Jack woke up stiff and grouchy. The pain in his shoulder didn’t do much to help his mood any either. He took a couple of aspirins and headed to the bathroom. Dani still slept on the sofa and Jack pulled the blanket up around her as it had slid to the floor during the night. Once inside the bathroom, he looked in the mirror. He was two shades of grim and needed a shave, but that would have to wait. He winced as he pulled off his shirt. His bandage would need replacing soon, but that would have to wait too. He grabbed a washcloth off of the shelf by the sink and lathered it up. He washed his chest in the areas that weren’t covered by the bandage, his left underarm, neck and face.
As he toweled off, Jack thought about the upcoming meeting with Captain Morgan. Their meeting would probably go one of two ways. Either he would strip Jack of his PI license, or give him a medal. He seriously doubted the latter. Jack pulled a clean shirt off of the coat-hanger on the back of the door and pulled a sleeve up his left arm. He stood there for a moment trying to figure out how to get the rest of the shirt fixed over his right arm when there was a knock on the door.
“Jack? Are you okay?” Dani asked as she knocked a second time.
“Um… just a second, Dani. I… I am having trouble…” Jack said as he twisted and turned trying to get his shirt over his right shoulder.
Dani opened the door and laughed. “Let me help, Jack. You look like a bird flapping its wings.”
Jack grinned sheepishly and stood still in front of Dani. She lifted the right section of the shirt over his shoulder and brought the fronts of the shirt around to his chest. She slowly buttoned it up and then took a safety pin from the shelf and fastened the right arm cuff up to his shoulder. When she was done, she smoothed his shirt down to remove the wrinkles.
“You will have to wear it out, Jack, unless…” she said, blushing.
Jack brushed his left hand across hers and then held it for a moment. He gazed into her green eyes and smiled. She really was a beautiful woman. He could understand why Mason had been so in love with her. Brains and beauty. He coughed as he released her hand.
“It’s okay, Dani. I will just wear it out.”
“Jack…” she began as she lowered her eyes from his. “I… um… never mind. I should go home and change,” she finished and turned to leave.
Jack pulled her back toward him and wrapped his arm around her. He leaned in, his lips mere inches from hers. He searched her face for a reaction. She closed her eyes, but made no attempt to get away. Jack breathed in her scent and sighed. He wanted to kiss her. God knew how badly he wanted to kiss her. Instead, he released her and took a step backward.
“Yes, I think you should definitely go home and change, Dani,” Jack said as he composed himself.
Dani slowly opened her eyes and nodded at Jack. Without saying a word, she walked out of the bathroom, closing the door behind her.
Jack leaned against the door and cursed at himself. He didn’t know what came over him, but he knew he couldn’t do that to Dani or to the memory of Mason. I’m a swine, Jack thought as he turned back to the mirror and looked at his reflection. I’m really no better than men like Victor Angelo. He shook his head and sighed deeply. If he’d ever hated himself, he never had more than he did at that moment. How could you, Jack? he questioned himself. Of all the women in the world… The thought lingered in his mind as he turned on the tap and splashed water on his face. He reached over, grabbed a towel and buried his head in it. He knew exactly how. He’d met Dani first all those years ago and had wanted her for himself, but there was Angelina, Victor’s dame. He’d wanted her too and he got her. Soon after, Mason began dating Dani, and Jack… well, Jack lost Angelina as quickly as he’d gotten her. She’d left him for Victor again, only for Victor to send her packing back to New York. By then, it was too late for Jack and Dani. She was in love with Mason and after his death, she was too devastated.
Jack waited until he heard Dani leave the office and only then did he leave the safety of the bathroom. He walked over to the sofa, folded the blanket and placed it back over the armrest. He stared at the spot where Dani had slept the night before. She’d been so angelic lying there. He’d watched her sleeping for half the night as he drank one too many shots of bourbon and smoked a half of a pack of cigarettes. He didn’t even remember falling asleep. Jack cursed himself again as he grabbed his fedora, turned off the lights and walked out the door.
Once outside, Jack breathed in the crisp morning air. He walked down the block to his sedan and climbed inside. He reached over the stirring wheel, put the key in the ignition switched with his left hand, and turned the engine over. Then he reached up, put the car in drive and headed toward the 5th Precinct.
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:
Jump forward to Part 23