Chicago's Vice


The fog floods my lungs as I struggle to my feet. Cramped legs protest my subtle, silent movements. I wince with pain. 4:30. My watch tells me I've been hunched behind this stack of wood crates for an hour longer than I had hoped. Maybe my informant was wrong. Maybe she lied. Impossible. She owes me too much. Her information is solid. 

I shake out the damp locked beneath the collar of my canvas jacket in time with the fog horn blowing off the docks. Jesus, I can't see a thing. Just a thick blanket of mist infiltrating every pore, every crevice; growing rust on every ship. I want to leave; to turn tail and go home to the warmth of my salon. Who am I compared to Giuseppe the Bottleneck: smuggler, businessman, mafioso? Me, some flapper tart from uptown who got a funny notion. 

I'll wait just a few moments more. He has to be here, there's no other way to get that poison into our town and I need it. I need the proof on his label, the evidence of his hands on the bottle. I've tracked him this far; from darkened stairwells, behind passwords and doors I have followed him, the king of this city. And I will bring him down. Just a few minutes more.

Waves lap the pylons that keep this wharf upright, the boards moan under the moisture in the air, under the booted footsteps of men. I crouch low, my auburn hair hidden beneath the black scarf I borrowed from the housekeeper. He won't see me until I want him to, the woman who will end his reign. More boots, the muffled cough of age behind a limp cigarette. It's embers marking the man's pace. I can smell him. 

Their eyes stare into me, their breath mingling with the fog. They wait for the signal. Soon, I promise resolutely.

Where would they be without me? Treading water in an open case; never drawing nearer. The morning I threw open those brass doors they were saved. A little woman in white trousers had outdone them all. A little woman in white trousers had handed them a prize. My facts checked out, though they tried hard to poke holes in my theory. A girl can learn a lot more than a copper can in a lounge they aren't supposed to know about. And I did. 

The crowbar wrapped in his gloved hands cracks open a wooden crate just off a gangplank. It's silent, but for the fog horn - a sound I'll hear for days after, imprinted in my mind. He takes a glove to his teeth and slides it off his hand. Each bottle is inspected. I step out from the shadows and I know he sees me. Then the men. This day would change him. This day he would remember his daughter, Francis Falcon: Investigative Reporter and snitch.