Rosie’s Charleston Caper
It’s amazing how prohibiting something
automatically makes people want to try it. Take alcohol for instance. Before
1920 barely anyone from high society wanted to touch the stuff, as it was seen
as the tipple of thieves and vagrants. The moment Prohibition came into force
suddenly everyone wanted a taste. Moreover people wanted to be seen drinking. A
visit to a Speakeasy was seen as an act of rebellion; of not giving a damn
about what the establishment thought of you.
Never before had there been a better time to be young.
My name is Rosie Malone, and I turned nineteen in the summer of 1923. I was the daughter of a wealthy Wall Street stockbroker; expected to mind my manners, prepare to be engaged to by a wealthy young fellow and stay out of trouble. But I became enamoured by the playground that was New York in the roaring twenties. At no other time had the youth of America experienced liberation like this, and I intended to be right at the heart of the action.
“What time will you be back tonight Rosie?” my father asked through my closed bedroom door.
“Tobias will bring me back home in good time. Don’t worry!” I replied as I fixed my red feather bower around my dark hair cut into a short bob reaching just over my ears. I smoothed over any creases in the smooth material of my bright red flapper dress with sequins and black patterns embroidered into it. The hem just reached over my knees, giving a good view of my stocking clad lower legs and the red high heeled maryjanes on my feet.
“Where exactly is Tobias taking you tonight?” my father enquired as I finished the outfit by pulling on my beautiful, red velvet, elbow length gloves.
I pulled open my bedroom door so that I was staring into his gentle blue eyes, shot him a sweet smile and answered, “Just down to Coney Island to see some of the sights. We won’t be doing anything that the other kids aren’t doing.”
My father didn’t look convinced, his pencil thin moustache quivering a little as he told me, “It’s what the other kids get up to which concerns me.”
“Oh let her have her fun Reginald!” came the voice of my mother. “Have a good time sweetpea.”
“Thank you!” I yelled at her before I gave my father a reassuring kiss on the cheek. “I’ll be careful father, I promise,” I smiled before I started running down the hallway as fast as my high heels would allow.
As I descended out sweeping, red carpeted staircase I heard my father walk into their bedroom and saw to my mother, “You shouldn’t encourage her to dress like those flapper girls. It isn’t befitting a girl her age.”
“And I’m sure our parents had the exact same conversations regarding our clothing when we were her age,” mother replied. “You should trust her Reginald. Rosie knows not to go getting into trouble.”
My pace lessened a little at these words. I felt guilty sometimes that my parents didn’t know where I spent my free evenings. They remained so old fashioned in many ways. But I reasserted my convictions by thinking that if they only knew who exactly was going there, then they probably wouldn’t have objected so much. Any lingering doubts I had disappeared when I heard the sound of a motor car horn from my driveway, and I eagerly ran through my house to greet the new arrivals.
I think the only thing that kept my father happy about how I spent my evenings was the fact that I spent my evenings with Tobias Jackson. He was the son of one of New York wealthiest bankers, respected and known throughout the city, and could diffuse any situation with a flash of his pearly white smile. He and I had been spending a lot of time together recently, and I know for a fact that my father would have loved nothing more for him to ask for my hand in marriage. But marriage was the last thing on my mind at that moment; I just wanted to enjoy his company and make use of his Model T Ford. He was a handsome fella though, with tanned skin and blonde hair that was smartly slipped back, and today he was wearing a bright white suit with a red cravat tucked into his blue coloured shirt.
Waiting for me in the back seats was my best friend Jezebel Haroldson. She had been the first out of us to get involved in the flapper movement, and was even more of a wild child. Today she was wearing her own pale green flapper dress with matching velvet gloves, high heeled maryjanes and a feather bower in her bright blonde hair which remained fantastically curly even though it was cut as short as mine. Her face was pale, her eyes bright green and her lips coloured a fantastically bright shade of red from her lipstick. Sat beside her was her own fella, Woodrow Forsyth, who had come back for the summer having completed his first year at Harvard. He was a tall and athletic man with smart black hair, and was wearing a dark suit.
“Rosie darling I thought you were never going to come out!” exclaimed Jezebel merrily, one arm weaved through Woodrow’s and the other waving enthusiastically at me.
“Apologies for keeping you waiting,” I said as I fell into the leather front seat. “We’re not going to be to miss the band are we?”
“Not a chance beautiful,” Tobias smirked at me as he turned the ignition. “The party doesn’t start without us! Ready?”
I was more than ready, and I threw my head back and gave out an excited whoop as the wheels scrabbled against gravel of my driveway. Soon we had turned onto the street on which my parent’s Rhode Island manor house was situated. As the car sped forward towards the bright lights of New York City I couldn’t have been looking more forward to the evening ahead.
I had sort of told my parents the truth when I said we were going to visit Coney Island, as that was our destination on that hot summers evening. Tobias led us to a gentleman’s hair salon, strangely full at this time of evening with customers having their hair and beards trimmed. It wasn’t the most happening of spots on the surface, but we all knew better. Tobias greeted the barber like an old friend, and then we were all guided down the back corridor to a concealed door. Tobias knocked three times, said a number of very select passwords, and then we heard the sound of the door being unlocked from the inside. A doorman greeted us as it swung open, and directed us down a flight of red carpeted stairs to a pair of large double doors. They were opened by the doorman with a flourish, and were granted admission to the Pink Elephant Speakeasy.
The room was vast, a converted warehouse decorated with the finest carpets, curtains, lamps and furniture money could afford. The speakeasy was situated on multiple levels, with the large dance floor dominating the centre with tables and chairs spread around it in an organised fashion, while balcony’s looked down onto the dancing crowds. Around the edges were the bars, heaving with customers eager to try the latest bootlegged booze. And at the top of the dance floor performed the main draw to the Speakeasy; Noah ‘The Philosopher’ Buckingham and his band, ‘The Laughing Birds.’
Noah had been one of the pioneers of the exciting new music we were beginning to call Jazz, starting up his band in New Orleans before moving to New York, which was a much easier prospect for people of his skin colour. But mercy could he play the trumpet like no other. He played with such speed that his fingers never seemed to touch the valves. He and his band performed a selection of their own repetoire, and some versions of big hits from the likes of Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. Both myself and the crowd listened and danced intensely to their every note, each of us as enthralled as each other. I remember thinking how dapper ‘The Philosopher’ looked in his sharp tuxedo.
I could see countless members of New York’s ruling elite in attendance. Rich old men from old money and their trophy wives mixed with rich young men making their fortune on Wall Street and the young beauties they showered with their new-found wealth. All around us were politicians, high ranking policemen, wealthy business owners and men of the law. If you wanted to rub shoulders with the elite this was the place to come. I even recognised a few people. Judge McKinzie was sat on a table on the top floor, an associate of Woodrow’s father who was another high profile New York judge. He saw Woodrow and even waved at him, so comfortable everyone was with the current arrangement. The Police turned a blind eye to the blatant breaking of the eighteenth amendment, and only under exceptional circumstances would they swoop in to bring the bootlegging activities to an end.
I dragged Tobias to the dance floor before he even had the chance to ask for a drink. Woodrow promised to buy him one as he and Jezebel joined the heaving throng at the bar. The floor was almost full to bursting but I found a space for us to dance to as ‘The Philosopher’ introduced us all to a new dance called ‘The Charleston.’ I whooped and cheered as my hands waved through the air excitedly. I was a much better dancer then Tobias, and while I was touching the floor with the points of my shoes and shuffling from side to side with perfect timing, he was struggling to keep the rhythm. Yet I felt so liberated. This was our music. No other generation had ever experienced anything as exciting as this before.
After a few minutes had passed I managed to jostle my up to the front, and after The Professor finished his latest number with an absolute flourish I waved at him to get his attention. “You wouldn’t be able to play me ‘The Bluebirds of Summer?’ It’s my favourite,” I asked him.
He gave me a broad smile, then said with his low, gravelly voice, “We played it at the beginning of our set ma’am, but if you stick around, I might just be able to squeeze it in again for you!”
“Thank you so much!” I told him happily. I was about to tell him what an amazing musician I thought he was when a hand pulled me back. I turned and saw that it was Tobias, steering me through the bopping throng towards the tables covered by white linen cloths at the side. He sat me down in a chair before saying, “I hope Woodrow fetches me that drink soon. I have a raging thirst on.”
“You didn’t have to take me away,” I said with a disapproving scowl.
“You shouldn’t talk to people like him Rosie,” Tobias replied with an emotionless expression of his own.
Surprised, I folded my arms and snapped, “What is that supposed to mean?”
Not looking the least bit unrepentant as he sat down beside me Tobias simply replied, “It’s…just not the done thing Rosie.”
Well I have to say I disagreed. Even in a city like New York at that time, it was still commonly believed that some people were inferior to others based on the colour of their skin. As I watched The Professor pick up his trumpet to play another rousing number, I realised just how wrong such a view was. Every note his trumpet blared was mathematically calculated to work with whatever the rest of his band was playing. It was like he was solving equations in his head while his fingers were working of their own accord. It was such an impressive skill, which is why I felt it unjust that he wasn’t even able to walk into an establishment like this without a trumpet in his hand.
Tobias was now in a bad mood, and he grumpily checked his hair was immaculate before saying, “Where are Woodrow and Jezebel? They’d better not have left me high…”
At the sound of that familiar scream we were both on our feet. The band stopped playing and the entire Speakeasy fell silent, the crowds effectively parting for us as we ran to where Woodrow was propped up against the wall, struggling to keep to his feet while Jezebel propped him up.
“Woodrow, what is it honey? What’s happening?”
“Arrgghh. It…hurts…so much!” Woodrow exclaimed, clutching his stomach as sweat poured down his face. He was turning a vivid shade of pink, and it looked like he was really struggling to breathe.
I looked to the stunned speakeasy patrons about us and yelled, “This man needs medical attention. Someone call an ambulance!”
The ushers, however, hesitated. “We can’t lead the authorities here,” one told us. “You’ll have to take him outside and around the block. There’s a phone by the pet shop nearby.”
“Is that all you’re going to do?” Jezebel screeched, tears forming in her eyes as Woodrow gave an anguished cry.
“It’s alright sport, I got you,” Tobias said as he put Woodrow’s arm around his shoulder and supported him as we all moved to the Speakeasy exit. Nobody made a sound over Woodrow’s painful groans. They knew, as much as we did, that something seriously wrong had occurred at the Pink Elephant Speakeasy.
It was a real struggle getting Woodrow to that public telephone. Ultimately I had to go on ahead and make the call as the stricken young man could barely walk. At least the ambulance was prompt, the motor vehicle pulling up beside us on the kerb after fifteen minutes had elapsed. But they only agreed to take him once assured he would be able to pay for treatment, and after we supplied them with his parents contact details. Only after that did they place him in the vehicle and whisk him away for treatment.
We were all left behind. None of us qualified as next of kin, even Jezebel as she was neither his wife nor his fiancée. As it was, Jezebel and I sat side by side on the sidewalk, with my arm around her shoulders to comfort her as she struggled to cope with the shock of what had happened. Tobias called Woodrow’s parents from the same pay phone to let them know what had occurred. “They’re on their way to the hospital as we speak,” he explained as he returned to us. “Woodrow will be fine; they’ll provide him with the best healthcare in the state.”
Jezebel blew her nose loudly into his silk pocket handkerchief, before asking, “Can we go visit him in hospital?”
“Sure we can, but there won’t be much point while he’s being treated,” Tobias answered. “I’ll call us a cab right after I go give that club owner a piece of my mind. Imagine not calling an ambulance for someone as ill as Woodrow. Disgusting if you ask me.”
As he took a couple of steps back in the direction of the way we’d come, I yelled after him, “Come on Tobias don’t just leave us here!”
“I’ll just be a few minutes Rosie, promise!” he replied before he crossed the road and disappeared around the corner. All that was left for me to do was huff indignantly; he really hadn’t covered himself in glory tonight.
So there Jezebel and I sat waiting for Tobias to return, even as the reddening sky began to pale and the temperature began to drop. Five minutes passed, then ten, then fifteen. My friend and I said very little, both of us still shocked by the events of this very evening. After twenty minutes had passed I noticed the street had got a whole lot busier, and I quickly found out why when Judge McKinzie cross the road to speak with us. “You were the two ladies who accompanied Woodrow aren’t you?” asked the portly man with a red face and curly red hair. “Terrible what happened, he’s a good kid. Did he make it to the hospital?” I nodded in confirmation, to which he nodded back. He then said, “A sidewalk is no place for two young ladies to sit at this time of night. Shouldn’t you be running off home?”
“We’re waiting for our friend Tobias, then we’re going to visit Woodrow in hospital,” I told him.
Suddenly the judge looked very uneasy. Something I had said had evidently troubled him. “You mean you are acquainted with young Tobias Jackson?” I nodded, and his frown only spread further. He then reached for his wallet, pulled out some dollar bills, and said, “Listen ladies, the speakeasy has now closed for the night, and I don’t want you two staying out here alone a second longer. Promise me that you’ll use this money to get yourselves a cab back home.” We nodded as we gratefully accepted his money, though I only took it on the condition that I would pay him back when we next met. He laughed at my offer, tipped his hat to bid us goodnight then headed to where his chauffeur had parked his motor car.
But I was now seriously cheesed off. Person after person filed past us as they exited the speakeasy, but still there was no sign of Tobias. Having finally decided enough was enough, I got to my feet and told Jezebel, “I’m going to find Tobias. You coming?”
“Can’t we just go to the hospital?” Jezebel asked me.
“Look, something really suspicious is happening in there now, and I think Tobias knows more about it then he’s letting on. Maybe we can find out exactly what happened to Woodrow.”
Jezebel seemed far from convinced, but she eventually acquiesced to my suggestion. “I hope you know what you’re doing,” she remarked as we ran back to the Pink Elephant Speakeasy as fast as our elegant outfits would allow.
The front door to the disguised barbers was firmly locked. I hammered loudly on the door a couple of times, but nobody answered. I wasn’t going to be deterred that easily. I knew there was an alleyway running beside the building, so I half dragged Jezebel around there. We weren’t the only people back here. Waiting by the back entrance was ‘The Philosopher’ and some members of his band, having a quick smoke with their instruments in cases as they waited for their motor car to arrive. He recognised me as I approached, but didn’t say anything. It was as if he was waiting for me to speak first, so I did. “Excuse me sir, you wouldn’t have happened to see a young man our age with blonde hair enter the building?”
“No ma’am I can’t say I have,” he answered with his polite New Orleans accent after taking another puff on his cigarette. “He didn’t leave you two high and dry did he?”
“Something like that,” Jezebel replied grumpily.
“Is this the back entrance?” I asked. “You don’t suppose it would be possible for us to go inside and look for him?”
“Well I wouldn’t recommend it ma’am. It’s all closed down for the night in there. Are you certain your friend is inside?” I nodded at him, at which he sighed and said, “Well I shouldn’t really do this, but it wouldn’t be gentlemanly of me to deny a young ladies request. You go through this door, down the corridor and turn right…I would appreciate you not tellin’ them who let you in however.”
“Of course not. Thank you!” Jezebel and I then ran past him, but as I laid my hand on the door I then said to him, “You and your band are amazing. I can’t wait to come to your next performance.”
‘The Philosopher’ smiled at me and said, “That is much appreciated ma’am. You have a safe evening now.”
“Please call me Rosie,” I smiled before I broke eye contact with him.
Under normal circumstances I’d have felt star struck having spoken to such a fantastic musician, but as it was my mind was clear as I guided Jezebel through the back corridors of the speakeasy. “Why are the band hanging around the back entrance?” she asked me as we passed the big laundry bags littering this exit corridor. I knew the answer but didn’t have the heart to tell her. I knew full well that even a man as talented as ‘The Philosopher’ wasn’t allowed to enter the premises through the main entrance purely down to his skin colour. The injustice of it burnt in my throat, and I tried to quell it in order to focus on the reason I was here.
We followed the musician’s directions until we indeed found ourselves wandering into the main dance floor of the speakeasy through a side entrance. The chairs had been stacked on the tables and the dance floor had been recently mopped. There was nobody present, and the whole place had a slightly eerie feel to it. I could hear the sound of our footsteps echoing off the wooden floor, which felt bizarre considering how loud this place usually was. But there was no sign of Tobias at all.
I then felt Jezebel grab me by the hand. “I don’t like this Rosie, this feels wrong,” she told me, biting her lip nervously. I then found myself agreeing with her, it looked like this had been the wrong decision to make. I then thought it best to carry out Judge McKinzie’s advice and get a taxi back home.
But it was at that very moment that we heard the sound of raised voices and agitated footsteps. Jezebel and I looked nervously at each other, and we had just enough time to duck underneath the table and conceal ourselves behind the white dining cloth draped over it. Seconds later the swing doors leading into the kitchen were flung open loudly, allowing us to hear every word said in a very heated argument.
“Look I’m sorry, I didn’t intend for it to happen. I promise that it won’t happen again.”
“Promising is not good enough. You have to absolutely swear to me that this will never happen again. People across the city will learn about this. One event can be written off as co-incidence, but not two or three! Do you want the cops paying this place a visit?”
I felt my heart skip several beats, and my insides turn to ice. I recognised that voice. Jezebel did to, and she had to clamp her gloved hand over her mouth to stop herself exclaiming in shock. I doubt I could have said anything had I wanted to, so shocked was I by the revelation of who was speaking.
It was Tobias!
Our companion sound really angry as he paced up and down in front of a man we correctly presumed was the nightclub owner. “I mean, what the hell were you thinking?” he yelled angrily. Putting anti-freeze in the booze?”
“We had no choice. We couldn’t produce enough to keep up with demand. It was our only option.”
“Well one of you screwed up the recipe, because it’s put a man in hospital and threatened everything we’ve worked towards.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The club owners had been using anti-freeze when creating their bootlegged liquor. Woodrow must have had been given a dangerously high dosage of the stuff. I found my hand wandering over to clutch Jezebel’s worriedly, knowing we had stepped into something serious.
The heated conversation continued a matter of feet away from our hiding place. “Look, I’ll promise to make it up to you Mr Jackson. A greater share of the profits perhaps? Free drinks for you and your associates?”
“My associates, in particular my boss, don’t take too kindly to failure Mr Danson. It’s lucky I was the one clearing up your mess, not him. If this happens again then you can expect him to be paying you a visit.”
Just when I thought I couldn’t be shocked anymore, I got another one. Listening to Tobias talking then about his associates, his wealth and power suddenly made so much sense. He wasn’t just an ordinary young playboy. He was a member of the mob.
For the first time I became properly scared.
But not as scared as I was when a hand lifted up the white tablecloth concealing us, grabbed us by the hands and hauled us into the open. “Next time ladies, wear less powerful perfume,” one of the goons cackled as Jezebel and I were pulled into a standing position with our hands pinned behind our backs.
Grunting and gasping as I tried everything to break free from this gorilla-like goon, I was turned until I was facing the Speakeasy owner and Tobias. Strange to think how only a few hours ago he seemed like such an attractive young man. Now, as I looked into his eyes, he looked more menacing then handsome. “Please Tobias, let us go!” I pleaded nonetheless.
But Tobias merely gave me a cruel smile, before replying in a menacing voice, “Now why would I do that Rosie dear?”
“…Yes boss, I’ll see that it gets done.” With that Tobias hung up the phone positioned behind the bar counter, and turned to address his entourage. “Well this evening has been a total mess, but it’s good news gentlemen. The boss is sending his truck around to take us all to his place so we can lay low until the heat dies down.”
“Does that include these two?” asked one of his goons as he stood watching over me and Jezebel as we strained against our bonds.
“Nnnnmm. Lllttt sss gggmmm!” I pleaded desperately through the napkin stuffed in my mouth, held in place by a second napkin that had been pulled between my teeth and knotted behind my head. I flexed desperately against the ropes which had been wound about my gloved wrists, binding them palm to palm behind my back. They had been pulled over the back of the chair I was seated against, and some additional ropes wound about my waist, lap and about my ankles ensured that I couldn’t stand up. They had positioned me right in the centre of the dance floor, watched on all sides with no escape route in sight.
Behind me I heard Jezebel grunting through her own identical gag as she too strained against her bonds. She was also tied to a chair, positioned directly behind me so we could only see each other by looking over her shoulders. I did just that and saw her trying to bite through the white linen pulled between her teeth and over her curly blonde hair, the brown of the rope standing out against her green dress as they did against my red one. We had both been thoroughly secured, and there was no we were going to be wriggling loose in a hurry.
Tobias then swaggered over to us, a glass of scotch in his hand. He took a hearty gulp, smacked his lips and then said to me, “You are a real cutie Rosie. I think you deserve to know that I wasn’t lying when I told you that. But the truth of the matter is that our relationship was always going to end with you as a damsel in distress.”
I looked over my shoulder at this revelation and caught Jezebel’s eye. What did he mean by that?
He didn’t wait long to tell us. “I was never interested in you as a person. I mean, you’re a sweet thing, but I was always more interested in your father’s money. Also, I’m a sucker for blondes.” I saw his eyes focus on Jezebel for a moment before he continued. “The plan was for me to gain your trust after tolerating a few more of your God awful jazz parties, before getting my boys to kidnap you and hold you for ransom. You’d have never known I was behind it, then once your daddy paid up, I’d have sent you home and been a shoulder to cry on.”
“But because you and your friend here had to be so nosy, you’ve complicated our plans somewhat. I’m still going to hold you for ransom, and your little friend Jezebel too, but, well, you’ve now discovered my secret, so maybe we’ll have to come to some other arrangement.”
I didn’t like the sound of that.
I think my concern showed in my face, because it made Tobias laugh at me, “Yeah, not quite the night of dancing and drinking you anticipated huh Rosie? Funny to think it all happened because Woodrow got sick. Seriously what do you see in him Jezebel? You could do so much better then him.”
“Ssssss nnnnn bbbbttttrrrr mmnnnn ttttnnnnn yyyymmmm!” Jezebel cried furiously through her gag, jiggling so hard against her chairtie that the legs scratched over the wooden floor. I was struggling too but the bonds wouldn’t give an inch around my body or my feet. But around my hands was another story. They hadn’t taken off my gloves, and as well as protecting my wrists from the biting cords it gave me some slack to work with. If I persisted, I felt sure I could slip my hands free.
I didn’t know how much time I would get, and it seemed, when another of Tobias’s boys appeared, that I wouldn’t be getting much of it. He seemed agitated as he said, “Problem Mr Jackson. The truck won’t fit down the alleyway, we’ll have to park out front.”
“But someone will see the girls!” the Speakeasy owner fretted.
Tobias thought the problem through, before he had an idea. “Fetch the laundry bags from the corridor. They should be big enough to smuggle these girls out.”
“NNNNMMM!” Jezebel and I chorused desperately as two of his boys went to fetch the bags while the others worked on untying us from our seats, though the bonds around our ankles and wrists remained in place. Soon the men returned and laid the open bags on the floor ahead of us. I jiggled my shoulders, twisted my hips and reared my head so strands of my black hair filled my vision, doing everything in my power to avert what they intended. It didn’t work, and I was effectively thrown into the bag along with the dirty linen. It was big enough for me to fit inside without scrunching my body up, and I could only watch as Jezebel was given the same treatment, before the strings were pulled taught sealing me inside a fabric cocoon.
“Llllttt mmmmggg tttt fffff ttthhhhsss!” I cried out as I felt me and the laundry bag get picked up by two men, one around my shoulders and one about my feet. I didn’t make it easy for them, jiggling my knees and arching my back as I tried to escape from their grasp, my vision filled with the colour white. But after one particularly violent twist of my elbows I felt the ropes beginning to slip around the fabric of my gloves. That was where I concentrated my attention, even as I was hauled out through the barber shop and out into the street.
Night had fallen. I could tell that much even with my view obstructed. But it meant no-one was around as the men very efficiently carried me over to the truck and hurled me inside. I landed with a thump on the metal floor of the vehicle, though the linen in the bag broke my fall somewhat. Another loud thump beside me indicated that they had done the same to poor Jezebel, and I could hear her murmuring through her gag in desperation. I twisted on the floor so I was on my side, and focused on freeing my hands. I felt the knot begin to slip, I just needed a second.
“Excuse me, Mr Jackson sir, might I have a word.”
I froze. I recognised that gravelly voice. The Philosopher!
Judging by the tone of his voice, Tobias wasn’t pleased to see him. “You mind your business Buckingham. Remember who pays your bills.”
“I meant no offence Mr Jackson sir. I just meant to ask about the two young ladies who entered the Speakeasy looking for you.”
“They got a cab back home, now beat it before I cancel your contract.”
“Nnnmmm nnnnmmm!” I cried through my gag, but the wadding in my mouth muffled my cries. I could hear him walking away, and I knew that I had seconds. But at that moment my wrist bonds finally gave away, and I pulled my hands around, yanked my gag out of my mouth and shouted at the top of my lungs, “NOAH HELP ME!”
That did it. Before Tobias or anyone could stop him the jazz musician climbed up into the truck and pulled open the laundry bag to reveal me inside. “What in the name of Hell is going on here!” The Philosopher yelled as he pulled at the other bag, revealing a bound and gagged Jezebel hidden inside.
There was the sound of a revolver being cocked, at which we all looked to see Tobias aiming a gun straight at us all. “What is going on here will be in all the morning papers. Prominent jazz musician gets caught in the act trying to kidnap two young ladies. Unfortunately the bystanders couldn’t rescue the girls in time, but they were able to bring the musician to justice. Hey, if a story works in the Deep South, it’ll work here in New York too.”
I found myself clutching ‘The Philosopher’s’ arm tightly for reassurance as Tobias stared at us all, his eyes filled with a wild anger unlike anything I’d ever seen from him before. But if Noah was scared, he didn’t show it, instead replying firmly, “No-one will believe you sir.”
“Of course they’ll believe me,” sneered Tobias. “It’s not like anyone is going to believe the innocent person in all this was some Goddamn-“
Tobias spun around and came face to face with the stern face of Judge McKinzie, flanked on either side by numerous police officers, who had already surrounded the speakeasy owners and the other members of his gang. There was nowhere for Tobias to escape from the judge’s smug grin as he said, “Looks like you bit off more than you can chew this time Mr Jackson.”
Three months later I took to the dance floor once again in celebration, jazz music playing loudly throughout the Speakeasy. It wasn’t the Pink Elephant Speakeasy; that had closed down within a week of Tobias getting arrested. This was a newer club located just around the block, built under new management, and tonight was opening night. It was smaller but I liked it; it made the place feel even busier. Plus it gave me the chance to get much closer to the band and their music.
The trial of Tobias Jackson was scheduled for next month. He’d managed to wrangle himself a deal by which he gave up information regarding some of the big mob gangs, but he’d still be seeing jail time. Which was fine with me; I never wanted to see that double crossing snake ever again. I was just fortunate that Judge McKinzie had come back with reinforcements, deciding that he was going to uncover the truth behind the Pink Elephant Speakeasy before more people got hurt. It was just as well he had turned up when he did. He saved mine and Jezebel’s lives.
Jezebel was with me, smiling and happy and resplendent in her new party dress. Her good mood was due to the man standing beside her. Woodrow had made a full recovery, and his relationship with Jezebel had improved immensely since his unfortunate illness, to the point where only a week ago he had placed an engagement ring upon her finger.
As for me, well I was done with men for the time being. I just wanted to make the most of being young and free, and dancing the night away to the best music in the world. Especially given how my adventure had provided me with a new friend.
Noah and his band had got themselves a new regular venue here at this club, and it seemed like foiling the mob in the middle of kidnapping attempt had done wonders for their popularity. Now people from across the city came to see them, and the jazz greats all wanted to collaborate with them. They couldn’t have looked happier as they reached the end of their Charleston song with a flourish, receiving rapturous applause. I managed to fight my way to the front, as I had done three months ago at the Pink Elephant Speakeasy. ‘The Philosopher’ saw me, and shot me a broad smile as I appeared at the stage by his feet. “Evening Noah,” I said to him. “You couldn’t play me ‘The Bluebirds of Summer?’”
“For you Rosie Malone, anytime,” he replied cheerfully, before putting his trumpet to his lips.