As I wrote a couple of weeks back, I’m part of a writers collective known as The Hivemind. Our first project, a young adult fantasy series called Latchkeys is up and running, and my first contribution to the story, Chapter 4: “The Bootleg War” (with Kris Katzen) is now available for downloading on Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook for .99¢ (as are Parts 1, 2, and 3)! A bargain? Darn tootin’, skippy!

The covers for the series are by Vance Kelly. Here’s a little taste of what’s on tap:

“I don’t believe it,” said Mercy in a hushed whisper.

Behind her, Marguerite said, “What? Where are we?”

“We’re…we’re home,” Mercy said.

“Don’t be silly,” Marguerite said. “The newspaper we found says it’s 1921. We won’t even be born for almost seventy-five years yet.”

Mercy De La Fuentes stepped out of the narrow, dark corridor that they had followed from the restroom in which they had emerged after stepping through the Door. Her twin sister and the two boys followed her into the gloomy, stale smelling space.

“You live in a bar?” said Matt Fisher.

“I thought you guys had a house in Brooklyn,” said Jeremy Crest.

Marguerite gasped and reached for her sister’s hand.

“It…it is. I’d know it anywhere,” the short, dark haired girl said, her rich brown eyes going wide with surprise. “It’s the Mexicali Rose.”

“Look,” Mercy said, pointing at the back wall in which were inset three small decorative stained glass windows, each in the shape of a shamrock. “Those were still there when mom and dad bought this place. Remember? They took all those pictures before they renovated everything.”

The long, narrow room was dark, the single plate glass window next to the entrance painted black. A lamp with an exposed light bulb behind the bar was the only source of light.

Marguerite hurried over to the bar that stretched the length of the saloon. It was made of deep, dark mahogany and varnished to a silky sheen, with a brass rail footrest running along its face a foot off the tile floor and a padded red leather armrest ringing the marble top. Behind the bar, with its three sets of tall, elegant brass and porcelain tap levers spaced along its twenty-five foot run, was the mirror, a single piece of glass more than two dozen feet long and framed in matching mahogany. On the shelf under the mirror sat an array of liquor bottles and, dead center, a massive old cash register, also of brass, the metal stamped with elaborate decorations and scroll work, its twin rows of ten keys each marked with amounts ranging for one cent to ten dollars.

Mercy joined her sister at the bar and they exchanged looks of delight.

“The National TA332B!” they exclaimed in unison and erupted in peals of similar sounding giggles.

Matt and Jeremy also exchanged looks, but theirs were of confusion.

“Either of you care to let us in on what’s going on?”

Jeremy Crest, at seventeen the oldest member of the group, was tall and blond, with broad shoulders and an infectious grin and British accent.

“This is our parents’ restaurant,” said Marguerite. “At least the bar part of it. Sometime in the next few decades, somebody’s going to break through into the place next store and add the dining room and kitchen, but eventually our folks are going to buy it and turn it into the Mexicali Rose.”

“Of course, they’ve got to be born first,” said Mercy. “But the bar hasn’t changed a bit. We’ve even got the same old cash register behind the bar, although here it’s still practically brand new and isn’t just for decoration, I’m sure.”

“Jus a moment,” said Jeremy. The young Brit frowned in thought. “This is New York City, in 1921, correct? I thought it was illegal to sell alcohol and beer in the United States by then.”

“It was…it is,” said Marguerite. “The 18th Amendment banning it went into effect in 1920, I think. But a lot of bars stayed open in defiance of the law. I remember my father telling us that the Rose had been a speakeasy called the Shamrock during Prohibition.”

“A…what? Speakeasy?” said Jeremy.

Matt said, “It’s what these illegal bars were called. I think it came from some owner who used to tell her customers to ‘speak easy’ when they got too drunk and loud so they wouldn’t attract the attention of the police.”

Jeremy grinned and said, “So it could have been full of gangsters and bootleggers, just like in the old movies?”

“Well, probably not so much,” said Matt. “I think the customers were mostly regular people who didn’t agree with the law and just wanted to go out and have a few drinks.”

“Hey, as cool as being here is, we should really look for the Splinter and get back home,” Mercy said. “From the looks of things, we just happened to pop in while the place is closed, but there’s no telling when somebody could show up.”

“Good point,” said Jeremy. “Anybody picking up any vibes?”

The others exchanged glances and shook their heads, muttering negatives.

“Odd, don’t you think? The Door wouldn’t have opened into this time and place if it weren’t somehow linked to the missing piece.”

“That’s usually the way it works,” said Mercy. “Unless whoever’s got the Splinter in some other form has something to do with this location.”

“Well, we don’t want to be caught by them if and when they show up, so I suggest we find our way out of here and come back later,” said Jeremy.

“No problem,” said Mercy with a grin. “Marguerite and I know our way pretty well around this old joint. The front door opens on West 44th Street, and there’s a delivery entrance on the alleyway around the side. We should probably go out that way. There’s less chance of anyone seeing us.”

With a courtly bow from his waist and a sweep of his hand, Jeremy said, “Lead the way, ladies.”

And that was when they heard the voices and the sound of a key in the lock at the front door.

…Now read the rest in Latchkeys: Bootleg War!

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