Part Eleven
of the
Face Cards Serial

(shot in glorious black and white)

Jack, who had the luxury of having no guns pointed in his direction at the moment, realized there was only one way to diffuse the situation. Victoria Berger wanted the photographs and she wanted them destroyed. Hans Berger was the last person to have the pictures and had slipped them into his inside jacket pocket before getting into the Cadillac. Retrieving those pictures was essential, but Jack wasn't terribly comfortable rooting through Berger's jacket in the present company. However, he figured since most of the room was aware of who had the pictures, calling on Berger's royal flush would keep the rest of the table from raising their bets.

"Give her the pictures, Berger."

Berger turned his gun on Detective Haynes and reached into his jacket with his left hand. Jack watched him carefully, seeing the top of the envelope in Berger's hand before the not quite reformed Nazi reached in deeper with a quick motion and pulled out a second gun. Jack pulled the trigger on his own gun just as Berger pulled both of his own triggers. Victoria Berger fired and buried a bullet in her husband's thigh. Haynes and his two henchmen fired. The chain reaction had been set off by Hans Berger and not Victoria. Jack reminded himself to update his expectations after he recovered from the bullet Berger sent into his abdomen.

Berger was dead. The five bullet wounds were more than enough to take down the former SS officer. Jack slumped over onto the couch and clasped his hand over his wound. He felt lightheaded and had trouble maintaining focus, but he could see that Haynes had been shot in the chest and his goons were helping him stay on his feet. Victoria leaned over Jack to try to help him, but then spied the envelope of photographs where they had fallen on the floor beside her husband. She stooped down and picked them up. After glancing inside for a moment she walked over to the table with them. The last thing Jack remembered was seeing the envelope in flames and the sound of ambulances and squad cars coming down the street.

The only thing Jack Sharper enjoyed less than being shot was hospitals. Finding himself laid out on a hospital bed in a backless white hospital gown gave him no pleasure whatsoever. The fact that there were two men in well pressed black suits sitting at his bedside made the experience even more unpalatable.

"Let me take a wild guess.
You guys would be the Feds.
Am I right? Do I win a prize?

"Mr. Sharper, we did appreciate your call last night. However, we are less enthusiastic about the removal of our man. You were probably not aware that Hans Berger was given amnesty by the United States government in order to infiltrate and provide us with information on Demetrius Povanko's organization."

"I imagine your investigation was going very well.
After all, Berger shot one of your agents in my office.
What was the point of him hiring me in the first place?"

"The man who hired you was not one of our agents, Mr. Sharper."

"I didn't think so.
I just needed to hear you say it."

"We have Mrs. Berger in custody but we don't believe she has enough information to take Povanko to trial. We needed what Hans Berger had. What we want to know is what you may have to offer us. How much did you learn during your haphazard investigation?"

"Flattery will get you everywhere, boys.
Berger was double crossing you.
He intended to take over Povanko's operation.
The way I figure it, he was not exactly mentally stable.
What kind of lunatic draws when he has five guns pointed at him?"

"We need you to convince Mrs. Berger to testify. We also have an operative in the field who has been undercover for a very long time. His testimony coupled with Mrs. Berger's and your own could put Demetrius Povanko behind bars for a very long time. According to the information we have on you, Mr. Sharper, that lists as one of your stronger interests."

"How about my old pal Dick Haynes?"

"I'm afraid he did not fare as well with his gunshot wounds as you did, Mr. Sharper. We had hoped to force him to testify as well. Unfortunately that is no longer an option."

Jack shook his head and made a "tsk tsk" sound.

"So much death. So much death.
You know I would enjoy taking Povanko down.
I need guarantees though.
I don't think I could handle him walking away free again without having to shoot him myself."

"All right then, Mr. Sharper. I'm Special Agent King and this is Agent Borona. You are going to be released into our custody as soon as the doctor clears you. Agent Borona will be on your door until then."

"I appreciate the attention, boys.
Really, I do, but
I'd be a bit more worried about the dame than about me."

"Believe us, we are. Rest up, Mr. Sharper. We'll be back to check on you shortly."

Jack felt he was well overdue for a cigarette. Holding onto his stomach, he stumbled over to the window and pulled it up and open. His clothes were nowhere to be found and he reasoned that they had probably been cut off him when they operated on his wound. Poking his head out of the hospital room door he waved his hand at Agent Borona and reeled him in closer.

Agent Borona shrugged and slipped Jack one of the Cheshire Smooths in his jacket pocket. Jack wasn't all that fond of the supposedly "smooth and mild but still wild" flavor of the Cheshire Smooths, but all the Feds smoked them and he should have expected them to be Borona's brand.

The hallway was fairly vacant, so Jack ignited his cigarette and began walking, staying just within Borona's range of vision. He finished the cigarette, thanked Borona for the smoke and the company and slipped back into his room. Unable to rest or lie down, Jack sat by the window and watched the parking lot behind the hospital. There was quite a bit of traffic, which surprised Jack and raised his interest in asking Borona for another cigarette.

Borona had no problem coughing up another of his Cheshire Smooths. Jack thanked him again and went back into his room to sit by the window for a while. He felt like an old man, but then that was nothing unusual for someone who made regular visits to the hospital. The traffic continued to amuse. The cars were not traveling in sensible, straight lines. They were backing up to the rear door of the hospital and drivers were yelling at each other.

Jack took another drag and stared into the madness. When two men came through the rear hospital door with a woman his attention span raised the ante. The woman was Victoria Berger and the men had a hand clamped over her mouth and her arm twisted behind her back. They forced her into the car parked immediately in front of the door. They jumped into the car behind her and joined a group of five cars that was roaring off together into the distance.

"Hey, Agent Borona, you've got a problem.
Someone just drove off with your key witness."

Next: The Conclusion: Jack of Hearts
Back to the Beginning: Jack of Diamonds
Back to Part Two: Queen of Clubs
Back to Part Three: Jack of Spades
Back to Part Four: King of Hearts
Back to Part Five: Queen of Hearts
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
Back to Part Ten: Queen of Spades

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