“How’d you get involved?” Scooter repeated. He’d moved closer and was now sitting beside her with his long legs stretched out. His gaze went across the lake to the shore that they’d eventually drift to if neither one of them climbed in the boat and started paddling. “I know Gloria masterminded Maize’s escape plan, but how’d you get dragged into it?”
“Maize told you I was there?” Josie snapped her mouth shut, realizing she was gaping. Everyone had been sworn to secrecy and she’d never, ever, have expected Maize to be the one to reveal anyone’s involvement.
“No,” he said. “Maize has never said a word about any of it. I discovered your involvement on my own.”
He let out a loud exhale before turning to look at her. “Unlike your father, I know it doesn’t take that much gas to drive little old ladies to and from society meetings.”
She pinched her lips together. Only Scooter would piece that together.
“Don’t worry. No one else has figured it out, and I haven’t told anyone.”
She considered asking how he could be sure of that, but instead pointed out, “Except for Gloria and your mother. You’ve told both of them.”
“Yes, I have.”
“Because it’s dangerous. Both Gloria and my mother need to know their lives are going to change drastically when your father discovers all that’s happened. Gloria is going to end up homeless and my mother is going to put us all back in the poorhouse.”
The shiver that rippled her insides had nothing to do with her wet clothing. In fact, sitting out here with the sun reflecting off the water was getting hot, even with damp clothes. The chill she felt was deep inside. She’d just been given an answer she hadn’t known she was seeking. Scooter wasn’t demanding that she stop going to Duluth because he was worried about her—he was worried about himself. Not everyone knew he slept in the upstairs of his gas station, but she did. And she knew why. The bootleggers who drove whiskey for her father filled their gas tanks late at night, or early in the morning, after their runs, and they all used Scooter’s station. It was located four miles from town and was the ideal place for such late-night activities. However, one word from her father and they’d use a different station.
She couldn’t fault him for looking out for himself, for his family, but deep down she had a sickening feeling, as if she’d hoped he’d been so insistent for a different reason.
“Your father will find out,” Scooter said. “It’s gone on long enough. Too long actually.”
That couldn’t be denied, and the fact settled within her. With her sisters married, she’d no longer be able to hide in their shadows. Her father would be keeping a much closer tab on her whereabouts. That was where the urgency inside her sprang from. If she could rescue those captive girls before Norma Rose got married, things would be settled enough that someone else could take over her trips to Duluth for a few weeks. Afterward, when everyone was settled back at the resort, she could announce her plan to move to Duluth.
Scooter was sure to be happy about that. He’d never have to worry about her calling him again. Or having to come to her rescue. She’d probably rarely see him, only if she chose to come home for one reason or another. He’d be too busy with his station to ever travel that far.
“Are you going to tell me or not?”
A sigh had built to mammoth proportions in her chest. After letting it out, she drew in a fresh breath and settled her gaze on the far shore of the lake. “I’ll tell you what I can.”
He lifted a brow.
She sighed again, and then launched into an explanation she hoped he’d accept. “For the most part, the shipping of girls stopped shortly after Maize was rescued. Congress passed several acts to prevent immigrants from entering the United States and that pretty much put a stop to Galen selling girls out of Duluth. That’s when he started transporting them to California, claiming they worked for his film company. In reality, he was selling the girls to Mexico.”
“That’s when your father got involved.”
She nodded. “For different reasons, but yes. Gloria’s house had burned down, and she blamed Galen.”
“As did many others,” Scooter said. “It was right up Galen’s alley. From the time Maize went to work serving drinks at the Plantation, she said Galen wanted her to sing at a nightclub in Duluth. Mother and I both said he was playing her, but she was convinced it was the real deal and she wouldn’t listen.”
The frustration in his tone said he’d been more affected by what had happened than she’d given credence to. “They met at the resort the next morning,” she said. “Probably because they didn’t want to be spotted together in town.”