Part Nine
of the
Face Cards Serial

(shot in glorious black and white)

The first thought to cross Jack's mind as he drove the Cadillac back to his office was that the Hans Berger that hired him could not be Erich Rudzek. There was still the problem of the accent. If Rudzek was still alive he would likely be in hiding. His life would certainly be in danger if the real Hans Berger knew he was in town. That left a lot of blanks that needed to be filled in. Two men posing as Hans Berger and neither likely to be the real one. The story of Demetrius Povanko pushing Berger out of the picture and taking over the operation left him wondering who was really behind Jack being hired to investigate Victoria Rudzek/Berger. The motive escaped Jack, but he was determined to have the man who hired him fill in the blanks.

Jack made two phone calls upon returning to his office. The second was to the man that had hired him for the case. After all, the original intention of the investigation was quickly fading. Jack was supposed to determine whether or not Victoria Rudzek/Berger was having an affair. Instead he had learned she was twice married and was being blackmailed over photographs detailing her life as a plaything for wayward Nazis in eastern Europe. Whatever the motives of the man who hired Jack might be, it certainly appeared to be ridiculous that he would be concerned about her faithfulness at this juncture.

The man who claimed to be Hans Berger, or at least the first man to claim to be Hans Berger, did not answer his telephone. Jack checked his watch. Berger the client had told him earlier of his intent to meet with Jack in the office at ten o'clock. It was now hovering close to nine-thirty. That left Jack with some time to prepare himself. Somewhere under his desk was a gun. It was held in place by a locking mechanism that snapped it to the underside of the desktop. Jack unhooked it and let it drop into his hand. Despite his general dislike for firearms of any kind, Jack was getting the creeping feeling that he might need one this evening.

There was a knock on the door. Jack placed the gun down on top of his thigh and put his hands on the desk. He grunted out a quick "It's open, come in" and looked at his watch again. Either his client was a half hour early or this was someone coming to throw a wrench into the works.

The door swung open and revealed police detective Dick Haynes standing in the doorway. There were no signs of his goons and all signs pointed to him being alone. In silence, Haynes walked into the office and closed the door behind him. After sitting down in the chair across the desk from Jack, he threw a large brown envelope onto the desk.

"Let me guess.
Would these be photographs of some kind?
I think I smell developer."

"Look, Jack, these are what you are after. All the prints including the negatives are in the envelope. You can keep them and close your case. We know that the girl hired you to get them and now you have them."

"Well, Dick, you have me at a disadvantage.
I was not hired by Victoria Berger.
I was not hired to retrieve any photographs.
There is really no way I can close the case until I actually know what the case is about.
There is one thing you can tell me, though."

"What is that, Jack?"

"Why do they want me off this case so badly?"

"Why don't you fix yourself a drink, Jack. I can tell you a few things you might not know. You see, the girl is part of a very large scale investigation by the Feds. This is cause for some concern amongst, ehem, associates of mine. We would prefer to have as little attention drawn to Victoria Berger as possible. I am sure you can understand my position."

"Ah, I think this is becoming clearer to me now.
They want me off the case because I am an incompetent bumbling drunkard.
If I keep stumbling around I am liable to stumble into the wrong places."

"And that was why you were hired in the first place."

The door had swung open quickly and the first actor to play the role of Hans Berger stood in the doorway with a very shiny revolver in his hand. He walked slowly into the room and demanded that Dick Haynes stand up and put his hands where they could be seen. Then he disarmed the police detective and kept his revolver pointed at Jack while picking the envelope off the desk with his left hand.

"Well, Mr. Berger, I imagine this concludes our case.
We can settle my fees and have a long, tearful farewell.
I am glad I could be of service."

"Very funny, Mr. Sharper."

The newest voice to step onto the scene came from the tall man in the doorway wearing a beige trenchcoat. His face had a long scar down the side of his left cheek and his voice had a curious accent. He held a pistol that was smaller, but much shinier than the man currently standing in front of Jack with his revolver pointed at Dick Haynes.

"Well, what do you know.
Let me guess, your name is Hans Berger.
There are a lot of people borrowing your name these days."

The newcomer pointed the gun around the room as if he were playing a game of "who shall I shoot." Then he smiled broadly and fired, blowing a perfectly directed shot through the heart of Jack Sharper's client. Dick Haynes stepped back as he saw the barrel of the gun coming his way. The newcomer did not fire again. Instead he laughed in a deep, unsettling voice.

"That should be one less of those people who are borrowing mein name."

"And all this time I figured he was working for you.
I always hate when my client gets shot.
It makes it so hard for me to get paid."

The real Hans Berger leaned down, his gun still flicking back and forth between Jack and Dick Haynes, and picked up the envelope the dead man had dropped after receiving his fatal wound. He opened the envelope, peered inside, smiled and nodded a silent thanks to Detective Haynes.

"You fat friend is no longer running his operations in this city. He works for me now, cop. I do hope that is agreeable to you."

"I blow with the wind, Berger. If the wind is behind your sails I will be happy to mind the rigging."

"Then get rid of this body, cop. Mr. Sharper, you will come with me. There is a small matter concerning my wife remaining to be resolved."

Next: Part Ten: Queen of Spades
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