Happy Holidays everyone! I have a very special gift for you all, an exclusive never before seen deleted scene from Canary Club! A VERY abbreviated version of this made the final cut of the book, but I always thought this gave us a bit more insight into JD’s mind. I hope you enjoy this extended look at Benny and JD!
***Copyright 2017 Sherry Ficklin, All Rights Reserved***
It’s late when JD stumbles in, June hanging on his arm. He’s already blotto, judging by the sway in his step and the slight slur in his words as he approaches where I stand, leaning against the bar.
He points a finger at me, closing one eye. “We need to have a talk.”
I motion for him to join me in the back, hoping to at least keep whatever beating he’s about to deliver from the prying eyes of the patrons.
Following him through the curtain, I tense, expecting the first blow to come fast and without explanation. But when he turns, I make no move to defend myself. I won’t raise a hand to him, Masie’s brother. That much I’ve already decided. I’ll take my licks if it will somehow soothe his rage.
To my surprise, there’s no punch, no angry words. He smoothes his hair with one hand and leans against the wall, as if the room has begun to spin and he needs the support.
“I want you to know I’m not angry with you, Benny,” he says, his words slurring slightly. “Well, I’m a little angry. But it’s not your fault, you see. This is just how he operates.”
I lean against the opposite wall, crossing my arms and ankles. “I wouldn’t blame you if you were. I never meant for this to happen.”
He nods, then, closing his eyes, takes a deep breath. “I know. Dutch has been trying to whip me into shape since long before you came into the picture.” He grins, opening one eye. “And without much success.”
When I say nothing, he continues. I’m not sure if it’s the booze talking or if he’s just in need of a friendly ear, but either way, I listen patiently.
“You’re not the first baby bird Dutch has taken under his wing. He does that ya see, he puts on this show of being a good guy, makes sure you trust him. Then he makes sure you need him, he throws around money and favors and positions. I used to think it was just a gas, a way for him to feel better about himself. But I don’t think that’s it at all.” JD shakes his head, then pats his vest until he finds and produces a small flask from one of the breast pockets and takes a swig. He offers it to me, which I refuse with a shake of the head, then returns it to the pocket. “He’s smart, my pops. He doesn’t have friends—part of being in this business I guess—he only has enemies and people too afraid to be his enemies. So, he does this dance, puts on a show, lures you in, and then before you know it, you’re in too deep to move. You’re stuck. And then he throws you a lifeline—at a price, of course.”
I scratch my chin, thinking of the fella Masie mentioned. “Is that what he did to Mad Dog?” I ask boldly.
JD’s grey eyes snap up from the floor as he nods. “Masie’s been flapping her gums I see.” He shrugs, “Doesn’t matter. Mad Dog is just one in a long line of people Dutch has manipulated. He started with us, though, with me and Masie. Guess we got boring after a while. I mean, how many times can you break someone before it loses its entertainment value?”
He snorts but my mind immediate goes back to Masie’s mother, of how completely and totally ruined she was. Is that what’s in store for Masie and JD? Bullets, knives, thugs–that I can handle, but how can I protect her from that? From her own father?
Leaning against the wall, unsure what to say, I just mutter, “My family isn’t perfect, but I can’t imagine.” Though even as I say it, I can’t help but think of all the times I’ve seen Masie cover up a bruise or hide the emotion from her voice. I knew she walked on eggshells—but I’d never suspected JD was doing the same. Never understood the extent, not really.
“Dutch has this idea about what we should be, Mas and me. And no matter what we do or how hard we try, we never quite live up to his expectations. Ah, it doesn’t bother me so much anymore; I’m used to being the family screw-up. I worry about Mas, though. She never wanted any of this, and I know she’s not happy here. This new club, it’s not about business—it’s only about keeping her here, making sure she can never leave.” He snorts, “The Canary Club, more like The Canary Cage.”
“I know she’s unhappy; I can see that. I just want to help,” I say, pushing off the wall and peeking out the curtain as she begins a new song. Her eyes flicker to me, a moment of concern crossing her face. I wave, just to let her know everything’s alright, and she looks away, returning to her performance.
“You’re a good fella, Benny. And I know you genuinely care about her.” He steps forward, shoving his hands into his trouser pickets, wobbling just a bit. “The best thing you can do for her is to stay close. Help her make the club into something she can at least live with, if not love. She’s been through enough.”
“Oh, and there’s one more thing,” he says before drawing one fist from his pocket and, with impossible speed, ramming it into the side of my face.
I slide along the wall, holding myself upright by sheer will. Another punch lands, this time on the other side of my face, and it knocks me back straight. The blood pools in my mouth but I can’t force myself to swallow so I spit it onto the floor at his feet.
“I thought you weren’t mad?” I demand, bracing for another blow.
He shrugs, “I’m not. But Dutch can’t know that. This little display was to rile me up, if he thinks it didn’t work, he’ll keep pushing until something does. Better he thinks we’re on the skids than make him get creative. And trust me, he can get very creative.”
I grunt, touching the side of my mouth gingerly. He managed not to split my lip, but there’s already a welt forming on my jaw.
“How am I supposed to explain this to my ma?” I ask more to myself than him.
He grins, “Tell her it was for your own good. Medicinal, like leeching.”
“Yeah, I’m sure she’ll buy that,” I offer with an eye roll.
We stand there for a minute as silence stretches out between us. A mutual understanding, maybe, or at least a silent, unsteady alliance. Finally, slowly, he begins unbuttoning his sleeve cuffs and rolling them up. For a moment I think he’s going to hit me again, but he doesn’t, he just points to the curtain, “We best be getting back.”
“One more thing,” I say finally. “About Mad Dog. You think he’d hurt Masie?”
JD lowers his chin, suddenly looking very sober. “In a minute, if she were standing between him and something he wanted. He’d kill her without blinking an eye, that’s what Dutch turned him into. It’s what he’d turn me into, if I let him. You gotta understand, Benny, there’s no real family in this life, no real loyalty. Remember that when you’re dealing with Dutch—or anyone else. You’re only of value as long as they need you, or as long as they think you need them.”
“That go for you, too?” I ask, only half joking.
He raises his hand, flexing his knuckles to show off the bruises forming from my blows to the face. “Assume it does. Better to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed. You wanna stay in good around here, think about what Dutch needs from you, and what you need from him.”
“What about you? Is there anything I can do for you?” I reach out, drawing back the curtain for him to pass through.
On his way by, he pats me on the shoulder. “Oh, I doubt it, but thanks for the offer.”
Thanks for reading, I hope you liked it! If you are interested in more, you can grab the full novel here.
And be sure to pick up the prequel to Canary Club, GLITTER AND GOLD, for FREE here.