Face Cards Serial
(shot in glorious black and white)
"There is one thing about your wife's story that puzzles me, Berger."
Being led at gunpoint into the Cadillac he had stolen from a dead man, Jack felt no time would be better to ask the question. Berger was not easily thrown off his game. If the stories were true and he was a former officer in the Nazi SS, Jack figured he was not likely to catch the man off guard. The only thing he could hope for would be to draw some kind of information out of Berger that would help him tie loose ends together.
"Your wife said you came to America posing as her husband and that you had papers certifying that you were in fact Erich Rudzek. Then she said you forced her to end her marriage to Rudzek and marry you. Is it just me, or does that seem a bit odd to you?"
"Be silent and get in the car, Mr. Sharper."
Since hearing Victoria Berger's tale some hours earlier, Jack had puzzled over this fact. There was only one answer that made any sense to him. Hans Berger had come to America with forged documents claiming he was Erich Rudzek and had the means to blackmail Rudzek's wife into maintaining his cover. That cover would prevent Berger from ever having to entertain a notion like the Nuremberg Trials. There had to be a reason why Berger would lift his cover as a poor, victimized Czechoslovakian and become a Nazi living in exile.
"Where are we going, Berger?"
"You are going to take me to the place you have taken my wife. I am most anxious for the getting back together."
"I'm not sure I can do that."
"Listen, Mr. Sharper. You are a businessman and I understand this. You are, however, a businessman who has no client. This is a most unprofitable situation for you and yet I needed to eliminate your client so you would not have any, as you say, conflict of interest. In the reality I am your client now. You were hired by Hans Berger to investigate his wife. I am Hans Berger and she is mein wife. You are only completing your business."
"I suppose when you put it that way..."
Jack wished he could have warned Margaret in advance of his arrival with Hans Berger. However, she did have the instincts for this sort of thing and she was capable of taking all the necessary precautions. Once Jack pulled up in front of her apartment building, he purposely leaned across the steering wheel so he could pretend to inadvertently honk the car horn. Berger did not care for that action and made his feelings clear by shooting Jack in the shoulder. The bullet skipped over the bone and merely tore into the flesh slightly before exiting with a crash through the driver's side window.
"Jesus Christ, Berger, was that really necessary?"
"I need for you to understand that I do not play games, Mr. Sharper. If you think you can trick me again I will make certain your next wound is less favorable."
"Are all you Nazis this uptight?"
Instead of offering a verbal reply, Berger sat stone faced with the barrel of his gun pointed at Jack's chest and motioned for him to exit the vehicle. Jack did so slowly, making use of his wound as an excuse to move less quickly than he normally would. Berger slid across the seat and exited behind him. He looked around at Margaret's neighborhood, where the sound of gunfire was fairly common and drew little attention, and waited for Jack to lead the way to the apartment.
"My assistant probably isn't expecting us.
I wouldn't count on her having fresh coffee made or anything.
Had we phoned ahead I'm sure she could have arranged for coffee and pastries."
Berger raised the gun so it pointed at Jack's face and made a more demanding motion towards the building. Jack sighed and made a comment about Nazis lacking a sense of humor before turning his back to Berger and heading into the building. He hoped Margaret would do the right thing, although he himself was not sure what the right thing would be.
Victoria Berger answered when Jack knocked on the door. She was shaky and stuttered when she verbalized a "hello." She stepped back and allowed Jack and her armed husband to enter. Then Victoria rushed forward after seeing Jack's shoulder wound and expressed concern for him without worrying about upsetting the delicate balance between man with gun and targets in the line of fire.
"Get away from him, Victoria. Sit down. Over there."
"It is okay, doll face. Do as he says."
Jack was amused by the fact that Margaret was nowhere to be seen. He had not advised Berger about her, only that he would take him to where he had stashed his wife away. Luckily, Berger seemed to have ignored his ramblings about coffee and pastries. It seemed that Margaret was doing the right thing. However, Jack wasn't sure what she considered the right thing at this juncture. Had she run off for help or was she lurking in the shadows somewhere waiting to pounce? Margaret was quite capable of shooting a man. Jack had seen her pull the trigger before.
Hans Berger kept his gun pointing at Jack while he moved through the apartment. There was a room in the back where Margaret slept and he was intent on checking to make sure there were no surprises. He kicked the bedroom door open and looked inside, announcing that he would shoot Jack if anyone hiding in the apartment did not show themselves. There was no response and no sound, so Hans returned to the main room and instructed Jack to sit on the couch next to his wife.
"Gee, Berger, and I thought you might be more of the jealous type."
"Be quiet, Mr. Sharper. I still must decide what to do with you. However, I intend to take my wife home as she possesses a great deal of information that is valuable to me in mein pursuits."
The door to Margaret's apartment flew open and slammed against the wall with a crash. Berger swung around, allowing Jack to pull the pistol from the jacket pocket that usually housed his flask. Dick Haynes' two young storm troopers were in the doorway in full police uniform with their guns pointed at Berger's midsection.
Berger began yelling in German and then switched back to English, demanding that they put their guns away as he had "the situation under control." The two cops walked into the apartment, their guns still pointed at Berger, and Dick Haynes slinked in between them with his own gun pointed at Berger and a smile on his face.
"You are not a very bright man, Berger.
Why would you think I would switch loyalties so easily?
Do I appear that shallow and stupid to you?"
Margaret had stashed her pistol between the sofa cushions and had told Victoria where to find it in the event she might need it. She saw that event as being in the present tense and pulled the gun out from between the cushions and cocked it. Jumping to her feet, she pointed the gun at Detective Haynes with tears in her eyes. Everyone stopped in their tracks, with Hans Berger's gun pointing at one of Haynes' henchmen, four guns pointed at Berger and Victoria Berger's holding Margaret's gun with an extremely shaky hand. Everyone in the room knew her gun was the one most likely to go off and set off an unpleasant chain reaction.
"I can't let you do this. You can't ruin my life."
Next: Part Eleven: King of Clubs
Back to the Beginning: Jack of Diamonds
Back to Part Two: Queen of Clubs
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Back to Part Four: King of Hearts
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Back to Part Six: King of Diamonds
Back to Part Seven: Jack of Clubs
Back to Part Eight: Queen of Diamonds
Back to Part Nine: King of Spades