Little Gilly Darmody looked at the young sheriff as they relaxed after naughtiness in the small room. Gillian looked around. It was a crappy little place, but it was indeed available.
"Nucky, where did you get this house to use?"
Enoch "Nucky" Thompson smiled at Gilly across the pillows. "This is actually the house of my wife's brother. He lent me the keys and I was able to keep him from getting a pay cut. He is a bailiff in County Court, you know."
"And the guy knows what you do with the house in the afternoon, you being married to his sister and all?" But Gillian knew Nucky wasn't going to bother to answer this one. Gilly was analytical, quite analytical for a grade school dropout but her boyfriend seemed to take life as it came.
"Now about Kaestner" Nucky was leaning over and looking very seriously in Gillian's adolescent eyes. "He's probably too busy to busy to count, so if you tell him you're in the um, family way, it won't be that remarkable that the baby arrives in June instead of September. Maybe he'll be excited about being a father. He never married."
Gillian didn't want to admit to Nucky that she wasn't quite as tough as nails as he thought she was, but it really saddened her that Nucky had so quickly introduced her to "Commodore" Louis Kaestner after she'd informed Nucky that she'd missed her menses and might be expecting.
He'd not expressed joy, or rage or any passion at all, Nucky hadn't, just come up with the idea of planting the child on someone else. It was so dishearteningly fast, Gillian had thought.
True, Nucky had a wife who herself was pregnant. Things could get a bit messy. Nucky had assured Gilly that not only would an involvement with the Commodore take care of Nucky's child (with Gillian) but also would get her out of her sordid residence in the Wayward Girl's Home (and this she was thoroughly sick of, to be sure,)
"Without the Commodore, I'd still be selling newspapers outside the Marvin Gardens Ballroom, and my brother would have been locked up in reform school for ripping off fruit stands."
Gillian had not enjoyed her coupling with the elderly Commodore, but one thing she had to say for fifty year old men—they didn't take very long in their passions. At thirteen, Gilly had experience far and wide with fellows of all ages.
"Nucky, it's 1895. I'm a modern girl. I know the way the world works, but I still hope you'll acknowledge my…my baby. One day at least." Gillian tried not to have pleading eyes, but Nucky would be a great father, it was such a shame. And Gillian knew he wasn't in love with his wife. It was a political marriage, the girl was an alderman's niece, she thought.
Sheriff Thompson looked at Gillian earnestly. He was not a handsome man, like his younger brother Eli, who was now the Commodore's chauffer. In fact, Nucky resembled nothing so much as a tree toad with mating seals for lips. But he had an amazing charisma.
"Gillian, you don't understand. I can't take care of you. This has nothing to do with how I feel or anything. Actually, the concept—the social construct of romantic love is only about three hundred years old, if you read your Shakespeare." Nucky spoke as if to himself, shaking his head as if this oddity would have to be classified as a municipal misdemeanor.
Gillian's friends at the Wayward Girls Home were pulling for this idea too. Astrid, a pretty girl except for her club foot had flatly told Gillian that if she didn't take this ticket out of "hell" Astrid would attempt to seduce the Commodore herself…"
Nucky moved a little closer to Gillian on the bed, and took her hand. "You're the smartest girl I know. You've read Austen, and can play the spinet, and can tell Monet from the heavy brush strokes. But you're also really lazy. Wouldn't you like to be set up in a situation where you could read and paint and look after your kid all day?"
"Your kid." Gillian said heatedly. "Nucky, I will always know whose kid this is."
Nucky nodded. "All right my kid. And I'll try to be there for him, or her, whatever. But only as an uncle, you know. The Commodore's not so bad—"
"The Commodore smells of Bay Rum and his teeth are orange." Gillian said flatly. "Making love to him is like skin-diving in a cesspool."
"A cesspool with money." Nucky said. "Money is generally the answer to all discomforts. Don't you think so? I've never had enough of it, personally."
It was a little ridiculous. Nucky, as Sheriff, was taking payments from businesses to operate in the County, renting shoeshine boxes to corner bootblacks, accepting bribes to ignore garbage violations, candy store bookmaking operations, cellar card games and crap-shooting…he even collected from first graders pitching pennies on the boardwalk!
Why, he even allowed medical students to raid the graveyard for experimental bodies, but only after they'd slipped Nucky a sawbuck or two.
Sometimes Gillian would accompany Nucky to bakeries and hair straightening salons, and watch the little man explain that extra protection was just what a business needed in these dangerous times. Sometimes the owners and clerks would scowl and shout, but generally they handed over at least a buck a week.
Otherwise some fiery accident or just a broken window would make the ensuing visit from the Sheriff quite civil and profitable.
Nucky also salted money around to the poor families in Atlantic City, getting jobs for recalcitrant delinquents, buying the little kids ice cream, and settling abusive domestic disputes by leaving the wife batterer horsewhipped and bruise covered in a back alley.
Nucky was the first one to go to in times of trouble, even before seeing a priest!
Gillian had heard her friends in the Home tell of law enforcement in other towns. Real down on crime-type police, very honest, where people didn't pay off cops, but it seemed like there was more disorder in these towns than in well regulated places like Atlantic City.
When Gillian had been sent here as a remand from Atlanta County for boosting a dozen furs, she'd bided her time until the Home had given her outside privileges, and then she'd gone to meet the little lawman she'd heard so much about. Nucky had to be the most impressive guy in town, even when he told Gillian things the girl didn't want to hear.
And Nucky was right, of course. She really wanted to get out of the shithole "Wayward Girls Institute" as soon as she could. Gilly had grown up in a series of those places, orphanages, foster homes, and juvenile prisons…ever since seeing her grandmother being hauled away, covered in wine sores, when Gillian was only six years old.
The idea of her own apartment, and having a baby to raise was almost narcotic to her thirteen year old brain.
Nucky, easily reading Gillian's thoughts said "And you can always get more money from different callers. I know you sneak out and turn tricks now, though I've not dipped my beak in your earnings. You can have a ball there. I doubt the Commodore will be by to visit more than once or twice a month, but he'll cover rent and food, you know."
Gillian was starting to agree, but she didn't want Nucky to get off the hook for having such a hands off attitude towards his child. Could she make him sweat a bit, but she knew in the end, she'd have to agree. A girl has to be practical.