May 15, 1926, Baltimore. Called Charm City, Mob Town, The City of Firsts; you'll find out soon enough that each of these names fits, each in its own sinister way.
Our story begins on a boat. The sky is clear, the sun is setting, and a certain party is just starting to get into its swing; mostly high-class people, in contrast to the dingy-but-well-scrubbed fishing boat they're on, laughing and talking and listening to the music. Snappily-dressed men and their flapper arm-candy mill about, nibbling expensive canapes and trading stale jokes; most of the action is going on above deck, but there are a few smaller groups that have slipped below for quieter conversation and closer quarters.
At the bow, a lone saxophonist sits: a number of people have gathered around, clearly impressed by the sheer talent on display; even those not at the bow can hear the mournful tones and bright scales floating across the boat over the murmur of chatter. Nearby, the members of a small jazz ensemble some of you may recognize as The Blue Chaps wait for their turn to take the improvised stage.
Nearby, a large, fat man in a very expensive suit is sipping a red drink of some sort and regaling a group of partyers with what appears to be a story about a time he was in Spain; judging from the watchers, it's either a very interesting story, or he's important enough that it doesn't matter.
Lurking near the stern is a young and bespectacled woman, biting her lip and glancing around; she looks thoroughly uncomfortable, her light wrap pulled tight around her shoulders. Not that far from her is a tall man with an intense face who can only be described as looming; a seagull lands next to him, makes a noise that sounds oddly human for a bird, and proceeds to stare.
The skinny host buzzes around, seeing to his guests and coordinating the food and drink and entertainment. He looks frazzled, and is trying to watch everything at once.
A well-dressed and very attractive young woman appears to have drawn a small crowd of admirers. And their wives, too. The sun is nearly below the horizon now, and the saxophonist's set is coming to an end.