"Don't you go soft on me, boy."
Trey slid a glance at the boss, his eyebrow raised. He was probably the only cat in the Machine who could look at Boss Tom that way and get away with it.
But Boss Tom's glance slid across the street toward the prim young woman who'd caught Trey's eye. She was short, a tidge plump around the cheeks, with clear peaches'n'cream skin. She had 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.
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 Trey remembered seeing at Harzfeld's.
"You know who that jane is?"
"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 too savvy to work for anybody but 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. 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?" Tom hooted. "Not th'other one?"
"Naw. 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, Dunham? She ain't no looker."
"Likely not to anybody else, no."
"You got 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," Tom muttered, turning away.
"I thought you said he was a bishop."
"He is. Reverend's his given name." Trey had heard stranger names. "Dunham," Boss Tom rumbled, amusement heavy in his voice. "You wrestle that little 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?"
"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?"
"You will never get 1520 Main, no matter how much cash you can scrape together. You can't take it by force and I'm not gonna sell it to you. I'll give you one year. And if you think marrying her's gonna get the job done, think again."
Marriage was not in Trey's plans. "Consider it done."
YOU ARE READING
Kansas City, Missouri, 1929 Trey Dunham, a mid-level cog in the Pendergast Machine during Prohibition, runs 1520 Main, Boss Tom's most prized speakeasy featuring good booze, hot jazz, and beautiful women. Trey wants to buy the join...