Jack looked up as soon as he heard the bell. Dani, his secretary, stood in the doorway. As soon as she spotted Jack, she headed towards him. Jack met her halfway, cupped her elbow and turned her back toward the door.
“What are you doing here, Dani?” he asked her quietly.
“Sorry, Jack. Bobby sent me.”
Jack released Dani’s elbow and tilted his head. “Why? What’s happened?”
Dani glanced out the window, then turned her head toward Ella D’Amore. “It’s Angelo, Jack. He is parked down the street. Bobby knew he couldn’t risk losing his cover by coming in here, so he called me.”
Jack lifted his fedora and wiped his forehead. He promised Ella that he would keep her safe and here was the wolf at their door. Suddenly, a smile creased Jack’s face. “I’ve got an idea, but it will involve you, Dani. Are you up to it?”
“As long as it doesn’t get me killed,” Dani said after a long thoughtful moment.
Jack laughed lightly. “It shouldn’t. Come, I want you to meet Miss D’Amore.”
Jack led Dani over to the table and pulled out a chair for her. She sat down and smiled at Ella. Jack sat down beside Dani.
“Ella, this is my secretary, Dani. It would seem we have company waiting just outside.”
Ella’s eyes widened and a frightened look crossed her face. “Victor?”
Jack nodded. “Don’t worry. I have a plan. Dani will stay with you for a few minutes. Then the two of you will leave together. It will appear as though you had been waiting for her, not me. Understand?”
Ella glanced over at Dani who nodded in agreement. “Okay, but what if he sees you leave?”
“I will go out the back entrance. My car is parked in the side alley, so I should be in the clear. Just act normal. Laugh like the two of you are old friends. Can you do that, Ella?”
Ella nodded and Jack stood up. He motioned for Dani to join him away from the table. “Just get her into a taxi and then go back to the office, Dani. I don’t want you getting too involved. Victor doesn’t know who you are and I want to keep it that way.”
“Okay,” Dani agreed. “When are you coming back to the office?”
“In a bit. I need to go speak to Millie White. Be careful, Dani.”
Jack led Dani back to the table and picked up his over-coat. “Dani will take good care of you, Ella. If you need me, just call the office.”
“Thank you, Jack,” Ella said as she placed a hand on his forearm, her face still darkened with fear.
Jack leaned down and kissed Ella. A long, lingering kiss, and then before she could protest, he walked away, not even looking back at her. He paid Mrs. Matthews and pretended to go to the restroom, but instead ducked out the back entrance. He walked to the side alley and then peered around the corner. There sat Victor’s Cadillac halfway down the street. Jack lit a cigarette and waited until he saw Ella and Dani leave the Tea House. The two stood outside for a few moments, laughing just as Jack had instructed them. They kissed one another on the cheek and then Ella got into a taxi. She waved goodbye to Dani, as Dani headed for her car. Satisfied that they were both safe, Jack went to his own car and got in. He sat there for a few minutes as he finished another cigarette. Finally, he fired up the engine and headed in the opposite direction of Baker’s Street.
It was near noon when Jack knocked on Millie White’s apartment door. He’d had a feeling that Mrs. White wasn’t completely truthful with him during their interview and now he was determined to get some answers. The door opened and Millie stood there in a coat and gloves.
“Mr. Diamond, I didn’t expect to see you today,” Mrs. White said as she stood aside to let Jack enter.
The first thing Jack noticed was a set of suitcases in the entryway. “Going somewhere, Mrs. White?” he asked as he turned around to face her.
Millie gave Jack a slight smile and then closed the door. She led him into the living room and sat down on a beige sofa. She gestured for Jack to sit down across from her.
“I’ll stand, if you don’t mind,” Jack replied as he walked over to the fireplace and propped his elbow up on the mantel piece. “Are you going to answer me?”
Millie appeared nervous. She had her hands folded in her lap, but she was rubbing them together. “I have a sister in Philly,” she finally said. “And I just thought, under the circumstances, you know, that I would go stay with her for a few days.”
Jack eyed her suspiciously. Something didn’t settle right with him about this widow. “So you were just going to disappear without a word to anyone? Just like that, eh?”
She turned to face him and placed an arm across the armrest of the sofa. “Oh no, I was just about to ring your secretary and leave a number where I could be reached,” she protested.
Jack walked away from the fireplace and paced around the room. “I am here now, so you can just leave that number with me,” he said as he glanced at his surroundings. The place definitely had a woman’s touch. Light color furnishings, thick white drapes, flowers on the tables, and lace table cloths. If he didn’t know better, he’d swear a man never lived there at all. “I need to ask you some questions, Mrs. White,” Jack said as he came to rest just behind the sofa where she sat.
Millie turned around in her seat and tilted her head up at Jack. “Will this take long? I don’t want to miss my train.”
A puzzled look crossed Jack’s face. This didn’t appear to be the same grieving widow he’d talked to just a few days before. Her whole demeanor had changed. She seemed almost nonchalant about her husband’s death now. Jack cleared his throat.
“Do you know a place called The Wild Card?”
Her face sank, a look that didn’t go unnoticed by Jack. She stared at him for a long moment and then shook her head. “I’ve never heard of it,” Millie said as she turned back around in her seat.
Jack laughed. “I think you have, Mrs. White.” Jack walked back around the room and sat down in a chair opposite of Millie. He leaned in close. “You weren’t exactly truthful with me. Were you?”
Millie feigned a look of shock. “I…I don’t know what you mean.”
“Oh you know,” Jack replied as he leaned back into the chair. “You told me that Charlie didn’t have any financial difficulties. So why did he borrow money off of that singer at the club?”
“He what?” She asked as her face lit up in surprise. This time Jack could tell the look was genuine.
“Oh, so you didn’t know about that part? Just what did you know, Mrs. White?”
She looked down and ran a hand across the armrest. “Nothing,” she began. “I mean… I thought he might have been having an affair,” she concluded as she tilted her head back up and gazed at Jack with her bright blue eyes.
“I see,” Jack said as he rubbed his hand across his chin. “Do you know a Victor Angelo?”
Millie’s eyes widened. Her jaw dropped and she tried to speak, but the words wouldn’t come out. She shook her head in protest.
“You are lying, Mrs. White.”
Millie stood up and walked toward the hallway. “I think you’ve asked enough questions, Mr. Diamond. I really will miss my train,” she said as she opened the door. “If you don’t mind,” she concluded.
Jack walked to the door. “How about that number where you can be reached?” he inquired. She went to a table and scrawled the number on a piece of paper and handed it to him. Jack tipped his hat at her. “Have a safe trip, Mrs. White. I will be in touch.”
Jack walked out the door and felt it slam behind him. An amused grin creased his face as he walked down the hall and got into the elevator. This case was turning into quite the stacked deck, he decided.
The Stacked Deck is a noir-style WhoDunIt serial which will appear as 31 parts, told every day in March. I hope you will join me again tomorrow for another exciting part of this story!
This serial is copyrighted ©2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved. Permission must be granted to distribute or copy this serial (unless reblogging). Thank you.
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Jump forward to Part 7