The Man Who Would Cheat At Cards

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 2 (v.1) - Chapter 2

Submitted: April 01, 2019

Reads: 121

Comments: 1

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Submitted: April 01, 2019



“Why do you wish to call your lawyer?” Smith asked, in a condescending tone.

“Have you done something illegal?” Jones added.

“Ah; no. Not to my knowledge. Unless you count a California rolling stop at a T-junction.” Willoughby laughed nervously; a short chortle that stuck in the back of his throat.

“So answer the question, if you please. Yes or no?” There was a hint of impatience in the Special Agent’s voice.


“Perhaps you would elaborate, Mr. Willoughby?” Smith suggested, clearly the front-runner of the duo. Jones, presumably, was here as a ‘prover’ should a witness be required in a court of law because someone had been lying to a federal agent.

“If you will allow me, gentlemen, I have notes in my filing cabinet.” Willoughby left his seat and shuffled towards the corner credenza, to the right of the door. Opening the top drawer, with pudgy fingers, he began leafing through documents.

Special Agent Jones eased the knot of his necktie, the first drops of sweat beading on his forehead. The eight-inch oscillating fan on the desktop struggled to blow hot air from one part of the cramped room to another. Special Agent Smith, the more composed, ignored the overpowering smell of something worse than body-odor that assaulted his nostrils, emanating from behind a curtained area on the back wall to the far left of the window. Too small to be a toilet; a kitchenette, he presumed. Willoughby continued his foraging, breathing heavily through an open mouth as if this would improve the search process.

Special Agent Smith, sitting square to the partner desk, had closed his eyes, Jones observed. Either he was taking a power nap or practicing Zazen meditation. Perhaps it was something else entirely?

Willoughby having reached the last file, cursed, and began again at the front, this time being more meticulous.

Jones continued his appraisal of his surroundings.

Originally the room was twice the size, but at some point had been divided by a makeshift stud wall down the center. The window had been split in half as well, leaving just four panes as a sally port for the sunlight. The modified spatial dimensions had sadly damaged any esthetic intended by the original architect, leaving the situates with a feeling of severe claustrophobia.

Sitting catawampus to the desk, Jones was able to watch Willoughby’s perquisition, at the same time observing the way the man’s maroon blazer had tension lines visibly pulling across the shoulder blades, and the length extending well beyond the curve of his butt. A good reason to avoid off the peg garments, he decided, subconsciously adjusting his shirt cuff so that the prerequisite three-quarter-inch showed below his own jacket sleeve.

The Special Agent’s gaze moved to the left, passed the door, to the mahogany coat-stand from which hung a sun-bleached fedora, and a light-weight trench-coat that looked recently dry cleaned, the tag still pinned to one sleeve.

Further to the left, in the corner, was a two-door floor-cabinet atop of which was placed a four-shelf bookcase. The bottom shelf contained a stack of periodicals, one with the cover page flopped open. Jones was able to read, in letters writ large, Professional Photographer above its list of contents.

The next two shelves were filled with sports trophies; golfing trophies to be precise. Special Agent Jones looked back at the overweight man still ferreting through the files, finding it hard to imagine Willoughby as a golfer. As a younger man, perhaps? Even then, it was doubtful.

The top shelf was bare save for a single photograph housed in a nondescript black frame. Two boys, eight or nine years old, were pictured, both wearing baseball shirts. The older boy was holding a bat; the younger wearing a glove. Brothers? No resemblance. Certainly friends. Which kid was Willoughby?

The credenza drawer slammed closed. Special Agent Smith’s eyes immediately snapped open, his Zen moment over. Willoughby triumphantly wheezed his way back to his swivel chair. He had retrieved a dog-eared folder, which he had discovered in a section labeled ‘Bills Uncollectible’. Once seated, he slipped the string off the wallet. Without a word he pulled the contents, turned the papers one-eighty degrees and slid them in front of Smith.

The Special Agent took his time reading each page. There were copies of a résumé, a witness’s account of a road crash, a medical report and hospital billing. Enclosed was a death certificate for one Christina Martinez. Age at death: 23 years. Cause of death: road traffic collision. Various surveillance photos, taken in a hotel bar and casino, featured the person of interest. All were either out of focus or overexposed, or both. A log was included of time spent on the job, together with receipts of expenditure. A wrinkled invoice was paper-clipped to the last page; a summary. Special Agent Smith read the latter twice, before slowly flipping back through the other material.

Meanwhile, Jones researched the window corner of the room, where three black plastic sacks were stuffed full of shredded paper. Someone has been busy, he thought. Speaking of busy, a cockroach emerged from a crack in the floorboards and made its way along the baseboard. After negotiating the mesh of the wastepaper basket, it investigated the polystyrene carton; lunch. Thinking of lunch, the Special Agent’s stomach made a tacit rumble, for his ears only. He wanted to be gone from this stifling commode, find a diner and eat.

Once more the Special Agent turned his head to face the desk. Willoughby was staring at him. Correction, Willoughby was staring at both agents at the same time, a feat that gave him a boss-eyed appearance. Staring and staring hard. Why would he do that? Didn’t his mother tell him it was rude?

Jones’ thoughts were interrupted as his partner nudged him on the arm. Smith passed over the report. As he read, his eyes widened, but he expressed no opinion, deferring to his better-versed compeer. Jones handed the paper back.

Smith recited the last paragraph. “In my professional opinion, the subject is able to sustain his winning streak at the poker tables by reading minds. In your professional opinion? You sound like my urologist,” the Special Agent scoffed. “Is that your signature?” Smith pointed. Willoughby nodded. “Please enlighten us Mr. Willoughby; how did you reach such an adroit conclusion?” Smith intoned, with all the sarcasm he could muster.

Willoughby went red in the face. “From a meeting we had; me and the man in your photo.”

Smith took a quick glance at his partner; giving him a slight nod of the head as if to say, now we’re getting somewhere. “Please continue Mr. Willoughby. Tell us about this meeting.”

“It was not intended; not prearranged, if that’s what you’re thinking. I was trailing him, but it was not easy. He was making his way through a crowd. I lost sight of him more than once. And then he was gone. I guess I panicked, I hurried towards the spot I’d last seen him, but he was nowhere to be seen. Yet, when I turned around, he was right in my face.

Stop following me, or I’ll call the police, he shouted.

To which I replied, I am the police.

No you’re not; you’re lying.

How do you know I’m lying? I asked.

Because I can read your mind; asshole!

Okay, dickhead, I said, if I’m not the police, who am I?

Willoughby paused for some misguided theatrical effect. Smith drummed his fingers on the desktop to signal his impatience

“To my surprise, he told me, Private Eye.”

Briefly, the Special Agent once more turned to his partner. Jones rolled his eyes in response.

“So that is how you reached your conclusion?” Smith asked rhetorically. “You’re shitting me; right?”

Willoughby made a nervous snicker. “Funny; those words are very similar to my client’s comments.”

“And your client; Mr. Willoughby,” Smith reviewed the invoice, “Carol Simpson. Not very ladylike, if that’s what she said. Tell me about Ms. Simpson.”

There was a long pause; Special Agent Smith stared hard at Willoughby as if to say, “Well; I’m waiting.”

The Private Investigator’s lips moved a few times, but no words came out. Finally, with force of effort, he replied, “I… I… I think it really is time I made that phone call to my lawyer.”

Check out James G Riley's Book

The Man Who Would Cheat At Cards

Imagine waking up after being in a coma for three months, to discover you now have special abilities – you can read people’s minds and influence their actions. What would you do? Help fight terrorism, thwart industrial espionage, or fritter your talent aw

© Copyright 2019 James G Riley. All rights reserved.


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