Chapter 11: C'est la Vie

"Girl, don't you ever give up?"

Keesha and Evangeline had been on the streets for hours, looking for a job for the newcomer. Keesha knew her friend was ready to stop, but guilt kept Keesha moving. Her letter encouraged Evangeline to leave her life in Llanview and journey to Port Charles based on nothing but Keesha's word. Leaving Jason caused Keesha to lose a few connections, but she was determined to help Evangeline no matter what it took.

"No." Keesha looped her arm through Evangeline's. As the women continued down the boardwalk, heading deeper into Maywood, Keesha said, "The Chandler Home for Women is no place for you."

"Neither is it for you," Evangeline argued. "I can't believe us. All the dreams we had. Look how it's all turning out. The first chance we get, we should board a boat for Paris. Things are so much better over there."

"I don't know. Troubles follow no matter where you go."

Evangeline groaned. "I hoped not. I turned my back on Llanview. All that's done."

"I'm sorry."

"I'm trying not to be," Evangeline said.

They stopped at a dusty intersection. To their right was a trio of row houses. Up ahead lay an unassuming warehouse. Keesha guided them toward the warehouse.

"This is our last shot," Keesha said.

"It looks empty."

"I heard some of the girls talking about this place. The owner clears good money and is good about sharing it with his workers."

Evangeline frowned. "Is he on the up and up? What kind of joint is this?"

"Just Jazz maybe a little hooch," Keesha said. "If it's nasty, we're leaving."

With the sun starting to set, the nighttime crowd hadn't arrived. The women entered the dimly lit building with caution and curiosity. Tables and chairs formed half moons on the floor with the center providing enough space for dancing. In the back, a platform held a piano, a few horns and microphones. A bar sat along the wall. A tall, dark handsome man polished glasses and watched their approach.

"Ladies," he said, his voice warm and smooth as honey.

"Good evening," Evangeline said. "What time does it start jumping?"

"With a woman as fine as you, the moment you walked in." He set the towel on the counter and walked around the bar. He took each woman's hand and kissed it. "What can I do for you?"

"We're looking for the owner," Keesha said. "Is he here?"

"Yes," the man answered. "Why do you want him?"

"I'm a singer," Evangeline said. "I'm new in town and looking for options. We heard this place was big on opportunity."

He nodded once. Perfect white teeth gleamed against his rich brown skin as he smiled. "Black Bottom is the best that Maywood has to offer. I'm Randall James. My friends call me RJ. What's your name?"

"Evangeline. This is Keesha." Evangeline titled her head to the side. "You're the owner, aren't you?"

"Very astute," he murmured. "I like that. Come back tonight and let's see what happens."

"What time?"

He gave her a long, appraising look before he responded. "The party starts when you get here."

~*~

Mac parked his Model-A Ford across from the hospital. His tour of Port Charles was far from over, but he didn't want to overload John with too much on his first day.

"What do you think of our little town so far?" Mac asked.

John rubbed his chin. "I can see the Utopian potential. We'll have to dig in deep to take the trash out. My bet, Corinthos has his hands everywhere. Men like him aren't content with the small picture. They want it all."

"I plan to see that he gets everything he deserves."

John gave him a hard look. "Sounds personal."

An image of a good woman being trapped by Corinthos and his lifestyle came to Mac's mind. The woman slowly transformed into a person, into Dara Jensen. He released a low breath and shook his head. "In our work, everything is personal."

John frowned but didn't press the issue. He looked at the hospital. "Why did you bring me here? Is Corinthos into stealing medicine, too?"

"Not yet," Mac quipped. "Come with me. There's someone I want you to meet."

They headed toward the basement. They passed lines of boxes loaded with medical supplies and records. A single light hung overhead. They moved closer to it.

"Hey." The tall bald man appeared from the shadows. A pile of white sheets and towels lay on the table near him. He nodded to John and continued folding the laundry.

"John, this is a good friend of mine," Mac said. "Marcus Taggert, this is John McBain."

"The new lieutenant." Marcus extended his hand. "It's good to meet you, sir."

"Same here," John said, returning the handshake.

"You're probably wondering why we're here," Mac said. "Marcus isn't only my friend. He's helped keep an eye on the associates at the Paradise Lounge. As soon as I can clear it with the City Council, he'll be on the PD payroll in uniform with the rest of us."

Marcus released a short laugh. "I can't see that happening soon, but it doesn't hurt to dream."

"Dreams never hurt anyone," John agreed. "In the meantime, I don't see why he can't be a member of the task force. What the City Council doesn't know won't hurt them."

Smiling, Mac nodded. "He was my first recruit. Marcus, are you game?"

"From the second you told me about the task force, I've been waiting for a chance to be a part of it," he answered.

"Good," John said. "One down."

"A few more to go," Mac added.

~*~

The sparks that flared in her sister's eyes surprised Dara. She'd never seen Dawn this fired up before. It felt good to know that Dawn cared so much.

"Are you listening to me?" Dawn demanded. "Nothing happened with Jason. You don't have to do this. In fact, I won't let you. You're coming with me."

"And then what?" Dara asked. "You become fair game, that's what. I won't sacrifice your future."

"I won't let you lay down with Sonny Corinthos for me. When Jamal told me, I almost threw up," Dawn confessed. "My future belongs to me. You can't control it. What would Mama and Daddy think of you if they were alive? They wouldn’t want you to do this any more than I do."

"Nothing happened with Jason because Sonny told him to lay off," Dara said. She grabbed Dawn's upper arms and squeezed. "You don't understand the implications of being with a man like Jason. You see where it got Keesha Ward. She's the cook at a whorehouse! You deserve better than that. I know you want to sing. You can do that in the choir on Sunday. Stay in school and stay away from that man."

"Dara, my future is mine! If I want to sing, so be it. Fine, Sonny gets you and in exchange he keeps Jason away from me. If that's the deal, I won't be around Jason. I'll never talk to him again and I won't sing here. I'll sing somewhere else. Somewhere far away from here. Maybe in Harlem or Chicago or St. Louis. We can leave and never look back."

Dara released her sister. The girl was as determined as a thickheaded mule. The idea of leaving Port Charles sounded great, but it wouldn't work out. Men like Sonny Corinthos didn't forget. He'd follow her to the ends of the earth to make good on their arrangement. At least once. She sighed and shook her head. She knew the depth of their deal when she agreed to it. Backing out now was not an option.

"I can't go," Dara said, "but you can. You and Jamal can leave tonight."

Dawn shook her head. "Not without you."

The door suddenly creaked open. Sonny stood in the doorway. "Dara, the club will be opening soon."

She nodded. "I understand. Give me a few minutes to get ready. Dawn, would you excuse us?"

"No--"

"Please!" Dara said in a harsh whisper. "Just go. We'll talk later."

Dawn backed toward the door. "By then, it'll be too late. Dara, don't do this."

"It's already too late. Go home."


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