Part Six
of the
Face Cards Serial

(shot in glorious black and white)

"Surprised to see me, Jack?"

"Not so surprised, Dick. Everyone comes to Rick's."

Lorca the Weasel had managed to disappear into the crowd, leaving Victoria and Jack to face the intrusion of police detective Dick Haynes and his young bucks. The way she was shaking and clutching Jack's hand made him feel more secure in his approach to the situation. After all, they had wanted the two to meet. It was just that Jack had changed the place and time.

"Tell me, Dick, you want me to lose interest.
Then you want me to meet the dame.
You have a change of heart or just a split personality?"

"I want you to drop the case. However, there are other parties who would rather you continue to be interested. I blow with the wind, Jack. The prevailing wind is blowing you in and not out this time."

"Do you take me to see Povanko now or would he prefer to leave his fat self in the shadows?"

"The young lady needs to go back to work. You and I need to go for a little ride. It won't take up too much of your precious drinking time. Perhaps it will even be completely painless."

"But I rather enjoy pain.
It makes digesting my breakfast so much easier.
Maybe you could convince your goons to sucker punch me again?"

"As the opportunity arises. Now, please, would you come with me?"

Pulling up in front of Demetrius Povanko's palacial estate on the outskirts of the city in an unmarked police car brought back a lot of memories for Jack Sharper. It was the same place where years ago he had arrested the infamous crime boss. That was all ancient history now, as Povanko had beaten the rap and gone back about his business. With Jack thrown off the force and most of his former colleagues on Povanko's payroll, Povanko had become more powerful than ever. Jack could not escape the fact that during more sober periods of the day he fantasized about bringing him down. The alcohol helped dull those fantasies and reminded him that he had already failed with far greater means at his disposal. Now he was returning to Povanko's living room as a guest of the establishment. Whatever the reason, Jack intended to enjoy the hospitality.

Dick Haynes and company led Jack out to a room that served as a solarium. It had four solid walls with a glass roof that engaged sunlight upon the leaves of the many plants and flowers kept there. There were also several large tropical birds Jack could not identify. He was many things, but no expert in the field of birds. When Demetrius Povanko finally strolled into the room, he had a cockatiel lingering on his right index finger and he was talking to it in a chatty, childlike voice. He waved the three shining members of the city police force away, leaving only Jack and himself in the room.

"Ah, Jackie, how nice of you to come by. As you can see, since last we got together, I have found a new hobby. Birds certainly can help a man pass the time in the twilight years of his life."

"I never thought retirement was your style.
Then again, I don't suppose your business offers anything resembling a pension.
Do you qualify for social security?"

"Ah, Jackie, still the wonderful sense of humor. I am touched that you would feign such concern. You know, Jackie, there was a time when I could have run with a hoodlum like you. Those days are past, but I remain so curious about your activities. You are sometimes like a child to me. You fill me with curiosity."

Povanko always dangled an opportunity for Jack to make a remark about his weight. The reference to once being able to run with someone like Jack was the opening on that accord. A large mammal, Demetrius Povanko was at best robust, at worst morbidly obese. Yet he was an incredibly powerful man in the crime underworld who was so soft spoken that Jack was one of the few people around who would even consider throwing a weight joke Povanko's way. Today, however, Jack was not interested in satiating the fat man.

"The birds are a nice touch.
I'm sure it gets lonely in your ivory tower."

"Most assuredly, you are correct. Oh, Jackie, I would like very much for you to tell me all about your interest in the young lady from the bookstore. If I may be so bold, I would like to give you a bit of advice. Sometimes a stone is best left unturned. Often there are most unspeakable things crawling around underneath."

"I will be sure not to flip over any rocks.
If anyone is acquainted with the nature of unspeakable things,
you surely would be the one."

"Yes. Quite. Beyond all that you must realize that I am a businessman. What I do, I do in order to ensure the success and profitability of said businesses. As much as I am a gentle and kind man, I will always act in the best interests of those businesses. Jackie, my boy, you are working for a client who may or may not be a threat to my businesses. I would like for you to tell me about this client and give me the means by which I may contact him."

One of the young Chinese girls who worked in the house of Demetrius Povanko appeared at Jack's side and handed him a glass of Scotch, which he accepted just before sending a smile and a wink her way.

"Well, you see, that puts me in a bit of a situation.
My business depends on something I like to call client privilege.
Once someone hires me, they are my business.
Unless they specify they want me to chatter on about them to whomever I might run into on the street, I protect their anonymity.
I'm pretty defensive of my business as well.
I just drink the profits instead of eating them."

"Ah, a timely jab. I most enjoyed it. Well, Jackie, if you are not going to work with me I am afraid we must end up yet again on opposite sides of the chess game of life. I shall, of course, leave my door open to you in the event you reconsider. I must now take my leave as I have many other more pressing matters to attend to. If you like, feel free to have one for the road. I'll instruct Detective Haynes to wait until you are pleasantly inebriated."

Determined not to stay any longer than necessary but determined to finish enjoying the glass of high quality Scotch that Povanko had provided him, Jack took large sips and walked back to the door. Dick Haynes and associates were standing there, waiting for him. Jack grinned and began crossing the floor, but before he could reach the door, the room began to spin and everything went black. He remembered his head hitting the floor, but nothing after that.

Next: Part Seven: Jack of Clubs
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

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