It’s been six months since Lane Sanders was appointed Mayor Fiorella “Fio” La Guardia’s new personal aide, and the twenty-three-year-old is sprinting in her Mary Janes to match her boss’s pace. Despite dealing with vitriol from the Tammany Hall political machine and managing endless revitalization efforts, Fio hasn’t slowed down a bit during his years in office. And luckily for Lane, his unpredictable antics are a welcome distraction from the childhood memories that haunt her dreams—and the silver gun she’ll never forget.
When Lane gets attacked and threatened by an assailant tied to one of most notorious gangsters in the city, even the mayor can’t promise her safety. The corrupt city officials seem to be using Lane as a pawn against Fio for disgracing their party in the prior election. But why was the assailant wielding the exact same gun from her nightmares?
Balancing a clandestine love affair and a mounting list of suspects, Lane must figure out how the secrets of her past are connected to the city’s underground crime network—before someone pulls the trigger on the most explosive revenge plot in New York history . . .
About the Author
LA Chandlar is an author and motivational speaker on The Fight to Keep Creativity Alive. She lives in New York City with her family.
Read an Excerpt
Later that evening, Valerie and I met up with Ralph and his buddies at Club Monaco like we'd planned. His friends were fun and carefree as puppies as we danced all evening. I noticed Val had a particular shine in her eye when she was dancing with a guy named Peter. He was very tall. So it was pleasant, I'm sure, for my tall friend to wear high heels and get to look up at a guy for once.
I went to get a drink at the glossy black and silver bar and saw Ralph taking a break from the gals and all the dancing.
"Hi, Ralph," I said. I told the barkeep, "I'll have a Bad Romance."
"The drink?" he asked, waggling his eyebrows.
"I knew you'd say that," I said, with a smirk.
"Comes with the territory."
"Hey, Lane," greeted Ralph, with a casual elbow perched on the bar, while scouring the crowd for cute girls. "Great you could come tonight. Looks like Val's having a good time. Too bad Annie couldn't come, but it's a fun night anyway. Hey, don't forget you said you'd save a dance for me."
"Sure, sounds f —," and he was off and running, having spotted a partnerless gal at the edge of the dance floor. I took a sip of my Bad Romance while I enjoyed the view. In the belly of the cavernous club, dozens of tables surrounded the dance floor, with the band up front. The fifteen-piece band had on white jackets and black pants, and they were playing their hearts out, sweat dropping from their brows. It was hot inside the club with all the people dancing and the many glowing, low candles in the center of each table. My feet were just beginning to ache; I hadn't sat down the entire evening.
The club was a swanky place, so Val and I had dressed to the nines. I had on one of my favorite dresses, which was, in fact, the one Ralph had mentioned. The dark red number, almost off the shoulders, short, ruffled sleeves, and the skirt was close-fitting down to where my knees peeked beneath the hemline ruffle. My feet were decked out in black patent leather high heels. I thought about heading home soon. It was nearing midnight, and prying my feet out of these delightful shoes was sounding attractive. Just then someone came up beside me and rested his arms on the bar right next to mine, brushing up against me.
"How are you, Roarke? I haven't seen you around much lately." I smiled up at him. Roarke was a friend who worked across the street from the mayor's office. He was part of the ever-present press, and his job was to camp out in front of the city offices, waiting for my boss to give him some good headlines. Fio never disappointed.
"Nice dress, Lane. Want to dance?" Roarke was very easy on the eyes, with sandy blond hair and, to his extreme annoyance, blatant dimples that appeared when he smiled.
We walked out onto the dance floor, and he took me around the waist with his right hand. Roarke was wearing his signature black and gray, wide-striped suit. He cut a dashing figure with his white shirt, wide black tie, and black and white wingtip shoes. We danced to my favorite song of the month.
"Benny. Benny's from heaven ..." I sang softly to the music.
"Uh, Lane? It's pennies. Pennies from heaven," said Roarke, with a smirk.
"Really? Are you sure?"
"Pretty sure," he said, with a nod.
"Huh," I said. For someone with excellent mental recall of events and people, I was terrible with song lyrics. "I like Benny better. Hey, I'm getting hungry. You want to go get something to eat with us?" I asked him.
"Yeah, that sounds good. I've got a lot of work to do, I'd better get something in me," he replied.
"Work? Roarke, it's almost midnight! You got something hot going on?" I asked.
"Ehhhh. Nah, nothing like that, just some big deadlines coming up." I didn't believe a word he said. Roarke was always on the prowl for a good story.
"Uh-huh. Right," I said, under my breath. But before I could question him further, he pulled me off the dance floor, yelled to Val to bring Peter along, and shooed us all out of the club. He was like a magnificent border collie herding us effortlessly out the door.
Outside, the air was much cooler, with a pleasant crispness. I filled my lungs with the fresh air, a delightful sensation after the smoky club.
"So ... Marty's Place?" I questioned. They all barely nodded, as it was our mainstay late-night diner. We started walking, all of us lost in our own thoughts.
Clearly Val and Peter were only thinking of each other, truly enjoying their time together. They weren't holding hands, but they leaned into each other as they walked. Roarke was presumably consumed with the story he was working on.
And me? Well, I just couldn't stop thinking about two things. All day I found the image of the silver gun with the red scroll coming to mind. My recurring dream had a peculiar strength last night. Why did it make me so nervous? Maybe it was just intensified after I saw that disturbing guy on the subway platform. And secondly, more interestingly, I was thinking about that mysterious visitor of Fio's. His looks, his cologne, his accent ...
Before I could delve into those enticing thoughts any further, a siren broke through my musings as a fire truck raced right by us with an ear-splitting racket. Roarke and I locked eyes and said simultaneously, "Fio!" We started to run down the block after the fire trucks. I yelled back to Val and Peter that we'd see them tomorrow.
Sure enough, as Roarke and I were all-out sprinting down the block, my sore feet forgotten, a black sedan careened around the corner in pursuit of the engines. In a split second I saw that the driver had dark hair and a maniacal smile full of excitement and childlike glee.
Fiorello had an insatiable need to be at all the big fires, traffic accidents, and crime scenes in the city. He kept police radios in his office at work, at home, and, believe it or not, in his car (it filled up most of the front seat). If something of interest came up, he jumped into his car and flew like the wind. Most of the time he had a driver, so he had the backseat of his car outfitted with all sorts of useful tools, including a folding desk to get work done while being driven about the city.
Roarke outstripped me, of course, but when I bounded up to the fire engines, I almost ran into him as I got distracted by the enormous fire shooting out of a town house. The flames looked impossibly tall as they soared into the black sky, almost twice the size of the actual town house. Firemen were running in every direction; they all had their jobs and knew them well. I located Fio and ran over to him. The FDNY had given Fiorello an honorary fireman's coat, which he was currently wearing.
"Anyone in there?" I asked him, out of breath. I pretty much knew the answer already, since he didn't look too solemn. Instead, Fio looked a bit like a seven-year-old watching his heroes go to work, his hands clasped behind his back, bobbing up and down on his toes.
"No. They say that this was an abandoned house, which means it looks like arson. The bigger concerns are the homes on either side, but the people have all been evacuated. In fact, the neighbors came home late and saw the flames, so they started banging on the doors around them after they called in the fire department. Thankfully, it's not a windy night, and they've been soaking the buildings next to them as well as putting out the main fire," he said.
Roarke came over and suggested we go across the street to stay out of the way. His investigative reporter spirit took over as he whipped out his notebook. He was scribbling furiously as we walked across the street. He'd been talking to a few people already, and I'm sure he wanted to take advantage of being on the scene. He spotted a friend of his and murmured a quick, "Be right back."
The flames were slowly dying down. While the heat had been intense even where I stood across the street, it started to feel cooler again. It was dark on this side of the street, the inhabitants not even opening their blinds a crack to peek out. That was odd ... everyone enjoys a good gawking session. From the shadows behind me, I saw some of the darkness shift. The hairs on my neck and arms pricked. Even though it was warm out, I felt a chill. Someone is watching me.
My stomach clenched and my breath quickened, my thoughts going directly to that man from the train station that morning. I suddenly realized I was very alone; everyone's attention was on the fire, and I happened to be in a very dark and shadowy place. In the city, that just was not smart.
My aunt always told me I had an excellent sense of self-preservation: I moved. Fast. Just not fast enough.
Someone caught my arm and twisted it hard. I tried to yell out, but a hand went over my mouth and pulled me farther into the shadows. My shoulder was on fire, roiling with the pain of being slowly wrenched out of the socket. My crazed thoughts raced, but as I struggled to get in control, I realized it was definitely not that slimy man with the nose hairs. This guy was shorter and very slim. I could see jet black hair in my peripheral vision, very slicked back and shiny. And when I looked down, he had on equally shiny black shoes. He jerked my head back against him, and his rough stubble from a five o'clock shadow raked against my face.
A higher voice than I expected whispered in my ear, "You tell LaGuardia we don't appreciate him poking his nose in our business. I've got a message for you to send him. Tell Fio we've got sumthin' good planned for him. Something to shake up the city. And we've got a lot of help. He can't ... aw, shit."
Just as fast as he caught me, he let me go and backed away, having said "Aw, shit" with the disappointment of getting his carefully prepared message cut in half. Just as he rounded the corner, his suit coat opened, and I saw a glint of silver coming from his shoulder holster.
I spotted Roarke coming back, the obvious impetus of the sleazy guy's departure. The satisfied grin on Roarke's face slowly melted into a frown as he got a better look at me.
"My God, are you okay?" he asked, taking my shoulders between his hands.
I started shaking. Damn it. Get it together. I'm a New Yorker, for crying out loud. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm okay. There was a guy in the shadows who came up behind me and just about wrenched my arm out the socket," I said, massaging my shoulder.
"Did he say anything?" he asked as he carefully tucked my hair behind my ear, gently smoothing it back into place.
"He started to mumble something crude, but didn't get far. He saw you coming and let go." I had to get my mind around this before I made a big deal of what the guy had said. Fio, not to mention all mayors of New York City, received threats all the time. This was just the first time I was involved. "Probably just some weirdo. I smelled a lot of alcohol on him." Which wasn't a lie, but he also smelled like cheap men's cologne, and I could feel that he was on the shorter side, taller than me but definitely under six feet.
"Did you see what he looked like? What he had on?" asked Roarke as he delved into figuring out the facts of the story.
"No, and don't go talking about this to your paper," I said sharply. "Or to Fio, for that matter. He's got enough on his plate without worrying about me taking care of myself." I took a deep, steadying breath. "Seriously, it was random, just a crazy guy. Okay? No telling Fio."
"Hmmm," he murmured skeptically.
We started to walk toward Fio, who was talking amiably with some firefighters as they wrapped up everything.
"All right," said Roarke. "I'll let it go. For now. Just be careful. You work for the most important and the most controversial man in the city. He has enemies, which means you have enemies, too," he said, looking down at me.
"Thanks, Roarke. I will." His words rang undeniably true as I considered what the guy had said.
I let Roarke say good night to Fio, who was blissfully unaware of my adventure. I smoothed down my hair some more and tried not to hold my arm, which was still throbbing. Nothing was too wrong with it, maybe a light sprain.
I waved to Fio with my other arm as Roarke and I started the long walk back to Broadway to grab a taxi. Up ahead I saw a very familiar yellow sweater and shining white-gold head of hair, the owner of whom was clinging to some guy's arm. Then, with a quick glance our way, she quickly ducked out of sight. What was Roxy doing over here, far from the clubs, restaurants, and shows?
Huh, no dreams. You'd think that after a night like last night, I'd have all sorts of nightmares. Instead, I awoke with a headache, my hair smelled a lot like a barbecue, and a canary yellow sweater was flitting through my mind. Oh, and when I went to get out of bed, I winced from my painful and stiff arm. Fantastic.
I took a shower, slowly washing all the smokiness out of my hair and letting the hot water ease the weariness out of my shoulders and the ache out of my head. I stretched my arm gingerly and loosened it up a bit. I took an aspirin and hoped my cool demeanor would deflect any questions from Aunt Evelyn.
"Good morning, Aunt Evelyn," I said with a sleepy smile as I sat down in the creaking dining room chair.
"Good morning, dear. And what did you do to your arm?" Of course.
"Oh, I don't know, must have slept funny on it," I said, in a very convincing tone, I thought.
"Really," she said, with a don't even think about lying to me, child, look.
"Oh, for crying out loud," I declared, with a frustrated gust of air to my bangs. I spilled the beans about last night. It had been harder to stop thinking about those terrifying moments than I wanted to admit.
I told Aunt Evelyn how I had left things with Roarke last night.
"Yes, I think that's a good idea for now, Lane," she replied, to my surprise. I took a piece of toast as I sipped my black tea. It was heaven.
"As one of my favorite friends from Egypt is fond of saying, I think we need a council of war," said Aunt Evelyn, with a portentous finger raised. "And perhaps we should start some kind of list. A list of people who could be behind this." Aunt Evelyn had friends all over the earth. I didn't know this one, but I smiled at the serious tone of her statement.
"Okay, what are you thinking as far as suspects?" I asked her.
"Let's see. Fio is forever getting into trouble. It's trouble the city needs; God knows he's worked miracles already just to get voted in. But then to take on Tammany Hall and all its corruption ... Good heavens."
Nobody had expected Fio to win the election two years ago. Tammany Hall was a corrupt political machine within the Democratic Party. Its bosses had influence on city officials from the police force to the lawyers and the judges. It was a miracle Fio won on the Fusion ticket. Believe me, they gave it their best shot to try to circumvent the system.
On voting day, Tammany had thugs all over the city "assisting" voters ... With brass knuckles, blackjacks, and lead pipes. Some public figures came out to help. Even Tony Canzoneri, the prizefighter, showed up to back Fio. But Fiorello was galled at the outright chicanery of Tammany. They went against everything he wanted for Gotham. So, in his usual style, Fio was everywhere at once, scurrying around to as many polls as possible to "enforce honesty" as he liked to say.
But Fiorello did it. He became New York City's ninety-ninth mayor.
"Well, who would have it out for him? What do you know of the leftovers from Tammany?" I asked, getting my pen ready.
Aunt Evelyn had friends in all places, high and low. She was in the know about everything and was always connecting with people from all different worlds: art, finance, education, politics. She deliberated about possibilities as she sipped her steaming cup of tea. "I know the Tammany crowd is still very angry and not convinced that Fiorello can make his changes permanent. I think they're hoping that they're only on a hiatus. Jimmy Walker and the old Tammany Tiger crew were disgraced, but power and greed do not relinquish their hold very easily. Plus, New Yorkers love Walker! I never understood the cheers and hoots and hollers for him every time he showed up somewhere — even after he was out of office! He is a charismatic man, I'll give him that. His wisecracks carried him farther than anything he ever did."
I wrote down the names of Fio's biggest opponents as Evelyn started naming them, ticking them off on her long fingers.
"Besides Tammany, there are the gangsters," I said, flipping to a new page. Gangs like Lucky Luciano's and Louie Venetti's were running monopolies on anything they could get their hands on, with unpredictable and brutal scare tactics.
Excerpted from "The Silver Gun"
Copyright © 2017 LA Chandlar.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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