(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Jacqui was written by Patricia Loofbourrow.)
The day was overcast and cool but not windy. Spadros Manor was an large white building with several columns around the edge of a porch which spanned the front of the building. An imposing two-story building, but “manor” was too grand a word for it: a short walk from the street to a short flight of steps, up to the porch and a large pair of white wooden doors. A middle-aged man dressed in a black suit opened the door and ushered Kelly down a long, white-paneled hallway trimmed in pale blue, then Kelly turned right, out a set of French doors to her left, and onto a veranda.
Mrs. Spadros awaited Kelly in the garden, which was full of various flowers, herbs, and small trees, which were just beginning to bud out. She was a young woman, in her early 20’s, wearing a deep blue walking dress, high necked and long sleeved, and black button boots. Her hair was a deep reddish brown and her skin was light brown. As Kelly approached, she notice Mrs. Spadros’ eyes are dark blue.
She sat at a small table under a lawn umbrella, rising as Kelly and the man approached. She seemed a bit wary, but held out her hand. “Miss Blanchard, mum,” the man said. A maid stood ten feet away, waiting, and as Kelly gazed around, she noticed men in dark brown suits in the distance, watching everything but her. They wore dark spectacles.
“Thank you, Pearson,” she said. Her voice was sultry. A glass of what looked like liquor sat on the table, and she smelled of cigarettes. She turneds to you. “Would you like anything to drink?”
Kelly took a seat and shook her head. “I’m fine, but thank you. Anything but water tends to give me a headache, which is never fun.” She took in her surroundings briefly before focusing on Jacqui. “So, how should I address you? Mrs. Spadros? Jacqui? Or what do you prefer?” She raised her brows.
She gave an amused smile. “Please, call me Jacqui.” She gestured to the maid. “Bring a glass of water.” The maid curtsied and left, returning with a glass of water.
“Thank you.” Kelly nodded with a smile. “So…quite a luxurious life you have here. How did you end up here? How did you end up married to your husband? Was it arranged? Or what exactly?”
Jacqui gave a brief but pointed stare. “It’s a long story.”
Kelly spread out her hands as she sat back in her chair. “I have time.”
Jacqui leaned back, hand to her chin, and gazed off to her right. “Our fathers are acquainted with each other.”
“So it sounds like your marriage was a convenient arrangement.” Kelly nodded. She wasn’t here to judge—only discover the truth. However, she paused and looked around at those shadows of Jacqui, and she had to ask, “What they hear, you’re not worried that they will repeat anything to anyone, are you? Because this conversation is best done in an environment where you feel most safe.”
Jacqui glanced at the men in the distance and the maid ten feet away and laughed. “I’m perfectly safe here. Tell me, what is it that you do?”
Kelly smiled and tilted her head to a side. “I meet with people like you and ask them difficult questions.” Then she returned to her original line of questions. “It sounds as though your marriage was a convenient arrangement between the two fathers. Do you love your husband?”
Jacqui smiled. “We’ve been married three years now.”
“That doesn’t mean anything.” Kelly shook her head. “Do you love him?”
She shrugged. “You’re obviously an outsider.” She paused for a moment. “No offense.”
“That’s a no.” Kelly read her body language. “Of course there’s nothing you can do about it because you’re married into a mob boss family. How does that make you feel?”
Jacqui chuckled, but it seemed strained. “Does it matter?”
“It matters to me because it’s the truth as to who you are even if you don’t admit it yourself.” Kelly wouldn’t let go.
“Are you some sort of psychological analyst?” Jacqui’s eyes narrowed. Then she laughed. “You’d find plenty to work on here.”
“Nope, nothing like that.” Kelly smiled. “That doesn’t mean I’m not good at my job though.” She chuckled. “However…” She leaned forward, meeting Jacqui’ eyes. “You’re dodging the question.”
Jacqui leaned back and smiled broadly. “And what question would that be?”
“How do you feel about being trapped in a family you don’t care about?” Kelly tilted her head. She was used to interviewing people like this.
Jacqui glanced at the maid and said, “Bring my cigarettes.” Once the maid left, she lowered her voice to a whisper. “Are you trying to get me killed? Who sent you here?
Kelly just gave her a look. “See, you are worried about what you say, and you don’t feel completely safe here, and this doesn’t help our conversation. I need you to be completely honest with me, and you’re not. If you would like, I could take you elsewhere for the duration of our conversation.”
Jacqui sat in thought until the maid returned with the bronze cigarette case. Jacqui set the closed case on the table. “Go clean the veranda. If I need you, I’ll call.” The maid curtsied and retreated to the veranda thirty yards away. “There. Are you satisfied now?”
“I’ll be satisfied once you actually answer the question I asked, and no, I don’t back down.” Kelly held her gaze.
Jacqui chuckled. “I like you.” The she paused a moment. “What was the question again?”
“Are you going to answer it this time?” Kelly raised her brows, but she went on to repeat it again. They’d been at this for only 30 minutes, and Jacqui hadn’t really answered a single question yet. “I asked how you feel about being trapped in a family that you don’t care about?”
Jacqui took a deep breath and let it out. “It’s not that I don’t care about them. I’m fond of Tony’s little sister.” She paused, staring off to her left, tapping her fingertips on her pursed lips. “I guess I feel as anyone would in such a situation.”
In a way, Jacqui still didn’t answer the question, but she had provided enough that Kelly felt she could move on. “You said your father and father-in-law are friends, so I’m assuming you grew up knowing the family you’d marry into. What was it like? Were you good friends with Tony back then? With his little sister?”
Jacqui still stared off to her left, right leg crossed over her left, her foot kicking out slightly every second. “I met Tony when we were twelve. Katie was just a baby then. And friends is a good word to use, yes.”
Again, she dodged the question. Kelly got the feeling that this was going to be a very long conversation indeed. It reminded her of another interview she had that took place over the course of two days, and she hoped this wouldn’t be a repeat of that. So, Kelly tried again. “You met Tony when you were both twelve, so did you interact with each other? Or was he just like all the other boys at that age, and just plain annoying?”
Jacqui laughed, and this time it seemed real. “Annoying. Yes.” She paused. “I spent most of the first few years being angry with him.”
“Why were you angry with him?” Kelly tilted her head to a side. This was a curious development.
Jacqui took a deep breath, then let it out with a giggle. “He was so strange! So quiet! It was infuriating. He only ever got upset about anything at the first … no, I suppose second … day we met. Other than that he would just say nothing. It was like looking at some store doll.”
Kelly furrowed her brows when she heard this description. It was interesting. “Was the arrangement of your marriage already determined by then? Or not yet?”
Jacqui pursed her lips again and frowned, tapping her lips. “I don’t know. Maybe.” She paused for several heartbeats. “Perhaps so.” She spoke as if these was a revelation. “Roy did say …” She blinked, and shook her head a bit. “Now that you mention it, I do think that’s what they had in mind, even then.”
“Do you think Tony knew that, so that’s why he reacted the way he did when you two met?” She lifted her brows.
“Hmm,” Jacqui said. “He was just twelve.” She let out a short laugh. “I don’t know.”
“But you know him now,” Kelly pointed out. “How has he changed?”
Jacqui sat for several seconds, staring off to her left. When she spoke, her voice sounded distant and sad. “He does what he has to do.” She faced Kelly. “He … sometimes I feel as if he’s still that boy, afraid of his father. Don’t misunderstand; he’s a fine man. But…I feel at times he wishes he had been born under different circumstances.” She sighed. “As we all do, I suppose.”
Kelly nodded. She could understand his fear. Even though she didn’t know anything about his father yet, she could only imagine. “And does he know that you’re relatively unhappy with your marriage to him?”
A brief, alarmed look crossed Jacqui’s face. “No.He must never know.”
Kelly gave her a look and ventured further. “Do you think he is happy with the marriage?”
Jacqui’s eyes grew thoughtful, sad. “He loves me very much.” She sighed. She glanced over at Kelly. “To be honest, I don’t know.”
Kelly gave her a look. “I get the sense that both of you are unhappy with the marriage, and it’s a completely unspoken agreement not to mention it. There are things you do without realizing that speak of your unhappiness, and I’m certain he senses it and likely wishes, as you said, he had been born under different circumstances, so he could be a different man. Have you considered that?”
Jacqui’s eyes narrowed, then she nodded. “I’m not sure what to do about it, though.” She smiled. “I suppose we’ll just have to muddle through.”
“Isn’t that always the complication?” Kelly raised her brows, shaking her head. “I don’t know your exact situation, so I can’t offer might advice. I merely wanted you to consider that thought. However, let’s change the topic a little…” Kelly leaned forward, “How did you meet Joseph Kerr?”
Jacqui stared at Kelly, mouth open. “Where … how …?”
Kelly laughed and shrugged. “I know things.”
“I am astonished.”
“But you’re not answering my question.”
Jacqui looked astonished, and a laugh burst from her. “Well, if you must know, we grew up together. I’ve known him and his sister since I was born.”
Kelly nodded when she heard this. “So, you two were lovers at one time. I’m assuming your marriage to Tony came between that?” She raised her brows.
Jacqui stared at Kelly, fear in her eyes. “No one must ever know that. I beg you.”
Kelly leaned in, locking eyes with her, and spoke quietly, “You can trust me, Jacqui. After today, you won’t see me again, and you won’t hear from me either. I have no one to tell.”
Jacqui gently bit her lip for a moment, then nodded.
Kelly watched her then asked again quietly, “So what happened?”
Jacqui swallowed then nodded, not meeting Kelly’s eye. “It is as you say. We had promised to each other. Joe said he would get money to leave here on the zeppelin, but … I was taken here and not allowed to return.” She shook her head slightly.
“Tell me of Joseph. What is he like?”
Jacqui’s face lit up. “He is the most…the handsomest man I’ve ever seen.” Color flooded her face, and she glowed with some memory. Then she became somber. “I miss him terribly,” she whispered.
Kelly nodded her understanding. “How long has it been sense you last saw him?”
Jacqui spoke in a light voice, but didn’t meet Kelly’s gaze. “Oh, he and his sister were at the Grand Ball on New Year’s Eve … a few weeks ago. And we visited them the next day.”
“You and Tony visited with them? Or did you get a chance to be with Joseph?” Kelly lifted her brows as she sat back in her chair to listen.
Jacqui still didn’t meet Kelly’s gaze. “Joe helped us during the Grand Ball, and Tony and I visited as thanks.” She turned to Kelly. “It’s difficult for them, being Kerrs and all. Most people avoid being seen with them.” Jacqui’s eyes grew thoughtful. “It was kind of Tony to do that. He can be kind – people don’t understand him. He’s not a warm person outwardly, but … Tony has many good qualities about him.”
Kelly didn’t understand the history between the families, but she was certain there was more than could be discussed in the time they had. “Tony sounds gracious, but I’m sorry you have to be apart from the man you actually love.” Jacqui met Kelly’s gaze briefly, and Kelly decided to change the topic of the conversation. “So, I understand you’re a private investigator as well…how did you get into that?”
Jacqui smiled. “Well … I began when I was sixteen, after I was forbidden to return. I hated being here, and I needed something to do other than needlepoint.” She laughed, then shrugged, a wry grin on her face. “I used to spy out things back home, so … “
Kelly smiled. “Well, I’m glad you found something to do, but how is it possible for you, the wife of a mob boss, to be a PI? Don’t people know who you are?”
“I have my ways of disguise.”
This made sense, so Kelly nodded. “So, I understand you’re looking into a kidnapping case?” She raised her brows.
“Not exactly.” She shook her head. “I’m not going to try to understand how you know about that …” She frowned. “Are you allied with them? It would be a pity if I had to kill you.”
Kelly laughed at this. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t laugh, but I can assure you, you wouldn’t be the first person who has tried to kill me, but no, I’m not allied with anyone.”
“Do you know where David is?”
Jacqui snorted. “It was a foolish question. To answer yours, I don’t do police cases – as a matter of routine. But there are things about this one which interest me.”
Kelly tilted her head to a side. Jacqui was dodging again. “I’m assuming David is the kid, and I understand that he’s the son to a childhood friend of yours. Did he ask you to look into this case?”
Jacqui seemed confused for a moment, then said, “No, his father is dead, as far as I know. His mother asked me to look into it.”
“See? I don’t know everything.” Kelly smiled at Jacqui but then nodded. “Okay, so…how did she know you do PI work if you try to keep it low key?”
Jacqui leaned back. “Well, that’s just one thing which is odd about this … I don’t know. She said that when she went to the police station that a man and woman sat nearby as she spoke to the constable. Afterwards, they told her where to inquire. But I don’t know who they might be.”
Kelly furrowed her brows as she heard this. “What else is odd about this case?”
Jacqui leaned forward, resting her arms on the table. “There was a strange ink-stamp on the wall of a dog, all in red, across the alley where the boy was last seen. It’s the mark of a new street gang called the Red Dogs. But members of the Red Dogs who I’ve contacted deny knowing anything about the matter, and seem angry that someone would do this. Also, I believe someone is following me. It began the day I met with David’s mother.”
Kelly narrowed her eyes. “Why would someone be following you?”
Jacqui shook her head. “I don’t know. I keep seeing a man in brown, but I never see his face. He seems familiar, though.”
“Think it’s part of the Red Dog gang or someone related to the kidnapping or…one of your father-in-law’s men?” Kelly lifted her brows.
“No.” Jacqui shook her head, but frowned, as if not sure. “I don’t know who it is. But…it frightens me. I feel as if it could be one of the kidnappers.”
“Hmm…” Kelly sat back, musing over this. “Have you told anyone?”
Jacqui shook her head. “The last thing I need is to be caged here even more than I am.”
“Understandable, but…what are you doing to protect yourself?”
Jacqui grinned, and a knife appeared as if out of nowhere, then disappeared just as quickly. “I’ll be fine.” She reached down to adjust her dress hem so it covered her left boot.
Kelly regarded the show of the knife. She knew those were only as good as being within range, but she nodded. “I hope you are, and I know you’ll solve this case eventually.” She then folded her arms as she contemplated another shift of the conversation. “Tell me of your father-in-law. I get the impression you don’t like him very much.”
Jacqui laughed. “You obviously don’t know who Roy Spadros is. No one likes him very much.” She paused. “Well, Katie does, but she’s a little girl, and a sheltered one at that. Even the other Family heads are afraid of him.”
“You’re right. I don’t know him, but just by your descriptions, I’m assuming he’s a very deadly individual. I wouldn’t expect less from someone in his position, however…why you?” Kelly leaned forward. “Why would he agree to have his son marry you–of all women? Yes, I know you said your father and he were friends, but still…someone with Roy’s reputation, that’s not a solid reason, so why?”
“That’s something I’ve asked myself more than once. And no one is ‘friends’ with my father. Like I said, it’s a long story.”
Kelly nodded, “And unfortunately this time our time is actually quite short. Actually, I have to be leaving soon. However…” she lingered for a moment. “I’d like you to really consider your marriage with Tony. Observe him. Read his body language. Determine if he’s happy with it or not. I’m not saying there’s a way out of it, and I’m not telling you to leave him, but…if the two of you can come to an understanding, then maybe something might happen.” Kelly shrugged as she rose to her feet. “I don’t know. You know the situation better than me, but…otherwise, you’re lying to yourself about the marriage.”
Jacqui shrugged. “What choices do I have?”
“Two choices: do something or do nothing.”
“I don’t think you understand the situation. I can do nothing, that has been made very clear. For the sake of myself and my family, I just have to make sure we all survive.”
“And that is unfortunate.” Kelly bowed her head. “However, I must be going. I’ve taken enough of your time, but I am grateful we’ve had this conversation. You needn’t worry about anyone finding out about what was said here. As I said, you’ll never see or hear from me again, but thank you for taking the time to talk.” She smiled at her. “I hope you have a good day…and solve that case.”
Jacqui smiled back. “Thank you. And I’m sorry to hear that. You would make a formidable ally. You have given me many things to consider, and for that I thank you.”
“You are most welcome. I hope you the best.” With that, she left.
Patricia Loofbourrow’s book ‘The Jacq of Spades: Part 1 of the Red Dog Conspiracy’ and its sequel are now widely available online. Be sure to follow her on social media!
Book Page: http://goo.gl/6msTrS
Amazon paperback: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1944223002
Amazon CA: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B017X29XUU
Book Depository (UK): http://www.bookdepository.com/The-Jacq-of-Spades/9781944223007
BOOK 2: The Queen of Diamond: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01JDTWYIE