This story started after I posted a 1920's AU fanart on the Princess Tutu LJ community. A lot of people liked the idea of the PT cast in a Jazz Age story so I decided to try my own hand at the idea. Some of the character names I use will be different from the official version (Ahiru vs Duck, for example) because it makes more sense to me to use the English name rather than the Japanese name in this setting. Also, I will be assigning ethnic identities to the characters to better reflect the historical setting (New York City, 1924) and to explain some of the more unusual names the characters have. As such, some references to racial prejudice may be made, but they will be done so in a purely historical context.
Disclaimer: I do not own Princess Tutu.
It was a clear but chilly night as Duck walked her usual eight blocks back to her apartment from the Kotin Pointe Shoe Shop where she worked. Under the pale street lights, motor cars cruised past her, the smoke from their tail pipes and the steam drifting up from manhole covers coated the street in a grayish mist.
Duck sniffled at the cold and shifted the brown paper bag in her arms. Inside were her week's worth of groceries, a load consisting of three apples, a loaf of bread, two heads of slightly wilted lettuce, and a can of sardines. She had been late to work again because the alarm clock was broken and Mr. Kotin, her employer, had chewed her out for being tardy. So, she had to work late to make up the hours in order to get her full paycheck and didn't get out until nearly 8 o' clock. After closing up shop she had rushed to the grocer down the street, and managed to buy her weekly grocery supply before the store closed. Of course, by now all the fresh vegetables have been sold and she was left with the wilted lettuce no one else wanted.
Oh well, Duck thought to herself and looked inside the bag. At least I was able to get bread this time. Good thing I asked Mrs. Ebine at the bakery to save a loaf for me, or else I would have to eat cereal for a week!
Lost in her thoughts, Duck didn't notice the two women walking towards her and bumped right into them.
"Wah!" The unexpected impact caused Duck to let go of her bag, sending the contents clattering to the ground. "Ah, I'm sorry!" she said to the women before kneeling down and picking up the scattered grocery items.
"Geez, watch where you're walking, will you!" one of the women said as she brushed her arm, which Duck noticed as she glanced up, was clad in an expensive looking fur coat.
"I'm really sorry, I was just thinking about things, a-and I wasn't paying attention—!" Duck apologized again, not knowing what else to say to the well-dressed woman.
"Oh come on Annie, a little bump ain't gonna do anything to that coat of yours! Or are you looking for an excuse to get Danny to buy you another one?" The woman's friend let out a sharp little laugh. "You're scaring the poor girl! Why, her braid's as stiff as a Jack Russell's tail because of you!"
The friend with the expensive coat huffed as the two women continued on their way down the street, their chattering voices gradually dissolving into the noise of the city street. Duck's hand paused before she put the last of the vegetables back into the dented bag. Standing up she pulled her hat down over the short, red curls at the base of her neck, leaving only her long braid in plain view. That done, she inspected her bag again but noticed she was one apple short.
"Where did it go?" Duck looked around but saw no sign of the missing fruit.
To her right was an alley that dipped down at an incline. It was possible the apple had rolled down this way but the looming darkness in the alley made Duck hesitate. Her grandpa used to tell her stories about monsters that would eat children who wander into the night when she was little, and despite being 19 and an adult, the dark was still as imposing as it was when she was a child.
One lost apple isn't such a big deal, right? She turned to walk away but the thought of wasting food (and thus her hard earned paycheck) pulled her back and toward the mouth of the alleyway. Maybe it didn't roll too far down, she told herself as her blue eyes scanned the trash littered ground. Unluckily for her, the bright gleam of the apple appeared midway down the narrow lane, resting against the bottom of a small pile of discarded wooden crates.
"Today just isn't my day," she muttered and sighed before taking a deep breath as she ventured into the dim alley.
Within a few steps she was beside the fruit and no monster jumped out at her from the dark. Feeling relieved, Duck smiled to herself as she bent down to pick up the apple, when suddenly, a loud bang sent her eyes shooting back up. A few yards in front of her a man burst out from a doorway and made a mad dash for the other end of the alley. He froze when a car pulled up and screeched to a halt and three men emerged from the vehicle.
Duck had no idea what was going on and stared at the scene, bewildered. But what she saw next sent a chill down her spine. Two of the men were dressed completely in black, the rims of their black hats shading their eyes. Each held a shot gun in one hand as they surrounded the petrified man who back his way into the wall. At the sight of the guns she ducked down behind the crates, dropping the bag once again, but this time she didn't even notice as her eyes were fixed on what was unfolding before her.
As Duck watched from behind the crates, her presence hidden by the boxes and the building's shadow, the third man walked forward from the car. Duck's eyes widened when she saw him. This man, unlike the others, was dressed all in white. A coat was draped over the shoulders of his finely cut suit and a cream colored scarf around his neck swayed as he leisurely walked up between the two men. It was his face though, that struck Duck the most. Curls of hair as pale as his coat framed a sweet, handsome face. In the dark she couldn't see the color of his eyes, but his expression noted a touch of detached amusement.
It wasn't until the man in white spoke that Duck snapped out of her trance and the situation she had found herself in came tumbling back over her. She almost gasped aloud but her hands covered her mouth in time to stifle the sound.
"You made a very unfortunate decision, Al." The man in white clasped his gloved hands in front of him and offered the frightened man a reprimanding smile. "A made-man like yourself, you should know what happens when bad decisions are made. The boss found out about you being a tattletale and this is his order," he said calmly, but the other man doesn't seem to have heard a word he said, instead he's gasping and crying, his hands hopelessly groping at the brick wall behind him, trying to push himself as far into it as he can.
"No please…please! Principe!* Don't kill me! I-I didn't…I didn't mean to—!"
"It doesn't matter, Alphonse. What's done is done. And really," the man in white unfolded his hands and patted the shoulders of the men next to him, "you should be thankful for this. The alternative would have been far less pleasant for you. At least like this, you won't feel a thing." With that, the man called Principe held up his hands and at the same time, the two men in black raised their guns.
Duck instinctively shrank away, covering her ears and shut her eyes as the deafening sound of shot gun fire filled her ears and the sound of an abruptly smothered scream disappeared behind the veil of bullets. She kept her hands over her ears but even after several long minutes the ringing would not stop. She did not dare open her eyes and look, her stomach twisting at the thought of what lies not far from her.
She had no idea how long she sat there like that, huddled in the corner with her legs to her chest. But as the ringing noise in her ear finally began to fade and her mind gradually woke to the sensation of the late autumn cold nipping at her finger tips, she vaguely recognized the sound of a car, followed by the slam of a car door being shut and hurried footsteps.
"Damn it! They got him!" a voice cursed from that end of the alley.
At the sound of the new voice Duck opened her eyes, her vision blurry from tears she didn't know she had shed. She must've made a sound then because the voice snapped, "Who's there!" followed by the sound of quickly approaching footsteps.
Duck's heart felt like it was going to jump out of her throat as panic flooded her mind. Oh my god, what am I going to do!? But before she could get beyond that brief thought, the footsteps came to a stop and she looked up into a pair of sharp green eyes.
Duck could do little but blink, too shaken and surprised to do anything else. The person with the green eyes appeared surprised as well, but it was soon replaced with a rush of words. "Are you alright? Did you see what happened?"
"I—" Duck found she couldn't find her voice, didn't even know where she was for a second, so completely overwhelmed by what she had just experience. Instead she stared at the man, and noticed he was wearing a dark pinstripe suit with a black or dark blue tie. Unruly locks of dark hair peeped out from under his fedora; the rest of his hair was tied into a pony tail that had slipped over his shoulder. Following the line of his arm down, only then did Duck realize the man had his hand on her shoulder.
Seeing her blank state, he shook her a little and repeated his questions impatiently, "Did you see what happened? Were you here the whole time?"
Those pointed questions snapped Duck back into reality as she recalled the man in the white suit, the people with the shot guns, the person who had run from the building only to be cornered, and what was—had—happened to him. She didn't want to think about that, didn't want to visit those memories, so fresh and raw in her mind. But the man would not relent and he shook her again, harder this time.
"Hey, say something!"
At this gesture a flare of anger welled up in Duck. Who was this man who kept yelling at her? Couldn't he tell she was upset? Hoping answering him will get her some peace, she yelled back, "Yes, I did! I saw it, alright!" She gasped and took a deep breath, trying to calm her racing heart. "I dropped an apple and it rolled into the alley. When I came to pick it up this man ran out from the building and then three men came up in a car. Two of them had guns and one of them was wearing all white and he told the man who came out that he had made a bad decision, that this-this was the boss' orders. The man begged him not to kill him and he called him prince-a-be or principle or something, I—"
But here the man with the green eyes suddenly jerked her forward and looked straight at her. "Did you say Principe?" His voice was quiet but Duck shrink from the sudden intensity she heard in those words. She nodded mutely as the sound of sirens swelled in the distance. The man in front of her frowned and muttered softly to himself, "It's that name again..."
"What name?" Duck asked, confused.
Shaking his head, the man grimaced before looking away, "Nothing. Come on," he pulled her up and Duck had to steady herself as she found her legs numb and unsteady. Behind the man, police cars lined the end of the alley where the three men's car had been parked. With his hand still on her shoulder, the dark haired man started to lead her towards the police cars.
"Where are you taking me?" Duck demanded, trying to pull away from the rudely insistent stranger but stopped when she saw the splatter of blackish-red against the wall of the building. She would've seen the gory sight had the man not walked around her and blocked her view just as her eyes were about to come to the foot of that wall.
With his hand on her elbow, he said without looking at her, "I need you to come with me."
That much I can tell! "But to where?" Duck asked desperately.
"The precinct; you are the primary witness in a mob-related murder."
A/N: * Principe is Italian for "prince"