Through Jack’s urging, Larson had Ella set up in a hotel room with a police guard until they could sort out the mess with Victor. As their only lead, they didn’t need her to get murdered too.
“This is fine mess you’ve made of things, Jack,” Larson said as he paced in his office. He was waiting for word about the warrant to search Victor’s club.
“I’ve made worse messes, Art.”
Jack sat leisurely in a chair with his leg crossed and his fedora resting on his knee. He knew Ella was safe, at least for now, so he had nothing to worry about. And yet, something was nagging at him. He couldn’t put a finger on it though.
The phone rang and Larson quickly snatched it up. With a heavy sigh, he handed the phone to Jack. “It’s Dani.”
“Dani? What’s wrong?”
“Bobby just called. Victor and his thugs are on their way back. They should arrive in a couple of hours.”
Jack glanced over at Larson and flashed him a concerned look. “Okay, Dani. When Bobby arrives tell him to nix the surveillance on Victor. I have another job for him.” Jack said his goodbye and then passed the phone back to Larson.
Larson took it and hung it up. “What’s going on, Jack?”
“You’d better check on that warrant. Victor is on his way back.”
Forty-five minutes later, Jack and Larson pulled up outside The Wild Card in Jack’s car, followed by two patrol cars. They all coordinated in the parking lot. Two of the officers went around back and the other two joined Jack and Art through the front entrance. The bouncer met them at the door. Larson flashed his badge and the warrant. The bouncer stepped aside and the four men entered the lounge.
Frank nodded at Jack as soon as he spotted him and went to pour a glass of bourbon.
“Not tonight, Frank. Official business. You remember Detective Larson, don’t ya?”
“Long time, Detective,” Frank said as he set the bottle of bourbon down. “What can I do for you?”
Larson handed Frank the warrant. “Just stay out of the way, Frank.”
Frank knew the drill. He’d been through this enough times. “Hey Jimmy! Clear the lounge!”
The bouncer escorted the patrons out of the club, while the hostesses lined up against a wall. “All yours,” Frank said as he left behind the bar and join them.
Larson nodded at his two officers and they began their search. He and Jack went to the back. Larson unlocked the back door and the other two officers entered and joined the search.
Jack poked around inside of Victor’s office. The man had expensive taste. A long mahogany desk sat at the back of the office, two large overstuffed black chairs lined one wall and there was a mini bar on the other wall. And above it all was the largest chandelier that Jack had ever seen. Large crystal droplet hung down so low that Jack nearly banged his head into them as he walked under it. He searched Victor’s desk drawers. Nothing suspicious. He tried the metal filing cabinet, but it was locked. If it wasn’t accessible, they couldn’t break into it. That was the law, and another reason Jack had left the force. He didn’t always play by the law. He walked out of the office, frustrated, and joined Larson in a storage room across from the office.
“Any luck in there?” Larson asked him as he searched through rows of boxes.
“Nothing,” Jack replied as he lit a cigarette. “Honestly, I think we’re wasting our time, Art.” Jack leaned up against a wall and propped his elbow up on a shelf.
“Yeah, probably. Where did Miss D’Amore say that gambling room was hidden?”
Jack shrugged. “Somewhere back here.”
Larson began tapping on the walls. “Must be a hidden door.”
Jack tossed his cigarette onto the floor and stamped it out. He walked over to the back wall and began tapping on it. A hollow sound rang out.
“Here,” he said as he searched for a lever to open it.
He felt along the shelving unit on the right beside the wall and Larson felt along the one on the left. Nothing. Jack pushed on the right shelving unit, but still nothing happened. Larson pushed on his side and finally a door swung open.
“Smart thinking, Jack,” Larson said as he peered inside the room.
The two men entered and walked around. It was empty except for a couple of wooden tables and a few scattered chairs. If there had been a gambling room back there, Victor had cleared it out already.
“Damn it!” Larson yelled as he slammed his fist down on one of the tables.
“No reason to lose your cool, Art,” Jack said as he walked back into the storage room. “You know this is how Victor operates. Never can pin a damn thing on that weasel.”
Jack and Larson went back into the lounge. The other four officers stood there waiting on them. They’d come up empty too.
Jack suddenly had an idea. “Did you guys check the girls’ changing room?” The men shook their heads. “I’ll be right back.”
Jack clamored down the stairs and entered the changing room. Elegant gowns, feather boas, and silk undergarments hung from hooks along one wall. Jack noted that the room smelled of powder and perfume, the same way Ella smelled. He sighed, but continued to look around. Along the other wall was a lighted mirror and a long table filled with make-up, brushes, combs and custom jewelry. At the very back of the room was a line of six lockers. Jack headed to them and began opening them, one after the other, each with a woman’s name on it. None of which belonged to Ella. When he came to the last one, he saw Jessica’s name on a slip of paper taped to the locker. He opened it, searched the lower shelves and then lifted a satin bag from the top shelf. He stepped back and grinned. On the shelf was a Colt .32. The very make and model that killed Jessica. Jack grabbed a scarf off of a hook and wrapped the revolver in it.
As he was leaving the backstage, Jack heard a commotion in the lounge. He put the scarf inside his coat pocket, and then climbed the steps leading up to the lounge. He stopped on the top stair. There was Victor Angelo, leaning against the bar, and Tito with his fists up in Larson’s face. Before Jack could make a move, Victor spotted him.
“I should have known you had something to do with this,” Victor yelled across the room.
Jack lifted his hands out to his sides and laughed. “Victor! So nice to see you again, old friend.” Jack walked across the room and smacked Tito on the back. “No worries, Tito. We are done here.” Jack turned to Victor. “Of course, you knew we wouldn’t find anything, didn’t you, Victor?”
Victor glared at Jack for a moment and then waved his hand at Tito, who backed away from Larson. “Get the hell out of my club, Jack!” Victor screamed as his face turned red.
Jack laughed at Victor again and then grabbed Larson by the arm. The two men existed the club, followed by the four officers.
Once outside, Larson stormed toward Jack’s car. “What the hell was that display of theatrics for?” he yelled back at Jack.
“Just get in the car, Art,” Jack replied as he walked around to the driver’s side.
Once they were both settled inside the car, Jack turned to Larson with a big grin on his face.
“Shit, Jack! What’s that grin for?”
Jack pulled the scarf out of his pocket and unfolded it. He handed the revolver over to Larson who sat there staring at it with his mouth open. “Colt .32. I think we found our murder weapon,” Jack declared.
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 12