A great depression grips the city of St. Louis in 1934. Stanley, an orphaned newsie, lives in a poor part of town hit especially hard by the economic downturn. One night, Stanley runs into Hazel, a restless debutante-in-waiting who has begun to question her posh lifestyle in the midst of the suffering she sees. She’s out and about without an escort and against her father’s wishes. When they discover the body of a girl with her head bashed in by a baseball bat, the very different and separate realities of the two teens inform their decision. Together they will figure out what happened to her and bring those responsible to justice. But getting involved with each other and digging into the secrets behind this murder earns them some powerful enemies, including a secret group seeking to rid society of all they deem undesirable. They’ve put into motion “The Winnowing,” a plan seeking to take over the city and enforce their will. As Stanley and Hazel’s forbidden feelings for one another grow, their investigation turns deadly. Now, it is up to Stanley and his gang of street kids to stop Hazel from becoming the next victim.
About the Author
Jo Schaffer was born and raised in the California Bay Area in a huge, creative family. She is a YA novelist, speaker and a Taekwondo black belt. She’s a founding member of the nonprofit organization that created Teen Author Boot Camp, one of the nation’s biggest conferences for teens where bestselling authors present writing workshops to nearly a thousand attendees. Jo loves being involved in anything that promotes literacy and family. She is passionate about community, travel, books, music, healthy eating, classic films and martial arts. But her favorite thing is being mom to three strapping sons and a neurotic cat named Hero. They live together in the beautiful mountains of Utah. www.joschaffer.com
Read an Excerpt
Hazel pulled back the heavy satin curtain and a square of bright sunlight landed on the towering bed. "Mumsy, get up. It's past two o'clock." Not that this was anything new. The rest of the household had already lived a full day and her mother still lay heavy and motionless in her frilly, canopied bed like a corpse in a fancy casket.
Mumsy startled and shifted around amid a dozen fluffy pink and cream pillows. "Say, what's the big idea?" she groaned, squinting in the light. "Peggy, get Peggy ..."
Hazel snorted and tugged on the tasseled cord beside her mother's bed. "She'll be here with a bromo-seltzer for that headache." She flipped on the torch lights and the crystal chandelier that hung high over the center of the room. The mix of striped and floral patterns in her mother's spacious bedroom were probably not helping her aching head.
"Thank you, darling." Her mother clasped both hands over her curly blond hair. "Had another doozy last night." She yawned, releasing the faint smell of gin and vermouth. It had been the martini madness again, a real bender.
Hazel noticed a stack of her mother's belongings in the large marble fireplace across from her bed. "I can see that ... Planning a bonfire?"
"Eh?" Mumsy squeezed her eyes shut. "Oh, that. I need Peggy to put all of that away ... made sense to us at the time ..."
"Well, hold your brains in while you wait." Hazel shook her head and smiled. Her mother knew how to kick up her heels like no other. It seemed as if lately she was determined to reclaim her youth. Days of bathtub gin and an occasional handsome stranger, cocktails, champagne, and society playboys. "That's what you get for your wild ways."
"Darling, you sound like your father," Mumsy moaned.
Hazel shrugged. Pops was a model citizen, and she admired him, but somehow the comment stung. She scanned the room to make sure there was no evidence of a second occupant. Her mother's party clothes from the night before were the only ones scattered around. Hazel sighed in relief. None of her wild flings were serious, but they drew Hazel's dad's attention, who was otherwise too busy to notice much at all. Mumsy had to be noticed.
Her mother let out a moan and sat up. "See here, you gotta live a little before you die."
"You look more dead than alive." Hazel bent to pick up a turquoise party dress, silk cape, and heeled shoes strewn across the floor.
"Just let Peggy do that. Oh, I must be a sight." Mumsy sighed and covered her face, groaning.
"Peggy has enough to do." Hazel dropped the pile in her arms onto the bed. She kissed her mother's cheek. "And you're lovely."
"Oh, sh-sh-shh. Too loud." Mumsy shut her eyes and massaged her scalp. "You're a riot. Ha. Ha." She made a funny face and then smiled. "Don't you have anywhere fun to be? Your friend ... Silvia is having a birthday party?"
"Sandy. That was last Saturday."
"Ah. Was it the bee's knees? Boys and booze? Hot music? Gimme the scoop."
Hazel shook her head. "Sure. It was a great party. The police didn't raid it or anything." She rolled her eyes and tossed a round pillow at her mother. Ever since Prohibition was repealed the year before, it seemed like her mother was obsessed with the freedom of drinking without having to go to a speakeasy.
Her mother sighed. "Your boyfriend there?"
"Haven't got one." Hazel watched her mom grimace, yesterday's makeup streaked across her face. Sometimes, she seemed like a complete stranger.
"Well, men come and go." She lay back, closing her eyes and let out a deep sigh. "Don't tell your father about my headache. He'll only scold."
Hazel patted her mom's hand. "He's no fool. And your face will give it away."
Mumsy pulled the blanket over her head. "Swell."
Hazel half-smiled and left her mother making headache sounds. On her way back down the long hall, she snatched a cookie off a silver tray that Roberts carried toward the guest wing. Mumsy must have brought friends home last night after all.
Roberts turned and nodded his graying head. "Miss Hazel."
"Hiya, Robbie." She popped the cookie into her mouth and skipped down the sweeping wooden staircase. She crossed the parquet floor and paused with a hand on the door of the informal dining room beside the kitchen.
Her father's voice vibrated against the wood. "Nonsense! I don't give a hang about the Securities Act. Trade it!"
Hazel pushed into the room where her father sat at his lunch, a smoldering pipe beside his plate and a carefully creased paper on the table. Nicholas Peter Malloy II held the black telephone to his ear like a club with one hand and to his mouth with the other.
He nodded vigorously a few times. "Right. Sell copper. More lumber ... Forget that. And you tell Pierce to listen up. I know stocks." He crashed the two sides of the telephone together as he hung up.
"Problems?" Hazel slid into her chair and made a kissy face at her father.
"Hmph. The market is rebounding. Happy days are here again." His face showed no mirth. This was business.
Happy days? It all seemed the same to Hazel. Ever since the stock market crashed when she was a kid, all her dad and his friends talked about were the hard times. But the cloud of misery seemed to hover at the fringes of her life as she moved from her elegant house to the sleek, rounded lines of their Buick to the clean interior of the Mary Institute, where all the girls floated in the healthy glow of ease. It made her feel like she was only dreaming ... or that there was something in her closet with dark, hungry eyes watching her sleep in her comfortable bed. Not a sunny thought. She pushed it away.
"What's for lunch, Pops?"
"It's Father. And we're having kippers. Your mother joining us at last? Had this late meal just for her ..."
Hazel shrugged. "Once her room stops spinning."
Her father made a face, straightened his necktie, and picked up his pipe. All of his attention went back to his paper. Hazel wondered again just how much Pops regretted marrying a beautiful jazz baby from new money all those years ago instead of some debutante, a refined girl from the right family. The kind of girl he desperately hoped his own daughter would be.
She waited as the kitchen maid served her lunch with practiced grace. Hazel hoped Peggy wouldn't be busy upstairs for too long, so they could talk about the new Clark Gable picture playing at the Fox Theater downtown. Hazel had seen it with Sandy and Mrs. Schmidt the week before it had become an obsession. Gable played a newspaperman with plenty of spunk. And that smile ...
"We'll need the evening paper," her father said.
Hazel lit up. "I can get that for you, Pops — uh ... Father." Maybe that tall boy with the faded flat cap would be on the same corner with his papers. He had the bluest eyes she'd ever seen.
"Nonsense. Roberts will see to it." Pops clenched his pipe in his teeth and held up a copy of the morning paper, a barrier declaring the topic was closed.
Hazel wrinkled her nose and stuck her tongue out in her dad's direction. He never allowed her to go anywhere alone — as if she couldn't take care of herself. She took a bite of her lunch and stared at the back of his paper, reading ads for the latest picture shows. Maybe Sandy would catch one with her tonight. Hazel could wear her new lilac dress — it made her eyes really shine.
"I'd like to go to the movies with Sandy tonight," she said.
Pops lowered his paper. "Tonight? The Sinclair family is coming for dinner, Hazel." He looked at her for the first time since she'd come into the room. "Your hair. Set it. And," he waved a hand at his own face, "do something with all of this."
"Oh, you'd like me to shave your mustache and wax your brows?" Hazel fluttered her eyelashes.
Pops grunted away the small upturn at the corners of his mouth. Hazel loved it when he almost smiled.
"Lipstick and whatever else your mother has," he muttered, face back in his paper.
"I see." Hazel sighed.
Ever since she'd turned fifteen, the swanky families had come swarming, blatantly parading their eligible, suitable sons, most of them dull as dirt and alike as can be: polo-playing, Ivy League-attending, sharp dressers with slicked-over hair and little to say to Hazel. They mostly clung to every word her father said and tried to impress him with their knowledge of stocks, bonds, and all kinds of boring talk about money.
Hazel cringed at herself. Money might be easy and dull for her but maybe she was spoiled. She'd seen the forgotten men on the streets as she'd passed in the chauffeured car, even if she tried not to ... their heads down, hollow-cheeked, wearing dirty, threadbare clothes. In the papers, there were pictures of scrawny children begging for food with filthy, empty hands outstretched. She looked down at her perfectly manicured fingers as they gripped a fork and knife made of pure silver. The food on her plate was more than she could eat. She didn't want to think about that.
"Ever think about hungry people?" Hazel questioned, almost without meaning to.
Her father nodded as he spoke. "Hard not to. They seem to clutter the sidewalks everywhere these days. It's unfortunate." He gave a slight grimace as if he felt sorry about it, but saw no solution.
Hazel bristled at his apathy. "The Sinclairs funded that new medical clinic for the poor."
Her dad nodded again. "That young doctor they put in charge is milking them no doubt, but it's good for image if you're considering running for mayor. It's also a handy tax shelter for them, I'm sure." He put down his paper and smirked to himself.
Knowing the Sinclairs, their reasons for opening the clinic probably weren't out of the goodness of their hearts. But it was still a good thing. Hazel wrinkled her brow. "Sandy's family gives to shelters."
"Well," her father cut into his filet, "I'm sure the Schmidts are well intentioned and probably trying to redeem themselves in the public eye, as well they should."
"Nobody who really knows them would think they were dirt." Hazel hated it when people got that preachy tone when they talked about her best friend's family. It wasn't their fault their oldest daughter caused a scandal.
"Of course not. They are still a wealthy, positioned family. Although, you might do better to mix with Brigitte Slayback and her friends. You've been invited to the Veiled Prophet Ball, Hazel, and so has she. That's an honor."
"Sandy was too." Hazel furrowed her brow. Sometimes she wanted to poke her dad in the eye. Brigitte was a know-it-all flirt and a snob.
His face briefly registered surprise. "Well. I suppose her father has paid his dues," he muttered. "The point is, people often are exactly where they belong."
"You mean all those hungry people? In the gutters?" Her stomach clenched. Sometimes her dad said things that felt ... wrong.
"Hazel, I don't like it either, but life has a way of ..." he paused and stroked his mustache, "... sorting these things out."
"Sorting?" Hazel frowned. How is starvation sorted?
He cleared his throat. "Ever wonder why they are poor and we are not, Hazel?"
"Because you make three hundred thousand smackers a year like Granddad before you?"
He rolled his eyes at her slang. "Well, yes, I do. I make that money through hard work, using my God-given intelligence. If we just gave money to everyone out there on the streets — who would do the work? It's a case of survival of the fittest. The cream always rises to the top."
"Cream." Hazel wrinkled her nose. It made sense in a way, but it seemed cold to talk about people as if they were soda fountain toppings.
Pops grunted and picked up his paper again. "Anyway, focus on what's important here; the Sinclairs are the cream. And they are coming tonight, so I'm afraid taking a show with the Schmidt girl is not on the schedule."
"They won't miss me. The Sinclairs are coming to see you." Suddenly it seemed intolerable and unimportant.
"Gabriel is coming with them this time."
Hazel bit her lip. Last year she met Gabriel at a dance, before he left for his first semester at Yale. She'd been intrigued then. There was something different about him. A sardonic glint in his eyes behind those black-rimmed specs. Something almost dangerous about his smile. Then she'd heard rumors that he and Regina Peck were caught necking in the back of the Slayback's Cadillac limousine after the dance. Hazel didn't want to find out for herself what he was like on a date.
"I don't like him much. He's a snore."
Her dad slapped his paper down on the table. "What's that got to do with it? He's a fine boy. His family is very influential."
"I know." She pushed at a tomato with her fork. It popped open and bled. Her appetite died.
"Hazel, don't make up your mind about anything before you give it a try."
Funny. That had sort of been her mother's message today too. Live a little. Take a leap. Just maybe it was time to try something new. "Fine. Have it your way, Father." Hazel stood and curtsied.
He grunted. "That's my girl."
Not this time, Pops, she thought.
Hazel strolled out of the dining room and made her way through the cavernous house that echoed with her footsteps. She trotted up the stairs and past her mother's room, which always smelled of roses and champagne.
The murmur of Peggy's voice with its Irish lilt came through the door. "Ma'am, I need you to stand on your own two feet that God gave ya if we're to put this on. That's right. There now ... you're a pip."
Mumsy was having a hard time recovering. She never seemed to learn from all the post-party headaches. Hazel sighed and retreated to her room.
She opened the tall window and looked down at the ivy trellis that would be her escape. Some of the leaves had gone from dark green to red and pale gold. Hazel felt like a character in a movie. Could she really do it? She reached out and shook the trellis frame — it felt sturdy. She imagined sneaking out under the moon. Alone. Then maybe something interesting would finally happen to her, like in the movie It Happened One Night. Hazel sighed.
But the moon wasn't out. The afternoon sun shone on the perfectly maintained grounds of the Malloy estate; trimmed hedges, blooming flowers, lush green grass, and garden statues. Willy, their gardener, had raked up any trace of fall only a few hours before. Everything was as it should be.
She caught her reflection in the vanity and cocked her head at the girl with dark unruly hair and wide blue eyes. A moment of shame paralyzed her. She looked all wrong. Oh, how she wished she looked like the actress Myrna Loy, whose hairdo was never out of place. Pops was right about her hair. Hazel patted it down and fiddled with the bobby pins. Maybe she should bleach it like Jean Harlow; it worked for Mumsy. Maybe a beauty spot. She poked a finger over her lip and tried to imagine it.
A soft knock sounded at the door.
"Come in, Peggy."
The door opened, and Peggy peeked in her wavy auburn head. Her light brown eyes sparkled as she chuckled. "Oh, your mother is pickled."
"Tell me something I don't know." Hazel smirked.
Peggy bounded into the room and gave Hazel a quick hug. "There now, Missy. There will come a day when your mother steps off the merry-go- round." As she spoke, she played with Hazel's hair, tucking stray curls and patting it down.
"Mumsy thinks she's still a flapper. She's beautiful and carefree. Wish I could be more like that. But Pops is disappointed in me enough as it is."
"Psh. Now, now. He treasures you and you're a fine-looking miss. And even finer on the inside. Nobody in their right mind could be disappointed in you." Peggy had such a sweet face, her pert little nose, smooth skin, and rosy cheeks almost made her look as young as Hazel, though she was probably old enough to be her mother. "Give me another hug, lass."
Hazel smiled at her maid and wrapped her arms around her. Peggy was all lovely and soft. "You're a dream."
Peggy pulled away and giggled, dimpling her round, pink cheeks. "Oh, you. I haven't had a moment 'til now — tell me about that Clark Gable movie." Peggy fanned her face.
Hazel let out a squeal. "He burns me up."
Peggy listened while Hazel told her all about the movie. It was funny and romantic, and Gable was the perfect combination of tough wise-guy and tender lover. Claudette Colbert played the spoiled debutante who falls for him. They were all wrong for each other, and it was wonderful.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Stanley & Hazel"
Copyright © 2018 Jo Schaffer.
Excerpted by permission of Month9Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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