The year is 1936. Flotation “Flo” Jones lives in the bayou country of Louisiana. Flo is young, but not so young that she and Tucker Waters, whom she knows as “the watermelon man,” can’t catch each other’s eye. Flo also has a beautiful voice and a talent for singing, and the local mayor fancies her as a decoration for parties at his mansion. But the socializing is a cover for organized crime. Flo, Tucker and some friends will desperately try to escape its clutches.
Panic ensued with the gunshots.
Screams filled the room and Flo sat frozen as people rushed to escape. Her heart pounded and she felt sick at her stomach when she saw the body on the floor. The blue dress on the beautiful girl was now stained an ugly brown and what looked like warm Karo syrup oozed out from under her lifeless figure.
The tall woman in the kimono hurried from room to room, shouting loudly, “Everybody out. We’re closing for the night. All you girls upstairs to your rooms.”
“She’s dead.” A man kneeling over the girl spoke matter-of-factly.
At first, Flo thought Mayor Bucknell had been shot also, but when he stood up she realized the blood on his shirt was from the girl sitting next to him.
“The shots came from outside, through that window,” remarked one of the men. “But why would anyone want to shoot her?”
“They didn’t,” Mayor Bucknell answered. “Just before she was shot, she leaned over in front of me to put out her cigarette. That’s when the bastard pulled the trigger. He was aiming at me.”
Flo was still sitting on the piano, not daring to move, now fully realizing how dangerous a situation she was in. She had witnessed a murder and these men could do anything with her they wanted.
“What do you want to do with her, boss?” asked a large man wearing a pistol shoulder strap, looking down at the girl.
“Get rid of her,” Mayor Bucknell, answered, ripping off his bloody shirt. “Weight her down and throw her in the bayou. The gators will take care of the rest.”
Flo was finding it hard to breathe. She felt numb. All she wanted was to go home to Mammy.
“What about her?” asked the man who had brought Flo, pointing at her. He was standing in the doorway with a revolver in his hand.
“The songbird,” Mayor Bucknell replied, turning to Flo. “Take her home and bring her back on Saturday night. From now on she sings at the White Palace every week.” Then he looked directly into Flo’s eyes. “Be a smart girl and forget everything you saw tonight. If you play your cards right, you can have whatever you want.”
* * *
The ride home in the black Packard seemed endless to Flo. At times her body shook and she felt sick at her stomach. She was grateful no one was in the back seat with her. Only the driver was up front and she could not see him in the dark. After a while, she started singing to herself. It was the only way she could escape reality.
Mammy put her to bed immediately, rubbing her shoulders and back with hot mint oil, until the muscles relaxed. Flo had spoken very little and the old woman thought it best to let her rest and wait for the answers until tomorrow.
When she was asleep, Mammy turned down the coal lamp and closed the door to the small bedroom. The air was cool now and the crickets were quiet. Daylight was only an hour or so away. Mammy thanked the Lord for Flo’s safe return before she lay down on her bed. One picture kept repeating itself in her mind. When Flo ran into her arms, Mammy could have sworn she recognized the driver behind the wheel of the black Packard as it sped away.
Copyright © 2012 by Ron Van Sweringen