“Okay, John. We’re here. Why?” Cristian Vega looked around the room and instantly recognized men of law. Not just John, but the two other men in attendance. He and Vincent had a rough ride to Port Charles and were ready to cut through the bullshit and get on with the business at hand.
“What did Antonio tell you?” John asked.
Vincent released a loud grunt. Cristian shared the sentiment. “We’re not in the mood for twenty questions,” Cris said. “There’re a lot of badges in here. What gives? We missed a prize fight to get here.”
“And another one is coming up soon so if you can’t tell us why we’re here, we can go.” Vincent stood and grabbed his bag.
“Wait,” John said.
“Don’t go. My name is Mac Scorpio. I’m the Police Commissioner. Please, have a seat, Mr. Jones. Is there anything I can get you?”
“A warm bed, a hot bath and a fresh meal,” Vincent said. “All that would be good.”
Scorpio glanced at the other man who hadn’t said a word. “Sam, order two dinners for them and have them delivered to the Brown’s rooming house in Maywood.”
Sam nodded and left the room. Cristian folded his arms across his chest and waited. If somebody didn’t tell them something soon, they were out of there.
“You’re here because I asked John to send for you. You’re here because we need you.”
“Need us to do what?” Cris asked. He looked at his brother’s close friend. “What the hell is this about, John?”
“Two speak easies are about to go to war. Innocent people could get hurt and we’re not able to protect everyone.”
“We have one man inside,” Scorpio added, “but he can’t handle this alone.”
“So send someone else in,” Cris said.
Red colored John’s cheeks. “We can’t. Our presence would be obvious and unaccepted.”
“It’s a colored place?” Vincent asked. “I bet it is. Vega, they need us because we colored. How about that.”
Both lawmen had the good manners to look away. Leave it to Vince to not mince words. Cris chuckled. “You’re gonna deputize us and send us in, huh?”
“Yeah, I wonder what color our badges will be.” Vincent’s laughter rolled from him.
“We can’t deputize you,” Scorpio said. “You’ll be working and reporting directly to me. Other than John and Sam Bennett, no one else will know.”
“What about your man on the inside?”
Scorpio shook his head. “No, Marcus won’t know either. He’s in rather deep. If Gannon sees him fraternizing with the two new guys, he’ll become suspicious. We can’t risk that.”
“But you’re not taking the risk,” Cris said. “We are.”
“Did you say Gannon?” Vincent asked, quickly sobering from his fit of laughter. “As in RJ Gannon?”
John stiffened. “Do you know him?”
“Heard of him. Heard of his joint.” Vincent rubbed his chin as he spoke. Cristian knew his friend was now seriously considering the possibilities. “Black Bottom has a serious reputation. I always wanted to see it for myself.”
“What kind of war are you talking about?” Cris asked. “What’s the other speak easy and who owns it?”
“The Paradise Lounge—”
“Sonny Corinthos,” Vincent said. “Heard of him, too.”
Cris frowned. Why did Vince know so much about Port Charles? “What about Corinthos? What side of town is his joint on?”
“He’s not in the colored section,” Vincent said. “That’s for sure. What are they fighting over? Hooch? Women? Territory?”
“All three,” John said.
“Why not let them go at and then pick up the pieces when it’s over?” Cris asked.
“I told you,” John bit out. “Innocent people are directly in the line of fire. There can’t be any casualties on my watch.”
McBain’s mini-tirade revealed more than the lawman realized. Cristian wondered who the ‘innocent’ person was and if she knew how McBain felt. Vincent nudged Cris’s arm. The other man grinned and Cris nodded.
“Well?” Scorpio asked.
Cris nodded again. “We’ll do it.”
- - -
Jamal considered Dara’s words of warning. It took a strong woman to risk her life for a perfect stranger. And as far as Jamal knew, Dara and RJ Gannon had never crossed paths. Gannon had a liking for a certain type of woman and until recently, Dara was too good for his standards.
He waited until the early hours of the morning before he headed to Black Bottom. The alley was spooky quiet, but Jamal didn’t trust that. He walked in the shadows until he reached the back entrance. A black delivery truck was pulled up to the back. He waited to see what was going on.
Soon after, Marcus Taggart carried a sack of corn inside the truck. Gannon followed with a crate of empty Mason jars. They’re making hooch, Jamal thought. When Taggart went back inside the building, Jamal stepped forward.
“Mr. Gannon, can I talk to you for a minute?”
“What you want, Jamal?” Gannon asked, his hand resting on the bulge at his hip. “I’m a busy man.”
“Just passing on some information.”
“Corinthos’ coming after you.”
Gannon’s eyes narrowed. “He sent you here to tell me that?”
“How do you know what his plans are?”
Jamal looked away.
“You can’t say.” Gannon chuckled. “Your cousin is in deep with him, ain’t she?”
“Don’t talk about my cousin,” Jamal bit out. “I don’t give a damn about that gun you’re wearing. You don’t say a word about her or her sister. You got me?”
Gannon’s laughter faded. “Oh, I got you. Loud and clear.”
“Whatever you do next is up to you,” Jamal said. “I’m just letting you know. Keep my name out of it.”
Gannon pressed a finger to his mouth. “My lips are sealed.”
- - -
Sunlight streamed through the curtains. Warmth filled her body from head to toe, but Dawn didn’t credit the heat to the sun. The sleeping man beside her deserved that praise. Careful not to wake him too soon, she slowly extricated herself from Linc’s arms. They’d spent the previous night eating chicken and reading his film script. For awhile, she regretted telling him about Jason. Yet confiding in him released a huge burden. The two men probably would never cross paths. Sooner or later, Linc would return to Manhattan and his moving pictures. And his interest in her life would fade like a memory.
The long lashes that curved against his cheeks started to flutter. She moved to stand. He stretched his arm across her lap and held on tight.
“Good morning,” he murmured. His voice sounded warm and husky. “Look at you. You’re so beautiful in the morning.”
She smiled. “You’re half asleep.”
He pulled himself into a sitting position and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “I dreamed about you. About us. I almost didn’t want to wake up.”
“You couldn’t have gotten a good night’s sleep on this old couch. I bet your bed at the Port Charles Hotel is a lot nicer than this.”
He cupped her cheek. His thumb lightly grazed her bottom lip. Her chest swelled with emotion. His tenderness was unlike anything she ever experienced.
“The Port Charles Hotel doesn’t have you.” He leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “What time is it? I’d better leave before your neighbors wake up and see me here.”
“They already think the worst.”
“I don’t want to make things harder than they are.” He pulled on his shoes and reached for his jacket. “I hate to leave you like this. I wish you could come with me.”
“I can’t.” She stood and headed for the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. “It’s early enough that we can have coffee before you have to go.”
They shared coffee and toast. Their conversation was light and fun. She felt relaxed in his presence and safe. Unbelievably safe. Then, he glanced at his watch and she knew their time was over.
She walked him to the door. “Thank you for dinner.”
“I’d rather do it properly next time. May I see you tonight?”
She shook her head. “I don’t think we should.”
“Think some more.” He pulled her into his arms and pressed kisses on her forehead and cheek. “You may change your mind. I’ll be thinking of you.”
He slipped out the door before she could think of a fitting response. Warmth left with his departure as did her feeling of security. She added more coal to the stove and wrapped a blanket around her. With teaching no longer a possible vocation, she had to do something else to support herself. Maybe the church could use another pianist for the choir. She grabbed paper and a pencil and made a list of all the churches in Maywood. One of them had to need a musician. She hoped.
A knock sounded at her door. Her heart quickly raced with excitement. Maybe Linc forgot something! She glanced around as she rushed to the door. He took his script with him, but maybe he just wanted...to see her again.
She unlocked and opened the door without calling out first. When her eyes locked on a pair of cold, blue eyes, she instantly regretted her eagerness. She moved to close the door, but Jason flattened his hand against the panel and pushed his way inside.
“Why aren’t you at school?” he asked.
“I don’t go anymore.”
“Do you need money?”
She pulled the blanket tight around her. “I’m fine.”
“I’m not offering,” Jason said, “anything more than a job.”
“A singing job at the Paradise Lounge,” Jason said. His gaze locked on her. Lust darkened his features. He licked his lips. “Are you dressed?”
“Yes,” she bit out.
“Come with me and you can start practicing—”
“What about Dara? Is she still there?”
“She’s there,” he answered, “but that doesn’t matter. Get your coat and come on.”