Mother insisted Alexandra come home with us. Usually a night owl, it didn’t take much to convince her to take a hot bath and go straight to bed, even though it was still a little early. When Elizabeth and Rose heard what had happened, she found herself once again enveloped in hugs. Elizabeth went up to draw the bath, and Rose promised to put together a plate of something for her.
“You look done in. I’ll get you some roast. And pie. We have pie.” Rose was of the opinion pie could improve any situation. I agreed.
I watched Elizabeth and Alexandra vanish up the stairs while Rose went to get her dinner. Daddy peeled off his jacket, hanging it on the hook by the door as he trudged to the back parlor. Mother and I followed.
“I know you were only trying to comfort your friend, Dru, but I really wish you hadn’t made that promise,” Daddy said, sinking onto the couch. Though we’d spent hours at the hospital, it still wasn’t quite dark out. The red sunset colored the parlor in shades of blood and tangerine, until Mother closed the curtains to block the glare.
“I’m sorry.” I held out the box with the blood samples Archie’s doctor had sent us home with. “Shall I take these down to the lab?”
Daddy hesitated, glancing at the stairs, then shook his head. “No. Go be with your friend. I’ll start the tests now. Maybe by morning I’ll have some information Dr. Harper will find useful.”
I watched him leave, a tight knot in my throat.
Mother sighed, picking up the stack of mail waiting on the end table and sifting through it. “This last round of illegal whiskey is certainly living up to its name.”
“The Devil’s Due, you mean?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Your father told you about it?”
I nodded. “Yesterday, when I was helping him with the tests for the police. What’s so bad about this latest batch?”
Everyone knew they were taking their life in their hands when they drank bootleg whiskey. It could be cut with anything, from redistilled industrial alcohol, to antifreeze or some other homemade concoction. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be stopping anyone. Alcohol of all sorts had been illegal for more than two years, but it didn’t seem to be doing much good.
“That’s what your father is trying to figure out. All we know right now is more and more people are taking sick from it, and the people responsible have been impossible to find. The people drinking this coffin varnish are either incoherent or dead, or too afraid of getting arrested to tell us where they’re getting it.”
“Why are they so afraid? I’d think the liquor would be more fearsome.” Then again, as Caroline never failed to remind me, I was a goody two-shoes. It was the side effect of having a doctor and a cop in the house.
Mother smiled a little, a dry, humorless sort of twist to her lips that sometimes happened when she talked about the darker aspects of her work. “They’re afraid of being arrested. Chief French is not a man willing to bend on the law. It’s as bad as the girls we pick up, torn and bleeding after they’ve taken a knitting needle to themselves, or worse. They claim to have no idea what happened. Mostly, they go straight from the hospital to the jail.” She threw the mail back down on the table. “I wish they’d never passed that silly law. I’m all for reducing the number of alcoholics on the street, but sometimes I think prohibition has only made it worse.”
In the hall, I heard Rose going upstairs, and remembered Alex would need something to change into when she got out of the bath. I’d have to see if I had anything in my closet she could borrow–she was at least four inches taller than me, and had the boyish figure so in vogue.
Excusing myself, I started for the stairs but Mother called me back. “Dru?”
I stopped at the door and turned around. She folded me into a hug. “You understand this was what your father and I were worried about the other night, right? We were afraid you could end up in that hospital bed, like Archie.”
“I know, Mother.” I returned the hug, breathing in her rose perfume, which she only wore for special occasions.
“Stay safe, my girl. Your father and I see too much of the bad things in life at work. We want to make sure you have no part in them. You’re the brightest part of our lives. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Mama.”
She kissed the top of my head and let me go. With one more glance over my shoulder, I trotted up to my bedroom to be with my friend.