A Place Called Rainwater


By Dorothy Garlock

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Bestselling author Dorothy Garlock delivers a moving, nostalgic tale of Americana set in Oklahoma in the late twenties.

The small town of Rainwater, Oklahoma, has become a notorious
boomtown now that a gusher has flooded its streets with drillers, welders, and roustabouts of every description. Jill, a spunky and hardworking young woman who runs the hotel for her aunt, is unprepared to cope with the attention she receives from the woman-hungry men. Despite her attempts to thwart their advances, she finds herself cornered by a group of men on the street one afternoon when Thad Taylor, a young neighbor, comes to her rescue. Believing Jill to be a “street flapper,” Thad makes it his duty to curb her wild ways. Jill wants nothing to do with Thad-until a woman is murdered in town. Now, Jill’s finally accepted Thad’s protection… but is she willing to accept more?


This book is a work of historical fiction. In order to give a sense of the times, some names or real people or places have been included in the book. However, the events depicted in this book are imaginary, and the names of nonhistorical persons or events are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance of such nonhistorical persons or events to actual ones is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 2003 by Dorothy Garlock

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Warner Books, Inc.

Hachette Book Group

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New York, NY 10017

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The Warner Books name and logo are registered trademarks of Hachette Book Group

First eBook Edition: May 2003

ISBN: 978-0-446-54893-9

"Garlock [is] noted for her grit-between-the-toes feel for time and place…plenty of period detail and an earthy portrayal of small-town life."

—Minneapolis Star



"A powerful and rewarding story."


"Poignant …Ms. Garlock remains true to form with heartwarming stories, sympathetic, believable characters, and an easy-to-read plot."



"The Edge of Town is a heart-stirring love story spiced with suspense…. This is a gift from a writer whose books keep giving long after the last page…. It's impossible to choose a favorite character. I fell in love with them all, and relished every word of their heartwarming story."

—Sandra Brown

"An exciting historical romance …a luscious Americana novel …another treat from a delightful talent."


"Charming story …sprightly dialogue and convincing depiction of farm life."

—Publishers Weekly

"Americana at its best."



"With her inimitable writing style, Ms. Garlock combines a tender, poignant love story with a bit of nostalgia for the rock-and-roll era of the 1950s."

—Romantic Times


"Garlock, as always, writes a sterling story with characters you want to hear about."

—Southern Pines Pilot (NC)

"[A] touching story of two people at cross purposes who struggle to save their marriage and get on with their lives after the Second World War."

—Romantic Times

"The story oozes with danger and intrigue. Ms. Garlock keeps the reader rooting for the lovers…. A wonderful ending to a terrific series."


"Fast-paced, poignant…. No one brings home small-town America in a more picturesque manner than bestselling author Dorothy Garlock."

—Under the Covers Book Reviews

"A compelling relationship drama…. The characters are well crafted…. A refreshing tale."

—Affaire de Coeur


"Another winner! …Unique touches and continuous surprises that keep the reader enthralled and turning the pages…. With Heart is a testament to the human spirit."

—Bookbug on the Web

"Four stars! …Combines murder and corruption with a sweet, tender love story and compelling secondary characters."

—Romantic Times


"A warm and satisfying love story …Garlock launches a promising trilogy of novels set during the Great Depression…. This difficult, dynamic time comes alive in her hands. Always likable characters drive the plot of this vividly depicted romance."

—Library Journal

"Garlock tackles Depression-era Oklahoma with wit, freshness, and memorable characterization."

—Publishers Weekly (starred review)


"Author Dorothy Garlock brings alive the 1930s era …in With Song…. Garlock writes with an uncanny ear, and bravo to her for bringing forth this uplifting love story from a dark and dusty time."


"This is an excellent book filled with many plot twists and turns, and plenty of secondary characters. I can hardly wait for the next book in the series! "



After the Parade

A Gentle Giving

Almost Eden

Annie Lash

Dream River

The Edge of Town

Forever Victoria

Glorious Dawn

High On A Hill



The Listening Sky

Lonesome River

Love and Cherish

>Midnight Blue

More than Memory


Restless Wind

Ribbon in the Sky

River of Tomorrow

The Searching Hearts

Sins of Summer



This Loving Land

Wayward Wind

Wild Sweet Wilderness

Wind of Promise

With Heart

With Hope

With Song



AMOS, karate champion LORAINE, exceptional mother and music teacher JACOB and LOGAN, who make life a joy for Grandma — but only for a half day at a time

Thad's Song

I'll sing you a song 'bout my sassy girl

If I can remember the tune.

She's little but mighty — a diamond, a pearl,

And I'm goin 'to marry her soon.

In this oil boomtown she's made a mark.

Runs the hotel her auntie began,

But there's danger for her where the streets are dark.

Out there waits a murderin 'man.

Is he the attorney who harbors a grudge

Or the rich man who owns half the town

Or someone who works in the oil and the sludge?

I must, for her sake, track him down.

Oh, Jilly Justine, I'll watch over you

Whether you like it or not.

Whatever hazards I have to fight through

With all the strength that I've got.

Oh, Jilly Justine, I'll be faithful to you,

Though you may say that I tease.

You can taunt me and doubt me; I will be true.

To my heart only you hold the keys.



Jefferson City, Missouri, 1903


"Please. Please let me stay. I'll work hard. I'll do anything — "

The young girl dropped to her knees and clasped the old man so tightly around his skinny legs that he stumbled backward. After grabbing the back of a chair to regain his balance, he lashed out with a large, bony hand. He slapped the girl with such force that she fell to the floor and lay there sobbing.

"Don't you dare touch me, you …goddamn bitch! I mollycoddled you for months while you carried that wretched creature. You had new shoes and dresses, a coat and scented soap. I put food in your mouth and allowed you to loll in bed until an hour past daylight. You never did another tub of washing after you took. When I look at what you've given me in return, I want to kill you."

"I…didn't do …anything to cause it. Can't you understand that? "

"Are you saying it's my fault that that brat came into the world with the mark of the devil on it? "He reached down and grabbed a handful of rich auburn hair and turned the girl's tear-wet face to his. "I had to plow you for months before your trashy puss could generate enough heat to fertilize my seed." He threw her head from him. It hit a table leg with a loud crack. "All this time wasted … for a flawed brat I'll be ashamed to show in public."

"Judge, these things happen in the best of families. Only God knows why." The doctor reached down and helped the girl to her feet.

"I've not heard of it and I've been on the bench twenty years. You told me that birthmark would go away. It's been a month, and if anything it's …redder."

"I thought it probably would fade, Judge. I've not seen anything like it before. I've written to dozens of other doctors around the country, and they all tell me that it can't be removed. The baby would bleed to death."

"It would be a blessing! It's the mark of the devil." The judge looked at the young girl as if he'd like to cut her heart out. "I should have her locked up in a place where she'd never see the light of day again."

"I can't go along with you having her locked up, Judge, "the doctor said firmly. "You can't place the fault with her. What happened is a freak of nature. Some babies are born simpletons with big heads, crooked spines or deformed legs. This child has a different deformity, but it doesn't mean that he won't be bright."

"All I wanted from the bitch was a son. Look what I got! One that's marked for all the world to see." The judge's angry voice could be heard from the attic to the cellar of the large mansion on the south side of Jefferson City. The cook in the kitchen and the maid scrubbing the back stairway shuddered at the thought of being on the receiving end of his wrath.

"I'll take him away, sir. You won't have to see me or my baby ever again. No one will know who fathered him."

"Are you mad? That scrap in there, sorry as it is, has my blood. It's probably the only offspring I'll ever have. I'd see it dead before I'd give it to you. It'll not be raised to be a weakling. It's got the devil in it, and I'll see to it that it torments you for the rest of your life."

Courage she didn't know she had bubbled up in the young girl. She lunged at him with balled fists and would have hit him if the doctor hadn't grabbed her arm. Angry unguarded words spewed from her mouth.

"He's not got the devil in him. You have! "she shouted. "He's a helpless little baby, not an it. I'll take him far from here. You can find some other fifteen-year-old girl to suffer your disgusting pawing and slobbering and …rape when you can get that puny thing that dangles between your legs hard enough."

"Shut your lying mouth! "The judge's voice was equally loud. He trembled with anger. Stooped and gaunt, with sparse gray hair and dried skin that stretched across his bony face, he looked every one of his sixty years. Saliva ran from the corner of his mouth.

"I want the doctor to know that the second week I came to work here you grabbed me by the hair, pushed me up the stairs to your room, locked the door and whipped me with your belt until I took off my clothes. You said if I didn't spread my legs for you, I'd go back to jail and rot there."

Bolstered by the doctor's presence, and with the heart-breaking knowledge that she was going to have to leave her baby behind, the hatred she had kept bottled up came boiling out. At their first meeting, the judge had seemed to take pity on her when she had been falsely accused of lifting a purse. Later, he had held that accusation over her head throughout the months he had pleasured himself on her young body in an attempt to impregnate her.

"Liar. You followed me around like a bitch in heat thinking I'd marry you! "

"Marry you? "she said scornfully. "I'd not marry you if you were the King of England, you skinny, decrepit old bastard, "the girl shouted. "I never went to bed with you without strop marks on my behind. You made me want to puke, and I often did after you'd violated me. I despise you, I wish I'd killed you in your sleep! "

"Get out! Get out, you ungrateful bitch, or I'll call the police! "

"I won't go before I see my baby and …and tell him good-bye." The girl stood her ground. The doctor secretly applauded her courage.

"Judge, it won't do any harm to let her see the baby, and you don't want to involve the police in this." The doctor kept a tight hand on the girl's arm.

"Agnes, "the judge shouted. "Bring the …brat. Maud, get her suitcase." He turned to the doctor. "She's taking out of here only what she brought in."

When the stout woman came down the stairs with the tiny bundle in her arms, the girl broke away from the doctor and snatched the baby from her. With a motion of his head, the judge sent the woman to stand in front of the door.

The girl turned her back to those watching her and, with tears streaming down her face, cuddled the sleeping infant to her.

"I don't want to leave you, little man, but there's nothing I can do, "she whispered. "I've no way of taking care of you. If I don't leave, he'll have me jailed. Know that your mama loves you. I'll be back… someday." She placed kisses on the child's head and on the red mark on his tiny face before he was taken from her embrace.

Without looking back, the young mother picked up the suitcase and walked out the door. The doctor followed her down the path. He took the suitcase, placed it in the boot of his buggy, then helped the sobbing girl up onto the seat.

September 1911

The buggy moved slowly past the big fenced-in mansion where the judge sat on the porch watching a boy in knee britches and a billed cap kick a ball.

"He's growing up. He's eight years old now." The woman held tightly to the hand of the man beside her. "When I last saw him, he was only three. That time I followed the woman who took him to the barbershop and got a good look at him. I wish I could see him up close again and tell him who I am."

"It would just open old wounds for you, honey. The boy may not know anything about you. If he does, he's been poisoned against you. He seems happy and well cared for. I think you should leave well enough alone."

As they watched, the boy raced across the yard to where a small puppy squatted beside the walk. He drew back his foot and kicked the small animal as he had kicked the ball. The dog yelped as it flew through the air to land with a thump on the brick walk. It lay there yelping in pain.

"Oh, dear God! "the woman gasped and began to cry.

Apparently giving no thought to the injured puppy, the boy ran across the yard to the ball. He laughed and yelled something to the man sitting in a high-backed wicker chair. When the kicked ball went up onto the porch, the boy followed. The tall, gaunt man in a long black coat stood and said something that caused the boy to leave the ball and come to stand in front of him.

The lad snatched his cap from his head and held it beneath his arm during their brief conversation. Then, ignoring the still-yelping puppy, the man pushed the boy ahead of him into the house.

Chapter 1

Rainwater, Oklahoma, 1929


The glob of brown tobacco juice had hit and splattered as Jill was sweeping away the water she had used to scrub the well-worn boards on the hotel porch. Appalled, she glared at the man on the bench. His thin lips stretched in a grin, revealing stubs of tobacco-stained teeth. Then, to express his indifference, he extended his muddy boots out in front of him, crossing his legs at the ankles.

Jill's temper flared. "You …jackass! Get off this porch and stay off."

His grin widened.

"Are you deaf as well as uncivilized? Get! "She made a shooing motion with the broom.

"This is a public porch."

"It's no such thing. It belongs to the Byers Hotel. The bench you're sitting on belongs to the hotel. If you're too lazy to go to the end of the porch to spit, you're no longer welcome to sit on it."

"Ain't yore bench. It's Justine's bench. Justine's porch. Justine's hotel."

"That may be, but I'm running this hotel now and I'm telling you to leave."

"Or what? "He switched the chew of tobacco to his other cheek and puckered his lips as if to spit again.

"Don't you dare! "Jill shouted. "Spit on this porch again and I'll call the sheriff."

"Go ahead. Sheriff ain't goin 'to arrest me for spittin'. Ask Justine if she wants Skeeter Ridge to get off her porch. Me and Justine's just like that." The two fingers he held up were pressed together.

Jill leaned her broom against the side of the building. The man was dirty, with streaks of grime on his face, hands and forearms where the sleeves of his shirt were rolled up to the elbows. His britches and boots were caked with red Oklahoma clay. The neck of a flat bottle of whiskey protruded from his hip pocket.

"I don't care if you and Aunt Justine are just like that."She mocked his gesture with two fingers pressed together. "I'm in charge here now. I have just scrubbed this porch, in case you haven't noticed, and I'll not stand for a good-for-nothing loafer spitting on it. I'm telling you to go."

He gave her another impertinent grin. "Make me."

Jill picked up the bucket and turned as if she were going back into the hotel. Instead she whirled around.

"This is probably the closest thing to a bath you'll get all summer, "she shouted as she tossed the dirty water in the man's face.

He came up off the bench cursing and balled his fists.

"Ya …goddamn …bitch! "

Jill dropped the bucket and grabbed the broom.

"Back off or I'll wrap this broom handle around your neck." Grasping the straw end, she swung the handle at his head. He escaped by dodging down the porch steps.

"Ya goddamn she-wolf! "

"Call me that again, you filthy braying jackass, "she shouted, "and I'll bust your stupid head. You and your filthy habits are not welcome on this porch." Her angry words were accompanied by a jabbing motion with the broom handle.

"What ya need is a strop on yore butt."

"Lay a hand on me, you belly-crawling worm, and I'll put holes in you big enough for the sun to shine through."

Attracted by the commotion, two roustabouts paused on the walk to watch. Fresh from an oil rig, in oil-soaked clothes and with grimy faces, they shouted with laughter.

"Skeeter, ya goin 'to let that little wildcat run ya off? She ain't no bigger than a good-sized chigger."

"That yore summer bath, Skeeter? Ya'll need another'n 'bout Christmastime."

"What'd ya do to get her so riled up? "

"He spit on my clean floor, is what he did, "Jill yelled. "If he does it again, I'll do more than douse him with water. I'll break this broom handle over that knot on his shoulders."

"Wow, Skeeter! That little wildcat is madder than a wet hen. Ya'd better watch yore step."

"Ya just wait, ya little split-tail. Justine'll set ya straight about a few things." Skeeter wiped the water from his face with the sleeve of his shirt.

Jill ignored him and vigorously swept the water from the porch, flinging it as far as possible toward the street. She had been in Rainwater for only a few weeks and doubted there was a dirtier town anyplace on the face of the earth.

The town had been just a wide spot in the road until a wildcatter brought in an oil well a half mile from town. Now, three years later, a dozen pumping wells surrounded the town and a dozen more were being drilled. Rainwater had doubled, then tripled in size until now it housed almost five thousand oil-hungry souls and was still growing.

The unpaved street that divided the two rows of buildings was hard-packed clay. The crude structures that had been hastily erected along Main Street had gradually been replaced by sawed-lumber buildings. The new boards were darkened with oil carried by the wind from a gusher before it was capped. The well, not far from town, had been cheered by the citizens of Rainwater even as they were being coated with what they called black gold.

Jill waited until the three men ambled on down the street toward the stores, pool halls, eating places and speakeasies where bootleg whiskey was as easy to come by as a cup of coffee. All were eager to part the roustabouts from their money. The sheriff had more than he could handle with fights, thieves and robbers to spend much time arresting bootleggers.

Everyone knew that it was just a matter of time before Prohibition would be repealed. The law was not working as intended and was instead making millionaires out of a few big-time operators in places like Kansas City and Chicago.

Jill picked up the bucket and went back into the small lobby of the hotel, then on through the kitchen. When she pushed on the screen door to go out onto the back porch, a black and white shaggy dog jumped up, moved a few feet away and waited expectantly.

"Are you still here? "she snapped.

The dog's tail made a half wave, then sagged between her hind legs. Jill hung the bucket on a nail.

"Go home." The mongrel looked at Jill with sorrowful eyes, then lay down and rested her head on her forepaws.

"Suit yourself. But don't expect me to keep feeding you. A few bread scraps doesn't make us lifelong friends, "Jill grumbled, then went back into the kitchen and slammed the screen door.

"Mercy me. What's got your tail in a crack? "It was always a surprise to Jill to hear the melodious voice that came from Radna, the bronze-faced woman who sat at the table peeling potatoes. None of the Indians she had ever known had such musical voices, nor spoke so precisely.

"A nasty old man spit a glob of tobacco juice on my clean porch."

"Well, now, isn't that a surprise? "There was lilting laughter in her voice.

"I gave him a bath with my mop water."

"I bet he loved that." The dark eyes continued to smile at her.

Jill giggled. "I couldn't have surprised him more if I had sprouted wings."

"That must have been Skeeter Ridge."

"How do you know that? "

"He's harmless. He's been sitting on the porch for years. Thinks he owns it."

"I set him straight about that, I think." Jill went quickly down the hall and looked out the door to see if the man had returned. "Aunt Justine hardly touched her breakfast, "she said when she returned to the kitchen.

"We're losin 'her. You best prepare yourself. Justine's going downhill fast."

"Have you known her a long time? "

"Many years. She was here when I came to the area just before the war. At that time Rainwater was just a spot on the prairie. The hotel, a store, a saloon and a few other buildings that didn't amount to much. It was a place to come to on Saturday night."

"You didn't live here in Rainwater? "

"No. My man and I lived out on the prairie. He died about that time and I came here to help Justine."

"Was he an Indian? "

"Cherokee like my daddy. Lovely man but just couldn't leave the booze alone."

"I don't see how Aunt Justine made a living here. There couldn't have been many travelers through the town in those days."

Radna gave her a sideways glance. "She had enough business."

"Was this a whorehouse? "Jill bluntly asked the question she had wanted to ask since her arrival.

"Not exactly." Radna didn't seem to be surprised by the question. She glanced at the door to Justine's bedroom to make sure it was closed. "Justine took in …unfortunate girls from time to time and they had male friends who came to call, "she explained in a low voice. "If they chose to give Justine a little money to pay for a girl's room and board, no one thought much about it."

"Aunt Justine …didn't — "

"How do I know, girl? She was still a good-looking woman ten years ago. Almost as pretty as you — bigger, more bosom. Men like women with big titties."

"Then that lets me out."

Jill studied Radna. Although it was impossible to guess her age precisely, she seemed to be in her middle or late thirties. Her hair was thick and black. She combed it back and tied it at the nape of her neck with a ribbon. Not much taller than Jill's five feet three inches, she was thin but muscled from hard work. Her eyes were dark brown, her skin free of wrinkles. Only her work-worn hands told of a lifetime of hardship. She was always cheerful, although she often sang sad ballads in a throaty contralto as she worked. Now, as she sliced the potatoes, she sang a few lines of a song about a letter edged in black.

"Where did you go to school, Radna? "Jill asked.

"An Indian school. The Cherokee Seminary at Tahle-quah. They took me though I'm one-eighth colored. Mama was a beautiful quadroon. I've not tried to hide it." She looked directly at Jill to gauge her reaction when she made the announcement. "My daddy was a teacher and loved my mama to distraction. My, they were a handsome couple. She teased him about naming me Night Bird or some other Indian name. He threatened to call me Topsy or Jemima. I don't know how they settled on Radna."

"Are you their only child? "

"No, I've a brother around somewhere." Radna moved the chair back and got up from the table.

"No children? "

"Had three. Two never breathed at all. One lived two days."

"I'm sorry. It's hard to lose a loved one. Especially a baby."

"It's all right. They never lived long enough for me to get acquainted with them." Radna poured water over the potatoes she had peeled. "I hear one of your hotel guests stirring around. You'd better get out there or he'll scoot out the door without paying."


On Sale
Nov 16, 2008
Page Count
416 pages

Dorothy Garlock

About the Author

Dorothy Garlock is the author of more than 50 novels that have sold 15 million+ combined copies and are published in 15 languages. She lives in Iowa.

Learn more about this author