Jack and Ella sat across from Larson in his office. Jack casually smoked a cigarette, but Ella’s hands shook and she kept fingering the edge of her dress.
Art Larson hung up the phone and leaned back in his chair. “Good to see you again, Miss D’Amore. You too, Jack. What can I help you two with today?”
Jack always did enjoy Larson’s cool demeanor and how he made people feel comfortable in his presence. Larson was a big guy, around six-foot, with an athletic build. Even in his late fifties, Larson could hold his own in a fight. It was his mannerisms though that made people comfortable. Larson was gentlemanly and not at all gruff like some hardened detectives on the force.
“Miss D’Amore has some things she needs to tell you, Larson.”
Larson glanced over at Ella and smiled. “Please, Miss D’Amore. I am listening.”
Ella cleared her dry throat and looked over at Jack who gave her a nodding approval. She turned her attention back to Larson. “I know why Jessica Daley was murdered,” she began. She waited a moment for a reaction from Larson, but when she didn’t receive any, she continued, “She gave money to Charlie White to settle a gambling debt with Victor.”
That statement did get a rise out of Larson. He leaned forward with his mouth agape for a moment. This was new information to his investigation. “And just how do you know this for sure, Miss D’Amore?”
“She told me the night before she was murdered.”
“That’s only half of it, Larson. Miss D’Amore, tell him the rest,” Jack said as he placed a hand on hers.
Ella inhaled deeply and then exhaled slowly. “Victor was blackmailing her over the affair with Charlie and the money she’d loaned him.”
Larson shuffled in his seat. This was even more information than they’d come up with so far. “What kind of blackmail?”
Ella glanced over at Jack again, fear spread across her face.
“It’s okay, Miss D’Amore,” Jack said as he patted her hand. “I told you, we will protect you.”
Ella nodded and swallowed hard. She turned back to face Larson again. “Victor has a side business,” she began, but Larson interrupted her.
“Several by the sounds of it,” he interjected.
“Yes, several,” she continued. “The Night Club, gambling house in the back, and…” she hesitated. Jack squeezed her hand and she continued. “A porn racket.”
Larson leaned back in his seat. His eyes widened. “Porn?”
Ella nodded again. “You know how men always prefer blondes,” she said with a nervous laugh. “And well… you know how beautiful Jessica was with that long blond hair and those big blue eyes. Victor was determined to get her into his porn racket. Smut pictures, he called them, but he knows a guy in Las Vegas who is making films now too. I think that is what he had in mind for Jessica.”
Larson scratched his head. “So if Jessica didn’t do what Victor wanted, he was what? Going to expose her affair to Charlie’s wife?”
“It would appear so, Detective Larson.”
Larson looked over at Jack. His eye twitched as he searched his old partner’s face. Finally, he looked back to Ella. “So why kill her then? I mean, he had her where he wanted her, right?”
“Jessica confided in me that she was coming to the police. It’s all my fault that she was murdered, Detective Larson! All my fault!” Ella lowered her head and began to weep. Jack put an arm around her.
“Victor beat the information out of Miss D’Amore. She had no choice but to tell him what Jessica was planning,” Jack said, finishing up Ella’s tale.
“And that bruise and cut above your eye, Miss D’Amore? That is too recent to have been over this Jessica mess. Want to tell me what happened there?” Larson asked as he leaned forward and propped his arms up on his desk.
“That is my fault,” Jack confessed. “I met with Miss D’Amore, but Victor was spying on her. I had Dani pretend to be a friend and well, Victor didn’t believe it. He tried to beat that information out of her too.”
“Is this true, Miss D’Amore?”
Ella sniffled and nodded.
“So what stopped you from telling Victor about Jack and Dani?”
Ella lowered her head again, then cocked it up slightly toward Jack. Her face flushed.
“Oh shit, Jack! You didn’t?” Larson yelled as he slammed his body back into his chair. “You nearly got yourself killed the last time you stole one of Victor’s dames!”
“No, no… it wasn’t like that, Detective Larson. Jack and I… we hadn’t…”
“Honestly, Larson. We hadn’t,” Jack said as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
Larson shook his head. “But now you have,” Larson said with a disapproving look at Jack, who threw up his hands, shrugged and flashed a smirk at Larson. Larson sighed and continued his line of questions. “So if you hadn’t, why didn’t you give up the information, Miss D’Amore?”
Ella sat quietly for a moment. Fingered the edge of her dress again. Finally, she looked up at Jack and then over to Larson. “I think I was… I was falling… I am in love with Jack.”
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 11