THE GIN LOVERS #6 (Chapter One)
Charlotte stood in front of the midtown police precinct, wishing she could just keep walking past. But she couldn't--not with Jake trapped behind bars inside.
She mustered her resolve and opened the heavy door, clutching her evening bag close to her body. She had no idea how much this was going to cost her, so she brought all of the money from Jake's sale of her jewelry.
Every person in the crowded room turned to look at her. She couldn't blame them; in her salmon-colored, fringed and beaded gown, she was a spectacle. With the library gala in less than two hours, she'd had to dress for the night, and then run down to the police station.
"Can I help you?" asked an officer from behind the front desk. The room was loud, with ringing phones and the clatter of typewriters. Two long wooden benches were filled with people waiting.
She cleared her throat. "I'm here to post bail," she said.
"For who?" the man said gruffly. Charlotte felt embarrassed, as if she were doing something wrong. But she told herself that this was routine for them: they arrested people, and then they dealt with the bail money. She wasn't doing anything the system didn't expect.
The man shuffled through a pile of paper. "I don't see him here. When did they bring him in?"
Charlotte shifted uncomfortably in her high heels. "Last night."
The officer pushed away from his desk and walked out of the room. Charlotte tried to ignore the feeling of being watched. She felt very exposed in her dress, and wished she'd thought to wear a coat despite the warm weather.
The officer was gone a long time. By the time he returned to his desk, Charlotte was sweating from nerves.
"It's eight hundred for Larkin," he said.
Charlotte started taking money out of her purse.
"Not here!" the officer barked. "Go down the hall to your left."
Charlotte felt a flash of annoyance, but followed his direction.
Walking down the narrow hallway, she thought about her run-in with Rona Lovejoy. She'd panicked when she heard the words "he was arrested" coming from Rona's lips--and now shuddered to think if that mouth had been on Jake's. Why was that woman at Jake's in the first place? Had he given up on Charlotte already? Did he really believe she had no intention of finding a way to leave her marriage and be with him?
Even now, in the midst of everything, just the thought of his hands on her body was enough to quicken her pulse. She imagined his arms around her, the scent of him when she rested her head against his chest. Knowing in just minutes she would look into those dark eyes--eyes that were equally as capable of igniting passion as they were in offering comfort--was enough to put a skip in her step as she hurried to the end of the dingy police station corridor.
Greta Goucher looked up at the brass door knocker. It was in the shape of a lion, and she felt it was poetically appropriate. What was she doing if not throwing herself into the lion's den by arriving uninvited on Amelia Astor's doorstep? But everyone had their limits, and Greta had run out of patience for the juicy story that had been promised to her a week ago.
She banged the knocker as hard as a gavel at the hand of a frustrated judge. The door was opened almost immediately by an irritated-looking butler.
"Can I help you?" he asked.
"I'm here to see Mae Delacorte," Greta said.
"Miss Delacorte is indisposed at the moment. You can leave your card," he said.
"Tell her it's Greta Goucher. I bet she'll get 'disposed' very quickly."
The butler let her into the house with obvious reluctance. He instructed her to wait on a silk-covered ottoman near the front door.
She wondered if she would see the lady of the house while she was there. Even after the engagement party, Greta couldn't understand Amelia Astor's quick turnaround from practically hanging up the phone on her to showing up in person to invite her to the engagement party. Whatever the reason, Greta was thankful for the woman's strange change of heart; it had put Greta in an extremely good position.
Greta glanced up at the sound of footsteps in the hallway.
"What are you doing here?" asked Mae Delacorte harshly. She was dressed in a stunning royal-blue gown, threaded with black seed beads and pearls. Greta couldn't help but remember that the last time she'd seen the patrician-looking girl, she'd had another woman's face between her legs.
Greta shook the image from her mind.
"We have some unfinished business, Miss Delacorte."
"I'm on my way out," Mae said flippantly.
"I can see that. But I must insist on a few minutes of your time. You see, I'm not going out tonight. I'm going to be at my office until very late, writing my column for tomorrow."
Mae paled visibly under her face powder and rouge.
"Come into the parlor," she said. "But I only have a minute. I'm already late."
Greta followed Mae into a room grander than any she had ever been in during her entire life. This only made Greta more determined to hold Mae to her promise. She was tired of the rich thinking they were beyond the reach of scandal or the law. It wasn't fair that a working woman like herself could still barely afford more than a closet-sized apartment in a rundown building, when Mae Delacorte lived like a princess. What had she ever done to deserve the reverence and privilege she enjoyed? Nothing. Greta was tired of it, and she knew her readers were tired of it too.
"Your redheaded friend promised me a valuable scoop in exchange for not writing about your...relationship with her. I've tried to track her down but she's like a ghost. You, on the other hand, are quite visible. To everyone, if you get what I mean."
Mae sat on a sofa, and didn't look at Greta. When she finally glanced up, her face was steely and emotionless.
"I'm on my way to the opening of the new Delacorte Library," said Mae. "I'm sure you've read about it."
"Of course," said Greta. And she had. It was yet another glamorous event in the glossy lives of the rich. At least this one had, in the end, something to offer the public.
"Why don't you come tonight as my guest? And we will continue this conversation."
Greta knew she was being played--Mae Delacorte was stalling--but she was willing to let her. She wanted to go to the event.
She would get her story one way or another.
"In that case, I'll let myself out," said Greta. "And I will see you later tonight."
THE GIN LOVERS #6. Copyright 2012 by Jamie Brenner.