By the time Jack was out of the City and halfway to the Radley Motel, he realized that Mrs. White hadn’t given him a room number. He cursed under his breath. If he hadn’t felt so rough, he would have pulled in somewhere and called the motel, but he did feel that rough so he would just take his chances of finding her once he got there. He couldn’t get Ella’s reaction to that gun out of his head, nor her confession of love. Had she meant it? Could he trust her? Something deep inside of him wanted to believe her. Something else screamed that he was making a fool of himself again.
You’ll never learn, Jack. The thought lingered on his mind as he pulled up outside the motel.
Jack stepped out of his car and headed toward the lobby, but a noise caught his attention. He turned in the direction. There stood Millie White a few rooms down, peeking out of her door.
“Mr. Diamond,” she whispered and motioned for Jack to join her. Her eyes scanned the parking lot and she had a panicked look on her face.
Jack strolled down the walkway toward her room. When he got there, Millie pulled on his coat sleeve and dragged him inside. She quickly closed the door and locked it. Jack noticed right away that she was breathless, her face was flushed and her hair was in disarray.
“Are you okay, Mrs. White?” Jack asked as he took off his overcoat.
Millie ignored his question. Instead, she went to the window, slightly opened the blind and looked outside. After a long moment, she finally turned to Jack.
“I am sorry, Mr. Diamond,” she said as her voice cracked. “I had to make sure you weren’t followed. Please, won’t you sit down?” she asked as she pointed to a chair.
Jack eyed her suspiciously, but did as she asked. He laid his coat over the back of the chair and sat down. “Mrs. White…” he began to say, but she interrupted him.
“I know this looks awful, Mr. Diamond, but you have to let me explain,” she begged as she walked toward the back of the motel room. She stopped for a moment and then turned around. She twisted her hands over and over again as she paced back toward him.
Jack crossed his right leg over his left knee and leaned back in the chair. “By all means, Mrs. White.”
She stopped again in front of Jack this time. “I know you must have thought me mad the day you came over to my apartment. I… I wasn’t going to my sister’s, Mr. Diamond.”
Jack cocked his head and raised an eyebrow. “I don’t understand.”
Millie gave Jack a worried smile and continued. “I know. I couldn’t tell you what was really going on. I was leaving, but under duress.”
Millie sighed heavily. “Victor Angelo.”
Jack let out a growl and slapped his knee. “I should have known Victor had something to do with your strange behavior!”
Millie walked over to the bed and opened a suitcase. She returned to Jack and handed him a folded paper bag. Jack took it and opened it. Inside were stacks of cash. He looked up at Millie with a puzzled look on his face.
“A Mr. Russo showed up at my apartment with this and told me to pack my bags and get out of town. He was still there when you knocked on the door. He pulled out a gun and told me to act cool toward you so that you wouldn’t stay. He was hiding in the bedroom the entire time, Mr. Diamond.”
Millie trembled and began to cry. Jack stood up, tossed the bag of money onto the bed and pulled her into his arms. He smoothed back her blond hair and cooed into her ear. He held her until her sobs stopped, and then led her to the bed and sat her down.
“So you’ve been here the entire time?” Jack asked as he handed her a handkerchief from his pocket.
She nodded and raised the handkerchief to her face, dotted her eyes and wiped the tears away from her cheeks.
Jack walked over to the dresser and poured a glass of water. He brought it back to Millie and handed it to her. She took the glass into her still trembling hands and lifted it to her lips, spilling a few drops as she sipped the water.
“Something doesn’t make sense, Mrs. White. Why the pay-off?”
Millie sat the glass down on the bedside table and coughed. Finally, she looked up at Jack. “I wasn’t completely truthful with you or the cops, Mr. Diamond.”
Jack glared down at her. Why do people always lie? For once, he wished he could get a case where someone was truthful with him. “What did you lie about, Mrs. White?”
Millie narrowed her eyes and wrinkled up her nose at the harshness of Jack’s words. Apparently she prefers her version of it not being completely truthful to my version of it being a complete lie, Jack surmised by her reaction.
Millie sighed. “I knew Charlie had bought a gun. I saw the sale’s receipt in his pants pocket one day when I was doing laundry. He wouldn’t tell me why he bought it, nor why he bought it in another state.”
Jack shook his head in disbelief. He walked over to his coat, retrieved his cigarettes and lit one. He raised his other hand, lifted his fedora and scratched his head. He finally turned back around to face Millie after taking a few drags. “He probably bought it out of state so it wouldn’t be easily traced,” Jack stated. He scratched his head again as he thought for a moment. “Okay, so you knew about the gun, but again, how does that equal a pay-off?”
Millie lowered her eyes and stared at her hands. “I knew Charlie had been going to that night club, Mr. Diamond. I followed him there a few times. When I found out he’d bought a gun, I… I didn’t know what he would do with it. He kept it in his car, and then one night, I saw him slip it into his jacket pocket as he got out of the car at the club.” She looked back up at Jack with widened eyes. “I… I was frightened. He went into the club and stayed so long. So very long that night. I searched his car the next day and couldn’t find the gun. I panicked. That’s why I called Mr. Angelo and warned him that Charlie had a gun.”
Jack shook his head again and threw his hands up into the air. “Mrs. White, did you have any idea what kind of man Victor Angelo was?”
Millie began sobbing again. “I didn’t, Mr. Diamond. I… I just thought…well, that he was a businessman. But when Detective Larson told me the make and model of the gun that Charlie supposedly used to shoot himself, I knew it wasn’t the same gun.”
Jack thought back to the report Larson had given him on the White case. The gun they found on Charlie had been a Smith & Wesson. “What kind of gun had Charlie bought?”
“A Colt,” Millie whispered.
It was slowly beginning to make sense to Jack. Charlie must have bought the Colt for Jessica for protection. And then someone used it on Jessica, if it was indeed the murder weapon. But why hide the gun in Jessica’s locker?
“So Victor paid you off because you knew about the gun, even though it wasn’t the gun that Charlie used?” Jack asked. He still hadn’t put all of the pieces together.
“When I found out Charlie was killed, I went to Mr. Angelo. I didn’t know anyone else, Mr. Diamond and well, he had been so nice to me before, you know, that day on the phone. He convinced me to lie about the gun to the cops. He said for me not to worry about it. That he would take care of it.” Millie stopped talking and just sat there, looking down at her hands.
Jack knew there was more to the story. He prodded her for more answers. “Then what happened, Mrs. White?”
Millie swallowed hard and then continued. “When the Detective told me about the Smith & Wesson, I knew something was wrong. I called Mr. Angelo. He didn’t want me to tell the police that there were two different guns. Then Mr. Russo showed up with the money, warned me not to tell anyone, otherwise…” she paused for a moment and then continued, “he would kill me.”
Jack took a final drag off of his cigarette and put it out. He paced around the room for a moment. Something still didn’t make sense. He scratched his head again. “So why didn’t you leave, Mrs. White?”
Millie looked up at Jack with tears in her eyes. “I planned on it, but I had nowhere to go.”
Millie shook her head. “I don’t have a sister, Mr. Diamond. I don’t have anyone. Charlie was my only family.”
“So why tell me all of this now knowing that your life is in danger?”
“I’ve had a lot of time to think, Mr. Diamond. For all of his faults, Charlie really was my only family. I couldn’t just run off without at least telling someone. I thought by now that you would have found out…”
“Found out what, Mrs. White?”
“When Miss Daley was killed, Charlie was inconsolable. I couldn’t understand what was wrong. Finally, he confessed it all to me. The affair. The gambling debts. That Victor knew and was blackmailing Miss Daley.” Millie grabbed the glass of water, took a drink and continued. “I think I know why Charlie was killed, Mr. Diamond.”
Jack narrowed his eyes. “Then you must tell me, Mrs. White.”
She nodded her head and sat the glass down. “Charlie was there when Miss Daley was murder.”
Jack’s eyes grew wide. “Did he see who did it?”
“He didn’t see who, Mr. Diamond. He said he heard the gun shot and by the time he got to the dressing room, Jessica was dead. All he saw was the shadow of someone fleeing the room.”
Millie began crying. “I’m such a fool for trusting him!” she yelled over and over again.
Jack sat down on the bed beside her and she buried her head in his chest. Suddenly, she gripped his suit jacket and looked up at him. “Do you think Mr. Angelo killed them both, Mr. Diamond?”
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 15