on the stage this time and not behind the curtains …

(Why are my legs taking me out there?!)

And then I was standing beside Dr. Bailey at the podium.

I don’t recall much of what he said for a while after that. Lots of things about demon rum and devil gin, the corruption and crime liquor produced.

I stood there, looking grim and determined. Then he hit the high note of his speech.

Bailey “There are many who say it is time to do less, to retreat, to compromise. I say … as Charles [USER_FIRST_NAME] says, as his niece, [USER_FIRST_NAME] says … “

Bailey “… and as all decent citizens who deplore drunkenness and vice say … that it is time to do MORE, to ADVANCE, to hold to first principles … “

Bailey “ … Prohibition today! Prohibition tomorrow … “

Before I could stop him, he grabbed my arm and raised it along with his in a gesture of triumph.

Bailey “Prohibition FOREVER!”

The crowd leaped to its feet. The roar they put out felt like a stiff wind slapping my face.

(Holy Moley, this guy’s pretty good! He’s got this bunch of pew-sitters ready to roll!)

Bailey turned to me, still holding my hand but this time shaking it gratefully.

Bailey “Pardon me for engaging you as something of a prop, Miss [USER_LAST_NAME]. The inspiration struck and I followed it … “

Bailey “I hope you have no fear of appearing before a crowd?”

Heroine “No … I … it was quite a surprise, but it’s fine, Doctor. I’m glad I could help.”

Then, we were surrounded by admirers.

I found myself grateful for all those Sundays Momma and Poppa had dragged me to church. I understood and could speak the lingo of the Cause.

Location: Temperance League – community hall (Interior) (Day)

Refreshments were laid out in the community hall.

(Cake and lemonade … wish I’d brought something to spike the lemonade with. That’d be funny.)

I took a bite of my cake and actually couldn’t stop myself from saying, out loud …

Heroine “Holy Moley, this is incredible!”

??? “So glad you like it, my dear.”

A lovely woman in her mid-forties stood next to me, wearing a lively floral print ensemble and a brilliant smile.

Heroine “Are you responsible for this … this … little slice of heaven?”

???? “I am. I’m Vera Peters, wife of Alderman Frank Peters.”

I hadn’t been able to resist taking another mouthful of her melt-in-your-mouth cake, so my reply was kind of muffled.

Heroine “Nif t’ me’t ‘ou.”

???? “Excuse me, Mrs. Peters. May I beg an introduction?”

Vera “I just met the young lady myself … but I’m always happy to help young people of good moral character to establish connections … “

Vera “Miss [USER_LAST_NAME], this is Louis Tibbs, Dr. Bailey’s ward.”

Heroine “Pleasure to met you, Mr. Tibbs.”

(Gosh, he looks younger than me!)

Louis “The pleasure’s all mine. Doctor Bailey and I are both very grateful for your uncle’s help in bringing back to Chicago for this.”

Heroine “But … you didn’t come with him?”

Louis “I live here in Chicago. The doctor travels endlessly nowadays. Speaking engagements, organizing … ”

Heroine “That must be hard.”

Louis “The sacrifices of a committed life and we are nothing if not committed. I am also an aide to Mrs. Peters’ husband, the alderman.”

Heroine “That must be interesting!”

(Wow … once I start spouting malarkey, it just flows from my lips like wine… )

Vera “Frank says Louis will run for office himself one day!”

Louis dropped his head slightly. His bangs drooped into his eyes, making him look even younger.

Louis “Well … “

Heroine “Well, I’m sure you’ll be a great success.”

Vera “I do believe she just paid you a compliment, Louis. He’s so modest. Isn’t that endearing, [USER_FIRST_NAME]?”

She gave me that busybody-aunt pat on the arm I’d come to know and loathe back in Columbus.

(She’s trying to set up us! Better put the brakes on this buggy right now.)

A) Talk about Teddy Denby back home.

B) Make up a boyfriend.

C) You’re SO busy working, volunteering.

Selection A

Heroine “Yes. My sweetheart back home is much the same.”

Vera “Oh … you have a young man?”

Heroine “Yes, back in Columbus. Teddy is from one of the best families in town.”

(God, I sound like those sanctimonious prigs I used to HATE!)

Louis “I’m sure he considers himself very lucky.”

Heroine “Well, I certainly know that I consider MYSELF fortunate to have him as my beau.”

(Sweet snake-stompin’ Saint Patrick! Who IS this person saying these             things?!)

Vera “Well, you sound like you could use something to take your mind off      missing young … Teddy, was it?”

(Uh-oh … now what … ?)

Heroine “Well, I do manage to keep busy helping Uncle Charlie … managing is          stores … and … “

Louis “I see where you’re going, Mrs. Peters. You know what they say … “

Selection B

Heroine “Louis has quite the combination of characteristics that make the      girl’s SWOON, I’m sure … “

Vera “But not YOU, my dear?”

Louis “Mrs. Peters … really … “

Heroine “Oh, I didn’t mean … it’s just … my beau … I blush to call him that,    our courtship is so fresh … “

(Where am I going with this?)

I threw in a dramatic sigh to give myself a second to think.

Vera “Really? But you’ve only been in town for a few days, as I understood it             … “

Heroine “He’s … I shouldn’t say … but … he’s a medical man … one of my       uncle’s doctors … “

(In for a penny … )

Heroine “… Neil Dresner. He’s BRILLIANT, of course, but with no trace of that            arrogance you find in so many in his profession … “

(The whoppers just keep coming.)

Heroine “ … much like Dr. Bailey, I’m sure … “

Vera “Men of steely purpose and deep humility are SO attractive. Good advice          for you, Louis.”

Louis “Yes, ma’am. I’ll take that to heart.”

Vera “I’m sure you’re quite busy with your uncle’s business while he’s laid up          … “

(Ah! A life preserver to get me out of this mess!)

I nodded vigorously.

Vera “You know what they say about getting things done, Louis … ?”

Louis “I’m afraid I don’t, Mrs. Peters … “

Selection C

Heroine “It absolutely is a trait to be admired. I myself try to stay quite busy.            With Uncle Charlie in the hospital, I’m helping to manage his … stores … “

Vera “Of course … “

Heroine “And there’s my uncle’s care … the housekeeper and I are preparing           the house for his return … soon, I hope … “

Vera “It is good for a woman to keep busy. You sound very much occupied … “

Heroine “There simply are NOT enough hours in the day … “

(Where am I getting this stuff?)

Vera “Of course, you know what they say … “

Vera “If you want something done, find a busy person to do it!”

Louis “Exactly!”

(Damn! I was trying so hard to avoid the Louis trap, I walked right into another one … !)

Vera “Louis and I have talked about how hard it is to recruit young people to the Cause … “

Vera “… but with your background and obvious commitment, you would be an excellent spokeswoman!”

Heroine “I … ah … “

Louis “We need to redouble our efforts. So many people are giving up on Prohibition … and the young are being corrupted by that cynicism.”

Vera “I’m sure you’re uncle would approve. Your story is so inspirational!”

Heroine “… but … “

Vera “The world is moved by those who ACT.”

(I don’t see how I can duck it without raising suspicions about Uncle Charlie … Darn it!)

With a deep, inner sigh, I smiled brightly.

Heroine “Of course. How can I help?”

Location: The Ice Box – bar (Interior) (Evening)

Business was off. Way off.

Heroine “What’re we going to do about this, guys?”

I was talking to Cliff, Vince, and Neil at the bar. Donovan working the night shift.

Julius was on his own at the piano, keeping the joint alive.

Cliff “Bad hooch is par for the course in this business … but Charlie built this place up with a good rep for the best quality stuff … “

Cliff “… so it hits us extra hard when we have a problem.”

Vince slammed his hand to the bar, drawing the nervous attention of the few customers we did have.

Vince “This is makin’ ME look bad, too. I’m your main supplier … and now, my other clients are lookin’ at me funny an’ askin’ about my return policy!”

Neil “I’ve engaged a chemist.”

We all looked at him. These were the first words he’d spoken in an hour.

Heroine “A chemist?”

Neil “It’s a guy Charlie’s used in the past. He’s testing the bourbon samples to see if we can determine what the adulterant is.”

Vince “What good’ll THAT do us?”

Neil “Might help us know how to treat any future victims, for one thing … “

Neil “But more importantly, if we know what the poisoners are using, we MIGHT be able to trace it. No promises, but …”

Cliff “Never know unless we try.”

Neil “My thought exactly.”

Heroine “Well … thanks, Neil. That’s good thinking.”

There was a sudden burst of activity at the door. Someone was pushing in and Andrew was trying to restrain him.

Vince was on his feet and headed over to help. I moved to follow him, but Neil grabbed my elbow.

Neil “Wait. Let Vince and Andrew sort it out.”

It was just one guy at the door, dark, well-dressed and looking VERY upset.

???? “Get out o’ me way, you great cauliflower-earred oaf! I’m here to speak to management!”

Vince “You want to speak to ANYBODY around here, O’Fallon, you do it with respect!”

I glanced at Cliff.

Heroine “O’Fallon?”

Cliff “Gerald O’Fallon. He has a speak about twenty blocks north … The Broiler. Nice place.”

Neil “He and Vince … are not fond of each other.”

A) Follow Vince.

B) Ask Neil what he means.

C) Ask Cliff to back Vince up.

Selection A

I shook off Neil’s grip and followed Vince. He and O’Fallon were already         exchanging sharp words.

Gerald “’Twas your rank swill that made ‘em sick!”

Vince “You accusin’ me of sellin’ you bad hooch, you bog trotter?”

Gerald “I’m sayin’ you’d steal the white from me eyes if it’d profit you, you    guinea bastard’!”

Neil grabbed me from behind just as Vince went for his gun. As he spun me away, I saw Cliff vaulting over the bar with a baseball bat in his hand.

Gerald started to draw, too, but Cliff was FAST!

Cliff swung the bat, disarming Vince. Andrew pounced on O’Fallon from         behind, knocking his gun to the floor.

The explosion of a shotgun blast tore a hole in the ceiling, drawing everyone’s          attention to …

… Julius, who stood on the bandstand, holding a shotgun he’d produced from          … somewhere.

Andrew picked up the pistols.

Selection B

Heroine “What do you mean?”

Neil “I mean they hate each other. Bad blood. Long standing animosity. What            did you think I meant?”

The shouting at the door was getting louder.

Gerald “ … customers got sick from that turpentine you sold me!”

Vince “You know we had the same problem here last night?”

Gerald “An’ so you’re drivin’ business back to your door by poisoning MY      booze?!”

Vince “Yer mama was right, you ARE as stupid as your look!”

Vince drew his pistol. Gerald did the same.

(I’ve got to stop this now!)

Heroine “HEY! ENOUGH!”

The piano stopped and every head in the place turned to look at me.

Heroine “Put the hardware away, both of you! This isn’t Dodge City!”

Just as I said that, Julius let fly a blast from the shotgun he’d pulled out from            underneath the piano. Plaster from the ceiling exploded in a white cloud.

Julius “You all listen to the lady, now.”

Andrew took his opportunity to knock O’Fallon’s gun free from behind and   kick Vince’s gun out of his hand.

Julius knelt, cautiously, and collected the loose handguns.

Selection C

Heroine “Cliff, back Vince up!”

Cliff was already moving. He swung around the bar, carrying a baseball bat.

O’Fallon saw him and went for his gun, which spurred Vince to do the same.

I realized I’d just made a bad situation worse and launched myself after Cliff.

Herione “No, wait … !”

Neil was off his stool and had his arms wrapped around me before I got three          steps.

As Neil swung me off my feet, there was a deafening blast from the bandstand. Everyone in the place jerked and spun …

… to see Julius, pumping the action of the smoking shotgun he’d pulled from             underneath his piano and leveling it at the space between O’Fallon and Vince.

Plaster dust rained from the ceiling just in front of him.

Julius “Ev’ybody just needs to calm down, now. Mr. Andrew… why don’t you             take those pistols out of their hands, please.”

Andrew did as Julius suggested, watching him warily all the while.

Neil “Well … that was almost interesting.”

Heroine “Mr. O’Fallon, if you don’t believe Vince then believe me: we are just as confused as you are about what’s happening with the booze supply … “

Heroine “… and we’re doing our best to figure it out. Vince is headed to Canada tomorrow to talk with his supplier … “

Heroine “ … we’re having samples of the tainted bourbon tested … “

Neil “It’d help to have some samples of the bad stuff from your place, too.”

I batted my eyes a bit, since O’Fallon seemed the type to be susceptible to such tactics.

Gerald “I … ah … sure, now, and if you think it would help … ”

A quick pat on the arm, a sideways smile …

Heroine “It would help SO MUCH, Mr. O’Fallon. Thank you!“

Gerald “Consider it done.”

He glanced at the hole in the ceiling from Julius’ shotgun blast.

Gerald “And I’ll pay half the damages for your ceiling here, if Moretti’ll kick in the other half.”

Vince “What the … ?! I didn’t pump a shotgun blast into the … “

I kicked him in the shin.

Vince “Ow! All right, all right! I’ll do it … even though I don’t think it’s fair!”

Cliff “Shut up, Vince.”

Elliot Graham came in through the door, stopping to take in the scene. He sniffed the cordite in the air, glanced at the damaged ceiling, then looked around at all of us.

Julius with a shotgun, Andrew holding two pistols, O’Fallon and Vince still looking like they’d be at each other’s throats if Neil and I weren’t between them …

Elliot “Well, well … I heard about last night’s excitement, but tonight looks like it was even MORE fun.”

Heroine “Elliot! So nice to see you again!”

Elliot “The feeling is mutual, my dear. I do apologize for being absent, but I’ve had pre-arranged engagements for the last few nights … “

(Gambling? I gather that’s what he does with his free time when he’s not making movies.)

Elliot “… and a fellow has to pay his bills … but I dropped by to see your uncle today and he told me I should come in.“

Julius was back at the piano now. He launched into something lively.

Heroine “Elliot, I’m so relieved to see you. I’m in a spot and you’re the man to help.”

Elliot “That sounds most intriguing, though I should warn you, the last girl who said that to me ended up in her knickers in a hotel pool!”

Heroine “Hah! Well … that’s a story I’d like to hear, but what I need is a little different … “

Elliot “I don’t think the ingénue in question expected things to turn out quite as they did either, but she didn’t seem to have any regrets.”

I heard a growl from Neil, but chose to ignore it.

(No surprise Neil doesn’t like Elliot since he doesn’t like much of anybody.)

Heroine “I hope I won’t either. I have to make a temperance speech day after tomorrow … “

Elliot “Don’t see how I can be of much help there. I’ve never been temperate a day in my life!”

Heroine “Oh, no … Sad to say, I’ve been swimming in the temperance pond since I was a kid. I know exactly what to say … “

Heroine “… but since I think it’s all hokum, I don’t know how to make it sound believable!”

Elliot “Ah, that’s something I CAN help you with.”

I pulled out my notes and the inimitable Mr. Graham and I put our heads together.

Elliot was trying to explain to me how to put something over so it sounds true, but I found myself eavesdropping on the conversation Neil and Cliff were having.

Neil “Cliff, hit me again. If I’m going to have to watch her flirt with The Great Lover all night, I’ll need it.”

Cliff “Jealous?”

Neil “Hell, no. Just wish she’d try that flirtatious flapper bunk with me, so I could put her in her place. She thinks she’s something … “

Neil “… but compared to some of the women I’ve known … “

Cliff “Doc, sounds to me like you need somebody who’ll paint your clouds with sunshine.”

Neil “Quote that romantic popular music slop to me again, Cliff, and your nose’ll form an intimate acquaintance with this bar top.”

Cliff “Sure, Doc, sure. Just you drink up and let the little lady get on with her business.”