Chapter 9: Makes You Wanna Holler
When Evangeline arrived at the Chandler Home for Women, Keesha was stunned into silence. Keesha longed for a friendly face but because of guilt and disappointment she allowed fear to prevent her from seeking it out. Then, like an angel, her dearest friend appeared. Without the ability to stop it, tears poured from Keesha's eyes as she embraced Evangeline as if her life depended on it.
Now, hours later, they sat at the kitchen table. The other women had already eaten and the breakfast dishes were cleared except for the ones the two friends lingered over. Keesha gave her friend a hard look, noticing the worry lines at her eyes and hollowness of her cheeks. She frowned and shook her head.
"You should eat more."
Evangeline laughed. "I could say the same for you. Melisande explained what kind of home this is. I'm surprised to see you here."
"I have nowhere else to go," Keesha explained. "Skye gave me a job and a roof over my head."
"For how long?" Evangeline reached out and grabbed Keesha's hand. "You can't stay in a place like this forever."
"It's not like I'm making my living on my back," Keesha whispered.
"Not yet. I know about places like this. Before you know it, the money will look good and nothing else will matter. What happened with your man at the Paradise Lounge?"
"Jason." She released a curt, humorless laugh. "I left. What about you and John?"
"I left." Evangeline stirred sugar and cream into her coffee. "It was just a fantasy. We would never make it in the real world. Is that how it went with you and Jason?"
"Not exactly. I wish…" Keesha sighed, unwilling to return to the past. "I'm sorry you came all the way here based on my letter about singing at the Lounge. I can't step foot in there. They do hire Colored singers. If you don't mention me, you can probably get a gig."
"I don't know if I want to work there. The best part was knowing you'd be there, too. It would be like old times."
"So what will you do? Please, don't go back to Llanview just yet. Stay awhile. Skye doesn't mind if you spend a few nights with me."
"John is in Llanview so there's no chance in me going back."
Keesha frowned with concern. "Was it that bad between you?"
"The memories are good. Too good." Tears gathered in the corner of Evangeline's eyes. She wiped them away. "John is a good decent man, but he can't go against the world just for me. He's worked hard to gain respect as a law officer and I don't fault him for it. Now, it's my turn to see what life has to offer me. Believe me, I have enough blues in my soul to sing a lifetime."
"Well, the Paradise Lounge isn't the only place in town. After I start on lunch, we can go out and see what's out there."
Sonny's comment about Sam Bennett still boiled in Mac's gut. As Commissioner, he expected his officers to be above reproach. Unlike the PCPD's former regime, the current group of law officers was dedicated to keeping the peace and upholding the law. Mac demanded that of his officers. If Sonny had Sam in his pocket, all hell was about to break loose.
Sam removed his hat as he entered Mac's office and stood at attention. "You wanted to see me, sir."
"Yes." He pointed to an empty chair. "Have a seat." After Sam was settled, Mac said, "Your relationship with Miss Chandler…"
Sam stiffened. His face flushed a dark red. "Sir, if I may--"
"No, not yet. While I have never spoken to you about it, I have been fully aware. She and Corinthos have an arrangement. Are you aware of that?"
Sam's head moved a fraction of an inch as he nodded.
"Are you a party to it?"
"I am asking if you also have an arrangement with Corinthos," Mac stated evenly. "Is that why we haven't caught his bootlegger in the act? Because of inside communication?"
Sam's mouth thinned to a straight line. "No, sir."
"Your relationship with Miss Chandler does not interfere with your duties as Police Chief."
"Not at all, Commissioner."
Mac stared at Sam. The other man held himself still as a statue. He seemed genuinely upset by Mac's accusations. Yet, he didn't leap to a defense. Mac had a good deal of experience with interrogation and most liars broke without seconds. Duplicity obviously was not a fault of Sam Bennett.
"Okay. I'll take your word for it. Corinthos is preparing to use you against the department. Consider yourself warned."
"How do you know?"
"I gave the Paradise Lounge a surprise visit last night. Your name was mentioned."
Sam's eyes flashed with fury. "I have no association with Sonny Corinthos whatsoever. Sir, I understand you're working on a new task force. I'd like to be a part of that."
Mac nodded. "Yes, I am. John McBain of Llanview, Pennsylvania will assist me in recruiting and training a team. In the meantime, I want you to remain in place as police chief."
"Your personal life is none of my business, but Corinthos is threatening to make it so. I'm advising you to be on guard with Miss Chandler."
Sam stood and headed to the door. "Sir, that situation will be handled."
"Luciano wants us to lay low for awhile," Jason reported to Sonny. "He says the heat will be on and to keep that in mind."
Sonny poured brandy into two glasses. "Charlie's a smart man. Good thing Woody made his last delivery before all hell broke loose."
"He also wants us to get an edge at the department. Scorpio's reputation is known."
"He's a pain in the ass." Sonny slid one glass toward Jason. "Last night, he stormed in here like a drunk bull. Turned the place over pretty good. We opened a couple of hours later than usual. I put a bug in his ear, though."
Jason swallowed a taste of the amber beverage. The flavor lingered on his tongue as the liquid eased down his throat. He considered Sonny's last words. "What kind of bug?"
"About Bennett and Skye." Sonny chuckled. "Stir up the pot and make them wonder who's who. That'll keep Scorpio off us for awhile."
Jason cocked his head to the side. "Scorpio is no fool."
"Any man's a fool if he thinks he's being duped. Doesn't matter if it's a friend or a lover. Doubt makes a fool out of all of us." Sonny perched on the edge of his desk and gave Jason hard look. His voice became deadly serious. "Leave the Jensen girl alone."
Like a bullet, anger shot through Jason. He returned Sonny's stare and refused to back down. "With all due respect, Sonny, what happens between Dawn and I has nothing to do with you."
"Right now it does."
If Sonny disliked being questioned, only the flashing of his dark eyes conveyed it. "Her sister and I worked out a deal. Keep her pure. Think you can manage that?"
"What if I've already taken a ride?"
Sonny's laughter came from deep within. "I know you better than that. You wouldn't be here now if you had. You're waiting. Wait a little bit longer."
Jason couldn't deny it. If he had made Dawn a woman, he wouldn't have left her bed to report to Sonny. At least not this early. He hadn't been with Gina in awhile and Keesha was prior to that. Having a drought between lovers wasn't something he liked or enjoyed.
"How much longer?"
A faint smile made Sonny's expression dangerously sinister. "I'll let you know."
"What did you just say?" Dawn couldn't believe her cousin. He couldn't be right. Dara wouldn't do a thing like that.
"You heard me. Your sister is laying down with Corinthos for you," Jamal bit out.
"Why for me?" She searched through the closets and found them empty of Dara's favorite possessions. "Why is she doing this? Has she gone crazy?"
"Both of you have! Running around with Jason Morgan and going away with him!" He all but spat. "Now, Dara is acting like a fool, thinking Corinthos will keep Morgan off of you. I'm ashamed of both of you."
"You don't have to be ashamed of me!" She fired back at him. "I haven't done anything to be ashamed of and I won't. I can sing and I will sing. Maybe not at the Paradise Lounge but somewhere. Whether Jason helps me or not!"
"What about Dara?" Jamal ran a hand over his face. He looked tired and weary. Worry lines spread from the corners of his eyes. "Is it fine for her to be Corinthos' whore?"
Dawn's chest tightened. She loved her sister but had no idea the lengths Dara would go to protect her. She sighed. "Of course not. I have to stop her."
"I'm going to the club." She ran a comb through her hair before pinning on a hat. "She has to listen. I'll have her home tonight."
"I'm coming with you."
Dawn shook her head. "They won't let you in. Just go to work. You can't afford to miss a day. I'll be okay."
"Be careful. I don't like seeing Jensen women being swallowed whole by men like them."
"Come on, Jamal. Jensen women are smarter than that."