Roger Talbot's life is defined by his devotion to public service. Having just successfully prosecuted a brutal murder case, Roger turns his attention to discovering the shady dealings of Niles Parker -- the town's former mayor, Roger's old boss and the father of the woman Roger almost married.
Pennye Carrington ran away from Port Delamar with plans never to return. However, learning that her brother had murdered a family member of a famous movie star changed those plans. Pennye comes back with the hope of bringing stability to a family in disarray, but facing the torment of her childhood may be more than she can handle.
Roger's mission to bring down Niles Parker and Pennye's desire to keep her brothers out of trouble create a middle ground, where two people who couldn't be further apart, embark on a danger-filled journey of discovery to find themselves and each other.
From The Good Fight
Pennye stared at the lights of Port Delamar that shown up ahead, and pondered what Roger had told her during the drive. He had reason to believe there was an illegal casino operating in town -- though he wouldn't say what those reasons were -- and the former mayor, Niles Parker, and that nice man from the restaurant, Lou Santoro, had met at this alleged casino during closing hours.
"It doesn't sound like much."
"Why are we going there?"
He squeezed her hand. "Our first night by the bay, you said that you noticed things that others missed because of your background."
He looked over and smiled. "I need a fresh set of eyes. Someone without prejudice toward Niles Parker, and who's also wise about the sort of people who go to these places."
Pennye shook her head. "I'm not wise about casinos." Gambling may very well have been the one sin she didn't have experience with.
"That's not what I'm referring to. The two tips that raised suspicion both involved heavy drinking. It may be that this establishment is only a bar, and my hope is if that's the case you'll recognize it, and I can rein in my imagination." Roger glanced at her again, his lips pressed together in worry. "I hope I haven't offended you by asking that you do this."
Had he? She'd blurted that her father was a drunk earlier in the night. Roger's reasons made sense.
She wasn't really sure how much help she'd be though. Her father usually drank in some dark, rat-infested hole-of-a-business. Hal's place was all right, but Pa only went there because of Lonny, and because he'd worn out his welcome at all of the rat-infested holes-of-businesses.
She'd spent a little time at bars before she ran away -- and after. There at the last, she'd had to claim Bo from one on a near-nightly basis.
Pennye shrugged. "I can have a look."
"It's up here on the left," Roger said. "I'll slow down and then make the block to drive around again. I just need to know if the customers look... normal. You have a knack for picking out people who don't belong."
Pennye tucked her chin, and Roger laughed.
"There. Enrique's." He pointed to the sign.
Pennye ducked her head to look out the window. The curvy silhouette of a busty woman, showing lots of cleavage while serving drinks, was outlined in pink neon lights. Green lights were used to outline the backs of the heads of three gentlemen customers, and puffs of smoke from their cigars were traced in white.
"Gentlemen's Club," she read aloud.
"Please don't think I'm suggesting you've been to such places. I'm not. I just want to know your opinion on what you see."
Pennye shrugged. She'd pulled Bo out of a few of these places, too, so she had some experience.
Roger slowed the car, and they made their first pass. A couple stood by the front entrance. The woman wore a shimmery, red satin dress -- form-fitting and classy. The man was dressed in a suit. A second couple rounded the corner of the building, waved at the first couple, and then walked toward them. They appeared to be out on dates, which seemed odd since this was a gentlemen's club. Pennye sat up tall, and squinted to grab a glimpse through the narrow entrance into the parking lot behind the club. Sure were a lot of cars.
"Turn around and come back the other direction, so I can see out my window."
Roger pulled into a gas station and turned the car around. He slowed again, not so much as to be obvious, but enough so she could get a longer look.
Another man and woman rounded the corner to the front entrance. This woman wore a halter-style dress, in either black or dark blue. Her hair was upswept in a neatly twisted coif -- not an ideal choice for a working girl, if that's what she was. Difficult to maintain throughout the night.
If the women Pennye had seen were all hookers, they already had johns, so shouldn't they be headed for the motel and not into the club? Unless they were going back inside to find new clients, and the men with them weren't johns, but security, there to escort them back. None were very intimidating, but looks could be deceiving.
She wished Lonny was here to ask. He never went into much detail about his job in security and all that it entailed, but little things he said made her suspicious. Not that she cared. He was right about doing what it took to survive, and he was out of all of that now anyway.
"A lot of women around for a gentleman's club," Pennye said.
"My thoughts, too." Roger raised his brow. "Prostitutes?"
"If so, they're not the cheap kind." Pennye had seen enough of them to know the difference. Pa had a few favorites he brought home to spend the night on occasion. Like Jess, who was actually really nice, but in her black slip and stockings with holes, she didn't look at all like these ladies at the club. They were dressed for a fun night out -- like a party. Pennye looked down at her own dress. She was a tad overdone compared to the girls walking into the club, but she was dressed for a night out, too.
She grabbed Roger's arm. "Make the block and come around the back." This was getting exciting.
The building obstructed her view until they turned the corner and came up the other side. A row of oleanders shaded the area, and did a pretty good job. She could barely see between them.
"Stop." Pennye looked behind them. "Back up and pull off into the grass."
"Why?" Roger's brow furrowed.
"You want my opinion, right?"
"Yes, but you're not going in there."
Pennye opened the car door.
"It's okay. I know what I'm doing."
"I'll be right back." She stepped out and tiptoed to the oleanders.
"Pennye!" Roger called. He'd gotten out of the car and was walking toward her.
She reached in, parted the oleanders and stepped through, pausing to pull the rest of her dress along with her. Not the best fashion choice for squeezing between green, leafy things. She heard a couple of snags pop and cringed. Oh well, she probably wouldn’t have another occasion to wear it anyway.
"Pennye," Roger said through what sounded like gritted teeth from the other side of the oleander.
"Go back to the car," Pennye whispered. "You can't be seen here."
"I'm not letting--"
She started her stroll across the parking lot. Pausing to pick a leaf from her skirt, and quickly checked her hair for more. She smiled at a couple as they walked past her. They smiled back and continued in conversation, mixed with casual laughter. Pennye glanced over her shoulder. The woman wore a red satin dress, and Pennye was fairly certain she was the same woman she'd seen go inside the club ten minutes earlier. While the man fumbled with a key to unlock the door, the woman sat on the lid of a black trash can next to the motel room door, took off her shoe and shook it, before putting it back on.
Pennye tried to take herself out of the situation. If Roger hadn't told her something illegal might be going on here, would that have caught her eye? A nice looking couple who appeared to know each other, coming from a gentlemen's club to a motel? It was the same man the woman had gone in with, so he probably wasn't a john. Could he be security taking her to and from johns? Might they be a couple staying at the motel? Maybe they left something in their room and that's why they hadn't stayed inside the club. But why had they gone there to begin with?
She glanced at the back of the club as she continued across the lot. Perhaps Saturday nights were open for couples. That made sense.
Another couple, a little older looking than the one she'd just passed, exited from the back and walked in the direction of the motel office. The clerk met them at the window. They exchanged words, laughed, and he handed them a key. They turned to go to their room at the other end of the complex. The man pulled the woman along in a half skip like they couldn't get to the room fast enough. What were they serving inside that club?
If she wanted real answers, she should go in and look around. Except she had a feeling that Roger hadn't gone back to the car, and was still standing on the other side of the oleander bush, watching. She wouldn't put it past him to dart out from nowhere in a rush to stop her, and if someone saw him it might ruin his investigation.
She'd try and learn what she could about this motel. It seemed to be where the action was. Now, how best to do that?
Pennye walked up to the clerk and smiled.
He smiled back, and his gaze roamed over her. "Hello. Having a good time tonight?"
"As a matter-of-fact, I am." Pennye licked her lips. "I need a room."
The clerk cocked one brow and he looked out past her into the parking lot. "For one?"
"For two. My husband's still inside the club, but he'll be out shortly and pay you." She'd get the key and after a quick peek around, she and Roger could split before the clerk came looking for his money.
The clerk's gaze drifted to her hand. Pennye fidgeted to hide her bare ring finger, but the clerk's widened smile told her she was too late. "He shouldn't be having fun in there when the entertainment's out here." The young man's gaze trailed over her again, and Pennye wanted to smack the sleazy grin right off his face.
"Name please," the clerk said as he started to reach for a key.
Name. Oh boy... She couldn't leave her real name. Oh wait! Yes she could. "Janice Boyle."
The clerk's arm dropped as did his smile. He stepped up to the window and flipped a few pages in the registry, too quick to actually be reading them. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Boyle. It seems we're completely booked."
"Booked?" Pennye pointed behind him to the room keys hanging from the board. "But you were about to give--"
"Spares. Those are all spares."
"You're sure. Because we'll take anything you have open."
"No..." He did another fake page flip. "There's nothing available." He closed the registry book and smiled. "May I suggest The Motor Club. They're only a few miles up the street. They usually have openings, and their rates are very reasonable. You and your..." he raised his brow, "husband, should be comfortable there."
"I see." Pennye didn't know much about the motel business, but this definitely didn't seem normal. "Thank you very much."
Pennye turned to walk back across the parking lot. She glanced over her shoulder and saw that the clerk watched her. She'd told him that her husband was in the club, but if she walked that way Roger might come running from the bushes. The clerk didn't believe she was married anyway. Probably thought she was someone's mistress, trying to arrange a discreet rendezvous.
A man leaving the club whistled merrily as he walked past her toward the motel's office. Pennye wanted to see how he was treated. In case the clerk still watched her, she picked a car at random, and called out to the imaginary driver, "Ready to go!" Pennye walked around the front of the car, then went to the passenger side door and ducked down like she'd gotten in. She stayed low and crept to the back of the car to peek.
The man approached the window and spoke with the clerk for less than a minute before he had a key in hand.
"Spares, my eye," Pennye mumbled. She stayed low and crept back to the front end of the car to see where the man went. Low and behold, if he didn't go into the exact same room as the woman in red and her date had gone into -- the room next to the trash can.
Either something was going on inside that motel, or they rented out rooms by the square foot. She sighed and looked back at the oleander. Poor Roger, he had a real problem on his hands.