Agent Spiegel burst into the police station so fast the doors strained on their hinges. He was like a hound on scent, anticipatory saliva nearly dribbled from his mouth. He had been trying to catch up on sleep after an all night stake out when Wilson had finally gotten a hold of him. He had very little time to pull himself together and get down to the station.
“Where is she?” he barked at the first person he saw. The officer shook his head baffled. Agent Wilson came out into the hall and directed Spiegel.
“She’s in room B. The clock is ticking though. For a minor offense, we can’t hold her much longer,” Wilson said. He handed a file folder to Spiegel and turned the door knob.
“Miss Fitzgerald, I’m Agent Spiegel, this is my colleague, Agent Wilson. We’d like to ask you a few questions.” He set the folder on the table under the single lamp that hung from the ceiling. The rest of the small room was dark. Wilson took up his post in the corner with a notepad. In front of them sat Delphia Fitzgerald, a person with association to people of interest. She was wearing a tatty overcoat and a crochet hat pulled down over her ears.
“I don’t know anything,” she replied sullenly.
“We can still fine you for that bottle of whiskey we found on your person,” Spiegel noted. Delphia pursed her lips and shrugged.
“My mother has a prescription, that’s what I told the guy that brought me here.”
“Then your mother ought to have been in possession of it,” Spiegel finally pulled out his chair and sat.
“She’s bedridden. Obviously, she couldn’t pick it up herself,” Delphia replied, “You’re wasting your time.”
“Where’s the slip from the doctor, from the pharmacist?” Spiegel didn’t wait for the answer, “I know this label, Miss Fitzgerald, this formula. We’ve been tracking it all around these parts. This is not prescription issue.”
“How would I know, that’s what the pharmacist gave me,” she said. Spiegel cleared his throat. She was obviously sticking to her story. He flipped open the file folder.
“Your employment, Miss Fitzgerald?”
“The Libellule Supper club.”
“Frank Sicero’s place?”
“No, the other one.” Venom tainted her words.
“What is it you do for Frank Sicero?” Spiegel tried again.
“I don’t do anything for Frank Sicero. Yes, I am employed at the Libellule Supper Club, but I rarely see Mr. Sicero. I take patron’s drink orders and carry plates from the kitchen to the tables,” she paused and stared into Spiegel’s gray eyes, “Coffee and Coca-cola mostly. Come to think of it, I believe Mr. Sicero only spoke four words to me since I started there.”
“And what was that?”
“Fetch the lady’s coat,” Delphia giggled only briefly, “I told you, you were wasting your time.”
“Do you know who the woman was?”
Delphia shook her head. Spiegel pulled out several photographs out of the folder and laid them out in front of her. “Do you recognize any of these people?” Delphia rolled her eyes and looked down at them. The photographs had been taken from various places around town. She had seen most of these people visit the Libellule, but that wasn’t any of the Prohibition agents’ business. There she recognized that grumpy bulldog, Cylus and Frank’s young driver that grabbed her ass one night. A few Ward bosses as well, but she didn’t always remember which one was which. The New Yorker. And Micky O. the bootlegger. The one who had actually given her the ‘prescription whiskey.’ Delphia shook her head.
“No, I don’t remember any of these men. I see so many people every night.” She pushed the photographs away. The agent flipped through his file again and laid out more photos. A younger mug shot of Cylus and Frank, a crime scene of a woman in a pool of blood, another of a woman she recognized being led away in handcuffs. It was that woman’s coat, that Mr. Sicero had asked for Delphia to retrieve.
“These are dangerous people, Miss Fitzgerald.” He pulled out another old mug shot. Micky O. He didn’t say anything. Delphia tried to keep her face blank. There wasn’t anything going on between them. Why would this Prohibition agent think that?
“Can I just pay my fine and leave?” she finally asked after several minutes. The agents didn’t respond. Spiegel kept shifting various photos around.
“I’m only a waitress. I’m not the person to be asking these questions.” Delphia shoved the photographs back at Spiegel. There was a knock on the door and an officer entered.
“What is it?” Spiegel snapped.
“We talked to the landlord and visited the apartment,” the uniformed officer said nervously as he shifted his feet, “It was just the one room with an ill woman laid up in a piss soaked bed.” Delphia let out a frustrated groan and rubbed her face.
Spiegel’s complexion flushed. He waved the officer out and glanced at Wilson. They had realized they were not going to get anywhere.
“Why would you pay a fine for prescription?” Spiegel asked through gritted teeth. Wilson got up from his seat. He opened the door and motioned for Delphia to leave. She quickly vacated her seat and was escorted to the front of the station. It was now very late. She had been seized on her way home after her shift. Her mother would have no idea what was happening.
She scurried through the streets in the dark. She ignored the comments late night drunkards and vagrants tossed at her. Rats scurried around her feet and darted from trash heap to trash heap. It was the seedier side of the city; rows of cheap tenements and boarding houses. As she entered the brick building, her landlord stepped out into the hall.
“Police came by earlier,” he said. Delphia paused at the base of the stairs. He continued, “I don’t want any problems around here.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Delphia snapped and she tramped up the four flights of stairs to her small efficiency apartment. She come smell the stink as she opened the door. Her mother’s weak voice came moaning across the dark room.
Delphia turned up the light and hung her coat on its peg. Her mother lay on the double bed in the corner. Her thin, knobby hands rested on top of the blankets. She raised one of them to Delphia plaintively. The young woman turned her back and scowled. She set a bucket in the sink and turned on the tap. She dragged a wash basin to the center of the room and filled it one bucket at a time. The whole time her mother feebly asked who those men were and where Delphia had been. Without answering, she threw back the blankets from her mother and stripped off her wet nightgown. With a grunt, the frail woman was lifted and placed into the wash basin.
“I couldn’t hold it. You were gone too long,” her mother said. Delphia didn’t care. Her muscles groaned and her feet hurt from the long day. The bed was stripped of all its linens. She managed to rotate the mattress, then she tended to her mother. She redressed her in her warmest nightgown and set her down on the dry side of the mattress.
“Go back to sleep,” ordered Delphia. She tossed the sheets into the basin to soak and turned out the light. She curled up on the small sagging davenport still in her day clothes. She was exhausted. She couldn’t even comprehend the events with Spiegel or those with Micky O. earlier in the evening.
“Delphia, I’m cold,” her mother whined in the dark.
“Then you shouldn’t have pissed all over the blankets,” Delphia hissed back. Somewhere out in the night a cat yowled.
“Delphia,” mother whined. Delphia grumbled and reluctantly vacated her spot. She climbed onto the bed, huddled close on the dry half, and wrapped her arms around the old woman.
“Is that better?” she asked. Her mother let out an affirmative whimper. The old woman was asleep in almost no time. Despite her exhaustion, sleep eluded Delphia. She held her mother and watched the moonlight drift across the threadbare rug of the apartment.