Disclaimer: I do not own Public Enemies or any of its characters. I only claim the characters and story I create amongst these chapters.
A/N: God I'm awful at updates.
Secrets in the Sun
A large brimmed straw hat shaded Merle's eyes from the sun that was already high in the sky. She had been waiting for 10 minutes next to a bench right at the bottom of the footbridge. Her feet ached from the sweltering heat and from the long walk from her cousin's North End home in her heels. The trolley had been running slow and the last thing she wanted to do was be late for this meeting. She looked down at the bench, contemplating if it was clean enough to sit on in her ecru skirt and sleeveless navy silk blouse. Deciding not to take a chance, she lifted a gloved hand to check the time on her watch.
He was late.
She took a deep breath. She was already nervous about this meeting, but now she wasn't even sure if he was going to show up. Her eyes scanned the area for the tenth time, hoping that somehow he had gotten by her and was lost amongst the crowds of people that had used the footbridge to begin their morning constitutional.
When she imagined having such a covert rendezvous, she pictured it like one of those film noirs she had become so taken with. Late night, business suits, red lipstick, a dark lounge or a dive bar, briefcases and hushed tones exchanging dangerous information. Much more romantic than the setting she found herself in now: sunshine, people riding bikes, children flying kites, straw hats, lounging on the grass and men launching their boats into the Charles. The only similarity was her rouge painted lips that now sat in a tight, terse line. It was definitely not what she pictured but all in all it didn't really matter, it just made it that more intimidating.
"Hello there," she heard from behind her and she jumped, falling off her heels and right into his arms.
He laughed and set her upright, "did I startle you?"
"You're late," she scolded him as she brushed herself off.
"Sorry little lady," he replied with a smile and she felt her heart flutter.
"You're not going to give me some excuse?"
"None to give; sorry to disappoint."
"Well, then, are you or are you not John Dillinger?"
"Whoa there darling," he said as he threw an arm around her shoulders and started to walk, "can we enjoy this beautiful day a little first? Then we can talk shop."
She allowed him to lead her down the path by the river. She found it humorous when she realized they looked very much the respectable couple together. No one had any idea that they were amongst a famous bank robber and, what did he call her last night? Oh yes, a murderess.
"So Miss Mercier, how did you sleep last night?"
"That is not a very appropriate question to ask," she balked.
"I'll take that as a 'not well,'" he replied noticing the slight bluish tinge to underneath her eyes.
She didn't respond and they walked in silence until they reached the boat house where he started to lead her over to the docks.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Let's take a ride," he said and then greeted the attendant renting out the boats.
After the exchange the older man extended a hand to Merle to help her into the boat. As she stepped down she looked back up to him.
"Thank you, sir," she said with a smile.
His eyes widened, "Hey, aren't you that bird who killed that big wig's son?"
Her smile dropped and she looked away in embarrassment. The move seemed almost uncharacteristic for her, Johnny thought, but he figured that maybe she wasn't as confident as she let on.
"Don't you have some bird poop or barnacles you have to go scrap off somewhere?" Johnny replied.
The man huffed in indignance, storming back down the docks and leaving the two of them alone.
Johnny took the two oars and began rowing away from the dock.
"Thanks for that," she said so quietly he wasn't even sure he heard right.
He just nodded.
They rowed out to the middle of the river. Merle found herself squinting from the sun that was reflecting off the cloudy blue water. Johnny handed her the dark glasses that until then, had been hanging from the collar of his shirt.
"What are these for?" she asked him as she took them in her hand.
"I know what they are. I was asking why you were handing them to me."
"Thought they might help," he shrugged.
"Won't you need them?"
"I've got a hat."
"Well so do I," she went to hand them back.
"Put the glasses on pretty lady," he gave her a stern look, "you'll enjoy the view a lot better."
She did as he said and instantly felt her eyes relax.
"They suit you," he complimented.
"Thank you," she said, "for letting me borrow them."
"Oh you can keep those," he pulled at the oars, "I got another pair at home."
"You're not used to this are you darling?"
"Being taken care of," he replied.
"You lent me a pair of sunglasses, and though they match my outfit," she smirked, "I would hardly consider that taking care of me."
"You know what I mean," he turned back to her and stared straight into her eyes, "you're not used to others paying attention to your needs."
"What would you know of my needs?" she purred. She knew he was trying to analyze her and she was going to try and throw him off the trail even if that meant appealing to his sensual side.
"I know that you're nothing but a pawn in your family's games and that's all you have been all your life."
She laughed bitterly, "I thought you wanted us to enjoy this beautiful day before we talked shop?"
"No time like the present," he smiled at her.
"You're right," she took a deep breath before she began; "you know how I told you last night that I was older than I looked?"
"Vaguely, yes," he encouraged her to continue.
"The newspapers say I'm 17, married at 13, right?"
He nodded wishing she would get to the point.
"I was actually born in 1912."
"Which would make you – "
"I just turned 22 in jail," she interrupted.
He took a moment to give her the once over. He had known there was something off about her the first time he saw her. Though her face was that of a porcelain doll's and she was slight in stature, her body was undeniably that of a woman's with a small waist and curvy physique.
"Why lie? How'd you get away with it?" he finally asked.
"My uncle, Frankie's father, got a tip that Harry Young was looking for a wife and everyone knew that just like his surname, he liked them young, very young," he could see her shudder.
"My parents were dead," she continued, "I was at the mercy of my uncle for taking me in after they perished in the Molasses Disaster* when I was six. Since I am the only girl in the family and I look younger than my years, well," she trailed off.
"They set the trap and you were the bait," he concluded.
"I was actually in love with another man and I had my suspicions that he was about to propose when I received my assignment," her voice became shaky.
"At first I had thought I could just trap Young, create the alliance between our families like my uncle wanted, and then move on with my life. But when Harry proposed to me after our third date and later that night wouldn't take no for an answer," she winced and he knew that she wasn't referring to the marriage proposal, "I knew that I had no other choice."
"I continued an affair with the man I loved for the first few months of my unhappy marriage to Harry," she frowned and it was obvious that she had fallen deep in thought, "until he was found underneath the Longfellow Bridge*, a single bullet through the heart."
"Who killed him?"
"Do you really have to ask?" she bit back, "I received a friendly visit from Frankie the next day. He said he just stopped by to see how I was doing and to let me know that if I was to repeat my indiscretions and jeopardize their hard work again that I might end up in the same predicament."
"You mean he threatened you?"
"It wasn't the first time, believe me. So I threw myself into my work, pretending to be a childish, nitwit of a trophy wife. I let him dress me up in frilly clothes in public and then I let him dress me in skimpy baby clothes at night."
Johnny's eyes widened at her admission.
"Oh yes," she noted his shock, "As I said he liked them young and he was quite off-color when it came to his bedroom behavior. I could show you the scars sometime."
He blushed slightly, he felt sorry from her but he couldn't help but be somewhat aroused at the thought of her in a heated, lustful exchange. It was just too bad it had had to be with a man like Young.
"But I didn't only receive scars from his carnal delights; he also enjoyed seeing me huddled in a corner with both eyes blacked out and a bloody lip after he'd come home from a night of heavy drinking at the club."
"Why are you telling me all this?" he asked her, somewhat in hopes that she would stop painting such a gruesome picture.
"Because I promised you I'd give you something that you could hold over me if you would confirm that you are John Dillinger."
"You don't even know if I'm Dillinger," he replied.
"You are John Dillinger, I just need to hear it from your lips," she stole a glance at his mouth and felt her stomach flip.
"So why did your uncle want this connection?"
"Why do you think? A joining of the largest mob family in Boston and the city's most prestigious banking firm -it's a match made in heaven. I had kept my father's last name so it wasn't until it was too late that the Youngs realized just who they were getting involved with. And a divorce would have been disgraceful."
She paused, "Besides I was already pregnant when we were married."
"Well where is the child now?"
She turned away, "The baby didn't it make through one of his rants. I miscarried and ended up in the hospital under the rouse that I had been mugged. I testified against a homeless man I had passed several times on my way to church and he was sent to jail for the crime. He died there a year later."
By now the two had rowed way down the river where few people had made it out to and she realized they were very much alone.
"And yet you seem close with your cousin, even after all he's forced upon you," he remarked somewhat disapprovingly.
"He's family," she replied.
"And selling his cousin to the highest bidder is what family does I guess," he said sarcastically.
"I didn't ask you for your sympathy and I certainly didn't meet you here so you could judge me for what I've done. I'm merely telling you this as a way to exchange information. Not only can you damn me to hell with everything I've just admitted to you, I've also put my family and our entire operation in danger. Shall I go on or are you finally willing to admit your true identity?"
"One more question," he started, "what do you plan to do once this whole mess is sorted?"
"You don't want to know if my family forced me to kill my husband?"
"No darling, I only want to know about you," he stopped rowing.
She sighed, "I don't know. For the first time my future is up in the air. I know Frankie is talking about bringing me into the business. But I think I have to lay low for a while."
"Why don't you take a trip?"
"Where would I go?"
"Name some place you've always wanted to see."
"Paris," she replied instantly.
"Let's go then."
She laughed and it was the first time he saw her genuinely smile since they had met up, "What, you mean you and me?"
"Because," she began, "I don't know you."
"Of course you do darling," he replied with a self-satisfied smirk, "I'm John Dillinger."
*The Molasses Disaster happened in Boston's North End on January 15, 1919 after a large molasses storage tank burst at the Purity Distilling Company facility. A wave of what was the standard sweetener of the time rushed through the area's streets and took the lives of 21 people and injured 150. At the time the area was primarily made up of Irish immigrants which is what Merle's mother's family would have been. It wasn't until the 1920s and 30s that the Italians took over the area and made it into the mecca of incredible pasta and Italian pastry that it is today.
*The Longfellow Bridge was opened in 1906 and it connects Beacon Hill in Boston to Cambridge's Kendall Square. It was named after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who, in 1845, wrote about the West Boston Bridge in his poem, "The Bridge."
A/N: Thanks to RileyPoole'sLittleWhiskeyGirl, xBelekinax, linalove, BlueEyedPisces and You cant rush science for reviewing and thanks to all my readers. Please, please, PLEASE REVIEW! Pretty please?