Good evening and welcome to the first episode of “The Story So Far”. Tonight we’ll be taking a look at the first installment of an American Retelling of a narrative poem from 1810, Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake. This project is intended to be a story essay.
The Dame of Belle Isle Park
The street lamps passed in rapid succession as Jim Ryan drove across the Belle Isle Bridge towards the island on Lake Superior. He was on the hunt for a few quiet hours to himself, and Belle Isle on a Friday night seemed like the place to visit. The new police chief of Detroit was feeling the strain and pressure, and needed to escape the city bustle for a small reprieve. With his ascension to police chief came the task to free the city from the grasp of the mafia. The head of the Milo family had proven a tenacious Boss, but with the success of local authorities, he was forced to take cover and hadn’t been heard from in a while. The rest of the family secreted themselves away in the seedy underbelly of the city to avoid persecution. Adriano Milo, the uncle of Boss Milo had been an invaluable informant. Rumors were that the Sicilian, Rogero Gregori was providing some of the Milo family refuge.
Jim parked his Hudson Town Sedan by the Detroit Boat Club and took a stroll along the clubhouse’s pier. As he rounded the corner of the clubhouse, he caught sight of a woman, silhouetted by the moonlight, staring out across the lake expectantly. Jim stopped for a moment to take in the sight. To be certain, the lady cut a fine figure standing there. After taking her in, he took a step off of the walkway and onto the old boards of the pier, which creaked beneath his feet. Startled, the young woman gasped and turned to face him. Jim raised his open hands and smiled kindly to ease her fear. He must have made an alarming sight stepping out of the shadows as he did. With the past couple days off duty he hadn’t shaved, so his five o’clock shadow was prominent. Stress and restless nights painted him a haggard figure. He was a far cry away from the polished-button and clean-shaven man the public recognized him as.
“Didn’t mean to startle you, ma’am. I was hoping to walk along the pier, but I see this one is already taken,” said with a soft chuckle.
“You know what, that’s quite alright,” she said, breaking into a wide smile. She looked at her watch and spared a final glance out across the water. “I was waiting for a friend to show up, but I don’t think he will.” Chagrin tinged her voice.
“Well, now that’s what I would call a crying shame. A fine lady such as yourself shouldn’t be kept waiting.” Jim took a few casual steps closer.
“Aw, applesauce!” A blush tinged her cheeks beneath her bobbed black hair. “Say, I don’t suppose you’d be interested in joining me for a belt? I uh… I know of a juice joint nearby.” She bit her lower lip. Jim paused before answering. Apparently she was inviting him for a drink. So much for a few hours of peace, he thought to himself. But, the opportunity of discovering the speakeasy on the isle was too much of a temptation to resist.
“Absolutely, I’d be delighted!” Jim answered. He looked around and didn’t see any other vehicle near that could’ve belonged to her. “Shall I drive?”
“Nah, come on, let’s ankle! You were looking for a breath of air anyways, before I ruined your plans.” She strode up to him and tucked her arm inside his, then proceeded to lead the way. “I’m Elena, by the way.” She beamed a smile at him.
“Jamie,” he replied. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Elena.”
Before long, Jim noticed that the aquarium was coming into view. He could see the gothic-styled entrance, the carved stone archway topped with the face of the god Neptune. Elena wasn’t taking them to the front door, though. She led him around the side until they came across a secondary door that led to the basement. Elena fished a card from her purse, which she then slipped beneath the door. Seconds later the door opened, the man behind the door gave Jim an appraising look before handing the card back to Elena.
“Go ahead,” Jim said to Elena, nodding his head towards the interior.
Elena walked ahead of Jim and immediately headed towards a walnut Victrola and began shuffling through the records. Jim gazed nonchalantly at his surroundings as he walked up to the bar, noting the individuals that frequented the speakeasy. He recognized Malvolio Corrieri. Jim had seen his pictures in the police reports concerning Rogero Gregori. Corrieri was Gregori’s right-hand man.
With Corrieri here, along with a few other names in Gregori’s crew, the speakeasy was bound to be Gregori’s joint. The mafia units had been planning a raid on Gregori for a few months. Their intent was to try to knock the man down before he grew even bigger for his britches. The last Jim knew, before he took his short leave, was that the raid was planned for tonight. The police force had been bolstered by the appointment of a new chief. Corruption was still thick, but many were hoping to start chasing the mafia out for good.
The swinging sounds of Henry Allen playing the trumpet reached Jim’s ears as he took a seat. Elena slid onto a stool next to him at the bar. She slapped a hand on the counter and threw a wink his way.
“Your drinks will be on me tonight! So, what’ll you have?” Elena inclined her head towards the bartender, who made his way towards them.
“I’ll just have a brown plaid please,” Jim said to the bartender. The bartender reached for a bottle of Scotch and a glass, poured Jim’s drink and mixed up a cocktail for Elena, and then passed their drinks to them.
“Scotch and a French 75, there you are ‘Lena.” The bartender gave her a nod before walking off.
Jim had lost track of time as they conversed and laughed for what may have been hours. Through his conversations with Elena, although she was clever in what she allowed to be known about herself, Jim gleaned that she was in fact one of the Milo family. If a raid was to be enacted upon Gregori’s turf, Jim didn’t want this kind young woman to be caught in the cross-fire. Jim finally scooted his stool away from the bar and stood.
“Leaving so soon, Jamie?” Elena frowned in mock distress.
“I think I should before I’m too bent to drive,” He laughed. He noticed Elena standing up as well. “Oh no sweetheart, I’ll walk back on my own. I don’t want you walking all the way back here by yourself, you hear me?” Elena put her hands on her hips and smiled.
“You’re a real swell fella, Jamie.” She placed a quick kiss on his cheek. “Be safe.”
Jim headed for the exit, a sense of urgency prodding him through the warm haze of Scotch.
“Watch where you’re going!” The man entering the speakeasy growled at Jim, who had bumped into him trying to leave. The man was Rogero Gregori. Jim froze, every muscle in his body tensed. “You know who I am, don’t you? I know who you are too, you mulligan. I suggest you beat it if you’re thinking about staying chief of police in my town.” Jim’s jaw tightened, but he didn’t say a word. Instead, he slipped out the door as quickly as he could.
Thank you all for tuning in tonight folks. That’s The Story So Far.