With Song

With Song

by Dorothy Garlock

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Overview

With Song by Dorothy Garlock

Molly barely noticed the sedan that pulled up in front of her family's store. Minutes later, a hail of bullets rained down on her parents. Hod Dolan, the federal agent knows she can identify the gunmen, and soon proposes a trap that uses Molly as bait.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780759523074
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 04/12/2001
Series: Heart Series , #3
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 212,883
File size: 548 KB

Read an Excerpt


Chapter One


Seward County, Kansas — 1935


"My baby don't care for shows.
My baby don't care for clothes.
My baby just cares for me—"


The girl sang in a loud clear voice as she came into the back of the store with an armload of sun-dried clothes.

"What kinda song is that?" her father asked.

"A good one. Wanna hear more?"

"Not if I don't have to." A mock frown covered his usually smiling face.

"You don't know good music when you hear it. All you listen to is that old Doc Brinkley down in Del Rio playing cowboy music," she teased.

"Don't be knockin' old Doc. If his goat glands can do what he says they can, I'm thinkin' of makin' a trip down to Texas to get me some before the crowd gets there and they run out of goats."

"You'd better not let Mama hear you say that. She'll whop your backside."

"I'll whop him if he shoots off any more of those blasted firecrackers." Molly's mother set a basket of clothes on the floor beside a table and began folding towels. "He threw one behind me, and I almost jumped out of my skin."

"You're in trouble now." Molly danced up to her father and kissed his cheek. "I wanna be loved by you, nobody else but you — Boop Boop A Doo!" She laughed gaily when he made an attempt to avoid a second kiss and ran up the stairs to the living quarters.

Roy McKenzie shook his head. It was good to have his girl home again. She brightened the place like an electric lightbulb.


* * *


Down the road, a hundred yards from the store, the driver stopped the big Oldsmobile and slipped the gearshift into neutral. The engine purred impatiently.

"Just sittin' there. Ripe for pickin', ain't it?" The man removed his hat, swabbed his face with a handkerchief, and glanced at the man who lounged beside him holding the butt end of a cigar between his teeth. "I could use a orange soda pop right about now." Didn't the bastard ever sweat? He looks cool as a cucumber while I'm sweating like a nigger at an election.

Eyes, so light blue that they appeared to be colorless and as cold as chunks of ice, turned to the driver. The man spoke with the cigar butt clenched between his teeth.

"What ya waitin' for? Get on down there before we'll use up what gas we got left just sittin' here." He took the butt from his mouth and held it between his thumb and forefinger as he leaned forward to scrutinize the building they were approaching.

The store was typical of many scattered over the Kansas plains. Painted above the slanting roof on the porch that stretched across the front of the two-storied frame building was a sign: McKENZIE GENERAL STORE. And in smaller letters beneath it: GROCERIES-FEED-GAS.

On each side of the lone Phillips 66 gasoline pump, posts were sunk into the ground to protect it from careless drivers. Tin signs advertising everything from Garrett's snuff to P soap were tacked to the front of the store. On the screen door a big white sign outlined in red advertised NeHi SODA POP. A few shade trees were scattered to the side and behind the building. All was still except for the snap of the clothes that fluttered gently from a clothesline situated to catch the southern breeze and the buzz of the bees hovering around a clump of honeysuckle bushes.

The cold eyes took in everything about the place. When the car stopped beside the tall gas pump in front of the store, the man stepped out and looked back through the cloud of dust that hung over the long flat road. He saw no sign of another car approaching. He dropped the butt of his cigar on the ground and smashed it into the dirt with the sole of his highly polished shoe.

"Need gas?" The words followed the slamming of the screen door.

A plump man with sparse gray hair and a white apron tied about his waist waited at the top of the steps.

"Yeah."

Roy McKenzie came down the dirt drive to the gas pump. Its glass cylinder, marked like a beaker to measure gas, seemed empty; but Roy pumped the lever, and gas poured in.

"How much?" he asked, pulling the handle back and forth.

"Fill it."

"These big cars have a way of eatin' gas." Roy unscrewed the cap and let the gas run down the hose and into the car tank. "I 'spect it's pretty hot travelin'. 'Fraid it's goin' to be a scorchin' summer."

As he waited for the tank to fill, Roy glanced into the back window of the car. On the backseat the muzzle of a shotgun protruded from under a blanket. His eyes shifted to the men. They stood at the front of the car watching him. City men. A fast car. A shotgun. Apprehension rose in him as he waited for the tank to fill.

The pump registered seventeen gallons when the storekeeper hung the hose back on the pump and put the cap back on the tank.

"That'll be three dollars and six cents. Gas goin' up every day. I'm still holdin' at eighteen cents."

"Got any cold soda pop?"

"Sure do. Iceman was here yesterday."

Roy's feeling of apprehension escalated. The hair seemed to stand on the back of his neck as the two men followed him out of the bright sunshine and into the store. His eyes met those of his wife in the back of the store where she was folding the clothes she had brought in from the line.

"I've got orange, grape, and strawberry."

"Orange."

Wishing the men would leave, wishing his wife would go upstairs to their daughter, Roy took a bottle of pop from the chest cooler and wiped the water off it with a cloth.

"That adds another nickel to your bill."

"Got any SenSen?"

"How many?" The storekeeper moved down the counter and took a cardboard box filled with small paper packets from a shelf.

"The whole box."

"The... whole—" The bullet that cut off his words went through his chest and into a can of peaches on the shelf behind him. He was flung back, knocking over tins of baking powder before he sank to the floor.

"Take care of her." The cold-eyed man jerked his head toward Mrs. McKenzie, who stood frozen in horror, her hand over her mouth.

"Ya... know I ain't got no stomach for killin' women."

"Do it, goddammit, 'less ya want the Feds down on ya. She got a good look at your ugly face." The gunman jerked open the cash drawer and pulled out a few dollar bills. "Shit! Not enough here to mess with." He lifted the change tray and found a stack of tens and twenties. "That's more like it, but still chicken feed."

The sound of the shot that killed the woman filled the store. The man stuffing the bills into his pocket didn't even look up. He took the box of SenSen and headed for the door.

"Come on. We got business in KC."

"I'm goin' to get me a couple bottles of sody pop."

Keeping his distance from the dead storekeeper and his wife, the man hunched his rounded shoulders, gathered several bottles of pop from the cooler, and hurried out of the store. His companion glared at him with cold eyes over the top of the car.

"You're as bad as a goddamn kid 'bout that soda pop."


* * *


In the living quarters upstairs, Molly McKenzie was making the bed with fresh sheets she had brought in off the line. She smiled and shook her head when she heard the loud pops. Her daddy was teasing her mother with the firecrackers again. He was just like a kid about the Fourth of July. The shipment of fireworks had come in that morning, and he had to try them out.

A minute or two later when she heard the screen door slam, Molly went through the rooms to the front, pulled back the lace panel, and looked out the window. Two men in white shirts and brown felt hats were getting into a big black car. One looked across the top of the car toward the store. His face was swarthy, his lips thick.

"You're as bad as a goddamn kid 'bout that soda pop. Let's get the hell outta here." His voice was thin and reedy for such a large man.

The driver of the car folded his long lanky body under the wheel, started the motor, and revved the engine. The wheels skidded, stirring a cloud of dust as the car pulled out of the drive and took off down the road at high speed. Molly let the curtain drop. She hadn't heard a car pull in. Had it arrived while she was listening to Ma Perkins?

Roy McKenzie enjoyed meeting strangers who came from the road as well as his regular customers. Over the past sixty-five years almost everyone within a hundred miles had come to the store her great-grandfather had opened back in the 1880s, and those who hadn't come knew about it.

Roy was fond of saying everyone had to eat, and as long as there were people, he would have customers. Times were hard. The dust storms had taken a toll on the wheat farmers, but if they had eggs or butter to trade, he would supply them with flour and sugar.

Molly had spent a year and a half in Wichita at business school, learning typing and shorthand so that she could get a job as a secretary. After the course, she had wanted to come home for a while before looking for the job she was sure she would hate. Her parents had insisted that she get out, spread her wings, as they had put it, see some of the world other than Seward County. She had lived here all her life. In fact, she had been born in the bed she had just made. She loved the smell of the store, the excitement of new goods, the involvement in the small community.

It was grand to be home!

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