dru faust

Dru Faust and the Devil’s Due, part 16

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Sunday, July 16, 1922

The next morning, Alexandra and I went back to the hospital with Daddy to see Archie. “I need to check on my other patients first, but I’ll be in to see Archie around lunchtime,” he told Alexandra as we parted ways in the lobby. He held up a file folder. “I’ve got the results of his blood work here, and I’ll get them to Dr. Harper right away.”

Alex thanked him and we waved good-bye, following the corridor to Archie’s ward.

Archie already had a visitor, though. A nurse and a policeman were standing over Archie’s bed.

“Oh, he’s awake!” Alexandra ran forward, nearly knocking Officer O’Neil out of the way as she threw her arms around her brother. He was still pale, reclining on a short stack of pillows, but returned her embrace with vigor.

“It’s good to see you among the living,” I said, grinning. “You gave us a pretty good scare.”

Archie’s smile was tired but honest. “Sorry about that.”

Alexandra was crying again, this time with joy. She finally pulled away, wiping self consciously at her eyes. “Don’t you ever do that again!” she said, punching his shoulder.

“Ouch!”

The nurse, appalled at such treatment of an invalid, turned her sharpest glare on Alexandra. “Miss! I’ll have to ask you to leave if you upset my patient!”

“Don’t worry, it’s Jake. That’s how my sister shows affection.” Archie grinned, but the nurse didn’t look convinced.

“I promise I’ll keep an eye on them,” I said, my own grin stretching my face.

The nurse–whom I knew on sight, but did not know her name–finally looked at me and must have realized I was Dr. Faust’s daughter. She finally nodded. “Very well. But no more rough housing. This is a place of rest!” Straightening her crisp white uniform, she strode away quickly..

I turned to Officer O’Neil. “I’m sorry for interrupting. We’ve all been very worried about Archie.”

“That’s alright. I’m nearly done here. I just wanted to get some of the particulars from Mr. Grant.”

“So you can find the people responsible?”

“Responsible? Well, it’s unfortunate, but I’d say that Mr. Grant here is responsible for his own actions. Liquor is illegal in this country, as you know, so he who chooses to drink it does so at his own risk.”

I stared at him, unsure if I was more surprised at his lack of concern over the poisoned liquor, or in the fact he didn’t seem interested in arresting Archie for drinking.

“But what about the Devil’s Due? Aren’t you going to try to find the people selling it? It’s poison! He could have died! He’s lucky he’s not blind!”

But O’Neil just shrugged, a patronizing smile on his lips. “I’ll be sure to pass the information on to the detectives on our prohibition squad. I’m only here because your mother asked me to look into it.”

I bit back an angry retort, forcing myself to thank him and see him off as he slipped his notepad back into the pocket of his jacket. Once he was gone, I sat angrily on the edge of Archie’s bed.

“Di mi! What a creep!” Alex spat once his shadow cleared the door. “Dru, what was he talking about? Why can’t your mother help?”

“Because she’s a policewoman. She can’t go around investigating on her own. She’s basically a glorified matron.” Over six hundred policemen in Columbus, and only three policewomen. Mother was the only woman at her precinct, except the secretary.

I threw my handbag onto the coverlet, tearing it open to produce my own notepad and a pencil stub. “Alright, Archie. Start at the beginning. Everything you just told Officer O’Neil, you tell to me.”

“Why? What are you going to do?” Archie asked, eyes huge.

“If the police aren’t going to track down these–these–” My words failed me; I couldn’t come up with a sufficient insult, even if my polite upbringing would have allowed me to say it in a place as public as a hospital “–bootleggers, then I’ll find them. I’ll wrap them up in brown paper and leave them on the front step of the precinct, if I have to!”

Alex laid a hand on my arm. “Sweetie, you can’t. You’d get yourself killed.”

“Well, someone has to do it, and the police don’t seem to care. Two people have already died, and there are dozens more in the same condition as Archie. Some of them might make a full recovery. A lot of them won’t.”

“The police have already shut down almost every speakeasy in the city. What can you do that they haven’t?”

“These crooks are always one step ahead. By the time O’Neil gives that information to the prohibition squad, they’ll be long gone. There are only two detectives in that unit, and there are dozens–if not hundreds–of bootleggers and importers, speakeasies and people just the swell who hosted that party last night. They can’t keep up. But you already know where to find them.” I looked steadily at Archie. Beside him, his sister clasped his hand tightly.

“What do you want to do?” Alexandra asked me.

“I want to find the evidence the police need to make an arrest. I want to these people off the street.”

“I assume you have a plan, then?”

***

We spent another half hour with Archie, going over every detail of the evening. His memory was fuzzy in places, but he was able to tell me the host’s name, and give the address before the nurse came and insisted we leave him alone to get some rest. “Sunday is the day of rest, even for those who haven’t been ill. Out with you, now! No more visitors for today!”

Alex and I hurried out of the ward. We took a streetcar home, and went directly to the basement.

I found his notes right where I expected to, at the end of the long work table. There were still two more bottles to test before Daddy sent the results to the police station.

“What are you looking for?” Alex asked, peering over my shoulder. She wrinkled her nose; chemistry was not her strong suit.

“I want to see which of these is the most toxic.” I flipped through the lists of chemicals and the detailed notations on the tests used to determine the ratios. “Here. This one.” All of the bottles were toxic, but one had been cut with straight industrial alcohol, rather than alcohol redistilled to remove the hazardous chemicals the government required manufacturers to add. In essence, they made a poison more poisonous in the hope people would stop trying to drink it. It was a highly ineffective plan, now that the main sources of alcohol were either industrial or homemade.

I reached into the crate, pulling out the bottle with the number one label: Hudson Castle Whiskey.

“You think that’s the one? But where did it come from?” Alexandra asked.

“These all came from the raid Thursday night. If my hunch is right, then the police were trying to track this bottle to its source.”

“If they’ve gotten as far as the gin joint that sold it, what makes you think they won’t find the person who made it in the first place?”

“They might. But I think we can do it faster.” I put the bottle back in the box, arranging the notes and samples just as we’d found it.

Elizabeth’s voice at the top of the stairs made us both look up. “Oh, there you are. I thought I heard you come home. What’s going on?”

Alexandra jerked a thumb in my direction. “Detective Dru thinks she can hunt down bad guys better than the police.”

For some reason, Elizabeth didn’t look surprised at this revelation. “Oh?”

Alex picked up the bottle again, studying it thoughtfully. “Everyone knows the police are overstretched. Half of them are dirty. They’re never going to find the people responsible for this hooch. I think Dru is right.”

Elizabeth stared at us like we’d gone completely off our nut. Maybe we had. I certainly wasn’t expecting Alex to show her support. Still, I couldn’t help but smile.

I looked at Elizabeth. “I understand if you don’t want to help. But please, don’t tell anyone. At least, not yet?”

Slowly, she nodded. “I understand. I won’t tell, not unless I think you’re in real danger. I know the police won’t help. Mrs. Faust, she’s one of the good ones, but cops like her are few and far between. Especially with people like me. I won’t help, but I won’t say nuthin’, either.”

I threw my arm around her neck. “Thank you.”

“Now, how do you plan on doing this? How are you going to get into that swell’s house?”

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