The Man Who Would Cheat At Cards

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

Chapter 3 (v.1) - Chapter 3

Submitted: June 03, 2019

Reads: 65

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Submitted: June 03, 2019



At 10:00 o’clock the morning following the Special Agents’ visit, Marcus Willoughby presented himself to reception at the downtown Federal Building and was escorted to a small conference room on the fifth floor. Special Agent Jones was sitting at the plush walnut table that could comfortably seat eight people. He indicated that the Private Eye should help himself to coffee, bagels, and doughnuts that had been loaded onto a side-table near the door. Smith would be along in a few minutes he was told; Willoughby should make himself at home.

Did I have a choice? Passport confiscated – correction voluntarily surrendered. Add to that the veiled threat that failure to attend might be construed as obstructing justice, together with the prospect of my PI license being suspended. So here I am; a pressed man.

Smith was more than a few minutes. Willoughby, not wishing to be accused of poor time management, was on his fourth doughnut and second cup of coffee. As the minute hand of the wall clock touched the bottom of the hour, the door was pushed open. Smith appeared, carrying a thick folder, on top of which was a laptop computer.

“Mr. Willoughby; so glad you could make it. Is your lawyer running late?

Marcus Willoughby hesitated in his reply, then finally admitted, “He won’t be coming. Tied up with another client.”

“Really,” replied Smith, skepticism in his tone.

“Truth is I can’t afford his fees,” Willoughby confessed.

“I see. So let’s get down to business shall we?” Smith took a seat at the head of the table and began methodically reviewing papers contained in the folder.

Special Agent Jones remained standing, having just replenished his coffee cup. He interjected,” Mr. Willoughby; tell us when you first met Roger Harper?”

“Met him? Let me think…” Willoughby’s eyes narrowed as if that would improve his recollection. “I never intentionally met him. The nature of undercover surveillance, by definition, means the person you are watching is unaware of the intrusion.”

“But you did meet him. It’s in the report to your client. When he realized you were following him, he turned and confronted you,“ Smith reminded the PI.

“When and where exactly was that?” Jones asked.

Willoughby stared hard at the Special Agent. “Damn.” Jones put his hand to his forehead. “This headache is back.”

Smith looked up. “I didn’t know you suffered from migraine, Jones.”

“I don’t. It started yesterday afternoon. Went away, but now…” Jones massaged his temple.

“Go take an aspirin or something,” Smith suggested. “I’ll hold the fort until you get back.”

* * *

When Jones returned fifteen minutes later, Willoughby was truly on a caffeine and sugar high, having drunk another cup of coffee and eaten two more doughnuts. He had become Mister Motor-mouth and was full-bore explaining how Carol Simpson became a client.

As Jones took his chair, Smith held up a hand for Willoughby to be quiet. “Our friend here,” he began, offering a précis of the Private Eye’s ramblings “corrected my assumption that Carol Simpson is female. Apparently, Mr. Simpson is a silent partner in one of the local casino resorts, who wished to gain an insight into our person of interest. Jones, when we’re finished here, pull out what we have on Mr. Simpson. Also find out his other business interests.”

Jones made a hurried notation on a scratchpad.

Smith continued, “Mr. Willoughby has been telling me that Harper came to Spencer’s attention because he has been enjoying unusual success at the poker tables.”

“Success, as in cheating?” Jones asked.

“That is what Mr. Simpson wanted to find out, I assume. Anyway, Mr. Willoughby was hired to do a background check, as well as to find out his current associates.”

“You mean if anyone was colluding to help him win?”

“Precisely.” Smith smiled. “Mr. Willoughby; perhaps you would continue. The short version, if you don’t mind.”

Smith leafed back and forth through the Bureau’s papers, to which had been added the documents provided by Willoughby, as the shamus spoke.

“Roger Harper, it seemed had led a relatively normal life as a child. A middle-of-the-road student academically. Excelling at sports, he had won a football scholarship to Penn State. Graduating near the bottom of his class, he had bummed around, exploring a number of exhilarating jobs such as bellhop, janitor and pizza delivery guy. Then, one day, his life took a change of direction when he walked into an Army Recruitment Office.

Harper was found to have a natural aptitude with a rifle, and a year after basic training went to sniper school before joining the 75th Ranger Regiment out of Fort Benning.

He did two tours in Afghanistan. During his second deployment, he was decorated with the Bronze Star. When he returned to Fort Benning, things did not go so well. He was involved in a number of bar fights. As part of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, the Rangers maintain more stringent standards for their personnel. His brawling resulted in disciplinary action; RFSed, short for Released For Standards. Consequently, Harper was removed from the regiment, and transferred to Fort Stewart.

A few months later, Harper met a girl named Christina Martinez, who was the sister of an army pal. They started dating. She acted as his third wheel and helped get him back on the straight and narrow. When he was promoted to corporal, the couple decided to get engaged and planned their wedding for the fall.

Then, one afternoon, while crossing the parade ground, he saw someone he knew; a Lieutenant who had been in Afghanistan the same time as Harper. The corporal rushed at the man, hit him without provocation, and broke his jaw. Apparently, Harper was of the opinion that this Lieutenant was responsible for the death of one of his buddies.

He was court-martialed and dismissed from the service. Because of his medal for valor and an army psychologist’s report that concluded Harper was still suffering from PTSD, he was not sent to military prison, but did receive a Dishonorable Discharge, which meant he lost all VA benefits.”

“It’s all here; I have a copy of his military record.” It was Smith who spoke.

“A sad business all round,” Willoughby, continued. “Harper’s saving grace was that Ms. Martinez stood by him, even helped him find a job as an auto mechanic.”

“Yes, yes. Mr. Willoughby, may I remind you that I asked for the short version,” Smith said with a sigh. “I did not ask for the man’s life history.”

You went to the trouble of pulling his military records. I’m just filling in the blanks.”

Jones covered his mouth with his hand to hide a smirk.

“Which are related to our investigation. He’s a trained killer.”

“How does that equate to playing poker?” the PI asked.

“That I am trying to ascertain. Please tell us why you included a copy of a witness’s statement, hospital bill, and death certificate when you submitted your report to Mr. Simpson.”

“To show how much time I devoted to the case, and justify my billing.”

Smith sighed for a second time. “No wonder your client refused to pay you.”

“So you don’t want to know how Harper was set up?”

“In what way?” It was Jones’ turn to ask a question.

“In my opinion, Harper was the fall guy; he took the blame for the RTA.”

“Go on,” Smith said

“I spoke personally to the sheriff, taking the trouble to visit his office. It struck me as funny how he recalled the incident without a moment’s thought. One would expect, dealing with hundreds of accidents per year, he would have needed to consult the file first. And another thing, as soon as I showed him my ID and credentials, he furnished me with that witness’s statement without being asked; the only witness I might add, who swears Harper ran a red light. I got the feeling he wanted me to go away and leave town as soon as possible.

“And did you leave town right away?” Jones asked.

“No. I asked around and found out the local General Practitioner subs as Medical Examiner when needed. It is, after all, what one might call a one-horse town. So, I looked him up. Same thing. He recalls the accident like it was yesterday. Out the top of his head, he tells me Harper’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.097%. His memory was fresher than a just picked melon. Don’t you think that strange?”

Smith and Jones did not comment.

Willoughby went on, “But I didn’t leave it there. I like to be thorough, you know. That evening, while I was having dinner, I got chatting with the waitress. She remembered Harper as well. Tells me he and his girlfriend had a meal together. Such a nice couple she says. Gave a good tip too. When I asked if they drank a lot, she said different; stuck to soda. Shame about the car accident.”

“Maybe they had a drink elsewhere, first,?” Jones suggested.

“Not unless it was a takeout from the supermarket. This is the only bar for miles around.”

“The look on your face suggests you have a theory about the discrepancy,” Smith said.

“I sure do. The waitress told me the other driver was the mayor’s son. Eighteen years old, a reprobate who shouldn’t be let off its chain, were her words. The boy has a reputation for racing cars and wild parties.”

“Why would the doctor falsify a medical report?”

“Most of the town is in the mayor’s pocket, so I gathered. He owns most of the property and holds the businesses to random with his rent hikes. It would be a brave person to go against the mayor, including the sheriff. Roger Harper wakes up from a coma, out of a job, led to believe he is the one responsible for his fiancée’s death, and saddled with huge medical bills. And he has a snowball’s chance in hell of suing for damages. The man was well and truly shafted.”

“I’m sure Mr. Willoughby, if you were Harper’s biographer, all this would be good stuff, but nothing to do with him cheating at cards,” Smith concluded.

“Alleged cheating,” the sleuth interjected.

“Okay, if you wish to be pedantic, alleged cheating.”

“But when caught on camera…”

Smith suddenly coughed and shook his head, before mouthing not yet, which interrupted Jones. “Mr. Willoughby, if you don’t mind, it’s time to move on, and discuss your surveillance of the man.” The more senior Special Agent picked up a photograph that the PI had given him yesterday. “Talk to me about this photograph.”

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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