Sections: Free Home | Members' Entrance | Contact

Chapter One - The Bee's Knees & Stinking Backsides

“Those damned Time Police!” Jim Edwards, Sr. cried, for what must have been the thousandth time that morning, as far as his son was concerned. “They won’t let a man make a decent living. If he tries, they use brute force on him, like that Pat Reilly did to me.”

“I thought you used your time machine to get away before he could touch you,” Jim, Jr. replied, in his usual exasperated tone. “Anyway, you managed to sell the proof Morgan dollar you got in 1893 for more than $100,000 when you came back to the present, so you came out OK. That’s why we’re living in this Hollywood mansion now.”

His father’s voice was slurred as he replied, “But we would be even better off, if I’d convinced that Angelica d’Angelo to marry me. She literally owned all the gold in California back in 1858 because she bought the land right before the Gold Rush, and she needed a Time Cop to be her bodyguard. I would have wound up being her husband, too…and legally owning all her property, the way husbands did in those days…except that that damned Pat Reilly lured her away.”

“That’s not what you told me last time. You said you had locked her up and threatened to starve her into submission.”

“I did?” Jim, Sr. answered, a confused expression coming into his watery blue eyes. “I don’t remember that.”

“Maybe you would remember more, if you stopped doing drugs.”

“Don’t you dare talk to me that way!” the older man cried. “Remember, I’m your father. You even look just like me.”

Yes, the teenager thought…I look the way you must have looked, before you became an old druggie. We both have curly blond hair, blue eyes and broad shoulders…but your shoulders are slumping, your eyes have turned red, your hair has not been combed in a week, and your face has not been shaven.

No wonder my mother left you, the moment she could grab the time machine long enough to go back to her pappy’s old plantation. And if the Yankees hadn’t wrecked it, she would have returned a lot sooner.

To his surprise, a sly smile suddenly crept across his father’s face, interrupting his rebellious thoughts. “But I know where I can find something that’s better than drugs, and it will me even richer. I should have just enough time to do it, before those lousy Time Cops show up and try to wreck everything.”

“You used to be a Time Cop yourself,” his son reminded him. “That’s where you got your time machine.”

“Yes,” Jim, Sr. answered, cheerful again. “And it brought me more money than I had earned in a lifetime on the force.”

“And where are you going, so you can get more money now?”

Putting his thick finger to his lips, the man replied, “Shsssh! That’s my secret. But one thing I can promise you…those lousy, rotten Time Police will not be able to jump in and screw me up this time.”
***
“So whenever we see that someone has changed the past for any reason, that’s when we jump in.”

“For any reason?” Charlotte Reilly asked her father doubtfully. “But what if they change the past for the better? I mean, you know, like avoiding the two world wars, by saving the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife from getting killed at Sarajevo.”

“It’s impossible to tell if the change will be good or bad,” her mother told her firmly. “Take me, for instance. I prevented the California Gold Rush, by buying Sutter’s Mill right before all that precious metal would have been discovered there.” Hastily, Angelica added, “I paid him a more-than-fair price, but that didn’t set things right.”

“No indeed it didn’t,” Pat Reilly informed his daughter sternly. “Your mother didn’t realize that, if it hadn’t been for the Gold Rush, the State of California would never have existed.”

“And I was very sorry for having done that, when he explained it to me,” Angelica Reilly said. With her 15-year-old daughter beside her, she did not add that Pat had made her even sorrier…with a good sound spanking that she remembered to this day.

“But if Dad had not gone chasing after you, to stop you from changing  history, then you would never have met and I would never have been born.”

“What a smart little girl I have!” she replied, thus hastily changing the subject. “She takes after her father, I can tell. She looks like him, too. With those red curls and freckles you both have, I have a very handsome family.”

“But no handsomer than your mother, the beautiful brunette,” he responded. “I’m always proud of both my girls.” And he put one brawny arm around each of them.

He abruptly pulled away when the alarm bell went off. “Now you’ll see what a Time Policeman does…or a Time Policewoman, like you want to be.”

And indeed that’s just what my little girl wants, he thought, as they raced down the hall towards the news library in the Time Police building. Angelica and I made sure of it, when we learned that Charlotte had inherited her mother’s time-travel genes…which let her go anywhere, at any time, merely by wishing for it. Which might make her the best Time Cop of all.

“Now you’ll have a chance to see how we know that the past has been changed,” he told her. “Look!”

All three stared at the 1925 newspaper that was glowing brightly, signaling that someone had changed the past, as the alarm bell kept blaring. The pages turned automatically, until they stopped at page three.

“Now look at the picture,” he ordered. “What do you see?”

“Al Capone,” she answered doubtfully. “But really, daddy, everyone knows that. He has that scar across his cheek, which is why they called him Scarface. And everyone knows that he was a bootlegger during the Roaring Twenties, like they tell us in school. So how did the past change, if he is still there?”

“Look at those other people around him,” he answered.

After studying the photo briefly, she pressed her finger on one of the faces. It belonged to a beautiful, busty blonde with a dazzling smile.

“That’s Jackie Jensen, the movie star!” Charlotte exclaimed. “I must have seen her in ‘The Bee’s Knees’ at least ten times, and I never got tired of watching. She really was the Bee’s Knees, just like they said in the twenties. But what is she doing back there in the Roaring Twenties, after she made that movie about it and won the Best-Actress award?”

“She probably wanted to see what it was really like,” her father grimly replied.

“But couldn’t that lady just be her great-great-grandmother or something?”

“Sure she could, Charlotte…but that would not have set the alarm off. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.” His voice dropped even lower, as he went on, “Besides, I see one face I could never forget.” Pulling his time machine from his trousers pocket, he said, “Jim Edwards.”

“Let me look!” his wife cried. A brief glance was enough to make her reply, in a shaky voice, “You are right, Pat. That’s him. And whatever he wants to do there, you just know that he will be making trouble for everyone.”

“So I’d better get there soon,” her husband replied. “Just as soon as I can stop at the money exchange.”

As he signed the receipt for the 1925 dollar bills, he heard his daughter saying, with a sigh, “I wish Mom and I could…”

“Charlotte, no!” her mother cried.

“….go with you.” Before either parent could say anything more, all three of them were standing out on the street staring up at the Chicago water tower. They had landed in front of a newsstand where a teen-aged boy was waving a copy of the Chicago Tribune and shouting, “Extree, extree, read all about it…General Hindenburg is elected President of Germany.”

After a long, stunned silence, Charlotte finally whispered, “We have gone back to 1925. That’s exactly 100 years before we left the Time Police Building.”

“So where are we going now?” her mother asked.

“First to Marshall Fields department store, so we can buy you girls some 1920’s clothing,” he replied. “Your blue jeans and t-shirts might be standard issue in 2025, but here they make you look like rubes from the country. We can’t look like that at the place where we are going to stay.”

“And where is that?” Angelica asked.

“Where else? The place where Capone lives...the Lexington Hotel.”
***
During her own time travels, Angelica had often stayed in palaces, like the Governor’s Mansion in Williamsburg and Hampton Court in England. But she could not keep from staring in awe at the hotel lobby.

After passing through the revolving door, they found themselves facing the double marble stairway with its gilded wrought-iron railings. The second-story landing rose above the white marble walls and floors, with artificial palm trees adding color to the sumptuous scene.

When Pat signed in at the front desk, he wrote down his occupation as “investor.” That was enough to explain how he could afford this luxury hotel, his wife realized, with a smile. It was, after all, the Roaring Twenties, where investments kept bringing in higher and higher returns and few people thought they would ever stop climbing. Her smile faded as she realized how cruel the crash would be, when it came four years from now…but, as always, she would not be allowed to prevent it.

“What time does the restaurant open for dinner?” Pat asked, as they rode up in the elevator with the porter.

“At six o’clock, sir,” the porter replied. Lowering his voice, he added, “But you may want to come at seven, when Al Capone will be there and you can get his autograph.” As he held out his hand, it was obvious to the Reillys that he thought he had earned a big tip for that information. As indeed he had.
***

Seated beneath the artificial palm trees, the three violinists were playing the latest hit song, “The Bee’s Knees,” as the Reillys walked into the dining room. Arched Palladian windows rose above the balcony, while the round tables were covered with sparkling white linen cloths.

The Reillys hardly noticed their surroundings, though, as they stared at the man who sat at the largest table, facing the entrance door. In startling contrast to his elegant surroundings, Al Capone wore a rakishly tilted fedora hat, calling even more attention to his scarred left cheek.

As they walked towards him, the Reillys could hear his blaring voice as he sneered, “I don’t know why the newspapers are so mean to me. I am just a businessman, giving the people what they want.”

His companions laughed, knowing that “what they wanted” was the bootleg whiskey he smuggled in from Canada, in defiance of the National Prohibition Law. For those who desired another illegal pleasure, he also provided prostitutes.

Prohibition was being defied right there at the table, where Capone and his friends kept pulling small bottles out of their pockets or purses and draining them in one swallow. Those friends included the woman who sat next to him, dressed in the latest fashion, of a short fringed black dress with a matching jeweled headband tied around her bobbed blond hair.

“That’s Jackie Jensen!” Charlotte whispered to her parents urgently. “And that’s the same outfit she wore in ‘The Bee’s Knees.’”

“She still seems to be acting out the part in real life,” her mother answered cynically. “Look at the way she is leaning towards Capone, throwing back her head and putting her hand over her bosom while she laughs at all his jokes. Only this time it is for real.”

“She fell in love with him in the movie,” Charlotte responded thoughtfully. “Only I guess she wanted the real thing, instead of just settling for the actor who played him. She sure seems gone on him now.”

“Now let’s do the Charleston!” Jackie called out, and the musicians instantly obeyed. “Come on, Al…dance with me,” she cried. Coming unsteadily to her feet, she did her best to drag him out of his gilded chair.

“That’s the best argument for Prohibition I have ever seen,” Pat muttered, and his women nodded agreement.

“Nah,” he told her, pulling his arm away. “I don’t know how to dance.”

“But I do, and I can teach you.”

“She certainly does,” Charlotte whispered. “She must have spent hours rehearsing her steps for the movie.”

“I don’t want to learn,” the gangster answered abruptly.

“But I insist!” she continued, in her slurred, drunken tone, as she clutched his arm again.

“And I insist that you shut up and sit down, you drunken broad!”

She slapped him across the face, then gasped in terror as she realized what she had done. “Al, I didn’t mean it,” she stammered. “I was drunk.”

“You sure were. But I have a way to sober you up, fast.”

Pat watched them carefully, knowing that if the gangster drew his gun or pulled out his knife, he would have to jump right in to save the silly girl’s life.

As it turned out, he didn’t need to do any such thing. To Pat’s relief…and amusement…Capone grasped her arm and dragged her across his knee.

The musicians must have been relieved, too, having avoided witnessing a murder, or at least a serious assault. They quickly changed their tune to “She’s the Bee’s Knees,” and re-wrote the lyrics drastically as they sang.

Soon the diners were joining in, clapping their hands in time to the music. The spanking followed the rhythm, which was broken by the victim’s cries:

“She’s the Bee’s Knees…SMACK, smack, smack…
And the BEE was stinging…”
“OW! OW! OW! OW!”
“Her lit-tle bottom…
for SPANK-ings
She has not for-GOT ‘em”
“OW! OW! OW! “OW! Please, please stop!”

When he finally let her stand, she raced behind her chair, as though it could protect her. “Damn that Jim Edwards!” she sniffled, as she used a linen table napkin to wipe her streaming eyes.

“And just who is he?” Capone asked, with his dark eyes narrowing suspiciously beneath his bushy brows.

“He’s nothing to me!” she quickly assured him. “He’s…he’s just the guy who brought me here. And look what a mess he got me into! Everyone was laughing at me!” She burst into tears again.

Leaning down to murmur in her ear, Angelica whispered, “He brought you here from the year 2025, right? And for a very good price, too.” The movie star’s startled expression was all the proof needed by the Time Policeman’s wife.

“What is that you are whispering about?” the gangster shouted. “Are you asking my girl if she wants to go back home? Well, you’d better not do it…because I am keeping her right here.”

“Even if she doesn’t want to stay?”

“What do I care what she wants?” the gangster snarled. “I want her to stay with me, and that’s what matters.” Turning to Jackie, he demanded, “Isn’t it?”

To the audience’s surprise, she nodded eagerly, threw her arms around his thick neck and battered his scarred cheek with kisses. It all left the spectators cheering again.

“Do you know where Mr. Edwards is now?” Pat asked, as Capone rather sheepishly wiped her lipstick off his face. “I mean, I’ll bet there are lots of people who would love to come here with him.” Grimly, he added to himself, “And it is my job to be sure that they don’t do it.”

“Where else would he be?” she demanded. “He’s right here in the Lexington Hotel.” Smiling, she added, “And I hope you will tell him that he is worth every penny he charged, because he let me fall right into the spanking trap.

Angelica smiled in response, knowing exactly what it was like to feel that way about a man who had just given you the spanking of your life.
***
“All right, Dad, you’ve made your money and you’ve made your point, about how much people want your services. You’ve even guzzled all the bootleg booze you can, and that stuff is much stronger than anything they make in our own time. Now can we please get out of here, before that mobster kills us both?”

“Why would he do that?” the slurred voice asked.

“Didn’t I just tell you?” the young man replied. “Because he’s a freaking murdering GANGSTER! He could kill you just for looking sideways at his girl, because he does think of Jackie that way, anyone could see that just from looking at him.”

“So I brought the lovebirds together!” his father sneered. “Well, I’ll drink to that.”

“Not from the bathtub!” his son shouted. “That stuff can kill you or leave you blind. Don’t you know it’s made from denatured alcohol?”

“But what a way to go!” Jim Edwards, Jr. laughed drunkenly. “I can tell you, it makes that Canadian whiskey look like ginger ale.”

“Dad!” There were the sounds of a brief struggle, as the son tried desperately to drag his father away from the bathroom door, knowing that the bathtub was still half full of bootleg gin.

“Room service!” the Time Policeman cried, doing his best to disguise his voice.

“About time you got here!” Jim, Jr. called through the door. Turning back to his father, he added, “You’ve got to eat something, at least.”

They both wheeled towards the entrance, as Pat Reilly flung it open and stalked inside. “Time Police,” he tersely announced. “That seems like a good name for us right now, because it’s time for you to answer for what you did.”

“What did I do?” Jim, Sr. demanded, his bleary eyes trying to focus on his accuser. “I didn’t do anything, except for giving people what they wanted, just the way my new pal Mr. Capone always says that HE does. So I don’t see how I hurt anyone.”

“Oh you don’t, don’t you?” Pat demanded, through gritted teeth. “Well, try this on for size. Your clients will know when the Depression is coming, so they will all sell their stocks and head home…making the Crash and the panic even worse than they would have been otherwise. I’ll have to bring all of your clients home myself, since you’ll be out of the picture.” Thinking of Jackie Jensen, he added, “The ones who want to go, at least.”

“So they can sue me,” he answered, with a shrug. “I didn’t make anyone buy anything they didn’t want, any more than Mr. Capone does.”

“You can tell it to the judge. And I hope you get sentenced to eleven years in prison, just like your pal will.” As he spoke, he started to pull the time machine from his pocket…

…and found himself struggling with Jim, Jr., as the blond boy fought to give his father enough time to fumble for his own time travel device. The fighting stopped as Jim, Sr. disappeared.

“I could almost admire you for that,” the Time Policeman told the boy. “You fought to save your father…just the way my daughter would have fought for me, if I had brought her here.”

“Save your admiration for yourself!” the lad cried. “I am telling you right now, I used to think that my father was wrong to hate you guys so much…but now I see that he was right about you. All you want to do is punish people who have given the public what they wanted, just the way Mr. Capone did, and I’ll do my best to stop you. So get out of here and leave me alone!”

Pat reached out to touch his shoulder, but the boy angrily pulled away. With a sigh, the Time Policeman strode out the door.

He had no way of knowing about the mixed feelings that were tearing the boy apart. Jim, Jr. was sure that his father had never meant to hurt anyone, true…but from what this Time Cop had said, he had done it all the same.

But there was one man who would do his best to keep the Great Depression from becoming even worse than it was. Jim, Jr. swore right then to keep that man from suffering.

Of course, he would have to wait ten years in his own time before he could stand up to the Time Police…and he’d spend them all getting into fighting shape…but he knew it would be worth it, for the great good that he himself would do in helping that great and good man named Franklin Roosevelt.

 


Would you like to read the rest of this story? It's available in our members' area. Joining is quick and easy. Click HERE!