The Tarot Card Mystery part Four

I started writing this story back in 2016. I wrote three parts and then life was interrupted by my wife’s illness. The story is a mystery involving my favorite detective, Sam Barton. Here are links to episodes one, two, and three. I’m now in the frame of mind to continue with the story. It’s been sitting, patiently waiting to be told. So here’s part four!

“She says you tried to rob her, Sam!” the police captain yelled. He had been doing this for about half an hour. Sam was driving around in his car trying to figure out what to do about this case when a squad car pulled him over. The police had went to Madame DuPree’s shop after Sam’s call and found the old woman tied up on the floor where he had left her. Taking her to the station, she claimed that Sam had come to the shop and tried to rob her. She said that she had never seen him before.

Pounding his hand on the Captain’s desk, Sam shouted back, “You can’t be serious! You know me Captain! You know who I am. You know I’d never do something like that. She hired me to find her niece. When I found more than she’d wanted, she had her gorilla knock me out and lock me in a storeroom. Look! She gave me this card.” Reaching into his pocket, Sam retrieved the Tarot card Madame DuPree gave him. Christi had tossed it into the back seat of his car after he rescued her and for reasons he couldn’t understand, he grabbed it and put it back into his pocket before the cops stopped him. “Why do you think I’d have something like this, Captain? Where do you think I’d get a Tarot card, if not from her?” Sam flipped the card over to show the Captain the face side, which had been the Death card except now it wasn’t. “What the hell…?” Sam said. “This, this isn’t the right card.”

“That doesn’t prove anything,” the captain said. “You’re not that stupid Sam, and neither am I. Having a playing card in your hand doesn’t mean squat! Now I know you didn’t try to rob her but your explanation isn’t all that convincing. So why don’t we…Sam? Sam!

“Sam looked up from the card and said, “This isn’t the right card. She gave me the Death card, but this isn’t it.” The card Sam was holding was the Hermit card. It showed an old man standing alone on a mountain top holding a lantern in his out stretched hand. “There’s something wrong here Captain…”

“You bet yer ass there is,” the Captain interrupted.

“She only gave me one card, Captain. It was the Death card. This isn’t it. How, how could that happen?

Sam’s vision started to blur. He dropped the Hermit card on the desk and rubbed his eyes. He started feeling nauseous and dizzy. Looking at the Capatin and back at the Hermit card he saw the figure of the Hermit turn it’s head toward him. Sam thought he must be going crazy as the figure began to grow larger in his vision. The Hermit lifted his lantern to illuminate Sam’s face and said, “You’re alone. You’re all alone, with no one to help you! Death will come to you in it’s time but for now, You’re all alone.” Sam fell forward out of his chair, and remembered nothing more.


The Tarot Card Mystery part Three

Here you are folks, part three!

Dull pain from his right shoulder to his hips caused Sam to wake and with his eyes still closed he sensed light coming through the office window. When the Jamaican girl shifted beneath his left arm he realized why he was in pain. Two people sleeping on a cot made for one did not afford him the best night sleep he’d ever had. Rising slowly so as not to wake her, Sam massaged some life back into his arm. Looking down at Christi, her lustrous black hair and brown bare shoulders silently invited him back to bed but he knew he shouldn’t. He wasn’t a guy who worried over much about morals but at this moment he was certainly hoping she wasn’t younger than twenty. She never did say how old she was. After a quick shower and a change of clothes he left a note for her on the desk: “Taking care of some business, be back later.” Then he left the office.

Sam stopped at a local eatery for breakfast. One of the neighborhood cops was sitting at the counter when Sam went in. “Hey Sam,” he said. “Long time no see.”

“Yeah Charlie,” said Sam, “How’s the family?”

“Oh everyone’s good. You know Martha,” he said, rubbing his large belly, “Always baking something for me.”

“Having a good woman in your life can be hazardous to your health Charlie. Better be careful,” Sam said as he sat down.

“Say, Sam, you haven’t heard any rumblings in the area about drugs have you?” The hairs on the back of Sam’s neck prickled.

“I don’t know what you mean, Charlie.”

“Well it seems Downtown has been getting some unofficial reports about a drug war taking shape around here. Two rival factions maybe. Just wondered if you’d heard anything.”

“Not me,” Sam said. “I try to keep my nose out of that kind of business.”

“Yeah I figured as much.” Charlie got up to leave. “If you hear anything you let me know, yeah?”

“You got it Charlie. See you ‘round.” Sam ate his breakfast in silence wondering again, just what he got himself into.

Finished with his breakfast, Sam went to see Madame DuPree. She was sitting quietly behind the counter when Sam opened the shop door. “So you found my niece. That was quick work Mr. Barton. Most impressive. But you did not bring her to me. Unfortunate.”

“She’s safe.”

“In your office. I sent Michael to collect her there.”

Sam was beginning to wonder if this old lady wasn’t psychic after all. “Well the office door is locked and…”

“Michael does not worry about locked doors, Mr. Barton. You may remember that I told you it would be most unfortunate if there were any entanglements between my niece and yourself. You should have heeded my advice.” Sam imagined the third frosted glass window of his office door in as many weeks smashed all over the floor and wondered just how the hell this lady knew what happened last night. Time to change the balance of the conversation.

“Look, here’s the situation. You asked me to find your niece. I found her, and got shot at and chased in the process. I intended to bring her to you but she insisted that she wasn’t going to come. I also learned a few things last night that you neglected to say. Christiana tells me you’re involved with drugs. She…”

“The girl lies.”

“That may be. However a couple things her captors said last night while they were trying to kill us suggest that she may be telling the truth. Now personally I don’t care what you’re into but when you withhold information that can get me killed I resent that. I did what you asked so if you don’t mind I’ll just take my check and our business will be concluded.”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, Mr. Barton. I told you to simply bring back my niece and not get involved with her. You also know more now than you should. I’m afraid I can’t have you walking out of here and telling what you know. Your fat police friend would love to hear this tale, would he not?” Sam heard a noise and turned to find all six foot four inches of Michael standing right behind him. Michael reached out with his right hand and grabbed Sam by his coat. Sam took hold of Michael’s middle finger and bent it backward. It had no effect. He bent it further back until he heard it snap. Michael still held Sam firmly paying no attention to his broken finger as he pulled back his left arm and punched Sam square in the face. As Sam’s knees buckled under him, the lights dimmed and went out.

Sam woke lying on the floor with a massive headache and a swollen, possibly broken nose. At first he didn’t understand what had happened. He remembered talking to Madame DuPree and nothing more. Slowly, the big man standing behind him swam into his mind and then it all came back. Why didn’t they kill him, he wondered? Sitting up with his back to a wall, he surveyed his surroundings. He was in what looked to be a store room. Boxes and crates stacked haphazardly here and there filled most of the room. There were no windows that he could see through his blurred vision and only one door. Thinking of how he could get out of the room gave him an idea. He located a large crate with the lid sitting off to one side. Looking inside it he found packing material. Sam climbed in to the crate and pulled the lid back on top. Inside he pulled the packing material over him and settled in to wait.

While he lay concealed in the crate he thought about everything that happened. Something was bothering him. He was missing something he couldn’t quite get. Something someone had said. Everything Madame DuPree had said was pretty straight forward except the mumbo jumbo about tarot cards, so that wasn’t it. The same with Christi. Michael didn’t talk, so that wasn’t it. He hadn’t talked to anyone else involved with this thing. Sam thought about the two guys on the ship. What did they say? He thought about what he had heard and then it hit him. It was Jerry. What did he say? He was complaining about losing the girl. Yeah, that was it. He said, “The big man’s going to be pissed.” The big man. What did he mean? Who was the big man? Michael, of course was a big man. Could he mean… That didn’t make sense. Michael was a big dumb oaf who worked for Madame DuPree. And didn’t talk, unless the need arose, as DuPree had said. Could he, do you suppose… The thinking was making his head hurt worse so he tried to calm his mind. The crate was cramped and Sam felt like he was getting a charlie horse when he heard the door being unlocked.

“Well Mr. Bart…” Madame DuPree began and then stopped. “Michael! Get in here!” Michael stepped into the room. “Where is he Michael? Where did he go?” Sam heard the noise of boxes being moved. Shuffling feet told him the room was being searched. “It is impossible for him to have gotten out of here! He cannot have left.”

Suddenly Michael spoke. “I don’t know, Madame. He’s not here.”

“Then where is he!?” she yelled in her scraggly voice.

“I don’t know Madame. There are no windows and the door was locked.”

“Well he’s gone! This is bad Michael. We need to find him. And with Christiana gone also, it is doubly bad.”

“I’m sorry Madame. I went to his office like you told me. She wasn’t there. The note said he would be back. He was expecting her to be there, but she left.”

“We need to find them both. Use your resources Michael. Go! But keep in touch. Find them!”

“I will Madame. I will.” Sam heard them leave, and shut the door. They didn’t lock it. So much for her psychic abilities, he thought. He waited for a good ten minutes before sliding off the crate lid as quietly as he could. Climbing out of the box, Sam made his way to the door. Opening it and looking out he found he was in the same hallway in the back of the store as before but at the far end. There was no back door. He crept up the hallway and through the curtain saw Madame DuPree sitting behind the counter where she had been before. No sign of Michael. There was only one way out, nothing more he could do. Sam strode through the curtain, turned to look at the old lady and said, “Madame,” and kept walking for the door.

A screech came from behind him and she was on his back. She was light weight but seemed powerful. Her long red nails dug into Sam’s neck as she bit him in the back of the head. He swirled around hearing the jangle of her bracelets and smashed her into the shelves full of merchandise. Her products flew everywhere and the shelves collapsed. She hung on. Screeching and digging with her nails, Sam could feel blood running down his neck. He turned and ran backward as fast as he could, smashing her into the wall. She lost her grip and fell to the floor. As she attempted to get up, Sam punched her hard on the side of her head. Her head went back, banging into the floor and she lay still. He stood over her catching his breath. Reaching over and grabbing a lamp off the counter, Sam ripped out the electric cord. Flipping Madame DuPree onto her stomach he tied her hands behind her back and then tied her hands to her feet. Sam looked behind the counter and found a roll of paper towels which he used to stop the bleeding. As he left the store he pulled out the cell phone he rarely used and called the police. Telling them what had happened there, but nothing more, Sam quickly faded into the night. For night it was. He must have lain in that room for several hours.

Now he had to find Christi. If she had stayed in his office, Michael would have found her but she was gone. Unless. Unless Michael did find her there. Which would mean that Michael was not who he seemed to be. One way to find out. Sam’s office was on the second floor of an old building not far from DuPree’s shop. He went up the back stairs and peeked through the door. No one in the hall way. Sam reached for his 45 and realized that it was gone. Dammit, he liked that pistol. He could see glass on the floor at his door from his position by the back door. He heard no noise so he went in. The glass had been smashed out of the window and his office was wrecked. Most importantly though, Christi’s clothes and shoes were still there, telling him that Michael did find her there but did not tell Madame DuPree. Which meant that Michael was probably ‘the big man’ that Jerry the sailor had mentioned and was playing each side against the other in some kind of drug war.

Sam quickly pulled off his shirt and put on his Kevlar vest. Finding his 357 in the desk drawer, he put that in his coat pocket along with a hand full of extra bullets. He looked at himself in the mirror. He looked like hell. Holes in his neck with blood trickling from them, two black eyes and a broken nose. And the back of his head burned from the bite Madame DuPree had given him. “That’s it,” he said to his reflection. “Now I’m pissed. Time to go shoot some people.”

The Tarot Card Mystery part Two

Sam drove to the harbor. There were a few ships docked there and plenty of dark warehouses with alleys between them. He left his car in an unlit area and walked toward the docks. He wore his Kevlar vest under his shirt and had changed into rubber soled shoes which wouldn’t make any noise on the pavement. Stopping by a large pile of pallets he used his 30 power binoculars to survey the ships. Several were under foreign registry and looked regularly used. Then he noticed one old ship sitting away from the others. Lots of rust and no flags told him this old boat hadn’t gone anywhere in a long time. As he worked his way closer while staying in the shadows he noticed streaks of old red paint on its sides. Bingo, he thought, but now what? The ship was dark. No lights on the deck or from any of the portholes in its side. Walking along the side of a warehouse that paralleled the ship he found a gangway from the dock to the ship at its far end. Stepping onto the gangway he bounced his weight a couple of times to test its durability. Finding it sturdy enough he stepped quickly across and tried the door. The lever handle scrapped loudly as it moved and the hinges squealed as he pushed the door open. Waiting to see if the noise would attract any unwanted attention he then stepped inside.

Not wanting to make any more noise, Sam left the door standing open. It was dark enough outside that he didn’t think any light would shine in. Standing still and listening he thought he heard distant voices. Someone was shouting, but from where? Pulling out his small flashlight he risked turning it on. He was in a long hallway with doors and other hallways leading off of it. Shutting off the light Sam started to make his way along with his hand on the wall to keep his bearing in the dark. As he moved he began to make out some features in the hallway and soon came to an open doorway where dim light spilled out. There was definitely shouting coming from the room. He passed the open door quickly, seeing no one inside and stood behind the door. The steel walls, floor and ceiling echoed the shouting voice and made it hard to make out what was being said. He thought he heard the shouter saying something about wanting information. Something like, ‘that old lady is going to get herself killed’. Footsteps began to come toward the door and the shouter yelled, “But you’re going to die first if you don’t open up!” A man in an old seaman’s coat and cap emerged through the door and stomped down the hallway in the opposite direction Sam had come, muttering under his breath. Sam waited until the man was out of site and slipped around the door and into the room.

To the left of the doorway was a young woman tied to a chair. Her head hung down, chin resting on her chest. She was wearing black capri’s and a dirty maroon button up shirt, with a few buttons missing. Sam made his way to her and as he approached her head snapped up and she opened her mouth to speak. Sam quickly clapped his hand over her mouth and said, “Listen to me. I’ve come to get you out of here. Your Aunt sent me looking for you. She’s worried you might be in trouble. Looks like she was right. I’ll cut you loose but you need to follow me out.” The girl nodded her head and Sam took his hand away from her mouth. Using his knife he cuts the ropes. As the ropes fell to the floor she stood, rubbing her wrists.

“Alright mon, lead da way,” she said in a very Jamaican accent. The two of them left the room and as quietly as they could, made their way up the hallway. Sam heard noise behind them. The shouter was back and had found her gone. He yelled for someone named Jerry and running footsteps began to get closer. They ran. A light came from behind Sam and the girl and then a gunshot. The bullet whined as it pinged off the metal walls of the ship. Two more shots came as Sam and the girl reached the door he had left open. Out the door, across the gangway and into the open space between the ship and the warehouse. As they approached the warehouse Sam grabbed the young girl and pulled her into the shadows beside the building. They lay on the ground between some stacked pallets and the side of the building, Sam’s arms around her. He put his finger to his lips indicating silence. She looked into Sam’s eyes, smiled and wiggled closer to him. “Dis is nice,” she whispered.

As the shouter ran past them another man, who must have been Jerry, came by as well. “Did you see which way they went?” he asked.

“If I’d seen which way they went I’d know where to look, wouldn’t I?”

“You don’t have to be crappy with me Monty, yer the one let her escape!”

“She was tied up good when I left her!” Monty shouted. “Someone come in here and cut her loose. Don’t you blame me fer that!”

“Big man’s gonna be pissed, Monty,” Jerry said.

“Don’t you think I know that? That old witch gets the upper hand on us, all hell’s gonna break loose! I just ‘bout had her talkin’.”

“We had her in there for three days and she ain’t said shit!” yelled Jerry. “Whata you mean you almost had her talkin’?”

“Shut yer head, Jerry, for you get it taken off.”

Jerry and Monty searched the area but Sam and the girl were hidden well enough that they didn’t find them. The two men finally made their way back to the ship, arguing all the way. Sam and the girl came out from their hiding place and went the long way around the warehouse to Sam’s car. Climbing inside Sam started the engine and pulled away from the docks.

“Where we goin’ mon?” the girl asked.

“You’re Christiana, aren’t you?”

“Oh ya, I’m Christiana alright but I liked to be called Christi if ya don’t mind.”

“I’m taking you back to your Aunt. She hired me to find you. As I said before she’s pretty wor….”

“Aww no you’re not takin’ me back to dat old bat,” Christi interrupted. “She’s da reason I’m in trouble in da first place. Her an’ her drug dealin’! Why you think dem guys had me on dat ship? She sells drugs mon. She interferen’ wit dere own drug dealin’. She makin’ more money den dem guys,” she said, motioning backward with her head. “Day don like dat. So dey snatch me to get to her. Den you come along and save me!” She laughed at this and as she laughed she slid across the car seat right next to Sam’s side. “So I’m thinkin’ I could jus’ stay wit you, ya know? We go back to your place, get warm an’ cozy for da night. Den tomorrow you can help me get back to Jamaica! My Da an’ me we lived there. He sent me to live wit’ de old witch when he was dyin’. Said I’d have a better life. But he din know about da drugs mon. So I got to get back. I got other family dere who I can go to. But dat can wait ‘till tomorrow. Tonight it’s jus’ me an’ you.” Christi slid her hand under Sam’s coat to caress his chest and felt something in his pocket. “What’s dis?” she said, snatching out the Death tarot card Sam had put there. Laughing hard she hooted, “Aww dis is rich! Did she give you dis?”

Sam at this point unsure if any of this was real, nodded his head. Christi waved the card in the air. “Oooo,” she called. “Death gonna get you!” Laughing again she flung the card into the back seat. “You not takin’ me back to dat crazy old bat. Take me to your place or let me out right here! Besides,” she said, cozying up to him again, “You look like you could use some fun in your life, mon!” Not knowing what else to do, Sam drove the car to his office. Once inside Christi spotted the bottle of Jameson whisky on the shelf behind Sam’s desk. “Let me pour ya a drink mon,” She said. Glasses in hand she grabbed the bottle and came back to Sam’s side. Setting the bottle on the desk she reached to turn on the radio. Sam kept his old tube radio tuned to his favorite Jazz station. Moving sensuously to the music she said, “Dis is more like it mon.”

“I don’t think we should be doing this,” Sam said. “You’re the niece of a client and besides, you’re awfully young.”

“Aww don’ you worry about dat. I’m old enough for you.” Christi slid her hands under Sam’s coat and pushed it off his shoulders. Beginning to unbutton his shirt she discovered the Kevlar vest. “Oh, dis has got to go,” she said. Pouring two whiskeys and handing one to Sam she knocked hers back quickly. Rubbing her lips with the back of her hand and locking eyes with Sam she poured another. Before he knew it his shirt and Kevlar vest were off and Christi was unbuttoning her own. Knowing this was a bad idea he and the girl sunk onto his cot, and into the depths of passion.