Chapter 19: Seek and Ye Shall Find
"We have to go in there and get her."
Dawn looked at her cousin Jamal and shook her head. He was so headstrong and borderline foolish. Did he even once consider Sonny's response to them barging into his club? She got through because the mob boss didn't consider her a threat. Jamal wouldn't make it to the bar. The big lugs who protected the speak easy would quickly make her cousin disappear.
"Forget it. I already tried. She's not leaving."
"You didn't try hard enough," he said. "Those men are bad news for colored women. Keesha Ward got smart and got out. Then, you and Dara had to go sniffing around the Paradise Lounge when there are plenty of good men right here in Maywood."
She stiffened. Jamal had a way of speaking without thinking. After trudging a mile through slushy ice after being left on the road by Jason Morgan, the last thing she needed was to be reminded of her folly. She tossed more coal into the stove and hugged her arms around her waist. "Leave it alone, Jamal," she said quietly. "We can't save Dara because she doesn't want to be saved."
"I don't believe that," he said before slamming out of the three-room flat.
The windows shook upon his exit, but Dawn didn't budge. Going after him would only tire her. He'd blow his steam and then common sense would prevail. She hoped. He was right about one thing. Messing around with those blue-eyed men only promised ruin. The chill from Jason's coldness still dripped like ice inside her veins. She hated to think what she ever saw in him.
The door creaked open. She didn't move. The heat from the stove was just beginning to work its magic. She assumed Jamal returned with a different frame of mind.
"I didn't think you'd cool off this fast—"
Dawn turned at the sound of her sister's voice. She couldn't believe her eyes. Dara looked like a beautiful show stopper, wrapped in a thick, frost-covered mink coat and sparkling jewels at her ears and throat.
"Cat got your tongue?" Dara asked.
"I don't know what to say." Dawn crossed the room to stand in front of her sister. "Look at you. He opened the vault."
"Just a few gifts."
"I won't ask why. You're making good on your arrangement, I guess."
Dara's mouth tightened. "My arrangement with Sonny is none of your business."
"You wouldn't be with him if it wasn't for me."
"Well, that doesn't matter now, does it?"
"It matters to me." Dawn looked at the floor. "I'll never forgive myself for what it's cost you."
"I'm a big girl—"
"So am I." Dawn jutted her chin to face down her sister's stare. "You should have just let me live my life."
"Your life has better things in store." Dara reached into her sequined clutch purse and pulled out a wad of bills. "Here." She crushed the money into Dawn's hands. "Take this and use it."
"You got this from Sonny."
"Never mind where I got it!" she snapped. "We don't have to talk about that."
"I'm scared for you." Dawn held the money as if it would grow fangs and strike at any moment. "I'm scared for all of us. Jamal is threatening to rescue you."
Dara's eyes widened. "Keep him away! Sonny and his men... Jamal cannot make trouble at the Paradise Lounge. Tell him I'm fine."
"For how long, Dara?" Dawn dropped the money onto the kitchen table and folded her arms across her chest. "How long will you be fine there?"
"For as long it takes."
"Come with me," Evangeline said as soon as Keesha returned from the corner market. Keesha barely had time to shrug off her coat and set the groceries on the table. Evangeline grabbed her and dragged her to their quarters.
"What's wrong?" Keesha had never seen her friend so agitated. She'd only been at the store for a few minutes. What could have happen in that time?
"Skye gave me an offer," Evangeline said in a harsh whisper.
Keesha frowned. Dread settled in the pit of her stomach. She had a feeling she wouldn't like whatever came next. "What kind?"
"To be one of her women upstairs." Evangeline's brown eyes snapped with anger and indignation. "I have never earned a penny on my back and with my legs spread. I'm not about to start now. I already packed our bags. I was waiting for you to come back."
A low throb started at Keesha's temple. She pressed her fingertips to her forehead. "I don't want to believe this—"
"Believe it. I wouldn't lie to you."
"I know you wouldn't," Keesha said, "but Miss Skye's always treated me with respect. She's never once hinted at me doing something like that."
"Dammit, Keesha! She didn't want me to tell you."
Momentarily stunned into silence, Keesha didn't know what to think. The whorehouse had never been a dream home, but it provided her with sanctuary when there was nothing else. Where could she turn now? Who would risk Jason Morgan's wrath to give her a home? She couldn't think of anyone.
"Of course, you have to leave, but I can't come with you."
Evangeline jerked her head as if she'd been slapped. "Why the hell not? Oh, yes, you are coming with me. I'm not leaving you here. I don't trust that red-headed hussy. You're leaving with me. Now."
"I don't have anywhere to go." Keesha rested her hand on her suitcase. "No one will take me in. They're all afraid of Jason."
"Tell hell with Jason and his connections. I know where we can go."
"Evangeline, you don’t know Port Charles the way I do. Everyone knows about me."
"I know someone who doesn't give a damn about Jason or his friends."
Dammit, her friend sounded so convincing! A spark of hope flared inside in Keesha. "Who?"
Evangeline shrugged into her coat, picked up their bags, and headed toward the door. "RJ Gannon."
Sonny poured two generous portions of his best whiskey. He set one in front of Linc and kept the other for himself. The famous actor had finally ventured into Sonny's domain. The mob boss couldn't believe his luck. If everything went according to plan, he could ease out of the moonshine business and invest in more legitimate fare. It almost sounded too good to be true.
"I'm here," the husky actor said in his deep rumble. "Let's talk."
"You mentioned California. They're starting to make movies out there. I'm interested in becoming a producer."
"You want to produce my movies," Linc said. He paused to swallow the amber liquid before he continued, "What's in it for me?"
"A chance to upstage Valentino. I read the papers and I hear the talk. They don't respect you the way you should be. You're just as good as Rudolph. The women here were swooning over you last night as if The Sheik never existed. You have what it takes. All you need is someone who believes in you."
"And you're that somebody."
Sonny shrugged. "I could be."
"So, what's in it for you?"
Sonny laughed. He could tell the other man was nobody's fool. Lying would have Linc Madison out of the door faster than Woody ran shine on a Friday night. So, he opted for the truth. "Money and an opportunity to spread my wings. I can't do what I do forever. Everyone needs an alternative plan. I'm no different. And California is wide open. I can make my mark there. So can you."
"You have that much faith in me," Linc said.
"I have that much faith in both of us."