Jack had spent the night at the hospital. He paced the floors while Angelina and Frank were in surgery. He drank one too many cups of bad coffee and smoked one too many cigarettes. His head ached as did his heart, and his mind wouldn’t stop asking questions. Ella had said she loved him. Had she meant it at all? Or was he just another joker in her deck of twisted cards? Did she honestly think he would have stayed with her knowing that she worked so deeply with Victor’s illegal schemes? Hell, she was practically Victor’s partner. Maybe she was. Maybe that was what she meant when she said Jessica was ruining everything. Even if he’d never found out that she had killed two people, Jack would never have stayed.
Bobby had stopped by to bring Jack up to date on Ella, but Dani had kept her distance. It was just as well. He wouldn’t have been very good company and he didn’t like for Dani to see him in such a mess. In his state of mind, a decent woman like Dani could get hurt, not intentionally of course, but Jack knew himself too well. He could say harsh things, things that could rip a heart in two, and the last thing Jack wanted was to hurt her.
Both surgeries went well. Frank and Angelina rested comfortably in their respective rooms. Jack had stopped by each and checked in on them. Frank was the first to wake up, but he was too weak to speak. Jack had patted the man on his hand and told him to rest. When Jack went into Angelina’s room, a wave of emotions washed over him. She looked so pale, so fragile lying there in that bed with an oxygen tube running to her nose and the iv tube running from her arm to the pole at her side. Jack sat down in a chair by her bed and watched her. Hours passed and she hadn’t stirred. He held her hand and finally fell asleep. It had been a long, exhausting day.
Jack felt a squeeze of his hand. He opened his eyes and looked around. At first, he didn’t have a clue where he was, then he remembered. He sat upright in the chair and gazed over at Angelina. She smiled at him. He felt the warmth of her smile and leaned forward. He flashed her a bright one in return.
“Hey,” Jack whispered as he squeezed her hand.
“Hello, Jack. Have you been here all night?” Angelina whispered as she tried to sit up.
“No, no. Stay lying down, Angelina. That was a nasty bullet you took.”
Angelina’s face grew grim and her eyes widened. “Ella?”
Jack stood up and leaned over her. “She’s in custody. She can’t hurt you anymore.”
Angelina sank back into the bed. “Thank you, Jack,” she sighed as her blue eyes closed and she drifted back to sleep.
Jack remained there with her for a bit longer. Finally, he told the nurse to call him when she woke up again. He gave her his office number and the Captain’s number at the 5th Precinct.
By the time he left the hospital, the sun had risen and hung mid-way in the sky. His mood lifted as well. He wouldn’t go so far as to say he was happy, but at least the dark cloud that had surrounded him for weeks was finally gone. Ella had been that dark cloud. He realized that now. As he drove to the 5th Precinct, even the morning traffic didn’t bother him.
Thirty minutes later, Jack joined the Captain and the DA in the Captain’s office. Mickey Parson, Millie White and Bobby sat outside. Victor was on the lam, so Mrs. White was still under Parson’s protection. Jack sat across the desk from Morgan while DA Johnson stood by the window gazing out at the City.
“Well, get him, Johnson,” the Captain assured him. “Miss D’Amore will turn state’s evidence and then we’ll finally nail that son of a bitch.”
“What will happen to her?” Jack asked as he puffed on a cigarette.
Johnson turned around. “If she does cooperate, probably 15 to 25. If not, 30 to life.”
“Is there some doubt that she will cooperate? I thought it was a done deal,” Morgan inquired.
“She gave us an ultimatum. She is refusing to help unless…,” Johnson narrowed his eyes at Jack. “Unless you talk to her first, Mr. Diamond.”
Jack blinked. He couldn’t imagine what Ella could say to him now that would make any difference. “I have nothing to say to her.”
The DA walked over to the desk and placed his palms down on it. He leaned forward and stared at Jack. “Apparently she does. Come on, Mr. Diamond! We need her testimony or Victor Angelo gets off scot-free again.”
Morgan nodded his head in agreement. “He’s right, Jack. You have to do this.”
Jack took a drag off of his cigarette and then stumped it out in the ashtray. He shook his head and stood up. “Damn it! Okay, fine. Let’s get this over with.”
Jack followed the DA and the Captain to an interrogation room. Jack sat down at the table while they waited for Ella to be brought in. Jack felt that cloud descend over him again and the grey room didn’t help matters any. Minutes later, an officer brought Ella into the room. This was not the same beauty who had affected him so badly. She looked three shades of hell. Her hair was in disarray, her face pale, and her eyes red. The officer led her to the table and she sat down across from Jack with her head bowed.
“We’ll just leave you two alone for a minute,” Morgan said as he and the DA walked out of the room, closing the door behind them.
Ella didn’t speak or look at Jack. She sat there with her hands in her lap. Jack watched her for a long moment. Finally, he let out a deep sigh.
“I’m here like you demanded, Ella. Now what do you want?”
Ella slowly raised her head and cast her gaze upon Jack. “I need to explain,” she whispered.
Jack laughed. “What could you possibly explain to me that I don’t already know?”
Ella continued to stare at him with her brown eyes. “I didn’t have a choice, Jack.”
“We all have choices, Ella. You just chose the wrong ones!”
“You don’t know what it was like growing up in my family, Jack. All of those powerful men. When my mother died, Victor was all I had left. He raised me and took care of me. I owed him.”
“You owed him nothing. Why’d you really do it, Ella? All of those lives you ruined. Why?” Jack demanded.
Ella turned her face away. “I had two choices, Jack. Help Victor or become one of the many whores he controlled. No one controls me, Jack. No one!” she exclaimed as she turned her head back toward Jack.
“You didn’t have to murder for him, Ella,”
Ella let out a soft laugh. “No, I did that on my own. That sailor… He tried to rape me. And Jessica… Well, she was going to the cops about what we’d done to Charlie White. I worked too hard to get where I was to be brought down by the likes of her.”
Jack shook his head. “So no remorse, no regrets?”
Ella placed her hands on the desk and leaned forward. Her eyes searched Jack’s. “Only that I fell in love with you, Jack. For the first time in my life, I wanted to be the woman I saw in your eyes each time you looked at me, but… I am not that woman.” Ella slumped back down into the chair and lowered her eyes again.
“No, Ella. You are not that woman. You give the DA whatever he needs to put Victor away,” Jack said as he stood up. “And maybe, just maybe someday I will forgive you.”
Jack walked to the door and turned back one last time at Ella. She stared up at him with pleading eyes, but Jack ignored it. “Don’t ever ask to see me again,” Jack concluded and left the room.
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 ©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, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29
Jump forward to Part 31