(Chapter One continued)            

             Placed in a cell next to a streetwalker, she and Madam Tulley immediately recognized each other.

            “Well, if isn’t ‘Miss Star’ herself!” The streetwalker swayed across her cell toward Madam, “If you’re in here, where are your ‘business partners’?”

            It was Della, a former business partner that Madam fired nearly two years ago for the tryst with Al Tulley, Madam’s husband. She looked at Della and didn’t say a word. It goaded Madam to be in the cell next to her. Della was loud, glassy-eyed, and thick-tongued. Madam could tell that she was coming off a high from something.

            Della started to drudge up the lurid details about the “roll” between her and Al that snowy afternoon two Novembers ago. She had harbored hostility for Madam Tulley ever since that day and now Della seized this chance to spit venomous barbs at her. Madam held her tongue.

          “Bernie, you think you’re gettin’ over, don’t ya! That you got all your business locked down tight, but ya don’t. You got that fancy automobile and the best clothes and furs, but underneath all that, sugar, you pimped us the same as all the others. Ya didn’t have to lift a skirt, I give ya that much, but you’re no better than me. Even Al saw that, darlin’!”

            Della continued her angry rant and Madam just sat there thinking: Della, I gave you a nice place to live, I protected you from johns and pimps, you had a doctor’s care and a good income, but you threw it right back in my face by doin’ it with my husband. Now, you’re walkin’ the gutters. No Della, I’m not the same as you. I pity you. But, Madam kept those thoughts to herself and continued to ignore Della.

            “Hey, guard! Guard! I wanna see the detective on duty. Right now! Tell ’em I’ve got a news bulletin for ’em!”

            Arrangements were made for Della to speak with Detective Werner and a jail guard escorted her out of the cell. Madam Tulley would never see Della again.

            Madam had stomached Della’s fierce hatred and hoped nothing further would come of their encounter. She hoped for naught because later that holiday evening, the guard brought Madam back to the interrogation room where Detective Werner and an assistant prosecutor waited for her.

            “Sit down, Mrs. Tulley. We need to ask you more questions.” Werner savored this opportunity to beef up a collar to add to his record.

            “All right.”

            “Do you own the Star Restaurant Bar and Boardinghouse at 601 East Washington Street?” asked the assistant prosecutor.

            “Yes.” Her heart collapsed because she knew what was coming next.

            “Our officers arrived at your premises this evening and found evidence of an alcohol sales operation. This is another federal violation of the Volstead Act. Furthermore, Mrs. Tulley, we found the brothel upstairs on the second floor of your boardinghouse, a violation of state prostitution laws. As I speak, we’re booking four couples who were engaged in prostitution when we arrived.”

            “How did you know to go to my place?” Madam suspected, but needed to know for sure.

            “We had an informant, ma’am. In addition to the crime of bootlegging, you’ll be charged with operating in illegal liquor sales and also be charged as the manager of a house of prostitution.” Werner was pleased that he netted a bigger fish than he had thought.

            The assistant prosecutor added, “Because of the seriousness of these violations, I have assigned a public defender to meet with you tomorrow before your arraignment in police court.”

            Madam signed more processing papers which acknowledged the added charges against her. Then, she went back to the lock-up.

            The next morning her stepbrother Ernie came to see her.

            “How’s Jerry and Gabe? Where is Gabe?” asked Madam about her adopted sons.

            “Little Jerry’s fine and so is Gabe, but he’s awful worried about you.”

            “And Mother?”

            “She’s worried, too. We all are, Bernice.”

            “What happened, Ernie? Did they bust up the place?”

            “Nope. The police knew where to go, like someone tipped them off.”

            “Remember Della?”

            “Yeah,” Ernie looked puzzled.

            “When I was arrested, they put me in a cell next to her. Della rambled somethin’ about solicitin’ an undercover cop. Whatever drug she was on probably had somethin’ to do with that. She ratted on me–I know it, Ernie–to save her own dusty butt. She told the detective about Bernie’s because they didn’t bring her back to the cell.”

            Ernie shook his head in disbelief. He told Bernice what else happened:

            “The police came in lookin’ for the person in charge. They told me that you were in their custody and showed me the papers to search the place. They started with the bar. Then, I had to let them upstairs to Bernie’s. I didn’t have time to warn anybody. They arrested everyone up there, busted open your stash, and carted out booze and everybody, includin’ your accountin’ books. They closed down everything, except for the restaurant. It was a hell of a scene outside when three paddy wagons pulled up. All the neighbors were out in the street tryin’ to see if they’d see you comin’ out. It’s a good thing Mama and Jerry were upstairs in the apartment at the time. Gabe was away on a gig dancin’ or he might’ve been in the middle of all that mess.”

            Madam listened and burned with anger toward Della, and she blamed Freddy for being too sick to make his run, even wondered if he’d set her up. But, Freddy had offered the help of a friend which she refused. Anyway, she was angrier about the alcohol ban for stealing her livelihood in the first place.

            “I’m so sorry, Ernie.”

            “Do you want me to call a lawyer for you?”

            “Not yet, I’m gonna talk to the public defender first before I decide what to do.”


Page [Next]