Have you ever had a dream that you can be sure really happened? I have. I had it when I got bashed on the back of my head after my school’s spring production. I had no idea it had happened, until I woke up with a really bad headache.
My name’s Liana. Liana Perry, and I’m eleven years old. I have long blonde hair and VERY blue eyes and my blood type is AB (whatever that means. The doctor just pricked me with a needle when I was a baby and I think he ran some sort of test, because on my birth certificate it says Blood Type: AB. Weird, huh?). I’m kind of small for my age, but I’m OK with that. It comes in handy sometimes. I can pass for under ten and get discounts on things like restaurant bills (don’t worry, it’s not cheating. Well, maybe it is…oh, never mind) and get into small places that my friends can’t. I’m also a fast runner. That came in handy too, when I was running away from a gang that was trying to kill me.
Oh yeah, I was telling you about getting bashed on the head and that dream. It’s too hard to put into speech, so I’m going to write it down. That’s what I’m doing right now. So let’s get on with it. It all started on a March evening at St. Edwin’s Church of England Primary School. That’s my school. We were putting on our spring production and this year it was Bugsy Malone, one of my favourite films. I wonder if you’ve seen it? It’s all about these rival gangsters, Fat Sam and Dandy Dan, and Dan’s got this really dangerous weapon called the splurge gun that shoots custard pies! Meanwhile Bugsy Malone, our hero, falls for Blousey Brown, a singer at Fat Sam’s speakeasy, but this other girl called Tallulah who’s Fat Sam’s girlfriend is trying to stir up trouble between them because she fancies Bugsy. So after the show I was in a Bugsy Malone kind of mood, singing songs like You give a little love and it all comes back to you…
“La, la, la, la, la, la, la!” Man, after the show that could be heard all through the dressing rooms, girls AND boys. We were all so excited because we were doing the same show again the next night, but I couldn’t take part in the second performance. Yeah, you guessed it. Because of the bump on my head. I was literally just chatting to Sophie and Eleanor, my best friends, when it happened.
“Did you see that?! When Jenna fell over?!” laughed Sophie. She’s always doing that. Laughing at other people’s mishaps.
“Yeah, I did,” I said, “but do you have to make a laugh out of it? That’s kind of mean.”
“I don’t care, that’s the whole point!” replied Sophie. Eleanor was looking a bit worried. She worries a lot. So she changed the subject.
“The show went brilliant, didn’t it? Well done with your solo, Liana.” Yeah, I had a solo to sing at the end. I didn’t think it was that good, and I said so.
“What are you talking about?!” Sophie exclaimed. “You’re one of the best singers in the whole school!”
No I’m not.
“Yeah, I suppose,” I said, “but that solo wasn’t easy.”
“It might not have been but you nailed it.” Eleanor reassured me. She’s nice like that.
We continued chatting, but unknown to us Joe Littlewood, the most brainless boy in the whole class, was walking behind us. Man, if there was a prize for stupidity he’d probably win it. He was carrying a ladder on his shoulder. Joe Littlewood? More like Joe Littlebrain. Eleanor noticed the ladder before I did. “Erm…Liana?” she said, going slightly pale.
“I think you should…”
But before I could move…
CRASH!!!! Right on my head, then everything went black.
Not for long though. It seemed like I’d just been knocked over and had to close my eyes. Next thing I knew I was on my hands and knees as if Sophie had pushed me over. She does that sometimes. But she and Eleanor had turned pale, and I mean PALE. It looked as if their skin had just been coated with white flour, believe me!
“Oh, no!” cried Sophie. “Are you OK?”
“I think so,” I replied. “What happened?”
They didn’t tell me. Eleanor just called over Miss Raymond. She’s our teacher. We all just call her Miss. Eleanor did then. “Miss, Liana’s banged her head!” Miss Raymond approached us as the rest of the cast for the play gathered around me. I started to feel a little bit self-conscious and embarrassed. I’d only been knocked over…hadn’t I?
Miss Raymond came to my rescue. She waved everyone off. “There’s no need to crowd around! Give Liana some air.” Since then I don’t think I’ve ever looked at a teacher in the same way I did at Miss Raymond. “Are you all right, Liana?”
“Just about,” I said, getting up and rubbing my head.
“Do you have a headache?”
“No, it just feels like something smacked my head and knocked me over.”
“That’s exactly what happened, Miss,” Sophie cut in. She pointed to Joe, who still had the ladder on his shoulder. “It was Joe Littlewood. He turned with that ladder on his shoulder and it hit Liana.” Ah. So that’s what happened.
“Right.” said Miss Raymond. “I’ll talk to him.” So she went and told Joe off. Serves him right. That kind of hurt! Wait, not kind of…it did hurt! But it wore off quickly. You know, like when you’re hiding under the table, you try and get out but you don’t crawl far enough forward, you stand up and you bump your head but it doesn’t hurt for long. After she’d told Joe off, Miss Raymond came back to us holding him by the shoulder.
“I already said, Miss, I’m really sorry!”
“It isn’t me you should be saying sorry to, is it, Joseph? I think it’s LIANA you should apologise to.”
Joe looked taken aback. I guess the thought of saying sorry to me never occurred to him! “Right,” he said, turning to me. “Sorry, Liana.”
“That’s all right, Joe,” I said. “I know it was an accident.” I like forgiving. It makes me feel good. It seemed to make Joe feel good as well, because he just smiled and bounded off. Miss Raymond sighed.
“Well then,” she said. “I suppose that’s sorted. Do you three walk home together?”
“Some of the way, Miss,” answered Eleanor.
“Both of you make sure Liana gets home safe.”
I got a little bit annoyed when she said that, so I said “I’m fine, Miss. Really.” I don’t think she listened, as she was already trying to calm down a bunch of Year 3s who were wreaking havoc with our plastic splurge guns. “Do you think she even heard me?” I asked Eleanor and Sophie.
“I doubt it.” Sophie said with a sniff. “Teachers never listen. They just say ‘that’s that’ and off they go.”
“It’s annoying, ain’t it?” added Eleanor. “Just when you really need them they disappear somewhere else.”
“Well, who needs teachers?” I asked. “I know for a fact I don’t, not when a minor accident happened.”
“But it looked major.” Eleanor responded. I got even more annoyed at that. Why was everyone making such a fuss about just a light bash on the back of my head? Well, it seemed like that. But oh boy, was I in for a shock that evening. Something that nobody could ever imagine was about to happen. Something totally out-of-the-ordinary. Something extraordinary. Something weird beyond the mind of any psychologist, philosopher, or scientist…
Whoa, whoa. Sorry about that. I often over-phrase things a bit. But what I’m trying to say is that what was about to happen hardly ever happens in reality. But it did, just that one night.
Sophie was looking a bit tired, which is so not like her. She’s normally up and running, like she hasn’t got a care in the world. I asked her if she was all right.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just tired. Tired and shocked. At what happened to you.”
“Come off it,” I said.
“Should we just go home?” asked Eleanor. She was looking a bit tired herself. “I think we’ve had a bit of a heck of a night.”
“Yeah, let’s.” Sophie agreed. I agreed with them both and we walked out of the school together, arms linked, how we always walk as a threesome. So that’s how it started. And what happened next was equally weird.
We walked chatting for a few minutes. It was mainly about the show, how well it had gone, stuff like that. Nobody said a word about my getting bumped until we came to the T-junction where I go off one way and Sophie and Eleanor continue the other way.
“I hope you’ll be OK, Liana,” said Eleanor. “That looked like it hurt.”
“Oh, just leave it!” I argued. “I’ll be fine. It didn’t hurt, honest.”
“I hope you’ll be OK too,” added Sophie. I was stunned. That is so not like my mate Sophie. I seriously thought she’d be joking about it all the way home. It might have helped us all if she had.
“That isn’t like you, Soph,” I said.
“Well, I won’t take the mick. It looked really serious.”
“See you tomorrow, Liana.” Eleanor said with a smile.
“See ya.” I smiled back, trying to act casual, as they turned away and walked off. As soon as they were out of sight, I began to be deeply puzzled. That is REALLY not like Sophie. I mean, once she made a joke out of Eleanor breaking her arm. And it wasn’t a mean joke, like it sometimes is. Even Eleanor was laughing by the time she’d been through hospital and got a cast. That’s when it began to dawn on me that something weird was going on. But I didn’t know what it was, not yet.
I began to walk the rest of the way home. There are quite a few roads to cross, and I was looking and listening like you’re supposed to at one when I heard some American voices. I didn’t realise they were talking about me.
“Hey, look. A little boy, out on his own.”
“You sure that’s a boy?”
“Well, he’s got trousers on.”
“But no boy I know has hair that long.”
“He looks rich. Perhaps we could nab a few bucks?”
“I dunno. But we could try, I guess.”
“We need all the money we can get, after all.”
“So are we gonna get him?”
“I don’t see why not. Let’s do it.”
Silence followed. I was still looking to cross, when suddenly…
THUMP! Something hit my back! Next thing I knew I had fallen into the road and had five men attacking me, pulling me onto the pavement, trying to get into my pockets. I didn’t get a chance to look at their faces, not even when a really strange voice sounded and they stopped attacking me. The voice was another American, undoubtedly a male, but it was not adult and it was not child. It wasn’t even teenager, and for some odd reason to me it sounded vaguely familiar. “Hey! HEY! Hey, ya dumb bums! Quit beatin’ up that kid, will ya?!” I heard one of my assailants shouting “Damn it! It’s Malone!” and they left me alone. I was just lying on the ground, a little bit stunned and slightly winded. I heard the strange voice again. It was closer now.
“You all right?”
“I…think so.” I replied with a strain.
“Did they take your money?”
“No. I haven’t got any on me. They just knocked me to the ground.”
I felt strong hands helping me up, and finally caught a glimpse of the guy who’d saved me. He was in a suit, dark hair greased back, brown eyes, and wearing an old-fashioned trilby hat. I didn’t get time for a long detailed look, because he jumped away from me the minute we made eye contact. I wondered why he was so shocked.
“Oh my gosh! You’re a…you’re a GIRL!”
“I thought you were a boy.” The guy pointed towards me. “You’re wearing trousers.”
I peered down at my legs. What was so weird about M&S jeans?
“But everyone wears jeans once in a while…don’t they?”
The man looked puzzled. I couldn’t work out why until he said so.
“What in the world are jeans?”
“You don’t know what jeans are?!”
I was dumbfounded. I asked him what planet he thought he was from.
“Pretty sure it’s this one.”
I couldn’t resist a chortle. “With that suit? Come on, man! Nobody wears suits like that this year.”
“Oh, yeah? Then what year is it, wisey?”
Wisey?! Nobody calls anyone that in the year I said.
The man looked a bit surprised. “But it’s 1929.”
“YOU WHAT?!!!” I looked around myself. Sure enough, rather than smooth tarmac, the road was cobbled. The blue BMW that had been parked on the street corner had turned into an old-fashioned black car. And the buildings weren’t the semi-detached houses on my street. They were terraced, and they looked like shops. I was struck dumb. Well, not completely dumb, because I managed to say something. “I’m sorry. I take all that back. I’m from the future.”
“What in the world…?!” the man cried. “The future? You can’t be from there, it hasn’t happened yet.” He shrugged. “What’s your name, anyway?”
“Liana. Liana Perry.”
He held out his hand. I suppose he must have expected me to shake it. “Pleased to meet you, I’m Bugsy Malone.”
I KNEW HE LOOKED FAMILIAR! I was completely blown away!
“BUGSY MALONE?! OH MY GOD!” I yelled out. Now it was Bugsy’s turn to be blown away, only not as much as I was!
“You know me?”
“Of course I know you! All about you! You’re friends with the mobster Fat Sam Stacetto, right?”
“And you helped him fight off Dandy Dan and his gang.”
Bugsy laughed a bit. I think he was kind of flattered. “Well, I…”
“With splurge guns,” I interrupted him. “I know it all. I’ve watched the movie loads.”
“Wow, you know a lo…” Bugsy didn’t finished his sentence before he exclaimed “…MOVIE?!”
I was slightly perplexed. Didn’t Bugsy know what a movie was?
“Yes, you’re…part of a movie.”
“I’m as real as the next person, thank you very much.” Ah. So he did, he just didn’t think he was part of one. Well, he wouldn’t, I suppose. If I was part of a movie I wouldn’t think so. I apologized.
“Oh, it doesn’t matter. You hungry?”
Hungry?! Why on earth would I be hungry?!
“You’re not hungry?!” Of course I wasn’t. I had my dinner before the show! Bugsy shrugged again. “Ah well. You can come over to my place. I’ll make you a cocoa, you need it.”
Did I? Well, Bugsy seemed to think I did. Then, to my total astonishment, he put his arm around me and began to lead me down the street.
I was a titbit embarrassed. I’m a tomboy, and I really don’t like being hugged and all that. But Bugsy had a kind of comforting air to him. It’s difficult to describe.
“You’re not saying much,” he remarked, making me jump. “You the strong, silent type or somethin’?”
“No, no!” I answered hurriedly. “I’m just trying to get everything straight in my head. Who were those guys that attacked me?”
“Oh, them?” Bugsy said. “Just some gang.”
“Do you know them?”
“Yeah, I know ‘em. But you don’t need to. I’ll get you safe, Liana. Right?”
“Right.” I answered without thinking. Man, no wonder I wasn’t saying much! Bugsy kept talking and wouldn’t let me get a word in edgeways. We came to his house and he unlocked the door. He let me in first. “Do sit down,” he said, so I sat at the table.
We finally got some conversation when he started making my cocoa. “So where you from?”
That was easy to answer. “I’m from Britain,” I said. “London.”
“Ah, London,” said Bugsy, a little dreamily. “Beautiful place. Anyway, here’s your cocoa.”
He placed a steaming mug on the table in front of me, then sat down himself. I took a sip, and oh the taste! It was so indulging, so creamy, so…well…cocoaey. Sorry, can’t find a better word to describe it! Oh, my mouth’s watering as I write remembering that cocoa. I started drinking it eagerly. Bugsy noticed and smiled.
“Do you like it?” he asked.
“It’s great,” I said. “Best I’ve ever tasted.”
“My mother’s recipe. She was Italian. Little milk, shaken and not stirred.”
“James Bond says that.” Whoops! That just came out of nowhere!
“What?! Who’s he?” Bugsy said with a confused chortle.
“Ohhh…I forgot. It’s 1929,” I laughed. “The first Bond film hasn’t been made yet. Anyway,” I changed the subject. “Enough about him. Found any new fighters, Mr. Malone?”
“You can call me Bugsy.” Bugsy said. His next words were a little astonished. “And…you know my job?”
“Sure,” I said, proud to be surprising him. “You work for Cagey Joe, walking around town finding boxers.”
“That’s right!” said Bugsy. He seemed kind of impressed that I knew so much about him. Then he seemed to drift into a memory. “In fact I…”
I finished his sentence for him! “…used to be a fighter yourself. Could have been a contender.”
Oh, Bugsy’s face! He was so taken aback when I said that! “You took the words right out of my mouth!”
“Well, I knew you were going to say that. You say it in the movie.”
Bugsy seemed a little annoyed at that. “I told you, I’m not from a movie. I’m totally real.” He changed the subject back to the boxing. “You familiar with boxing?”
“My dad watches it sometimes. On TV.” That was a little understated. When the boxing comes on on BBC Sport my dad watches it beginning to end. My mum’s always telling him to ‘Get off your backside and come and help me with the housework!’ and when he doesn’t she goes ‘Liana! Come and help me with the housework, please!’ That is so annoying.
Bugsy was perplexed. “TV?” he said.
“Oh, um…” I had to think of what to say now. “…future thing.”
“You know, I seriously don’t think you are from the future. You must be a bit confused. Have you been hit on the head?”
“Yeah, I guess those dumb bums must have punched it pretty hard.”
“No, it wasn’t them…”
Now it was Bugsy’s turn to interrupt me. “Sure it was. And I know just the thing for it…lemonade.” He stood up. “Come on.”
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“I’ll take you to Fat Sam’s. You can get the best drinks there.”
“Fat Sam’s?!” I asked, surprised. “Will I be allowed in there?”
“Sure, if you have an adult with you. Me, in this case. And I won’t have to pay a thing to get in – old Sam knows me well.” He began to walk towards the front door, then turned back to me. “Well, come on!” I got up, sharpish, and followed Bugsy out the door.
Blousey and the Grand Slam
So you see what’s happened here so far? I’ve been hit on the head by a ladder on some brainless stagehand’s shoulder and travelled back in time to 1929, which in case you don’t know is the year that Bugsy Malone takes place. It was when “the import of alcohol was prohibited in the USA” (or something like that). At least that’s what Miss Raymond said. I think it means alcoholic drinks were banned in America. So people set up speakeasies. A speakeasy is a café-type thing that the local council or government doesn’t even know exists. In Bugsy Malone Fat Sam owns one, Fat Sam’s Grand Slam. It’s disguised as a bookstore. That’s where I went now with Bugsy.
It didn’t take long to get there. Bugsy’s house was literally around the corner from the bookstore. It didn’t look like it does on the film. It seemed kind of shabbier. Don’t ask me why. We walked in and the man behind the counter said “Evenin’ Bugsy.” I realised I didn’t know this man’s name, but I found out soon enough. A split second. “Evenin’, Pop.” Hmm, weird name. Bugsy knocked on the nearby bookshelf and a small hatch opened. “Hi, Jelly,” I heard Bugsy say. “Hi, Bugsy,” came the reply. “Just you?”
“Nah, I got a kid with me. Liana here.”
I poked my face through the hatch. I had to stand on tiptoe because, like I said, I’m kind of small for my age. Everyone here seemed to be too, but then, Bugsy Malone is a movie that’s just kids. “Hi!” I called through the hatch.
Bugsy spoke again. “Liana, do you know Jelly from this movie I’m in?”
“Yeah, he’s the one that let’s people in through the bookstore.” Obviously.
“That’s right!” He spoke to Jelly again as I lowered myself down. “Jelly, I found Liana on the street. She got attacked by Dandy Dan’s gang and she’s a little confused.”
Never mind me. Jelly looked more confused than I felt. “All right, but she’s dressed kinda weird. Look at those trousers.”
How did he see my jeans? Don’t ask me.
“I know,” said Bugsy. “I was puzzled too.”
“I need a glass of lemonade according to Bugsy.” I cut in.
“Come on in then,” responded Jelly, and the shelf slid along like a sliding door (which it was) to reveal a doorway to…Fat Sam’s Grand Slam! It was bright, lively, music was playing, just like it is in the film. I stared in awe.
“Enjoyin’ the view?” Bugsy’s voice from behind made me jump. Again. “Come on, let’s go down to the bar. Max’ll get us some drinks.” Max? Oh yeah, the barman. I followed Bugsy down the stairs to the bar where another man was drying a glass behind it. He looked up as Bugsy approached. “Hi, Mr. Malone. What can I get for you tonight?”
“Special on the rocks, huh?” I caught up with Bugsy and he smiled in my direction. “And a lemonade for the kid.”
Max gave me a strange look, but smiled at Bugsy. “Comin’ up.” He turned to get the drinks as I sat on a bar stool next to Bugsy.
“The girls come and do their thing in a minute.” Bugsy really had a habit of making me jump. But this time I kept my cool.
“You got it. My girlfriend is one of ‘em.” I just ‘happened’ to know his girlfriend’s name!
“Yeah! Wow. You know a lot about us for a kid.”
“How will I know who she is?” I said that because I genuinely couldn’t remember what Blousey looked like. It had been a while since I last watched the film. But my wondering was short-lived.
“I’ll point her out to you. Hey, look. Here they come now.”
I swivelled my head to look in the direction Bugsy was pointing – towards the stage. Sure enough, eleven girls were making their way onto the stage. Two were in long dresses down to their ankles, and the rest were wearing leotard-type things with really short legs and sleeves. All the outfits were immaculate white and had ruffles at the shoulders.
“There she is,” Bugsy pointed to the girls in long dresses. “The blonde one on the right.” I looked at the girl. She was blonde alright, and her hair was just down to her ears. From where Bugsy and I were sitting, it seemed curlier than my mum’s after she’s washed it and not used her GHDs. She seemed so pretty I just wanted to gaze at her reverently. But I couldn’t because the music had started and she was moving about like crazy. I knew the song; it was Fat Sam’s Grand Slam. I had to dance to it in our play. Our dance was pretty simple though, and these girls were skipping, jumping and kicking their legs all over the stage. And another thing – they were all in perfect unison. I tell you, some of the girls who played dancers in our show have about as much rhythm as a biscuit tin. My favourite bit of the song is this person called Tallulah’s solo line: “There’s a politician, sittin’ by the kitchen, said he caught his fingers in the well he was wishin’ in!” When the girl next to Blousey sang that line, I guessed she must be Tallulah. I couldn’t see her very well, because of the shadows at the back of the stage where she was standing, but I could just make out her peroxide-blonde hair.
“Enjoyin’ the show?” Bugsy voice startled me AGAIN. Why did he always have to speak so suddenly?
“Yeah, thanks,” I replied. “I love the song. I’ve heard it before.”
“It’s pretty well known,” said Bugsy. “This joint is the liveliest joint in town, so ya can’t really turn a street corner without hearin’ somebody singin’ it. It’s a miracle the cops haven’t discovered this place!” He spoke that last sentence with a laugh as the song finished. We both clapped politely and the girls curtsied, then all left the stage. The band started playing again, a different piece this time, and I turned back to Bugsy.
“Do they do the same thing every night?” I asked.
“Yeah, it’s their job,” Bugsy replied. “But Blousey wants to be a movie star. In Hollywood.”
“Well, you would, seein’ as you know so much.” He stopped and his expression changed to one as if he suspected something was wrong. “Excuse me a minute, will ya?” he said, and left me sitting at the bar.
I turned back to ponder on what had happened. I’ll admit that at this moment I was maybe just as confused as Bugsy seemed to think I was. I mean, come on! It’s not every day you get thrown back in time to just after one of your favourite films takes place! I thought, maybe this is some crazy daydream and I’m still wandering back along the street to my house. Maybe I just need to do something that’ll wake me up. I pinched myself.
Or maybe not.
“You all right?” said Max from behind the bar, placing two glasses in front of me. I’d forgotten he was there!
“Yeah, yeah, sorry. I’m fine,” I said hurriedly.
“Well, there are your drinks.” He looked around. “Where’d Bugsy go?”
“I don’t know. Somewhere. He just said ‘excuse me’ and went.”
“Well, he’s got his special on the rocks waiting.”
Max turned away from me and continued washing a few drinks glasses. I decided to do something to distract myself, so I took my phone out of my pocket. It’s a black LG Cookie, one of the best phones ever. I don’t think at that point it ever crossed my mind that people might stare at it (mobile phones weren’t invented until 1985, so no-one would know what it was). Luckily nobody did. I turned the sound down and played a quick game of Tetris. Ever played it? You have to try and make full rows with a load of different shapes. I play it so much I think of myself as Liana Perry: Grand Master of Tetris. What? The game’s really addictive!
I was just pressing the left and right navigation buttons at random when I heard a voice behind me that made me jump. “Liana, what is that?” You guessed it, it was Bugsy. I turned with a gasp. “Oh! Bugsy! This? It’s just…my mobile phone.”
“Hmm. Bit of an odd thing. Show me what it does later. Anyway,” He gestured towards someone who was standing beside him. A woman. “Liana, this is Blousey Brown.” I gazed at Blousey. Now close up, she was even prettier than I’d seen her onstage. I could see her face now. Her eyelids were decorated with sky-blue eyeshadow to match her eyes, and she had plenty of other make-up on (blusher, foundation, lipstick…but I don’t think she was wearing mascara. It looked more like false eyelashes.). Now, instead of the white costume she’d had onstage, she was wearing a blue dress with a rosebud pattern and had a long brown coat slung over her arm. She was holding a red hat in one hand.
“Hi,” she said, smiling at me. “You must be Liana.”
“That’s me,” I said proudly, smiling back.
“It’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too.”
Bugsy sat back on his bar stool as Blousey pulled up another one and sat next to me. “So where you from?” she asked.
“London,” I said. “In Britain.”
“Never been there. How did you get here?”
“We-ell…” This was a bit tricky to answer. “I…I kind of…well, I just walked out of my school and I was on the street.”
“No she didn’t,” Bugsy cut in. “Sorry Blousey, the gang gave Liana a bit of a bad blow to the head. She’s a bit confused.” He must have told Blousey about my getting attacked.
“That’s all right,” said Blousey. She turned to me. “What you need is a glass of lemonade.”
“Hey,” Bugsy seemed to have remembered something. “Talkin’ of lemonade, did Max give you our drinks, Liana?”
“Yes! Yes, he did,” I responded, gesturing to the two glasses Max had placed on the bar. Bugsy picked up his drink and took a sip. “Mmm,” he said. “I love a good special.”
Blousey picked up the main conversation again. “OK, now we can talk. Have you met Tallulah, Liana?” she asked.
“No. I know her though.”
“Oh yeah, everyone knows Tallulah. She’s the talk of New York with the hoodlums.”
“Yeah, but Blousey,” Bugsy cut in again. “Liana seems to know everyone here. She knew you before she’d even met you.”
“Me?” Blousey looked taken aback.
“Yeah, and me.”
“Talking of Tallulah,” I said, “didn’t she fancy you once or something, Bugsy?”
Bugsy shuddered. Oops. Maybe that wasn’t the best thing to say.
“Don’t remind me! She was always flirtin’ with me, tellin’ me I was aces. Man, that broad raced my motor! Besides, she’d already got a boyfriend.”
“Fat Sam,” I smiled. “Himself.”
Blousey looked impressed. “That’s right. You oughta meet him too.”
“Yeah,” continued Bugsy. “Like I said, this place is the liveliest joint in town and he owns it, can you imagine that?”
I nodded. Of course I can. It’s in one of my favourite films.
“A while ago the company was in danger,” Blousey began to explain as I sipped my lemonade. “Dandy Dan was practically breathing down Sam’s neck. He was going to take over the entire organisation, Sam’s house, the speakeasy, everything. Sam’s whole gang got killed.”
“Ah,” I said. “Dandy Dan.”
“You know him?”
“Yeah. Fat Sam’s arch-rival.”
“Oh.” Bugsy looked a bit embarrassed.
“What?” I said, looking at him.
“That gang that attacked you…” Bugsy trailed off.
“They were his gang,” completed Blousey. “Bugsy thought you didn’t need to know.”
I couldn’t help laughing. Bugsy thought I didn’t need to know who my attackers were! Did it even cross his mind when he found I knew so much that I might understand if he’d just told me? I finished my laugh and changed the subject back to Fat Sam.
“I don’t want to sound cheeky, but…could I meet Fat Sam now?”
“Finish your lemonade first,” replied Bugsy. I started gulping it. They both smiled. “You like it?” Blousey asked.
That was kind of difficult to answer. I’d expected fizzy smooth lemonade without any bits in it, but this was sweet and sticky and not fizzy at all. It also had bits of lemon in it. I’ll say now I didn’t like it much. But I didn’t say that at that time. I just said “It’s not like any lemonade I’ve had before.”
“Well, it’s freshly mixed,” said Blousey. She must have thought I liked it. “They make it right here, squeeze the lemons and everything. What lemonade do you normally drink?”
“Um…” Stuck for an answer again. “…Sprite.”
“Never heard of it. Must not be very popular,” said Bugsy.
“But it tastes great!”
“Well, maybe to you, but not for most people.”
“Come on,” said Blousey. “We’ll take you to meet Sam and Tallulah."
Fat Sam and Tallulah
The three of us left the bar and started to walk up another flight of stairs. I guessed they must lead to the corridor where Fat Sam’s office was. It seemed kind of weird walking into somewhere I’d seen so many times on my TV screen, but now I was actually part of it. On the way there I asked Blousey about her job at the speakeasy.
“I’m just a singer. Tallulah and I sing the backing for the signature song, and then Liffy does it with me when Tallulah sings her solo. But I don’t want just to be a singer,” Her tone changed to kind of dreamy. “I wanna be a movie star. In Hollywood.”
“I know,” I said. “Bugsy told me.”
“What’s so funny?” Blousey looked a bit vexed.
“I dunno,” said Bugsy. “It’s just that there was a time when people were happy bein’…railway engineers. Or nurses or somethin’.”
“You’ve said that before,” I smiled. “In the movie.”
“Oh, man.” Bugsy threw his head back in irritation. “I told you, Liana. We’re real.”
“Huh?” Blousey looked puzzled.
“Look, Blousey, I know it’s weird, but Liana seems to think we’re all out of a movie. I already told her we’re not, but she apparently still thinks we are.”
“Well, I hope the lemonade helps.” Blousey gave me a worried look. It reminded me of Eleanor.
Just as we approached the end of the corridor, I heard a voice. Again, it sounded familiar.
“What’s wrong? I’ll tell you what’s wrong! I asked for five lots of that new sarsparilla but they sent me five bottles instead of five crates! This is unbelievable, Tallulah – I need to make money, not have to keep telling my customers we don’t have the latest drinks to sell.” Blousey laughed. “That’ll be Sam!” she said. Bugsy knocked on a door that had “S. STACETTO – PRIVATE” printed on the blinded window. A rather fat man answered it. His brown hair was greased back like Bugsy’s, and his suit was a dirty beige colour. I guessed he must be Fat Sam. His mouth widened into a grin.
“Hey, Bugsy! Blousey!”
“How you doin’, Sam?” Bugsy responded, smiling back.
“Great to see you.” He looked at me. “Who’s the boy?”
I’m not a boy!
“Hey!” I cried.
“She’s a girl, Sam,” Blousey told Fat Sam, who looked a bit perplexed.
I told him my name, and he grinned again.
“Pleased to meet you, Liana! Stacetto. Sam Stacetto.” We shook hands. I felt a bit shy, but I hid it. I’m not that kind of girl, not me. I’m confident.
“Liana was desperate to meet you, Sam,” said Blousey. She’d twisted the tale a little. I wasn’t so desperate I just had to meet him. “She’s from Britain, she says.”
“London,” I said.
“Ah, I know London!” Sam laughed. “Lovely little town. No booze-ban over there. Anyway,” He gestured behind him. “You met my girl?”
“That’s me.” I heard a gravely female voice from inside the office. Poking my head a little further around the door, I caught a glimpse of its owner. She was sitting on the desk with a nail varnish brush in her hand. She had VERY blonde hair (to me it looked like it was peroxide) that was mostly straight, but she had small curls across her forehead fashioned immaculately. Her eyes were bluish-grey and her face was practically plastered with makeup (eyeshadow, lipstick, foundation, and false eyelashes like Blousey’s). She was in a satiny mauve dress and had painted her nails red. “I’m…”
She was the second person that day I’d finished the sentence for. “Tallulah. I know you.” I suddenly realised something. “But I’m sorry…I don’t know your last name.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Tallulah said. “They know me better as just Tallulah.” Phew!
“Come and sit down, you three,” said Sam. So Bugsy and Blousey and I sat in three chairs that were in front of Sam’s desk, which he sat at. He spoke to me first. “So Liana, how did you get to America? By train?”
“We-ell…I kind of fell over and found myself here, Mr. Stacetto,” I said.
“No she didn’t. The lemonade hasn’t taken effect yet,” Bugsy cut in.
“It was Dandy Dan, Sam,” added Blousey. “His gang hit her on the head and she’s a bit confused.”
“Oh dear!” Tallulah gave me a sympathetic look. “Well, that can’t have been nice. It wasn’t, was it, honey?” She was talking to me as if I was a little kid. I was annoyed, but I didn’t show it. I pretended to be annoyed at something else. “But it wasn’t them! I was performing and somebody walked past me with a ladder…”
“Sure it was,” Bugsy interrupted me. “Anyway, I found Liana and scared the gang off.” He wasn’t letting me say a word!
“Give the kid a chance to speak, Bugsy.” Thank you, Fat Sam!
Bugsy apologised meekly. I continued. “Yes, Bugsy’s right, he did scare the gang off. Then he took me to his place and gave me the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted…”
“Hot chocolate?” Tallulah looked puzzled. So did everyone else. Oops, I guess.
“Oh, I…I mean cocoa. Then we came here and…”
Now it was Tallulah’s turn to finish MY sentence. “Now you’re in Sam’s office.”
“Liana was dying to meet you both,” Blousey said her twisted tale again. I think we might have chatted a bit more, if Bugsy hadn’t suddenly looked at his wristwatch and said “Hey, look at the time! We gotta go!”
“But you normally stay till past midnight! What’s the rush?” Sam asked.
“The rush?” Bugsy said. “Well, I got a kid to take care of, ain’t I?”
“You mean…” I suddenly realised what Bugsy was aiming for everyone to understand. “I’m sleeping at yours, Bugsy?”
“Sure you are,” he said, getting up from his chair. “I can’t think of anywhere else.” I chuckled at his little joke. I didn’t mind sleeping at Bugsy’s house – as long as he had somewhere nice for me to sleep.
“It was great to meet you, Liana,” Tallulah piped up. It was nice to hear her talking kindly to me, because in the film she’s a selfish b**** (sorry, can’t think of a better word!). “Make sure you come back soon. I sing a solo every night and you really ought to see it.”
“Oh, yeah,” said Blousey. “Tallulah’s got a great voice.” She was talking as if Tallulah was her best friend.
“Come on, Liana, will ya?” Bugsy said, beckoning to me. “You need some sleep but you should also tell me about that…mobile phone thingy, whatever it is.”
So I smiled, said goodbye to the others and walked out of the office with Bugsy.
On the way back to his house we talked some more. I asked Bugsy a lot of questions I’d been wondering. In fact I had so many you could think of it as an interview! He was always patient enough to answer though. Here’s a few I asked:
“So how did Fat Sam get the huge business he has?”
“I don’t know. I guess he probably started out as a janitor in a roadside café!”
“And Blousey and Tallulah…I thought they were worst enemies. But now Blousey’s talking about Tallulah as if they’re best friends.”
“Well, that’s because they are now. After the huge splurge fight we had with Dandy Dan, I guess Tallulah realised she couldn’t have me and gave up. They both perform in the show as well, so they spend a lot of time together. Hey, here we are,” Bugsy put the key in the lock of his front door and turned it, and once again I was in the cosy environment of his home. I mean, it was just so warm and so homely. It was exactly the opposite of Sophie’s house when her mum hasn’t cleaned it for that week. Ugh, gross. Bugsy might live by himself but he seemed great at keeping house. “So show me this telephone thing then,” he said, making me jump. Again. But I kept my cool, taking my LG Cookie out of my pocket. “It’s exactly that, Bugsy,” I said. “A telephone. Only you can carry it around in your pocket and it’s so much smaller.”
“Show me how it works.” Man, he was curious. So I asked him what his home number was and he wrote it down on a bit of paper. It was #12486. A lot shorter than the O-Seven etc. numbers in 2010. “I’ll keep that safe,” I said, putting the slip of paper in my pocket. “You never know when these things come in handy.” The very next night that number came in VERY handy. But I’m not onto that yet. “I don’t know what you’ll need with my telephone number,” said Bugsy, “but show me how that thing calls.” So I demonstrated typing in the number on my touchscreen keypad, and the little tone sounded. Bugsy remarked that it was making a funny noise. “Well,” I said. “That’s the sound it makes when you’re dialling. Now I press this button here…” I pressed the green call button and…nothing happened.
“WHAT?!” I cried.
“What? What happened?”
“It doesn’t work!”
“No! Your telephone should be ringing at this very moment.”
“Well, it’s not, so you’re right.” State the obvious. “Where did you get that thing?”
Oh, great. How on earth was I supposed to answer that without lying? So I told the downright truth.
“The Carphone Warehouse.”
“Huh?!! Never heard of it! That lemonade didn’t make a scrap of difference.”
“But I’m not confused!” I argued.
“You are, you know. Now, I don’t know how or where you got that thing but it’s non-functional.”
I banged the phone on the table in frustration. Why didn’t it work? Boy, was I in for a shock!
Bugsy suddenly turned to get something. I never found out what it was. The only thing I noticed was that his hand brushed past my phone, skimmed it…and knocked it onto the floor! “BUGSY!!” I yelled out. He spun around in astonishment. “It’s definitely non-functional now you’ve knocked it on the floor!” I said as I picked up the phone. The only word I heard from him was a meek “Oops.”
“Great,” I said. “Now I can’t turn it on.”
Oh, for crying out loud!!!
“Well, no!” I yelled again. I’ll admit now I had a bit of a temper fit then. LG Cookies are great phones, but they break so easily. My one cost around a hundred quid so you can imagine how frustrated I was. Bugsy apologised as I slumped on a chair and tried to calm down.
“Never mind. I’ll just leave it for a while and it’ll turn on eventually.” Hopefully.
“OK,” said Bugsy. “Well, I suppose we’d both better get some sleep. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”
“Really?” I asked, perplexed. “Why? What are we doing tomorrow?”
“What do you think? You’re new here. So I’ll show you this town, left right and centre.”
“Cool!” I brightened up, then dulled again. “Except…won’t people stare at me? What with my jeans and all…”
Bugsy put his hand on my shoulder. “That won’t happen, I promise. But let’s get some rest. You can sleep in my spare bedroom. It’s up the stairs, second door on the left.”
“Thanks, Bugsy,” I replied, then added with a grateful smile: “You’re so kind.”
The first dream
I kicked of my trainers and hurled myself onto the bed in Bugsy’s spare bedroom, remembering that I hadn’t got any PJs but I didn’t care. It was astonishingly soft – I’d expected a 1920’s mattress to be really uncomfortable. Boy, was I surprised. I took some things out of my pocket: the apparently smashed phone, my old blue biro that still worked, and a couple of sour-candies that had gone stale. Ugh, where did those come from?! I chucked them in the nearby wicker bin and placed the other two things on the small table next to the bed, then took a minute to observe the room. It was quite small, two by three metres I estimated, and the walls were decorated with pale-green wallpaper with a complicated tessellation design. In the dim light I could only just make it out. The floor was mostly wood, apart from a faded rug the same colour and pattern as the wallpaper. It’s funny, that rug was faded, but apart from that it looked like new. The bed had blankets instead of a duvet (I guess duvets weren’t invented in the twenties) and some feather pillows propped against the headboard. I suddenly remembered feather pillows make me sneeze. Oh, great.
I had another reason to say “oh, great”. I didn’t have my old teddy Twilight with me. I’ve had her since I was a baby, a cute white teddy bear with a silver ribbon tied around her neck. Yeah, I know still sleeping with a cuddly toy at eleven is a bit babyish, but I still find it hard to sleep well if I don’t have Twilight tucked under my arm. Oh well. I decided I was just going to have to cope.
Bugsy poked his head around the door as I stretched out under the blankets. “Comfortable?” he said. I nodded. Just as he closed the door, I went to sleep almost instantly. Surprisingly, without Twilight.
I had a dream. I was in a lounge, and to me it looked stately. Nearby, a man was sitting in a chair. He was in a suit as well (but this one looked like it had carefully been chosen), and his hair was slicked back into a style that made him look kind of wealthy. I couldn’t see his face. He was reading a newspaper. I tried to speak, to ask his name, and to ask where I was, but you know like in dreams you sometimes can’t talk, so I couldn’t get any words out. I’ll say now I was pretty miffed, until I looked at my hands. They weren’t there. I was invisible. Believe me; that was pretty cool.
A door at the end of the room suddenly opened with a creak, and I looked up in surprise. Five other men walked through it, all in suits and trilby hats and all carrying…guns. The man in the chair looked up.
“You guys have been out some time,” he said. His voice was just like Bugsy’s; not adult, not child and not teenager. It was another one of those voices that sounded vaguely familiar, but I didn’t recognise it.
“Yeah, well,” said one of the men who came through the door. “We nearly got caught. By Malone.”
“Quit letting him catch you red-handed, will ya?!” said the man in the chair, apparently annoyed. “Anyway, I’ve worked out a plan, gang. We’ll catch him, then force out of him the way we can take over Fat Sam’s business.” Fat Sam?!
“Then kill him?” one of the gang said. I silently gasped. Who were these men planning to kill Bugsy…if they were planning to kill him?
“That’s what I was thinking,” said the man in the chair again. I guessed now he must be their leader.
“Yeah…but boss…” said a second member of the gang. The leader frowned.
“He might be a little hard to get the information out of. Shouldn’t we go for someone else, someone…well…”
I think the leader was just as puzzled as I was. He was the one that spoke though, not me.
“Who in the world would we go for? All the kids in this city are totally clueless on how our business works. Plus they don’t even know who Fat Sam is.”
“We-ell…” said a third member of the gang. “…there’s this broad we saw while we were out…”
“We thought she was a boy at first. She was wearing trousers,” said the fourth.
Uh-oh. The only broad wearing trousers here was…ME.
“A broad?” said the leader again. “Wearing trousers?”
“Yeah,” The first member of the gang spoke again. “We tried to nab some dough, but then HE saw us.”
I supposed “HE” was Bugsy.
“She was claiming to him that she was from the future,” said the last member. “And boss…she knows Fat Sam, and Bugsy, and…you.”
What? I’d only mentioned Bugsy and Fat Sam when the gang attacked me, and…oh, wait a minute.
“Me?” said the leader again.
“Yep,” said the second member. “And us.”
“And you’re saying she’s a kid?”
The gang were nodding. Oh, double cripes!
“What was her name?”
My ears suddenly blanked out, which was weird.
“I see. OK boys, I want you to keep a close watch on this…” My ears blanked out again. “If you find she might prove useful, keep me posted. I think we’re getting somewhere.”
Then the dream ended.
I woke up feeling a little strange. The dream was fresh in my mind, but I didn’t feel like I was in my normal, comfortable bed. Instead I was under scratchy sheets and sweating all over. I reached under the sheets for Twilight…and then realised she wasn’t there. I was suddenly awake and alert …and then remembered where I was. I relaxed.
I heard somebody knock on the door of the room. “Liana? Wake up! It’s morning!” It was Bugsy. I climbed out of bed and stretched my arms and legs as he opened the door.
“Sleep OK?” he asked.
“Well, a weird dream. But apart from that it was fine, thanks,” I said. I dismissed the dream as just a silly fantasy at that point. I do that. Sometimes at the wrong times.
“You want somethin’ to eat before we go out on the town?”
“I’m all right. I never have breakfast anyway.” Much to the disgust of my mum. She seemingly thinks I’ll die without breakfast. Why worry? I haven’t so far.
“Let’s go then,” said Bugsy. “There’s so much for you to see today, and…”
“So little time?” I completed. Talk about cliché!
As we left Bugsy’s house he talked a little about what the town was like, how everything worked, and that sort of thing. I got a little bored, until he started talking about cinemas, although he called them theatres. I LOVE watching films. And for me, the older they are the better. Forget New Moon, or Avatar in glorious 3D. Just the tense plots of old films are enough to keep me glued to the screen for hours. Oh, apart from the romances. BOR-ING.
The street was pretty cool once we got there. I had seen it before, but not in daylight. There was everything on one street, from a hairdresser’s (well, hair parlour) to a bookstore (I think that was Fat Sam’s!) to an Italian restaurant, Mamma Lugini’s. I wasn’t sure where to go first. “Liana?” Bugsy poked me, making me jump. Again. He laughed. “Enjoyin’ the view?”
“I…I don’t know what to say. This place is amazing. You have everything on one street.”
“Isn’t it like that in London?”
“Erm…” In truth, no, it isn’t. There’s so much other stuff in London, apart from shops. Have you been up the Monument in Pudding Lane? Three-hundred and eleven steps. That’s how many they say there are. And last time I went up, I found it was no joke. I counted them. And there’s all the shopping centres, like Lakeland’s, and there’s the London Dungeons as well, and Madame Tussaud’s…but I couldn’t tell Bugsy all that, could I? He wouldn’t have believed me. So I just said “We tend to have one shop for a group of houses.”
“Oh, I see,” he said. He didn’t look very convinced. I’m a really bad liar. “Anyway,” he said, smiling again. “Go have a look around. Get yourself somethin’ nice.”
“Something nice?!” I cried. “I haven’t got any money, let alone enough to buy something nice!”
Bugsy fished in his trouser pocket and pulled out a coin. He tossed it to me and I caught it. “There you go. Spend that on whatever you want. I’ve got some arrangements to make. You see that clock up there?” He pointed above the buildings. I looked and saw a huge church clock tower. “Meet me back here at, say…ten-thirty?” It was ten-o’clock now. I had half an hour.
“Done,” I smiled. So he smiled back and sauntered off in the opposite direction.
I looked at the coin in my hand. I wasn’t too familiar with American money, but it was pretty obvious this was one dollar. Wow! I thought. A whole dollar for me! Nowadays one dollar wouldn’t seem much, but in the twenties it was a LOT. Even just a tenth of it (ten cents) was a small fortune. Trouble was I wasn’t sure what to spend it on. I looked up and scanned the line of shops. A café, a hair salon, a small sweet shop…none of these were really what I wanted to spend my money on. But there was one shop that caught my eye. It was only small, just on the corner of the street, but it looked appealing. I looked at the clock. It was already five past. So I set off in the direction of the shop.
As I came closer what this shop was became a little clearer. Like most of the shops on the street, its name was printed on the window: “Robinson’s Art Supplies”. Art supplies didn’t really catch my eye, but I thought of my old biro back at Bugsy’s house. It would be nice to get something to write in. I entered the shop and a small bell sounded, and I finally got to see what the inside was like. It was about twice the size of the spare bedroom back at Bugsy’s, and the shelves on the walls were stacked with paintbrushes, sketchbooks, the works. There was a dark-haired woman at the counter. She smiled at me and said “Can I help you?”
“Yes please,” I said. I noticed her jump the way Bugsy made me jump. I guess she was surprised about my accent! “I have this old pen and I’m trying to find something to write in with it.” The woman regained her composure. “I think I’ve got just the thing. Follow me,” She left the counter and I followed her to one of the lower shelves, scouring the others as I went. I swear, an artist could go broke in this shop! I hadn’t realised how many different types of brushes you could get, or how many colours of paint. But I drew my attention back to the woman. She was stooping towards the lowest shelf on the wall and fishing around for something. I watched for a while until she lifted a small notebook from the back of the shelf. “Here,” she said, handing it to me.
I stared at the notebook. It was about the size and thickness of a paperback book you might find in the library today, and it had an interesting pattern on the cover. I can’t really describe it. Swirls, some of them parallel, and all sparkling purple on a beige background. No idea how it was made. I lifted my sight back to the woman. “How much?”
“One buck. It’s the last one of those journals.” Perfect. I took the coin out of my pocket and handed it to her. She took it back to the counter and printed a receipt for me. Then, with a smile, she said “Thank you.”
I thanked her back and walked out of the shop, then checked the clock tower. Ten-twenty-five. Had I really taken twenty minutes in there? Man, time flies! I shifted my eyes to the place Bugsy and I had arranged to meet. He was already standing there.
“You’re early,” I said, approaching him.
“So are you,” he remarked. “What did you buy?”
I showed him the notebook.
“Hey, you got one of them!” he said, smiling. I told him it was the last one in the shop. “You’re lucky. Those books are rare, trust me.”
I sensed someone looking at me. Turning, I noticed the eyes of a rather short man fixed on me. He must have been staring for a while, because it’s been proven by science that if you stare at someone long enough they’ll notice you (don’t ask me how). And when people stare at me (here’s something that has NOT been proven by science) I nearly faint. So you can imagine that I was beginning to feel dizzy. My head started spinning and my vision blurred as more people stared and stared. I suddenly veered over clumsily. Bugsy caught me and supported me. “Are you all right?” he said, looking a bit worried. “Nothing,” I said. “Just the…staring.” Bugsy looked up and smiled at the large crowd that had gathered. “Hey, guys. Don’t worry about the kid. She’s just a little confused.” The crowd dispersed, looking convinced. Bugsy was a much better liar than I was (but then, he technically wasn’t lying, because it was what he thought, but he technically was, because it wasn’t true…oh, never mind). I pulled away from him and supported myself on the wall next to us. “Thanks, Bugsy,” I said, breathing heavily. “I feel like I’m about to faint.”
“You certainly look it,” he replied. I used the nearby window as a mirror. My face was pale.
“Do you want a cup of tea?” he asked. “There’s a quiet café down the road. It’s perfect to hide from onlookers.”
“Just what I need,” I said.
We started to walk down the street. Neither of us said anything, me mainly because I was feeling awful, and Bugsy probably because he couldn’t think of anything to say. My guess anyway. I can’t read his mind!
The coffee shop was only about thirty seconds’ walk away. It was quite small, wooden window frames painted green and “Cath’s Coffee” printed in the window. Bugsy steered me in the direction of the door and we walked in. A girl with dirty-blonde hair smiled at Bugsy. “Good morning, sir. How can I help you?”
“Table for two, please,” Bugsy said, smiling back.
“You and the boy?” said the girl, nodding at me. Oi!
“I’m not a boy!” I objected indignantly. “I’m a girl!”
“Huh?” The girl looked perplexed. “Girls don’t wear trousers!”
Bugsy leaned forward and whispered into the girl’s ear. I think he meant to be quiet but he wasn’t quiet enough to stop me hearing him. “Ignore the trousers, honey. I can tell you now that Liana’s definitely a girl.”
The girl was puzzled for another second, but she regained her composure. “My apologies,” she said, walking out from behind the counter. “Step this way.” She led us to a table for two right near the window. I love sitting by the window. And I think Bugsy and I both worked out that we could open it so I could have some fresh air. I still felt pants.
We sat down and the girl brought us some tea on a tray. Bugsy thanked her and she nodded and retreated back to wiping her counter. I picked up a cup and decided to make some conversation.
“So Fat Sam and Dandy Dan,” I said. “What’s the conflict between them?”
“You should know, shouldn’t you?” Bugsy said.
“Yeah, but it seems like they’re still fighting. Wouldn’t they be working together now?”
“Mmm. Good point. To admit it, Dandy Dan is the nastiest hoodlum in the city.”
“Would he hurt me?”
“Probably not. I don’t think he’d hurt a kid. But that rivalry’s been going on for some time now.”
I listened as Bugsy explained Fat Sam and Dandy Dan’s rivalry. It sounded pretty violent. Apparently Dan hadn’t given up trying to take over Fat Sam’s organisation even after the big splurge fight and now he’d go to extremes to do it. That worried me a little. Maybe he would hurt someone. And if it wasn’t me, it might be Blousey or Tallulah or even Bugsy. Most likely Tallulah, because she was Sam’s girl and he loved her to pieces.
“But you know somethin’?” said Bugsy after this long speech. I leaned forward slightly. “Yeah?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if I found Dandy Dan was just a power-crazed dummy!”
I burst out laughing. “You think he is?!”
Bugsy smiled at my laughter. “I dunno. But I’ll tell you somethin’; ever since he found he couldn’t get hold of the business he’s been out to get me. Can’t think why.”
“So why did the gang run away when you found me?” I asked.
“They’re scared stiff of me!” chortled Bugsy. “Must be because I nearly shot ‘em with splurge guns. You know what they are?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Guns that shoot this cream mixture. But how do they kill you? I don’t get it,” and this in puzzled tones, “it’s only cream.”
“Ever felt the force it gives when it hits you?” Bugsy answered. “You can’t survive it.” His tone changed to a little worried. “And I think Dan might be trying to shoot me.” He suddenly seemed to shake that thought off and changed the subject. “Anyway, I’ve kinda got to do a job for Fat Sam tonight, Liana. Are you OK to go around to Blousey’s?”
“Fine by me,” I said, “if she’s OK with it. I can walk myself back to yours if you like.” I thought he might get worried at this, but he didn’t.
“She is. That’s what I had to arrange!” He laughed, and I laughed too. But I suddenly got the being-stared-at feeling again. I had no idea why at the time, but I drooped and rested on the table.
“You feelin’ ill again?” Bugsy asked. “You’ve gone pale.”
“Yeah. I feel faint again.”
“Maybe we should go back to my place. You should get some rest,” he said, sounding concerned. He looked up and turned to the waitress. “Can we have the bill, please?”
She looked like she’d recognised him. Probably heard our conversation. “It’s on me, Mr. Malone.” She had. “You and the kid don’t have to pay a dime.”
“What luck!” I said. Bugsy smiled and walked with me out of the coffee shop. I still felt like I was being stared at.
The second dream
Once we were back at Bugsy’s place, I made my way up to the spare room and flung myself on the bed. My head was swimming and I couldn’t open my eyes. So you can guess what happened; I fell asleep.
I had another dream. I was in the same living-room, and invisible again. The same man was on the nearby chair, but this time the newspaper was gone. He didn’t seem to be doing anything, just thinking. And another thing. Four of the men who had come through the door in my last dream were clustered around him. None of them had their guns this time.
The door at the end of the room suddenly swung open and the last member of the gang came in. He didn’t have his gun either, and I was so glad I couldn’t make any noise, because if I could I would have gasped very loudly.
It was the same short man who had started people staring at me.
“Hey, boss,” he said casually, presumably to the leader, who looked up.
“Hello, Yonkers,” he said to the gang member, who I now knew the name of. “You haven’t been out very long.”
“No, but I saw the girl and found out a little more.”
So that was why I’d felt dizzy! He’d been watching me!
“Let’s hear it then,” said another of the gang, who had a small moustache. The gang clustered around Yonkers and he prepared himself for a speech. “I found out that she knows what splurge guns are. She also asked Malone about our fighting with Fat Sam.” Uh-oh. Surely that couldn’t mean…
“And he told her its current circumstances?” asked the leader.
“Yeah, and…I’m not sure I should say this, boss, but…”
“He kinda…called you a dummy.”
The leader sighed in anger. “I’ll get that Bugsy Malone if it’s the last thing I do,” he said. But then he regained his composure. “Anyway, do you think she might be of some use to us?”
“I think so,” replied Yonkers. “She’s just a kid, I think she’ll spit it out.”
“Did you find out where she’ll be tonight?” God, the leader had a lot of questions!
“At Blousey Brown’s house.” Yonkers answered. Then the tallest of the gang cut in. “We know where that is.”
“And one more thing,” added Yonkers. “It looks like Bugsy’s kinda taken her under his wing. And I thought…maybe…we could use her to kill him.”
“You mean like bait?” said the leader, leering slightly. I couldn’t see his face that well, but it was quite a frightening look, even from a distance.
“Mm-hm,” replied Yonkers with a nod.
The leader smiled, looking impressed. “Nice idea,” he said. “OK boys, here’s the plan. And try and keep a cool head while you’re executing it.”
The gang huddled around him, and then I woke up.
I felt a lot better. Sleeping must have helped. Either that or I just wasn’t being stared at anymore. I took a moment to ponder on the dream.
Had the leader of that gang been who I thought he was? Or was I just having a silly nightmare after everything Bugsy had told me about Dandy Dan? I don’t really tend to have nightmares, so I considered the first option. But if it had been Dandy Dan, wouldn’t I have recognised him? His voice had sounded familiar. And there were a lot of clues in what the men were saying that might give the game away. But there was still the option of it just being a silly dream…
I gave up. I’m rubbish at putting clues together and coming to a conclusion. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. Like what they say in Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven books. When you have some clues, you piece them together and you get a picture, just like a jigsaw. And I’m rubbish at real jigsaws, so you can see I wasn’t in the best of positions.
I decided to just dismiss the dream as another stupid fantasy. I might not have nightmares very often but maybe this was an exception. There was suddenly a knock on the door.
“Come in, I’m awake!” I called. Bugsy opened the door.
“Good nap?” he asked.
“Yeah. But another weird dream.”
“What about?” He sat on the bed beside me. By now I’d started to climb off it.
“Nothing. Just some gang plotting something.”
“Plotting what?” He was frowning now.
“A kidnap. But anyway,” I changed the subject. “What time is it now? I’m starving!” I’m not kidding. My stomach was rumbling.
“It’s four o’clock already,” Bugsy said, smiling again. “You’ve been asleep for hours. I just thought I’d better wake you because you don’t actually know the way to Blousey’s. It’s pretty simple.”
“I’ll take you there, but back here it’s down the lane, left at the grocery store and you’ll recognise the street. And my house.” He emphasised each instruction. I nodded at each one, making sure I knew it before storing it away at the back of my mind for later tonight. “You got that?”
“Yep. I’ll remember. I’ve got a pretty good memory.”
It was about six when he took me around to Blousey’s. She lived quite near him (“Surprised I didn’t know before I’d met her!” laughed Bugsy), ten minutes walk away. About the same distance Bugsy’s house was from the Grand Slam, but in the other direction. The street her house was on was pretty similar to his, but it was different. It had a kind of serenity that was difficult to describe, compared to Bugsy’s street which seemed to be buzzing with activity (there was always someone walking through a front door, in and out, or a car driving past or something like that). Bugsy knocked on the door of what was, presumably, Blousey’s house. She answered it.
“Hi, Bugsy!” she said, hugging him. “Hey, honey,” he replied, and then she turned to me. “Hello, Liana!”
“Hiya, Blousey!” I said. “You OK?”
“Yeah, I’m great, thank you,” she said, and turned to Bugsy. “So you’re leaving Liana with me while you go see Fat Sam?”
“Is that OK?”
“It’s fine. When do you think you’ll be back?”
“I’ll call you when I’m home.” He turned to me. “You alright to walk back by yourself, Liana?” I was exasperated. He’d been a little worried all afternoon; he didn’t seem to like the fact that I was by myself.
“Bugsy,” I said. “You’re beginning to sound like my mum.” That’s true, he was. “I’ll be fine.”
“I’ll call to check she gets back OK, if that helps,” said Blousey. Bugsy relaxed. “OK, cool. I’ll see you both later, then. For those of you that know him, you know what Sam’s like when I’m late!”
“You don’t have to tell me,” Blousey replied. Then he kissed her and walked away from the door.
I stifled a retch.
“Come on in, Liana,” said Blousey. “You want a coffee?”
“I don’t drink coffee, thanks,” I said, walking into Blousey’s house. It had a similar layout to Bugsy’s, but it was decorated differently. It also seemed a little cosier, probably because she had a huge chest against the staircase wall, whereas Bugsy didn’t. She led me into the kitchen.
“If you don’t want coffee, what would you like?” she asked.
“Can you make cocoa?” I asked hopefully. Maybe Bugsy had shared his special recipe with her.
“Sure.” She changed the subject as she started making it. “So Bugsy showed you town today?”
“Yep. Only I nearly fainted because a load of people were staring at me.” I sighed. “Can’t they accept that I’m from the future?”
“There’s nothing to accept,” said Blousey, placing my cocoa on the table. “You’re not from the future, Liana. You’re confused.”
“I’m not!” I objected indignantly.
“You are, you know,” Her tone was very matter-of-fact.
“Oh, never mind.” There literally was no point in arguing any more. “Anyway, Bugsy waved them off and they left me alone.” I paused, then wondered out loud, “Why does everyone do what he says the instant he says it? And the waitress in the coffee shop we went to; she said our teas were on her.”
Blousey had an answer to that one. “Ever since he stole those splurge guns and fought of Dandy Dan everybody’s practically worshipped him. Of course,” She laughed. “Tallulah’s even more jealous of me as his girlfriend now but we’re still best friends. In fact,” Her tone changed to light. “she’s coming around tonight. Bringing lots of make-up.”
“I love make-up!” I said enthusiastically. “Could she give me a makeover?”
“Sure thing, kid.” There was suddenly a knock at the door. Blousey grinned, her blue eyes glittering. “Here she is now!” She left me sitting at the table.
I looked at the cocoa. I hadn’t drunk any of it yet, but I raised the cup to my lips with high hopes…and was disappointed. It wasn’t as creamy as the one Bugsy had made for me and had a slightly blander taste. Don’t get me wrong, it still tasted good, but not as exhilarating as the other one.
I heard the door opening and some voices. One of them was Blousey’s, and the other was a warm, gravely voice. Obviously, Tallulah’s. After a short time they came into the kitchen and I grinned, my eyes lighting up.
“Hey, Liana! You ready for a makeover, honey?”
“Sure! But how did you know I’d want one?”
“Blousey and I have arranged it all,” She emptied her handbag onto the table. “Until Bugsy’s back, we can enjoy ourselves.” They were behaving like teenagers! I’d thought Blousey and Tallulah were adults, like, twenty-six or something, not sixteen. It felt too rude to ask how old they were.
“Tallulah!” said Blousey, laughing. “Come on, we’re twenty-four!” Question answered! “You’re acting fourteen.”
“So what?” she said, turning to me. She had a compact of eyeshadows in her hand. “What colour?”
“You got blue?” I asked.
“Essential. Need it for my speakeasy costume.” Oh yeah. On my first night here all the showgirls had been wearing blue eyeshadow. She took a small brush out of the compact and seemed to be getting some shadow on it, then she reached towards my eyes, which I closed. The brush tickled my eyelid as Tallulah applied the make-up. “That suits you!” she said. “It’s the same shade of your eyes.”
“Did you bring that pink nail varnish?” Blousey asked, digging in the handbag. “It’s probably at the bottom somewhere,” replied Tallulah, picking up a small tube from the table. I didn’t realise what it was until she pulled off a lid to reveal…a mascara wand. My shadowed eyes widened.
“You are wearing mascara?!” I exclaimed. Seriously! I thought Tallulah and Blousey (who was now painting her nails pink) were wearing false eyelashes!
Tallulah looked puzzled at my exclamation. “Mascara’s been around for sixteen years,” she said. “Where’ve you been?”
“Don’t forget, Tallulah,” said Blousey.
“Oh yeah.” I guessed what they were talking about. Most likely still believing I was confused. “Anyway,” continued Tallulah. “Would you like some of this on?”
“I can do it myself,” I said. “Have you got a mirror?”
“I got one,” said Blousey. She fished in her pocket and brought out a little circular mirror, and then handed it to me. I looked in it and applied the mascara across my eyelashes, exactly the way I wanted it so it didn’t look like false lashes.
“What colour would you like your nails?” Tallulah asked me as I finished, making me jump so the mascara wand nearly went in my eye. I regained my composure and looked at the colours she’d got. There was a nice silvery blue that I liked, but there was one that really caught my eye. It was a deep, rich magenta purple that reminded me of the dress I’d worn to my friend Louise’s eighth birthday party. “That one!” I said, pointing to it. “Oh, that’s my favourite,” said Blousey, looking where I was pointing. “Trouble is I don’t have any clothes that go with it.”
“I haven’t either, but I don’t care,” I said. “That pink varnish you’re wearing looks great with your dress, Blousey.” It genuinely did. Instead of the blue rosebud dress she’d worn yesterday, Blousey was now in a pale pink knee-length dress decorated with a bluebell pattern. She smiled. “Thank you!”
“Let’s do this for you then, Liana,” said Tallulah, taking the brush out of the bottle. She hesitated. “Or can you do that yourself as well?”
“Nah, go ahead,” I said. I’m rubbish at doing my nails. The varnish always goes everywhere and then my mum yells at me for making a mess on my bedroom carpet. I decided to play it safe.
I held my hands out and Tallulah started to paint my nails. The colour was just as beautiful as it had seemed, and it was a lot more vibrant now I actually saw it on my nails.
We mucked around for a while longer, and eventually Tallulah held up a mirror a little larger than Blousey’s. By this time she’d applied a lot more make-up to my face. “How’s that?” she grinned.
I stared at my transformed face in the mirror. Gone was my pale skin, which was now bronzed with foundation. My eyes looked alive with the mascara and eyeshadow, and we’d used a bit of eyeliner too. Not the liquid one you can get today. Kohl pencil, but it still looked great. My cheeks were polished with blusher and my red lipstick glittered in the lamplight of Blousey’s kitchen.
“Wow,” I said breathlessly. “Thanks, Tallulah. I look like a movie star!”
“Glad you like it,” smiled Tallulah. “I do that nearly every day, make myself up.”
“You’ve had plenty of practice then,” said Blousey. She was looking amazing herself; she’d applied pink eyeshadow the same shade as her dress, and she’d actually let me do her mascara (“You made it look a lot better than when I do it!”). So had Tallulah. Her lips were glazed with a slightly darker shade of lipstick.
The telephone suddenly rang. “Aw, man!” I said. “Bet that’s Bugsy!”
“I’m not surprised,” said Tallulah, nodding towards the clock on the wall. “It’s eight o’clock already.”
Blousey answered the phone. “Hello?...Bugsy! Hi!...Right, OK. Shall I send Liana back to yours?...Yes, well…Tallulah went a bit crazy with make-up!...Does she have to?...Yeah, she’s got some with her….See ya then! Call me when she gets back…Bye!” She hung up, then turned to me and Tallulah, shrugging. “Sorry, Liana. Bugsy said you might get ill if you don’t take that make-up off.”
“Oh, come on!” Tallulah seemed to be speaking on my behalf. “I spent two whole hours doing her up!”
“What about the nail varnish?” I cut in. “That won’t make me ill.”
“That’s an exception. But you gotta take all the rest off.”
“Rats,” I said.
“Damn it,” said Tallulah.
Once we’d got all my make-up (except the nail varnish) off, much to my disappointment, Blousey and Tallulah led me to the door. I smiled as Blousey opened it.
“Thanks for having me,” I said politely.
“Anytime,” said Blousey. “Come over again, will ya? That was fun.”
“We’ll see ya, Liana,” said Tallulah.
“Bye.” I walked away from the door and closed it behind me. Now, what did Bugsy say?
It’s down the lane, left at the grocery store and you’ll recognise the street. And my house.
I could see a grocery store up ahead, so I started to walk towards it.
The street felt different now I was on my own. It was still very serene, but it didn’t seem so safe. I knew feeling that way was silly, it was only twilight and lights were on in houses, but the security I’d had with Bugsy was gone. I tried to shake off the sinister feeling. I thought about something else…maybe I could get Bugsy to make another cocoa when I got back. That comfort drove me on, and the security crept back into my body. I continued walking down the street, until a whisper startled me. A male voice.
I turned in surprise. A tall guy was standing on the corner of an alley, and I recognised his face slightly. My heart started pounding as I realised it was from my two dreams.
He started to come towards me. I wanted to run, to get away from him, but my legs seemed frozen to the spot. He spoke again. “Your name Perry?”
I gasped. He knew my name?! “Erm…yeah.” My voice was a frightened whisper.
“Liana Perry?” Uh-oh.
“You a friend of Bugsy Malone’s?” Oh my god.
The guy turned his head and nodded with a smile on his face. “Got her!” Four other men emerged from the alley behind him. The same men from my dreams. They were all carrying guns…and they pointed them at me.
I wished I’d kept my make-up on at that point because I bet the colour drained from my face.
“What…what are you doing?!” I was hyperventilating. My heart pounded against my chest.
“Don’t ask questions, honey,” said a second member of the gang as two others grabbed hold of my arms and the last pointed his gun into my back. “Just come with us, all right?” Well, they weren’t leaving me much choice, were they?
“Man,” said the one pointing the gun in my back. “Dandy Dan’ll love this one.”
I think my heart stopped beating for a second.
They started to push and pull me through the alley (they had to because I’d started struggling in panic) which led through to another street. I recognised it as the high street Bugsy had shown me. A couple of cars were parked at the side of the road. I was shoved into the back seat of one and the two who’d been holding me got in the front. The rest got in the other and I felt the engine start. The two men started talking.
“You’re absolutely sure this kid’ll be useful?”
“No. But Yonkers seemed to be.”
“So did the boss.”
“What are you guys talking about?” My confidence had returned to me, so I said that quite angrily.
“Button your lip, sweetheart,” said the gang member who wasn’t driving, turning his head so he could see me. “You’ll have to wait to see what we’re talking about.”
“Why not just tell me now?”
“I said, button your lip!”
I buttoned my lip. The tone he used sounded threatening.
The car journey continued for about five more minutes in silence, eventually halting outside a large house. It looked pretty stately to me. The car door opened and I was dragged out, too frightened to try and escape. If I hadn’t been that might have been my chance.
They pulled me up to the gates and I began to notice in the fading sunlight that the house wasn’t just a large house, but a mansion. A beautiful one, brickwork painted white with what seemed like acres and acres of lawns and gardens. The kind of mansion that made me feel that if it had belonged to a friend, it wouldn’t have seemed so sinister. Because I knew it couldn’t be anything else other than the worst thing I feared.
The gang continued to drag me to the stone steps leading up to the humungous wooden door (about the height of a two-storey house). I missed my footing on the one third up from the bottom and stumbled, then tripped. “Oof!”
“Watch your step,” said the man who had startled me back on Blousey’s street. His tone gave me goose bumps.
Through the doors my eyesight was greeted by the kind of hall you only see on visits to National Trust stately homes (only not quite as boring, because I was in a situation that had no room for boredom). There were so many doors, all of them made of dark oak, and entrances to corridors that my vision went fuzzy trying to make sense of them all. My dizziness made me limp and floppy and the gang seemed glad that I finally allowed myself to be led through the largest of the doors.
It led to a very familiar room. The walls were familiar, the carpet pattern was familiar, the furniture was familiar, and the figure sitting in the velvet-padded chair some distance away from the door was VERY familiar.
The gang gave me a push and I fell onto the floor at the figure’s feet, eyes to the floor. A menacing voice sounded above me.
“Well, well, well. Look what we have here.” It said each of the “wells” separately, with a pause in between each one. “The little broad in trousers, right here at my feet.”
Even though I was pretty sure, I asked “Who are you? What’s going on?” A hand reached down from above, right in front of my face, and the fingertips gave my chin two taps. “Look up.”
I looked up. And for the first time I saw the face of the man who had been the centre point of my two dreams. The nastiest hoodlum in the city. The man I had feared I would meet since Bugsy first mentioned him.
It was Dandy Dan.
I stood up in total shock. “Oh my god,” I said. “You’re…I don’t believe it! You’re Dandy Dan!” Now I could see his face clearly, it was so obvious. Dandy Dan’s clothes were, like they are in the film, immaculate. His hair was immaculate. And his moustache, of course, was immaculate. It seemed to me like there wasn’t a mark on him.
“Surprised?” he asked, smiling a smile that looked even more sinister than his straight face. “That’s me.”
“And us five,” came a voice behind me, “are his gang.”
I swivelled my body upwards from my waist away from Dandy Dan and instantly recognised the gang. They were standing in a line now, and I knew them all from left to right: Shoulders, Laughing Boy, Benny Lee, Bronx Charlie and Yonkers. Shoulders was the one who had startled me, and the two that had grabbed my arms were Laughing Boy and Benny Lee. But somebody was missing.
“Five?” I enquired. “Wasn’t there another one?”
“If you’re talking about Doodle,” said Dan, and I turned back towards him. “he goofed. He dropped a splurge gun, and I don’t allow mistakes in this outfit.”
“Oh yeah,” I said, recognising the line from the film. “Because mistakes put you all in the caboose. Anyway,” My next words took a crescendo. “Could someone please tell me what the hell’s going on here?!”
“I need the answer to a question,” said Dan calmly. “And I think you, Liana Perry, might have it.”
That was a shock. I hardly ever have the answer to anyone’s questions (especially in maths!), let alone Dandy Dan’s. My response was a very loud “Huh?!”
“Tell him how he can take over a business, honey,” came Bronx Charlie’s voice from behind me. “Fat Sam’s to be exact.”
“And you’d better do it quick,” said Benny Lee. “Or I might just have to splurge you.” My tummy tightened as I sensed a gun being pointed at me.
Dandy Dan stood and held his hand up. “Hey, hold it,” he said. “We’re not gonna kill Liana, remember? We need her.”
“How on earth do you think I’m supposed to tell you that?” I said crossly as the tight feeling disappeared. Dan shifted his gaze from Benny Lee to me.
“Well,” he replied. “You know a lot about this place, considering the fact that you’re confused…”
“Not you too!” I interrupted. “Everyone thinks I’m confused.”
“Well, you must be. I mean, look at you,” Yonkers cut in. “Trousers, fainting in the middle of the street, and your hair
“Yonkers, button that lip. Don’t make Liana feel bad,” said Dandy Dan. He smiled at me. “Treat her as our guest.”
You’re probably wondering how being snatched off the street made me a guest. I don’t know.
“Although,” Dan continued. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody quite like you before, Liana. Nobody I know has this.” He lifted a lock of my hair and twirled it in his fingers. I batted his hand away. Getting the message, he retreated back to the main subject. “But anyway, I suspect you can tell me exactly what I need to do. To take over the business, I mean.” He sat back in his chair. “So go on. Spit it out.”
Can you imagine how angry I was now? I couldn’t tell him how to take over Fat Sam’s business. What the hell was he thinking? My thoughts were expressed in my response. “You idiot! I can’t tell you how to grab a business off another gangster! I don’t have a clue how this all works. What do you think I am?” I don’t know where these next words came from; they just seemed to fly out of my mouth. “Some kind of fortune-teller?!”
“OK, OK,” Dan got up again and placed his hand on my shoulder. “Take it easy, will ya?”
“No, I’m not going to take it easy, no matter how calm you and your minions are, I am not going to take it easy!” On the word “minions” I glowered at the gang. They didn’t respond.
“All right, look.” Dan took his hand off my shoulder and began to encircle me. “Liana. I understand completely that you’re frightened. I understand you’re puzzled, and I know you’re probably desperate to get out of here. But,” His tone changed to stern. “listen to what I’m telling ya, and listen good. There’s only room for one Mr Big in this town, and that’s me. Dandy Dan. And I’m not about to let anyone, not that dumb bum Fat Sam, not even Bugsy Malone,” I shuddered at hearing him mention Bugsy’s name. “and especially not some confused kid who annoys me until I can’t take it anymore,” I don’t know why I let him address me like that. “stand in my way.”
“Yeah?” I said. “Well, listen to what I am telling you.” I glared at him. “You’re nuts if you think I’d be much use.”
He sat down again with a frightful smile and smoothed his moustache with his fingertip. “That isn’t the only thing I wanted you for,” he said. “Oh, no. You can still be very useful, even if it ain’t for the first thing on my list. Now, this might scare you a little,” I was already scared. Didn’t need scaring anymore. “but I think you’ll make perfect bait.”
“Bait?!” I echoed with shock.
“That’s what I said.” He crossed his legs and put his hand on his knee. “Bait to catch one certain guy by the name of Bugsy Malone.”
“Bugsy?!” I cried. “But he’s my friend!”
“Exactly,” Dan said with a nod. “So if he sees you in trouble he’ll be there in a blink.” He shifted his eyes to the gang. “Won’t he, boys?”
“Sure will, boss,” agreed the gang in unison. That was the first time I’d seen them do that.
“What in the world do you want with him?” I asked. I’d already been captured; I wasn’t about to let Dandy Dan catch Bugsy as well.
“Hasn’t he told you?” Dan frowned at me and stood up, then began a speech, his eyes like fire with rage. “He’s the one who destroyed all my hopes of getting on top. He stole nearly every single splurge gun from Dock 17 and used them to foil all my plans that day at the speakeasy and nearly splurged me! And you’d better know I do not take kindly to being splurged. They’re my own inventions and he used them against me! And it was all because Fat Sam paid him four hundred dollars. Believe yous me, Liana, I vowed then I would kill him if it was the last thing I ever did. And that,” He sat down and smiled again. “is where you come in. If Bugsy sees you in trouble he’s not going to stand for it, is he? We can shoot him the minute he walks into our trap. You see?”
I saw. And I wasn’t happy.
“Now wait just a minute!” I yelled. “You’re not using me as bait to catch your enemy!”
“Yes I am. And there’s nothin’ you can do about it.”
“You can’t do this!”
“Oh, I think you’ll find I can. Now,” He stood up and gestured to the gang. “We’re gonna go get some sleep.” He turned back to me. “Don’t even think about running off.” Him and the gang walked out of the lounge door. As they were leaving, I called after them.
“You creeps! You’re not going to get away with this!”
“If I were you I’d shut up,” said Bronx Charlie, turning back to me as he walked through the door. “And by the way…you remind me of somebody I know. I just can’t think who.” And with that, he closed the door.
“DARN IT!” I yelled. “Darn it, darn it, darn it, darn it, darn it!” I punched an expensive-looking vase on the mantelpiece. It fell to the floor and shattered into pieces. What did I care? If I was in the mood I’d have trashed the whole room. I was in a bad mood as it was.
I slumped on the floor and raised my knees up, rested my elbows on them and put my head in my hands. This was just great. Dandy Dan had kidnapped me and was planning to kill Bugsy and I had no means of escape whatsoever. They’d probably locked the door (I checked just in case and wasn’t surprised to find they had) and there were no other exits. I had no idea what to do. I’d never been held hostage before and escape routes weren’t my speciality.
I suddenly realised, for the first time in the whole adventure, how much I wanted to go home. It hadn’t really crossed my mind before, because I’d been so curious about this place, about my new friends, about the speakeasy, and now I was here frightened silly it hit me like the ladder that had knocked me on the head. Hard. I wanted to be back in my own room, with Twilight and all my other toys and my soft nightie and my schoolbag in the corner, packed ready for the next day. I wasn’t there. I was in a power-crazed gangster’s lounge, all alone, and nobody but him and the gang knew I was there. Quietly, filled with loneliness, I started to cry.
I sat for a while, the only noise heard being my sobbing. I had decided now that I was well and truly trapped.
I tried to picture what the others were doing now. Blousey might be talking to Bugsy on the phone.
“Hi, Bugsy. It’s Blousey. I just called to check Liana had got back OK.”
Bugsy would get puzzled. “I thought she was still with you,” he might say.
“What?! When did she leave?!”
I looked at my watch. I’d been in here about twenty minutes, plus the journey to Dandy Dan’s mansion.
“Half an hour ago.” Blousey would say. Now Bugsy would get worried.
“It doesn’t take half an hour to walk from your place to mine!”
Now Blousey would be worried. “Oh, no! Do you think she’s lost?!”
“I hope not! She insisted she knew the way back!” I did.
“This is terrible! What we gonna do, Bugsy?”
“I’ll call Fat Sam. You and Tallulah get over to my place quick!” They’d both put the phone down. Bugsy would start dialling Sam’s number and Blousey would turn to Tallulah, who might be on the table redoing her nails.
“Tallulah, we’ve gotta go.”
Tallulah might look up. “Why?”
“Liana’s missing! I left enough time for her to go back and Bugsy says she’s not there!”
“You’ve gotta be kiddin’!” Tallulah would say, and leap off the table and start packing away her make-up. They’d both run out of the door.
I thought of how Bugsy would be feeling once they were altogether. He’d be worried sick. He’d taken me under his wing and probably convinced himself that I was his responsibility. He’d be walking around, clutching his head with his hands. Blousey would most definitely be trying to calm him down.
“Don’t worry, Bugsy. I’m sure she’s fine.”
“Don’t be stupid! She could be killed out there!” Well, I hadn’t been killed yet.
Blousey’s next words would be stern. “Knock it off, Bugsy, cool down, will ya?”
Then Fat Sam might say something. But what would he be doing? Sitting down smoking? That was all I could think of. “Maybe she’s just lost.”
Bugsy would tense even further then.
“Sam, you’re not helpin’!” Blousey might say indignantly. Then she could turn to Tallulah, who might be looking out of the window for me. “Any sign of her?”
“Nope,” Tallulah would certainly say, because I was here, not there. “I’ve seen plenty of guys walkin’ past, but no broads.”
“Oh, man,” Bugsy might say. “That ain’t helpin’ either!”
I’d stopped crying by this point and took my phone out of my pocket. I’d kept it with me ever since Bugsy nearly broke it, for fear it might get damaged even more. It was running low on battery, but at least it had turned on again. I’d thought it had been permanently broken after Bugsy knocked it. Then something amazing happened. I had a brainwave! I’d been trying to call Bugsy’s telephone when he knocked it, hadn’t I? I could phone him!
My light of hope suddenly dimmed. It might not work.
What was I saying?! It was most definitely worth a try. What was the number? Had I written it down? Yes, I had!
“I’ll keep that safe,” I said, putting the slip of paper in my pocket. “You never know when these things will come in handy.”
Right now that number was about as handy as it could ever be! I dug in my pocket and pulled out the crumpled slip of paper. The number was still there, in Bugsy’s neat sloping handwriting.
I punched the number into my phone, then put it to my ear. The dial tone sounded, then I heard the phone-ringing sound that you always here when you call someone. It was answered in five seconds.
“Hello? Tallulah speakin’.”
No, not Tallulah! It was Bugsy I had to talk to.
“Erm…hi, Tallulah. Is Bugsy Malone there?”
“Sure, honey. I’ll pass you over. Bugsy, telephone.”
I heard the sounds of the receiver being passed over, then a short conversation.
“Hello? Bugsy Malone.” He sounded terrible. I didn’t know if it was just the phone lines or how he was feeling.
“Bugsy!” I said with enthusiasm. “It’s me! Liana!”
“LIANA??!” he yelled, his voice instantly sounding so much better. “Oh my gosh, are you OK?!”
We were both so relieved to hear each other’s voices again.
“I’m fine, I’m fine. Only problem is I’m trapped.”
“Where are you?”
“OK, this is going to shock you.”
“Just say it.”
“Dandy Dan’s. He kidnapped me.”
“He seems to think I can tell him how to take over Sam’s business. Because I know so much.”
“Where the hell did he get that idea from?! You won’t understand business, you’re only…?” We’d both forgotten Bugsy didn’t know how old I was.
“You’re only eleven.”
“Has he hurt ya?”
“No. Just left me in his lounge. I’m on my own. He and the gang are asleep, I think.” Then I added nervously “I hope.”
“Yeah,” said Bugsy. “Me too. What happened? Did he grab you just as you were…I don’t know. Walking?”
“The gang caught me on the street as I was leaving Blousey’s. I would have run but I could’ve been shot. Oh, Bugsy, believe me,” I shivered as I remembered. “There was a splurge gun right in my back.”
“OK,” said Bugsy, his tone a combo of comforting and determined. “Don’t fret. We’ll come and get you out of there.”
“NO!” I shouted.
“What? Why not?”
“It isn’t safe! You don’t know how angry Dandy Dan is with you, Bugsy! He’s using me as bait to get you in a trap!” My next words frightened me so much. “He’s gonna kill you!”
“Ha. I’d like to see him try,” said Bugsy incredulously. But his tone changed to one of perplexity. “But Liana…how did you get through to me?”
“My mobile phone,” I said triumphantly. It had worked at last.
“I thought you said it didn’t work.”
“It didn’t, not at your house. But it’s working now.”
“That’s peculiar. But don’t worry,” He changed to a comforting tone again. “I’ll tell the others. We’ll think of somethin’.”
“You’re altogether then?” I asked.
“Yeah. But I just can’t believe you’re OK!”
“I’m honestly fine.”
“Good. Well, I’ll see you soon.”
He hung up. I pressed the red button on my phone and almost laughed. Now Bugsy knew where I was, he could rescue me! He wouldn’t need to be careful; Dandy Dan was asleep. No killing tonight.
Or so I thought.
The door suddenly swung open. I looked up, puzzled. Surely they couldn’t be here already! My puzzlement was short-lived, because Dandy Dan walked through it, followed by his gang. I stood up in surprise and fear. But I didn’t show it.
“I thought you lot had left me alone!”
“Nah, too risky,” said Laughing Boy. He certainly wasn’t laughing right now. All of them looked shattered.
“I thought we’d better keep an eye on you,” Dandy Dan took over the speaking. “In case Malone comes along.” He emphasised Bugsy’s surname unkindly.
“Bugsy,” I said, correcting Dan on his reference to Bugsy. “already knows I’m here. You know what, I bet he’s on his way right now.” I couldn’t be sure, but if I made Dan think that maybe he’d realise he was defeated.
“I bet he isn’t.”
“Well, I bet he is.” I wasn’t going to give up trying to out-bet him.
“How could he know you’re here?” He certainly gave up trying to out-bet me! I opened my mouth to speak, but he interrupted me.
“No, no, don’t tell me. It’s a totally irrelevant detail.” Oh, rats. I’d been about to say something that would scare him. I can’t remember what it was now.
“When are you going to let me go?” I asked, even though I knew the answer.
“As soon as Bugsy Malone’s dead,” cut in Yonkers.
“That’ll only be the safest time to do it,” added Shoulders. Dandy Dan didn’t look at all pleased that they’d taken over speaking.
I suddenly noticed something. Behind the hoodlums, the lounge door was still open. That was so stupid of them. I knew exactly what to do.
“No way,” I said. “No way are you keeping me here until Bugsy’s dead. And no way is he going to be killed.”
“I think you’ll find he is, missy,” said Dan, glaring at me. “And there ain’t nothin’ you can do.”
“Yes there is,” I said, grinning. I think there was a mischievous twinkle in my eye. It felt that way anyway. “I’m getting out of here!” And I charged straight at the gang, punched my way through them and sprinted out the door. I might be small but I can pack a heavy punch when I need to…and I think I hit Bronx Charlie right where I’d been aiming, because he yelled out.
I dashed down the hallway, going a little slower than I might have because I didn’t think they were chasing me. Until I heard Dandy Dan’s voice.
“Well, come on, you dummies! What ya waitin’ for?! She’s gettin’ away!”
The chase and the fight
I ran for my life. The front door was pretty heavy, and opening it slowed me down, but once I was out I was fine. I jumped over all the stone steps, not even stepping on one, and bent my legs as I landed on the path in front. Starting off again, it seemed like an eternity before I reached the gates to the grounds and jumped through a gap in between the bars. I’m exactly the right size and, if you ask me, the gaps were pretty wide.
As I came onto the street my heart started hammering like a kettledrum. I’d realised I didn’t know the way to Bugsy’s house from here, so I had no option. I just ran.
I ran and ran and ran. Past houses, shops, you name it, the lot, until I think I took a wrong turning. Because I came straight into a dead end. I stopped to catch my breath, my heart hammering against my chest, hoping I’d lost the gang. It seemed I had, and I breathed out with relief. But I was lost. I had no idea where to go, and I heard footsteps coming around the side of the alley. My heart started thumping again, and my six pursuers ran around the corner…but I must have been pretty well hidden at the back of the alley, because Dandy Dan took one look towards me and said, “She’s not there. The little pest’s playing tricks on us now.” They ran right past the alley. Bronx Charlie seemed to have recovered. I chortled to myself.
“Idiots,” I whispered, and ran out of the alley in the opposite direction.
Now which way? I looked behind me. I could see the gang, but they were looking the other way with their backs to me, so I kept going, cherishing the time I had. I looked at my watch. Twenty to nine. I’d been going ten minutes. I looked up again and carried on. Where had I gone wrong? Not knowing what else to do, I turned left, then right, then right again. Everything looked the same. I couldn’t see any way back. So I just kept running.
“There she is!” Oh, great! The gang must have caught up with me! I turned and there they were, and Benny Lee was pointing his gun at me. “Freeze!” he shouted.
But of course I didn’t freeze. I just gasped, turned on my toe and kept on running. They were a lot slower than me, so I had no trouble outrunning them. The only problem was I still didn’t know where I was. But wait a minute…what was that in the distance, at the end of the street I was in? It couldn’t be…yes! It was the bookstore that disguised Fat Sam’s! Pop Becker’s bookstore! I knew exactly where I was now. I checked behind me for the gang. They weren’t there but I couldn’t waste any time. I darted up the road and into the high street.
It was dark now, but I recognised everything. I saw Robinson’s Art Supplies, where I’d bought my notebook, and Lugini’s, and the hair salon. I knew Bugsy’s house was near a grocery store, and much to my joy there was one right at the end of the high street. He said left at the grocery store. Which way was left if I faced it? Aha. Straight on from where I’d been before. I sprinted that way and…
…you’ll recognise the street. And my house.
I recognised the street, and his house.
I darted up to the front door, gasping for breath and my legs turning to jelly as I did so, and hammered on it with my fist as if doing so would save my life. And the door was answered a moment later…by Bugsy.
“BUGSY!” I yelped as he opened it. I was falling over.
“What…Liana?!” he cried. “I’m not going mad, am I?!”
“No, I’m here all right!” I said, taking huge breaths and collapsing into his arms. It felt so weird when he put them around me and held me up; as if we’d known each other for eternity, and we were closer than a brother and sister.
“Hey, hey, it’s OK!” he said. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine…just need…water!” I heaved.
“Come on,” he said, closing the door behind me and leading me into the kitchen…where Blousey, Tallulah and Fat Sam were sitting. They all gasped in disbelief when they saw me.
“Liana?!” cried Blousey. “Is that you?”
“We must be dreaming!” added Tallulah.
“Don’t be stupid, we’ve already pinched each other a dozen times,” said Sam.
“You guys ain’t dreaming,” said Bugsy. “Liana, you’re here, aren’t ya?”
“Yeah,” was all I could manage.
Tallulah leapt up. “Look at you!” she said. “What have you been doing?!”
She grabbed a glass from the kitchen worktop and ran some water into it from the tap as Bugsy sat me down on a chair. Blousey started rubbing my back. “Breathe,” she said. “You’ve worn yourself out.”
I breathed. I breathed very fast. Tallulah handed me the glass and I gulped the water down gratefully. “What were you running from?” asked Sam. “And how did you get out? Did Dan let you go or somethin’?!”
“No,” I said. My lungs had relaxed a little. “I escaped. They were stupid enough to leave the lounge door open.” They all laughed. “Dumb bums,” said Bugsy, and he put his arms around me again. “At least you’re safe. I was worried sick.”
“Ha,” Blousey chortled. “Worried sick might be an understatement, wise guy.”
“He was in hysterics,” Tallulah told me. “Couldn’t calm him down!”
Everyone, including me, laughed again. But I had to break this calm atmosphere by telling them the worst.
“Yeah, thing is…I’m not safe,” I said, my smile disappearing. Everyone else’s did too. “The gang are still chasing me. I don’t know where they are but…”
“They’ve probably lost you,” Fat Sam interrupted me, putting a light on the situation. “You’re a fast runner, right?”
“Yeah, pretty fast.”
“Well, I bet they think you turned a corner and,” He indicated inverted commas with his fingers. “‘followed’ you. They’re probably lost somewhere in the streets right now.”
“You sure about that?” asked Blousey. “I remember Dandy Dan has a pretty good sense of direction.”
“He’ll be concentrating on where she went, won’t he?” cut in Bugsy, sitting beside me. “He thinks she doesn’t know her way around.”
“He’s right,” I said. “I don’t know my way around this city the slightest bit. It was just luck I went the right way.”
There was suddenly another hammer on the front door. “Who could that be?” asked Bugsy, and he got up to answer it.
“Open this door, Malone!” shouted a very familiar voice that stopped Bugsy dead in his tracks before he’d even left the kitchen. “We know you and the little broad are in there!”
“Uh-oh,” said Sam.
“Oh no,” said Tallulah.
“Oh, great,” said Blousey.
“Oh my god,” I said.
“He’s here,” whispered Bugsy, his voice strained.
“Right,” said Blousey, standing up and immediately taking charge. “Bugsy, Liana, you both need to hide. Us three’ll take care of Dandy Dan.” Bugsy didn’t move. “Bugsy?” Blousey said, walking towards him and touching his hand. “Did you hear me?”
“Yeah, I heard you,” he said, looking at her and taking her hand. “I just can’t believe he found me.”
“Just hide,” said Sam, standing up. “I’ll handle this.”
“No, honey, he’ll shoot you on sight,” said Tallulah. “We should all hide. Pretend there’s nobody here.”
“Open the door,” came the voice again. It was threatening now.
“What we gonna do?” asked Bugsy. “My front door window’s completely transparent. If he sees us walkin’ through the hall and up the stairs he’ll break the door down.”
“We don’t have to hide upstairs,” I said, getting up. I’d recovered by now. “Couldn’t we hide in the living-room?”
They all looked at me. “Liana, you genius!” said Fat Sam, putting his hand on my shoulder and his face lighting up. I smiled. “What’s your plan?” asked Tallulah.
“Dandy Dan can only see in front of his face, can’t he?” I said. “The window’s only chest height. We can crawl down the hall, and he won’t see us. Then once we’re in the lounge we can hide.”
“You beauty!” said Blousey, opening the kitchen door. “I’ll go first. Tallulah, don’t start going until I give you a signal.” She got down on her hands and knees and crawled into the hall. Tallulah got down on her own and waited anxiously for Blousey to reach the lounge door. When at last she did, she knelt up, looked behind her and gave Tallulah the thumbs-up. Tallulah took a deep breath and started to crawl down the hall.
“I’ll give you guys two minutes,” Dandy Dan’s sharp voice broke our silence. “Then I’m gonna break open the door.”
“Oh, great,” said Bugsy. “Go a bit quicker, Tallulah!” Tallulah quickened her pace as Sam got down on all fours. When she gave him the thumbs up, he crawled down the hall. He sure went fast for a fat guy.
“How much time have we got?” Bugsy asked me. I’d been timing it. “One minute,” I replied. I gave him a look that meant “Go first, you’ve got plenty of time. Then if we run out he’ll catch me, not you.” I don’t think he understood the second part, but he nodded and got on his hands and knees. I saw Sam give him a thumbs-up and he set off while I got down. As he reached the door, he signalled me. I looked at my watch. I had thirty seconds. I began to crawl down the hall, but something was slowing me up. I couldn’t work out what it was, but the hall seemed as long as a chasm is wide. Maybe I was just smaller than the others and it seemed to take longer for me to move. Or maybe I was still tired, because my legs felt like jelly.
“You’ve got twenty seconds,” came Dandy Dan’s voice. Bugsy’s face was a picture of anxiety as he looked in my direction. “Come on!” he said. I crawled a little faster, but my legs gave up on me.
I slumped onto the hall floorboards. Bugsy was turning pale. “Keep going!” he said.
I started again, but my legs weren’t up to it after all that running.
I started to crawl as fast as I could. No. It was no use.
“Hurry up!” said Bugsy.
“One………right, time’s up.” There were a few bangs on the door and it crashed open. Dandy Dan and the gang all surged through it, Dan in front. He was on me like a dart in a second. “Gotcha!” he said with menacing triumph. I screamed and struggled as he yanked me upright by my shoulder and wrist.
“Liana!” cried Bugsy. A big mistake. The gang all spotted him that instant. “There he is!” shouted Bronx Charlie, as Bugsy disappeared into the lounge. They all followed him, and Dan pulled me in after them.
BANG-WHOOSH! BANG-WHOOSH! BANG-WHOOSH! The sound of the splurge guns filled the tranquil air. Each bang-whoosh was so quick it sounded more like a peow. The splurge-gunfires whistled through the air, always missing their targets, well, target. Bugsy. He was hiding under a table with his arms around Blousey. Blousey was shielding her face with her own. Sam and Tallulah were nowhere to be seen.
Bugsy saw me in Dan’s grip. “You let go of her!” he shouted.
“Why should I?” replied Dandy Dan.
“I said, leave her alone!” said Bugsy. He was getting angry.
“Make me then.”
“You heard me!” Bugsy fumed. “LET HER GO!”
“Not a single chance.” Dan tightened his grip on me. He wasn’t going to let me get away a second time. “This broad’s mine until you’re dead, Bugsy Malone!”
Blousey gasped. The splurge guns continued firing, and Dan pulled me closer towards him. “Come on, you snails,” he called to the gang. “I want him dead.”
Laughing Boy stopped firing. He said something that I don’t think he would have, but in the mood he was in he couldn’t stop himself. He glared at Dandy Dan and said “We’re trying as hard as we can, boss!”
“Well,” replied Dan angrily. “Step on it, will ya?!”
Laughing Boy shrugged and continued firing. Then suddenly, from behind the top of an armchair nearby, emerged Fat Sam’s face. He’d obviously been hiding behind it. “Dan, you’re a rat!”
Shoulders fired in his direction, but he ducked, then stood up again.
“Dan, you’re a dirty rat!”
Another splurge pellet went in his direction, and he ducked.
“Sam!” yelled Bugsy, trying hard to make his voice heard over the firing. “What the hell do you think you’re doin’? Knock it off!”
Sam ignored him and stood up again. “You’re a dirty power-crazed kidnapping rat, Dandy Dan!” Perfect description! It made Dan very angry indeed. “Quit callin’ me a rat, will ya?!!” he yelled in Sam’s direction.
“Well, why don’t you quit tryin’ to kill us then?” Blousey returned the yell.
“Not gonna. Not until he’s dead!” On the word “he” Dan took his hand off my shoulder and pointed at Bugsy, then grabbed hold of me again.
The splurge guns suddenly stopped firing, leaving an ear-splitting silence. It was broken by a cross snap from Dandy Dan. “What do you think you’re doing, you dummies?!”
“The guns have jammed, boss,” said Yonkers meekly. Dan sighed with irritation.
“OK,” said Sam, emerging from behind the armchair again, Tallulah at his side. “Stop tryin’ to get us, buster.”
“We can talk this over sensibly,” said Bugsy, trying to be humble. “Just let Liana go.”
Dan might have been convinced if Tallulah hadn’t said “You’re never gonna get my honey’s business anyway.”
“Heh-hey, look who’s talkin’,” Dan glared in Tallulah’s direction. “The beauty with the slob for a boyfriend.”
Sam exploded. “Now, shut up, ya salami! You don’t talk dirty about me! I don’t like your mouth! I have to have some respect, you know!”
“Shut up yourself, ya dumb bum. You’d slit your own throat for two bits plus tax.”
“Keep your wisecracks behind your teeth!”
“Enough of this straight-talk!” Bugsy cut into their argument. “Why don’t you just get outta here, Dan?”
“Not until you let me kill ya, Bugsy,” said Dan. I couldn’t see his face, but he sounded frightening, so I yelled up at him, struggling with all my might.
“Why would he?! Let go of me or I’ll kick you right where it hurts!”
“Button your lip, you little brat!” Dan responded, covering my mouth.
Sam suddenly leaped forward and punched Dandy Dan right in the face. It took him by so much surprise that he let go of me. I collapsed to the floor, scrambled up and darted across to Bugsy and Blousey, then dived under the table.
“You OK?” Blousey asked me.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said. Bugsy didn’t say anything – he just kept his eyes on Dandy Dan and grabbed my hand. I could feel his palms were sweating.
Dan and Sam were properly fighting now, and Dan didn’t seem to be enjoying himself at all. Physical contact just wasn’t his game, I guessed, and he was possibly worried about getting his immaculate suit spoiled. Then, to our surprise, the gang managed to unjam their guns. The bang-whoosh sound started again, deafening everyone. Sam didn’t seem to notice…he just kept punching Dandy Dan.
Bugsy clutched my hand. I looked up at his face, which was deathly pale.
“Bugsy?” I said. “What’s wrong?”
He turned his head to Blousey, then to me. A tear drifted down his left cheek as he pulled us both close.
“I’m going to die,” he whispered.
Those words shocked me. Big-time. This guy was Bugsy Malone! He didn’t predict his own death, he usually tried to find a way around it. The sentence he had just spoken was so not him. And I didn’t like it.
“You’re not,” I said determinedly. “Not if I can help it.”
I pulled my hand of his and climbed out from under the table. “Liana!” cried Blousey. “Liana, what are you doing?” I ignored her. Then, summoning up all my courage, I charged straight at Dandy Dan, my fist clenched. It met his jaw with what seemed like no noise at all.
Too late. I don’t know whether I was caught up in the adrenaline of it all or still tired from running, but right at that moment I went off in a dead faint.
Blurs danced in front of me. Something was cold and damp on my forehead. I blinked to focus my eyes, and the blurs changed into the face of a woman with her arm above me. It was Blousey dabbing at my head with a wet cloth.
“Liana? Can you hear me?” she said in a soothing, comforting voice. “You’re coming round.”
I blinked again and made a low moaning sound. My head was swimming and I seemed to be resting on a cloud. Was this heaven? Were we all dead? No. This wasn’t a cloud I was resting on. It was a bed. A soft feather bed with wool blankets. I reached up to rub my eyes.
“Can you hear me?” Blousey asked again.
“Yeah,” I said. My voice was a strain. Then I gasped. “Dandy Dan! He…”
“It’s alright,” she said, again in that soothing tone. “Dandy Dan’s gone. We’re safe.” She put the cloth on the bedside table. I sat up and blinked hard to get my vision in focus. My head was thudding like a marching-band bass drum.
“You fainted,” said Blousey. “after you punched him in the mouth. That surprised him even more than when Sam punched him and he fell over. I swear, if Sam hadn’t given him one last kick Dan might have killed you. He couldn’t move, he was in so much pain. He didn’t know what had hit him!” She laughed. “But anyway…that gave Bugsy time to run forward and get you out of harm’s way.”
“And you’re surprisingly light,” came another voice from the spare room door. It was Bugsy. “For an eleven-year-old, I mean.” He walked into the room and sat on the bed beside Blousey. I was surprised.
“You mean…you carried me up here?”
“Sure I did. How else could I get you up here? Both of us sprout wings and fly?” I chuckled at his joke. “Anyway, how ya feelin’?”
“I’m fine, I think,” I said. “Where are Tallulah and Sam?”
“Downstairs,” said Blousey. “clearin’ up the last of the splurge. You should’ve seen the mess it made.”
“What happened to Dan after I hit him?” I asked.
“We didn’t see,” said Bugsy. “We were too busy concentrating on you. But we did here Sam shouting,” He put on Fat Sam’s voice surprisingly well. “‘That’s right, get outta here, ya dummies! And don’t go messin’ with kids again!’”
“So he just ran?”
“Yep,” responded Blousey. “I guess he was scared!”
We all nearly split our sides laughing. Outsmarting Dandy Dan was one thing – scaring him was quite another!
“Anyway,” Bugsy chuckled. “We’re gonna go to the speakeasy. Sam thought we could all do with a drink.” He touched my forehead and winced. “Especially you. You’re burnin’ up!”
I felt my forehead. It seemed to be hotter than a coal in a fire.
I started to get off the bed, but Blousey stopped me. “Don’t move too quickly,” she said. I sighed.
“I’m OK, Blousey. Really.”
She reluctantly let me get off the bed, and they both shot me anxious glances as I got my trainers back on. Evidently Bugsy had taken the precaution of taking them off to stop the bed sheets getting dirty. I thought my shoes were pretty clean though. Not like I’d stepped in any dogs’ muck recently. I scooped up my things (the notebook, my pen) from the bedside table, put them in my pockets and they followed me downstairs, where Fat Sam and Tallulah were just finishing cleaning up, well, Tallulah was. Sam seemed to be opting out of it. He smiled in my direction.
“You’ve woken up then?”
“Yeah,” I said. “What does it look like?”
Bugsy and Blousey came up behind me. They now looked a lot less worried.
“You guys nearly ready to go?” asked Bugsy.
“Almost,” Tallulah called, not looking up from the splurge stain in Bugsy’s carpet, which she was scrubbing at like mad with a sponge. “There we go,” she said as it finally disappeared. “That’s one tough stain.” She got up from the floor and smoothed the hem of her dress. It had got a bit creased from kneeling over. “You might not want to step on that spot until it’s dry,” she told Bugsy.
“Come on, guys,” said Blousey. “Let’s go. I’m dying of thirst.”
The five of us walked to the speakeasy in companionable silence. None of us could think of anything to say after what we’d been through tonight, not even me, and I can be a bit of a chatterbox when I need to be. We reached the bookstore and Sam disappeared into an alley by the side of it. I tensed as I saw him go.
“Don’t worry,” said Bugsy. “That’s just the speakeasy’s back entrance. He’ll join us once we’re in there.” I breathed out with relief as the rest of us walked into the bookstore. Bugsy nodded to Pop Becker and knocked on the hatch.
“Hey. Four of us now, but two work here.” Jelly just let us all in. Blousey and Tallulah ran ahead and disappeared backstage. Into the dressing-room, I presumed.
“They’re late!” laughed Bugsy.
“Ha. You can say that again.” I looked at my watch. It was half-ten.
“They’re late!” We both laughed again and walked up to a free table. Bugsy gave me another anxious look.
“Are you sure you’re OK?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” I objected. “Why do you keep saying that?”
“Oh, no reason,” said Bugsy. “It’s just that I keep feelin’ I need to look after you. It’s strange, I know. You ain’t even my kid!” He laughed again, his brown eyes sparkling. I smiled and looked at the stage.
“Show hasn’t started yet.”
“I know. It would have, but what with Blousey and Tallulah being late…” Bugsy didn’t need to finish. I knew why the show hadn’t started.
“Hey, you two.” We both swivelled out heads to where the voice was coming from. It was Sam. He’d got a special-on-the-rocks for Bugsy and a double for himself. “Didn’t know what you wanted, Liana,” he said to me.
“I’m alright with water,” I said quickly. “I need refreshing.” I did, but there was another reason I’d gone for water. I wasn’t about to force another glass of that revolting lemonade down my throat if I could help it.
“Alright,” he said, walking away from the table. He was back in a tick with a glass of water.
“Whew!” he breathed, sitting in a free chair at the table. “Wow. What a night we’ve had.”
“Yeah,” agreed Bugsy. “How exactly did you get out, Liana? I don’t think we’ve heard the whole story.”
“I just noticed the lounge door was open and barged out. The gang didn’t put up any resistance.”
“I suppose the front door wasn’t locked?” said Bugsy.
“I got lucky. It wasn’t. Heavy though. If they’d started chasing me the second I ran I might have got caught again.”
“I’m just glad we all survived,” smiled Sam.
“Innit?” I said. I’m not sure they knew what I meant by that, but I continued. “Dandy Dan could have killed you, Bugsy.”
“Ha-ha! Said I’d like to see him try, didn’t I?”
“Well, you’re the one who told me and Blousey you were going to die!”
“Well then,” Sam cut across the conversation. “Liana, I guess we’ll all need to keep in contact with ya. Where should we write to?”
I took the slip of paper with Bugsy’s number on it and my biro out of my pocket and wrote my address down. 35 South Bank Lane, Chelsea, London, England.
“There’s the address,” I said, handing the paper to Sam. “Just don’t send them until March 2010.”
“Oh, great.” Bugsy rested his elbow on the table and put his head in his hand. “You don’t still think you’re from the future, do you?”
“But I am!” I said, trying to sound convincing.
“Quit foolin’ around, will ya?” Sam said. “You’re not. How could you have got here?”
“You guys don’t think I’m still nuts, do you?”
“You ain’t nuts,” said Bugsy. “Just confused.” Humph. “Nuts” and “confused” are pretty close synonyms. “And anyway,” he continued. “If you are, how you gonna get home?”
“Oh, er…” I hesitated. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
There was no time to think about it. Music had already started and I could hear the girls’ tap shoes hammering on the stage. The song had started and I couldn’t stop myself snapping my fingers to the beat. I sang along a bit too.
The song finished and the girls curtsied, then the whole speakeasy exploded into applause. Bugsy, Fat Sam and I stood up and cheered as loud as we could. I was cheering, but suddenly the loud undignified din of the speakeasy dampened around my ears. My head started spinning. I stopped clapping and held my head, then fell to the floor. This was different to ordinary fainting. My vision fuzzed around me, and even though I wasn’t moving it felt like I was tumbling, tumbling into a chasm as deep as death. The rough wooden floor smoothened under my hands and changed colour from brown to black, and the whistles and cheers of the speakeasy customers transformed into frightened shouts from easily recognised voices. So much easier to recognise than Bugsy’s, or Dandy Dan’s, or anyone’s. They were clearly children’s voices, with the exception of one adult. It was Miss Raymond and the whole of the cast of our play.
“Oh my god, did that ladder hit her?!”
“Has someone called an ambulance?”
“Wait, quick! Come over here! I think she’s waking up!”
I blinked my way back to reality and realised that I was lying face down on my school stage. Rolling onto my back I could see a hoard of frightened, pale faces. Among them were Eleanor and Sophie. And Joe. He was frozen to the spot, unable to move or speak, white as a sheet. Sophie gasped.
“Oh, thank God! She is awake!”
“Liana, it’s OK!” said Eleanor, helping me to sit up. “There’s an ambulance on its way.”
My head was absolutely killing. I felt the back of it and got the same feeling you get when you have a bruise.
“Owww…” I groaned, tilting my head forward. “Have I just been knocked out?”
“OH…MY…GOD!” Joe had found his voice. “Liana, I’m so sorry! That ladder just…went out of control…”
“Joe!” Miss Raymond’s sharp voice interrupted him. “You will see the headteacher tomorrow morning! It’s not acceptable to hit people on the head with a ladder!”
“But it was an accident!”
“It’s still unacceptable.”
Thinking back on it now, I think Miss Raymond was being a bit hard on Joe. I would have made an objection, but it’s a bit hard to do that when your head kills and you’ve got no idea what happened. “That ladder swung and hit your head, Liana.” Sophie said to me, kneeling down. “You’ve been knocked out for ten minutes.”
“Ten minutes?!” I exclaimed. “But I’ve been away for almost two days! You see, I was on my way home when I got attacked…” I summarised the whole adventure into a few sentences while Sophie and Eleanor looked at each other and shook their heads.
“It must have been a dream,” said Eleanor. “We’ve just been doing a production of Bugsy Malone. You were a chorus girl, remember?”
“Oh…yeah,” I said. “But it seemed so real…”
“Well it’s over now,” said Sophie. “Bugsy and Blousey and that don’t really exist. You dreamt it all.”
Our talking was interrupted by someone bursting through the auditorium door. A woman with shoulder-length blonde hair tied back, looking very pale. It was my mum.
“Where’s Liana?!” she cried. She sounded so frightened.
“MUM!” I shouted, suddenly forgetting all about the pain in my head. I leapt up, ran right off the stage and straight into her arms in tears. “Oh, Mum!”
She hugged me tight as soon as we made contact. “Oh, Liana! Sweetheart!” she cried, then her tone changed to soothing. “It’s OK, darling, it’s OK. Mummy’s here.”
I kept crying. Not because I was in shock from the bump, which is what she thought, but because I’d realised now that I’d missed her so much. Bugsy and Blousey and everyone else were brilliant company, but nobody could beat the security I had when I was around my mum. I realised now that I’d never even appreciated it.
She broke the hug up and took my hand. “Come on, lovie. There’s an ambulance waiting outside. They’ll check you over at the hospital.”
She sat with her arm around me the whole journey in the ambulance. I felt like a little kid again – I didn’t want her to leave me, ever. Her embrace was so warm, and the sweet aroma of her lavender perfume filled my nose. She was the only person I wanted to be with right now.
“I’ve missed you, Mum,” I said halfway through the journey. She chuckled.
“Don’t be silly, honey. You’ve only been away from me a few hours.”
“Feels like a lot longer than that.” I mumbled, and cuddled closer to her.
At the hospital they checked my head over and gave me an x-ray. “Nothing serious,” said the nurse after the checks. He patted me on the shoulder. “Just a bad bruise on the back of your head, love. You should be fine in a few weeks.”
“That’s good,” I said. Mum put her arms around me again.
“Now, sweetie, I think it’s time you got some sleep. You’ve had a very traumatic night, haven’t you?”
“More traumatic that you think,” I said. I’d stopped crying by now.
“Yeah. I’m sure it has been. Now let’s go home. I think Twilight’s missed you, hasn’t she?”
The third dream
Back at home, I snuggled into my warm, crisp sheets, Twilight tucked under my arm. I was in my cotton nightshirt and my hair was brushed, and the heating was on, filling the room with warm air that eased my tense muscles. My head had stopped hurting and because of that I was able to rest my head on my soft pillow. It’s a special one for side-sleepers. I’m a side-sleeper, so I lay on my side and allowed myself to drift off into sleep.
I had another dream. I was invisible again (but for some odd reason I could see myself), and I couldn’t speak, but this time it wasn’t in Dandy Dan’s lounge. It was in the Grand Slam. It was empty – all the customers were gone, apart from two. No, they weren’t customers. They were Bugsy and Fat Sam, sitting at the table I’d fallen by laughing at a shared joke. There was someone else as well, sweeping the floor. It was little Fizzy, Fat Sam’s janitor. He’d been trying to get an audition for a job in the show for months but Sam never had any time to see him. Blousey and Tallulah were emerging from backstage. They’d taken off their costumes and were also laughing. Sam and Bugsy cheered as they approached the table.
“Good work, girls!” said Bugsy. “You have GOT to do the show like that more often! I loved it!”
“Me too!” said Sam. The girls laughed again.
“Thanks, guys,” said Blousey. “Isn’t it great knowing that Dandy Dan won’t interfere with anythin’ now?”
“Yeah,” said Bugsy. “If Liana hadn’t showed up we might not have finally stopped him.”
“Hey,” said Tallulah, her laughing tone gone. “Come to think of it…where is Liana?”
Everyone, including me, looked at the empty chair at the table where the guys were sitting in surprise.
“What the…?” Bugsy was lost for words.
“Where the hell did she go?!” Sam cried.
Blousey called my name and looked around. So did everyone else. My eyes brimmed with tears. I wanted to call them, to run up to them, to say “It’s alright, guys! I’m here! I’m fine!” I did do that, but no sound came out of my mouth, and when I touched Bugsy’s suit jacket, my fingers flipped right through the material, feeling nothing.
Fizzy suddenly seemed to spot something on my chair as he was walking past with his broom. He picked something up off the chair…my mobile. How did I leave it there?!
“Hey, what’s this?” he said, puzzled.
“Oh my gosh! That’s her mobile phone!” exclaimed Bugsy. He snatched it out of Fizzy’s hand and stared at it. “She used this to call me!” He looked around, his eyes lighting up. “And if the phone’s here…”
Blousey blew out the flame of hope. “She won’t be here, Bugsy,” she said sadly, taking his hand and squeezing it. “Liana didn’t seem like the type to wander off on her own.”
“Then…” Bugsy hesitated. “…she really has disappeared.” He slumped back on his chair. “I can’t believe it. She’s disappeared.” My eyes leaked fresh tears. The drops of saltwater hit the floor, but they didn’t make a noise or a wet mark. He looked up and faced the others, looking at me for a split second. I could see the pain in his expression. “You know what, guys?”
“What?” they chorused.
“I’m starting to doubt whether she was actually confused or not.” He noticed their puzzled faces. “It’s just we all drummed it into her that she was, but she was so insistent she wasn’t, I’m wondering if she was right.” I noticed his eyes filling with tears.
“Don’t be stupid, Bugsy,” said Tallulah, putting her arm around his shoulder. “A broad with incredibly long hair, wearing trousers? There’s no doubt she was confused. But anyway,” she continued. “we should keep that telephone as a memory. She was a sweet girl.”
“Oh my god. Thank you, Tallulah,” I mouthed.
“I wonder if we’ll see her again.” Blousey said wistfully.
“I doubt it,” Fat Sam dimmed her light of hope now. “She gave me the feeling that she was just a one-off. Besides,” He sighed. “we’ll all be at least a hundred before 2010.”
Then the dream ended.
I woke up to the sound of birds singing outside my window and leapt out of bed, dumping Twilight on the pillow. I ran over to my chair, where I’d left me jeans the night before, and dug in the pockets. I pulled out my biro, and felt something square, but it was too big to be my phone. I pulled it out of the pocket…
It was a beige notebook decorated with purple swirls. The very same one I’d bought the day before.
I opened the cover, expecting it to be a blank white page, but there was a message written. It was in very neat sloping handwriting that I recognised instantly.
I hope you treasure this always.
You really have put a light on my
He must have written that when he was expecting me to come back from Blousey’s. I closed my eyes to stop the tears falling out.
And that very notebook is the one I’ve been writing my whole adventure down in, right now. The message is even still there.
I came home from school the next day and dumped my bag in the hall. My hair had been tied back, but it was coming out. I’d been running around a lot at playtime with Sophie and Eleanor and Louise. I’d also torn the seam of my grey skirt. Whoops.
My dad was watching TV in the living room. I walked through the door and he turned to look at me.
“Hiya, Li,” he said. “Good day at school?” I nodded, and then he noticed my skirt. “What’s your mother going to say when she sees that?” he said, grinning.
“I don’t know,” I said, grinning back. “Maybe, ‘oh, Liana Isobel Perry, you silly girl’?”
We both laughed. Then Dad picked something up from his lap. “This came in the post just now,” he said. “It has your name on it. And it’s pretty heavy!”
“Thanks, Dad,” I said, taking what I’d noticed was an envelope from him. He was right, it was heavy for a letter. But sure enough, my name was printed on the front.
35 South Bank Lane,
It was sent internationally then.
I opened up the envelope to find a sheet of paper, yellowed a little. It was in a handwriting that I didn’t recognise. There was a date at the top of the page: 1992. Seven years before I was born. As I read the letter my heart started thumping.
To you it might seem like only a couple of days since we last spoke. To me, it seems like more that sixty years.
I’m writing to tell you that you were right all along. You weren’t confused at all. In 1985 mobile phones were invented. They were rather large when they first came out! I have realised that your mobile phone must have been a more advanced version of the first one.
After that night at the Grand Slam you vanished. We were all a bit sad, but we knew we wouldn’t forget you. You really put some joy in our hearts.
I can happily tell you that I am now the proud Mrs. Blousey Malone. Bugsy and I were married soon after you left. Though I am sorry to say that he is already deceased – he unfortunately died of a heart attack at the age of sixty-one.
Tallulah has also passed away; she died a happy natural death when she was eighty.
Sam has moved on – last time I saw him he was about to board a plane to India – and I haven’t heard from him since. I don’t know whether he is alive or dead – he never mastered the knack of using a modern telephone.
Honestly, I don’t know what became of Dandy Dan! He left us alone after you came. I guess he accepted defeat. Of course we did hear about him – the gang were involved in a lot of incidents we saw in the paper – but he never bothered us again.
As I write this, you may not have been born yet. I may be dead by the time you read it, so I am going to give this letter to my grandson, telling him not to post it until 2010. I do so hope this letter gets to you. Greetings from Michigan, where I now live. Oh, by the way…Fizzy found the object posted with this letter on your chair after you disappeared. You know Fizzy? You would, I suppose.
With love from
Your loving friend,
P.S. I really hope this letter hasn’t made you cry! I know what you’ve been through, and don’t worry, that wasn’t the last time you’ll see us. Believe me, honey, you’ve got a lot coming your way…and I remember it!
And what did I pull out of the envelope that was causing it to be so heavy? My mobile phone.
I read that letter again and again and again. Some bits made me cry, others puzzled me. When would I see them again? I thought this adventure was just a one-off, like Fat Sam had.
So there you have it. This notebook’s nearly full now. I’ve tried to keep it in perfect condition but already the spine is bent and the cover’s a little bit dog-eared. I guess it’s age catching up with it after all these years. Technically, it is more than eighty years old. But the adventure. Oh, my god. I can still remember it all beginning to end. It’s so amazing that it could all occur through just a bump on the head. When will I see them all again? I don’t know. All I know is that it’s probably going to be in ten years or something. Maybe even twenty. A while, at least.
Two years later
Or so I thought.
Hello. It’s me again. It’s Liana. I haven’t written in here for two years. I’m thirteen now, in Year Eight. I was in Year Six last time I wrote in it. I never thought this would happen again, but it has. There’s no room to write the whole adventure in this notebook, but I’ll find another one. All I can tell you now is that I’ve been hit again. On the head. I saw all my friends again.
I visited the past AGAIN.
THE END, FOR NOW…
TWENTIES REVISITED – THE NEXT CHAPTER IN LIANA PERRY’S STORY
Publication Date: 12-11-2010
All Rights Reserved
To Ceri and everyone in the Manston Youth Theatre production of Bugsy Malone. Thank-you for the inspiration you gave me!