Holiday Digest: Special Delivery

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Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford’s Laguna Beach home was located north of Two Rock Point and Crescent Bay, which was a popular drop-off point for Tony Cornero’s contraband during Prohibition. Photo courtesy of Harris & Ewing

By Amy Francis Dechary

The skiff slid out of the fog onto the beach at Crescent Bay, Champagne bottles jingling in the wood crates it ferried.

“What now?” Ginny shivered with the December chill.

“I’ll do the talking,” her brother Frank said. “Nobody messes with Tony’s boys.”

Tony Cornero, aka “Tony the Hat,” was Orange County’s biggest bootlegger. Ginny pictured him sitting three miles offshore in his shrimp boat, polishing his bean shooter while his boys rowed hooch into the night.

Maybe her plan was a mistake. She could be in their Ocean Boulevard cottage, ringing in the new year with cocoa and Hemingway’s latest, “The Sun Also Rises.” No, this wasn’t a mistake, she thought to herself, patting the rolled-up script in her pocket. She’d spent months writing it, and tonight was her chance to get it into the right hands.

“Where’s the regular guy?” the man in the boat asked.

“Flu,” Frank said.

Their dad did not have the flu. Dancing in the new year at the White House with the rest of Laguna Beach, he also didn’t know about Tony’s special delivery.

“Boss don’t like dames on the job.” The man frowned.

The “job” was for an oceanfront mansion on McKnight Drive above the north end of Crescent Bay—a mansion owned by Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. They were the reason why Ginny was here.

“We got it,” said Frank.

“You better.”

***

Golden light and “Bye Bye, Blackbird” spilled out the front door festooned with a “Welcome 1927” banner.

Ginny and Frank lugged the Champagne to the service entrance.

“Delivery for Mr. Fairbanks!” Frank called inside. “Knock ‘em dead, sis. I’ll wait in the truck.”

Ginny took a deep breath and stepped into the kitchen.

“Thank goodness!” A tiny blonde woman less than five feet tall click-clacked toward her, her silver-beaded drop-waist dress sparkling. “We’re nearly out!”

Ginny froze. It was the “girl in the curls”—Mary Pickford.

“Where’s Tony’s normal guy?” she asked.
“I—I’m his daughter.”

Mary smiled. “What’s your name, doll?”

“Virginia. Virginia Montgomery.”

“Sounds like a motion picture star’s name.”

Ginny broke out of her stupor. “Miss Pickford, I think you’re the bee’s knees and I have something for you.” She handed her the script.

Mary’s smile faded. “What’s this?”

“I wrote a script. It’s about a ranch owner’s daughter who fights off cattle robbers—”

Mary raised her hand. “Hollywood’ll chew you up a nice girl like you.”

Ginny’s heart sank. “Please, take a look—”

Behind her, a cold breeze blew in as a dark-haired man wearing a tan fedora entered.

“Tony! You made it!” Mary stood on her tiptoes to kiss the man’s tanned cheek. Ginny gasped—it was Tony Cornero, who clearly was not on his shrimp boat.

“It’s the biggest party of the year, bella!” He eyed the Champagne. “I’d have brought the bubbly myself, but you can’t be too careful these days.”

Mary took his coat. “Your helper did a bang-up job.”

Tony’s eyes narrowed. “Who’s this?”

The script felt damp in Ginny’s fist.

“Just a local girl.”

“Miss Pickford—” Ginny held out the script, trembling.

“Is this dumb Dora bothering you?” Tony’s curled his lip.

Mary’s eyes widened. “Oh, she’s no dumb Dora.” She pulled the pages from Ginny’s hand, nudged her over the threshold and linked her arm through Tony’s. “Let’s get a drink!”

Ginny flinched as the door closed in her face.

She’d done it. But Ginny’s stomach twisted. Would her dad find out? Would Tony pay him a visit? She climbed into the truck, sick with worry.

“How’d it go?” Cheers and horns blared from the house. It was midnight.

Ginny said nothing as they drove away.

***

New Year’s Day, 1927

Dear Ms. Montgomery,

Your story’s the cat’s pajamas. I’ve taken care of everything with Tony. Let’s chat Saturday night when you bring his next delivery.

—M.P.

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