Whistling and whooping filled the air, bringing the alley to life, Mae instantly felt her heart beat quicken and she began to panic. The streets of London were not known for their safety; Mae was stood in the darkened alley behind ‘the cats Pyjamas’ boutique where she had been attending a party. She began to retreat though she found she was not moving as fast as the encroaching crowd. Quickly she felt their weight behind her, forcing her forward out into the street, where they quickly dispersed but not before sending Mae flailing into the road. She stood a rabbit frozen in head lights as a car which could have driven straight out of the 1920’s came toward her; before Mae could scream a hand grabbed her arm, dragging her back to the safety of the street.“You okay there? Those things u’ll kill ya, should be more careful. Ma’am?” a man’s voice asked, “Hay are you okay, you look a little lost” he asked her, concern tinted his words
“Um, I don’t know, I’m Mae” she said struggling with her words, staring blankly at her saviour, “actually I think I’m gonna, can you…” Mae’s words stuck in her throat as darkness filled her vision and the street fell from beneath her as she blacked out.
When Mae woke she expected to be in her own bed, surrounded by her favourite things but she was not. When Mae’s eyes finally adjusted to the darkness she realised that she was in fact laid under a black satin sheet on a large double bed, the room she was in was decorated in dark navy paint accented with mahogany furniture. Mae climbed from the bed still dressed in her black tulip dress, though her shoes had been removed and upon examination Mae realised she had broken on of the heels, she sighed in frustration. Moving over to the lone chair which was situated next to a full length mirror, a wardrobe and dresser Mas looked over herself; her lip was bust, her dress torn and dirty and her hair stood up in directions it was not supposed to; She noticed a hand written note on the dresser next to the mirror:
Mae, I hope you find everything you need here, i took the liberty in choosing something fresh for you to wear and anything else you may require can be found in the bathroom. Please feel free to come down stairs when you’re ready.
Suddenly the events that had led to her waking up in a strange room came rushing back to her and confusion filled her mind, how had she ended up in Piccadilly circus, she felt out of time. Mae moved toward a door which she assumed led to the bathroom; it was decorated luxuriously in gold tones and white tiles; on the marbled counter sat a silver brush and next to a makeup pallet. She washed her face and applied a little foundation to the bruise forming around her lip, she added a touch of rose coloured lipstick and a sweep of shimmery powder to her eyes and cheek bones. Mae brushed her hair into submission so that it fell in loose curls and then returned to the bedroom. She slipped off her torn dress examining the bruise on her left hip that she could not recall getting and then pulled on the dress that had been left for her. The floor length, cream silk dress kissed her toes, it had a low slung waist and a low neck line; the bottom was decorated in an art deco style pattern which was mirrored on the shoulders, Mae slipped on the cream T-bar shoes and twirled in front of the mirror, giddy. Then something shiny caught her eye and stopped her twirling; on the dresser sat a beautiful diamond necklace, earring and bracelet set, it twinkled and kept her gaze as she reached out and fastened each item to her body, each piece set off the outfit perfectly.
As Mae gingery followed the long hallway along toward the grand spiral staircase she began to wonder what she was doing; why was she so happily following the instructions of a man she had barley met, wearing clothes he had left her, why was she not panicking, why was she not freaking out. She had been pushed into and woken up in a place that appeared to be a mash-up of both the 1920s and the 21st century; old Collier cars were running on engines that could have been plucked from any 21st century vehicle, they had CD players and air conditioning, there was modern electric lighting and advertising in Piccadilly circus but there were also 1920s dress, streets and talk, Mae was lost and she didn’t seem to care. She continued on her way taking in the rich, deep colouring of the walls and staircase as she descended toward the jazz music drifting up toward her from the depths of the building. Mae reached a deep red door, held open by a short, stocky, balding man dressed in a slate grey, double breasted suit, he smiled at her but bid her no verbal greeting and simply closed the door behind her.
The room she now stood in seemed to have no end and no bottom, smoke stirred and music played over the muted voices of people she could not see, she walked more cautious now, careful not to bump into anyone. However as she moved the smoke cleared revealing groups of people stood chatting; men discussing business and women gossipping; couples were dancing and cuddling in corners and singletons were flirting, Mae could not see the man she had glimpsed before in the street and so she continued on down the second set of stairs,
“Ah, here she is, the woman of the moment, our mysterious guest” the same honey toned voice said, she halted on the stairs suddenly aware of all of the eyes that were now trained on her “Don’t be afraid of them, they’re just wondering who you are, as am I” he said as he moved to take her hand and lead her down the remaining few stairs and across to a table, “Johnny can I get another glass of bubbly please” he called over to the bar man, who quickly obeyed,
“I’d much rather prefer bourbon, please” Mae said, her mouth betraying her, she had not meant to speak to freely in the presence of strangers
“Alright, Johnny please get the lady a double bourbon” he corrected and smiled at her “I’m guessing you need it” he said and pulled out a chair for her
“You have no idea” Mae replied, gladly sitting down away from the prying eyes of the others around the room
“So Mae let me introduce you to a few people here and then we’ll go talk. This here is Ellen, she’s an artist, an occasionally moody artist” he said, Ellen was sat her legs slung across the arm of the chair she occupied, her lips were painted in a dark rouge, her skin pale. She wore a knee length black beaded flapper dress and a dark feather in her hair, she nodded at Mae, waving her cigarette in a greeting, He continued “Alright, this is Jimmy and Jenks, twins, two of my best guys” Jimmy and Jenks were identical, in the short time Mae looked at them she scanned quickly for a simple difference but could find none, each wore the same navy suit and silk shirt, fedora hat and black shoes, she smiled as each greeted her with a ma’am. “Finally this is Arrigo, my oldest friend, in both definitions of the word, the one man I trust with everything” he said a warm smile touching his lips.
“It’s nice to meet you” Mae said, she felt the need to greet the man with words rather than a simple movement, he was older than the others, his hair greying but still full, his face was wrinkled, his mannerisms from another time,
“It’s nice to meet you miss” he said with a slight Italian accent, he took her hand and nodded his head ever so slightly, sitting back down again and nodding toward his friend
“Shall we” Gage asked her and gestured toward an empty table in a far back corner
“Okay” Mae replied, she trusted the man more than anyone else she knew.
Mae followed Gage over to the corner table, it was private but more brightly lit than the rest of the club, she slipped into the leather lined booth next to him; for the first time she realised that his eyes had not left her face since they had met at the staircase.
“So where are you from Mae?” he asked catching her eye, drawing her attention from the ground,
“Here, um, London, I’m just a little lost that’s all” she said, though she didn’t know how to explain exactly what had happened to her
“Well you’re lucky I found you, there are some unsavoury characters around these parts, a dame like you could get hurt or worse” he said,
“Yeah, I guess so. So who are you? You’re not an unsavoury character?” she asked but regretted her words instantly as the smile dropped from his face
“I used to be, but I made good for the bad things I did, now I guess I offer people a service. Protection from the unsavoury characters, you know the police ain’t much good, most of ‘um are in the pockets of the bad guys and those who ain’t, are too old to care, they want a quiet life, no trouble, easy retirement. That’s where me n’ the boys come in, now I ain’t gonna pretend we’re law abiding citizens, I do pay my taxes and this club here is mine, but I won’t deny that I’m in the same business with the likes of Capone or Schultz but I like to think I’m on the side of the little man, y’ know what I mean” he answering her question perfectly, honestly and the whole time he was talking Mae had become mesmerised. In the brighter light the sharp blue of his eyes was illuminated, she studied him, his face, the small lines that appeared around his eyes when he smiled, the blush colour of his lips; he wore a deep black suit, black shirt and silk red tie, his black fedora had a matching flat red bow and he wore a single silver chain around his neck.
“So you’re a gangster?” Mae asked outright, slightly shocked until she remembered where she was;
“Bluntly yeah, yes I guess I am and so are they” he said, a grin spreading across his face “Look where ever you’re from I’m guessing there are guys like us, women like them but we’re not all bad you know. Most of them are out for themselves, the money, always looking to gain no matter what but us we’re a different breed; we’ve evolved so to say, we take less and give more and in return we actually receive more, charitable donations so to speak. We help people, those who are being threatened by the less evolved and sometimes they take a disliking to it, to us. Don’t get me wrong Mae, I need to make money I got a club to run, men to pay; we run guns, offer protection depending on who we’re protecting we charge for the pleasure and it is prohibition if you hadn’t noticed. I promise you Mae I’m the better of two evils, I sit on the devils left shoulder, it’s a little closer to heaven than the right” he smiled then and Mae smiled back, his honesty, his humour felt refreshing
“Okay” Mae said, she was mesmerised by every inch of him, finding out what had happened to her had left her mind completely and she would happily stay where ever she was forever, with him.
“Do you want to dance” he asked, though it seemed less of a question than a statement as he was already stood up, holding his hand out to Mae. He had removed his jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his black shirt, his arms were tanned and muscled, each had worn and new tattoos decorating them. Mae reached out slipping her hand into his, the skin on his palm was soft, smooth unlike the rough feeling skin on the top of his hand, and she smiled as he twirled her onto the dance floor, the movement felt effortless, pre-programmed. They moved slowly, softly to the light jazz music drifting around the room, no words we’re spoken and their eyes remained locked on one another’s.
Mae blushed lightly; she could feel his thumb tracing light circles on the underneath of her wrist, her heart skipped a beat as he pulled her closer and whispered in her ear, “Who are Mae and where in hell did you fall from?” he moved away, keeping the distance between them close, watching her mouth as she spoke,
“I don’t know but I’m glad I landed here” she replied, her voice as soft as his had been, silence passed between them for a few moments before he pulled her close again, this time he did not ask her any questions, or whisper any words in her ear; he pressed his lips against hers, they were parted slightly but the kiss remained chaste. Mae kissed him back, bliss flowing over her body, she wanted to freeze the exact moment their mouths met, the heat, the feeling of happiness but something ripped them apart.
While they had been dancing in heaven and others had been laughing and singing five men had forced their way into the club, they had silently murdered the men watching the doors and had burst through into the basement contained club, their guns aimed. Not a half second passed between the door crashing open and the guns firing, bullets ripped through the air, people fell around them, women screamed and men yelled firing their own guns in retaliation, Mae had frozen, no scream escaped her lips, no sound of any kind, she simply stood surrounded by those who had fallen and those who were fighting back,
“Mae!! Move now” Gage screamed breaking the haze that had fallen around her, before she could respond he was pulling, dragging her out toward a back door hidden against the wall, his gun in hand; he turned firing as they fled out in to the alley way and down toward the street. Mae could still here the gun fire and screams from inside, in the distance sirens rang out, all she could concentrate on was the beating of his pulse where she had her thumb against his wrist and the damp heat of his palm. As quick as they had reached the street a car pulled up being driven by Anton, inside Mae could see Jimmy and Jenks who was cradling Ellen in his arms. Mae looked toward Gage for some form of direction or explanation but none came, only three words left his mouth, “Get in now” he yelled above the sirens, his eyes desperate, he lifted her before she could move, lifted her into the safety of the car, so that her eyes could see what his could not. In a split second Mae made a decision she never thought she would even have to contemplate in her life; as she looked over his shoulder down into the alley way she saw one of the armed men burst through door, his gun pointed toward Gage, Mae quickly twirled herself back out of the car and as Gabe turned with her, his mouth ready to form angry questions, he saw what she had but had not the time to change what would happen,
“I fell in love with you in a split second” Mae whispered into his ear, her body jolted when the bullet hit it, she slipped from his arms and hit the cool floor.
When Mae woke up she was surrounded by a crowd of people dressed in Versace and Dolce and Gabbana wearing Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks, the lights were bright and blinding,
“Mae Jesus what happened are you okay, get that chair” a voice said through the blur
“Im fine, I…” Mae began but stopped when she realised that she was back in ‘the cats pyjamas’, she brushed the hair from her eyes and allowed herself to be assisted over to a waiting chair,
“Are you okay Mae, someone get her water, how do you feel?”
“I’m fine, it was just a dream, he was just a” she started but something stopped her, music drifted in from the street and outside the street light seemed to have dimmed and music filled. Mae rose from her chair pulled by the sound, the hope of what might be outside
“Mae where are you going, who was a dream, Mae?!” her friend shouted after her but she had already left the boutique, had run out into the warm night air, a smile spread across her face when she saw the source of the music; pulled up at the curb outside the boutique was an old, satin black collier, the music floated from with-in. Mae walked up to the back door her heart hammering against her chest and then skipping a beat when she saw who was inside. He lent forward, his black fedora and red flat bow atop his head, a smile on his face; his eyes glittered in the street light,
“Hay beautiful, get in” Gage said, he opened the door and held out his hand for her. Mae didn’t need to think or decide she climbed into the car and into his world. If she were dreaming, she would happily sleep forever.