Also an extremely old piece, this is the opening of a short story entitled “The Fall of Johnson County.” I still suck at short stories (just for the record!)
That’s what had destroyed her grandfather’s dynasty when he had fallen blind and had to sell of the family farmland. It’s what led her other grandfather to be killed in the Korean War. Circumstances dictated that her mother would become a school teacher and her father an alcoholic that spent afternoons getting drunk with state senators, lawyers, bankers, sheriffs and a future governor. They caused her older sister to be a town outcast and her brother to be the only honest constable in the county.
But, most importantly, circumstances were what had brought Alana Hawkins into the bed of the most sought after criminal in the state.
“Do you want to come with me?” he asked as Alana turned from her peaceful view of the lake, its water glistening in the late summer sun.
“Me and the senator’s son?” she grimaced. “I haven’t seen him since my last birthday.”
“He seems to have taken a shining to you. It could be a good move for business.” Charlie O’Banion took her arm, pulling her gently from the white wicker rocker she had retired to on the porch and into the plush four story plantation style mansion he called home.
“Charlie, I told you. I promised to take my brother to lunch,” she murmured pulling away from him as she tugged on her coat.
“Good ole Constable Hawkins, only untouchable in the state,” he laughed. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then? We’ve got a date at the Sheriff’s house for dinner.” Alana tilted her head so that he could kiss her cheek. “I look forward to tomorrow,” he whispered, locking her into his embrace and kissing her passionately.
Trying to hide the churning in her stomach, Alana smiled and scooted out the door rather than reply. Pulling her auburn hair back in a high ponytail, she set out to meet her brother, leaving Charlie O’Banion’s lake front property for the farming communities a few miles north. Noticing a bruise on her arm as she turned the wheel, Alana reminded herself to pull on a jacket before entering her brother’s house. Charlie wasn’t a woman beater, but sex with him could sometimes get rough. Thinking of Charlie’s meeting today with Senator Lasker’s son; Alana couldn’t help but think she had a hell of a lot less to worry about than twenty year old Jeffrey would.
Jeffrey Lasker, son of the senator and husband of the county judge’s daughter, had been running errands for Charlie. Sometimes the errands were small—picking up drugs from suppliers, burning down the marijuana crop of a rival dealer, or accepting Charlie’s take from the local whorehouse—but yesterday, Jeff had made a mistake that Charlie was unable to forgive. Jeff was told to pick up an investor that wanted to open a new paper mill in the county and deliver him to the mayor’s office. Jeff’s vehicle broke down on the way and the investor flew back out an hour later, refusing to even see the mayor.
Alana’s phone had been ringing off the wall. The mayor called, the Governor called, all the senators called and even the sheriff’s department sought revenge by giving Alana a speeding ticket because she had failed to get Charlie to live up to his end of the bargain.
The bargain, of course, was letting the O’Banion clan run their illegal business in Johnson County so long as Charlie brought new legitimate businesses in to raise county revenue. He’d already brought in a new laundry, a new car dealership and a major brewing company was building a warehouse on the east end of town. The paper mill was to be the capstone, ensuring Charlie’s security for the next ten years. The venture had failed, though, and in Charlie’s eyes, there was only one person to blame.
“So, I assume he’s going after Jeff?” Alana’s brother greeted her at the front door of his small trailer house without further welcome.
“Looks that way.”
“Are we going to have to get a manhunt together to find the body or is he just going to drop the body in the lake like last time?”
She sank down onto the couch, avoiding his piercing gaze. “He’s not stupid. Jeff will just be in the hospital for awhile. Senator Lasker and Judge Harwood would have Charlie’s head if he killed Jeff.”
“The whole town’s so angry I’ll be surprised if they don’t string him up in the square on their own,” he murmured, checking his gun and shoving it into his holster.
Alana nodded absently pulling a handmade quilt over her legs and stretching out on the sofa. “Town mobs are your jurisdiction, not mine. Can I crash here for awhile?”
“Yeah,” he glanced at her quizzically but knew better than to think she’d share anything with him. “I’ve gotta get to the sheriff’s office. File some paperwork and all that.”
“You tell that no good Rollins kid I’m going to have his scrawny butt fired for giving me a speeding ticket.”
“You know why you got that ticket,” he chided. “I figure the sheriff’s already tore up Keith’s ticket book by now anyhow. I’m sure you in court isn’t something that would fair to well ‘round here.”
“Putting anyone in jail isn’t something people tolerate around here,” she countered. “Are you going to the sheriff’s dinner tomorrow night?”
“Working,” he called over his shoulder as he headed for the door. He turned back to face her. “If you need me to be there, I can stop by during rounds.”
Alana couldn’t help but smile…even when he was mad at her he was still her big brother. “Thanks, Ryan.”