tyndalecode: (YAAAAAAAY)
Kendra ([personal profile] tyndalecode) wrote2010-12-31 10:13 pm

(no subject)

Title: Johnnie and Johnny
Author: [livejournal.com profile] wrigleyfield
Fandoms: Public Enemies/Historical Fiction
Characters: John Dillinger and J. Edgar Hoover
Rating: PG-13
Wordcount: 4853
Summary: Johnnie takes his correspondence to DC very seriously, even when it looks to get him in a world of trouble. The intertwined lives of John H. Dillinger and J. Edgar Hoover. Written for Yuletide 2010.

“ I think he [Melvin] just didn't know or see what the rest of us did: when it came to Mr. Dillinger and Mr. Hoover, it was a bout of unrequited love Melvin was stepping into. It didn't matter what he did... he'd never win.” --Doris Roberts, secretary to Melvin Purvis.


He wasn't the most scholarly of fellows, but those who spent enough time around him knew how seriously Johnnie took his correspondence. It wasn't just how it was written (or dictated, on the days when he found himself too filled with thoughts on a variety of topics to sit still and write a letter. He would pace, or even clean house, instead while he dictated letters to Billie, or whoever happened to be around), but alsohow it was sent and from where. More often than not, Johnnie would write a letter from Chicago and not mail it until they'd hit a rest stop in Indiana, counting on the post mark to throw the recipient off his trail.

The letters always were mailed, though. He was careful to keep his beloved sister, Audrey, apprised of the fact that he was, indeed, still alive despite the sometimes contrary reports in the papers. To his father he sent various news clippings, stories about himself that were so far fetched that they had to be saved, and notes promising that he was safe, alive, and would surrender himself to the appropriate authorities as soon as the governors of Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin promised him that he would have a fair trial and wouldn't face extradition. When they were apart, Billie received and responded to the letters that were so common between lovers (there were a few other women in Florida, Arizona, and Illinois that received similar letters, but what Billie didn't know wouldn't hurt her); newspapers, police departments and, most importantly, the local government branches would occasionally get a note or two in the mail, scribbled taunts and jabs at their failures in managing to apprehend him.

Johnnie's taunts were never dictated. Thinking himself akin to the likes of Jesse James, he could often be seen writing out letters in his own defense to be sent to local papers, or cocky jabs to the officers of the law. He had just as much right, if not more, as his predecessor. They were both just as untouchable.

Johnny, Johnnie would write in his scrawled hand. I would say I hope this letter finds you well, but I opt to try and start my letters with the truth. I hope it finds you, though, in whatever state that may be, ha ha. I am writing to tell you of a story I heard the other day, that your men raided an apartment in Minneapolis to find me. Since I am putting pen to paper here in Miami, I wonder why you ordered that raid. I can promise you your men would have a much better time raiding anywhere in Miami -- not that I would bother if I were you. By the time you receive this, Billie and I will have moved on on our vacation. She won't stop talking about Havana and says you won't send men there. Too chicken, Johnny? Since your men won't be there to get one, would you like a souvenir? Will write soon, Johnnie.

The letters he wrote by his own hand were riddled with misspellings, crossed out marks, and the signs of an unsteady hand and changing mood. Sometimes he would take a dollar bill from a recent robbery if he had one, sign it, and stick it in the envelope.


“He's nothing to be afraid of. It says right here he's never actually been on a-- what're they called? Missions? Raids? He's never been on one. No wonder he can't catch no one. What makes him qualified?” Red's girl-of-the-week laughed and nudged him playfully as she cracked the newspaper through the air before folding it neatly in her lap.

“That's a stupid way to think,” Billie shot back. Despite being laden with finery, surrounded by the Florida sunshine, and the lovely atmosphere of the racetrack, the look on her face had gone decidedly sour. “The day you stop taking them seriously is the day you end up in jail. They're doing that now you know. No clemency for the women -- they're desperate for that Barker woman. We're going to lie low in Havana. Isn't that right, Johnnie?”

He didn't answer immediately as the horses were only just coming across the finish line, and with two hundred dollars on one of them it behooved him to pay close attention. “What's in Havana, honey?”

“We will be,” she answered, frowning again “Right, Johnnie?”

“Maybe. I don't wanna make you any promises I can't be sure on keeping,” he said in his pseudo-romantic way, always twisting disappointment into some other guise. “I've gotta talk to the others first, y'know.”

“Why wouldn't we go?” She had obviously lost all interest in the horses by this point, turning to stare at Johnnie. “You're just too hot right now, you said it yourself just this Monday, while you were writing.”

“Yeah, well,” Johnnie began with a shrug, pushing his sunglasses up on his nose and looking back at the track. “That was Monday.”


He laughed when he saw the story. 'HOOVER'S MEN DESCEND ON HAVANA WITH NO DILLINGER IN SIGHT: PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE ELUDES THE GOVERNMENT ONCE AGAIN’. Johnnie rudely clipped the story from the paper before anyone else had the chance to read it. He picked up a nearby pencil and paper immediately and, as was his habit, started a new letter of correspondence.

Johnny, When did I ever directly tell you I was going to Havana? I'm sure I did say Billie couldn't get the place off her mind, but there're plenty of places you can get sun and beaners all in the same place, Tuscon being one of them. Billie's loving her time here and even though I can't wait to get back North. The funds'll run low eventually, and then it'll be time to get back to work. You know how it is, don't you, Johnny? I'm sending you a clipping from the Dallas Star, just in case you haven't got the chance to see it yet. He grinned and folded the news story over until it fit inside the small envelope. There were several variations of the article circulating the in papers across the country and it was well assured that the man in charge of his manhunt had seen at least one. But that was hardly the point.

Johnnie picked the pen back up again. Will write soon, Johnnie


Sheriff Lilian Holley was far too nice looking a woman to have a real job like this one. Not that Johnnie was complaining, mind, it was just a thought that passed through his mind when the photographer asked them all to pose for a press picture. He propped his elbow on Prosecutor Estill's shoulder and grinned. Estill smiled at the sheriff, no doubt telling himself what an easy trial this one would be. Won before it reached the courts, they could start warming the Chair that night. It was something of a predicament the theif found himself in here, but Johnnie couldn't bring himself to take it too seriously.

“What're you most worried about now that you've been caught?”

“Breaking out in time to see the Cubs win another National League pennant.”

He turned his doggish grin towards Lilian, making sure that a flashbulb went off as he stared at her. He smiled at her, even reached out to shake her hand and kiss her cheek like a gentleman before he was led off towards his cell. It was an act of chivalry towards Lilian (there was never any reason to be rude to a woman) and yet another taunt to the recipient of so many of his letters. The accompanying correspondence wouldn't have to be long this time; the picture would say enough. It wasn't the best of pictures, and it wouldn't end up on the front pages, but it would make its way into Johnnie's hands. He would grease the hand of Piquet, who in turn would grease the hand of the low waged photographer so that he would return to the jail house and slip the picture to Johnnie.

He looked at the still image, eyes focused on Lilian once he received it the day after his arraignment. Piquet had performed to perfection and then passed him a pencil and paper on the way out of the court room. People had been talking about the published portrait of he, Estill, and Lillian for some time now. From what he'd heard, it had been deemed as all sorts of inappropriate. A disgrace to the position of sheriff once held by Lilian's husband, he'd read in the paper one morning.

This photograph was worse, what with the eye contact between the law-woman and felon and the smile on his lips. It was perfect, Johnnie thought, to send away. He didn't need a copy; the image in his memory would be enough.

The escape from Crown Point was perhaps the most beautiful moment of his career, even surpassing the best of his robberies. Without the flash, pomp, and circumstance of a robbery, Johnnie made his way out of the jail with not only subtlety and a wooden gun, but Lilian's car too. He sang to the few hostages he'd taken out of necessity and chatted with them about their families and jobs before dropping them in the woods and tying loose knots around their wrists. He pulled a homemade and addressed envelope from his pocket, along with two cents for the postage.

“You'll make sure that gets where it's goin', won't you?” Johnnie said, slipping the coins and envelope into one of his prisoner's pockets.

The jail guard looked down at the envelope, eyes bugging for a moment. “You know Mr. Hoover personally, Mr. Dillinger?”

“We do write on occasion,” Johnnie said with a nod. He gave the ropes one last tug. “But I ain't had the honor of meeting him face to face. He's told me – not in person, mind you -- that he might like to see that happen one day. Though I reckon he'd rather have me dead when the occasion presents itself.” He laughed shortly.

“The way he's been running things, I don't see that ever happening.”

Johnnie grinned. “Your lips to God's ears. Now, you'll make sure that goes in the post, soon as you get back to town?”

The guard nodded. “Yep. You been real kind, Mr. Dillinger, real kind.”

“You be sure you tell 'em that too.”


Johnnie knew when Johnny received his latest letter with the wonderful picture of himself and the lovely Sheriff Holley; the price on his head went up to a round ten thousand dollars. The papers would say it was because he'd finally violated the Dyer Act, officially putting the case under Johnny's jurisdiction, but he knew better. That guard had kept his word and posted his last note.

Johnnie got out of Indiana, making for Chicago and his Billie. They, in turn, headed for St. Paul, Minnesota, meeting up with some of his friends and their new acquaintances. He never would be overly fond of their newest partner, “Babyface” Nelson, but they needed the extra hands and so he put up with him. Sure, putting up with him eventually got him shot, but a shoulder wound was a good excuse to bring Billie back down to Mooresville and spend some time with with his father and sister instead of writing them letters. His sister tended to him nicely and they had a visit complete with extended family, visits to church, and potluck Sunday dinners with friends and family they could trust.

On Billie's last day in Indiana, Johnnie picked up a pencil to write a quick letter for her to post once she'd reached Chicago, where she was going to visit a friend.

Johnny, he started as was custom. You'll have to thank your men for me. I never would've gotten back to see my pa and sister if it hadn't been for the bullet they put in my shoulder. I'm not mailing this till I'm all healed up and on my way out of course, because I saw some of your cars parked outside my pa's farm on occasion. You're not as slow as the public thinks anymore, are you? He stopped then, picking up the flattened slug the doctor had taken out of his shoulder. He dropped it in the envelope, well aware that it might not make it all the way to DC. What with the state of many people's bank accounts these days he wouldn't blame anyone for opening the envelope with hopes of finding that the bulge in the paper was a piece of jewelry of some sort.

I saw you received the picture I sent. Ten thousand dollars, eh? Can't say I ever thought I'd be worth that much to a body, so it's a real honor, Johnny, ha ha. Don't worry though, because you'll be keeping your money if you didn't think to pick me up while I was wounded and at home with my pa. He paused for a moment, taking the time to consider exactly where he was going next. I'm looking forward to the city life again. I promised Billie I'd take her to a Cubs or Sox game once the winter takes off. I expect we'll be seeing some of your men? Good luck to them, finding me in my own city. Best, Johnnie.


“You can't, John! You'll get yourself killed, and what good'll that do her? Nothin'!”

Johnnie very near raised his hand to Red's girl, stopping himself just before slapping her cheek to remove her from his person. First off, Red would have had that hand gelded from his arm, and second, the girl was right. Johnny's men surrounded Billie as they took her away and they were armed a sight better than he was, with only his revolver attached to his hip.

“Johnny's gone and got jealous of my girl again.”

“I don't know who that is, but someone's gonna get you if we don't hurry. C'mon.” She tugged on his arm and looked down at the nails of her other hand, as if worried for their freshly-painted safety. “I've got a strike already, and you know they've got a special chair picked out for you.”

Her points became more and more valid, even as he watched them force Billie into a car. “He's doin' it to get to me. Women get him in a mood. You should'a seen what he wrote after that Sheriff--”

“John, we got to go,” the girl hissed, tugging his arm again. She started walking towards the other end of the alley, stepping carefully. There was trash everywhere, and while the agents were getting into their cars they still might hear the clinking of a bottle.

Johnnie followed her, looking back over his shoulder at Billie most of the way. He loved that woman. He wasn't always faithful, and he put her in danger day after day – more than she even knew with his correspondence -- but he loved her. It put him in a state, seeing her in handcuffs, men touching her this way and that, though they were just doing their jobs. She wouldn't have an easy time of it, not with Johnny's men following his orders. He'd do everything he could to break Billie, the woman Johnnie loved more than anything.

He reached into his pocket and felt the letter that he'd yet to mail. Couldn't mail it now, not with Johnny as riled now as he obviously was.

They reached the car and Johnnie slipped into the driver's seat. “You walk,” he told the girl. “I'm goin' down to the station.”


“Get goin'! You tell Red I'm getting her back. Go on!”

She scampered off, and he pulled the car out onto the road. True to his word, he did go straight down to the station, but he didn't come back with his Billie. Not even after walking straight into the building, brazen as he could be.

Later he tore up the letter he'd been meaning to post to Washington that week.

Johnny, he scribbled at a post office desk in Evanston. You'd best treat her right. Don't you take it out on her. His signature was scrawled, almost unreadable, but there would be no mistaking who it was from.


News came to him in drips and drabs after the incident up in Manitowish. He did the smart thing and dropped out of sight for a bit, even hiring a man to give him a bit of a face lift. He wasn't anywhere near as prolific a writer as he once had been. Van Meeter let it slip to him that he'd heard that Billie had been beaten rather badly by BOI men and he suddenly found his penchant for taunting abating just a bit. He would never say that Billie's treatment was his own fault, but he knew when to give a man time for the hairs on the back of his neck to go down.

He didn't write for awhile, instead concentrating on sending messages and packages to his family in Indiana. Probably for the best, he decided, after catching wind that agents found his bloodied Manitowish car in a South Side alley. Their dragnet was closing in, yet their leader was nowhere to be seen. Maybe that was why Johnnie never saw the danger in anything around him. If he was going to be caught, surely Johnny would be there. If they had any sort of lead, Johnny would be there to see it through. After all, Johnnie was his case. Out of them all – The Barrow fool in Texas, the Barkers, Pretty Boy Floyd, and the rest -- he was the one who had the Fearless Leader's attentions. He was safe until Johnny's feet touched Chicago’s scorched Chicago soil, and perhaps it was best not to encourage that visit with letter writing for a time.

With that in mind, Johnnie courted Miss Polly Hamilton and strolled around Chicago. Billie stayed on his mind, but with a jail sentence for harboring and consorting with criminals over her head, it was Polly who was on his arm.

“Bring her home before ten,” Anna normally told him on the nights Polly had to work -- Johnny wasn't paying for her company, thus she still had to earn her keep. He was better than this, seeing a prostitute in a social manner. With his Billie taken from him though, Polly served her purpose. Any reason to get out a bit and enjoy the city's night life.

Despite not paying for female companionship, money was tight. Red and Carroll were dead, and there was nothing in the world that would drive him back to working with Nelson. He knew the one steadfast rule of their business: 'never work when you're desperate'. Desperation got Red killed, Billie arrested, and a few innocent folks up at a family lounge in Manitowish killed. He needed the money and he even had the inkling of a train job in the back of his mind and the start of a new letter to Johnny sitting there too, but he was too hard up. No gang and a desperate streak made the idea a bad one before he could even put pen to paper.

He could only soothe the need with the knowledge that somewhere back East, Johnny was likely putting a hole in the carpet over the fact that he hadn't written, or done anything at all really, to attract his attention. It was almost as if he wasn't interested anymore. That wasn't true of course, there wasn't a day Johnnie didn't scour the papers for some news of Johnny and his BOI, looking to see how famous they were going to make him that day, and how close they weren't to arresting him.

Enjoying the summer, he scribbled down one afternoon on the back of a five dollar bill. Thanks for the time off, Bull. I appreciate it. Don't worry though, because I haven't forgot about you. Once the leaves take a turn I got plans for a nice bank down in Akron, Ohio. Will write after then, Johnnie. He was short on cash and held onto the bill for a week or two before sticking it in the mail on the twentieth of July. Best not to waste their time together locked in this game of cops and robbers. It wouldn't last forever.


It was Anna who'd suggested the movies in the first place. With no reason to disagree with the plan, Johnnie helped both ladies slip into their evening wraps and complimented Anna on her new orange dress before they walked out the door.

“Mr. Gable is such a handsome man,” Polly yammered on and on, clutching the program the Biograph had printed. “Not moreso than you, Johnnie, but he does cut a nice figure in that suit. It's because he doesn't wear an undershirt.”

Johnnie rolled his eyes. “No regular man goes around without an undershirt.”

“Mr. Gable ain’t a regular man,” she answered with a shrug. “I'll bet even the likes of J. Edgar Hoover followed suit.”

He pursed his lips as they walked into the theatre and fell sullen as the first Mickey Mouse cartoon flickered across the screen.

Manhattan Melodrama didn't do much for him. He had no connection to Clark Gable, emotionally or otherwise, but he couldn't honestly say he felt comfortable seeing anyone being strapped down to the Chair and read their last rites. He would never admit it if it did hit a bit close to home.

They walked out of the theatre two hours later. Johnnie still wasn't in much of a talkative mood. He walked between Polly and Anna, smiling and nodding as they chatted about the film and remained seemingly oblivious to the fact that perhaps it hadn't been the easiest thing for him to watch. Granted, he'd chosen the film (he sure as hell hadn't been about to go see a Shirley Temple picture), so what reason would he have to feel bad about it? He slipped an arm around Polly's shoulder.

“I can get a cig, Johnnie?” Polly held out her hand expectantly while he fished around in his pockets for a stub of something to give her. He fumbled with the matchbook.

“You're going to light up her hair.” Anna reached for Polly's arm, pulling her back a step and allowing Johnnie to stand by himself.

Those were the last clear words he heard.


In some respects, Johnnie had been right. Johnny would have wanted to be there, and despite public opinion, maybe it wasn't Purvis' thrust into stardom that damaged their relationship. There was no proof that Purvis had fired the fatal shot, and there was even evidence to the contrary that Agent Winstead had been the one to do the deed. But Johnny blamed Purvis, and that put them on the outs. He'd wanted to be there. He should have fired the shot. He was the only one with the right. Purvis had robbed him of the opportunity that was supposed to culminate in some glorious meeting of the cat and the mouse.

Johnny reached over and picked up the plaster cast mounted to a pewter stand in the corner of his desk. The death mask hadn't been taken until the body was well dead and bloated, thus it wasn't the best cast of Johnnie's face but it was the closest he would ever come to seeing said face in person. He ran his fingers across the thing before lifting it up and pressing it to his face. It didn't match up with his own features and of course it lacked Johnnie's trademark devil-may-care grin. The plaster eventually warmed against his skin and Johnny placed it down carefully on his desk. He flipped over the detached pewter base; it looked nothing more than a heavy piece of square. The bottom slid out, a common hiding spot that Johnny had installed in many pieces around his home and office -- paranoid about his information as he was.

At the time of his death, Johnnie had been carrying no more than $7.81 in now bloody bills and change, a pocket watch, and a blood-stained piece of paper with familiar handwriting covering the top half. Don't look so disappointed, Mr. Hoover, one young agent had joked, only to realise a minute too late that it was an ill-advised joke at best. You look like you expected him to be carrying around a picture of you or somethin'. We got him, s'all that matters, even if there weren't any clues on his person. We got him!

Johnny, read the bloody letter that Johnny had removed from evidence. Forget the bank in Akron. I've heard word of a train job and I'm having a thought about taking that one instead. But you know how I can change my mind like the wind changes before a tornado, ha ha. I'll have to consider it and the men I've located, but don't you worry, Johnny, I'll be back in in your sights in no time. You pulled a good one over on me with Billie, but she's coming out in two years, I believe I owe you for your treatment of her, and I'm missing our games. It's high time we get back to them. I'll continue to enjoy the summer, Johnny, knowing that you're missing the chase even if you never write back. I'll look for some sign that you've seen this. Going to up my reward again? I think between us we could get it up to a nice $20,000, ha ha ha! That's more money than my pa ever had in his life. All the best, Johnnie.

Because it was federal agents who'd shot the man down, no one would collect the fee and he would never have to tell anyone that he wouldn't have ever upped the reward. That was simply asking for someone else – someone other than him -- to get to the task of shooting Johnnie, and get there with a damned good expedience.

Johnny tapped the deathmask with an index finger. John Dillinger: the public enemy number one who'd eluded him for a year, who he'd never had the chance to meet, who would forever have a place on his desk. Other bits of folded paper, paper bills, and little odds and ends started falling from the pewter base as he held it in the air. Letters and trinkets from a little over a year of work and chase that had taken him from Havana to Tuscon to Manitowish, Wisconsion. He couldn't vocalise the why of his fascination with Johnnie, just that it was what it was. Certainly the taunting had contributed, but there were more to those letters than that, and if he hadn't cared, then he wouldn't have responded in his way.

He gathered the letters in his hands, feeling them over a bit before putting [them] all back in their place but the blood stained note.

What would have happened if Purvis (or Winstead) hadn't taken the shot? Had Johnnie meant it? Would there have been a train robbery, or a bank heist to follow? There were others to take down and he could have easily made them his focus, but there was something about Johnnie and the way he was the criminal all little boys want[ed] to be. Johnny had the Boy Scouts, but Johnnie had the rest looking up to him. Fast ways, fast cars, fast women -- it was little wonder that he was the one everyone – including Johnny himself -- wanted a piece of. He had his piece, a whole collection of them really, but that didn't ease the sting of the knowledge that Johnnie was dead and gone, and thus he could have nothing more to do with him.

Johnnie had used the word 'game' to describe their very public, yet secretive dance of action and reaction, but it hadn’t been that. It was, perhaps, the closest thing to an honest courtship Johnny had ever been part of. It had all the ingredients: the needling teasing, the banter, the playing hard to get, the green-eyed jealousy of seeing the man he wanted traipsing around under his nose with other women, even a woman who was meant to be under his purview at that. It was a relationship he'd been involved in[,] and with his partner dead there was going to be a period of mourning.

Johnny flattened the blood-splattered letter on his desk and reached over to adjust the the death mask to just the right angle. Every man kept a keepsake from their first true love, be it a lock of hair or a letter from their lover. He would allow himself this one sentiment, just for Johnnie.