The Forgotten Daughter - Page 47

“Investigating?” Scooter asked, making no move to start loading the raft.

“Yes, on Francine Wilks. I thought I recognized the name when Bronco mentioned it last night and wanted to check it out.”

Scooter’s throat went dry. “And?”

“And,” Ty said as he leaned against the back of his truck, “when I was looking into Galen Reynolds’s past, I discovered he was involved with the Eastman gang out of New York. Since the late 1800s, they’ve created quite an empire. An underground one. Prostitution, gambling, peddling opium. They also have droppers all across the nation. Some are little more than front men who aren’t really accepted or protected by the gang. Galen was one of those. A middleman in their opium deals. The drugs were stored at the Plantation until runners picked it up. Galen never really had control of any of it. When Prohibition hit, the feds caught his shipments at the port of Duluth and the Eastman gang pretty much ousted him. He dipped his fingers in prostitution, importing and exporting some girls, but he was too greedy. Too many girls disappeared under his reign. From what I’ve seen of the Eastman gang, Galen’s lucky he lived long enough to go to trial for his counterfeiting. If the gang’s big boys had discovered what he’d been doing, they’d have filled him with lead long before he was arrested.”

Scooter was listening, but also trying to find a way to interrupt. Galen Reynolds’s past was of no concern to him.

“You’re wondering why I’m telling you all this,” Ty said.

“Yes, I am,” Scooter agreed.

“One of the founding men of the Eastman gang was Ike Eastman. He married a woman named Patricia Wilks, and brought her entire family into his operation.”

“Wilks,” Scooter said, “as in Francine Wilks.”

“Yes,” Ty answered. “From what I can figure out, she’s a great-niece and well-established in the family. Francine’s been working her way west the past few years. Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Paul. Setting up prostitution rings, solid ones, before moving on to the next city and still making a portion of every dollar those rings bring in. Francine is not like Galen. She’s the real McCoy, with an entire establishment behind her. A force to reckon with.”

Scooter let out a low whistle before he asked, “Have you told Roger any of this?”

“No,” Ty said. “I just confirmed it all while Norma Rose and I were in St. Paul today.”

Scooter planted both elbows on the box of Ty’s truck and rubbed his forehead with his palms. Things couldn’t get a whole lot worse than this. He released the air he’d been holding in and rubbed his forehead harder.

“What is it?” Ty asked.

Scooter sighed and then started talking. He began with Maize’s disappearance and ended with Josie’s arrest. When he finished, this time Ty was the one who whistled.

“Roger doesn’t know about any of this?”

“Not that I know of,” Scooter said.

Ty was shaking his head. “He must not know. He’d have mentioned it, and he’d have stopped Josie’s involvement long ago.” Pacing the ground near the back of the truck, Ty continued, “I knew about the rubbers in Josie’s closet. Norma Rose told me. She believes Josie just stores them there for Gloria Kasper to pass out to the girls who rent rooms on the third floor.”

“Does Roger know about them?” Scooter asked. “The rubbers?”

“That they are in Josie’s room?”

He nodded.

Looking shocked, Ty asked, “What do you think?”

Scooter’s spine quivered. “No.”

Ty nodded. “He’d have put a stop to that, too.” Letting out another whistle, Ty added, “What was Gloria Kasper thinking? Dragging Josie into it like that? The woman must have a death wish.”

Scooter wondered if he also had a death wish. He could hope Roger bumped him off in a quick and smooth fashion, but considering how long he’d known what was going on, Roger would most likely make him suffer. Long and hard.

Ty must have had somewhat similar thoughts because he’d stopped pacing and the look in his eyes was sorrowful. “I’d hate to be in your shoes, Scooter.”

Rubbing his head again, which was pounding, Scooter answered, “They aren’t very comfortable. I’ll tell you that.”

* * *

“Will you quit staring out the window?”

Josie spun around. “I’m just wondering what is taking Scooter and Ty so long.”

“It hasn’t been that long.” Norma Rose leaned back in her chair on the other side of the desk. “You haven’t heard a word I’ve said, have you?”