Part Four
of the
Face Cards Serial

(shot in glorious black and white)

Margaret was Jack Sharper's sometimes lover, sometimes friend, and right hand man when it came to Jack's cases. Mostly she served as his voice of reason.

"You asked her to meet you at Dick's flat? Don't you think that is a bit mad?"

Jack chuckled at the thought. He could only deduce that he was being closely watched. Dick Haynes, his former partner, was evidently keeping close tabs on Jack. He would probably be keeping an eye on Jack's apartment and most of his usual locales. The one place Dick would never expect Jack to go would be his own place. Jack still had the key from years past and he knew Dick well enough to know he was too lazy to change the locks. After all, no one would be crazy enough to break into a police detective's home. Especially one with close ties to the mob.

"I don't think she'll tell them the address.
They'll figure she is going to meet me when she leaves,
but they'll jump the gun and send their goons over to my place.
Dick has always been an idiot that way."

Margaret began mumbling about how Jack was failing to factor in the possibility that Dick Haynes was not the one pulling the strings. Jack shrugged her off and poured himself a glass of Scotch. He reached into his desk, fumbled around and found the keys to Dick Haynes' apartment. He tossed them on his desk and sat down and tossed his feet up on the desk as well. Letting out a chuckle he began to ramble to Margaret about how he had always been smarter than the opposition.

"You ever stop to think, Jack? Don't you think this whole case smells like nothing but a set-up with you as the mark?"

Jack reached out and pulled Margaret towards him, gently stroking her arm before leaning in to kiss her.

"That, my dear Margaret, is exactly why I have to let them keep playing me."

After another, much longer kiss, Margaret pulled away and began to stammer about how Jack needed to let himself be loved. She couldn't stand to watch him slowly destroy himself with his obsession for danger and lust for alcohol. He would hear none of it, grabbing her arm harder this time and pulling her in towards him with deliberate force.

"There is still time before I have to go."

Jack Sharper checked his watch. There was still ten minutes before Victoria Berger was due to arrive. Standing outside of the three-story building that held Dick Haynes' second story apartment, he pondered the next move. After lighting a cigarette and taking a quick jolt from the flask of whiskey in his jacket, Jack pulled open the front door of the building and walked casually inside.

An elderly woman with a broom was slowly sweeping the floor of the building's foyer. She looked up harshly at Jack, giving him the kind of look that told him she knew he had no business in her building. Jack took a long drag off his Lucky Strike and smiled. He pulled out his wallet and quickly flashed her the plastic police badge he used in circumstances such as these.

"Ma'am, I'm lieutenant John Marshall with the city police department.
Is this the building where Richard Haynes is situated?"

"That no good cop late on his rent! You tell him! He no pay his rent he no live here no more."

"I'll be sure to tell him, ma'am.
He sent me here to retrieve some personal items.
Is his apartment on the second floor?"

"Yeah, second floor, the bastard.
Tell him to stay away from my daughter.
Tell him I say he no good!"

Jack slipped a ten dollar bill out of his pocket and handed it to the woman. She looked up at him with surprise and quickly slid it into the pocket of her apron.

"Ma'am, that is for your troubles.
There will be a dame coming by shortly.
She'll be looking for me.
Very important police business."

The staircase leading up to the second floor was dusty and decorated with a spattering of cobwebs. As Jack's hand touched the sticky and slimy banister railing he looked down at the old woman, wondering if she was just pretending to clean the place. She did not look up, continuing to sweep the same spot over and over. Jack wondered if she really was the superintendent or if she had wandered into the building after being let loose from a nearby asylum.

The key worked in Dick Haynes' apartment door, which brought a sense of relief upon Jack. He was not nearly as sure Dick had not changed the locks in the past seven years as he led Margaret to believe. Most of the time Jack Sharper ran purely on instinct and his gut feelings. Margaret was there to remind him those instincts were not always correct. The past was rife with examples of how Jack's gut had betrayed him.

Aside from the questionable superintendent, the building was quiet. The last time Jack had been invited to Dick Haynes' home it had been a much brighter and happier place. Children had been running in the hallways and neighbors would peak their heads out their doors and say "hello." After opening the door and slipping inside, Jack was glad things had changed. Finding a light switch, he illuminated the room and quickly realized his gut feelings had betrayed him again. The lock had not been changed, but either Dick had moved or he was allowing a young couple to use the place to attempt conception of a child. They were so busy putting their twin bed to use for a sexual excursion of Olympic proportions that they did not even notice Jack walking in. When Victoria the book store assistant manager knocked on the door, Jack had to think fast. This was not going to be an easy one to explain.

"I think we need to go somewhere else to talk.
I forgot I had the decorators come by today.
My place is really a mess.
Do you like ice cream?"

Regaining his composure, Jack led Victoria back down the stairs. He had yet to really form a conscious picture of her as things were moving too fast. One they passed the old lady with the broom and slipped out the front door, he stopped, lit a cigarette and looked at her. She was certainly a secret beauty, the kind that did everything in her power not to flaunt it. Her dark brown hair was pulled back into a severe bun and her dress completely concealed the shape of her body. As he took stock of her, Jack was blindsided by a rush of emotion from his new acquaintance. She threw her arms around him and began crying, a delicate but frightened cry, directly into his ear.

"Please, if you know where my husband is, please tell me.
I am so afraid for him.
Please, don't let anything happen to him.

Next: Part Five: Queen of Hearts
Back to the Beginning: Jack of Diamonds
Back to Part Two: Queen of Clubs
Back to Part Three: Jack of Spades
Totally Unrelated Node: King of Comedy

King of Hearts was a European 1967 film. Made during the Vietnam war, it's seen as an antiwar piece, but of course the film doesn't touch on that. Instead, it takes place during World War I.

Simply put, the German army is retreating from a certain French town, but they rig it to detonate on a timer once the Allies arrive to take control. The French evacuate the town, and someone notifies the Allies. The Scottish army sends one French-speaking man in alone to infiltrate the city and disarm the explosives before the troops arrive.

Unbeknownst to the soldier, the Germans accidentally leave the town's Insane Asylum unlocked, and the delusional people all pour out into the town, moving in and dressing up and acting as the local village folk (bishop, hookers, general, barber, duke, etc.). The soldier doesn't immediately know this, so he wanders the town asking the people for information and getting only absurd answers back. By the time he catches on, the townsfolk (all insane) want to crown him their king. Meanwhile, he has to elude the Germans and save the oblivious people from the time bomb.

The movie has some charm. Although it was a big hit in the 1960's and 70's, the college students today don't seem to like it. The film has English and French and even some German dialogue, with subtitles.

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