The syncopated rhythms of the latest jazz hits filled the air. Smoke lingered in a haze and bathtub gin sloshed in glasses.
“So, pretty lady, whatcha think of this joint?” Chuck slipped his arm around Laney’s waist and pulled her closer to him.
“It’s the cat’s meow!” She flashed a grin at him, her red lips stark against her white teeth. Her freshly cropped hair framed her face and angled to the back of her head. Her dress hung on her slender body and her stockings were rolled at her knees. Mother and Daddy would have a fit if they could see her tonight. Her hair was one thing, but blatantly dressing like a flapper? And being with a man they didn’t know—in a speakeasy of all places?
“You wait right here, gorgeous. I’ll be back with a drink.” Chuck walked towards the bar, glancing back to make sure no one was moving in on his doll.
“Okay.” Laney looked around at the crowd. Arms and legs flew as couples danced the Charleston.
“Elaine. . . “
“Who’s there?” Laney looked for whoever was calling her name.
“Miss me?” Chuck walked up and handed her a glass. “Try some of this lightning.”
“Here’s to you!” Laney lifted her glass and took a swallow. The liquid burned all the way down. “Wow.” Her eyes watered and her nose burnt.
“Yep. That’s some kinda juice. Old Cat makes the best gin around.” Chuck drained his glass and pulled Laney close. “Wanna dance?”
“Elaine. . .”
“It’s Laney, not Elaine,” she muttered.
“What?” Chuck looked at her in confusion.
“Nothing. I must have heard someone else.” Laney blushed and grinned at him.
They danced until Laney was out of breath.
Suddenly a voice broke the carefree air. “Cops! Everybody out!”
Laney tried to follow Chuck down the dim hallway and out the back door, but he was nowhere to be seen. “Chuck?” she whispered, hoping he’d come up behind her and lead her out away from the cops. She went through the back door and into the alley behind the speakeasy.
Stumbling, she made it to the next street and looked around, trying to figure out which way home was.
“Miss? Can I help you with something?” An officer walked up to Laney. “You know, this isn’t exactly the safest place to be.”
“I’ve…uhmm…never been in this part of town before, Officer,” that much was true. “I got turned around,” also true. “I’m just trying to figure out where home is. Mother and Daddy are expecting me soon, and they’ll have kittens if I’m late!” Laney blinked her blue eyes at the officer, hoping he hadn’t seen her exit the alley.
“Tell you what. I’m finished up here; I’ll help you find your way home. I’m Officer Buchanan, but you can call me Tom.” He looked at her closely. “A pretty girl like you shouldn’t be in a place like this. Where do you live?”
“Down by the old brick church on Lee Street.” Laney looked at the ground, embarrassed that she was lost. Chuck drove and she hadn’t paid much attention to the area.
“Lee Street? Why are you all the way over here?” Tom looked at her pointedly.
“Oh, just visiting a friend. Thank you so much for your help, Officer Buchanan, I mean, Tom.” Laney spoke his name softly. “I’m Laney.”
The two walked towards Lee Street and made small talk about the town.
“There’s my house,” Laney said. “Would you like to come in and meet Mother and Daddy?” she asked, tucking her hand into the crook of his elbow.
“I don’t know if that’s the best idea. Glad I could help you out, and in the future, stay away from speakeasies. Nothing good happens there.” Tom loosened her grip and turned to walk away.
“Tom, wait,” Laney called. “How’d you know?”
“Well, the way you’re all dolled up for one. And the way you stumbled out of that alley.”
"Did someone tip you off about a joint?”
“Nope. I was down at the old brick church and felt God telling me to take a walk--that someone needed me to look out for them tonight. There you were. So I brought you home. Stay safe, Elaine"
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