Jack pulled away from Angelina and slumped down in the floor. He put his hand to his head and ran his fingers through his hair. What are you doing, Jack? Are you insane? Angelina reached out and placed a hand on his arm, but Jack recoiled. She jerked her hand back and stared at him with wide, questioning eyes.
“Don’t!” he yelled as he rose to his feet. “Just… just don’t.”
“Jack? What just happened?”
Jack cursed himself as he walked around to the other side of the desk. His legs wobbled and his hand shook. He slumped down in his chair. For the first time in hours, he felt the pain in his shoulder. You deserve that, Jack. Serves you right.
“Nothing happened,” Jack finally replied. “And nothing will ever happen between us again. Understood, Angelina?”
“You kissed me, Jack!” she scowled as she stood up and grabbed her gloves and purse off of the desk.
“You are a piece of work, Angelina. Showing up here out of the blue. Weeping over a long, lost past. A past of your own making. Yes, I kissed you, but I won’t make that mistake again.”
“You don’t have to be so cruel, Jack. I may have broken your heart, but I broke mine too!” She paused for a moment and then whispered, “If you only knew…”
Angelina turned her head, dabbed her eyes with the handkerchief and then walked toward the door. She got only a few feet away before Jack yelled at her.
“We aren’t done yet! Sit down!”
She ignored him and kept walking.
“I said, sit down!” Jack demanded as he slammed his fist on the desk.
Angelina stopped and turned around. She let out a sigh as she walked to the chair, placed the gloves and purse back on the desk and sat down. She glared at Jack and crossed her legs.
Jack noticed that her eyes weren’t the slightest bit red. There hadn’t been any tears at all. She’d played him and he’d let her. Had she played him all along? All of those years ago too? The ache in his heart ceased. He was tired of the games.
“You should have been an actress, Angelina. That was a brilliant performance,” he said as he leaned over his desk. “Let’s stop the acting. You have information. I need information.”
“Fine!” she said as she leaned back in the chair and crossed her arms across her chest.
Jack smirked and sat upright. “That’s more like it. Now tell me the rest of what happened in New York.”
Angelina let out a long sigh. “All I know is that Victor showed up, smoothed things over and brought Ella here.”
Jack narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean he smoothed things over?”
“How am I supposed to know? One minute the cops were all over her. The next minute minute they weren’t. You know Victor. If he wants something to go away, it goes away.”
Jack knew that all too well. He’d made Angelina disappear. He’d made the real reason behind Larson’s death disappear too. Yes, he was good at that. Still, he felt like Angelina was holding something back. He kept digging.
“I don’t know anything else,” she said as she lowered her eyes.
Jack wasn’t buying it. If that was all she knew, she had no reason to come there. She could have just stayed in New York.
“There is something else. What aren’t you telling me?”
Angelina raised her eyes and stared back at him. She sighed again and glanced away. Finally, she turned her gaze back at Jack. “Most of the time, Victor doesn’t care about anyone but himself. You know that as well as I do. When I left him for you, Jack, he told me if I didn’t come back that he would kill anyone close to you. I saw how you always looked at your secretary…”
Jack jumped back in his seat and opened his mouth to protest.
“No, don’t deny it,” she said as she shook her head. “I knew. Somehow, so did Victor. He wanted you to feel pain, Jack. He told me that he had your partner… what was his name?”
“Mason,” Jack interjected.
“Yes, Mason. He had him killed. That was to hurt you as much as I am sure it did Dani.”
Jack wasn’t enjoying this walk down memory lane. Was she stalling? He couldn’t be sure. “I’ve had my suspicions about Mason’s death all along. So, you aren’t telling me anything new. What are you getting at, Angelina?”
“I know you don’t believe me, Jack, but I really did love you. I went back to Victor to protect you. To protect Dani. I… I didn’t want anyone else to die over me.”
Jack eyed her suspiciously. He wasn’t going to fall for her game again by getting sentimental. “Even if all of that is true, what does any of it have to do with Ella?”
Angelina slowly inhaled, held her breath for a moment and then exhaled. “When Victor sent me to New York, Ella took me in. I became a confidant of sorts to her. She told me things, Jack.”
Jack raised an eyebrow and leaned forward. “What things?”
Angelina shifted in her seat. She folded her hands in her lap and coughed nervously. “They were running a scam at the Roosevelt. Ella would lure sailors in, charm them, and then…” she paused for a moment, breathed in and out and then continued, “then she would invite them to the back room.”
“What went on in the back room, Angelina?”
She looked into Jack’s eyes for a long moment and then confessed, “Gambling, usually. Sometimes private parties with whores. Sometimes…”
“What?” Jack demanded as his eyes widened.
“Smut pictures,” she whispered.
This all sounded too familiar. “And Ella was involved in all of it?” he asked as he sat back in his chair.
“Her and Mr. Agosti. The would get the sailors drunk and have them gamble away their leave pay until they were in debt. Then as a means to pay off the debts, Mr. Agosti would force the men to take pictures with women in compromising positions. To keep the sailors from talking, they used the pictures as blackmail.”
Jack didn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe it. Was Ella really capable of all that Angelina had said? Did Victor bring her here to continue the business because there was too much heat in New York? That was not the Ella he knew. Or was it?
“That’s not all, Jack,” Angelina said, interrupting Jack’s thoughts.
Could there possibly be anything worse, he thought. “What else?”
“Ella is not Victor’s girlfriend. Oh he loves her. There is no doubt about that. He will do anything to protect her.”
Jack stood up. Confusion washed over his face as he walked around the desk. He leaned up against it and asked, “If she isn’t his girlfriend, then who is she?”
“She… she is his half-sister.”
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!
The Stacked Deck 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, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23. Part 24, Part 25
Jump forward to Part 27