Jack stood in the reception room of his office. It was eerily quiet, lifeless, and dull. His ray of sunshine was still held up somewhere with Victor and Tito. Jack pulled his revolver out of his left pocket and then shrugged off his suit jacket from his left arm and from about his right shoulder. He winced as pain hit him in waves. The doctor had secured a sling over his shoulder and a wrap around his mid-section to keep him from moving his arm. He carried the gun and jacket into his office and laid them down on the sofa. He still couldn’t believe that Victor gave him his gun back. That arrogant bastard had balls of steal.
Glancing over at his desk, Jack saw a stack of papers. He walked over to them. some of them needed signing, but that would have to wait until he could use his right hand again. There were also transcribed notes and a pile of call-backs. He looked through that stack. One in particular caught his eye. He picked up the phone and wedged it between his chin and left shoulder and dialed the number.
“Rickland? It’s Jack Diamond here. Dani said you called.”
“Hello, Jack. Hey, sorry about Larson. He left orders for me to call you when we got the ballistics back on that gun,” Rickland said on the other line.
Thomas Rickland was a forensic scientist in the Criminologist division. He was also an old friend of Larson’s.
“Yeah, I’m sorry for your loss too, Rickland. I know how close you and Larson were. What did you get back on that gun?”
“It’s not a match, Jack. The sets of fingerprints we pulled off of it belonged to Charlie White and Jessica Daley. After all that’s happened…” Rickland’s voice trailed off for a moment and then he continued, “Anyway, I wish it could have been better news.”
Jack thanked Rickland and hung up the phone. It was just as he’d feared. It had been too easy. Nothing was ever that easy. Jack opened his desk drawer and pulled out his cigarettes and a zippo lighter. He hated the smell of the thing, but without the use of his right hand, he couldn’t even strike a match. He lit a cigarette and sat down in his chair. His mind kept racing back to Dani. He wondered where Victor had found her, if it was here at the office or at her home. He hoped the former. He took a drag off of his cigarette, inhaled and then blew an opaque cloud into the air.
“I’ll get you back Dani,” he whispered. “And somehow, some day, I will make Victor pay for taking you away from me.”
Jack finished his cigarette and looked at the wall clock. It was nearing noon. He dreaded what was to happen next, but he had no choice. Jack glanced over to the opened drawer and spotted his bottle of bourbon. A drink would take the edge off, but it was too early in the day for that, even for him. He pushed the drawer shut and stood up. He grimaced again as pain coursed through his body. He inhaled deeply. He would let all of his pain, grief and hatred build up and when the time was right, he would unleash it all on Victor. He picked up his cigarettes and lighter and went to the sofa. He twisted and turned as he tried to get the jacket back on and then cursed. He threw it back on the sofa and picked up his gun, stuffing it and the cigarettes into his pocket. He lifted an older fedora off of the coat rack and settled it on his head as he walked out of the office.
Thirty minutes later, he arrived at the hotel and knocked on Ella’s door. As he waited, he went over in his head what he needed to do. Ella wouldn’t be too happy, he was sure, but really the choice was clear. Dani was like family and more important. The door opened and Officer Buxley stepped aside for Jack to enter.
“Good to see you again, Mr. Diamond,” Buxley said as he closed the door behind them.
“You too, Buxley. How is she?” Jack asked as he entered the sitting room.
“Worried sick, sir. She hasn’t come out of her room for a couple of days.”
Jack nodded. He felt around in his pocket and pulled out a twenty. He handed it to Buxley. “Give me a while, will ya? Go have some lunch.”
Buxley took the money and smiled up at Jack. “Sure thing, Mr. Diamond. Thanks!”
Once Buxley left, Jack crossed the room to the bedroom and opened the door. The room was dark with the curtains tightly closed and no light on. He stood there for a moment until he heard Ella shift on the bed.
“It’s me, Ella,” Jack said without moving toward her.
“Jack?” Ella whispered as she switched on the bedside light.
Jack noticed her face first. It was flushed and her eyes were puffy. Her hair lay in tangles down her shoulders. A white hotel robe was tightly wrapped around her. She seemed so small and vulnerable. Jack really dreaded what he had to do now.
Ella stood up and staggered toward Jack. When she reached him, she wrapped her arms around his neck. Jack winced in pain and she stepped back.
“Oh Jack, you are hurt! What happened?”
“It’s just a scratch, Ella,” Jack said as he regained his composure.
“That’s no scratch, Jack. Did Victor do that to you?” she asked, her face awash with concern.
“No, a rusted piece of sheet metal did it.”
“Come sit down, Jack,” Ella said as she took a hold of Jack’s left hand and tried to guide him toward the bed.
Jack didn’t budge. He slid his hand out of hers and stared at her. “There’s no time for that, Ella. You need to get dressed.”
“Why, Jack?” Ella asked as her expression turned to one of confusion.
“We have to go and we don’t have much time before Officer Buxley returns,” Jack said with a coldness in his voice.
Ella placed her hand on Jack’s left arm. “You are frightening me, Jack. Where? Where do we have to go?”
Jack looked into her eyes. He hated that she was frightened, but he had little choice in what he was about to say. “I am taking you back to Victor.”
Ella gasped and jerked her hand back, raising it to her face. She covered her mouth and glared at Jack. “I don’t understand, Jack. You promised to keep me safe from him!” she pleaded.
Jack sighed and cursed at himself for making that promise. “He has Dani, Ella. To get her back, I have to give you back to him.”
Shaking her head, Ella began to cry. “But what about me. About us, Jack? I thought we had…” She didn’t finish, instead she threw herself across the bed, smothered her face into a pillow and wept.
Jack finally moved from his spot in the doorway. He took long strides across the room and sat down on the bed beside Ella. He wrapped his left arm around her and pulled her close to his chest, smoothing the damp hair away from her face. Ella blinked away the tears and looked into his eyes. She raised her lips to kiss him, but Jack leaned his head backwards. He wanted nothing more than to press his lips to hers and kiss her until the world stopped moving, but he couldn’t. He just couldn’t.
“No, Ella,” he said as he looked down upon her stunned face. “I’m sorry, Ella. I have no choice.”
Ella pushed herself away from Jack and curled up across the bed from him. “You do have a choice, Jack. You’re just not choosing me.”
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 19