Ain’t nothing sweeter than the forbidden. Her name is Buttercup. And he’ll kill them all before he’ll let her go…

It is the 1930s, the era of Al Capone, John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Ma Barker, and Bonnie and Clyde. When gangsters, bootleggers, bank robbers and racketeers ruled the night and the law. Amongst them, a young bank outlaw is blazing his way to infamy. He’s known as Silvio ‘Bloodshot’ Garelli. Bitter over the untimely death of his childhood friend and his wrongful incarceration, Silvio is a man who lives by his own rules and the gun. Silvio’s chance encounter with a colored hooch dancer at a carnival haunts him with painful memories of love lost.

Her name is Buttercup. Born and raised in a dustbowl carnival by a midget named Tiny and a fading beauty ex-Vaudeville dancer, she’s got a secret. Fate intervenes. Silvio and his band of brothers stumble upon a rural country town–and Buttercup’s carnival. She fears he wants revenge for all he’s lost due to their brief love affair. But what he wants will ignite passions, and fury, beyond either of their imaginings. And when the gun smoke settles, so does the matter of love between them.

Publisher Warning: Explicit Sex, Strong Language, Racism, Mild Violence.

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Read an Excerpt

Carnie Brogue

Scratch – money

Rousty or Roustabouts – A temporary or full-time laborer who helps pitchconcessions and assembles rides. In the 1930s, American roustabouts would work for a meal and perhaps a tent to share with other workers.


  • ace ($1)
  • deuce ($2)
  • fin ($5)
  • sawbuck/saw ($10)
  • double ($20)
  • half-yard ($50)
  • yard or c-note ($100)
  • rod or d-note ($500)
  • large or k-note ($1000)

Carny or Carnie – Carnival worker

Townie – General public

Bone yard – Place at which employees stay when not working.

Patch-money – Money used to induce police officers to turn a blind eye. Also
known as juice or ice.

Lot Lizard – Describes a carny (usually female) who has multiple sexual partners (also carnies) or one who tends to “sleep-around” or cheat with other carnies onthe lot.

Mark – Townie marked for the con.

Nut – The sum total (in cash) of a performance, or group of performances. Thenut (or kernel) is also sometimes used to refer to the basic operating expense ofthe joint (including the “patch”). To “make your nut” is to break even, anythingbeyond that is profit (or tip).

Greenies – Hired help

Donniker – Outhouse

Genny – (pronounced “jenny”) – A huge generator that powers some or all of the midway


“Miss me?”

Silvio sat up in his rickety tent chair. Her voice beckoned. Like the opening of a song, those two words, ‘miss me’, rose softly above the drumbeat of his pounding heart.

The warm fragrance of sweet kettle corn and roasted apples blew in from the midway through the loosened flap at the front of the tent. Carnies taunted townies to test their luck, get their fortunes read, or become one of the chosen few to bear witness to the never seen before oddities of man. However, here under the cover of a patchwork carnival tent, it was just Buttercup and him—alone. Silvio swallowed. His nerves, a ball of conflicting emotions, had lodged in his throat as he stared on, riveted. He had found her. Beyond a stage curtain made from tattered wash-worn sheets strung up by fishing wire, she called for him, seduced him, damned him.

Buttercup drew closer, her shapely hips swaying in a wondrous slow motion with each step. She worked the momentum, causing the adornments that circled her small waist in a low-slung belt, to sing with soft chimes. Silvio knew she wore nothing else beneath her garment. She never did.

She was as he remembered.

Buttercup possessed an untamed wildness to her beauty. The thin shroud of cover between them could do little to conceal it. She drew closer. With the lights of the carnival outside the tent as her backdrop, her dark silhouette approached with the grace of an African Goddess. He wiped his hand down his face. There was only so much he could withstand.

Silvio’s arousal almost reached its peak when she began her tease. Her movements suggested the cupping of her breasts and the squeeze and pinch of oversized nipples he once remembered sucking to hard nubs. All the while, she allowed her hips to roll in sweet provocative circles. It was beginning. With a sharp intake of the sweltering air of the tent’s confinement, Silvio narrowed his focus on her shapely form and acknowledged the hard punch of lust to the center of his chest. She released one pert nipple to run her hand down her midriff and then lower. He was certain that she was now pleasuring herself.

As the urges he resisted churned in his gut, Buttercup began to dance. A gyration of hip thrusts that worked up a frenzied tribal shake. Her arms flew up with palms pressed together and raised above her head. The belt of bells and possible feathers rang a melody that went through him. Silvio yearned in his core to possess her and to rediscover all the pleasures he once felt with her. Tortured, quick, impatient gasps of deep breaths escaped him. He shifted in the chair, and it creaked on its weather worn legs. He laid a hand to his groin, applying pressure. Under the dark shadowed solitude amongst empty tent chairs, he rubbed out the swelling.

Damn the curtain. Damn them all for keeping her from me for so long, he thought. Six fucking years is far too long to be without her, and it’s all this cursed carnival’s fault.

“Miss me?” her beguiling whisper asked once more.

Silvio’s throat torched from the inside. A heat wave of forbidden desire boiled the blood in his veins, and his passion for her bulked between his legs. He rasped out a barely audible reply. It came out in stuttered expletives. The touching of himself helped, but this deliverance was short lived. The ache moved through him, settling in his heart. Buttercup would show no mercy. Denying him the pleasure of the visual, she wound her heart shaped ass in another frenzied shake. This he could only perceive behind the cover of the rag-tag stage curtain. But perception was everything. Silvio shuddered. His lids fluttered and then closed. The friction of his britches brushing against his neglected cock sent another spasm of wanton lust through him. He relished his undoing as ribbons of pleasure, threaded with hot searing lust, pumped blood through his shaft. Buttercup proceeded with finesse and wicked skill to seduce him further through her dance. Silvio’s chest seized with tightness. The wild beating felt as if his heart would punch a hole through his ribcage. He was cold and hot, all at the same time.

Buttercup spun in a half circle. Wringing her hips, she dropped and then came up with a fierce roll of her rump. Silvio licked his dry lips, which parted a fraction to allow in a much-needed breath. He miserably neared his end. Then Buttercup stopped.

Silvio exhaled, keeping his eyes shut. Sweat beads dotted his furrowed brow. And despite his efforts, a lonely suppressed tear escaped the inlet of his eye and trailed down the outer contour of his nose. He dropped his head back on the top rung of the chair, slumping further down. Yes, he suffered, and it was all because of her.

She waited.

He was grateful for the short reprieve. He willed himself to look upon her again. His pulse rate normalized and so did her dancing before it came to an end. No woman should be able to exude such control. Buttercup did. She posed behind the thin sheath with her back to him, arms crossed over her enticing chest. Her head gave a slow turn, and she peeked at him from over the curve of her left shoulder. The lift of her chin spoke to the awareness she foolishly thought remained concealed. He knew she was smart. Despite her color, and lot in life, she was damn smart. He’d be a fool to forget that fact.

“You’ve bewitched me,” Silvio stammered, so enamored with her that he could barely speak.

“Show me. Be a bad boy for me, Silvio ‘Blood-shot’ Garelli, a bad, bad, boy.”

Silvio eased down the tab to his zipper. He reached in and brought his coiled length out in his hand. Holding his shaft at the base, he tightened his grip and relieved the pressure of his curved erection. She was making him do it. Had to be. He was helpless under her command. To be hers again was his sole focus as he worked his hand up and down his length, slow and easy at first. Under the watchful eye of her shadow, nothing stirred. Even the sounds of the Carnies hurrying up and down the midway of the rag-tag carnival were muted. Silvio closed his eyes once more. He imagined her mouth descending with wet heat and her full lips grazing each inch as she swallowed him all the way to the back of her throat, then deeper. He pumped his man meat, drowning in flashes of her riding him, his sweet beautiful Buttercup bouncing on his lap and clenching her silken vaginal walls with each descent. In his fantasy, she rode his cock until the reserved breath he held seeped from his lungs. No, he couldn’t see her, but she was doing him all right. Her penetrating stare was giving off silent commands: if you want it then show me. Show me, show me…

The curtain separated them, but he knew his Buttercup. He had sampled her nectar; it had damned him for sure.

This he did for her and for him.

Jerking his dick in quick upward tugs, he relished the wicked downpour of sin pooling in his chest and cooling his feverish restraint for a release. And in his mind, there she remained. Firmly seated upon his lap with every inch of him inside of her, she opened for more. Long dark legs draped over his shoulder and the side of the tent chair as she whispered her desires to please him in his ear. Silvio inhaled a staggered breath. With clenched teeth, he squeezed hard on his dick, stalling his pleasure in search of the pinnacle release. He huffed through flared nostrils and wheezed out of quivering lips. It was nearly too late. Not yet, he told himself. Not yet! He had waited too long to lose control now. Silvio had plans. Plans that began with his body on hers, his cock tunneling deep between her butter soft dark thighs—while she begged for mercy. It was a plan that ended with Buttercup leaving this carnival with him, being his, no matter what the law said against their union.

With the same shaky hand, Silvio drew out a hanky from his pocket to clean himself. Then he readjusted his stiff unrepentant penis to the front of his trousers. Primal need pulsated through his groin and his balls ached with tension-clenching spasms that slammed through his gut. He endured. Buttercup had more in store for him than this tease. He would wait. It didn’t matter how insufferable the wait would be.

“If’in you do, miss me that is, you have to say it, Sil. Those is the rules between you and me. Those is my rules,” said Buttercup.

“Stop your games, doll. You know I do. Why else would I return here after all this time?”

“Why indeed? Why you come here, Sil, to your own peril, is a mystery to me. Care to say the truth?”

“What do you know of truth?” Silvio snapped. “You condemned me when you chose a lie over the truth.”

“I condemned us both, don’t you’ know? I condemned us to your dreams, to these false moments where we is free. I’m sorry for that, sugah, but you and I don’t exist. You know that, don’t you?”

There was an explosion of drunken laughter behind him. His head turned, eyes seeking the unknown, fearing carnies with sticks and knives coming for him. Instead he saw two Joe’s walking just outside the opening of the tent. Silvio relaxed. It was to be expected that his private show could soon be raided. No red-blooded man should pass on Buttercup’s hoochie-coochie performance. Still they strolled on, unaware.

Buttercup chuckled.

His head snapped around. Was she reading his thoughts?

A delicate whimsical tune went through him. Buttercup hummed through a sweet melody. It was a sensual stroke to his bruised pride before she shook her feather-covered ass at him once more. She giggled again with girlish glee. She was in no hurry, but Silvio was. Time was short. The mean giant of an Indian they called Lone Wolf guarded her from the white boy townies thinking she owed them more for their money. He was nearby. If Silvio got caught, he’d lose his scalp and his hide. The carnies lived by their own rules, and the number one rule was no one touched Buttercup. He broke it once; tonight he’d break it again. So would Buttercup.

“Miss me?” she asked in a soft pained voice, as if his inability to respond was her torture. Try living in a jail cell for four solid years with lungs full of dirt and grime from busting rocks. Try wishing for a do-over, for a chance to save Jelly’s life, to claim her as his, and be his own man. She had no idea what torture was or why that one night in her young arms so many years ago got him through it.

“Sil…I waitin’ to hear you say it. Do you miss me?”

“I miss you,” said Silvio.

“Aw, sugah, of course you do.” Buttercup cooed.

Slender hands slipped through the part in the curtain drawing them open. Buttercup’s emergence siphoned the air from the tented room. Seeing her again was a surge to his being, to his manhood. He swallowed the sweet air she brought. His eyes absorbed the simplest of detail. Her skin. He loved her skin. It was flawless, pecan brown brushed bronze under the dim lights. She glistened as if she bathed in the sun. Her face. How many nights had he seen that face in his dreams? Too many to count. A heart shaped face with large round brown eyes, high cheekbones and a delicate yet wide nose. Her face was framed by a wealth of dark unruly hair, bushy like a lion’s mane. It sported a yellow flower, pinned one side up, with its stem tucked in the mass of curls. She smiled, and those full sensuous lips of hers spread to reveal even teeth. Most carnies were missing a few.

Buttercup crossed the short distance from the curtain to the edge of the stage on her toes. Amusement shone like dark diamonds in her eyes. When Silvio shifted forward in his seat, she winked and acknowledged the erection bulking between his legs. Silvio was right. She wore nothing except a belt of leather adorned with long black and white ostrich feathers cinched to her shapely hips. She shook those curves of hers and bells chimed. Music played with every step she made. Silvio’s eyes lingered on her breasts. Being a mouthful, they were plump and medium in size. They bounced lightly when she moved, dark large areolas with hard nipples. Beauty like hers should never be covered. In fact, he was going to make it a rule once he stole her away from the carnival. No clothes. Ever.

Silvio rose. “Buttercup, Buttercup, Buttercup…doll. I should kill you for what-cha done to me.” He stopped before her, his hard gaze unmoved by the defiant one he met.

“Will you?” she asked. A hint of mockery tainted her concern.

Silvio traced the tip of his index finger along the vein that ran from her big toe to the center bone in her foot, barely visible beneath her flawless skin. Her feet were small, delicate, and soft with perfect toes. Did she walk on clouds everyday? His touch was purposefully slow, like his roving gaze. It climbed her toned legs, stopping at the nest of dark curls covering her sex. Such a sweet jewel lay hidden between the folds. Nothing in life tasted or felt sweeter than Buttercup. He’d tried to replace her. He tried them all. He had bedded the whore, the virgin, the widow, all in vain. He could never convince his heart that the passion they once shared was just in his head.

“It’s taken me a long time to find this carnival, to find you again. But like I told you,” he said lifting his stare, “I would.”

With unabashed curiosity, she blinked her thick lashes at him. The wide-eyed innocence shining through her soulful brown irises was nothing more than a smoke screen. The last time he’d been with her, it had nearly cost him his life. He was different now. It wouldn’t go down how it had then.

“You don’t fool me, Silvio. You came for me. You a crazy one to think ya’ could.” Buttercup lowered, right before him, balancing on her toes with knees bent. She put a hand to the scruff darkening his jaw. Silvio couldn’t help but admire the sweet promise between her parted thighs, imagining the taste and feel of her moist fragrant essence, now up-close and on display. He had a helluva imagination, thanks to her. His hand rubbed up her ankle and continued. He caressed the back of her sculpted body to her soft thigh. He longed for her touch; he turned his face into her hand and pressed a kiss into her delicate palm.

“If Tiny find you, he’ll pump you full of hot led,” she warned. “Lone Wolf find you, he’ll take your scalp while you still alive fer sure. If you still running, Silvio, why run here? They gon’ kill you.”

“Not if I get them all first.”

“That’s foolish talk. I ain’t worth it. Doncha’ hate me for what I done?”

Silvio’s eyes lifted up to hers. All his life, he was told he wasn’t worth a piss. This he could accept. But even he, a hooch runner turned outlaw, would confess that she was worth ten of him. He didn’t say so. Couldn’t find the words.

Somehow Buttercup knew, downplayed her value, and seduced unsuspecting men to do her bidding. He would need to be careful with sharing just how much love he had kept in the cold storage of his heart, next to his thirst for revenge.

Buttercup eased down on the stage, hands at her side. She crouched before him with her knees parted. Silvio moistened his lips. She sat. With a dancer’s grace, she lifted one leg, dropping it to his left shoulder. Hooking it around his neck, she drew him forward. He didn’t need the guide. Silvio knew what he wanted and where to find it. Buttercup sighed. She lowered to the dusty platform. Her lashes fluttered shut, and her nails clawed up sawdust over the wooden planks of the platform. She lay before him, exposed, ready, inviting. He could delay himself no longer. What should he taste first? The tip of his tongue eased from his parted lips for a sample. Her skin was warm, salty, and tangy with adrenaline spiked perspiration. Silvio ran a moist trail over the soft flesh between her inner thighs. Her feminine scent drew him by the nose, intoxicatingly rich and natural. He could bury his face in her sex for eternity.

Buttercup exhaled, lifting her hips to put the lips of her quim in his face—darker skin folded over a damp pink center. Silvio griped the ring of her belt-skirt and dragged her down an inch or two lower. He pushed to the backs of her raised thighs, driving them as far back as it would go. The feathers that tickled his nose and cheeks were a meaningless distraction. Ooh how sinful she was! He craved more. He seized the moment to show her how much, parting the lips of her vagina with both fingers to run his flatten tongue from her hole to her clitoris with a single lick. The ripple of her reaction came with a sudden shudder of her clenching buttocks. He made wicked forays with his tongue.

“Aaah…” his sweet Buttercup exhaled.

Silvio inhaled her. Buttercup was as sweet as the flower she was named for and as addictive as he remembered. He was gone now. He deep kissed her below her pretty curly mound. He continued to lick and suck until she thrashed and whimpered. Her feminine wiles were like a jolt of electricity through him, driving him onward.
She was his. She gave herself up to the sizzling delights with the bucking of her hips. She was his. Silvio had to press his palm flat to her pelvis to keep her down. His lips and tongue drowned in her essence. Buttercup aided the best she could. She gripped the tops of her knees to keep her thighs parted.

“Ooh Siiiiiilllll,” she choked out in a sob. He felt her convulse with tremors from another pending climax. He made love to her with his tongue and sucked her engorged bud, thrilling himself as well as her. The juicy morsel quivered and swelled in his mouth. She cried out through her release. An instant before his brain dissolved into mists of pure passion, a thought surfaced: what if they were caught? He was most vulnerable there. It was too risky. The Indian, the Carnie boys, the coppers chasing him, and his gang could run in at any moment. He licked her once more and dragged himself away, savoring the taste of her on his lips.

Buttercup’s bottom lip quivered like her core. She looked up at him through the shadow of her long lashes. “Whatcha go and stop for?” she weakly groaned. Her head lifted from the stage. Her breasts jiggled, covered in a slick sheen of sweat. Each perky mound glistened as if sprinkled with stardust. He touched his cock again in his pants, battling the urge to take her there on the spot. The prolonged pause lengthened between them. He tried hard to decide on what next. Her lithe lush body was still shuddering in the aftermath of her climax.

She waited, pleading with her eyes for more. Silvio broke. He swept her up into his arms. He climbed the short steps of the stage and went through the part in the curtain from whence she came. Buttercup nuzzled her face in the nook between his neck and shoulder. Behind the curtain to the back of the show tent was a small changing place. She moaned sweetly in his ear, holding on to him. He soon spotted it. A cot awaited the hooch dancers after their show. If he ever caught her pinned down on it with another man, giving up what was rightfully his, there’d be hell to pay. But what had she done in the six years he was gone? He forced the doubt of her faithfulness away. She was his. Only his.

Silvio repressed the knowledge of the changes his mind secretly catalogued. Buttercup was different than in the past, but she was a girl of barely seventeen and he was a kid himself. He paid it no mind. They both had changed. His mind was on one thing. Reclaiming what was taken from him prematurely. Silvio gently placed her on top of the unsophisticatedly fashioned mattress. She stretched her arms above her head and shook her hips at him. The jingles and fluffing of the feathers were wildly stimulating. Silvio smiled. No words passed between them.

Silvio fingers nervously fidgeted with the ties to the belt of her exotic skirt. He tugged it from under her and then tossed it aside. She was nude, complacent, but her smoldering gaze wasn’t. The first time he saw her she gave him that look. Like kerosene oil on a raging inferno, her beauty incinerated his sensibility. Not so tonight. Tonight he knew and would do everything as planned. Silvio yanked down his suspenders and undid the front of his pants to get on her quick. His hurried actions left her giggling, but when he rubbed his erection down in her delta, parted her legs, and shot his cock through her tight hole in a single thrust, her body shuddered in surprised delight.

It had been many years. She would remember him. She would remember everything just as he did on the dirty roach infested floor of his jail cell waiting for freedom to come. This freedom. The freedom that would finally break the stifling hold this torturous desire for Buttercup held him in once and for all.

Silvio bit into her bottom lip, which quickly became pliant. Where tight resistance greeted him, so did heat, a wet heat that eased his glide deeper through her channel. Buttercup gripped his arms, accommodating each inch of him, allowing him to plunge and go deeper. The expansions and contractions left them both gasping and grunting. Overcome with raw need, he broke.

Uncontrollably, he began pumping at her moist pussy, madly slipping in and out, power-drilling his urgency for her submission. Buttercup purred in response. Madness. She enticed his tongue into her mouth and squeezed both halves of his butt, throwing her hips up to receive him, strike after strike. Oh, he was going to fuck her good.

The humid cramped quarters, combined with the combustible heat from their joined writhing bodies, had the air in the tent sweltering. Silvio could not be stopped. He would not be stopped. He threw his head back, taking down a deep gulp of air, once his cock became sheathed in the most unbelievably delicious warmth. He found her body taut, thrumming for more no matter the demands he put on her. Silvio slowed his eager pace to something they both could savor. But her body, moving beneath him so tender and soft, made it all for naught. Again, he ravaged her, pounding inch by inch into her tightness. The press of her nipples, as he pinned her beneath him, gave way to nice swirls against his sweaty chest. When the kiss broke, so did his will. She empowered him with her feeble struggles and made him mad with her light giggles against his mouth.

The physical completion of their joining rendered him mindless. His growls of pleasure rumbled deep in his chest. The passion was too extreme—nirvana. There would be none. He looked down on her, his hips now rotating and his dick tunneling deeper. He gazed upon her in disbelief. How is it that he, a man of such raw toughness, would desire such a forbidden flower? He tried to weather the brain fever when her bottom maneuvers reduced his thrusts to quick jerky pumps. He couldn’t. His brain felt like it boiled in his skull. The air in his lungs became too thick to release. She was killing him with rapture—sheer passion beyond his understanding.

Killing him!

“Buttercup,” Silvio whispered. He forced his focus to return to her face. He thrilled over the gambit of emotions playing over her pretty features as he throttled her sex into submission. Her lashes drifted down to perfect arcs against her cheeks. Her nostrils flared, then relaxed from her sweet pants. It only encouraged him to pump harder and faster. He gave her cock bangs that had his balls slapping her lower half.

“Ugh!” he grunted, dropping on her but going the distance. He continued his hard and fast onslaught. His face, buried in her wild tresses, muffled his pants of pleasure. He came apart, going and going, faster and faster and faster. Chest to chest, he bore down on her. The tribal beat of her heart matched his own. He could feel the muscles in the back of her legs weaken. One, dropped over his shoulder in uncontrollable shakes. The other fell at an awkward angle as she neared her exhaustive end. Nothing this glorious should ever be denied him.

“Butttteeeeerrrccuuup!” he wheezed. Moving in and out of her sweet, honeyed flesh, he abandoned his bitter self, his regretful self, his disbelieving self, and gave in…clenching every muscle in his ass and curling his toes. Silvio cried out during his release…

Chapter One

1938 Indiana (Present) – A Gangster’s Moll

Silvio jumped. The pistol dropped between his parted knees. The car jostled over a rocky patch of road then leveled off. He pushed up on the front of his fedora, knocking the felt brim higher on his brow. “Fuck… holy fuck!” he coughed. Eyes darting around, he sucked in three deep cool breaths. He wasn’t breathing. His mind was such a fog, and his lungs were so tight that he’d forgotten how.

“You okay, boss?” Manny asked, shooting rod straight in the driver’s seat with hands tight to the steering wheel. He usually drove slumped down behind the wheel. The young hoodlum’s face was flushed with alarm. Silvio didn’t speak. Not yet. His dick, stiff between his legs, spoke for him. No, I’m not okay. After a dream like that, how could I be? He winced, shifting, adjusting his sack. He was grateful the darkness of the country road concealed his actions. He reached for the floorboard and retrieved his gun. I need to get it together. Don’t need the boy’s anxious. It was only a dream. A dream like all the others, ‘cept this time I’ll have my reality.

“Who’s Buttercup, boss?” Manny pressed.


Manny silenced.

Silvio’s shoulders slumped. He eased back down in the seat. Road weary, the three men in his gang travelled in silence. This night was different. A shiver of anticipation gripped his gut and twisted it like a pretzel. Eventually, the burn for his Buttercup eased. It always did, eventually. But damn it, his dreams had never been that… real. She must be close.

“How goes it back there, Touchy?” Silvio mumbled, desperate for a distraction. A car chase would be nice right about now. He could go for blasting his frustration at those trigger-happy coppers that always wanted his freedom from state to state.

“Clear, boss,” Red answered for Touchy, his backseat companion.

Silvio’s gaze shifted to the rear mirror on the Packard. Touchy cast a steely look. Red had the annoying habit of speaking for everyone. Touchy didn’t take well to those liberties though. He found conspiracies in every unsolicited action, no matter the intent, when leveled his way. But thankfully, he wasn’t in one of his moods. Silvio had no patience for a backseat fistfight tonight.

He kept watching.

Touchy fingered the groove along the trigger of his shotgun. The grip rested between his legs, pressed hard into his crotch. Red shrugged off the glare. He put his hat over his face, dropped his head back and shifted down into the cool darkness of the backseat. “I say we make a stop at Moncrieff. Get off the road before sunrise. I need to take a piss,” said Touchy.

They would definitely make a stop, thought Silvio. But it wouldn’t be Moncrieff. Silvio smirked, his eyes trained on the dirt road. Bold bright light-beams cut down the darkness from out of the front pods of a silver-blue Packard with white wall tires and bullet holes peppered along the rear. It powered an eight cylinder V-12 engine near 80 mph down Route 36. The men were barely seen behind the opaque dust covered windows. The Packard was barely heard as it coasted through the countryside, and that was the point. In fact, the ride would have been uneventful if it weren’t for the locusts.

Swarms fluttered in and out of the cornfields on starless nights. Nasty critters on blind suicide runs. They torpedoed the windshield, leaving blots of yellow-greenish slime, legs, and antennae smeared across the pane. Manny hit the wipers, to no avail. They just kept coming. The bugs couldn’t necessarily be blamed. They were seduced out of the fields by the glare of lights from back road travelers: bootleggers, racketeers, bank robbers and gangsters. The quad at one time or another had been all of that and more.

Night travel was best for the business of Silvio ‘Bloodshot’ Garelli. The press bestowed the name ‘Bloodshot’ upon him after a bank robbery in Mason County. It started and ended with a spray of bullets over the heads of terrified customers. The press reported that he carved his name with bullet spray into the safe to blast it open. Horseshit! Not a single person took a hit in all the fun, and still they labeled him a killer because some bank manager up and died from a bad ticker when it was all done. Silvio had never killed a man that didn’t have it coming. This infamy I’m saddled with is all complete horseshit. When asked of his outlaw fame from bank robbing by his crew or the men in their circles, Silvio made it pretty clear that no crime was committed. He needed money like the rest of the country during these bleak times. The banks claimed to be empty but they had plenty, and he wasn’t too keen on asking for it.

He’d come up empty a few times. His men were losing faith. But the last ride had been it. He and his boys had hit the mother lode. The job was ace. His crew was with him all the way to Mexico. In the backseat was Red Lafferty, a lean second generation Irishman with hair so red it appeared orange in the sun. Red had a sleepy eye, was missing a front tooth, and spit when he talked. That wasn’t all. Red was best known for an unnatural cruel streak when it came to the dames. Sure, they all had quick tempers and a history to justify it. But Red’s brutality toward the birds, brave enough to spend a little time with him, gave even Silvio pause, especially when he was liquored. Silvio had heard tales of Red’s mother being the cause. She was a prostitute who used to put her cigarettes out on Red’s arms and then force him to watch her when she serviced her clients. The rumor in the can was that Red killed her. He had heard from an even more reliable source that Red had witnessed the murder of his mother. Whatever the story, it was Red’s to tell. And in his gang, no one had to share a thing.

Next to Red running the gun, was Touchy—he earned his name in the can. A hard-boiled stick-up man who’d rather kill first and ask questions later. Touchy was the reason two jobs got messy quick. When the vault turned up empty, a cash teller took it in the face and a customer in the gut for just giving questioning looks over Touchy’s tantrum. Of course Silvio ‘Bloodshot’ Garelli got blamed for it. As a reward, they all had nooses fitted for their necks in over ten states.

At the wheel was always the same, Fat Jim’s little brother, Manny. Fat Jim was the only casualty of the gang. Manny rolled with them ever since. The Gimp is what they called him. Having a clubfoot, Manny was prone to scratching whenever he got nervous. He was an alright kid though. Manny would empty his pockets for any pair of legs promising to split and give him a good time. But he was far too shy to make a real connection. He reminded Silvio of Jelly, but that was a long time past.

Manny wasn’t useful for much except driving. He used to run firewater before the repeal of prohibition; something Silvio did in another lifetime as well. Racing cars was their blood until the hunt for money became its supplement. On a night like tonight, with coppers on their backs and the main roads blocked, there was only the bootlegger run to take them across the state lines.

“I said I need a piss!” Red grunted from under his hat.

“Keep a lid on it,” Manny shot back. “We can’t stop just yet. Right, boss?”

Silvio’s eyes darted to the night, the silent black void beyond the tangled branches of the forest trees and beyond them the open plains of farmland. Normally, a straight run in the night and then a hiding place at sunrise was in order. Capture might be waiting after each bend of the road. Not tonight. Plans had changed just for her. In another life, she would be his Moll, but in this one she was just his ghost. She cursed him with night-sweats and dreams. It had been six years since he laid eyes on her. He reached inside his coat pocket and removed the worn brown paper flyer. In the dark of the car, he studied the writing. It was a hand drawn carnival advertisement that promised food, games, girls, and fun times.

Silvio didn’t believe in fate. But even he had to marvel at the hand of destiny. After years of wondering and searching, a drifting wind blew his second chance under his boot heel just as he stepped in front of the Wells Fargo Bank’s doors. Curious, he knelt to retrieve it from the sidewalk. The carnival boasted wonders never seen, such as the bearded lady, elephant boy, snake charmer, and twins with one body. A Ferris wheel and trapeze act were the main draw. But at the very top corner was a featured spot for a hooch dancer, Buttercup.

“Gimp, take Danberry lane. We’re making a stop,” Silvio said, crumbling the flyer in his gloved fist.

“Stop? Out here? Why, boss? You said—”

“Because I need to take a piss, kid. Do as he said,” Red grumbled, stumping his foot in the backseat. Silvio didn’t bother to answer. He found her. He thought about this moment constantly before he broke the chain gang. His search always turned up nothing. Hunting for a colored woman in a travelling carnival was harder than he could have foreseen. Each time he came close, the carnival moved on.

Not tonight.

Tonight, he’d find her and no matter what they thought, she was not going to leave his side.