Face Cards Serial
(shot in glorious black and white)
Jack Sharper lit a Lucky Strike, placed the crumpled pack back in his jacket pocket and watched Lorca the Weasel slip around the corner and disappear nervously down an alley. Lorca was many things, but he was only a liar when telling a lie could profit him in some way. The story he told about Hans Berger was difficult for Jack to believe, and yet he could not find an angle that would explain why Lorca would produce the story of his Nazi and mob connections out of the blue the way he did. It made little sense, at least in the current context. As always, Jack vowed to keep an open mind. After a quick sip from the flask of whiskey he kept in his jacket alongside the cigarettes, Jack crossed the street and approached the book store.
He wondered how Victoria Berger, the reason he had been hired by Hans Berger in the first place, managed to stand in the same spot for hours at a time. The book store was moderately busy, but even when no customers approached the register she continued to stand behind it, her back to the window. It was almost as if she wanted to make sure Jack could watch her at all times. If not Jack, then perhaps someone else.
Jack's well-scuffed wing-tips hit the sidewalk just as two police officers rounded the corner from the other side of the building. They stopped in front of the book store's front door and crossed their arms. Searching through his memories of recent transgressions, Jack could not come up with a reason why they would be interested in him at this point in his life. He continued towards the door and excused himself roughly as he pushed his way past them to the door.
"Looking for a good book to read, Sharper?"
"Maybe I want to read you boys a bedtime story and tuck you in."
These were two young bucks on the force, and Jack resented the fact that they had no respect for their elders. Gruffly, the two coppers grabbed his arms and forcibly removed him from in front of the book store and dragged him around the back of the building. There they threw him up against a wall where one held him so the other could land a solid punch across his jaw.
"That was uncalled for, boys.
What seems to be on your mind?
You can tell Uncle Jack your problems.
He won't spank you."
The two beat cops turned Jack around and threw him on top of a pair of trash cans. They seemed more annoyed by his lack of resistance than anything else. They pulled his jacket open and yanked it down his arms, feeling every pocket and every part of Jack's body as they continued to toss him about.
"Every moron on the force knows I don't carry a piece.
Or are you boys just trying to arouse me a little?"
"Leave him be boys. He's clean."
The voice was familiar, and came as it usually did at times like these, out of nowhere. It was the voice of police detective Dick Haynes, who had first been Jack's partner on the beat before becoming his boss after they made detective. Dick and Jack had a bit of a falling out. Officially it was over Jack's imbibing problems. Unofficially it was about Jack's accusation that Dick took mob money for looking the other way. Dick had, in fact, testified at the appeal of Demetrius Povanko and told the jury that he had seen Jack coerce the witnesses into testifying against the reputed mob boss.
"Tell me something, Jack.
You working on anything right now?
Or just bumbling around in a stupor as usual?"
"Just out for my morning coffee and looking for a good read."
Jack stood up, rubbed his jaw a little and winked at the two badge wearing youngsters standing in front of him. He straightened his crumpled suit as much as possible and reached for the pack of Lucky Strikes that had fallen on the ground.
"I don't suppose either of you boys would have a light?"
"Look, Jack, let's be honest with each other here.
I know you are working on something. I will find out what it is.
If it has anything to do with a certain employee of that bookstore I'll find a reason to haul you in.
We could just call it obstruction of justice by badgering a key witness in an interstate racketeering case."
"Don't tell me you had a revelation and went straight, Dick.
I've been around the block more times than you can count."
"Do yourself a favor, Jack.
Lose interest in this case like you lost interest in life."
"I'll be sure to take that under advisement."
Jack decided to return to his office after his less than pleasant reunion with his former partner. His jaw hurt more than he led on during the interview and he needed something to drink that would dull the pain. After pouring himself a large glass of Scotch, he sat back in his chair and stared down at the street in front of the book store. He was allowed five full minutes of contemplation before the black telephone on the desk began ringing.
The caller was a woman and she refused to give her name. She was sobbing uncontrollably and her words were barely held together by the thoughts that caused them to be uttered. All Jack could make out was that she needed to talk to him in person and that she could not talk for long. She suggested a location and time to meet and after Jack agreed, she hung up the telephone. Looking back down at the book store, Jack caught of a glimpse of Victoria Berger placing the telephone behind the cash register back in its cradle. The two young police officers were standing in front of her. With the completion of her telephone call, they paused briefly and left the store. Jack grabbed the telephone book on his desk, looked up the number for the book store and immediately returned the call.
"Why do they want you to meet with me?"
He asked the question as soon as he saw Victoria pick up the telephone and raise it to her ear. She had not even managed to say "hello" when he asked the question. Upon hearing his question, she let the receiver fall from her ear and looked around the store in dismay. Then she picked up the telephone and raised it to her lips.
"How did you know..."
"Nevermind that. I want you to meet me, but at my flat. 762 Berrymeade. On the second floor. Find a reason to leave work and be there in an hour."
"But I can't--"
"Find a way. Your husband's life depends on it."
Next: Part Four: King of Hearts
Back: Part Two: Queen of Clubs
Back Further: Part One: Jack of Diamonds