Whenever he heard someone complain about how slowly time seems to go by, he wanted to tell them to start paying a few bills. They’d soon see how fast the first of the month rolled around, how quickly another month’s rent was due and how gallons of milk could disappear as if they’d never been there in the first place.
He’d never known his family was poor. At least his parents had never complained about it. After his father died, Scooter quickly discovered the few dollars he made delivering groceries on his motorized bike wasn’t enough to keep a family of mice in cheese. His hobby of tinkering with motors came in handy then. The location of their house along the highway played in his favor, too. Little by little he’d added services, but it wasn’t until Nightingale’s took off that he’d started making enough money to truly live on. That had been a godsend, and he knew it could disappear just as fast. Without Roger Nightingale and the business the man brought in, this entire area would dry up faster than yesterday’s bread left uncovered on the counter.
A lot had happened in the past ten years. He’d been fourteen when his father had died, and three years later, his brother-in-law had been killed while serving in the army overseas. Maize had just given birth to Jonas when they’d received word about John. Shortly thereafter, Maize could no longer afford to stay in the house she and John had rented since getting married, and she had moved back home. When Jonas had started school three years ago, Maize had gone to work over at the Plantation, and had come up missing less than a month later.
Another bout of disgust, or guilt, assaulted Scooter’s guts. He wasn’t exactly sure what had happened back then, but he knew Gloria had been behind Maize’s return. Scooter understood he was indebted to Gloria for bringing his sister home, but he couldn’t let what had happened to Maize happen to Josie. Gloria had to realize not even Roger Nightingale was in the same league as the gangsters that were responsible for the girls working the docks in Duluth.
It really was a tangled mess.
If Josie was captured, there was no guarantee she’d be rescued like his sister had been. The Ladies Aid Society his mother and Gloria were associated with was the way Josie had become involved. Dressed in britches, she visited the shipyards of Duluth regularly to pass out rubbers to the women working the docks, selling their wares to the sailors.
None of this was something a Ladies Aid Society should be a part of.
It wasn’t all of them. Just a select few knew the activities taking place under the concealment of their meetings. Most of the women thought all of the members were busy throwing birthday parties and putting on bird-watching symposiums. A good number would faint dead if they learned about Josie hauling condoms up to Duluth every Tuesday.
He’d only learned about it because his mother had told him a car had been delivered to the station that needed to go faster. Seeing the vehicle was Nightingale’s hadn’t surprised him. He’d rebuilt carburetors, put in larger radiators and fitted extra fuel tanks in all of the automobiles Roger Nightingale’s hired men drove. A month later he’d discovered the latest coupe he’d worked on was being driving by Josie. Bronco, Roger’s number one man, had brought the car over to get fuel, as he did for all of the cars the daughters drove, and had mentioned Josie sure used a lot of gas going to her Ladies Aid meetings.
Scooter’s stomach fell almost as hard and fast now as it had in the past. He should have put a stop to it then. That had been his first mistake. His second had been keeping his mouth shut all this time.
“Hey, Dave,” Scooter replied, as Josie’s uncle walked through the manicured trees. Dave Sutton lived in one of the bungalows on the other side of the pine trees. Not wanting to have to come up with an excuse as to what he was doing hanging around the resort’s back door, Scooter asked, “How’s your Chevy running?”
“Good. Those new tires you put on sure made a difference.”
“Glad to hear it. Firestone makes a good tire, but only Fords come off the assembly line with them. Henry Ford knew what he was doing when he formed that partnership,” Scooter said, trying not to look at the door behind him. He should never have let Josie go with Gloria. They had to be up to something.
“It’s all about who you know, not what you know,” Dave said before he asked, “How are Maize and Jonas?”
“Good,” Scooter answered. The baseball bat, mitt and ball that had been left on the family’s porch a couple of weeks ago had been from Dave. Just like several other birthday and Christmas gifts that had magically appeared on their porch over the years for Scooter’s nephew. For whatever reason, Dave didn’t want anyone to know he was the one that dropped them off. “Jonas had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, turned eight.”