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.
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Jump forward to Part 21