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.