So Swiss went begging again for content, and though I thought serializing one of my doorstoppers would be de trop, Swiss does not. So here we go.
During Prohibition, Trey Dunham only wants two things out of life: money and respectability. And he doesn’t care how he gets them.
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
“DON’T GO GETTING above yourself, boy.”
Trey slid a glance at the old man beside him, his eyebrow raised in question.
Boss Tom Pendergast’s glance slid across the street toward the prim young woman who’d caught Trey’s eye. She was short, her cheeks filled out, with clear peaches’n’cream skin. She had sleek chocolate brown hair rolled up into a fat bun, which meant it was long and thick and straight. She wore a fashionable blouse and trousers of good quality fabric and construction, but they were all the wrong cut and color. He could only guess at her figure, but he’d seen hundreds of women nude, so he had a pretty good idea she was an hourglass with just enough plump in all the right places.
She and another girl were walking toward Kresge’s with their schoolbooks clutched to their chests, chatting and laughing. Her friend was blonde, with a cute permed bob and she was wearing a pretty dress.
“You know who that Jane is?” Boss Tom asked.
“Dot Albright. Her daddy’s a Mormon bishop.”
Trey’s eyebrows shot into his hairline. “On your payroll?”
Boss Tom shook his head. “Not him, no. He’s straight, works for himself. He just doesn’t get in his congregants’ business, even if their business is with me. And you know those folks’re armed to the teeth.”
Trey was too, and he wasn’t somebody who could legally be shot on sight. “But they let their girls wear trousers.”
“The one in trouser’s Gil Scarritt’s daughter. Marina.”
Trey pursed his mouth. That was … interesting, especially when the girls suddenly caught him staring. The pretty blonde in the pretty dress curled her lip.
“Told you not to get your hopes up.”
The interesting brunette in the trousers blinked at them innocently then looked at the pretty one with a scowl. Their lighthearted discussion turned into something more contentious.
“Two preachers’ daughters,” Trey mused. “Why’s a Pentecostal lettin’ his girl wear trousers?”
“His idea of a chastity belt.”
Trey nodded approvingly. “That’s logical,” he said. “Inconvenient and a damned shame, but logical.”
“Her?” Boss Tom hooted. “Marina?”
“Yeh. Pretty girls are a dime a dozen and I got a dozen of ’em on my payroll. How old is she?”
“Sixteen. What is wrong with you? She’s no looker.”
“Likely not to anybody else, no.”
“You have weird taste in dames.”
Trey’s taste was in interesting-looking dames. As he watched, the pretty one dragged the interesting one into the drugstore, with one last sneer over her shoulder at them.
“Trust Reverend Albright’s girl to know what’s what,” Boss Tom muttered, turning away.
“I thought you said he was a bishop.”
“He is. Reverend’s his given name.” Trey had heard stranger. “Dunham,” Boss Tom rumbled, amusement heavy in his deep voice. “You wrestle that bluenose into bed and knock her up, I’ll turn the keys to 1520 over to you, as is, free and clear.”
Trey was so shocked he barely kept his cool. “Marina, you mean?”
“Yes, Marina. Albright stays out of my way and I stay out of his.”
Trey thought about that a few seconds. Finally he said, “That’s some bounty, Boss. I might start thinkin’ you don’t like the good Reverend Scarritt.”
“Don’t start up thinkin’ again, boy. People get in trouble that way.”
Not Trey. And what Trey thought was that this wasn’t a bet so much as an order. Trey didn’t hesitate to take orders he had several good reasons to carry out.
“An’ if I don’t?”
Boss Tom gave him a stone-cold glance. Definitely an order. Shit. “Tell you what, Dunham. I know you want to buy 1520 Main. I also know you are nowhere near being able to buy it at my price and you never will be.” That was debatable. “So I’m giving you a sporting chance. You have two months. And if you think marrying her’s gonna get the job done, think again.”
Marriage was not in Trey’s plans. “Consider it done.”