It’s here, my breakout novel-Jazz Town-ready for you to order on your Kindle, and next week (Friday at the latest) on Amazon.com. Jazz Town tells the amazing, incredible, heartbreaking, true to life story of music, sex, and crime in a place famous for all three: Kansas City Missouri.
Here’s the first chapter.
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
No one sees me slip out of the house. Seething with anger, I have to get away from my father. I throw on my new beaver coat, a gift from him to celebrate my sixteenth birthday, and keep in the shadows until I reach the street. In a rage I hurry toward town. When I can no longer see my house, I slow my pace and try to think.
This is America. Fathers can’t just give away their daughters. Yet mine has done exactly that, betrothed me to a man thirty-six years my senior.
Worse still, I know him. He set my arm once. My father told me that Kurt Adler had been educated at the Heidelberg Medical Academy. In fact, I’ve heard my father and his German Jewish friends brag about it. It means nothing to me.
I won’t do it. I’ll run away. I’ll kill myself.
Night closes in as I pass the haberdashery, then the grocery store, and finally the dress shop, now dark and locked up tight. At least my father promised to put off the wedding until my eighteenth birthday. I have two years to figure something out.
As I near the center of Kansas City, the streets become well lit. Hordes of people bustle by, huddled together against the cold. One thing father taught me never to do: go anywhere without mad money. I clutch my purse to my chest.
I hear lively music coming from the noisy bars. I jump back as two men fight their way out of one of them. Immediately, a crowd gathers and the excitement escalates. Blood spatters as fists meet faces.
The men knock each other down but people pick them up and shove them back together. Caught in the melee, exhilaration pulses through my body.
Someone grabs my arm and jerks me out of the mob. My father? In spite of my caution, has he caught me? I turn and look instead at the grinning face of Jimmy Galeno.
Relief floods over me, and then anger.
“Hey” I yell. “Let go of me.”
“Not on your life. I’m saving a damsel in distress.” He laughs. “What are you doing here anyway?”
I know Jimmy from school and I don’t like him.”Leave me alone.”
“Is that any way to talk to a knight in shining armor?” he jokes, steering me to a quieter spot. “Explain yourself.”
“Go to hell.” I jerk away.
“Aw, come on, Rebecca.” He sounds contrite. “There’s gotta be some reason you’re out wandering the streets at this time of night. You can tell me.”
I look closer at him, surprised that I’ve never before noticed his Italian good looks. That prompts me to remember my father ranting that the Galenos are Cosa Nostra, Sicilians who kill people. A tremor races through my body. Maybe I can get him to murder my father.
“You won’t believe it if I tell you.” My rage returns. Weeping bitter tears, I relate the events of the evening.
“So,” I say, wiping my eyes with my fingers, “I decided to take a walk and figure out what to do. Then those two men began hitting each other, the best and only real fight I’ve ever seen. Took my mind off my troubles.”
“Wait long enough and there’ll be another, but we can find better things to do.” He takes my hand and steers me down an alley toward the rear door of a bar.
” Let’s go inside where it’s warm. My old man owns this place. Would you like a drink?”
I smile, thinking my father doesn’t even allow me to taste the dinner wine.
“Something hot would be nice.”
He takes me into a back room furnished with a red leather couch, a roll top desk, and an oriental rug. While he goes to get our drinks, I shrug out of my coat, fluff up my hair, and sit. I hear the noise from the bar, yet this place feels cozy and warm.
Jimmy returns with mugs of steaming hot cocoa, sweet and delicious. One swallow warms me through and through.
“Good, huh?” he said.
We talk of school. I remind him of the time I broke my arm when he tripped me while skating on the frozen pond.
“Doctor Adler, the man my father wants me to marry, set it,” I tell Jimmy, “so in fact, this whole awful mess is your fault.”
He laughs, strands of dark hair falling over his forehead. I’ve never before observed his long dark lashes or his gentle, soulful eyes. He takes my empty mug and goes to get a refill. I lean my head back, the room spinning pleasantly. When Jimmy returns, he sits next to me and places the steaming mug to my lips.
“Here, drink some more of this and all your problems will melt away,” he whispers.
I close my eyes and sip the warm chocolate, the foam coating my upper lip. But my tongue doesn’t lick away the bubbles. His does, and then I feel his mouth on mine, buttery soft and moist. I moan a little and move closer to him. His hand slips to my breast. and then I feel his lips on the bare skin of my neck.
I know I should make him stop, but the things he does feel so good. The manly, sweet smell of him intoxicates me. Gently he draws my sweater over my head and lays me down, his body over mine. I can feel his hardness pressing against me. His tongue traces the outline of my mouth, tasting, exploring, caressing. Still I don’t resist. His fingers touch me everywhere, and when at last, he pushes himself inside me, I give a little cry and then moan with pleasure.
I remember the door bursting open and a tall, heavy set man with a cigar sticking out of his mouth standing over me, eyes sweeping my half-naked body.
Jimmy jumps up. “Dad, I . . . ”
“Who is she?” the man asks.
“Just someone I know from school.”
“Name? What’s her name?”
“Rebecca. Rebecca Stern.”
“A yid, Jimmy? Jesus Christ. Don’t we have enough trouble without you screwing a yid?”
By now, I’ve grabbed my fur coat and covered myself. The dreamy state has worn off, and I huddle in the corner of the couch, terrified.
“Get dressed,” he tells me. “And you.” He looks at Jimmy. “Sober her up and get her out of here.” He tosses car keys on the desk. “Now.” With a shake of his head, he turns and leaves.
I struggle into my sweater and straighten my clothes.
Jimmy pulls up his pants, jams in his shirt and buckles his belt. “Don’t mind him. He always sounds like that. Come on. I’ll take you home.”
Groggy and giddy, I tiptoe into my father’s house feeling somehow triumphant. Safe in my room, I strip off my clothes and fling myself into bed, flush with my newly acquired independence.
The next day I awoke with a splitting headache and sheets stained with blood. I rolled over and moaned with only the vaguest memories of the flightiness and the dark-haired boy who had had his way with me.