Raised Stakes – Part One

Raised Stakes – Part One

Jack gulped down the bourbon and sat the glass back on the bar. It’d been hell the past few days. Captain Morgan had called him with two pieces of bad news – Ella had committed suicide in prison and Victor wanted to see him. Bad news comes in threes, they say. The third bit came with a call from Bobby. He hadn’t come up with anything for the latest case. Jack tossed a few bills on the bar and nodded at the bartender.

“See you around, Frank.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Diamond.”

When The Wild Card closed after Victor’s imprisonment, an Irishman from New York named O’Malley purchased the place and turned it into a proper Irish pub. He kept Frank on as bartender to keep the regulars coming back. The drinkers returned, but the businessmen who were accustomed to the singers and dancers of the nightclub slowly drifted away. Jack preferred the nightclub scene too, but he appreciated any place he could sit and have a bourbon or two.

He grabbed his coat and fedora and headed out of the bar. The drive to the prison did little to improve his mood. Rain fell upon the city in long sheets. The grey clouds blocked the sun for the third day in a row. Even the office was gloomy. Dani had gone to New York to visit her sister. By the time he pulled up at the docks, Jack was a wretched mess.

“Hey, Gessum,” Jack said to the prison guard who would ferry him across to Alcatraz.

“Evening, Mr. Diamond. Miserable day, isn’t it?”

Jack nodded. “Miserable day and a miserable reason to be here.”

Jack followed the young guard onto the ferry. He couldn’t imagine why Victor wanted to talk to him. He hadn’t seen him since the trial a year earlier. As far as Jack was concerned, they had nothing to say to one another. Victor was scum and exactly where he deserved to be. He pulled the collar of his coat up around his neck and pushed the fedora down over his eyes. The rain still soaked through to his already chilled bones.

When he arrived at Alcatraz, Jack was ushered in to see the Warden. He was a man of about fifty, grey-haired and with dark creases under his eyes. He motioned for Jack to sit down while he finished up a telephone call.

“Sorry about that, Mr. Diamond,” the Warden said as he hung up the phone. “I appreciate you taking the time to come here. Mr. Angelo has asked to see you for the past six months.”

“Any clue why?”

The Warden shook his head. “None. He got more insistent though when his half-sister committed suicide day before yesterday. Shall we?” he said as he stood up and moved around the desk to the door. Jack followed the Warden into the belly of the prison and toward the mail room.

“I’ve put you in here. I didn’t want to drag you through the general population,” the Warden stated as he opened the door.

Victor Angelo sat shackled at a table. Two guards stood on either side of him. He grinned up at Jack.

“You look like hell, Jack, but then you always look like hell,” Victor gloated.

Jack sat down across from Victor. He didn’t want to waste time with pleasantries. “What do you want, Victor?”

“Straight forward as always, I see. You know,” Victor paused as he leaned across the table and stared at Jack for a moment. “We aren’t so different, you and I,” he finally replied.

Jack sighed. Victor was up to his old tricks. “I’ll ask one more time… What do you want?”

“Not even curious why I said that?”

Jack crossed his arms and glared back at Victor. “If it will get you to the point of this visit, then sure. Tell me.”

Victor grinned. “We both have one serious flaw. Beautiful women.”

“I still don’t see your point.”

“Such a tragedy about Ella? Don’t you think?”

Jack’s patience was wearing thin. He let out a deep sigh. “Is that why you asked to see me? To talk about Ella?”

“No, I just wanted to see your reaction, but you are as cold as I am about the news. After all, she did betray both of us.”

It was true, but Ella had betrayed Jack long before she testified against Victor. She’d told lie after lie to save her own skin, leading Jack to believe that Victor or Tito had killed Jessica Daley when she’d been the one who pulled the trigger all along. But the worst betrayal was that Ella honestly believed that Jack would overlook all of her crimes and still want to be with her. She was so adamant about it that she tried to kill Angelina in a jealous rage. Sure, Jack was just a two-bit private eye and a drunk most of the time, but he’d been a police officer once and a damn good one. In the end, justice won out.

“Just get to the point, Victor.”

“That beauty you are with these days… Dani, isn’t it? You have to admit, beautiful women always get you into trouble. Or perhaps trouble has a way of finding your beautiful women.”

Jack narrowed his eyes and glared at Victor. “Is that a threat?”

Victor laughed. “How can I threaten anyone? I am stuck on this rock. Isolated for 23 hours a day. No, Jack. It isn’t me you have to worry about. But you may want to keep an eye on your girlfriend. New York is such a dangerous place.”

“What have you heard, Victor?” Jack growled at his nemesis.

Victor lifted his hands up and shrugged his shoulders. “Just bits and pieces. The grapevine in a prison can be so unreliable.”

Jack reached across the table, grabbed Victor by his jumpsuit and shook him. “Tell me!”

One of the guards loosened Jack’s grip and pushed him back into his seat. Victor laughed again, amusement dancing in his eyes.

“When you locked me up, you merely cut off one head of the hydra. And I was such a small head too. There’s an even bigger monster out there and it has its sights on your lovely girlfriend.”

“Why are you telling me this? You aren’t one to divulge information unless it gets you something in return.”

Victor leaned across the table and stared Jack in the eyes. “That’s true. I want off of this rock. You and Captain Morgan will see that it happens. That,” he said with a grin, “or I keep the information I know to myself.” Victor leaned back in his seat. “Your choice, Jack. I’d really hate to see you a broken man again.”

 

The ferry ride back to the mainland was a somber one, not to mention it felt like it took an eternity. As soon as he came ashore, Jack raced to the 5th Precinct. He ignored all of the officers at his old precinct and climbed the stairs two at a time up to the Captain’s office. Without even knocking on the door, Jack hurried inside. Just like with the Warden earlier, Captain Morgan was on the phone. He motioned for Jack to sit down and kept talking. Jack sighed and took a seat. He bounced his legs as he waited. Finally, he removed his fedora and lit a cigarette, taking several quick drawls. He flicked the ashes in his hand and leaned back in the chair.

After several more minutes, Morgan hung up the phone and handed an ashtray to Jack. “What did Victor have to say?”

Jack took the ashtray, rested it on his knee and dusted the ashes off his hand. “Nothing good. Have you heard from Dani?”

“Not since yesterday. Seriously? Victor didn’t have anything worthwhile to say?”

Jack took a long drag off of his cigarette and stumped it out in the ashtray. He looked up at the Captain and wrinkled his brow. “I think Dani’s in trouble. If not now, then she will be. Victor says he has information, but he won’t give it up unless we get him transferred out of Alcatraz.”

Morgan pushed his chair back and stood up, his face reddening with anger. “I swear if that bastard harms Dani in any way, I will kill him!”


Raised Stakes is the second novella in the Jack Diamond Noir-style Mystery series. If you missed the first novella, The Stacked Deck, you can read it here. New additions to this story will appear on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Raised Stakes ©2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved. Permission must be granted to distribute or copy this serial (unless reblogging). Thank you.

 

The Stacked Deck -Part 31

Jack was in a foul mood by the time he returned to his office. He still couldn’t believe that Ella murdered those people, but she’d confessed. Ballistics on the gun would seal her fate. He’d stopped by the hospital and check on Frank and Angelina. Both were doing well. Frank and Angelina had agreed to testify against Victor and had given statements to the cops and the DA. Now all they needed was Victor. He couldn’t run forever. Angelina had wanted Jack to stay, but he couldn’t bring himself to encourage her ideas of a reunion between the two of them. That was never going to happen. She’d been right about one thing, Jack only loved one woman and it wasn’t Angelina or Ella.

When he walked into the reception room, Dani stood with her back to the desk. A box sat on the chair, and she busily wrapped and packed items into it. She didn’t acknowledge Jack’s presence. His heart sank. Had he pushed her to leave him completely? He couldn’t blame her. No decent woman deserved a cad like him. He walked into his office and hung his fedora on the coat rack and returned to the reception room. Finally, Dani turned around and smiled at him.

“Hey Jack, I wasn’t expecting you back until later,” she said as she placed another wrapped bundle into the box.

Jack sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the desk. “We wrapped up the case,” he informed her. “Well, except for Victor. He’s still on the lam.”

Dani moved the box to the floor and sat down. She crossed her leg and leaned over the desk. “Don’t worry, Jack. They will get him. Are you hungry? I could go fetch some carry-out.”

Jack didn’t get it. If she was packing to leave, why was she acting so calm? Jacked nodded toward the box. “You going somewhere?”

Dani glanced down at the box and then back at Jack. She laughed lightly. “That’s just some things…” her voice trailed off and her eyes widened. “Oh Jack! You didn’t think that I was packing it in, did you?”

Jack sighed. “Honestly, Dani, I wouldn’t blame you if you did.”

Dani grinned, stood up and walked around the desk toward Jack. “We’ve weathered worse than this. Haven’t we?” she asked as she reclined against the desk in front of him.

Jack leaned forward, wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her toward him. He buried his head in her stomach. “I don’t deserve you, Dani,” he whispered.

Dani cradled his head in her hands. She bent down and rested her head on top of his. “Who else would put up with you, Jack?”

Jack eased himself up, sliding his body along hers. He crushed her against his chest, tilted her head upward and gazed into her green eyes. He hadn’t completely realized it when Angelina said it, but it was true. He did love Dani. He’d always loved her. Chasing dames had just become a pastime because he couldn’t have her. Jack brushed her lips with his. When she didn’t protest, he kissed her with all of the passion he’d held back for so long. Dani wrapped one arm around his neck and the other around his waist. She returned his kiss, teasing him with her tongue. After a long moment, Jack released her lips and smiled down at her.

“I’ve wanted to do that for so long,” he muttered as he pressed his cheek against hers.

Dani sighed blissfully. “Why did you wait?”

Jack lifted his head. His eyes searched her face and rested upon her eyes once more. “I didn’t think… after Mason… God, Dani! I’ve been such a fool. You deserve someone better than me,” he declared as he pulled away from her and walked over toward his office door.

“Jack, I will admit it. You are probably the last man I should ever get involved with, but you are who I ache for every day. Don’t make me regret kissing you,” she said as she walked toward him.

Jack turned around and wrapped his arms around her once more. “What if I hurt you?” he pleaded. “I couldn’t live with myself if I did, Dani.”

Dani smiled up at him and whispered, “If you hurt me, I will tell Daddy.”

Jack knew she would too. She was the Captain’s daughter after all. Jack laughed and pulled her into a hug. He leaned down to kiss her again when the door opened. Bobby walked in and stood there gawking at them.

“Girlfriend material,” Bobby said with a chuckle.

Jack grinned at him and released Dani. She smoothed back her hair and flashed Bobby a cynical smile. The three walked into Jack’s office. Jack sat down behind his desk, while Booby took a seat across from him and Dani sat down on the edge of the desk.

“Good news, boss,” Bobby said.

“Oh?”

“They got Victor.”

Dani clapped her hands and grinned at Jack. “It’s about time!”

“I hope they send that guy to Alcatraz!” Jack exclaimed. He pulled out his bourbon bottle and three glasses from the bottom drawer. He poured the amber liquid into each glass and handed one to Dani and Bobby. He held his up and shouted, “Cheers!” The three downed their drinks and laughed.

The phone rang and Dani picked it up. She took a notepad from Jack’s desk and wrote down some information. “I’ll have him call you, Mr. Clarke,” she said and hung the phone up. “Looks like we’ve got another case.”

THE END


The Stacked Deck is a noir-style WhoDunIt serial which has appeared as 31 parts, told every day in March. I hope you enjoyed the 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, Part 30

The Stacked Deck – Part 30

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

The Stacked Deck – Part 29

By the time Jack pulled up outside The Briscoe Hotel, he was in a frenzy. He could only imagine how desperate Ella must be to shoot Frank. He just hoped his hunch was right that Ella would go to Angelina’s hotel. His mind raced with a dozen possible scenarios. Since Ella had a gun, would she use it again? Would she actually kill Angelina? Over me? None of this made any sense. Angelina knew there was no chance he would take her back and with all Jack had recently discovered about Ella, he wasn’t sure he could trust her. Dames! he thought as he entered the hotel lobby.

The Briscoe was a posh hotel near the train station. Jack didn’t care much for its Parisian style or its expense. Angelina must be doing okay in New York if she could afford this place. He headed to the registration desk. There were two others waiting in line to check-in. Jack wished now that he had asked Angelina for her room number, but he didn’t want to give her mixed signals either. He pushed his way forward, ignoring the other guests, and pounded on the desk.

“I need the room number for Miss Angelina Favero!” Jack demanded.

“Sir, you need to wait your turn,” the desk clerk stated and then turned back to the woman he was assisting.

“You don’t understand. There could be a murder in progress. I must have that number!”

“A murder? Are you the police?” the clerk asked.

“No, I am not the police. I am a private detective and if you don’t give me that number right now, I will come across that desk and beat it out of you!” Jack screamed. His face had turned red and his eyes bulged. He didn’t like getting into such a frantic state and threaten people, but this time he had no choice.

The clerk shifted his eyes nervously, scanned his register and stammered, “Room 619, sir.”

Jack raced to the elevator and pushed the button. He shifted from foot to foot as he waited. When it opened, he entered and pushed the sixth floor. He just hoped he wasn’t too late. It felt like an eternity as he stared at the numbers going up. Finally, he reached the sixth floor and ran down the hall. When he came to room 619, he heard shouts coming from the room.

“You left him, Angelina! You don’t deserve him!”

Angelina laughed. “And you think after what I told him about you, he will still want you? You are a fool, Ella!”

“You are wrong. He loves me.”

“Oh yes, love. He loves you so much. That’s why he gave you back to Victor. He only loves one woman. And that is definitely not you!”

“You bitch!”

“Put down the gun, Ella. You don’t want to do this!”

“I am tired of you telling me what I do or don’t want to do!”

“No Ella!”

Jack heard the gun shot and rammed the door with his left shoulder. As it broke free from its hinges, Jack jerked it away and entered the room. Ella stood in the center of the room with a gun in her hand. Angelina laid on the floor near the bed. Jack ran to her and placed his arm under her head. She’d been shot just a little right of her heart, but blood was flowing freely from the wound. Jack glared up at Ella.

“Why Ella?” he asked and reached for the phone on the bedside table.

“Don’t do that, Jack!” Ella yelled as she aimed the gun at him.

Jack halted. He looked down at Angelina. Her face whitened and she took shallow breaths. “I’ve got to call an ambulance, Ella.”

“She doesn’t deserve to live, Jack,” Ella said, her voice calm and cold.

Jack grabbed a pillow off of the bed and placed it under Angelina’s head. He pulled a sheet off of the bed and wound it up into a ball and placed it over her wound. He placed Angelina’s hand over it.

“Hold it tight, Angelina, ” he whispered. “You will be fine.”

Angelina nodded her head and gasped for air. “Jack… .”

“Shhh, save your strength,” he cooed at her.

Jack stood up and faced Ella. The cold, calculating woman who stood before him was nothing like the passionate woman he thought he’d known. This woman would kill anyone who got in her way.

“So you are going to shoot me too?” he asked as he took slow steps toward her.

“I will if I have to, Jack.”

Jack inched forward. “There’s no way out of this for you, Ella. Frank’s still alive. He told me it was you who shot him. And I know you’ve shot Angelina too. Who else have you shot, Ella?” Jack asked as he glanced at the gun. It was a Colt. The same make and model that was used on Jessica Daley and the sailor in New York.

Ella waved the gun at him. Panic flashed across her face. “Don’t come any closer, Jack. I will shoot you!”

“Did you shoot Jessica?” Jack asked as he moved another step closer to her.

Ella wrenched her head around and stared out the window. “I had to, Jack. She was ruining everything!”

Jack took advantage of her distraction and raced toward her. He grabbed her arm and twisted it around her back. She fired the gun, but the bullet whizzed past Jack and landed in the wall. Jack wrestled her to the floor and finally got the gun out of her hand. Ella collapse into a huddle on the floor, pressed her head into her hands and wept. Jack ignored her theatrics, stood up and walked to the bedside table. As he dialed the lobby, he kept his eyes on her.

“We need an ambulance in room 619. Now! And ring the police!” he shouted into the phone. He hung up the receiver and bent down to check on Angelina. She was unconscious, but still alive.

Jack walked back over to Ella and pulled on her arm. She stood up and Jack walked her to the bed. As she sat down, Jack took a couple of paces away from her. He took a cigarette out of his pack and lit it. Everything Angelina had told him about Ella was true. He hadn’t wanted to believe it. But there it was. She admitted to killing Jessica.

“Did you kill that sailor too,” Jack asked and took a drag off of his cigarette.

Ella lifted her head and tears streamed down her cheeks. She stared at Jack for a long moment. Finally, she confessed, “Yes, Jack. Him too.”

Jack turned away from her. She was not the woman he thought she was. “And Charlie White?” he asked as he flicked ashes into an ashtray on the table.

“No, that was Victor’s doing. Jack… look at me, Jack,” she begged.

Jack turned his head toward her. A grim look on his face. Ella opened her mouth to speak, then shut it. She stood up and walked toward Jack, but he pointed the gun at her.

“No, Ella. Just stay where you are.”

Ella cupped her mouth with the palm of her hand. “Oh Jack… what you must think of me!” she cried out.

“I think you are a murderer, Ella,” Jack said coldly.

Ella flung herself across the bed face down. “I guess Angelina has won after all,” she muttered through her tears.

Jack groaned and put his cigarette out. “I am not a prize to be won, Ella,” he said as he walked over to the bed and put a hand on her back. “I’m sorry it went down this way.”

Ella lifted her head up from the bed and turned it toward Jack. She stared up at him with tear-filled eyes. “Me too, Jack. Me too.”


 

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

Jump forward to Part 30

The Stacked Deck – Part 28

By the time Jack pulled up outside The Wild Card, the place swarmed with cops and an ambulance had arrived for Frank. Jack stepped out of his car and looked around for Bobby. Instead, he found an angry Officer Buxley.

“That was a nasty trick you pulled on me, Mr. Diamond!” Buxley stated as he walked inside the club with Jack.

Jack patted him on the back. “I’m really sorry it had to go down that way, kid. I didn’t have a choice.”

Buxley grabbed Jack by his right arm, causing Jack to wince and stop in his tracks. Buxley turned and faced him.

“You nearly got me fired, Mr. Diamond. You should have told me your plans.”

Jack peeled Buxley’s fingers off of his arm and stared down at him. “If I had told you, would you have let me take her?”

“Probably not, sir,” Buxley said as he wiped his brow and grinned sheepishly at Jack.

“Then I did it the right way, kid.” Jack smirked at him and continued to walk into the lounge.

Buxley stood there for a moment and then ran to catch up with Jack. As he fell into step, he filled Jack in. “Two shots. One to the right shoulder and one to the left side near his kidney. He’s stable, but they want to get him to the hospital as soon as he talks to you, Mr. Diamond.”

Jack nodded and headed to where Frank laid just around to the back of the bar. An officer and a paramedic stepped aside for him. Jack knelled down beside Frank who had his eyes closed and breathed heavily. Jack touched his hand and Frank opened his eyes, blinked a few times and then smiled up at Jack.

“There you are, Mr. Diamond.”

Jack smiled down at him. “Yes, Frank. Here I am. Looks like you took a couple of nasty bullets.”

Frank nodded and began coughing, repeatedly. The paramedic rushed over and began checking his vitals, but Frank pushed him away.

“I need to… to tell you something, Mr. Diamond,” Frank muttered between coughs.

“I’m listening, Frank. Just take your time.”

Frank nodded again and breathed in deeply. His hand shook as he grabbed Jack’s. “I tried to stop her, Mr. Diamond. She… she was acting all crazed.” he whispered. He began coughing again and his face reddened.

“I need to get oxygen in him,” the paramedic said as he held an oxygen mask over Frank’s face.

“No… no,” Frank protested. “I must… I must tell you!”

“Sure, Frank. Take some oxygen first. I am right here,” Jack said as he straightened up and nodded to the paramedic.

As he turned around, Jack saw Bobby talking to one of the officers. From the look on Bobby’s face, it wasn’t a pleasant conversation. Jack walked over and waited. When they were done, he pulled Bobby off to the side.

“How’d you hear about this?” Jack asked him.

“I was here. I had been talking to Frank about a hunch I had. I left, went to the bathroom and then I heard the shots. When I came out, Frank was on the floor.”

Jack raised a brow and then asked, “Did you see the shooter?”

Bobby shook his head. “There was no one here but Frank when I came back out.”

“How long were you in the bathroom?”

Bobby lifted his head, scrunched up his face and then looked back at Jack. “Four, maybe five minutes. Took me another minute to get back out here.”

Jack nodded. “What was the hunch you were working on?”

“I remembered what you said about women. How some of them are girlfriend material and others are dames. Remember?”

“Yeah, kid. I remember. What about it?”

“Well, I saw a picture of Jessica Daley and I gotta tell ya, boss, she was no dame. I decided to ask Frank about her.”

Jack raised his left hand, pushed his fedora up on his head, and scratched it. Jack pondered the angle Bobby was working on. “So you think she was coerced into her job here?” he finally asked.

“That’s what I was thinking, boss.”

“What did Frank tell you?”

“Not much. He said when Miss Daley first showed up at the club, she was with a businessman. Next thing he knew, she was working at the club.”

Jack shook his head. “Blackmail, I bet. That was probably some rich businessman with a wife and kids.”

The paramedic joined Jack and Bobby. “He wants you back over there, Mr. Diamond.”

Jack walked back over to Frank and crouched down beside him. “I am here, Frank,” he said as he touched him on the shoulder.

Frank opened his eyes. “Mr. Diamond… I saw your angel today.”

Jack understood that reference. Frank had always called Angelina his angel. “Was she here at the club, Frank?” Jack asked.

Frank nodded his head. “She came to see Mr. Angelo, but… he wasn’t here. Miss D’Amore took her to the back room for a few minutes. Then your angel… she left. That’s when your associate, Mr. Weston showed up.” Frank coughed a couple of times and then continued, “When Mr. Weston went to the bathroom, Miss D’Amore came out… she was yelling and screaming. She called your angel a whore and swore that she would stop her.”

“Stop her from what?” Jack asked with a curious look on his face.

“From winning you back, Mr. Diamond. That’s what she said.”

Jack’s face grew dim. He let out a deep sign and shook his head. If Angelina told Ella she wanted me back, there’s no telling what Ella would do. He looked down at Frank. The man’s face had turned red and he coughed uncontrollably again.

“Who shot you, Frank?”

“She did, Mr. Diamond. Miss D’Amore shot me. I… I tried… she had a gun. I…”
His voice trailed off as he coughed harder.

Jack motioned for the paramedic and stood upright. His mind raced with questions. Good God, Ella. What are you doing? he thought as he ran out of the club.


 

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

Jump forward to Part 29

The Stacked Deck – Part 27

It was nearly two pm when Jack hailed a taxi for Angelina. He needed a bit of time to process her information before Dani and Bobby returned. He sat at his desk with his bourbon and cigarettes. He’d down a drink and then take a drag off of a cigarette. He lost count of how many shots he’d had, but the cigarettes were piling up in the ashtray.

He still couldn’t believe that Ella was involved that deeply in Victor’s affairs, nor that she had helped Agosti run his. And Victor’s half-sister? Jack shook his head. Did I even know you at all? It would explain why Victor wanted her back, but it didn’t explain why Ella allowed him to beat on her. Jack still had too many unanswered questions. He would have to go straight to the source for the answers too. He just hoped she would give them to him. He’d had enough of everyone’s lies.

Jack turned to stand up and knocked his right elbow on the desk. He cursed as pain flooded his right arm. He’d had enough of this too. He opened the center desk drawer and removed a pair of scissors. He unbuttoned his shirt and snipped away at the bandage around his midsection. He pulled the bandage loose from his skin and then snipped at the piece around his shoulder. Just as he was about to pull it away, he heard the office door open. Jack tried to get his shirt back over his shoulder, but it was impossible.

“Damn it!” he yelled out.

Dani ran into his office and stopped in the middle of the room. She glared at him for a moment and then walked over to him.

“Just what do you think you’re doing, Jack?” she asked as she grabbed his shirt and removed it all the way.

Jack turned around and faced her. “I am sick of this!”

“You’ve made a fine mess of it,” she decided as she pulled away the remaining outer bandage from the wound. “I’d better have a look at it. Sit down, Jack.”

Jack sighed and sat down. Dani tossed the bandages into the waste basket and then removed the inner bandage. The wound was neatly sown, but it would still leave a nasty, jagged scar. As she ran a finger across the stitching, Jack flinched.

“Sorry, Jack. I’m going to clean and redress it,” she said as she walked toward the bathroom. “You shouldn’t need a full shoulder dressing though.”

Jack watched her walk away and then propped his left elbow up on the desk. He placed his hand over his forehead and grunted. He didn’t know what was more painful, his shoulder or his heart. When he heard Dani return, he looked up. She brought over a bottle of disinfectant, some gauze and tape, and placed them on the desk.

“This is going to sting,” she whispered as she pour some of the disinfectant onto a piece of gauze. “Ready?”

Jack nodded and gripped the side of the desk. “Just do it, Dani.”

Dani gently dabbed the stitches, stopping each time Jack tensed up. Once she’d cleaned the entire wound, she took a large piece of gauze and taped it to Jack’s shoulder. She picked up his shirt and walked around the desk.

“Here, let me help you put this back on,” she said and held the right sleeve out for him to slide his arm in.

Jack grinned as he edged his arm in and then turned around. He put his left arm into its sleeve and then faced Dani again. Instead of buttoning the shirt though, she placed her palm on his chest and sighed. Jack’s face grew dim and he let out a sigh too. He wrapped his arms around her. As he drew her in to his body, Dani pressed her head against his chest and embraced him back. They stood there for a long moment just holding one another.

Finally, Jack whispered into her ear, “Everything will be okay, Dani.”

Dani lifted her head and slowly nodded. “I hope so, Jack. I can’t… I can’t lose you too.”

Jack took a step back and placed his left hand on her shoulder. He gazed down at her and noted the concerned look on her face. “I won’t let that happen, Dani. I promise you,” he whispered again.

She nodded her head, took a deep breath and began buttoning up his shirt. “There, all done,” she said as she ran a hand down the front of the shirt.

Jack flashed her a crooked smile. “Thanks, Dani. Where’s Bobby?” he asked as he sat back down in his chair.

Dani walked around to the opposite side of the desk and sat down on top of it. Se picked up a stack of papers. “He said he had a lead on something. He wouldn’t tell me what though,” she replied as she thumbed through them. “What did Miss Favero tell you?”

Jack watched as Dani flipped through the papers. He understood her resolve. That wasn’t an easy question to ask. He knew the last thing Dani wanted was to hear about Angelina. He lit a cigarette, took a drag and exhaled.

“Seems Miss D’Amore is up to her chin in Victor’s business,” Jack replied. He took another drag and sat the cigarette down in the ashtray. He reached across the desk and took the papers out of Dani’s hands. “You don’t have to worry about Angelina, Dani. She is going back to New York in the morning.”

Dani tilted her head toward Jack and raised an eyebrow at him. “Who says I’m worried? I just want to know what she said.”

Jack chuckled and leaned back in his chair. “Sure, Dani… Anyway, it’s all a scheme. Miss D’Amore’s position at the club, the gambling in the back room, and even the smut pictures.”

” A scheme, huh? How does it work?”

“She grooms women to charm men and get them drunk. Then the men gamble away their money and are forced to take pictures to pay off their debts. It’s a blackmail scheme and Miss D’Amore is in on it all. Oh, and one last thing,” he said as he picked up his cigarette and lifted it toward his lips. “She’s Victor’s half-sister,” he concluded. He took a long drag off of the cigarette and snuffed it out.

Dani’s eyes widened. “Half-sister?”

Jack nodded his head.

“So you think she was grooming Jessica Daley and Charlie White got mixed up in the scheme?”

“It sounds that way. I’ll know more when I talk to her.”

Dani opened her mouth to make a comment, but the phone rang. She reached over and picked it up.

“Hang on, Bobby,” she said and handed the phone to Jack.

“What’s up, Bobby?”

There was a moment of silence on the other end and then Bobby finally replied, “You’d better get down here to The Wild Card, Jack. Frank’s been shot. He’s asking for you.”


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

Jump forward to Part 28

The Stacked Deck – Part 26

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.

“What else?”

“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