Jack’s mind raced with unanswered questions after Millie White’s confession. He still didn’t fully understand why Jessica was murdered nor who murdered her. He had his suspicions about why Charlie was murdered, but why make it look like a suicide? If Victor was involved in both, he knew he would have a hard time proving it. Then there was the business with the two guns and possibly a third if the one he found in Jessica’s locker wasn’t the murder weapon. And what about all of Victor’s entanglements – the night club, the gambling house, the porn racket and his meeting in Vegas with the owner of the Sands and God only knew who else? If all of that wasn’t enough to twist his brain, Jack now had not one woman to protect, but two of them. His head throbbed and all he wanted was a long hot shower, a few shots of bourbon and a good night’s sleep. The first two were a good possibility, but the latter, well… that wouldn’t happen until this case was solved.
Jack left Millie at the motel. He figured since she’d been there for over a week without alarming Victor, she was probably safe for the moment. Just out of caution though, when he returned to his office, he called in a favor. Mickey Parson was a retired bouncer, but still good with a gun or a bat or anything else he could get his hands on in a jam. Mickey would keep an eye on Millie until Jack could figure out what to do next.
It was late in the evening by the time Jack settled down in his office with his half-empty bottle of bourbon. Bobby still hadn’t checked in, but Jack wasn’t expecting a call from him for a day or two anyway. Since there was little else to do but wait, Jack sent Dani home early. He poured himself a drink and was just about to gulp it down when the phone rang.
“Jack, I’ve got a lead on Victor’s gambling house,” Larson said as soon as Jack picked up the phone.
“Meet me down at the docks. Pier 319, Jack. You got that?”
“Got it, Art. See you there.”
Jack opened the bourbon bottle and poured the amber liquor back inside. No sense wasting a good drink, he thought as he stood up and grabbed his coat.
Twenty minutes later, Jack pulled into a parking spot by Pier 319. He saw Larson’s beat-up Studebaker in the lot, but there was no sign of him. He climbed out of his car and walked down to the pier, double-checking the number. 319. He glanced up and down the walkway and decided to check out one of the old storage buildings. During the war, the docks had been a busy place, but once the war came to an end, business slowed down and most of the storage buildings were no longer in service. The one at Pier 319 looked like it hadn’t been in service for a decade or longer. Most of the paint had peeled away and the metal sheeting had begun to rust. As Jack drew closer, he could hear voices inside and a faint stream of light shown through a crack in the entrance door. There were no windows in the front of the building, so Jack crept up to the door and peered inside the crack. A large shelving unit blocked his view. And then he felt a tap on his shoulder. Jack jumped back, startled.
“Shhhh,” Larson whispered as he grabbed Jack by the arm and pulled him off to the side of the building and over to a stack of old tires. Once they were securely hidden in the shadows, Larson exhaled deeply. “Sorry about that, Jack. Didn’t mean to scare you.”
“What the hell, Art? I thought you were going to wait for me by the pier?”
Larson crouched down and motioned for Jack to do the same. “I was, but then I saw Victor and Tito arrive. What the hell took you so long to get here?”
“Traffic, what else?”
Larson laughed. “You really don’t want to know what I was thinking.”
Jack wasn’t about to get into that with Larson. He knew all too well what his old partner was thinking. He changed the subject back to Victor and Tito. “So you followed them down here on your own? Kind of risky don’t ya think?”
Larson stood up and nodded with a sheepish grin on his face. “Just wanted to make sure which building they went into.”
“What’s the plan?” Jack said as he too stood up, stretched his legs and glanced over the top of the tire stack.
“I canvassed the building. Two ways in or out. This front entrance and another in the back with a staircase leading up to a door with a window in it. I haven’t checked that out yet.”
Jack pulled a coin out of his pocket. “Heads, I check it out. Tails, you do,” he said as he flipped the coin. This had been their method of solving such problems when they’d been partners on the force. The coin flew into the air and landed back in Jack’s hand. He cupped it and looked up at Larson. He nodded and Jack removed his hand. It was tails.
“Sorry, old buddy,” Jack said as he patted Larson on the back.
Jack crouched back down behind the tires and watched as Larson moved slowly around to the back. Once Larson was out of sight, Jack took out a cigarette and lit it, making sure to keep the glowing red tip hidden from view behind the tires. He took a few drags and flicked the ashes. After a few moments, Larson returned.
“Just as I suspected,” Larson said as he took the cigarette from Jack and took a long drag off of it. He handed it back to Jack and continued. “This is where they’ve moved their gambling headquarters. They’ve got three black jack tables set up, about a dozen players, and I could only make out two guards besides Tito.”
“What about Victor?” Jack asked as he tossed the butt onto the ground and crushed it under his shoe.
“I don’t know. I couldn’t see him anywhere, but there is a boxed-in office off to the left. He’s probably in there.”
“So what now?”
“Well, it’s an illegal establishment. We’ll raid them, but I’d better radio in for back-up. You stay here, I’ll be right back.”
Jack watched as Larson crept along in the shadows toward the front of the building. He was just about to light another cigarette when he heard a shot ring out, followed by loud shouting. He pulled out his revolver and ducked down behind the stack of tires. Slowly, he peered around them. He could hear Larson yelling something and then another shot fired off. Jack ran from his hiding spot, staying in the shadow of the building. When he came around the corner, he saw Larson on the ground with Tito standing over him and Victor standing in the lighted doorway. Jack turned to run back toward the tire stack, but crashed into a large piece of jagged metal sticking out of the side of the building. It ripped into Jack’s coat through to his right shoulder. Jack winced as he grasped the wound. He heard more shouts. Apparently the noise had alerted Victor.
“There’s someone else…around back,” Jack heard Victor yell.
Jack darted back to the shadows of the tires and ducked down behind them. His shoulder throbbed and blood was trickling down his sleeve. The wound was deep and jagged, but Jack didn’t have time to worry about that. He heard boots pounding on the ground. They stopped a few feet away from him. Then one set of boots pounded off into the distance and another set headed off to the right of where Jack was hiding. Jack raised his gun, but the pain in his shoulder caused him to cry out in pain. A set of boots moved toward him. Jack’s head began to swim. He stumbled back and fell to the ground. Blood flowed in a steady stream down his arm as he passed out.
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 16