The Stacked Deck – Part 22

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:

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

Jump forward to Part 23

The Staked Deck – Part 21

Night blanketed the City by the time Jack and Dani arrived at the office. A cold, steady rain fell, turning the streets into black mirrors, much like Jack’s mood. The drive from Victor’s club had been a silent one, what with Jack’s blackened mood and Dani’s brush with Victor and Tito, neither said a word. Jack wanted to take Dani home and see her to bed, but she insisted on coming back to the office with him.

“You should get some rest, Dani,” Jack argued as they entered the reception room. It was an useless argument though. Dani lived by herself and Jack was sure she didn’t want to be alone tonight. Truth be known, neither did Jack.

Dani went around to her desk and sat down. She looked up at Jack and shook her head. “Me? What about you? That shoulder must be giving you quite a fit. Besides, I won’t rest until we nail Victor to the fence,” she replied as she moved papers around on the desk.

Jack looked over at his right shoulder. “I will be fine, Dani. Tough as steel,” he said with a chuckle. “And I agree. I won’t rest until then either.”

Jack loved Dani’s spunk. He also loved that sunshine was back in his office. He couldn’t imagine life without Dani in it. He walked into his office and placed his old fedora on the coat rack and went to his desk. He opened the bottom drawer, pulled out his bourbon and a glass. That drink he’d been wanting all day would finally be his. He poured the glass full and sat down in his chair. He lifted the glass to his lips, but before he could take a sip, the phone rang in the reception room. He sat the glass down and tried to listen to the call, but Dani’s voice was soft and muffled. He looked down at the bourbon and sighed. Maybe this was some unknown force telling him it was time to give up the drink. He stood up and wandered back to the reception room.

“Okay, I will let Jack know. Thanks, Officer Buxley,” Dani said as she hung up the phone.

Jack sighed again as he leaned against the doorway. “What was that about?”

Dani flashed Jack an annoyed look. “That was about you nearly being locked up for obstruction of justice!”

Jack grinned at her. “Nearly? I’m surprised Buxley hasn’t knocked down my door already.”

“He would have if Commissioner Morano hadn’t stepped in. I didn’t think you two were that close. Good to have friends in high places, Jack.”

Jack laughed as he walked in and sat down across the desk from Dani. “I don’t and we aren’t close at all. In fact, the man hates me. Always has.”

A puzzled look settled over Dani’s face. “Then why would he…”

“He’s Victor’s cousin,” Jack interrupted.

“He’s what? I should have known! No wonder the investigation over Mason’s murder went no where!” Dani shouted as her temper rose and her face reddened.

Jack reached across the desk, grabbed Dani’s hand and squeezed it. “We’ll get him, Dani. I promise you. Somehow we will get him.”

Dani glanced over at Jack and slowly nodded her head. “So you really aren’t ending the investigation?”

“Of course not. We’ve got too much at stake here, Dani. Victor has weaseled his way out of trouble for the last time,” Jack said with a smirk. “What else did Buxley say?”

Dani sighed as she slid her hand away from Jack’s. “You need to go down to the 5th in the morning and talk with Captain Morgan.”

Jack pushed back the chair and stood up. “I can only imagine what that conversation will be like. Probably nothing good,” he said as he walked back toward his office. “Take the sofa and get some sleep, Dani.”

“What about you?” she asked as she followed him into his office and sat down on the sofa.

“Sleep is the last thing I need right now,” Jack said with a grin and pointed to his bottle of bourbon. “That’s my comfort for the night.”

Dani stretched out across the sofa and pulled the blanket from the armrest over her. “That bourbon is going to be the death of you, Jack,” she commented with a yawn.

“Maybe, maybe not, Dani,” Jack replied. He took a sip of the bourbon and sat the glass down. “Oh, Bobby should be home tomorrow. Victor made me call him off the case. I just hope he found out something useful before he got whacked over the head.”

“He what? When were you going to tell me Bobby was hurt?” Dani said as she sat up and glared at Jack.

“I’m tell you now. He’s okay. Just a bump on the head.”

Dani stretched back out on the sofa and as she settled her head back down, she yelled, “I don’t know who is going to kill me faster, you or Bobby! I must be crazy to keep working for you, Jack!”

Jack laughed and lit a cigarette. “You’d be crazy without us, Dani. Now go to sleep!”

Dani let out a loud huff and rolled over. She wiggled and squirmed for a few more minutes and finally fell asleep.

Jack smiled as he watched her. When he saw the even rise and fall of her chest, he relaxed a bit. He sat his cigarette down in the ashtray, took another swig of his bourbon, and sat the glass back down. So many thoughts raced through his mind. What if he had lost Dani for good? No, Jack. She’s safe. What if he’s lost Ella? He wouldn’t blame her if she wanted nothing to do with him now. He sold her out. But he would keep his promise. Then one last thought lingered in his mind, would he ever put Victor away? He grabbed the cigarette and leaned back in his chair. As he sat there puffing away, he grappled with that question. Ten years ago, he’d gone toe to toe with Victor and lost. He hadn’t been able to prove that Victor was running a smuggling business nor that he was connected with Mason’s murder, and he couldn’t prove that Victor was involved in not one, but two murders this time. There was no evidence left on his gambling house and no proof of the porn racket either. As he inhaled, he watched the tip of his cigarette blaze red and fire snake upward along the stem. He was mesmerized by it for a moment. Finally, he leaned forward and snuffed the cigarette out.

“That’s what I am going to do to you, Victor Angelo. Snuff you out!” he whispered out loud and then leaned back in his chair again.


 

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:

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

Jump forward to Part 22

The Stacked Deck – Part 20

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.

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

Jump forward to Part 21

The Stacked Deck – Part 19

The drive across town to Victor’s club was long and silent. Ella pouted the entire time, but she didn’t appear to be as frightened as Jack thought she would be. She had raged at him in the hotel, called him names that he hadn’t heard since he’d left the force, but she complied. She’d dressed and packed her suitcase, seething with anger the entire time. Jack had left a note for Officer Buxley to let him know Ella was with him. By the time they were in his car, Ella was cold, embittered, and silent.

It took about twenty minutes to get to the club, but it felt like a lifetime. The sky grew dark as clouds rolled in, masking the sun. Jack thought how ironic it was that nature mirrored his own darkness. His heart was heavy like those clouds. Any signs of happiness were masked by this whole mess with Victor. He wished he’d never taken this case, never stepped back into Victor’s club and never met Ella. Victor was right, she was an elusive gem. And he wanted nothing more than to possess her, horde her away from the world, and keep her all to himself. Locked away in a box, but Ella wasn’t the kind of woman he could lock away. He could tell that when he looked at her in the hotel room. The light in her had gone out. The vivacious woman he’d known had wilted away in just a few short days of captivity. No, Ella needed to be free. She needed to shine in the spotlight. He was a fool to think otherwise. Would Victor ever give her that freedom? Somehow, Jack doubted it. He hated what he was about to do. To turn Ella back over to that monster.

When they pulled up outside the club, Jack turned to her. “Ella… if there was any other way…”

Ella glared at Jack with steely eyes. “Don’t Jack, just don’t,” she said as she turned her head away from him and stared out of the window.

“I will get you back, Ella,” Jack promised as he opened his car door and stepped out.

He walked to the passenger side and opened the door. Ella slowly swung her legs around and stepped out of the car, pulling her coat about her body tightly. Jack expected tears, but there weren’t any. Instead she tilted her head up, let out a deep sigh and walked past him. Jack reached into the backseat and pulled out her suitcase. When he joined her near the entrance, she turned to him, her face filled with rage.

“Don’t make promises you won’t keep, Jack!” she yelled as she slapped Jack across the face.

Jack stood there, stunned. He hadn’t anticipated that. He sat the suitcase down and lifted his left hand to his cheek. “Listen here, Ella! It’s not my fault you got tangled up with a swine like Victor! And it isn’t my fault that he likes to take his anger out on you the way he does!” He breathed in and out, taking in deep breathes. He waited a moment as the anger settled back down. His face softened and his voice cracked. “But he has Dani and I can’t let her end up in the same mess Victor had in store for Jessica Daley.”

Ella’s face turned grim. “What do you mean?”

“That was the threat, Ella. If I didn’t bring you back, Victor swore he would do to Dani what he had planned for Jessica, or worse. I don’t even want to think what could be worse than that.”

Ella bowed her head and whispered, “No, Jack. You don’t want to know.”

Jack pulled Ella against him and winced at the pain in his shoulder. He breathed in and out again until the pain subsided. “Will you be okay, Ella? He won’t harm you, will he?” he finally asked her.

“He won’t kill me, if that’s what you mean,” she replied as she gazed into his eyes.

“How can you be so sure, Ella? We both know what all he is involved in,” Jack said, his face filled with concern. “What if he forces you into…”

Ella placed a finger over his lips. “He won’t. I… I just know he won’t,” she replied as she blinked up at him.

His mind raced as scenarios flashed before him. He knew all too well what Victor was capable of, but he wasn’t just the corrupt businessman Jack had dealt with in the past. He was now involved in far worse dealings with even higher stakes. He knew the creeps who worked in the porn business. He’d busted a few while on the force. He also knew how the women were treated. The slums they lived in. Many of the women were prostitutes, but not all of them. Those slimes were always looking for younger, pretty dames and they used any means to get them. Anger boiled up inside of him again. If Victor touched one hair on Ella’s head, he would kill the bastard.

Jack’s gaze fell back to Ella and he searched her face. He couldn’t get a read on her. Was she frightened at all? And then he saw a single tear fall down her cheek. He wiped it away with his left hand and caressed her cheek where it had fallen. Her eyes softened and she gave Jack a slight smile.

“I will be fine, Jack,” she whispered as she closed her eyes and sighed.

Jack leaned in and kissed her. Ella kissed him back, but not with the passion they’d once shared. He wrapped his arm around her waist, pulled her hard against his chest and kissed her deeply. He wasn’t about to lose that spark between them, not over this. She finally gave in and returned the deepened kiss as her hands clung to his suit jacket. Jack smothered her lips hungrily. His hand moved up her back to her neck. His fingers slid up and down the curve of her neck and then he moved them into her silken black hair. After a long moment, he released her lips. He held her close against him, breathed in her scent, and then slowly loosened his hold on her. Jack took a step back. Neither spoke. They just stared at one another.

Finally, Ella sniffled, shook her head and then tilted it upward again, as though restoring some sense of dignity. “Let’s get this over with, Jack,” she said as she reached down and picked up her suitcase.


 

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:

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

Jump forward to Part 20

The Stacked Deck – Part 18

Jack stood in the reception room of his office. It was eerily quiet, lifeless, and dull. His ray of sunshine was still held up somewhere with Victor and Tito. Jack pulled his revolver out of his left pocket and then shrugged off his suit jacket from his left arm and from about his right shoulder. He winced as pain hit him in waves. The doctor had secured a sling over his shoulder and a wrap around his mid-section to keep him from moving his arm. He carried the gun and jacket into his office and laid them down on the sofa. He still couldn’t believe that Victor gave him his gun back. That arrogant bastard had balls of steal.

Glancing over at his desk, Jack saw a stack of papers. He walked over to them. some of them needed signing, but that would have to wait until he could use his right hand again. There were also transcribed notes and a pile of call-backs. He looked through that stack. One in particular caught his eye. He picked up the phone and wedged it between his chin and left shoulder and dialed the number.

“Rickland? It’s Jack Diamond here. Dani said you called.”

“Hello, Jack. Hey, sorry about Larson. He left orders for me to call you when we got the ballistics back on that gun,” Rickland said on the other line.

Thomas Rickland was a forensic scientist in the Criminologist division. He was also an old friend of Larson’s.

“Yeah, I’m sorry for your loss too, Rickland. I know how close you and Larson were. What did you get back on that gun?”

“It’s not a match, Jack. The sets of fingerprints we pulled off of it belonged to Charlie White and Jessica Daley. After all that’s happened…” Rickland’s voice trailed off for a moment and then he continued, “Anyway, I wish it could have been better news.”

Jack thanked Rickland and hung up the phone. It was just as he’d feared. It had been too easy. Nothing was ever that easy. Jack opened his desk drawer and pulled out his cigarettes and a zippo lighter. He hated the smell of the thing, but without the use of his right hand, he couldn’t even strike a match. He lit a cigarette and sat down in his chair. His mind kept racing back to Dani. He wondered where Victor had found her, if it was here at the office or at her home. He hoped the former. He took a drag off of his cigarette, inhaled and then blew an opaque cloud into the air.

“I’ll get you back Dani,” he whispered. “And somehow, some day, I will make Victor pay for taking you away from me.”

Jack finished his cigarette and looked at the wall clock. It was nearing noon. He dreaded what was to happen next, but he had no choice. Jack glanced over to the opened drawer and spotted his bottle of bourbon. A drink would take the edge off, but it was too early in the day for that, even for him. He pushed the drawer shut and stood up. He grimaced again as pain coursed through his body. He inhaled deeply. He would let all of his pain, grief and hatred build up and when the time was right, he would unleash it all on Victor. He picked up his cigarettes and lighter and went to the sofa. He twisted and turned as he tried to get the jacket back on and then cursed. He threw it back on the sofa and picked up his gun, stuffing it and the cigarettes into his pocket. He lifted an older fedora off of the coat rack and settled it on his head as he walked out of the office.

Thirty minutes later, he arrived at the hotel and knocked on Ella’s door. As he waited, he went over in his head what he needed to do. Ella wouldn’t be too happy, he was sure, but really the choice was clear. Dani was like family and more important. The door opened and Officer Buxley stepped aside for Jack to enter.

“Good to see you again, Mr. Diamond,” Buxley said as he closed the door behind them.

“You too, Buxley. How is she?” Jack asked as he entered the sitting room.

“Worried sick, sir. She hasn’t come out of her room for a couple of days.”

Jack nodded. He felt around in his pocket and pulled out a twenty. He handed it to Buxley. “Give me a while, will ya? Go have some lunch.”

Buxley took the money and smiled up at Jack. “Sure thing, Mr. Diamond. Thanks!”

Once Buxley left, Jack crossed the room to the bedroom and opened the door. The room was dark with the curtains tightly closed and no light on. He stood there for a moment until he heard Ella shift on the bed.

“It’s me, Ella,” Jack said without moving toward her.

“Jack?” Ella whispered as she switched on the bedside light.

Jack noticed her face first. It was flushed and her eyes were puffy. Her hair lay in tangles down her shoulders. A white hotel robe was tightly wrapped around her. She seemed so small and vulnerable. Jack really dreaded what he had to do now.

Ella stood up and staggered toward Jack. When she reached him, she wrapped her arms around his neck. Jack winced in pain and she stepped back.

“Oh Jack, you are hurt! What happened?”

“It’s just a scratch, Ella,” Jack said as he regained his composure.

“That’s no scratch, Jack. Did Victor do that to you?” she asked, her face awash with concern.

“No, a rusted piece of sheet metal did it.”

“Come sit down, Jack,” Ella said as she took a hold of Jack’s left hand and tried to guide him toward the bed.

Jack didn’t budge. He slid his hand out of hers and stared at her. “There’s no time for that, Ella. You need to get dressed.”

“Why, Jack?” Ella asked as her expression turned to one of confusion.

“We have to go and we don’t have much time before Officer Buxley returns,” Jack said with a coldness in his voice.

Ella placed her hand on Jack’s left arm. “You are frightening me, Jack. Where? Where do we have to go?”

Jack looked into her eyes. He hated that she was frightened, but he had little choice in what he was about to say. “I am taking you back to Victor.”

Ella gasped and jerked her hand back, raising it to her face. She covered her mouth and glared at Jack. “I don’t understand, Jack. You promised to keep me safe from him!” she pleaded.

Jack sighed and cursed at himself for making that promise. “He has Dani, Ella. To get her back, I have to give you back to him.”

Shaking her head, Ella began to cry. “But what about me. About us, Jack? I thought we had…” She didn’t finish, instead she threw herself across the bed, smothered her face into a pillow and wept.

Jack finally moved from his spot in the doorway. He took long strides across the room and sat down on the bed beside Ella. He wrapped his left arm around her and pulled her close to his chest, smoothing the damp hair away from her face. Ella blinked away the tears and looked into his eyes. She raised her lips to kiss him, but Jack leaned his head backwards. He wanted nothing more than to press his lips to hers and kiss her until the world stopped moving, but he couldn’t. He just couldn’t.

“No, Ella,” he said as he looked down upon her stunned face. “I’m sorry, Ella. I have no choice.”

Ella pushed herself away from Jack and curled up across the bed from him. “You do have a choice, Jack. You’re just not choosing me.”


 

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:

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

Jump forward to Part 19

The Stacked Deck – Part 17

Victor nodded at Tito and Tito dragged Dani back out of the room. Victor closed the door and walked back toward Jack. His face lit up with a menacing grin.

“I know how hard it is for you to just lie there, helpless. You like to be the one in control, don’t you, Jack?”

Jack ignored Victor’s sarcasm. Hatred burned inside of him. He wanted nothing more to get off of the bed and slam Victor against the wall, or worse. “You’ll regret this, Victor!”

Victor chuckled as he sat down in a chair on Jack’s right. “Maybe, maybe not. Still, I hold all of the cards at the moment, Jack. Shall we raise the stakes?”

Jack pondered Victor’s inquiry for a moment. Stakes? What more could Victor want from him? The only thing he had that belonged to him was Ella. Jack didn’t like this game. Hell, he didn’t like any games with Victor. Somehow, he always came out on top.

“What do you really want, Victor?”

“Oh, besides Ella? Do you honestly think a man like you could possess such a woman, Jack? She is an elusive, precious gem. Beautiful to look upon, dangerous to desire, and even harder to hold onto. And yes, Jack. I want her back. But…”

“You always have conditions, Victor,” Jack fired back.

Victor grinned and then his face grew serious. He leaned forward in the chair, and slowly joined his hands together as he curled his fingers over them. Victor’s dark eyes locked with Jack’s blue ones. They stared at one another for a long moment. Neither man blinked. Finally, Victor’s expression softened and he leaned back.

“You know, Jack, I thought long and hard about saving you. You were bleeding out on that dock. I could have let you die. Maybe I should have. But you are a formidable foe and I’ve enjoyed our decade-long battle of wits. Here’s the deal. You give me back Ella and drop whatever this case you are working on and I will give you back that pretty little secretary of yours, unharmed. Otherwise,” Victor paused as a sinister grin creased his face. He continued, “I am sure we can find some other way to make use of your pretty redhead. Your choice, Jack.”

Jack shuddered as he imagined what Victor would do to Dani. Jessica had been a pretty girl, nice figure and a pleasant face, but she was not stunning by any means. If Victor had been willing to throw her to the wolves, he could only imagine what he would to do to a woman as beautiful as Dani. With her long red hair, green eyes, pale porcelain skin and hourglass figure, she could make a man like Victor quite wealthy in the porn business. Jack shook his head to get those thoughts out of his mind. He couldn’t let anything like that happen to her.

Jack groaned and shifted his body. As he sat upright, he glared at Victor. “I have a counter, Victor. If I do this, you will pack up your business and move your operations out of my City.”

Victor’s eyes widened and he let out a brief laugh. “Your city, Jack?”

“Yes, my City!” Jack retorted. “And I will make sure your cousin doesn’t lose that cushy job of his.”

Victor lowered his eyes and raised his hands to his chin, resting his head there. He tapped his feet on the floor in an alternating pattern. After a long moment, he looked back up at Jack. “I doubt my cousin would be concerned about losing his job. Surely you can do better than this, Jack.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” Jack replied as he shrugged his left shoulder. “I still have some pull down at the 5th Precinct, Victor. If I say the right things and hand over the right evidence, an investigation could be opened.”

“If you had any evidence, you would have already turned it over, Jack.”

“As you said, Victor, we’ve been at this for ten years. You should know by now that I am a bloodhound. And that little bone you tossed me about your cousin… well, that’s only a sniff compared to what I could do to you two. I will dig and keep digging, hound you day and night, and watch your every move. The two of you won’t have a moment’s peace. You could always kill me, of course, but you won’t find Ella that way.”

“Or I could just get my cousin to order her release,” Victor countered.

“Sure, sure. You could do that. But how suspicious would that look? Your cousin interfering with an ongoing investigation and releasing the only witness we have? I can sneak her out and take the fall, Victor. You’ll be off the hook and able to leave the City without anyone chasing your tail.”

Victor stood up and paced around the room. He kept his head bowed and a hand resting under his chin. Finally, he stopped and walked over to Dr. Young. “How long before we can let this rat out of his cage?”

Dr. Young glanced over at Jack and drummed his fingers on the armrest of the chair. “I can fit him with a sling in the morning. He should be good to go by then.”

Nodding, Victor turned his attention back to Jack. “Bring me Ella by tomorrow evening and you have a deal, Jack.”


 

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:

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

Jump forward to Part 18

The Stacked Deck – Part 16

Jack stirred. He blinked his eyes opened and as he did, intense pain coursed through his body. He shut his eyes tightly and grimaced. Memories flashed through his mind. The pier, Larson on the ground, the metal sheeting ripping through his flesh, and then… He opened his eyes again and tried to sit up. Where was he? He glanced around the room, tried to focus his eyes on something, anything. He managed to lift his left shoulder up off of the bed, but when he tried to move the right one, pain struck him again. He collapsed back onto the bed and cried out in pain.

“Welcome back, Mr. Diamond,” an unrecognizable voice said.

Jack rolled his head to the left where the voice emanated from and saw a dark-haired man with glasses, not much older than himself, sitting in a chair beside him. The man wore a white overcoat with a stethoscope around his neck. Jack’s eyes were too blurry to make out any more details. He raised his left hand and rubbed first his left eye and then his right and then glanced at the man again.

“How’s our patient, Dr. Young?” another voice said.

Jack recognized that voice. He moved his head to the right and there stood Victor Angelo. Jack narrowed his eyes and snarled his lips. Instinctively, he tried to raise up off of the bed, but the pain in his right shoulder forced him back down.

“Now, now, Jack. You mustn’t try to get up just yet. That was a pretty nasty wound you gave yourself. Our good doctor here was kind enough to stitch you up. You don’t want to rip those stitches out.”

“Where the hell am I, Victor? What did you do to Larson?” Jack asked as he breathed deeply through his nose. His blood pressure rose as he tried one more time to sit upright. Intense hatred fueled his body as he squirmed back and forth until he was sitting at a more suitable angle.

Victor moved closer to Jack until he was mere inches away from the bed. “No need to worry, Jack. You are safe and sound at Dr. Young’s clinic. He’s been taking good care of you. As for your ex-partner, he’s dead, I’m afraid.”

Jack let out a loud growl of anger. “He wouldn’t be dead if Tito hadn’t shot him!”

Victor laughed and placed his hands down on the bed as he leaned in toward Jack. “Did you actually see Tito shoot Larson?” He searched Jack’s face, his dark eyes scanning back and forth. “No? I didn’t think so.”

Jack kicked his legs up at Victor, hitting him in the side. The blanket that covered his legs softened the blow. Victor backed away unscathed and roared with laughter again.

“I saw Larson on the ground and Tito standing over him with a gun!” Jack yelled.

“That’s not what the official police report says, Jack.”

“What do you mean? Official police report?” Jack inquired as a wave of confusion flashed across his face.

“An unknown assailant killed Larson. Officially. You’ve been out for quite some time, Jack. All of that blood loss, I’m afraid. The investigation into Larson’s death is old news.”

Jack glared back at Victor. He was lying. He had to be lying. “What kind of scam are you playing, Victor?”

Victor walked across the room and took a newspaper off of a table and came back to the bed. He handed it to Jack. “See for yourself.”

Jack snatched the paper from Victor’s hands. He glanced at the date. March 12, 1950. Three days from the night he and Larson had gone to the docks. His eyes scanned the headline. City Detective Killed in the Line of Duty. His eyes widened as he read the article. It said that Larson had been investigating a money laundering scheme and was killed by an unknown perpetrator down on the docks.

“This is a lie!” Jacked yelled as he threw the paper across the room. “I know why we were down there. You know why we were down there. And I know Tito killed Larson!”

“Oh it’s all true, Jack. We both know that,” Victor said as he nodded in agreement. “But as far as the Police Commissioner is concerned, Larson was investigating a money laundering scheme and he did die down on the docks.” Victor walked over to where Jack threw the paper, turned and replied, “Did I ever tell you that he was my cousin, Jack? The Police Commissioner, that is,” Victor confessed as he picked the paper up, folded it and placed it back on the table. “Distant, of course,” he concluded.

Jack narrowed his eyes and his face whitened. So that was why they never could pin anything on Victor. Jack always figured that Victor had someone on the inside. He just never imagined that it was someone that high up in the ranks.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve telling me all of this, Victor. What’s stopping me from getting up off of this bed and turning you into the police? Commissioner be damned!”

Victor smirked. “I’ve seen you try to get up twice now, Jack. Didn’t work out so well either time, now did it? Besides, I’ve got a little insurance that will prevent you from opening your mouth.”

By now, Jack was furious. He tried again to get out of the bed, but he couldn’t maneuver with the constant pain in his shoulder. He was also still quite groggy from whatever drug that doctor had given him. He sighed heavily as he flopped back down onto the bed.

“What do you mean, insurance?” Jack seethed.

Victor gave Jack a satisfied grin. He walked over to the door and opened it. Tito strolled in dragging a female in with him, a black bag covered her face. The woman’s hands were tied with ropes, but she struggled to get free anyway. Tito tightened his grip on her arm as she let out a yelp.

“You have someone who belongs to me, Jack,” Victor said as he grasped the top of the bag. “And I have someone who belongs to you,” he concluded as he ripped the bag off of the woman’s head.

Jack growled and squirmed to get out of the bed. “You bastard!” he screamed as he saw Dani standing there, mouth gagged and tears streaming down her cheeks.


 

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:

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

Jump forward to Part 17

The Stacked Deck – Part 15

Jack’s mind raced with unanswered questions after Millie White’s confession. He still didn’t fully understand why Jessica was murdered nor who murdered her. He had his suspicions about why Charlie was murdered, but why make it look like a suicide? If Victor was involved in both, he knew he would have a hard time proving it. Then there was the business with the two guns and possibly a third if the one he found in Jessica’s locker wasn’t the murder weapon. And what about all of Victor’s entanglements – the night club, the gambling house, the porn racket and his meeting in Vegas with the owner of the Sands and God only knew who else? If all of that wasn’t enough to twist his brain, Jack now had not one woman to protect, but two of them. His head throbbed and all he wanted was a long hot shower, a few shots of bourbon and a good night’s sleep. The first two were a good possibility, but the latter, well… that wouldn’t happen until this case was solved.

Jack left Millie at the motel. He figured since she’d been there for over a week without alarming Victor, she was probably safe for the moment. Just out of caution though, when he returned to his office, he called in a favor. Mickey Parson was a retired bouncer, but still good with a gun or a bat or anything else he could get his hands on in a jam. Mickey would keep an eye on Millie until Jack could figure out what to do next.

It was late in the evening by the time Jack settled down in his office with his half-empty bottle of bourbon. Bobby still hadn’t checked in, but Jack wasn’t expecting a call from him for a day or two anyway. Since there was little else to do but wait, Jack sent Dani home early. He poured himself a drink and was just about to gulp it down when the phone rang.

“Jack, I’ve got a lead on Victor’s gambling house,” Larson said as soon as Jack picked up the phone.

“Oh?”

“Meet me down at the docks. Pier 319, Jack. You got that?”

“Got it, Art. See you there.”

Jack opened the bourbon bottle and poured the amber liquor back inside. No sense wasting a good drink, he thought as he stood up and grabbed his coat.

Twenty minutes later, Jack pulled into a parking spot by Pier 319. He saw Larson’s beat-up Studebaker in the lot, but there was no sign of him. He climbed out of his car and walked down to the pier, double-checking the number. 319. He glanced up and down the walkway and decided to check out one of the old storage buildings. During the war, the docks had been a busy place, but once the war came to an end, business slowed down and most of the storage buildings were no longer in service. The one at Pier 319 looked like it hadn’t been in service for a decade or longer. Most of the paint had peeled away and the metal sheeting had begun to rust. As Jack drew closer, he could hear voices inside and a faint stream of light shown through a crack in the entrance door. There were no windows in the front of the building, so Jack crept up to the door and peered inside the crack. A large shelving unit blocked his view. And then he felt a tap on his shoulder. Jack jumped back, startled.

“Shhhh,” Larson whispered as he grabbed Jack by the arm and pulled him off to the side of the building and over to a stack of old tires. Once they were securely hidden in the shadows, Larson exhaled deeply. “Sorry about that, Jack. Didn’t mean to scare you.”

“What the hell, Art? I thought you were going to wait for me by the pier?”

Larson crouched down and motioned for Jack to do the same. “I was, but then I saw Victor and Tito arrive. What the hell took you so long to get here?”

“Traffic, what else?”

Larson laughed. “You really don’t want to know what I was thinking.”

Jack wasn’t about to get into that with Larson. He knew all too well what his old partner was thinking. He changed the subject back to Victor and Tito. “So you followed them down here on your own? Kind of risky don’t ya think?”

Larson stood up and nodded with a sheepish grin on his face. “Just wanted to make sure which building they went into.”

“What’s the plan?” Jack said as he too stood up, stretched his legs and glanced over the top of the tire stack.

“I canvassed the building. Two ways in or out. This front entrance and another in the back with a staircase leading up to a door with a window in it. I haven’t checked that out yet.”

Jack pulled a coin out of his pocket. “Heads, I check it out. Tails, you do,” he said as he flipped the coin. This had been their method of solving such problems when they’d been partners on the force. The coin flew into the air and landed back in Jack’s hand. He cupped it and looked up at Larson. He nodded and Jack removed his hand. It was tails.

“Sorry, old buddy,” Jack said as he patted Larson on the back.

Jack crouched back down behind the tires and watched as Larson moved slowly around to the back. Once Larson was out of sight, Jack took out a cigarette and lit it, making sure to keep the glowing red tip hidden from view behind the tires. He took a few drags and flicked the ashes. After a few moments, Larson returned.

“Just as I suspected,” Larson said as he took the cigarette from Jack and took a long drag off of it. He handed it back to Jack and continued. “This is where they’ve moved their gambling headquarters. They’ve got three black jack tables set up, about a dozen players, and I could only make out two guards besides Tito.”

“What about Victor?” Jack asked as he tossed the butt onto the ground and crushed it under his shoe.

“I don’t know. I couldn’t see him anywhere, but there is a boxed-in office off to the left. He’s probably in there.”

“So what now?”

“Well, it’s an illegal establishment. We’ll raid them, but I’d better radio in for back-up. You stay here, I’ll be right back.”

Jack watched as Larson crept along in the shadows toward the front of the building. He was just about to light another cigarette when he heard a shot ring out, followed by loud shouting. He pulled out his revolver and ducked down behind the stack of tires. Slowly, he peered around them. He could hear Larson yelling something and then another shot fired off. Jack ran from his hiding spot, staying in the shadow of the building. When he came around the corner, he saw Larson on the ground with Tito standing over him and Victor standing in the lighted doorway. Jack turned to run back toward the tire stack, but crashed into a large piece of jagged metal sticking out of the side of the building. It ripped into Jack’s coat through to his right shoulder. Jack winced as he grasped the wound. He heard more shouts. Apparently the noise had alerted Victor.

“There’s someone else…around back,” Jack heard Victor yell.

Jack darted back to the shadows of the tires and ducked down behind them. His shoulder throbbed and blood was trickling down his sleeve. The wound was deep and jagged, but Jack didn’t have time to worry about that. He heard boots pounding on the ground. They stopped a few feet away from him. Then one set of boots pounded off into the distance and another set headed off to the right of where Jack was hiding. Jack raised his gun, but the pain in his shoulder caused him to cry out in pain. A set of boots moved toward him. Jack’s head began to swim. He stumbled back and fell to the ground. Blood flowed in a steady stream down his arm as he passed out.


 

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:

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

Jump forward to Part 16

 

The Stacked Deck – Part 14

By the time Jack was out of the City and halfway to the Radley Motel, he realized that Mrs. White hadn’t given him a room number. He cursed under his breath. If he hadn’t felt so rough, he would have pulled in somewhere and called the motel, but he did feel that rough so he would just take his chances of finding her once he got there. He couldn’t get Ella’s reaction to that gun out of his head, nor her confession of love. Had she meant it? Could he trust her? Something deep inside of him wanted to believe her. Something else screamed that he was making a fool of himself again.

You’ll never learn, Jack. The thought lingered on his mind as he pulled up outside the motel.

Jack stepped out of his car and headed toward the lobby, but a noise caught his attention. He turned in the direction. There stood Millie White a few rooms down, peeking out of her door.

“Mr. Diamond,” she whispered and motioned for Jack to join her. Her eyes scanned the parking lot and she had a panicked look on her face.

Jack strolled down the walkway toward her room. When he got there, Millie pulled on his coat sleeve and dragged him inside. She quickly closed the door and locked it. Jack noticed right away that she was breathless, her face was flushed and her hair was in disarray.

“Are you okay, Mrs. White?” Jack asked as he took off his overcoat.

Millie ignored his question. Instead, she went to the window, slightly opened the blind and looked outside. After a long moment, she finally turned to Jack.

“I am sorry, Mr. Diamond,” she said as her voice cracked. “I had to make sure you weren’t followed. Please, won’t you sit down?” she asked as she pointed to a chair.

Jack eyed her suspiciously, but did as she asked. He laid his coat over the back of the chair and sat down. “Mrs. White…” he began to say, but she interrupted him.

“I know this looks awful, Mr. Diamond, but you have to let me explain,” she begged as she walked toward the back of the motel room. She stopped for a moment and then turned around. She twisted her hands over and over again as she paced back toward him.

Jack crossed his right leg over his left knee and leaned back in the chair. “By all means, Mrs. White.”

She stopped again in front of Jack this time. “I know you must have thought me mad the day you came over to my apartment. I… I wasn’t going to my sister’s, Mr. Diamond.”

Jack cocked his head and raised an eyebrow. “I don’t understand.”

Millie gave Jack a worried smile and continued. “I know. I couldn’t tell you what was really going on. I was leaving, but under duress.”

“From whom?”

Millie sighed heavily. “Victor Angelo.”

Jack let out a growl and slapped his knee. “I should have known Victor had something to do with your strange behavior!”

Millie walked over to the bed and opened a suitcase. She returned to Jack and handed him a folded paper bag. Jack took it and opened it. Inside were stacks of cash. He looked up at Millie with a puzzled look on his face.

“A Mr. Russo showed up at my apartment with this and told me to pack my bags and get out of town. He was still there when you knocked on the door. He pulled out a gun and told me to act cool toward you so that you wouldn’t stay. He was hiding in the bedroom the entire time, Mr. Diamond.”

Millie trembled and began to cry. Jack stood up, tossed the bag of money onto the bed and pulled her into his arms. He smoothed back her blond hair and cooed into her ear. He held her until her sobs stopped, and then led her to the bed and sat her down.

“So you’ve been here the entire time?” Jack asked as he handed her a handkerchief from his pocket.

She nodded and raised the handkerchief to her face, dotted her eyes and wiped the tears away from her cheeks.

Jack walked over to the dresser and poured a glass of water. He brought it back to Millie and handed it to her. She took the glass into her still trembling hands and lifted it to her lips, spilling a few drops as she sipped the water.

“Something doesn’t make sense, Mrs. White. Why the pay-off?”

Millie sat the glass down on the bedside table and coughed. Finally, she looked up at Jack. “I wasn’t completely truthful with you or the cops, Mr. Diamond.”

Jack glared down at her. Why do people always lie? For once, he wished he could get a case where someone was truthful with him. “What did you lie about, Mrs. White?”

Millie narrowed her eyes and wrinkled up her nose at the harshness of Jack’s words. Apparently she prefers her version of it not being completely truthful to my version of it being a complete lie, Jack surmised by her reaction.

Millie sighed. “I knew Charlie had bought a gun. I saw the sale’s receipt in his pants pocket one day when I was doing laundry. He wouldn’t tell me why he bought it, nor why he bought it in another state.”

Jack shook his head in disbelief. He walked over to his coat, retrieved his cigarettes and lit one. He raised his other hand, lifted his fedora and scratched his head. He finally turned back around to face Millie after taking a few drags. “He probably bought it out of state so it wouldn’t be easily traced,” Jack stated. He scratched his head again as he thought for a moment. “Okay, so you knew about the gun, but again, how does that equal a pay-off?”

Millie lowered her eyes and stared at her hands. “I knew Charlie had been going to that night club, Mr. Diamond. I followed him there a few times. When I found out he’d bought a gun, I… I didn’t know what he would do with it. He kept it in his car, and then one night, I saw him slip it into his jacket pocket as he got out of the car at the club.” She looked back up at Jack with widened eyes. “I… I was frightened. He went into the club and stayed so long. So very long that night. I searched his car the next day and couldn’t find the gun. I panicked. That’s why I called Mr. Angelo and warned him that Charlie had a gun.”

Jack shook his head again and threw his hands up into the air. “Mrs. White, did you have any idea what kind of man Victor Angelo was?”

Millie began sobbing again. “I didn’t, Mr. Diamond. I… I just thought…well, that he was a businessman. But when Detective Larson told me the make and model of the gun that Charlie supposedly used to shoot himself, I knew it wasn’t the same gun.”

Jack thought back to the report Larson had given him on the White case. The gun they found on Charlie had been a Smith & Wesson. “What kind of gun had Charlie bought?”

“A Colt,” Millie whispered.

It was slowly beginning to make sense to Jack. Charlie must have bought the Colt for Jessica for protection. And then someone used it on Jessica, if it was indeed the murder weapon. But why hide the gun in Jessica’s locker?

“So Victor paid you off because you knew about the gun, even though it wasn’t the gun that Charlie used?” Jack asked. He still hadn’t put all of the pieces together.

“When I found out Charlie was killed, I went to Mr. Angelo. I didn’t know anyone else, Mr. Diamond and well, he had been so nice to me before, you know, that day on the phone.  He convinced me to lie about the gun to the cops. He said for me not to worry about it. That he would take care of it.” Millie stopped talking and just sat there, looking down at her hands.

Jack knew there was more to the story. He prodded her for more answers. “Then what happened, Mrs. White?”

Millie swallowed hard and then continued. “When the Detective told me about the Smith & Wesson, I knew something was wrong. I called Mr. Angelo. He didn’t want me to tell the police that there were two different guns. Then Mr. Russo showed up with the money, warned me not to tell anyone, otherwise…” she paused for a moment and then continued, “he would kill me.”

Jack took a final drag off of his cigarette and put it out. He paced around the room for a moment. Something still didn’t make sense. He scratched his head again. “So why didn’t you leave, Mrs. White?”

Millie looked up at Jack with tears in her eyes. “I planned on it, but I had nowhere to go.”

“The sister?”

Millie shook her head. “I don’t have a sister, Mr. Diamond. I don’t have anyone. Charlie was my only family.”

“So why tell me all of this now knowing that your life is in danger?”

“I’ve had a lot of time to think, Mr. Diamond. For all of his faults, Charlie really was my only family. I couldn’t just run off without at least telling someone. I thought by now that you would have found out…”

“Found out what, Mrs. White?”

“When Miss Daley was killed, Charlie was inconsolable. I couldn’t understand what was wrong. Finally, he confessed it all to me. The affair. The gambling debts. That Victor knew and was blackmailing Miss Daley.” Millie grabbed the glass of water, took a drink and continued. “I think I know why Charlie was killed, Mr. Diamond.”

Jack narrowed his eyes. “Then you must tell me, Mrs. White.”

She nodded her head and sat the glass down. “Charlie was there when Miss Daley was murder.”

Jack’s eyes grew wide. “Did he see who did it?”

“He didn’t see who, Mr. Diamond. He said he heard the gun shot and by the time he got to the dressing room, Jessica was dead. All he saw was the shadow of someone fleeing the room.”

Millie began crying. “I’m such a fool for trusting him!” she yelled over and over again.

Jack sat down on the bed beside her and she buried her head in his chest. Suddenly, she gripped his suit jacket and looked up at him. “Do you think Mr. Angelo killed them both, Mr. Diamond?”


 

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:

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

Jump forward to Part 15

The Stacked Deck – Part 13

Jack felt something poke him. He batted at it and turned over. When he opened his eyes, Dani stood beside the sofa, an amused grin on her face. Jack grumbled and sat upright.

“What’s the big idea, Dani?”

“Sorry, Jack. It’s nearly 10 am. Bobby is here to check in.” Dani laughed as she walked out of Jack’s office and back into the reception room.

Jack rubbed his chin and then shook his head. He didn’t even remember falling asleep, but as he looked over at his desk, he understood why. There was a half-empty bourbon bottle sitting on it. He only remembered having the one drink. He stumbled from the sofa to his desk and nearly fell as he sat down. His head ached and his stomach felt like lead.

Dani returned with a bottle of aspirin and a cup of coffee. She sat them on the desk in front of Jack and poured him a glass of water.

“Rough night?” she asked as she handed him the glass.

Jack swiped the glass out of her hand. “You could say that.” He opened the aspirin bottle, poured several aspirin out into his hand and tossed them into his mouth. He followed them with a big gulp of water.

“You look like hell, boss,” Bobby said as he strolled into the office and sat down in a chair across from Jack.

“Italian women have that effect on him, Bobby,” Dani said with a grin on her face.

“Are you two done yet?” Jack asked as he placed a hand on his head and leaned his elbow on the desk. “My head is splitting and you two are cracking jokes.”

Dani smirked at Jack and walked out of the office, closing the door behind her. Bobby flashed Jack a sheepish grin. “Sorry, boss. Dani said you wanted to see me.”

Jack nodded. He took a sip of the coffee and then lit a cigarette. He sat upright and rolled his neck around, raised his shoulders and then stretched his neck upward. He knew better than to sleep on that sofa. He always felt stiff the next day. He took a drag of the cigarette, inhaled deeply and then exhaled. “I need you to go to New York, Bobby. Check out the Roosevelt Lounge and see if you can dig up any information on Ella D’Amore.”

“Anything in particular I should be looking for?”

“I’m not sure. Something isn’t sitting right with me about that dame. All I know about her is that before she came to The Wild card, she worked at the Roosevelt. She claims that Victor got her out of a jam. See if you can find out what trouble she was in and ask around about her.”

Bobby stood up and walked toward the door. “Okay, boss. I will check back in as soon as I find something.”

Jack waved the kid off. “Keep Dani in the loop,” he replied and took another drink of his coffee. He glanced at the bottle of bourbon, picked it up and tossed it into his desk drawer. “Damn bourbon!”

The phone rang and Jack cursed again as he picked it up. “What is it, Dani?”

“Millie White is on the line.”

“Shit. Okay, put her through,” he replied. Just what he needed. Another screwy dame to mess with his head. “Mrs. White, what can I do for you?” he asked when the line switched over.

There was a moment of silence and then Millie’s soft voice came over the line. “Mr. Diamond, I owe you an apology.”

“I’d say you do. You hire me and then run out on me. What gives, Mrs. White?” Jack allowed his temper to get the best of him. He was tired of being jerked around.

“I am terribly sorry, Mr. Diamond. I…I need to talk to you and explain why I took off so suddenly.”

“I’m all ears,” Jack replied.

There was a moment of silence again and then Mrs. White sighed heavily into the phone. “I… I cannot explain on the phone. I am staying at the Radley Motel. Do you know it, Mr. Diamond? Just outside the City?”

“Yes, yes, I know it. I can be there in an hour.”

“Thank you, Mr. Diamond. I will see you then.”

The phone went dead and Jack slammed it down on the receiver. His head throbbed. He grabbed the aspirin bottle and took out a couple more pills. This has better be good, he thought as he swallowed them.


 

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:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12

Jump forward to Part 14