The Staked Deck – Part 21

Night blanketed the City by the time Jack and Dani arrived at the office. A cold, steady rain fell, turning the streets into black mirrors, much like Jack’s mood. The drive from Victor’s club had been a silent one, what with Jack’s blackened mood and Dani’s brush with Victor and Tito, neither said a word. Jack wanted to take Dani home and see her to bed, but she insisted on coming back to the office with him.

“You should get some rest, Dani,” Jack argued as they entered the reception room. It was an useless argument though. Dani lived by herself and Jack was sure she didn’t want to be alone tonight. Truth be known, neither did Jack.

Dani went around to her desk and sat down. She looked up at Jack and shook her head. “Me? What about you? That shoulder must be giving you quite a fit. Besides, I won’t rest until we nail Victor to the fence,” she replied as she moved papers around on the desk.

Jack looked over at his right shoulder. “I will be fine, Dani. Tough as steel,” he said with a chuckle. “And I agree. I won’t rest until then either.”

Jack loved Dani’s spunk. He also loved that sunshine was back in his office. He couldn’t imagine life without Dani in it. He walked into his office and placed his old fedora on the coat rack and went to his desk. He opened the bottom drawer, pulled out his bourbon and a glass. That drink he’d been wanting all day would finally be his. He poured the glass full and sat down in his chair. He lifted the glass to his lips, but before he could take a sip, the phone rang in the reception room. He sat the glass down and tried to listen to the call, but Dani’s voice was soft and muffled. He looked down at the bourbon and sighed. Maybe this was some unknown force telling him it was time to give up the drink. He stood up and wandered back to the reception room.

“Okay, I will let Jack know. Thanks, Officer Buxley,” Dani said as she hung up the phone.

Jack sighed again as he leaned against the doorway. “What was that about?”

Dani flashed Jack an annoyed look. “That was about you nearly being locked up for obstruction of justice!”

Jack grinned at her. “Nearly? I’m surprised Buxley hasn’t knocked down my door already.”

“He would have if Commissioner Morano hadn’t stepped in. I didn’t think you two were that close. Good to have friends in high places, Jack.”

Jack laughed as he walked in and sat down across the desk from Dani. “I don’t and we aren’t close at all. In fact, the man hates me. Always has.”

A puzzled look settled over Dani’s face. “Then why would he…”

“He’s Victor’s cousin,” Jack interrupted.

“He’s what? I should have known! No wonder the investigation over Mason’s murder went no where!” Dani shouted as her temper rose and her face reddened.

Jack reached across the desk, grabbed Dani’s hand and squeezed it. “We’ll get him, Dani. I promise you. Somehow we will get him.”

Dani glanced over at Jack and slowly nodded her head. “So you really aren’t ending the investigation?”

“Of course not. We’ve got too much at stake here, Dani. Victor has weaseled his way out of trouble for the last time,” Jack said with a smirk. “What else did Buxley say?”

Dani sighed as she slid her hand away from Jack’s. “You need to go down to the 5th in the morning and talk with Captain Morgan.”

Jack pushed back the chair and stood up. “I can only imagine what that conversation will be like. Probably nothing good,” he said as he walked back toward his office. “Take the sofa and get some sleep, Dani.”

“What about you?” she asked as she followed him into his office and sat down on the sofa.

“Sleep is the last thing I need right now,” Jack said with a grin and pointed to his bottle of bourbon. “That’s my comfort for the night.”

Dani stretched out across the sofa and pulled the blanket from the armrest over her. “That bourbon is going to be the death of you, Jack,” she commented with a yawn.

“Maybe, maybe not, Dani,” Jack replied. He took a sip of the bourbon and sat the glass down. “Oh, Bobby should be home tomorrow. Victor made me call him off the case. I just hope he found out something useful before he got whacked over the head.”

“He what? When were you going to tell me Bobby was hurt?” Dani said as she sat up and glared at Jack.

“I’m tell you now. He’s okay. Just a bump on the head.”

Dani stretched back out on the sofa and as she settled her head back down, she yelled, “I don’t know who is going to kill me faster, you or Bobby! I must be crazy to keep working for you, Jack!”

Jack laughed and lit a cigarette. “You’d be crazy without us, Dani. Now go to sleep!”

Dani let out a loud huff and rolled over. She wiggled and squirmed for a few more minutes and finally fell asleep.

Jack smiled as he watched her. When he saw the even rise and fall of her chest, he relaxed a bit. He sat his cigarette down in the ashtray, took another swig of his bourbon, and sat the glass back down. So many thoughts raced through his mind. What if he had lost Dani for good? No, Jack. She’s safe. What if he’s lost Ella? He wouldn’t blame her if she wanted nothing to do with him now. He sold her out. But he would keep his promise. Then one last thought lingered in his mind, would he ever put Victor away? He grabbed the cigarette and leaned back in his chair. As he sat there puffing away, he grappled with that question. Ten years ago, he’d gone toe to toe with Victor and lost. He hadn’t been able to prove that Victor was running a smuggling business nor that he was connected with Mason’s murder, and he couldn’t prove that Victor was involved in not one, but two murders this time. There was no evidence left on his gambling house and no proof of the porn racket either. As he inhaled, he watched the tip of his cigarette blaze red and fire snake upward along the stem. He was mesmerized by it for a moment. Finally, he leaned forward and snuffed the cigarette out.

“That’s what I am going to do to you, Victor Angelo. Snuff you out!” he whispered out loud and then leaned back in his chair again.


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.

Click the link to catch up on the other parts of this story:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20

Jump forward to Part 22

The Stacked Deck – Part 20

Jack took a deep breath as he opened the door to Victor’s club. Stay focused, he thought. Keep your cool and get Dani back. As he stepped aside to let Ella enter, he exhaled. The interior was dark except for a faint light streaming from the lounge. Jack held his hand out across Ella’s mid-section and pressed a finger to his lips. Ella nodded and stopped. Jack removed his revolver from his left pocket. He proceeded with caution toward the entrance of the lounge and then peeked around the doorway. The room was quiet, empty and even Frank wasn’t at the bar. Jack didn’t like this. Sure, it was mid-week and only late afternoon, but Victor’s club was seldom empty and never this quiet. It was all too eerie. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. His heart pounded a wild, erratic beat. He felt a rush of panic set in and his stomach turned. The adrenaline only increased the pain in his shoulder, but he didn’t have time to think about that. He inhaled again, held his breath for a moment and then exhaled. Finally, Jack turned and motioned for Ella to join him.

The two walked into the lounge, Jack with his revolver still out in front of him and Ella just a foot behind him. They approached the bar and Ella sat her suitcase down on one of the bar stools. Jack motioned for her to stay put as he walked toward the door that led to the back entrance. Suddenly, light flooded the lounge and Ella ran up behind him, clinging to him. He felt her warmth against his back, but also that she was shaking. Jack reached around with his left hand and pulled Ella close to him and then swung his arm back out, pointing the gun at the back entrance door.

“Victor!” Jack called out. There was no response. “Victor! I’ve got Ella,” he yelled again.

The door opened and Victor walked out with Tito behind him. “So, I see, Jack,” Victor replied with a sinister grin on his face. He motioned toward Tito. “Bring her along, Tito.”

Tito moved toward Ella, but Jack pointed his gun at him. “Not until I see Dani,” Jack said as he glared at Victor.

“You are hardly in a position to make demands, Jack,” Victor said with a confident smile.

“I’d say I am, Victor.” Jack fired his gun at Tito’s feet, missing them by mere inches. Tito jumped back and growled at Jack. “Just stay where you are, Tito,” Jack said as he aimed his gun at him again. He turned his attention back to Victor. “I was aiming at his knees, Victor, but well, I missed. Not a very good shot as a lefty, but I don’t think you want me to try again.”

Victor laughed and walked around to the backside of the bar. He grabbed a bottle of bourbon off the shelf and two glasses. “Why don’t we have a drink and discuss this, Jack?”

Jack turned his head as his eyes followed Victor’s every move. He took a step back and Ella moved backwards with him. “Go over there,” Jack said to Ella, pointing to where she had placed her suitcase. Ella walked back to the bar stool, put the suitcase on the floor and sat down.

Victor poured two glasses of bourbon and pushed one across the bar toward Jack. “She listens very well to you, Jack,” he said with a wink. He lifted the glass of bourbon to his lips and drank the amber liquid. As he put the glass down, he continued speaking, “Come, drink with me Jack. We have a lot to discuss.”

Jack shook his head. “We’ve already discussed this, Victor. I give you Ella and drop the case. You give me Dani and leave my city. What more is there to talk about?”

Victor lifted the glass he had poured for Jack and drank the bourbon. “No sense wasting this, now is there?” he said as he placed the empty glass on the bar. “Oh Jack, you’ve put me in quite a predicament. You see, if I leave your city, I will lose a lot of money,” Victor said with a serious look. He glared at Jack for a moment and then continued, “I like money, Jack. In fact, I love it.”

“I don’t give a shit if you lose money, Victor. We made a deal and I’ve kept up my end of it. Now, I want Dani back and I want you gone!”

“You haven’t ended the case, Jack,” Victor replied. Jack flashed him a curious look. Victor smiled and continued. “Oh yes, I know about your assistant. Bobby, I think is his name. He’s been nosing about some of my friends’ establishments in New York, or did you forget about that, Jack?”

Jack leered at Victor. “No, I didn’t. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him since this,” he said as he cocked his head toward his right shoulder. “But I assure you, Victor, as soon as I have Dani, I will call off Bobby.”

Victor shook his head. “Tsk, tsk, Jack. It doesn’t work that way. It’s all or nothing. You know the game. I’ve called your bluff.”

Jack sighed. “I don’t have a way to reach him, Victor and he hasn’t called in.”

Victor reached down behind the bar and pulled out a telephone. “I know exactly where he is.” He dialed a number and handed the phone to Jack.

Jack stood there for a second. If he took the phone, he would have to put his gun away. He didn’t like that. Not one bit. Victor smiled at him and nodded toward the phone. Finally, Jack growled at Victor, put his gun in his pocket and took the phone. It was still ringing. After a moment a voice answered with a faint hello.

“Bobby?” Jack asked as he kept his eyes on Victor.

There was a long silence and then Bobby replied, “Yeah, it’s me, Jack.”

“Are you okay? Where are you?”

Again there was a moment of silence and then Bobby murmured, “In my motel room. I’m okay. Just got a bump on the head. One of Victor’s goons found me snooping around and whacked me. What’s going on, Jack?”

“I am calling off the investigation, Bobby. I will explain when you get back.”

“Why, Jack? I don’t understand.”

“Just get back here, Bobby!” Jack ordered and handed the phone back to Victor. “Satisfied?” he asked him.

Victor hung up the phone and grinned back at Jack. “Very satisfied.” He turned his attention to Ella. “Take your bag to the dressing room. We have one last show tonight before we leave.”

Ella opened her mouth to protest as she looked back and forth between Jack and Victor, but Victor gave her a stern glance.

“Do as I say, Ella!” Victor snapped at her as he pounded the bar with his fist.

“Go, Ella,” Jack said with a nod, “and remember what I said in the car.”

Ella nodded back at Jack and hopped off of the stool. She picked up her suitcase and glared back at Victor before storming off across the lounge floor to the dressing room stairs.

Jack’s heart sank as he watched her walk away. He meant what he had said. He would get her back, some way. When she disappeared down the stairs, he turned his attention back to Victor.

“Okay, I’ve done what you’ve asked. Now, where’s Dani?” Jack demanded.

Victor gestured at Tito. “Get her,” he said as he poured another round of drinks. Again, he slid one across to Jack. “Shall we toast to our agreement, Jack?”

Jack picked up the glass. “I want you out of my city before the week’s over, Victor,” he replied as he lifted the glass to his lips. He drank down the bourbon and place the glass back on the table. “Agreed?” he said, more as a command and less of a question.

Victor laughed and lifted his glass. “Agreed,” he said as he drank the amber liquid. “Plans are already in place, Jack. I was moving my operations anyway.”

Jack was about to comment, when he heard loud screaming from the back room. He ran toward the door, but Victor reached it before he did. He grabbed Jack’s right shoulder and twisted him around. Jack cried out in pain.

“Stay where you are, Jack!” Victor demanded as the door burst open.

Tito dragged Dani through the door by her hair. She continued to curse at him and pounded on his arm with a fist. Tito ignored her and pushed her toward Jack. Dani stumbled forward, placing a hand on her head where Tito had pulled on her hair. As she crashed against Jack’s chest, he wrapped his left arm around her and pulled her behind him. She peered around from Jack’s back and hissed at Tito.

“You’ve got what you wanted, Jack. Now get the hell out of my club!” Victor yelled.

Jack stood there for a moment and leered at Victor. Finally, he took Dani by the arm and led her out of the lounge. He stopped at the doorway and turned around. “By Sunday, Victor or I will be coming back!” He turned back around, and with Dani in tow, they left the club.

Once they were safely outside, Jack released Dani’s arm. He walked over to his car and held the door open for her. She approached it, then stopped, turned and looked up at Jack. She gently placed a hand on his right shoulder.

“Are you okay, Jack?” she whispered.

“I will be now, Dani.”

She stared him in the eyes. “I don’t know what you did to get me back, but I am grateful, Jack.”

Jack gave her a slight, reassuring smile and then his face shadowed over. “I played a game with the devil, Dani, but you are worth it.”


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.

Click the link to catch up on the other parts of this story:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19

Jump forward to Part 21

The Stacked Deck – Part 19

The drive across town to Victor’s club was long and silent. Ella pouted the entire time, but she didn’t appear to be as frightened as Jack thought she would be. She had raged at him in the hotel, called him names that he hadn’t heard since he’d left the force, but she complied. She’d dressed and packed her suitcase, seething with anger the entire time. Jack had left a note for Officer Buxley to let him know Ella was with him. By the time they were in his car, Ella was cold, embittered, and silent.

It took about twenty minutes to get to the club, but it felt like a lifetime. The sky grew dark as clouds rolled in, masking the sun. Jack thought how ironic it was that nature mirrored his own darkness. His heart was heavy like those clouds. Any signs of happiness were masked by this whole mess with Victor. He wished he’d never taken this case, never stepped back into Victor’s club and never met Ella. Victor was right, she was an elusive gem. And he wanted nothing more than to possess her, horde her away from the world, and keep her all to himself. Locked away in a box, but Ella wasn’t the kind of woman he could lock away. He could tell that when he looked at her in the hotel room. The light in her had gone out. The vivacious woman he’d known had wilted away in just a few short days of captivity. No, Ella needed to be free. She needed to shine in the spotlight. He was a fool to think otherwise. Would Victor ever give her that freedom? Somehow, Jack doubted it. He hated what he was about to do. To turn Ella back over to that monster.

When they pulled up outside the club, Jack turned to her. “Ella… if there was any other way…”

Ella glared at Jack with steely eyes. “Don’t Jack, just don’t,” she said as she turned her head away from him and stared out of the window.

“I will get you back, Ella,” Jack promised as he opened his car door and stepped out.

He walked to the passenger side and opened the door. Ella slowly swung her legs around and stepped out of the car, pulling her coat about her body tightly. Jack expected tears, but there weren’t any. Instead she tilted her head up, let out a deep sigh and walked past him. Jack reached into the backseat and pulled out her suitcase. When he joined her near the entrance, she turned to him, her face filled with rage.

“Don’t make promises you won’t keep, Jack!” she yelled as she slapped Jack across the face.

Jack stood there, stunned. He hadn’t anticipated that. He sat the suitcase down and lifted his left hand to his cheek. “Listen here, Ella! It’s not my fault you got tangled up with a swine like Victor! And it isn’t my fault that he likes to take his anger out on you the way he does!” He breathed in and out, taking in deep breathes. He waited a moment as the anger settled back down. His face softened and his voice cracked. “But he has Dani and I can’t let her end up in the same mess Victor had in store for Jessica Daley.”

Ella’s face turned grim. “What do you mean?”

“That was the threat, Ella. If I didn’t bring you back, Victor swore he would do to Dani what he had planned for Jessica, or worse. I don’t even want to think what could be worse than that.”

Ella bowed her head and whispered, “No, Jack. You don’t want to know.”

Jack pulled Ella against him and winced at the pain in his shoulder. He breathed in and out again until the pain subsided. “Will you be okay, Ella? He won’t harm you, will he?” he finally asked her.

“He won’t kill me, if that’s what you mean,” she replied as she gazed into his eyes.

“How can you be so sure, Ella? We both know what all he is involved in,” Jack said, his face filled with concern. “What if he forces you into…”

Ella placed a finger over his lips. “He won’t. I… I just know he won’t,” she replied as she blinked up at him.

His mind raced as scenarios flashed before him. He knew all too well what Victor was capable of, but he wasn’t just the corrupt businessman Jack had dealt with in the past. He was now involved in far worse dealings with even higher stakes. He knew the creeps who worked in the porn business. He’d busted a few while on the force. He also knew how the women were treated. The slums they lived in. Many of the women were prostitutes, but not all of them. Those slimes were always looking for younger, pretty dames and they used any means to get them. Anger boiled up inside of him again. If Victor touched one hair on Ella’s head, he would kill the bastard.

Jack’s gaze fell back to Ella and he searched her face. He couldn’t get a read on her. Was she frightened at all? And then he saw a single tear fall down her cheek. He wiped it away with his left hand and caressed her cheek where it had fallen. Her eyes softened and she gave Jack a slight smile.

“I will be fine, Jack,” she whispered as she closed her eyes and sighed.

Jack leaned in and kissed her. Ella kissed him back, but not with the passion they’d once shared. He wrapped his arm around her waist, pulled her hard against his chest and kissed her deeply. He wasn’t about to lose that spark between them, not over this. She finally gave in and returned the deepened kiss as her hands clung to his suit jacket. Jack smothered her lips hungrily. His hand moved up her back to her neck. His fingers slid up and down the curve of her neck and then he moved them into her silken black hair. After a long moment, he released her lips. He held her close against him, breathed in her scent, and then slowly loosened his hold on her. Jack took a step back. Neither spoke. They just stared at one another.

Finally, Ella sniffled, shook her head and then tilted it upward again, as though restoring some sense of dignity. “Let’s get this over with, Jack,” she said as she reached down and picked up her suitcase.


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.

Click the link to catch up on the other parts of this story:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18

Jump forward to Part 20

Notice: I’m Back Online!

*Phew* It has been a loooooooong weekend without the internet! I did manage to get a few things written and saved on my laptop, so I will be posting those randomly all over the blogosphere ha! I also have around 2000 emails to sift through *headdesk*

I want to thank Jillian for posting that notice for me. She is an awesome neighbor and friend *beams* We did a lot of chatting over the weekend because neither of us had cable or the internet, although she could still get online some via her phone and she went to her brother’s house to post the notice for me. No, that is still no reason for me to get a cellphone. I will remain a dinosaur, as she so elegantly dubbed me *laughs*

In other news, my A2Z theme reveals have posted on Promptly Written and As the Fates Will Have It. Thank goodness I had the foresight to schedule those ahead of time!

I am now off to post the things I did manage to get written this weekend. Keep your eyes open! The Stacked Deck Parts 19, 20 & 21 will be coming up soon!