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The Unstoppable Jennie Justo: Episode Seven

Episode 7: Roy returns ©

Is it the rocking of a train that gets a mind wandering? Boredom? The journey itself? Whatever the reason, I’m lost in memories. I’m heading home to Madison after spending six months in jail for running a speakeasy during Prohibition.

* * * *

It was the night after I’d had the run in with Roy. Art, the hunky, pro-sport college boy, had intervened when that damn Fed had me cornered in the back hall.

Tonight was mid-week, so the crowd was steady, but not crazy. Pepe and Joe wandered downstairs and sat at a table near the bar. I poured them a couple of beers and sat with them, leaving Maddie to look after the rest of the customers.

“So, business is good, Sis? With the orders Mama’s been placing, I figure you must have the best ‘speak’ in town, or maybe she’s got another joint on the side?” Pepe said. And he winked. He always winked, that brother of mine.

I laughed. “Yeah, business is good. It’s been busy. We got a new act in this month and the kids seem to really like him. Big Joe Williams. He’s got this strange get-up, a nine-string, electric guitar. But a guitar that’s electric isn’t the strangest part. He runs the music through a small, ramshackle amp with a pie plate nailed to it and a beer can dangling against that. When he plays, everything rattles; that is, everything except Big Joe himself. Ha, it’s the most buzzing, sizzling, African-sounding music I’ve ever heard. Wait ‘til you hear him. The kids go wild. And wild kids are thirsty kids.”

Pepe raised an eyebrow. “I’m not sure about this African music, Sis. Seems a bit sketchy. What about Benny Goodman? He’s got a great sound.”

“Yeah, and if I took out a couple of tables I could just about fit the five of them in the basement, but there’d be no room for drinkers. No, I’ll keep Big Joe and his pie plate as long as he’ll stay,” I said.

I caught up on various scams and goings-on with the Justo boys, and some good-natured teasing about Pepe’s latest romantic conquests, then I brought the conversation back around to my small problem.

“Hey, Pepe? Joe? You able to stick around for a bit tonight? There’s this guy that’s been coming in. We had to throw him out last night. He’s a real testa di cazzo (asshole). If he comes back, I was hoping you’d be able to have a word with him, and maybe clear him out for good.”

The two boys visibly swelled. Nothing like a pair of Italian brothers to come to a girl’s rescue. They look around the room and glower, marking their territory.

“He’s not here yet, but he’s been in every night this week. Stick around if you can, and I’ll point him out when he comes in. Not too rough. Just give him the bum’s rush up the stairs and out the door. He might be a Fed.”

The bantam feathers settled and the boys went back to their beers, keeping an eye on me, and checking out the latest customers every time the door opened.

Around ten, Roy came in, a couple of extra pals in tow. He sported a shiner, a fat lip, and a crooked nose, courtesy of Art Bramwell. I caught my brothers’ attention and nodded in Roy’s direction.

Pepe and Joe walked over to where Roy and his boys were just pulling out chairs.

“I don’t think you need to sit down, pal. You’re not staying.” Pepe grabbed Roy by the collar and hauled him up. Joe moved between Roy and the rest of his friends, slapping a blackjack he’d pulled out of his pocket into his palm. Pepe pushed Roy towards the door. Roy stumbled for a bit and then straightened.

“Hey, bub. Back off.” He reached into his pocket. Pepe went for his gun. Somewhere in the bar, a girl screamed, and kids dived under tables.

Roy pulled out a piece of paper. “Federal Agent Elliott. I’m here with a warrant to arrest for Vinzenza DiGiorno, also known as Jennie Justo, for violations to the Volstead Act. And I’ll be closing this place down. Tonight.”

Roy glared at Pepe.

Pepe wasn’t backing down and glared right back.

“You got a problem with that, bub?” Roy challenged.

The crew that had arrived with Roy pulled out their badges. Another raid. And Constable Mike’s friendly face nowhere in sight.

If you’ve missed an episode, you can get it here…

Episode One

Episode Two

Episode Three

Episode Four

Episode Five

Episode Six