|That Was Yesterday
Author: Lyrical Ballads PM
AU. Rick has been released from jail after an attempted bank robbery and gets pulled into Chicago's underworld, where he meets a team of bootleggers, a selfish flapper, an Englishwoman with a passion for Egypt, and his former partner who put him in jail in the first place.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Crime - OíConnell, R. & Beni G. - Chapters: 35 - Words: 52,248 - Reviews: 42 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 12-07-12 - Published: 05-22-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8141879
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Gloria entered the garage and found Beni in the front seat of Freddie's car, smoking a cigarette. He had been hiding out all evening, ever since Margaret's party began, and had whined out his usual excuse of having no place to go. "You're going to be in a heap of trouble for getting ash all over the seat," said Gloria. "Freddie loves that car more than anything."
"He doesn't have to know that I am the one who did it," said Beni. He looked Gloria up and down, the lit cigarette dangling from his fingertips, and his eyes hardened with displeasure. "You did not bring any booze."
"No, I didn't. But I got the wallet."
Beni's eyes lit up hungrily. He looked like he hadn't changed his clothes since the last time Gloria saw him and he lounged in Freddie's car with a mockery of elegance, like a tramp pretending to be a rich man. "Let me see it."
"And why should I do that?" said Gloria. "Maybe I want to keep it."
"It is not yours to keep."
"It isn't yours either."
"You are a rich girl. You don't need it."
Gloria loved being reminded of the difference in their status. It made her feel superior, though feeling superior to a man like Beni took very little effort. All the other men she had been with, like the Italian gunmen and American con artists she met in the speakeasies, made an effort to impress her by taking her out to fancy restaurants and wearing their flashiest clothes, and they thought that having money gave them power over a woman. Gloria liked Beni because he would always be in her debt, no matter how many assassin jobs he performed. A man like Beni could never gain the upper hand.
"You're right," said Gloria, approaching the car with the wallet in her grasp. "But you can't have it for free, Beni." She dropped the wallet into his lap and grabbed the cigarette from his fingers, then stuck it into her mouth and took a drag.
"Hey!" cried Beni. "Why did you have to take that?"
"Because it's all you've got."
Beni grumbled to himself in Hungarian and flipped open the wallet. Gloria hoped to see nude photos or narcotics or something equally interesting, but the wallet contained nothing more exciting than some money, a single playing card, and a handkerchief. "How dull," she said. "If you wanted money, you could have stolen it yourself."
"It is not about the money," said Beni. "Though it is a nice reward for all of my trouble." He plucked the bills out of the wallet without bothering to count them and stuffed them into his pocket.
"Then what did I steal the wallet for?"
"I want you to put it in O'Connell's jacket. Make it look like he is the one who took it."
"You could always do it yourself," Gloria suggested. "I know you're terrified of Margaret, but—"
"I am not afraid of your stupid sister. It is just safer for me to stay out here."
Gloria knew he was a coward, but it didn't bother her the way Freddie's pompousness or Margaret's condescension bothered her. Any other man would have stood up for himself, but Beni completely crumbled when Margaret threw him out of the house that morning, surrendering with the desperation of a man whose life had been threatened. Any other woman would have been disgusted with such spineless behavior, but Gloria was too entertained to care.
Yes, Beni was entertaining. Much more entertaining than the stuffy, over-dressed people that associated with her family.
"How am I supposed to set up O'Connell without getting caught?" she asked. "The house is crawling with party guests."
"I don't know. Take him up to your room and seduce him."
"How generous of you."
He glared at her. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, nothing. It's just that most men in your position would get jealous."
"I do not get jealous of O'Connell. He is an idiot."
Gloria took one last drag on her stolen cigarette, closing her eyes as she savored the tobacco, and put the remaining stub up to Beni's mouth. "Here. Finish it off."
He watched her carefully, ever suspicious. "Why would you give it back to me?"
"Because you're pitiful, that's why."
He accepted the cigarette without a word and handed her the wallet, which felt much lighter without the cash weighing it down. Gloria left the garage and snuck back into the house, keeping her eyes open for Rick O'Connell, and found Burns standing by the punch bowl with Evelyn, deep in conversation. Plain, boring Burns, the ideal "safe" match for Gloria's sister. Perhaps he would be better off with a woman like Evelyn, who could surely give him a run for his money when it came to dullness and social deficiency.
"Why hello, Burns. Evelyn," said Gloria, gliding up to the punch bowl.
"Evening, Gloria," said Burns. He looked more relaxed when he didn't have Margaret hanging on his arm and dictating his every move. "Some party, huh?"
"Some party, indeed," said Gloria. "Have either of you seen a good friend of mine? Tall, handsome, goes by Rick O'Connell?"
Evelyn flushed and took a deep drink from her glass of punch to steady herself. "You're acquainted with Rick— er, Mr. O'Connell?"
"He's a friend of a friend, really, but what do details matter? Do you know where I can find him?"
"I believe he went to get some air. Have you seen Jonathan at all?"
"You know Jonny has no use for a dry party like this one," said Gloria. "He's probably out having a drink."
She left Burns and Evelyn, already bored with the conversation, and caught the distinct sound of a trumpet coming from across the room. Rick's friend Izzy stood in a corner with the trumpet raised to his lips, playing for a small group of people like a respectably dressed street performer. He would have looked like a gentleman if he wasn't wearing an eye patch.
"Gloria, why on earth did you invite that man?"
Gloria stiffened as Margaret approached, looking haughty in a new necklace Burns had given her. "What man?"
"The one with the trumpet. He looks absurd."
"I didn't invite him."
"Of course you did," said Margaret. "He's exactly the sort of man you would invite."
Izzy was also the sort of man to offend Margaret's views on race and social class, which secretly delighted Gloria to no end. "Well I don't see what the trouble is," she said coolly. "He's not hurting anything."
"It figures that you would think so," said Margaret. "No woman with any taste would speak to that awful little rat of a man you keep company with. He isn't lurking around the house as well, is he?"
"Maybe he is, maybe he isn't."
"Well at least get that trumpet player out of the house. Tell him he can play outside."
"It's okay," somebody said behind Gloria. "The trumpet player's with me."
Glora turned around to face Rick O'Connell, who looked awkward in a suit and tie. "Fancy seeing you here, O'Connell," she said. "Just the man I wanted to speak with."
Margaret opened her mouth to protest, but she seemed unable to find fault with O'Connell's appearance and walked away with her head held high, making a beeline for Burns at the punch bowl. O'Connell watched her with his eyebrow raised. "Is it something I said?"
"Don't worry about Margaret," said Gloria. "She's an insufferable bore."
"So I've heard."
Gloria took O'Connell by the arm and smirked when he looked surprised. "Tell me about your friend Izzy. Does he play in a jazz band?"
"No, but he thinks he does," said O'Connell.
"He has an imagination then."
"Actually, he's nuts."
Gloria led O'Connell through the room, past men and women eating appetizers in small groups, and made sure to steer clear of the punch bowl on her way to the nearest exit. "Are you sure we should sneak off like this?" O'Connell asked as Gloria took him into the hall, out of sight from the other guests.
"Nobody will mind," said Gloria. "This is my house, after all."
O'Connell looked at her for a moment, fiddling with his tie. "So, uh, how long is your cousin Evelyn staying here?"
"About a month, I think," said Gloria. "What's it matter to a fellow like you?"
"Nothing, really. I was just... wondering."
"Fancy a cigarette?"
"Uh, no," said O'Connell. "I don't smoke."
"You don't smoke?" Gloria echoed in mock astonishment. "What on earth do you do for fun?"
O'Connell shrugged. "I get by without it."
"Nonsense. You must do something that's idle and a little bit frivolous."
"I don't know. Maybe something like this." Gloria grabbed hold of O'Connell and pulled him into a kiss, keeping him busy just long enough to slip the wallet into his jacket pocket. His kisses were nothing like Beni's. O'Connell didn't have a lot of stubble that scratched her face, for one thing, and he didn't kiss with any selfishness or neediness the way Beni did.
Yet it felt kind of wrong.
"Perhaps this is a little too frivolous," Gloria said as she broke the kiss. Her body tingled with the usual thrill that came with rule-breaking, but that was all the satisfaction she had gotten from her spur-of-the-moment actions.
"Yeah." O'Connell, who was normally so calm and collected, looked a little shaken and took a step away from Gloria. "Why don't we go back to the party?"
"That's a marvelous idea."
Gloria returned to the party first and O'Connell waited about five minutes before following after her, just in case anyone was watching and got suspicious. Gloria didn't speak to him for the rest of the evening, which suited them both perfectly, and her only regret was that Beni wasn't around to see his handiwork when Daniels checked his pockets at the end of the party.
"Hey!" he shouted, loud enough to wake the sleeping neighbors. "Which one of you sons a bitches stole my wallet?"