Chapter One


Syracuse, New York–Sunday, July 3, 1932

            Bernie’s was the name of the speakeasy and brothel operation inside Madam Tulley’s boardinghouse above her restaurant and bar establishment called the Star. On the eve of the holiday, the speakeasy’s secret liquor stash was to be restocked for the rendezvous she arranged for her discreet guests on Fourth of July evening. Madam received an unexpected telephone call at the restaurant.

            “Hello, Star Restaurant.”

            “It’s Freddy.”

            “My, my you sound terrible. How you feelin’?”

            “Not so good, kiddo. I can’t meet the supplier tonight, but I’ve got a friend who can do it for me Bernie, if you’re fine with that.”

            Madam was blindsided by this new troublestone Freddy had unearthed for her. In reality, it was one in a series of risky outcrops from the “boulder of trouble” she chose to carry eleven years prior, after she succumbed to spiritual deafness. She gave his suggestion a thought and decided that she couldn’t trust anyone else. “No, I’ll do it myself. Just tell me where and what time.”

            Freddy gave her the scheme. “Be on time,” was the last thing he said and he hung up.

            That holiday eve night, the Star Bar, Madam’s public enterprise located in the boardinghouse basement, didn’t close until past midnight because people were in party mode. She was happy because the bar had made a killing, which it hadn’t done in many months. She felt that life for her was looking better.

            Now that the bar was quiet, Madam Tulley had time to think, to get nervous about making Freddy’s run in less than an hour. She decided not to change out of her party clothes.

            The royal blue, silk chemise dress Madam had on was her favorite, and the way it fit tight across her bust and derriere brought a deluge of calls like “Hey, baby!” and “Honey, shake that thing!” The ankle straps on her black high heels accentuated her calves, while the seams of her black silk stockings drew welcomed imaginings up beyond her hemline from wishful, zoot-suited admirers.

            In the quiet, Madam shook off her nervousness and her warning voice. She meditated, Ok now, I get there . . . turn off my lights . . . look for a man in a Yankee baseball cap . . . trade passwords . . . have the money ready . . . drive away slowly. In her mind she went over everything Freddy had told her on the telephone. She felt ready.

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