This piece of flash fiction was first written in 2014 as part of my Creative Writing BA, and subsequently re-edited in 2016. Having a keen interest in history, and the prohibition era in America, this story is fictionalised precursor to the real St. Valentine’s Day massacre of 1929. I did my research and used a mixture of genuine and fictionalised characters, as well as a genuine speakeasy used in the 1920s.
The Cadillac pulled up to the Halligan. “We’re here.” said James. “Are you sure you want to go in, boss?”
Nothing James Clark could say would deter Bugs Moran from going in. You don’t become the head of the North Side gang if you get that easily swayed by your inferiors.
“It’s only a speakeasy, goddammit. We’ll be fine, there’s no risk.”
Bugs knew there would be risk. He knew Al Capone, head of the rival Chicago Outfit, had him as a marked man. It wasn’t usual for Bugs to make house visits either, but this time he had to make an exception.
“Halligan is my bar.” Bugs continued. “It’s my flagship joint. Can’t a man visit his own goddam joint?”
It was flippant, Bugs knew he was there for an important reason. He had to secure his investment. He had to get Ted Elliot back onside.
“Let’s go on in.” instructed Bugs. Peter Gusenberg, one of North Side’s top gunmen, got out of the car in tandem with James. With their Tommy Guns in hand and Bugs alongside, they entered the speakeasy.
Ted was behind the bar as usual, be he then halted and his eyes narrowed as Bugs Moran came into sight. “What the hell do you want?”
“I’m just here to talk, Ted.” said Bugs.
“I can see that. Why’re you here?”
“To talk. Now get out from behind the bar and grab a seat.”
Ted reluctantly did as Bugs said. He knew he had little power when Bugs was in the building. Ted’s eyes were bloodshot. Bugs could tell just from looking at him that he was still grieving. He saw no point in asking how he was, but he did it anyway for courtesy’s sake.
“How the hell do you think I am?! My only son is dead thanks to you.”
“Don’t blame me.” Bugs retorted. “I didn’t shoot him down.”
“You dragged him to Capone’s front door on a fucking chain!“
Bugs slammed his fists down onto the table. In reality, Ted knew little about his son’s death. Mac Elliot joined the North Side gang on his own accord. Bugs had warned the young Mackenzie of the dangers he could face. But Mac was young, naïve and dismissive.
“You know nothing.” Bugs retorted. “You barely knew your own son’s name.”
This had riled Ted, but he little time for contemplation as the bar doors suddenly burst open. The room fell silent. In walked a prohibition agent. Peter’s reflexes told him to open fire, Bugs told him to refrain. Normally the agents would hunt in packs to shut the speakeasies down. However, this one was a lone ranger. It wasn’t unheard of, but Bugs hadn’t seen it before himself.
“I’m looking for a Mr Ted Elliot. Anyone know where I can find him?”
The agent enquired as he strolled up to the bar. No answer. After neither of the two barmaids dared serve him, the agent got behind the bar and helped himself to Ted’s finest scotch.
“Shit, it’s a prohi, boss.” James whispered. “We need to get you out of here.”
James was the most loyal out of all the North Side’s bodyguards; he was that diving-to-catch-a-bullet kind. However, most in reality were in the business for the big bucks. As ever though, the Irish-American leader was unwilling to leave; he was a bit more daring.
“He’s over here.” Bugs shouted without a second’s thought. “But he’s mine.”
The agent’s eyes lit up and as he made his way towards the table. “And there’s me thinking Christmas was two months ago. Bugs Moran is in the building.”
When he got to about a yard away from the table, he drew from his holster and shot Ted in the back of the head. He was so quick in doing so, he even took the ruthless Bugs Moran by surprise. Now resting on the mahogany table was Ted’s face. It was still intact, but the rest of his head was a different story. The agent then threw the fresh corpse onto the floor, and sat down on the recently vacated chair.
“Joey Ferrante,” said the agent, “that’s my name. And I’ll make sure you punks remember it too.”
Peter was about to shoot. Joey had, though, slipped his gun back into his holster, so Bugs discouraged his gunman from taking the shot. Joey pulled out a Toscano cigar from his jacket pocket and proceeded to light it as he sat down at the table.
“I never liked Ted Elliot,” continued Joey. “I could recognise that asshole from a mile off. Even from the back of his head. Didn’t like his son neither.”
“Italian Cigar?” Interrupted Peter.
“Huh, you’ve got a keeper, Bugs. This guy knows his shit. Well, about cigars anyhow.”
“Why Italian? Why not American?”
“Why not American? Because they ain’t no good! Italian is always better.”
By now the regulars had all but left, looking visibly shaken with the murder they’d just witnessed.
“You don’t seem like no normal agent.” Bugs thought that was a fair assumption to direct towards Joey.
“You’re right, I’m not. Most don’t shoot people without trying to arrest them first.”
“And most don’t carry around imported Italian cigars. Why are you here Joey? What do you want, a pay-off?”
“I’m here on behalf of a friend, he’s…”
Then Joey stopped in his tracks. A thundering sound of footsteps could be heard from upstairs. The descent down the creaking wooden stairs was easily audible in the now silent room. A giant of a man then entered from the behind the bar.
“I can’t believe you bastards dare show your faces after all that’d happened.”
“Oh it’s always drama with you, Billy Walters.” Bug retorted. “I’m surprised you’re still here after witnessing Mac’s death. I take it your still with that harpy; Sylvia wasn’t it? Well tell her she’s now fatherless. This asshole shot him dead.”
Bugs then pointed in the direction of Joey, who was keeping quiet and listening intently. Billy would have probably paid more attention to his father-in-law’s body if he hadn’t strongly recognised Joey’s face. Then it twigged.
“No. It can’t be you.” By now Bugs had grown concerned. “You’re one of Capone’s men! You’re the one that killed Mac!”
After being rumbled, Joey tried as fast as he could to draw his gun to try to kill Bugs Moran. But it was too late. An almost instant smattering of gunfire came from both Peter and James. Joey had been thrown backwards onto the floor by the shots.
Bugs had now thrust into action and started barking out instructions.
“Peter. Go to the car, get a body bag. We need to dump this guy into the lake.”
Peter swiftly exited. Lake Michigan was conveniently on their doorstep. Once a body got dunked in the drink, it would never be found. Bugs continued ordering.
“James. Cut off this punk’s fingers. Then mail them to Capone.”
James placed his gun onto the table, knelt down and drew a switchblade from his pocket to start the finger cutting.
“Boss, he’s still alive.” James discovered.
“Well then just shoot him again then.”
“He’s trying to say something.”
Bugs leant over to see what the assassin’s last words would be. After initially stuttering, Joey uttered his final sentence.
“Cupid’s arrow will hit you soon; with love from Al.”