Justice Wild Card
Date:- Friday 7th February 1941
Time. 3 O'clock pm
Place:- The Western Bank.
Chapter One The Beginning.
"This is precinct 53 in need of back up. We have a hostage situation. I repeat a hostage situation." The officer looked up at the bank in front of him and wondered how they were going to get the hostages out safely.
If he had but known that the hostage takers were thinking some thing similar it may have made things easier.
The young teller was sitting with his back to his counter with his hands on his head very surprised to still be alive as it was he who pressed the panic button.
"It will be easy you said." One of the crooks yelled at another. "A piece of cake you said."
"How was I to know the kid would go all heroic on me and pressed the button."
"Shut up the pair of you. I've gotta think and I can't do that with you squealing." The elder of the three yelled. "Number Ten will get us out of this."
"But that doesn't mean alive."
Suddenly over a speaker on the wall came the sound of a penny whistle.
"What the hell!?"
"While our captors take a time out for some thinking time we will have a word from our sponsors." The speaker rattled to the sound of a tin toy drum. "Today's sponsor for 'The Most inept bank raid' is Tina Tippy the walking talking doll."
There was a whir and a click from a dark corner as a small girl doll jerkily walked toward the three men.
"Hello do you love me." It squeaked and rolled its eyes. "I love you."
The voice over the speaker became deep and serious.
"The Tina Tippy doll drinks from her own bottle, cries, wets herself just like a real baby. Pick it up and feel its realistic plastic skin."
It was closest to the youngest of the hoodlums who couldn't help himself and picked it up.
"See her natural breathing." The serious voice said.
Suddenly the young mans head was surrounded by the thick swirling green mist issuing from the dolls head.
"Opps sorry I just can't get her to pack up smoking." The voice cackled as the raider slumped to the ground in howls of laughter to lay twitching on the ground with a wide mouth grin.
A yoyo appeared flashing by the second raiders head.
The youth turned only for it to reappear and curl around his body trailing a thin steel wire. It flashed around his body until he fell to the ground completely cocooned.
The eldest spun around looking for their assailant.
He didn't find anyone so he grabbed hold of the young teller and shoved the pistol to his head.
"Come out or I'll plug him." He screamed terrified at how everything had crashed down around his ears.
"I don't think so!" An attempt at a female voice said making him turn in that direction only to find himself confronted by a blow up doll.
"Naughty, naughty." The manic male voice said with a cackle as a child's sucker arrow thudded into the final thugs temple.
The raider dropped the pistol from his nerveless fingers before dropping to the floor crying his eyes out.
"Their, their baby." A simpering high pitched woman's voice said from the darkest corner of the room.
The speaker rustled and popped before coming live again.
"This timely rescue comes to you from Joker unlimited. The product that leaves a smile on every face." The laughter was terrifying before it stopped with a burp. "Was that over the top I never can tell.
Bye, bye, your free to go."
The young teller led everybody out into the waiting arms of the police.
Later on Lieutenant Monroe of the New Amsterdam Serious Crime and Homicide squad was examining the recovering thugs with his number two Sergeant Lily Hargreaves.
"There seems to be no permanent harm to them. Here Lily look at this."
On their necks he had uncovered a set of tattoo's.
"They are playing card symbols sir. Look the two of Diamonds, and the three and four."
Monroe squatted and examined them carefully. The marks were simple representations of the playing cards pips.
"Gang marks you think?" Lily asked.
"Possible, but not one I know." He stood up and stretched. "We'll let them cool their heels over night. I don't know about you sergeant but I'm bushed. Do you know of any good diners or bars around here?"
Lily had replaced his usual sergeant, Sergeant Mary Hope, who had been moved to another department after her marriage to Monroe.
The situation suited them both. Working together would be to much of a strain on their relationship.
It was Mary who suggested Lily as her replacement.
Lily was proving to be very adept and able to adapt to the changing pressures on the team.
"Theirs Jo Jo's place on the junction of thirty third and third." She offered.
"That will do lead the way. I'm in need of a strong cup of coffee."
"Lieutenant Sir?" A Scene Of Crime Officer, or SOCO for short, called to him.
"What is it Lucien?"
"A playing card sir." He held it up for him to see. It was the red joker from a deck of cards.
"I thought it might have been him." Monroe nodded. "Get me a full report on my desk by morning. Good night Lucien."
"Good night sir."
"Somehow I think it could be a long one." Lily muttered to herself.
Later on, after Monroe had had his coffee and had driven Lily home, he phone a special number from the telephone in his empty office.
"The Sleeper Awakes." He said down the phone.
"The listening ear hears." A oriental voice replied.
"Get a message to The Sandman that The Joker has stopped a robbery. The thugs had diamond playing card pips on their necks any connections."
"I will tell the master and get the message out on the wire to the other watchers. Time for sleep."
"The head rests." Monroe hated the secret code they have to use to contact the Sandman but he had insisted.
Monroe lost in thought twisted the jet stoned ring on his finger.
He turn out his desk light and quietly left the office vowing to tie up the loose ends tomorrow.
In a dingy apartment on 45th street sat the corpulent form of Douglas Trimmer. On the table was his camera, a pack of flash bulbs and last but no where least the keys to his motorbike.
Douglas twisted the knob of his radio a little to reduce the hiss of white noise that came over the speaker.
A voice came through the hiss.
"This is the dispatcher to car sixty nine. Please progress to Mo's bar on 331st street. They are having trouble with a drunk apparently."
Douglas didn't hear the reply because it was on another wavelength. He waited patiently like a huntsman tacks down his prey.
The radio hissed again.
"All available units to 2nd and Pine. A woman has jumped from the roof."
There was a crash as Douglas exited the room with the objects on the table at a run.
"Apparently she was naked." The dispatcher's voice echoed in the empty room.
On one wall was a mass of photographs showing people who had died a violent death.
Douglas had only minutes to get there first and get his photographs.
Douglas was a coffin chaser. Someone who gets sexual desire from seeing the violent injuries on dead bodies.
Jack Napier poked at the log on the fire to get more heat in the room before crossing to the Jewish candelabrum and lighting the candles.
He put the news paper, dated November the 9th 1941, into the rack.
His skull cap was on the back of his head holding down the sparse hair he had been blessed with.
He paused as he caught a glimpse of himself in the full length mirror.
Jack was in his late teens but looked much older. His thin sallow face showed a plethora of lines while his eyes showed a terrible pain only just held in check.
Tonight Halley, a therapist at Arkham, was coming round for the evening. In his grey striped suit waistcoat and trousers he looked immaculate as they suited his tall slim frame.
They had been walking out together for what seemed to Jack a life time. Jack's sister have suffered enough trauma to last her that life time and needed Psychiatric help to recover. It was in the hospital that they had met.
Jack offered to buy her a coffee and it had gone from there.
The door bell rang making Jack jump nervously.
His guest had arrived.
Doctor of psychology Halley Quinn was ushered into the main room. Jack took her fur line coat and grey gloves.
"How are you Jack?" She asked salacity.
"Up and down. You know the usual." In his pocket was small box. Inside was a ring. A simple band of gold.
"How's business?" She asked.
"I've expanded into fancy dress and it's doing well but it's early days yet." The conversation was strangely stilted, not flowing as it normally did.
"I'm glad you've decided to do it." She replied.
"Yes I've had two weddings and a bar mitzvah already." Jack owned the shop down stairs, the 'Ha Ha Magic and Comic Shop' which he used to run with his sister Ruby.
He crossed over with a tray of cake and a pot of boiling hot coffee.
"This is the last time I can see you professionally Jack." She joked with a smile.
Jack just nodded appreciating the joke.
The next fifteen minutes were spent in stilted small talk before Jack took the bull by the horns and put the little box on the table.
If she had seen it Halley had chosen to ignore it.
"Right Jack let's do some word associations. Just say the first thing that comes into your mind."
Jack sighed but nodded his agreement.
"Death." She said.
"Germany." He replied
"About time. Yes please." Halley said with a gentle smile. "I love you, you stupid man. Of course I'll marry you."
She gently took his hand and with great care lead him into the bedroom.
The candles fluttered from a unexplained draught as the clock struck eight.
Something new was being born whether for good or ill only time would tell, only time.
Down in the cells three men sat forlornly.
"I tell you that ten will get us out of here." Two said with enough of a tremble in his voice to call him a liar.
"She'll probably get us a good lawyer." Said four with a sniff. "However she does it she'll get us out of here."
"I am glad I have your loyalty." A woman s voice said from the shadows. "Have you told them anything that would, shall we say, hurt the organisation."
"No Ten. We haven't seen anyone since being put in the can." Three said.
"We wouldn't tell them anything anyway. We wouldn't split on the firm anyway."
"I'm glad you think that way."
"Are you going to get us out?" four asked.
"Oh yes that is no problem." The muzzle of a silencer was push through the bars and the pistol it was attached to coughed three times. "Oh dear we now have three vacancies come up. You'll get out easily now boys. In oak boxes."
In a few scant seconds she had gone leaving three bleeding corpses behind.
War was close but hadn't been declared not quite yet.
Chapter Two First Cards
The room was pleasant and airy with a piano in the corner.
The news paper, the Jewish Chronicle, showed the date as being November the 9th 1936.
Thirteen year old Jonas Nachman sat at the upright piano gently playing a piece by Chopin a smile on his face as his younger sister joined in with her violin.
His father took up the second violin as his mother played the cello.
The music filled the room. Swelling and ebbing with palpable peace and calm.
The sun shone through their window, that shattered with explosive force.
A fragment slashed across his mouth cutting it open. He screamed out in pain his mouth filling with blood.
"Filthy Jew!" A voice yelled. "Your day has come scum."
With a crash of splintered woodwork the main door crashed open. SS troopers in their black uniforms with the Death head insignia piled into the room knocking everything flying.
A Gestapo officer followed.
He signalled the soldiers to take his father and mother.
Bloody though he was, when Jonas tried to interfere he was clubbed down and kicked in the ribs for his temerity.
Unable to do anything he and his father watched as the soldiers took turns at raping his mother and sister before they were all dragged away.
Outside a crowd of strangers had gathered.
They spat at them, cursed them and even threw stones at them. The locals they stood silently watching in obvious shock.
It was November the 9th 1936 in Munich.
The Kristallnnact, The Night of Broken Glass had begun.
Jack woke up screaming and thrashing about from a nightmare only for a strong pair of arms to embrace him and draw his head down to her breast.
"It's alright. Just breathe slowly, deeply." Her voice said. "I have you, you're safe now."
Jack wept for awhile before recovering.
"Remember none of it is your fault. None of it Jack." She tried to hide the tear that ran down her own cheek but he caught it on his finger. "Remember I love you. Cling to that."
Slowly sleep overcame him once again.
Halley held him for a long time before she too fell asleep.
Monroe stroked Mary's hair as he stared up at the ceiling.
She lifted up her head off his chest and asked drowsily.
"Do you think he's another of those Mystery men?"
Mystery men and women had popped up all over the United States in the last two years. Vigilantes they may be but they were effective.
Some had been absorbed into the law enforcement units. Quasar worked with the FBI whilst The Sandman here in New Amsterdam was a Lieutenant in Monroe's department.
"He could be. I just don't know. I've left a message on the web for Sandman." He stretched "I'm more concerned with the robbers that were caught. They have a Diamond tattoo on their necks. One had two on him, another had three and the last four. If they are gang marks it's the last thing we need what with the Families getting jumpy."
Mary suddenly looked up at her husband wide awake.
"Say that again but slowly?"
"I've put the Jokers details out on the web for the Sandman." He told her.
"No not that bit, the bit about tattoos?" She asked.
"They had playing card pips on their necks, Diamonds. Why?"
"We had a couple of prostitutes in this morning. One of them had two heart tattoos on her neck. The playing card heart pips."
"What happened to her?" Monroe asked.
"Not much. We read them the riot act and then let them off with a caution."
"Oh great!" He sighed. "Can you give us the details tomorrow."
"Yes no problem." Mary traced a shape around his nipple with her finger nail. "Are you tired?"
"No, not now."
"Good." She said as she swung her body over his and smothered him with passionate kisses. "Make love to me darling?"
"Again?" He said with a laugh.
"Well we are awake and it seems a shame to waste the time."
"True, how true." He said laughing as he gave into her rising lust.
Douglas parked up his bike and hurried with his equipment over to the body.
He'd made it he had got their before the emergency services.
Pushing through the little crowd that had collected he came across the body of the woman.
Working swiftly he began taking pictures.
The victim had fallen from at least fifteen stories up and at that high it was obvious their would be considerable damage to the body.
But even Douglas quailed at the ruin that was her face but that didn't stop him photographing it.
The body was naked and twisted as it lay there on the ground.
It was then that Douglas noticed the blood pouring out from where her hands should have been. They had both been hacked cut off.
He noticed that a piece of skin on her neck was hanging off. With the sound of the emergency services sirens ringing in his ears he snipped it of and fled back to his motorbike and left the scene, shooting past the patrol car.
Back at his rooms he slumped into a chair to catch his breath. He was trembling from pure excitement.
He carefully removed the piece of skin from his pocket and spread it out on the table. With infinite care he took a photograph of it before putting it into an empty jar.
The rest of the night was spent in carefully developing the photographs and enlarging those parts that excited him most.
As he hung the last one up he didn't notice the white figure in the doorway of the apartment block. A figure in a white cat suit with ten black spade pips under a beige raincoat watching the scene with satisfaction. A figure with a bare face.
Pegged up to dry was the photograph of the piece of skin. The image showed the nine heart tattoos clearly.
Douglas left the house to find his favourite prostitute while the lust was still with him.
Chapter Three Two no Trump.
Old Israel sat in his old wicker chair his shawl tucked round him as he spooned the chicken broth into his mouth.
It was thick and rich and he hoped it would help with his cold.
Jack sat on the edge of his seat nervously.
When he arrived with Ruth in the United States it was old Israel he saw first. The old man took the two of them on and he became as dearly loved by them as he loved them.
If something was bothering Jack it was always to Israel, or Manny to his friends, that he turned.
Manny took another sip of his Jewish antibiotic waiting patiently for his young charge to speak.
"Have you been to see Ruth lately?" He asked eventually.
"Yes. I went on Tuesday and cleaned her headstone." Jack replied.
Ruth couldn't cope with what had happened to her. One evening when she was all alone she took her own life.
"Good boy." Many lent forward and gently squeezed his shoulder.
"Did you find out anything about my mother?" Jack asked.
"The last I heard she was in a ghetto called Buchenwald. She was in the orchestra." Manny lied.
They were silent for awhile.
"I've asked Halley to marry me. And much to my surprise she said yes." Jack said nervously.
The soup spoon stopped for a moment before continuing to Manny's mouth.
"Is she willing to convert to the Jewish faith?"
"I have no idea I haven't asked her. I wouldn't want her too anyway."
"Jonas, Jack, if you marry a girl outside of our faith you will be casting yourself adrift from the people." Manny cautioned. "I know several Jewish girls that would make good wives."
"I love her Manny and she loves me."
"I know she does. She's a lovely girl but if I didn't warn you about the problems I wouldn't be a very good guardian!" Manny put the bowl and spoon down.
Manny had met Halley several times and the old man took quite a shine to the girl with the bubbly personality. But beneath that he could see her steel. If there was something she wanted she would go all out until she got it.
"I can't believe I'm saying this but why not just live together and see how you get a long." Manny hope it would dilute any problems from either the gentiles or the Jews. "Your nineteen boy, your still a kid, there will still plenty time for all that, just live for awhile." Mammy realised he'd said the wrong thing but couldn't see how to get it back.
"There are pilots in England that are my age fighting for freedom and dying I don't see you calling them children." With that he got up and wished Manny good day.
Later at the toy shop he told Halley everything that occurred with Manny.
"He's got a point darling." She took out the ring box that she carried in her handbag. "Put the ring on for me darling."
She offered her hand.
"We will be married in our hearts." She said. "The ceremony will come later after we've launched our charm offensive and won people over."
He slid the ring on to her finger.
"I love you."
"I love you to."
And they kissed.
"Oh yuck!" A young voice said.
"Hello master Tommy what can we do for you?" Jack laughed.
"I've come in to get my Adventure Comic Mr Napier." The child had forgotten what he had seen in his desire to get the latest comic in his hand.
"That's right I have it here behind the counter. It's a double one of 100 pages."
The boy looked crest fallen
"I don't think I'll have enough for that Mr Napier."
"Show me what you have got Tommy perhaps we can make a deal?" Jack smiled at him but the boy seemed disconcerted as the cuts on either side of Jacks mouth made it look maniacal.
The boy open his left hand and displayed the meagre currency he had in his hand.
Jack tut tutted over it a moment.
"Well I tell you what I'll do. If you promise not to have any jelly beans for a week you can have it at the old price."
The boys eyes went huge.
"What for a whole week!"
"Yes but if your friends offer you one I can not see that as breaking your promise." Halley said with a gentle smile.
"Ah gee Lady!"
"Is it a deal Tommy?" Jack looked at the coins in the boys hand.
"Ok Mr Napier." The boy spat into his right hand. "See it wet, see it dry, cross my heart hope to die."
Jack laughed and shook the boys hand.
Jack bent over the boys out stretched left hand and extracted the usual amount.
"Here you go master Tomas." He passed the comic over.
"Thanks Mr Napier. The Freedom Fighters are sure giving those Nazi's a hard time."
Halley opened the shop door for him.
"Go straight home Tommy." Halley told him.
"I will Miss I've got this to read."
Once he had gone Halley began to laugh.
"I don't believe it. Is this the man I'm going to marry. A soft touch." She giggled.
"No I was doing a bit of crafty advertising."
"How does that work? You practically gave it away."
Jack laughed a little as he explained.
"I lost a little on the mark up but Tommy will tell his friends and with any luck they will beat a path to my door."
The door bell rang.
"Hello Tommy have you forgotten something?" He asked.
"I met Sam on the way home. Have you any of the Captain Marvel comics that he can buy Mr Napier?"
"Yes they are on the racks on the side there, but boys don't mess them up please?"
"All right Mr Napier." The boys scuttled off to the corner. "See I told you he was nice."
Halley put a hand on Jacks shoulder.
"I've got to go to work Jack. I've a group session to do in Arkam then a private client after that." They kissed which led to another groan from the kids in the corner. "You pair concentrate on your comics.
I should be free from mid-afternoon."
She ran the back of her hand down his face.
"I love you." She said.
"I love you too." Jack replied.
After she had gone he turned back to the boys. "Right young gentleman have you found what you were looking for?"
"Yes Mr Napier."
The boys put all the comics back neatly save one which Tommy's friend clutched fiercely in his hand.
As Tommy paid for his friend a mark on his neck was exposed. A single diamond pip.
Monroe entered the office to be greeted with a wall of silence. The word of how Monroe had been dragged from his bed had spread like wild fire and know one was willing to test the water just in case they got a mouthful.
On Monroe's desk lay two folders on one was a origami figure of a toad in which was a few grains of golden sand, the other was the autopsy report.
"Head's up everyone we've got the Autopsy report." As he crossed to the incident board Lily slipped in with a mug of hot coffee in her hand. Monroe took it from her. "Thank you very much Sergeant very thoughtful of you." He sipped the coffee while there was a smattering of laughter and general ribbing at Lily's expense. "Settle down. Now our Coroner has done his work and is going to tell us the obvious."
He took a deep breath. "The victim is a woman in her mid to late twenties, standing at six foot tall. Her hand's were removed while she was still alive. She was killed by a soft nosed 9mm shell, probably from a luger, which destroyed her face.
The contents of her stomach showed she hadn't eaten anything for twelve hours. There is some bruising around her genitals and signs of sexual activity in the previous hour before her death. There is also bruising around her anus suggesting anal sex.
There is a suggestion of several partners.
What do you make of all that?"
"Her husband came back early and found her with another man. He took her to the roof top and killed her." Polish Mick offered.
"Yes and where is her lovers body?" Monroe observed.
"A prostitute who upset a client?" Lily suggested.
"So much so that he chops of her hands and destroyed her face." Monroe shook his head. "No that doesn't fit."
"A professional hit. They tried to hide the woman's identity by removing her hands and destroying her face." Helena said.
"Yes, yes that's possible." Monroe looked up at the pictures on the board. "But why go to such elaborate means to remove her identity. Unless?"
Monroe became quiet.
"Unless what sir?" A female officer asked.
"Unless she was made an example off".
"Perhaps she was a secret agent who was going give herself up or a double agent and the Nazi's made an example of her to those in the know."
"I think we are letting our imaginations run away with ourselves. Her body was made a mess of to warn others for some reason. And we are not going to find out sitting here. George take some of this lot and knock on some doors in the block. Someone must have heard something. I doubt she was silent while they did this to her. Also find out if anyone who lives there has disappeared." He turned round to Lily. "Lily take some of the girls and find out if there is a brothel nearby. The girls may hire an apartment in the block by the hour.
Well what are you all standing around for?!"
There was a bustle of activity as the groups were formed and exited the room. Alone except for four officers he crossed back to his desk and the other slim folder."
"Yes?" Monroe asked.
"We've been investigating the murders of the suspects from the bank raid."
"And? Spit it out man."
"The only way was if one of our own did it or at least let them in."
"Not a pleasant thought. Go through the work rotas and find out who was on shift that night."
"The Internal Police Affairs Committee won't be pleased." One of the officers said.
"No, tough. If they complain point them in my direction."
They nodded and left Monroe to his paper work.
He opened the second folder to find in neat script, an apologise that the Sandman was out of town but a reassurance that the web would offer all the help it can.
It turns out that the 'Families', meaning the Mafia, were a little put out by someone muscling in on their ground.
Their had been eight previous robberies carried out with military precision The offences ranged from petty theft of a few hundred dollars from a shops till, to thousands of dollars carried in an armoured vehicle. Pick pocketing to a heist of jewellery
The rest of the folder was made up of police reports and interviews about the events.
Monroe lent back in his chair and wondered where they would strike next.
He had no doubt they would.
It is eleven o'clock in the evening and the Rosholt charity fundraiser is in full flow. It was a fancy dress party so you had the weird sight of Cleopatra chatting to Billy the Kid.
Standing in a corner watching it all were two silent figures.
The first was a tall thin man dressed in a garish mismatch of colours that jarred the eyes and yet seemed right.
His shoes had orange spats, his suit trousers were a purple pin stripe, his waistcoat vest was red . His shirt was green and his western bow tie orange.
If his clothes were bizarre so was his face. Underneath a shock of curly green hair was a bone white face with a crimson slash of a mouth.
The young woman was wearing a tight cat suit that left nothing to the imagination. Harlequin Diamonds of red and white covered it from her red pixie boots to her white face. Upon her head was a jesters three belled hat and on her face a diamond face mask.
The girl purloined a couple of drinks off a passing waiters tray.
A pirate came over.
"Hello you two having a good time?" John Rosholt asked.
"Yes thank you." Halley replied. "Jacks a bit nervous as he doesn't know anyone."
John gave a pleasant laugh.
"That's soon remedied."
They followed across to were two men and a woman were in deep conversation.
"Let me introduce you. This is Halley Quinn, junior psychologist at Arkam asylum for the criminally insane and this is her plus one Jack Napier"
"Please to meet you I'm Judge Jeffries." Said a dapper little man dressed as Fu Man Chu.
"Ah the hanging judge." Jack muttered.
"Oh it's just that there was a judge in England also called Jeffries who ran what came to be called the Bloody Assizes due to the amount of people he had hung."
"The names apt then." A tall elderly man dressed as Nero held out his hand. "Peter Campbell, Chief of police."
The third was dress as the mummy.
"Clair Rider, dentist and Peters wife for my sins." She shook their hands but her eyes were fixed on something going on behind them. "Oh what does she look like. And please tell me that she isn't wearing the Craig diamonds and black pearl set."
Mrs Vanderbilt, their host, was a sight to be seen as she steamed through the crowd making sure everyone was having a good time.
She was dressed as Marie Antoinette with the black pearls adorning the huge wig she wore. At its centre were five diamonds of incredible lustre arranged like the five on a dice.
After awhile they drifted away to the balcony where Halley could have a smoke.
Gloria Vanderbilt tapped her glass for silence.
"Ladies and Gentlemen." She called out over the diminishing sound of conversation. "The auction for my charity will be starting in a few moments so I hope your wallets and purses are crammed full of money. As you know my charity, the Red Cross, is heavily involved in sending care packages to the poor military personnel who are languishing in prisoner of war camps."
The strange pair were standing back in the corner of the room.
There was a ripple of applause.
"A commendable charity my lady but I'm afraid our need is greater than theirs." A voice called from the back of the room.
As the crowd as one turned to look where the voice had come from three guests took of their disguises and pointed guns or threatened with a knife.
"I'm sorry?" Gloria said completely baffled as to what was going on.
"Oh don't apologise my Lady just put your valuables into the bags provided. That way no one will get harmed." He waved his long knife as he walked up to her from the back of the room. "We'll start with your diamonds and pearls."
The three hooded men and women came to the centre of the room just as a peal of manic laughter filled the room.
"Oh you slay me!" The green haired clown laughed as he drew close to the stunned robbers. "You picked this night of all nights to commit a robbery."
He looked deep into the leaders eyes.
"Not wise!" He said.
"You tell them Mr J." The high pitched Betty Boop voice of Harlequin called.
"Shut up weirdo." The leader thrust the knife forward into the Jokers face.
"I just love knives." Joker bubbled. "I just need a Ferguson to finish my collection."
His right hand grabbed the mans wrist and his left slammed into his elbow forcing it back against the joint. "Nope not a Ferguson. Shame."
His foot swept his victim off his feet to come down hard onto his knees.
"Just in case you're interested my belts black." He laughed loudly. "But my suspenders are red."
He let go of the man leaving him screaming in pain from the blow to the nerve bundle in the arm.
The period of shock was over as the other two threatened with their weapons.
"I don't like them Mr J." Harlequin spouted pulling out of her bag a massive strange gun affair.
It consisted of five barrels arranged in the pattern of the five on a dice, the centre one larger than the others.
She aimed at the woman.
She pulled the first larger trigger.
Erupting from the outer four came short poles from which hung flags.
"Oops silly of me." She pulled the smaller trigger. Out of the barrel came two barbed hooks trailing wire. They hooked into the hoods playing card costume.
At first nothing seemed to happen.
As the hoodlum went to pull them out a massive jolt of electricity flowed along it causing him to crash to the floor twitching.
"Harley I thing you over charged him." The Joker laughed. "Laugh it up folks these are the jokes."
The third male lifted his gun up in panic as the Joker did a forward roll towards him. As the Joker regained his feet he scooped up the black forest gateaux of the table beside him and jammed it into the thugs face.
"Nothing better than a touch of slapstick."
As the man tried to clear his face of cake the Joker hit him hard in the solar plexus driving the air out of his body.
He twisted round to grab the leader by the shoulders trapping his arms by his sides.
"Did I tell you Bob that I love some private operations." The Joker sucked air noisily through his teeth at the sight of the playing card diamond on his neck" But your so cheap I'll just do an operation on your privates myself."
He slammed his knee into the mans genitals making him bend over in pain.
"Did that hurt?" He stamped on the mans foot. "Now you can feel the pain in your foot which makes you forget the pain in your groin. No?"
He looked up in time to yell.
"Harley bandits three o'clock."
Harlequin twirled round like a ballet dancer and blew bubbles into her assailants face where they burst painfully against his skin.
"We've got what we wanted lets get out of here."
The raiders collected painfully together near the exit.
The leader pulled from the inside of his coat a hand grenade and lobbed it into the middle of the room.
The Joker jumped forward scooped it up and threw it like a baseball pitcher right through the nearest window shattering it.
A split second later it exploded.
The Police chief rushed forward.
"Well done Jack, Halley!"
The two hero's backed up to the broken window.
"They got my jewellery." Gloria moaned.
"No they didn't." The Joker said sinisterly. "That stuff you were wearing was paste. But those in the safe in your cupboard is a different matter."
With a high cackle of laughter the two off them fell out of the window.
When the shocked police man looked out of the window and down it was to see the pair of them bowing to him from the safety of the sidewalk.
A few moments later the Joker and Harlequin walked back in.
"Has the auction taken place yet?" Halley asked.
The people around them were staring at them most bemused.
"Sorry if we're late but the lock to the balcony jammed and we couldn't get back in." Jack looked around at the others. "It's all Halley's fault. She should really give up smoking."
Behind them the window cleaners cradle rocked gently against the balcony.
"If that other pair wasn't you who were they?" Peter said shaking his head.
"Look he's left a calling card." Peters wife pointed at Caroline's wig where a playing card was wedged. She pulled it out and turned it over to show the red Joker. It suddenly burst into flames making Clair drop it.
"It seems if his name is the Joker." Peter said thoughtfully.
Chapter Four Early Hand.
Date 8th April 1933
Jonas/Jack sat at the piano practicing his music scales.
His Mother entered the front room with a big tall man in tow.
He was tall and hansom with a full curly beard.
"Hello Jonas my boy. How's our budding Mozart?" He ruffled Jack's hair.
"Uncle Joshua!" Jack liked his mothers brother as his visits invariably led to a gift of chocolate.
"I've come to see your father but he is out on house call. While I'm waiting why not play me something?"
Jack pulled out a music manuscript and began to play some short pieces of music.
"Chopin?" His uncle asked.
"Yes Uncle. They are the pieces I practice with."
As he played, losing himself in the music, his mother sat down beside her brother.
"He came home from school in tears the other day. Some of the children were calling him names, calling him a filthy Jew. They even spat at him." She shook her head. "None of his so called friend's stood up for him."
"I am not surprised. They were probably too scared to."
The door to the front room opened and Jacks father entered the room.
The men embraced each other.
"What do we owe the pleasure of your company." Jacob smiled warmly.
Jack swivelled round in his chair and listened to the adults intently. Trying hard to understand what was being said.
"I've come with a warning." Joshua began to explain as Jacob put his medical bag on the sideboard. "The Nazi's passed a law last night. A law of Reestablishment. It means that no Jew can hold a position in the Civil Service."
"But you work for the civil service. I don't understand?" Jack's mother Charlotte asked.
"As from this morning I am out of work."
Charlotte took in a hiss of breath.
"Don't worry about me." He continued. "I was a legal clerk in the civil service so thankfully Uncle Scion was able to take me on in his law firm, on a part time basis."
"That's good isn't it?" Charlotte said somewhat perplexed.
"Charlotte open your eyes and see. If they can pass a law stopping Jews working in the Civil Service what's stopping them going further!"
"Things are getting worse. Some of my patients have stopped seeing me and see Marcus instead." Jacob sighed. "Marcus feels embarrassed about it but I told him not to worry."
"You understand Jacob?"
"Yes, but what do you expect us to do about it?"
"You've got to get yourselves and the children out of Germany to a place of safety. You can't afford to wait." Joshua was beside himself with worry.
"Don't you think I haven't looked into this. Most countries don't want us and even if they did we can't get a visa to leave the country."
Jacob put his arm around Charlottes and Jack's shoulder's
"All we can do is wait and hope things change." He said.
Before the end of the month the Gestapo was created. Two weeks later Joshua was arrested for spreading unrest through an underground newspaper.
He was sent, along with other dissidents to the newly built Dachau Concentration camp. He was never seen or heard of again.
Jack shook himself out of his reverie and concentrated on the toy he was working on.
He was eleven when uncle Joshua came round. He didn't realise the importance of what was going on. Over the next five years he would.
He put the toy down just as the door to the little workroom opened.
"Jack are you coming to bed? It's two o'clock in the morning." Halley asked sleepily trying to muffle a yawn.
"Yes, I'm done here." He lifted the toy mouse up so it was in the light.
With a satisfied grunt he put it down and turned out the light and followed her.
10th of May. 1933
Joseph had taken Charlotte and the children to see their Aunt Sophia. It was Jacks birthday the next day so they decided to celebrate with a family meal.
The restaurant was owned by a cousin so it wasn't totally a surprise to see two youths washing off Nazi graffiti.
The meal was a pleasant affair with good home cooking and plentiful wine. The worrying thing was that nobody could find Joshua.
"No one has heard from him in days." One aunt said with a worried shake of the head.
"He may have gone to ground with Ludwig."
"Didn't you hear dear. He was kicked out of the army with the rest of the Jews."
"Word is that they may have started an underground press to publish the truth of what is happening."
After saying their thanks and goodbye's Jacob decided it would be a good idea to walk home to help with their digestion.
It wasn't long before he regretted the decision.
Many Jewish shops and enterprises were shut down or had windows boarded up. Most had graffiti stating it was owned by a filthy Jew or words to that effect.
A short way down the road a bonfire was alight around which were a few poor souls dressed it tattered clothing.
As they drew nearer Jack noticed that they were wearing a garish yellow star of David stitched on to their clothes which had in its centre in mock Jewish script the words filthy Jew.
Two Brown Shirts of the Nazi's left wing, the SA, lent against a wall watching what was happening.
A man exited the book sellers his arm full of books and pamphlets.
"You know the penalty for holding Jewish and anti Nazi propaganda." One of the Brown Shirt said pulling out a truncheon.
The shop keeper cringed and said in a servile manner that he hadn't realised he still had them. For a moment Jack wondered if he was going to lick the guards arse.
They watched as the books were added to the burning pile.
An old man a few steps away suddenly exploded in fury.
"Fools, idiots!" He screamed. "Do you think you can stop progress by burning books?! Those books are our history or are you going to rewrite that too?!"
Both Brown Shirts pushed themselves off the wall.
"Shut up you old fool." One yelled as he hit out with his truncheon.
The old man didn't stand a chance.
Like things possessed they hit him again and again.
Clubbed to the floor the old man curled up into a ball to protect his vitals but it was no good. The blows from the truncheons and their kicking feet rained down on to his head.
They carried on until he was dead.
Jacob had hurried the children and Charlotte away but they had seen enough to frighten them.
A relatively short distance away another bonfire was burning books.
A Brown Shirt came forward with a sheet of paper.
Jacob held his breath in fear.
"Afternoon Comrade. Have you heard about the destruction of books and printed matter that is subversive?" He patted Jack on the head. "You'll make a fine member of our youth movement."
With a sick feeling in his stomach he realised the man hadn't noticed they were Jews.
"The books and pamphlets are on this list. Let us know if anyone has these and we will do the rest."
"Most certainly comrade. Thank you for the list. I will keep an eye out."
"Take good care. I'd avoid Krieg Street if I were you we are dealing with the filthy Jews and what we have to do may upset the children."
"Thank you again Comrade. I will certainly give Krieg Street a wide birth."
The walk home had turned out to be a trip into hell.
Jack woke up screaming. As he got his breath back he laid looking at the ceiling glad he was alone.
"Who's your pretty baby." He said to no one in particular.
He made a series of weird popping sounds before beginning to chuckle. The laughter that followed sounded unhinged.
"Time to go a calling." He chuckled.
He got out of bed and was gone.
Chapter Five Reshuffle
Monroe stood with a cup of coffee in his hand staring at the incident board with its photographs and notes.
"Good Morning Lieutenant."
"Good Morning Sergeant." He replied equally formally.
It was a ritual they carried out when they first saw each other in the day. I got it out of the way.
Lily was holding a folio of paperwork.
"The house to house didn't yield much. No one heard a young woman screaming as they chopped of her hands." She explained. "The tenants of the apartments underneath where she fell from are definitely lying. They are too frightened to tell the truth."
Monroe shook his head and sighed.
"The prostitutes were more forthcoming.
A Maddy Bright is missing. We've the key to her home."
Monroe turned round, his face showing his intense concentration.
"She was frightened she'd lock herself out so she had the spare made and gave it one of the girls. A Lois Lang, an old time pro who acts like a mother to the young girls." She paused looking up from the notes she was reading from. "I sent the two female officers home to catch up on their sleep. They had been up working all night."
"Well done. Give the girls my thanks." He looked at the evidence bag. "Do we know where she lives"
"Yes. The girl who had the key told the officers. She also told them that Maddy had a heart tattoo on her neck. It may be nothing but I've got them searching out tattooist's."
"I agree well done." He lifted up the evidence bag with its key. "Shall we?"
"It'll be a shame not to" She grinned at him.
"We'll take my car. I want SOCO there and Polish Mike with four officers."
"I'll get the dispatch to call them up as we go out."
Soon the room was empty except for the figure standing in the shadows.
The apartment was a wreck with clothes and furniture strewn everywhere.
"Someone has done a good job here." Monroe observed.
Lily slipped on a pair of cotton gloves before picking her way over to the phone.
She listened to the dialing tone for a second before putting it back.
"The phone is still working. You'd think they would have pulled it out."
"No force entry so the chances are that she recognize them if not by looks certainly by tattoo.
In the bedroom the bed clothes were ripped along with the mattress. Whatever they were looking for they didn't find it.
"I've just checked with dispatch they say SOCO should be hear in the next ten minutes"
"Good. If you were living here Lily and you wanted to hide something were would you put it.?"
"It depends on the size of it. If it was small I'd put it inside the spare pillow."
Monroe pointed at the torn pillow cases and mattress.
"Okay. If it was larger I'd." She laid down beside the bed and began to shuffle underneath. "I'd attach it somehow to the bottom of the bed. Bingo!"
Her left arm appeared from under the bed holding a non descript bag.
Both of them studied the contents that they laid on the bed.
The main one being a white all in one affair that had the representation of the Nine of Hearts on it. The rest was white face makeup and brilliant red lipstick.
"What have we got here? A Nine of Hearts, and Two Three and Four of Clubs." Monroe shook his head in puzzlement. "Lily I want this sourced. Find out who made it, if had been laundered."
"Organised Crime as a pack of cards." Lily answered. "Hearts the prostitutes, Diamonds petty thieves and second story men."
"That leaves the black cards, the Spades and Clubs. I wonder what they represent." Monroe looked around the room. "Have you noticed the quality of the furnishings."
" No. Why?"
"Its of good quality, far better than you'd expect." He picked up a book. "Since when was Mien Kampf required reading of a prostitute."
"Lieutenant!?" A voice called from the front room.
"In here Mike." Monroe responded.
The solidly built form of Mike appeared at the door looking as usual as if he could do with a good press.
"SOCO's here Lieutenant."
"I want you to take the others and do a door to door. Someone must have seen or heard something."
"Yes sir." He paused at the door. "They have found where her hands were cut off up on the roof."
"Yes and Mike, and?"
"They used a housing of a air conditioner unit. They stood her up on the ledge and used the force of the pistol shot to take her over the wall."
"Nice." Monroe shivered.
"You're needed at St Johns Free Hospital sir. There's been an incident involving men with card tattoo's "
"Lily with me. Thanks Mike."
Jack stood in his store tidying away the next crop of comics, Putting them in their racks in order of popularity, when the shop bell rang.
"I'll be with you in a moment." He called back as he fished out another comic that had slipped down the back.
Suddenly he was in a powerful grip that threatened to crush him.
"What shall we do eight to show how angry we are?"
"Yes it's rude to ignore us like that." He spun Jack around to face him.
The two men were dressed in smart if somber clothing. The were huge and filled the small shop completely.
"Now listen very carefully I will only say this once." The burliest said. "It would be a shame if all this was to burn down. Think of us as insurance."
"We make sure nothing nasty happens isn't that right number Seven?"
"Yes absolutely number Eight." He was about to say more but he had noticed Jack's little skull cap.
Jack only wore it when in Jewish company or when he was on his own. But this day he had forgotten to take it off and was about to pay the price.
"He's a filthy Jew Eight."
The man called Eight slammed Jack against the wall.
"Do you know what we do to Jew's? They make us very very angry."
"Let us go with a warning perhaps. No? No I thought not." Jack took from his pocket a toy egg he was working on and cracked Eight on the head with it.
The mechanism sprang open erupting into a bad egg smelling foam that covered Eights head in seconds.
With a curse Eight let go of Jack and staggered back toward the door trying to clear the muck from his face.
When he managed to disentangled himself from number Eight number Seven found himself facing Jack who was armed with a coke bottle and a mint sweet.
"Have you ever wondered what happens when you drop a mint into a coke bottle?" His actions matched his words. He shook the bottle and released the bottle.
"Give up? Rocket power!"
The bottle flew across the shop like a rocket crashing into Seven's Skull.
It sent him reeling.
Eight had cleared his face of the foam.
Trying to press forward with any small advantage he had, Jack made a mistake.
In his eagerness he had slipped on the coke foam that covered the shop. He went crashing down onto his back.
Knowing he would not be able to get up in time he curled up like a ball. He prayed his fate was not to be the same as the old mans.
When the fists and boots had finished their tattoo his head was dragged out of it's protective cocoon.
Jack could smell the foul odour of rotting teeth on Eights breath and could see the eight black spade tattoo on his neck.
"Now hear this Jew. By this time next week this had better be in Aryan hands or we will burn it to the ground and you with it."
They crashed out of the shop leaving the semi conscious Jack behind.
As he passed out he couldn't help but see the irony of it. He had fled to the USA to avoid anti-Semitism and the violence the Nazi's were using only to find here in his garden of Eden. Perhaps they were right and he didn't deserve to live.
The shop bell rang again and Jack hoped that they hadn't come back for more.
"Hello, Mr Napier? It's Tommy and I've brought with me Sam and Richard. Can we look at the comics please."
Jack tried to say help yourself but it came out as a lot of rubbish.
Tommy moved forward such that he could see around the counters corner.
He rushed to Jacks side.
"I'll phone for an ambulance." Tommy commanded. "Richard go and get the patrolman Jim Harper he's at his break in Joes diner. Hurry."
He looked down at Jack.
"Don't worry Mr Napier it will be okay Sam's got a first aid badge from the scouts."
Sam bent over him and ran his hands over his body, his little face creased with concentration as he tried to remember what he had been taught.
"You haven't any broken bones Mr Napier." He said after another minute of study.
"Are you sure? It feels like every bone in my body has been broken."
The boy shook his head looking upset.
Jack tried to smile.
"You've done a good job. Now I'm going to try and sit up." As he tried to sit up Tommy tried to get under his armpit to use his own limited strength while Sam pulled on his arms. As the collar of Tommy's shirt moved Jack saw a pair of Diamond pips on his neck. "That's a curious tattoo."
The Tommy grinned up at him.
"It's not real like my brothers but it will be when I grow up." Tommy told him.
"Tommy drew a picture of it and I used my model paints." Sam added. "I tried to get it off because his mum went mad when she saw it but I couldn't."
"He's part of the Royal Flush Gang. He says that we'll be rich soon."
"Thanks for your help boys."
A little later he was reporting the incident to the police.
It was obvious that officer Jim Harper didn't believe him.
Did he believe that he beat himself up?
"Boy's you better go home." The officer said trying to usher the boys out of the door.
"Just a moment please officer." He turned to the boys. "Thank you boys for helping me. Take a couple of comics each as a reward."
The boys looked at each other for a moment before Tommy answered.
"No, that's alright. You're good to us kids and we just wanted to make sure you were alright."
"Thanks boys." They gave him a cheery wave.
The medical team had arrived and the officer couldn't ask any more questions.
In the hospital he was examined by the doctor who gave out a low whistle when he saw the extent of his bruises.
"It's that good is it?"
"Sorry Mr Napier. You are heavily bruised but I don't think you have any broken bones but we'll do an x ray just to be sure." The doctor said.
"I don't think I've any broken bones either doctor as I was checked over by a professional."
"Who, a local doctor?"
"No, a twelve year old boy scout."
Any further conversation stopped as there was a knock on the open ER door.
"Sorry to interrupt." The stranger held up a warrant card. "Lieutenant Monroe of the New Amsterdam Police Department.
Can I have a few words with your patient doctor."
"Yes, but only a few minutes. " He turned to Jack. "I'll arrange the x-ray now."
For a few seconds after the doctor had left their was a uneasy silence.
"Nasty bruises they must be painful?" Munroe asked.
"Yes they are but I'm still alive so that is a bonus."
Jack watched as the young female police sergeant took notes.
"Do you think you would recognise them if you saw them again?"
"Yes, if not by their features then by their tattoos."
"Yes you said something about that to the officer at the scene. What was so special about these tattoo's." Monroe asked.
"They were of a playing card. The seven and the eight of Spades. In fact they didn't call each other by name but by card number."
"And they threatened you?" Lily asked.
"A bit more than threaten me don't you think." Jack pointed at his bruises.
"Yes sorry about that. Why did they beat you up so thoroughly?"
"They were happily threatening to burn the shop down if I didn't pay protection money when one of them spotted my skull cap, I had forgotten to take it off after my prayers this morning."
"And that is why they beat you up, because you were Jewish?" Monroe asked.
"Yes. They told me that if I didn't pass the shop over to a gentile it will be torched with me in it." He sighed theatrically. "It's something that tends to stick in your mind."
"I can imagine." Monroe said dryly. "What are you going to do?"
"The shop will be passed to my partner. She isn't Jewish."
"What is your business partners name please sir." Lily said brightly.
"She not my business partner she's my life partner and when this stupid racism has gone we will get married." The porter had arrived with a wheelchair to take him to x-ray. "But somehow I don't think that will happen in my life time."
"Me neither sir all we can do is strive for that day." Monroe said sincerely. "Thank you for you time Mr Napier if I find out anything I'll let you know."Chapter Six New Players
As Monroe walked back to the car with Lily. They were discussing what they had learned when a classy saloon pulled up beside them.
A massive man got out of the car on the drivers side.
"Mr Marconi wants a word." He said abruptly.
"Good for him. Me I'm going to get myself a coffee and try to stop a good man getting killed. So you'll forgive me if I decline."
"Mr Marconi wants a word." He repeated bunching up his fists ready for a fight.
The back window of the car lowered enough for Monroe to see the beautiful face of the women.
"Don't play hard ball Monroe. All six of the families want a word with you."
Monroe wasn't daft he knew the dangers inherent in what he was doing and also knew when to concede."
"Why didn't your say? Of course we'll come."
The big man rushed round and opened the front passenger door for Lily whilst Monroe got in the back.
"Lily." He said. "May I introduce the most dangerous woman in New Amsterdam. Florence Glade, also known as Roulette. Florence runs a string of gambling clubs and fight clubs, legal and illegal, on the South Side for the Marconi's."
"You flatter me Monroe. I am merely a night club owner. A go between the rival companies."
Roulette smiled a radiant smile that had grown men go weak at the knees. Monroe wasn't impervious to it, it was just that Monroe felt he had something better waiting for him at home.
"Can you give us any idea what this is about?"
"Patience Monroe patience. You'll soon find out."
The car pulled up beside a rather beaten up church hall.
Monroe started to get a sick feeling in his stomach that he'd been brought to this out of the way place to gasp his last.
The big man bustled the two of them through the door.
The inside was nothing like the outside.
The walls had devotional paintings on them, the floor was covered with a dark green plush carpet and the furniture genuine antiques.
At the far end was a raised platform, a stage, and a well stocked bar.
A large table and chairs were in the centre of the stage.
On the wall was a statue of the Madonna and child.
Lily being a good catholic crossed herself, whereas Munroe being an atheist just bowed his head.
"Ah Monroe glad you could come." Don Marconi was a tall elegant man with waves of perfectly styled white hair.
"How could I resist such an invite."
Everyone was wearing sharp suits and elegant dresses. It made Munroe feel dirty and smelly.
"Drink Monroe. I've the best cocktail mixer in the business manning the bar."
Monroe began to lift his hand to decline.
"It's alright Monroe I know you've sworn off the booze. The Cocktails will be purely non alcoholic." The Don looked across at the barman. "Georgio a Saint Clemens for Mr Monroe."
The Don waived Monroe over to the table. Lily went to follow but Roulette forestalled her.
"The invites are merely for the big boys. We'll be taking our drinks over with the wives."
A meaningful glance from Monroe steadied her.
Lily wasn't stupid enough to think the wives were brainless blonds even if they acted as if they were.
While the other women had glasses of champagne Lily had a whisky and dry ginger.
Monroe had to admit, when his drink arrived, that it was a work of genius. Served in a tall glass was a mixture of fresh Orange, Lime and Lemonade with a sprig of mint over ice.
Monroe lifted his glass up to the barman in appreciation.
"I told you he was good Monroe."
The five other heads of families sat down and the meeting began.
"We have a serious problem Monroe. There's a new face in town who is hurting our business's." The Don began. "They are a political group that are using criminal methods to finance their political aims."
"At least that's what we think they are." One of minor families said.
"We have all lost associates to them." Irish Mackintosh the leader of the Irish gangs told him. "They hospitalised four of my girls. They cut off the nose of the prettiest to act as a warning."
"They act with military precision and are ruthless with any of their own that don't toe the line."
"I'm not sure what you want from me?"
"When we heard you were going to do the investigation we felt more relaxed. We know what your like and have trust in you."
"Flattery will get you nowhere gentlemen." Monroe laughed.
"We're willing to share sensitive information for what you know. We hope by working together we can protect the city."
Monroe lent back and took another sip of his drink to ease his dry throat.
"That bad?" He said.
"Alright you're on."
"We have the contract to supply the army with new armaments. We do this using, how would we say it, unorthodox routes." The Don told him. "The shipment was high jacked by a group of professionals. They took out all my men. Loaded it into our trucks and were gone in the hour."
"If they took out your boys how do you know this?"
"One of the boys survived long enough to tell us."
"Great, now we have them loaded to the teeth. Can things get any worse?"
"I'm afraid so Monroe." The Irish man said. "They tumbled my boys over a shipment of high explosives. They were going to be used against a bank."
"They did my boys too. Extracting a large quantity of Amphetamines." One of the smaller families told him and so it went on for awhile.
Then it was Monroe's turn.
After telling them everything he knew, which wasn't a lot, they sat back in thought.
"It's not as much as we would have wished for but it is something. They are coming back to dish this comic shop owner are they?"
"Yes but I haven't the men to keep him protected with a personal guard. For one thing we don't want to frighten them off but on the other hand I don't want him harmed." Monroe explained.
"I think between us." The Don said indicating the families. "We can keep him under observation."
"I was hoping you were going to suggest that. But check your own people as they were the only ones who could have passed on the information."
"Do you think we haven't thought of that." The Don said angrily.
"Of course you did you're not stupid men but you didn't know what you were looking for then." Monroe finished his drink.
"And you do I suppose?" The Don was dismissive but his ears pricked up when he heard about the Tattoos. "What a stupid thing to do."
"You better start by checking every one in the room because if there is a spy here all of our plans are for nothing."
Monroe undid his collar and showed his clear neck.
Reluctantly the Don's at the table undid ties and opened their shirts to prove they are clean.
Monroe turned round to face the women at the other table.
Lily nodded slowly to him.
"Sergeant, which of these ladies is the spy?" He turned to the men slightly. "After all they wouldn't want to miss out on this type of meeting."
"All the women save Roulette and Don Marconi's lady are clear." Lily told him with a touch of pride. "I couldn't see Roulette's neck but I could see Sophia's or should I say the Eight of Hearts."
The woman looked up at the Don in confusion.
"But Antonio darling you paid for me to have it done."
"Yes I did but it was your idea." The man got up slowly, radiating a feeling of menacing power. "Have you been playing me false my darling."
The woman's face twisted with loathing.
"When we have purged this continent of inferior races and corruption I will be lauded on high as a heroine.
It was then that Monroe realised what she going to do as she clutched her large handbag to her chest.
"Christ! Get out she's wired!" Monroe yelled as he pelted for the fire door. He crashed through it hitting the ground and rolling to his feet.
Two of the body guards jumped her knocking her to the floor and smothering her.
Lily and Don Marconi had only just reached safety when the bomb went off
When the Don regained his feet he looked over a Monroe.
"Good call Monroe." He turned to the blazing building and said angrily. "They'll pay for this, I'll make sure of that."
Monroe looked round and was gratified to see that nearly everyone got out, the exceptions being the two body guards that smothered the bomb.
"Give me the address of the shop keeper and I'll put my boys on it." The Don said as he ushered Lily and Monroe to the car.
The war had begun with the first warning shots.
Chapter Seven Bids Are In.
Jack stared at the figure in the mirror and saw not the battered shop keeper but the white face clown.
He let himself into where he held the costumes for themed parties.
He sorted through the racks looking for what would work. Once that was done he took off his shirt and placed his white makeup and crimson lipstick in front of the makeup mirrors.
When he stood up he looked at the bruise that covered the whole of the left hand side of his chest. His fingers probed the spot making him flinch.
Looking in the mirror he recreated the Jokers face.
The lipstick going right out to where the flying glass had split his face.
The green wig settled on his head completing the change.
Jack had gone and only The Joker remained.
A Purple vest and pants, green shirt and spats, orange wild west string bow tie completed the ensemble. He put on a black belt which had been looped through several small pouches. He closed the buckle of his belt, picked up and put on his purple frock coat and large brimmed hat.
"Jack?" Halley's voice called through from the shop. "Are you alright?"
She entered the costume store and saw the Joker standing there.
"We've a job to do Mr J?" Harlequin simpered in a high pitched voice.
"Yes Harley I've a desire to got a visiting."
"I'll get changed."
While Harlequin got prepared the Joker arranged a series of toys by Harlequin's utility shoulder bag.
When Halley had finished she looked resplendent in her skin tight Harlequin costume.
"Well, well, well you don't scrub up badly Harley."
"Your no slouch either Mr J."
The Joker pointed out the toys and explained what they did as they put them into Harlequin's utility shoulder bag.
Tommie's brother Paul left their rundown tenement block and jumped onto his motorbike. After a quick look around he gunned the engine and roared away. He was unaware of the purple and green truck that pulled out and followed him.
The hall was full of people that had been intrigued enough by the bill poster.
Paul was in his normal clothes as was his equivalents in the other suits. They were scattered in the crowd and had the job of responding positively to what was being said. They were to whip up the crowd.
As lowly two's that was all they were trusted with.
A hum of muted conversation filled the air to be silenced by the US national anthem.
As one the crowd stood up and saluted with their hand on their hearts.
As the last notes were played four bizarre looking figures appeared on the stage. They looked like animated playing cards in their tight cat suits and the different number of pips on them.
The Six of Diamonds walked up to the microphone flanked by the five of Spades and Hearts whilst the five of Clubs sat at the sound desk.
The speakers crackled a moment before he began to speak.
"My friends, people of New Amsterdam, fellow Americans, we are fighting an insidious foe who will stop at nothing to get us involved in a foreign war.
Who is it I hear you ask, well I'll tell you, its Roosevelt's Jews." He looked out to his audience meeting several of their eyes. "They control our once mighty nation.
While we starved and were desperate for work back in the depression they thrived.
They bring their communist tact into everything they do.
The government wants us to believe that the stinking blacks are our equals, giving them positions of power. Creatures who should be sent back to the jungles from whence they came."
His fiery rhetoric had them in the palm of his hand.
"You are patriots, as am I. Are you willing to let these degenerates take control? Well are you?"
Those cards in the audience were one of the few that yelled 'No'.
"They have taken your jobs, your homes, your very lives. Are you going to let this happen!"
The 'No' in reply was much stronger this time but still not strong enough.
"The black's stink out their ghetto's whilst the Jews bleed us dry.
They want us to ignore the evil cancer in the bosom of our heartlands. Shall we in our lethargy ignore them until it is too late or are we going to be like Germany and act."
The 'No' this time was deafening.
"Let us be one nation, one state, one race!"
Suddenly a white face clown popped up at the back of the hall and yelled over the top of the cheering crowd.
"Excuse me Six!"
"What!" Six yelled back.
"If we get rid of all the Jews where am I going to get my bagel in the morning?" The Joker yelled.
"Don't worry Mr J." Harlequin's voice came from the other side of the audience. "I'll make some when I next make the matzos."
The Joker's unhinged laughter fill the air for a moment.
"I'm sorry I can't hear you from the back here. We'll both come up."
There was a loud solid thump and the Joker came into view riding a pogo stick.
A few people actually laughed at the ludicrous sight thinking that he was part of the show.
The surreal feeling increased as Harlequin came down the aisle juggling four orange balls while riding a unicycle.
The Joker was off the pogo stick and on the stage in a moment.
The cards on the stage were stunned by the crowds change of emotions.
The Six of Diamond's stood open mouthed.
"Brilliant speech may I say sir. Put it There!" The Joker stretched out a hand for him to shake.
Without thinking the card took The Jokers hand.
As soon as he did he got a massive electric shock.
"Oh! What a live wire no wonder his speech was electric."
When The Joker let go Six staggered backward straight onto the chair that Harlequin swung at his legs.
They gave way plonking him on the chair where Harlequin handcuffed him.
The Club and Spade tried to pounce on him as they came out of their disbelief
The Joker spun out of their way at the last moment. Pulling out a strange rod affair from his utility belt as he did so.
He grabbed the Spades hand.
"Thank you sir. For my next trick, the fiendish Turkish Finger Lock!"
The rod was actually a tube like coil of wire which he thrust over the middle finger of the right hand of his victim.
With a whooping sound he spun the Spade around straight into the Club, sending him reeling.
Swiftly The Joker thrust the middle finger of the Spades other hand into the spring.
Grabbing the mans arms he lifted them up for the audience to see.
"Just a coil of wire you say, and it can be got out of in a second. Well let's give him the whole length of the next segment to get free." The Joker indicating the spring like rod as he turned to the audience. "Can we have a big hand for the Five of Spades Ladies and Gentlemen."
The audience actually began to applaud leaving the incognito cards no other option but to follow suit.
The Club came forward only to be stopped by The Jokers out stretched hand.
"Harley at three o'clock please."
Harlequin juggled the balls once again but this time she bounced them off the Clubs head.
They must have been heavy because the impact on his head rendered him dazed.
"Well done Harley but it looks too much for our volunteer. Please help him to a chair."
"Will do Mr J."
"Welcome to the next segment that is sure to leave you laughing." A magic wand expanded in The Jokers hand striking the Five of Hearts on the chin.
"Ooops sorry. Are you alright?" He turned to the audience clouting the Heart again.
For the next few minutes there was a master class of slap stick comedy as the rod and the Jokers arms kept hitting the Five of Hearts from all directions as if by accident.
The crowd hooted with laughter as every time The Joker tried to help the card up a it resulted in him being hit again.
The last time resulted in the dazed Heart landing on a chair which Harlequin swiftly tied them to.
The Spade saw her and giving up on getting free charged at her.
Harlequin did a balletic jump that landed her feet first in the Spades stomach. Over balanced he fell forward on top of Harlequin who pushed upward such that the card was balanced on her feet. With incredible dexterity and speed she began rotating The Spade above her.
The crowd was cheering and stamping their feet.
"Yours Mr J." She said flicking him toward the Clown Prince of Mirth.
The Joker grabbed the man and directed him to a seat where the now upright Harlequin tied him.
"Ladies and Gentleman I give you Harlequin and the Five of Spades."
The room erupted.
The four two's not knowing what to do approached the stage only to be stopped by Harlequin who put a finger to her lips and pointed up to The Joker dramatically.
"And now Ladies and Gentlemen can we have our next contender." The Joker had a pack of cards in his hand and with a flick of his fingers sent a card arching over the crowd such that it swung round and re-entered the pack.
His fingers twitched again sending four cards in quick succession out over the crowd to return to his now out stretched hand.
He fanned the four cards so the crowd could see their faces.
"I give you the four two's. The Two of Hearts, the Two of Spades, the Two of Clubs and finally the Two of Diamonds." The audience applauded. "And the first up is the Two of Spades.
Step right up young man no need to be shy. I wish you well, I really do, and I mean that most sincerely."
The Joker did a pass with his hand and a box suddenly appeared in his other hand. He open it up to display a tiny bell inside and a golden hammer attached to the door.
Harlequin brought the young man up and made a great play of getting him into the right position. Once satisfied she signalled for The Joker to begin.
"Well Spades this is a game of Lie or Truth. For each lie I will hit the bell. Three strikes and your out."
He lifted the bell in its box up for everyone to see.
"Are you the Two of Spades and have you got that tattooed on your neck as identification"
"Yes, that's the truth well done. Now concentrate." The Joker said. "
"Are you part of a subversive criminal group that wants to topple or impede the government of the United States by criminal methods."
"What me? No. No way."
"I'm sorry that was a lie." The Joker hit the bell.
The noise was incredible for something so small. The box seemed to funnel it at the Two of Spades.
Once the sound had gone The Joker carried on.
"The Royal Flush Gang are using criminal methods to create an atmosphere of discord. They are trying to install a Fascist core in the land of the free." The Joker twiddled the little hammer between his fingers. "Right son the next question. Have you been attacking and terrorising ethnic minorities such as the Jews?"
"No. We're just trying to show where the government is going wrong in letting them live among us decent white folk."
"That's a lie. Your group's Spades are used as bully boys, your Hearts are prostitutes and control vice in all its forms."
He hit the bell once again but this time it was louder than before. A visible shock wave pulsed out to the young man in his ivy league suit.
"Right Two of Spades this is your last lifeline so think carefully before you answer. Remember I can only take your first answer."
The man was in a lot of pain as he nodded.
"Does your organisation actually care about the normal population other than a means to a end?"
"Yes, yes that's true. please don't hit the bell. I beg you, it's the truth."
"Yes, sadly, it is." As the Joker put the bell and hammer away he explained to the audience. "The group, that not long ago you were screaming for, attack Jewish people and the coloured population, terrifying them. They want the government to collapse so Nazi Germany can carry on unchecked by no country other than the British."
Harlequin led the dazed two to a lamp stand and where she tied him.
Yelling 'No' the two of Hearts rushed the stage aiming straight for Harlequin.
Harlequin reacted swiftly and threw her juggling balls at Hearts feet where they erupted into a spray of marbles and ball bearings.
Unable to stem her speed the Two of Hearts stood on the marbles. Getting no grip her feet shot out from under her causing her to land on her back with a crash that knocked all the breath out of her body.
The Two of Clubs rushed at the Joker only to be taken in hand and danced around stage.
"Oh oops sorry." The Joker stepped on his foot. "You dance divinely my dear but you must let me lead."
As the thug tried to pull away The Joker dragged him in closer and began dancing the Tango.
As The Joker twisted away his clowns flower in his lapel vomited a greenish yellow vapour that had a stink bomb odour , to the accompaniment of a juicy raspberry fart.
The Joker jumped back waving his hand as if trying to waft the smell away.
"Who's been eating to many beans then?"
The thugs head was surrounded by the vapour.
He began to laugh and he couldn't stop. The laughter completely incapacitated him.
"Well he certainly gets the Joke." The Joker chortled.
He crossed to the helpless man and told him a joke.
The Two of Clubs roaring with laughter was led away to be tied up with the other two two's.
The Joker turned to look at the last one the Two of Diamonds.
"Is what you said the truth?" The youth asked.
"Yes Paul ever word!" The Joker crossed over and took him by the shoulders. "I never lie unless I'm lying, and since you will know I'm lying I must be telling the truth in that I'm lying, unless I'm lying that is. If I said to you that the next thing I say will be the truth but the last thing I said was a lie, would you understand."
The lad shook his head.
"Is it true that the Royal Flush Gang are working for the Nazi's?"
"Yes I'm afraid so. Go with Harlequin Paul." The Joker turned to the audience. "Ladies and gentlemen I hope you enjoyed the show and thank you for coming. Thank you to the Royal Flush gang for giving us so much fun."
The crowd cheered and stamped their feet.
Harlequin stepped forward and gave a comical bow.
"And for myself The Joker. Safe journeys." The Joker spotted the newcomers and carried on flawlessly. "The exits are to your right and to your left where the police are waiting for you."
The audience stood and applauded long and loud in appreciation.
Then suddenly the lights in the auditorium went out while the stage spot lights flashed on blinding those on the stage. A gun barked four times and four victims slumped in their chairs.
The spot lights went out and the house lights came back on.
At Monroe's feet was a Mauser semiautomatic machine pistol.
Lily bent to pick it up.
"No leave it Sergeant. Mike?"
"Yes Lieutenant." Polish Mike answered.
"Get SOCO here pronto."
As 'Polish' Mike vanished into the crowd 'Italian' Mike moved forward.
"Mike get everyone back in their seats for processing."
Monroe looked down at the scrap of paper in his hand with disgust.
A sharp whistle from the stage broke his line of thought.
The Joker flicked a card out to him. Monroe caught it and turned it over in his hand.
It was the red joker from a pack of cards and on it in spidery writing were just five words.
An icy fist gripped his stomach.
He had only decided an hour ago to follow the lead he had found on the scrap of paper so how could they know, they would have to be part of his team. As it was he would have arrived earlier if it hadn't been for an accident blocking the junction of Bridge and 3rd.
He looked up but the Joker had gone.
He climbed up onto the stage and looked at the cards that were there. The four high cards were dead, killed by an assassin of great skill. Each had a neat hole in their foreheads.
The three low cards were crying and shaking with fear.
Monroe notice a figure standing in the shadows, a figure he knew well.
The figure was of a man in a dark green double breasted suit, opera cape and fedora pulled low over his face. And what a face. The skull like features were created by the British gasmask he was wearing.
"They are so petrified that I doubt we will get anything useful out of them." Monroe whispered.
"Get them safely to the cells and leave the rest to me. I will enter their dreams, their nightmares where all truths are laid bare."
"I'll get them processed ready for you before the evening is out Sandman." But he went no further he was totally alone.
With a nod he crossed to the three deuces and said.
"Don't worry I won't let them get near you. They won't hurt you."
The Two of Spades looked up and said tearfully.
"You don't understand they can always reach you."
The long night had just begun.
Chapter Seven Kristallnacht
November the 9th 1935
The pain in Jacks mouth was intense.
The broken glass shard had slashed across his open mouth slicing open the corners.
Regardless of the pain he tried to stop them dragging his father away.
His sister huddled in the corner in shock, bleeding from the rape.
"Look my son is injured. Let me tend to him and I will come with you willingly?"
His father pleaded.
The Gestapo man signalled to the SS soldiers to release him.
"Be quick Herr doctor." The Gestapo man gave Jacob an unholy grin. "After all I've other scum to catch."
"Charlotte my medical bag." He cupped Jacks face in his hand. "It is going to hurt but be brave my son."
From the bag he pulled out what he needed and set about stitching the corners of Jacks mouth. When the work was done he looked at his son and cried.
He had no option, he had no time.
"Please forgive me son?"
He reached out to the three of them and gave them his last embrace.
He stood up and turned to the Gestapo officer.
"I am so glad." The officer said sarcastically.
He snapped his figure at the two guards. "Take him. Remind him what it means to hinder an Aryan, a proper German"
They could only look on in horror as Jacob was knocked to the floor and beaten half to death in front of them.
With great dignity Jacob got to his feet and ignoring the fact his eye was swollen shut, and the many ribs that were broken, he nodded to the guards. Pushing his way through them he set up a steady pace making the SS soldiers look like his guard of honour rather than his captors.
It was a small victory but one that lifted his spirit in the days to come.
As he walked away he became aware of his neighbours, Jew and Gentile alike, watching in total eerie silence.
Local women were rushing to the house. Jacob hoped they had come to help and not to pick over the bones.
Inside the house things were silent.
The Gestapo officer looked down at the group and his totally impassive face twisted into a grimace of pure undiluted hatred.
"Be prepared to leave this property in seven days where it will be passed to an Aryan."
"Where will we go?" Charlotte asked her voice shaking with fear.
"We are creating a series of tenements to house you Jews in. For now."
With that he left.
Three of the neighbours rush in as he left and began to fuss round them. One crossed to Jack and tapped him on the shoulder but when he lifted his head she took a step back in horror.
Jack forced himself up onto his feet and dragged himself to the full length mirror in the hall.
What he saw filled him with dread. Where the sutures had been put they had draw up the lip corners into a macabre smile.
In absolute horror he grabbed the flapper model off the side table and threw it at the image in the mirror. The shattered pieces fell reflecting twisted versions of the original.
Jack began to laugh a haunting mad laugh.
Over the next two nights 200 Synagogue's were destroyed, 7,500 shops looted and burned and over 30,000 Jewish men were taken to the labour camps at Buchenwald.
It was a night that would live on in shame, Kristallnact, 'The Night of Broken Glass'.
On night of the 12th of November a decree was announced that required all Jewish businesses be handed over to non Jewish Germans.
Three nights later all Jewish children were expelled from school.
Seven days later and the Gestapo was once more at Jacks door.
In the front room were several cases with their belongings in and their musical instruments.
The guards laughed at them as they threw the contents of the cases onto the floor. Just in case they were taking any valuables with them.
With their cases repacked they were ushered outside and onto the cart where a Jewish family already sat staring out into the nothingness of their souls.
The journey was long slow walk to the outskirts of the town where semi-derelict buildings stood.
Once there they were lined up in front of a stern faced German Officer.
"Before you enter the ghetto you will be issued with a number which will be tattooed on to your forearm. Remember the number well it will be the only means of contact with the guards and authority.
Jack grit his teeth as they inked the number on his arm not willing to give them the pleasure of seeing him in pain.
Ruth screamed but neither Jack or Charlotte could go to comfort her.
"In here you have no possessions other than those we give you." He signalled for a tiny undernourished girl to come forward.
In her arms where rough course tabards with the yellow star of David on the front and a target on the back.
"You will wear these at all times." The officer signalled them to more on.
They were allocated room six in building seventeen. The bulk of their clothes never reached them but thankfully their musical instruments did.
The whole place stunk of urine and sale sweat.
Ten families used the only bathroom and toilet there was.
That evening they played in the common room for the Nazi guards. In amongst them was a Dutch man who was to change their future.
Two weeks later Jacob rejoined them.
The Nazi's wanted them to play every night as their own personal string quartet.
Jacob was a changed man suffering fits of uncontrollable anger followed by deep bouts of depression.
He had been made to watch as one hundred men were slaughtered. In the camp he learned swiftly to trust no one but himself.
The conditions worsened as the winter roared in. With little heating many of the very young and very old perished.
A film crew came one evening to film them. The family were made to wash and dress up in the best of their old clothes.
Jacob had already found six other musicians to play with them make a core of the wind section.
They sat on the stage whilst the camera was set up.
In front of the stage were numerous round tables where many of the residents sat in their fine clothes. Clothes, if anyone cared to look, that were now too large to fit comfortably their emaciated bodies.
The film was propaganda showing to the world how well and happy people in the Ghetto were.
After the filming their trumpet player was shot because he played a few flat notes. A stark reminder if their needed to be one, of how little their lives were worth.
It was around this time another problem arose.
"Have you been sick again?" Jack asked as Ruth came back into the room her face green in the smoke lamp light.
"I'm scared Jack what is wrong with me?"
"Father can you help?" Jack asked nervously.
"I'm not a doctor not anymore son." Jacob shot a glassful of illicit alcohol down his throat. "They even took that away from me!"
He went to throw the glass at the wall but managed to stop himself.
Stirring himself he got up and crossed to his daughter.
Jacob looked at his shaking hand and swore softly under his breath.
"Right let us see what's wrong young lady." He examined her carefully but when he felt round her stomach he got a shock. As he pushed into her flesh the baby took exception and kicked him.
"That's where the pain is Father." She said frightened of what he may say.
He patted her hand in reassurance as he used a stethoscope to listen to the babies heart.
Charlotte rested a hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze of encouragement.
"You're pregnant child. You're getting birth pains." Jacob said shakily.
Both Jack and his mother stared in horror.
Ruth was twelve, she wouldn't be thirteen until January and she was carrying a SS soldiers baby.
In her malnourished state it was debateable they would both survive.
Ruth burst into tears not believing what was happening.
Charlotte took her trembling daughter into her arms and looked up pleadingly at her husband.
"The babies coming now." Jacob pull out his bottle of hooch and stared at it unawares of his son watching him critically. He unscrewed the top and passed it to his son. "Pour it over my hands and then your mothers."
With a strange feeling of relief he complied before dashing out to fetch clean water and what clean clothes he could find to swaddle the baby in.
Three elderly woman came back with him, all three had been nurses and were soon busy boiling up the fresh water and scrubbing the area where she laid.
Three hours later Solomon was born and three hours after that the Nazi's came demanding to know who the father was only to be shaken out of their righteous fury by the knowledge it was one of their own.
They huffed and puffed before leaving them alone.
Jacob took the bottle from Jacks hand. He went to take a swig but paused in mid motion. He turned and poured the contents onto the fire in its grate making it flare up momentarily.
The next day an edict was communicated to all the prisoners that they must declare if any of the women and girls were pregnant.
The following day Jacob saw the camp commandant and pleaded to be allowed to act as doctor to the ghetto.
The man laughed at him but gave him permission to try.
Jack helped to turn one of the rooms into ward. Scrubbing the walls and floor with carbolic soap.
Two ex medical students and the three ex nurses joined his father.
Jacob's depression and rages lessened as he regained a purpose in life.
His medical supplies were limited but with luck and a following wind he was making a difference.
The ward was full of the elderly and the very young.
But it was all for nothing as three weeks later Solomon died.
It threatened to break his heart but drawing on a feeling of resolve that he didn't know he had he persevered.
"Do you know where I can get some wood Father?"
"Whatever do you want wood for Jonas?" His father was dealing with an old gypsy man that had fallen over and cut himself.
"Ruth and I are going to make a Punch and Judy theatre. Old Israel Konigsberg has given us his Punch and Judy we just need to find us some wood to make the stage." Jack moved the disc in his mouth so it laid against the teeth. "That's the way to do it?"
The Punch voice was plain to hear.
The old man looked up as if he was being bathed in a sunbeam for the very first time.
He put his frail hand over Jacob's.
"Let the boy do it Doctor. I have some curtaining material they can use and I'm sure others will help."
"We could put on a show father. There are many here with talents." Jack enthused.
"I'll approach the Commandant and see what he says." His father assured him.
"With that face boy you could dress up as a clown. Like I used to be before I took up magic." The old man was swept in the euphoria of it all and didn't realise what he had said.
Jack did and it burned like torch.
"You could be our Joker." The old man laughed.
Chapter Eight Bluffing?
Monroe was at his usual place staring at the evidence board trying to get a answer by fore of will alone.
Down in the cells three men dressed as playing cards sat in absolute terror, jumping at the slightest sound. They expected their executioner at any moment.
There was a faint pop sound and a small silver cartridge skittered across the ground. With a dull click it started spinning on the spot while pumping out a greenish yellow gas.
They watched it frozen in horror, trying in vain to hold their breaths.
It was a waste of time as all three slumped to the ground.
As the fog cleared it revealed the Sandman. He bent down and touched the Two of Spades forehead and entered his dream, his nightmare.
Up in the office a little later the door softly clicked open and a dark shadowy figure crossed over to stand behind Monroe.
"Well Sandman?" Monroe asked without turning around.
"They have little contact with the upper echelon , getting their orders by telephone or by a message drop.
The have only seen the court cards once before at a rally. Everyone was in their costumes so there was no way of knowing who they were." The Sandman's voice was a wheeze, hoarse and throaty. "There's to be another rally soon but they don't know where or when."
There was a sound from the door.
"I will get back to you if I find out any more."
"Thank you Sandman." It didn't take more than a second for Monroe to realise that the mystery man had gone.
The door clicked open.
"Lieutenant Monroe haven't you got a bed to go home to, preferably mine."
Monroe relaxed as he listened to the woman's voice.
"I can't hardy wait Sergeant." He replied.
His wife came behind him and wrapt her arms around him.
Monroe laughed as he turned and planted a kiss on his wife's lips.
"Problem?" She asked as she came up for air.
"Problems." He agreed.
Monroe turned back to the board and pointed to the photograph of the corpse.
"A woman has her hands chopped of and made to stand on a ledge fifteen floors up and then shot in the back of the head with a soft nose bullet sends her over the edge.
A section of skin on her neck was cut off."
"No not pretty.
We think she was a prostitute but if she was she had high taste's to keep up. Mien Kamf was found, not something you would expect a lady of the night to have."
"Just because she sells her body doesn't mean she's not intelligent." Mary snorted.
Her whole place was turned over but we found a hidden draw under her bed containing that cat suit of a playing card." Monroe explained succinctly. "There was also a scrap of paper with a date and venue on it.
We were held up getting there because of an accident but when we arrived the Joker had them hog tied.
The lights went out followed by four shots. The lights came back on and I had the murder weapon at my feet. All four of the high valued cards were dead.
The three two's were all that were left and they have haven't been any use. They know little of what is going on."
He put his hand into his pocket and pulled out the Joker playing card.
"The Joker left me this."
Mary looked at the card a moment.
"If we have a rogue how are we going to find out?" She asked.
"They all have their playing card tattooed on their neck. The three of diamonds would have three playing card diamonds on their neck, the four of hearts four hearts and so on."
"You said that the corpse had a bit of skin removed from her neck."
"Yes. She was kicked out of the gang permanently. Mind you we didn't know that at the time it was only later did we understand the significance of the markings.
We even had a corpse hunter leaving just as we arrived."
"I only know of six of them. I could get their addresses for you."
"I wonder if they saw anything or more importantly took a picture of anything useful."
Mary stood on tiptoe and gave him a loving kiss.
"Oh sorry Lieutenant." Lily said from the doorway.
"That's alright Lily I was just dragging my husband away for the evening." Mary smile at her counterpart.
"Mary is going to get us the address's of the corpse chasers ready for tomorrow. They may have seen something useful." Monroe linked his arm through Mary's. "Oh yes I nearly forgot I want the full team together at nine tomorrow. Goodnight Lily."
"Goodnight Mary , Lieutenant."
As they left Lily could hear Monroe telling Mary about the thugs that attacked Napier.
She smiled and shook her head.
The door of the 'Ha Ha Comic and Magic shop' opened and the slim shape of Jack crossed the road to where a black sedan was parked. In his hand was a tea tray on which were two cups of black coffee, sugar, a few cookies and a little jug of milk.
He tapped on the passengers window. It lower enough to show a heavy set Caribbean face.
"I'm assuming you are watching over me and the shop. Some of Marconi's boys?" Jack said breathlessly. "I though since you looking out for me the least I could do was get you a hot drink."
The window opened fully to reveal another thickset man in the passenger seat.
"Thank you sir mighty kind of you." The driver carefully took the tray and passed it over to his cohort. "Now it's getting late you just go back home and rest some knowing no one will get to you without going through us first.
Jack had to admit he felt easier now knowing they were around.
In the shop Halley was putting together an account of what they had learned from the encounter.
Fleeing from the scene of the rally they decided to change the look of the van. Harlequin pressed a large red button and heard the grating sound with a smile of satisfaction. The outside of the van had panels that lifted and rotated changing the colour from purple to green.
All three of them were in the front. The Joker was driving, then there was Paul, and lastly Harlequin.
"Why did you get involved Paul?" Harlequin asked holding on to the roof strap as the Joker took the next corner on two wheels.
"I couldn't get a job. No one would take me on."
"They promised you a job and you fell for it. Oh dear give the boy a brain cell." The Joker mocked as the van almost silently rolled to a stop not far from his mothers tenement.
"I was desperate to get us out of there and they promised me the work and money to help us move. But…"
"But you didn't know what they would ask for in return?"
"No not at the time. A touch of bullying of late payers, escorting the high class prostitutes to their Johns and even a touch of surveillance didn't seem much when compared to the need for a regular income." Paul explained. "Mum was furious when she saw the tattoo and went even worse when she saw my brother Tommy's.
Then they said we had to set light to some Jewish and coloured peoples business's. I knew it was wrong but didn't know what to do. Then you came to the rally and it all made a sort of sense and I wanted none of it."
"Harlequin?" Joker asked.
"I think he's telling the truth Mr J." She simpered.
"Do you still want a job Paul?"
"Yes a legitimate one."
"Right. Do you know Mr Jack Napier who owns the comic shop?"
"Yes all us kids do, he's a nice man."
"Well I know he's looking for someone to help him in the shop. Go and see him at nine o'clock in your finest. I'll let him know your coming!"
"You're all heart Mr J." Harlequin said with a slow wink.
"Yes I know but what would you expect of the most modest man in the world nay the whole universe. I haven't got a single vain bone in my body just a whole skeleton full."
The Joker roared with his macabre laugh.
"Can you get back in dressed like an advert for a soap powder?" The Joker asked pointing at the white costume that he could see plainly under Pauls shirt.
"Yes, we've a lock up downstairs. I keep a change of clothes their just in case of emergencies." The young man paused. "Will I see you again?"
"Not if I see you first." The Joker giggled. "Paul my boy you will see me when you need to see me and not before."
Jack returned to his own cup of coffee and cookies.
"We haven't learned much about them. The field operatives only seeing and knowing what is required of them for the job in hand.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if none of them at the rally knew each other." Halley told him.
"Can we use that very fact to our advantage do you think?" Jack scratch his stubbly chin. "Can we pose as playing cards and infiltrate the organisation."
"It would be a tad embarrassing if we were to meet people wearing the same number. I would die from embarrassment."
"I should worry more about the bullet that'll follow if I were you."
"Come on bed. I for one think clearer after a good nights rest." She took his hand in hers and led him to the stairs. "Was it wise to offer Tom a job Jack."
"Yes. I need someone to mind the shop while I'm busy. Have you got any clients tomorrow?"
"Because I have a hunch that you maybe needed tomorrow to save my skin."
"Nothing new there then."
"Oi cheeky. Do you really feel that tired?"
"Now who's being cheeky."
The shops little bell tinkled cheerfully as Jack sitting on the floor was sorting out the latest comics.
"I will be with you in a moment." He called as he got up his heart beating hard in his chest.
"That's alright Mr Napier." Was Paul's reply.
Relief flooded through Jacks body.
Paul was wearing a suit that had seen better days but threadbare as it was it was still a suit. Paul's mother had fussed round him almost choking him with the tie.
"Ah young man you must be the subject of the slightly unusual message I received late last night." Jack smiled at him to calm the lad down. Jack pulled out a playing card from his pocket and passed it over.
It was the black Joker. On it was scrawled in red ink the following message.
'Paul is coming for the job. He's good. Hire him.'
"Oh I see. I'm sorry for wasting your time Mr Napier." The lad looked crestfallen and was about to leave.
"Don't you want the job then?" Jack asked.
"I'm not offering it as a gift or because I feel sorry for you. Understood? I need someone I can trust to run the store when I'm called out." Jack was aware of movement behind him in the shadows. "Is that person you Paul? Now do you want it or not?"
"I would like it to be if you'll have me?"
In the darkness Halley squeezed the stomach of a clown doll releasing a stream of insane laughter.
"And you can disappear too."
"Do you know the Joker Mr Napier?" Paul asked his mouth wide open in surprise.
"Know him, know him We went to the same school already." Jack laughed. "If we are going to work together I suggest you start calling me Jack."
"Well that's all sorted then." Halley said as she came out of the shadows at the back of the shop.
"Paul this is my life partner Halley Quinn, Halley this is our new under manager Paul."
The two acknowledged each other.
"Paul do us a favour will you and lose the suit. Go and change into something casual before the smell of moth balls choke me." She waved her hand in front of her face as a symbol of her discomfort. "When you come back you can help my lover with the stock take."
Jack pulled a face.
"One day you'll do that and the wind will change and you'll stay like that. I'll go and make some tea."
Jack shook his head.
"She's been nagging me for weeks over it. Why. I just don't know, its not as if I can't find what I want easily."
"I can still hear you, you know!"
"I think I'll like working here." With a broad smile he left to get changed.
A few minutes later the bell tinkled again.
"What did you forget Paul of have you come back to tell me you've changed your mind?"
"Wrong on both counts." A deep voice said.
A chill ran down Jacks back.
"It seems that he ignored us Eight." The voice said.
"Now that was naughty." Eight replied.
"Welcome back gentlemen ." Jack said with a brightness he didn't feel inside. "If you have any requests for the new owner I'm afraid she isn't here at the moment."
"A new owner you say are they white Arian?" Nine asked.
"Yes on both cases."
"Then why are you here stinking out the place."
"She hired me to manage the shop until a replacement could be found."
A huge ham like fist grabbed Jack by the collar and slammed him into the wall.
"Put him down gently as I don't take well to people interfering with my staff." Halley walked to the centre of the shop.
She was like a icebreaker in a frozen ocean smashing her way through any opposition.
She turned and glared at the playing cards.
"Not trying to pressurise my employee is one thing but showing no respect to me is another thing." Halley exuded arrogant confidence.
"Who are you lady?" Nine asked.
"We look dimly on those that hire Jewish filth as staff."
"Really. We'll I tell you what tall dark and hansom, you just go and ask Marconi about that. I'm sure he'll be delighted to see you."
Halley ran an immaculate finger nail down Nines cheek.
"Marconi isn't going to be running this town for much longer. You've got forty eight hours to get rid of him. If you don't we'll burn the place down and give Marconi your head on a plate." Nine wasn't going to be intimidated by words alone.
Halley clicked her fingers and the two Marconi bruisers appeared.
"Boys show them out. "
Eight and nine were already making their way to the door.
"Oh and boys teach them some manners."
As soon as they were outside the Marconi boys jumped them but if they expected it to be easy they got a shock as the cards gave back as good as they got.
A police siren was wailing towards them as they split up.
As Nine got in their car he called back to Halley standing in the shop doorway.
"You've just lost your time lady. He's out in twenty four and you better hope that I'm in a better mood or I'll torch the place anyway."
The door slammed and they roared away. The badly beaten Marconi boys followed suit.
Halley stood in the doorway shaking from reaction when Jacks arms wrapped around her.
"That went better than I thought. Look here comes Paul." Jack kissed the back of her neck. "Come inside and I'll make some tea for the three of us. I think I've still got some of that Bourbon left over to make it more palatable."
"What, what?" They both entered the shop laughing.
Paul saw them and waved. A warm feeling came over him as he watched them. This was what work should be like.
His hand went unconsciously to the Band-Aid he had used to hide the tattoo.
He had information for the Joker that may change everything but he hoped not.
There was going to be a raid by the face cards with the low cards running interference. He had sent out a message last night to say that he had escaped the police and they had replied that they wanted him involved.
Once he told the Joker that was it, as far as he was concerned, all debts paid and a honest career to look forward to.
Life was about to begin. He hoped.Chapter Nine Do you Dance with the Devil.
15th November 1936
The British Parliament.
"The Speaker Calls the Member from Stoke le How to speak."
A thin face man stood up in the packed chamber of the commons.
"I would like to table a private members bill for the aid of Jewish children in Germany.
The bill would give the British government, and if ratified by their own governments, the Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, South African and those of the United States, the right to take Jewish children refugees via liberty trains and boats to a place of safety."
The house as one applauded. They then went to vote. At the end of which, for the first time in its history, the house was unanimous.
The concert had been a success in lifting peoples spirit a little.
The first show was to the German officers and guards who enjoyed it immensely. Especially a Karl Ependorff, a standard guardsman as opposed to the SS guards that had been slowly taking over.
He sat with a Dutch national Carl Blinkerhoff.
Jack and Ruth had started the show off with their Punch and Judy and they were followed by their father on the piano.
Their were singers, jugglers, the Ghetto Orchestra and lastly Jack doing magic tricks.
For some reason he used the two men in his magic tricks. They both appreciated the attention.
After the show he saw his mother and father in deep conversation with the Dutchman.
The show was put on for the populace of the ghetto over two nights and for a little while, if they weren't exactly happy neither where they sad, it made life bearable.
Then came the news that they were to muster at the railway station.
Fear gripped everyone's heart.
They were jostled along and met up with families from another Ghetto.
The cattle trucks doors were opened and the Jews forced to enter.
This time they weren't to be spared.
Jack holding a screaming Ruth watched as his mother and father were forced to get on board.
He watched as his father protested.
It seemed so unreal.
He watched as the SS officer pull out his pistol and shot Jacob, like he was some rabid dog. A nuisance that needed to be got rid of.
Soon Jack and Ruth with the few that had been spared were bustled back to the Ghetto.
Numb by events they returned to their room to find their cases, containing some of their clothes, lying open on the floor.
Standing beside them was Ependorff.
"Your father gave me this to give you." He past over a note.
'My dear son if you are reading this it must mean either that I am dead or have been transported to the east, which is as good as being dead.
The British government have been allowed to take Jewish school children out of the country to a place of safety. You must join them.
Lieutenant Ependorff will help. Obey everything he say's.
I love you and Ruth with all my heart.
Be special my children.
Jack took a shuddering breath and nodded to the guard.
"Put in the cases anything you think you will need but do not over load it.
I must go but I will return for the cases when you go to the refectory to eat.
After you have eaten leave the Ghetto by the Biderbaker street exit. I will be in the Fedrickhaven square waiting to meet you with your cases." The guard walked to the door. "Wear under you Ghetto clothes a set of normal clothes. As soon as you are out of the Ghetto change into your normal clothes. On the table are two passes with your new names and ten marks each. Pay the guard at the exit but do not talk to him."
With that he left.
Down in the refectory was a subdued group of people all mourning the loss of loved ones.
Jacks stomach was a cruel knot which made it difficult to eat the thin gruel that was laid before them.
When they left the refectory they turned toward the Biderbaker street exit. The ghetto thankfully wasn't a closed one with walls around it but having said that there was still the guard in his guard box to contend with.
The street down to the pillbox was empty making Jack feel very exposed. As they neared the end of the road he became aware that the guard was not alone. He stood sharing a joke and a cigarette with a SS soldier.
What should he do? Do they keep walking and hope to pass by unnoticed or do they make themselves conspicuous by trying to hide in this empty road.
Jack stopped and bent down as if to tie his shoe lace.
He made a big show of how difficult he was finding it but he needn't have worried. The eagle eyed guard had spotted them and had deliberately positioned himself such that the SS soldier had his back toward them.
After a few moments the two men said their goodbyes and separated.
Finding courage from somewhere, with Ruth's hand tightly clasped in his own, he approached the guard.
The man said nothing he just held out his hand for the money.
Expecting at any moment to be challenged and shot Jack walked them out into the city proper.
Here the city was busting as it went on with its daily affairs.
Quickly guiding Ruth into a dark alley they got rid of their ghetto clothes and exited as German children.
They had been walking for about ten minutes when they were hailed by a German Sergeant in small open top car.
"Hello children." He called. "Are all right you look as if you are lost."
Jack looked at the man pleadingly.
"We're meeting with our father in Fedrickhaven square before he gets posted. I told mother I could find it but I'm not so sure now."
"You're going in the wrong direction. Hop in and I'll give you a lift." The man said cheerfully.
A little reluctantly they got in the back.
Before pulling away the man turned round and gave them a warm smile.
"I'm Curt Freeman and you are?"
"I'm Jurgen Neumann and this is my sister Renata." Jack was relieved to have remembered the names on their documents.
"Pleased to meet you Jurgen and Renata." He turned back and carefully joined the traffic. "I'm with the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich as an engineer. What regiment is your father joining?"
"I don't know sir but he is going to be near the Austrian and Swiss boarder I think.
Mummy doesn't talk about it much."
"It's a difficult time for families I know but it won't be for long. When the other countries recognise Germany for the great nation it is we will have proper peace."
Curt laughed. "There I am trying to preach to two children. What do you want to be when you grow up Jurgen which can't be that far off?"
"I hope to be a peace maker. Someone in the diplomatic service."
"A great ambition to be sure but not an active one."
"If I can't do that I'd like to be an actor on the stage."
Curt really laughed at that.
"Being an actor is perfect for the diplomatic corps."
At last they pulled up in Fedrickhaven square where Lieutenant Ependorff sat having a coffee in a street café.
Jack spotted him and began waving manically.
"Papa, papa. Look Renata it is papa." He turn to Curt. " Thank you for the lift sergeant."
"My pleasure young man."
Ludwig Peter Ependorff walked over to the little car.
"Children where have you been. I have been worried."
"We got lost papa but the sergeant drove us here."
"I am in your debt Sergeant." The men shook hands .
"I've been telling the officer about you going to the boarder of Austria and Switzerland." Jack told him making sure that Ruth gave the man a cuddle.
"I am sure your mother told you not to tell anyone about it." He turned back to Curt. "You'll have to excuse the children they love making up stories."
"I understand fully sir. Now I must be off. Goodbye children."
The men saluted each other and he drove away.
Ludwig let out a deep sigh and tried to relax his stiff muscles.
"Well done boy." He said. "You have just danced with the devil in the pale moonlight."
He led them to the café where they picked up their cases and followed the guard down the road.
A tram ride later and they were on the outskirts of the city.
Two hours later they turned toward a windmill.
Ludwig looked carefully around before leading them in.
The two exhausted children soon fell asleep amongst the hay.
Phase one has been completed and phase two hadn't started.
A phase with great dangers for all three of them.
Chapter Ten The Death Card
It was eight thirty and the room was empty save for Monroe and Mary.
"How are you going to expose the playing card?" Mary asked for the Umpteenth time.
"As I've told you I don't know. If I get everybody to bare their necks and find nothing I will have destroyed what trust we have between us. There's a good chance I could still do that even if I find the traitor."
Mary had to agree it was a difficult problem but one that couldn't be ignored.
Soon the room was full of cheerful banter.
"Okay, okay, pipe down now." Monroe ordered. "Right first of all Mary will be joining us to help with the prostitutes.
Secondly we have very few leads to follow up."
"There was before we arrived at the scene of the woman's murder a corpse chaser. I've got six names and where they live. I suggest we go in small teams." Mary added.
"Polish and Italian Mike to head up the teams. I want to know everything about them, even if they fart I want to know. Political affiliations, who they work for." Monroe was in his stride now. "Lily go with Polish Mike and pay Paul Trantor a visit, Mary and I will deal with the charming Mr Trimmer."
Monroe looked at his watch.
"I want everyone back here in two hours."
The group soon fell into their teams as if it was all a foregone conclusion.
Monroe turned to his two desk jockey's.
"Anne find as much as you can about his finances. George see if he has ever had a criminal record."
The two officers nodded and got on with it.
Douglas Trimmer apartment was a typical bachelor pad. Unkempt like its owner. Clothes to be ironed were plonked on one oversized chair whilst those ironed were on another chair.
Around the room hanging on the wall, or freestanding on the furniture, were some of his photographs of dead bodies.
He was in his makeshift dark room he had created in his second bedroom.
He had just finished processing the latest batch of photographs. A woman lay on the sidewalk with a neat bullet hole where her left eye used to be.
She had been shot by her daughter who panicked when she heard the racing footsteps of her mother behind her. She had turned and fired in one motion.
Her mother lay on the ground in a pool of blood still clutching the small bag of jelly donuts her daughter had accidently left behind.
The photograph weren't as lurid as the playing cards death but were good enough to send an erotic thrill down his neck.
He was just coming out of the darkroom when the doorbell rang. He crossed to the door and looked out of the spy hole. A young girl in a pinafore dress was waiting outside.
Paul Trantor place his latest photograph into his portfolio.
Paul wanted to become a war photographer and was amassing a substantial portfolio of gritty photographs showing violence.
The latest was of a young boy of about twelve who had died in a turf war. It was a sad image showing the dead boys puzzled expression. It was beautifully lit and photographed.
Paul crossed to his piano and began to play Beethoven's Moonlight sonata, his touch so light and deft, it was like he was stroking the key's. As always the music eased his tension leaving him relaxed.
There was a knock at the door.
Puzzled Douglas opened the door to her.
"Yes can I help you?" He said poking his head around the door and checked to make sure the corridor was empty.
"Cynthia sent me to help you relax."
Cynthia was the girl he would see if he craved sex.
He opened the door wide and let the girl in.
Turning round from shutting the door he suddenly had his armful as the girl leap up and planted a kiss on his lips.
He staggered back under the frenzied onslaught and landed in the only empty chair.
The girl laughed a tinkling laugh as she pulled out a bobby pin and stabbed him in the heart with it. It's tip was coated with the poison curare that paralysed him causing him to crash onto the floor.
As he laid there, finding it more and more difficult to breathe, she poured the developing chemicals over him. She dropped all the photographs onto his inert body followed by his solvent.
Still saying nothing she dropped a lighted match onto the flammable film stock.
It caught quickly and was soon alight.
With a nod of satisfaction she let herself out and was gone.
Paul Trantor open his door and let his friend in.
"Any news?" He asked as he poured out a whisky for the newcomer.
"Yes I have actually." The stranger replied taking the proffered glass. "The Gazette want someone to go to London and on to Berlin to photograph Hitler's rallies"
"Really?" Paul asked as they crossed over to the piano.
"Yes but there is a problem, a serious one." The stranger said sadly.
"Oh and what's that?"
"Your death actually."
The stranger shoved the bobby pin into his heart.
"Sorry old friend."
Whilst the paralysis took over Pauls body the stranger unscrewed the back of the upright piano, exposing its strings.
He took Paul by his shoulder and shoved his head through the strings before, with a great show of strength, he coiled two around Pauls neck.
Paul slid down tightening the loops around his neck making him choke.
The man crossed the room, picked up the portfolio and left as if nothing had happened.
Monroe and Mary got out of the elevator with a couple of the team and made their way up the corridor toward Douglas's apartment.
Monroe sniffed the air.
"Smoke?" He broke into a run and yelled to those following him "Smoke!"
It took only a second for the others to react.
Using the back of his hand Monroe checked the heat of the door whilst Mary and Roger dived for the two fire extinguishers hanging on wall two doors down.
The door was quite cold telling Monroe that the fire hadn't reached it yet.
With a fearsome kick that splintered the door around the lock Monroe got access.
As he rushed in he pulled the table cloth of the table and wrapped Douglas in it, rolling him to and fro to put out the flames.
The two fire extinguishers roared and sprayed their fire damping mist, over the furniture that had begun to catch light.
Then it was over and a strange eerie silence fell over the room.
"Is he?" Mary asked.
"Yes I'm afraid so." Monroe had overcome the natural repulsion of touching the burn flesh to feel for a pulse in the Douglas's neck.
"Accident? Suicide?" Mary asked but knowing in her heart what the answer would be.
"Murder!" Monroe rocked back on his heels. "He was set light with his photographs."
He turned a few of the photographs over.
"Mary phone for SOCO will you?" He turned to the other pair. "Door to door please. Someone must have seen something, heard something."
"Someone who did not take too kindly of him photographing their loved ones?" Mary asked as she hung on the phone.
"Possible, but I doubt it. I think they were frightened his photographs would show something or someone that they shouldn't.
Monroe squatted down and used the tip of a pencil to move the scraps of photographs around.
Mary was in deep conversation with someone on the phone.
"Lieutenant!" The intensity of that one word was enough to make Monroe look up. "Lily's just called in her mark, Paul Trantor, is dead, strangled by his piano." She explained or rather didn't.
"Get a call out to bring in the four that are left. Use the protected custody laws."
Mary nodded and relayed the message to the person at the other end.
He was about to get to his feet when a image on a badly burn photograph caught his eye.
He picked it up and studied it a moment before passing it to Mary.
Mary looked at it. The stiffness of her features displaying her building anger.
The photo displayed a figure standing in the doorway of where the handless woman had been found. It was blurred and dark but it showed a figure wearing a white playing card cat suit under a gabardine rain coat. More importantly it showed their uncovered face.
"We've found our traitor." Mary said bitterly. "Now what do we do?"
"Get this photograph enlarged and cleaned up so I am certain. Then I'll make my move." Monroe turned to the body and muttered. "Whatever that may be."
He shrugged and crossed to the telephone and dialled a special number.
"Yes." Said the oriental voice.
"The sleeper awakes."
"The listening ear hears."
"I need to get a message out to the Sandman." Monroe began.
He put the phone back in its cradle a little later.
"Was that wise Lieutenant?"
"Probably not Sergeant."
Leaving the group from forensics to get on with their work they left the building.
The Second National Bank on thirty fourth street was gently going about its normal day.
Mr's Johnson looked down her nose a Miss Whites attire, as usual, while the doorman Peter picked off imaginary fluff of his green dress coat.
Suddenly all their lives changed, suddenly nothing would remain the same.
At dead on the chimes of nine o'clock the main door was blown apart and four people entered.
The court cards has come out to play.
The King of Diamonds beard was white and tightly curled, in his hand was a glowing axe.
The Queen of Diamonds held a strange flower like weapon.
The Jack Of Diamonds held a strange bladed Quarterstaff.
The Ten was dressed in white with ten Diamond Pips.
They looked as if they had stepped down from a pack of cards.
The King strutted over to the grilled cash desk behind which an impassive teller stood.
The King swung his axe splitting the mesh apart. With two more strikes the space between him and the teller was cleared.
"I want to make a withdrawal." the King laughed so sure in his arrogance.
The teller spun round on the spot to reveal the Jokers grinning visage.
"Do you suffer from migraine? Don't normal tablets help?" He jumped up and slapped a band aid on the Kings forehead. "Try new and improved Joker. Leaves you with tears in your eyes."
The band aid popped and wreathed the Kings head in tear gas.
He staggered back a few paces blinded by his own tears.
The Ten pulled of a diamond pip and threw it at the Joker.
With great speed he pulled out a baseball bat and with a clean hit sent it back at the scrabbling Ten, where it exploded with some force.
"Can I join in yet Mr J?" Harlequin called.
"Be my Guest." The Joker called as he threw exploding Jumping Jacks at the court cards feet.
Harlequin pulled out a wide mouth gun.
"Queeny wanna play ball?"
She pulled the trigger and fired eight small rubber balls into the area where they bounced with considerable force striking the Queen and King hard.
The Jack used the electrical charge in his Quarterstaff to break open the doorway to the back of the counters.
Through the door to the office he could see all the staff squatting in fear. He smashed the door open.
"Who's got the keys for the safe. Hurry I haven't got all day." He pointed the weapon at Mrs Johnson and pulled the trigger. At that very moment Miss White appeared from behind the door and poured the contents of the water carafe straight over his head.
In that brief moment he couldn't see and the electrical lightning bolt missed its target. Not that he noticed as the electrical current shorted out on his wet body sending him flying. Unfortunately Miss White was standing of the wet carpet without the benefit of rubber souls. She went down like a sack of coals.
Mrs Johnson cradled the young woman's head in her lap.
"She saved my life, she saved me." She repeated over and over as she rocked backward and forward.
The Ten pulled from her belt a rubber sap and charged at The Joker only for Harlequin to get in the way.
She grabbed the hand that held the sap in and twisted around to send Ten over her hip into the counter.
The Queen lifted the flower gun to shoot her but a splurge of paste like glue covered it. The Joker laughed as he danced away from his assailant.
Three low numbered playing cards came flying in. One, the two of Diamonds, pulled out a regular pistol and fired.
The Joker was knocked back against the counter blood staining his shirt front.
"Mr J!" Harlequin rushed forward to take the stricken Joker in her arms.
The two prepared to shoot Harlequin.
"Leave her she's no threat to us now." The Kings face covered in blotchy spots that were already itching like mad. "Get the keys for the safe."
"I'll do it." Harlequin carefully laid the Jokers head on the ground.
She crossed over to the back room and took the managers keys from his shaky hands giving him a slow wink.
As she crossed to where the safe was she noticed the Two of diamonds gun in hand crouching beside the supine Joker.
"Get away from him!" Harlequin was livid. "You haven't the right to touch him. He is worth ten of you."
The two scuttled away.
The chub safe was old fashioned enough and solid enough to cause any normal safebreaker a problem. But it only took Harlequin a few seconds to open.
She picked up one of two holdalls on the floor and began emptying the safe. As the last bundle of notes went in she put the bag on the floor and zipped it shut. Then she did something odd. Making sure she couldn't be seen she picked up the other holdall.
She turned round and gave it to the recovering Jack.
"Now leave me alone to mourn over my husband."
The Two of Diamonds lifted the pistol and took aim.
"Go on do it!" Harlequin yelled. "Then I can be with him!"
"No!" Commanded the King.
In moments they had cleared the area.
The Jokers eyes flicked open and he gave a dramatic groan.
"I'm going Harley, my eyes are dimming." Harlequin let go of his head allowing it to drop on to the floor with a resounding thud. "Ouch."
The Joker regained his feet.
"What no nomination for the best death scene in a bank robbery."
"I switched the bags as you told me Mr J." Harlequin told him trying to stifle a laugh as the Joker rubbed his sore head.
The Joker turned to the manager as he exited the office.
"We had to make it difficult enough for them so they didn't notice the switch. What they are going to spend all that monopoly money on I dread to think." The Joker began to laugh manically. "You wouldn't believe how many monopoly sets I had to buy to get enough currency."
"Help her, please help her." Mrs Johnson wept cradling Miss Whites head. "She saved my life!"
The Joker was down beside them in a second. He took the young woman in his arms and lowered her to the floor. With a brief rustle in his deep pockets he pulled out a child's stethoscope and listened to the heart beat in the wrist.
It was fluttering and weak then it stopped altogether.
"Oh no you don't. No one dies on me. Harley your buzzer? Quickly now."
Out of his pocket came a electric shock device that sat in the palm of his hand to give people a surprise when they went to shake hands.
Harlequin helped to slip hers on to his other hand. He brought them together and was pleased to see that they crackled with power.
"Uncover her chest." The crowd hang back. "We haven't got time for the niceties, we can apologise later."
Mrs Johnson set thing flying of a desk in her hurry to find something useful.
She used paper scissors to cut off the buttons of the blouse and split the bra.
"Keep clear." The Joker carefully laid his hands on the young womans chest and triggered the shock mechanism. She convulsed, arching her back so much there was a real fear she was going to snap her spine.
"If you wanted me to see your chest I'm sure there are more private ways of doing it." The Joker quipped.
Once again the shock didn't produce the desired effect.
"This is the last chance." The Joker called poised to repeat the performance for the third and last time.
Miss White's eye's flicked open and…
"I've got a pulse." Harlequin called.
"Recovery position." The Joker called and together they turned the young woman over on to her front, gathering her clothes together to protect what was left of her modesty.
She was crying softly and Mrs Johnson made noises of comfort and stroked her hair to calm her.
She looked up at the Joker.
"Thank you." She said.
"Well let that be a lesson to you young lady. No dying without permission." The Joker laughed softly getting a wane smile from both in return. "Manager here is what you should be doing. Telephone the police and ask to speak to a Lieutenant Monroe about all this and telephone for a doctor and ambulance to get every one checked out."
With whooping laughter the two hero's left the scene to the shell shocked manager.
The manager spoke to them.
"Miss Grant aid Mr Jones in putting back the money. Make sure they are correct to the ledger."
Fifteen minutes later Lieutenant Monroe entered and was given the card that the Joker left for him.
None of the Corpse Chasers had survived, all six had been foully murdered. But here at least one life had been spared.
"I want this place dusted for prints. Lily deal with that please and with the care of the injured." He looked down at the scrawl on the card. "Mary get a couple of radio receivers."
He saw what was happening at the safe.
"Would you stop that please sir, we need that as evidence.
He turned to the manager.
"Who is the main investor in the back." He had a sinking feeling he knew.
"Mr Marconi Lieutenant. I wasn't looking forward to tell him of his losses but it looks like I won't have to since the moneys all here." Manager frowned. "That Joker fellow told us of the raid and forced us into the office. We were petrified I can tell you but he wasn't here to steal but to protect us which I just don't understand. I thought he was with them but he couldn't have been as he saved poor Miss White."
"Yes it is strange but I for one am thankful that he is around." He turned to Mary. "Yes Mary?"
The investigation had begun.
Chapter Eleven Solitaire a Game for Two?
15th November 1936
A windmill on the outskirts of Munich.
Jack came too and laid there for a moment enjoying the sweet smell of the corn stalks around him.
As he regained his senses his stomach constricted as he became aware of two men talking.
"Carl the agreement was that I was to go with the children. How soon can this be arranged?"
"Try and calm yourself my friend."
It was the guard Ependorff and the Dutchman Carl Blinkerhoff.
Jack quietly rolled over and sat up so he could listen.
"You say that England and her commonwealth have passed a law to take the Jewish children so they will be alright."
"Peter it is not that easy. We are only now beginning to build the infrastructure needed to collect the children and don't think the Nazi's will allow all the children we have found to go. It is important that they think they are the ones in charge of it all." Carl wagged his finger to emphasize his point. "Your charges are the son and daughter of one of the chief suspects of running a campaign of insurgency. Their uncle ran a forbidden communist news letter. They are not going to let them go. We need them out to stop the Nazi's using them to get at their mother and father. Too many lives are at risk."
"Our father is dead sir." Jack said holding himself up to stop himself from weeping.
"What is that you say boy?" Carl asked gently.
"He was shot down in cold blood because he wouldn't leave us. He tried to get out of the cattle trucks. Mother couldn't get to him as there were so many people in the carriage that she couldn't move." Tears trickled down his cheek.
Peter put an arm around the boy and tried to comfort him.
Jack looked up into the guards caring face.
"Why have you tried to help us sir?" He asked with a sniff.
"My maternal grandmother is Jewish so it won't be long before they came for me. I have no family left to worry about and it seemed that the only way to get out of the country was to take you with me. You are the key for the door out of here." He said honestly. "I had been holding talks with your parents whenever it has been safe to do so. They wanted me to save you so you see both of our needs were met."
"I met with Paul at the ghetto many times before we trusted each other enough to arrange your escape. But I was led to believe only you were coming. That Paul was to go and spend some time publically in some of the beer halls getting drunk on his days off."
"It was so I would have an alibi for your disappearance."
Jack nodded as if he understood.
"If you were to pretend you're our father still would you be able to take us out of the country?" He asked.
"Not on a Jewish relief train as only the children would be allowed to go. As soon as the train had left I'd be arrested and sent to Dachau." Paul sighed.
"But what would happen if we were not Jews?" Jack asked trying to get his mind round it.
"Then they probably would stop us leaving the country. It is difficult Jonas try and rest." He ruffled Jacks hair.
It suddenly dawned on Jack that this self confessed cold hearted user was anything but. He had a genuine affection for the both of them.
"Paul?" He said tentatively.
"What would happen if we were due to play a concert in France or Belgium and you were there to look after us." Jack saw Carl lift an eyebrow. "They would let you through then wouldn't they?"
"Well done boy!" Carl clapped him on the shoulder. "There is due a British ship in Hamburg in the next few days called the HMS Arowa, an armed merchant ship. I am putting together a children's orchestra for the Nazi's there that you can slip into with Peter as your guardian if danger threatens."
Carl came very animated as he explained how it would work.
Two days later the three of them entered the station in Munich with the new documentations in Peters pocket. They had collected those from of all things a blind beggar in the street.
Peter purchased the tickets and was returning to the children when he spotted the SS sergeant, Curt Freeman, who had given them a lift, crossing over to them.
His mind a whirl he closed the distance between them.
"Hello you two, what are you doing here?" He asked as he spied Paul approaching. "Your daddy taking you somewhere nice?"
Jack put a hand to his mouth and tried not to laugh.
"That's not our daddy silly it's our uncle Peter."
"Oh sir my apologise, but the resemblance is phenomenal."
"No need Sergeant. We often get mistaken for each other." Peter gave a laugh. "The curse of being identical twins. He chose the military and I teaching."
"There is nothing wrong with being a teacher."
Jack could sense that the next question would be problematic. He knew that the Sergeant would ask to see their papers and he couldn't fail to see the different surname.
"Uncle how long till our train comes?" He asked.
"Forty five minutes why?"
"Then we will have time to play for the Sergeant and his friends." Behind Curt was more of his unit lounging against the wall.
"Do bother the officer children I'm sure he has important things to do. I'm taking the children to Hamburg to join the Riechfurer's Children's Orchestra. I'm to be their chaperone."
"We're on the same train sir so we have time to listen. I would love to hear them play."
Jack turned to his sister and stared into those deep empty eyes.
"We're going to play the folk songs liked we practiced."
They both took out their violins and began to play.
If Curt was expecting out of key sawing he was pleasantly shocked as beautiful music sprang from their instruments.
The children were lost in the music they were producing they didn't notice the crowd that was collecting around them.
Curt gestured for Paul to put his cap down in front of them. Paul did as he was asked and watched as the SS soldiers followed Curts example and dropped coins into the hat.
As the children continued to play the soldiers began to hum along, then they began to sing.
These the most feared soldiers in their black uniforms with their death head insignia were singing along in perfect harmony with the music produced by two thin scrawny children.
Ruth then did an amazing rendering of the new piece of music the 'Lark Ascending' by British composer Vaughn Williams that brought a tear to many an eye.
When they had done the gathered crowd applauded and cheered. Their grim lives brightened a little for a short while.
The children bowed to the crowd and the soldiers before putting their instruments away.
Several of the SS hunted in their pockets until they found something suitable and gave it to Curt.
"Here this is for you children." He handed over a chocolate bar which Jack swiftly broke in half. He passed it over to Ruth who attacked it ruthlessly as if she feared at any second it would be snatched from her.
"She doesn't say much?"
"No." Paul sighed. "She was gang raped by a group of thugs. She hasn't spoken to anyone other than the boy here ever since."
"Did they get who did this to her?" Curt asked in sympathy.
"No, to well connected, but they paid the price if you get my meaning."
"I do sir. You wouldn't be condemned for it Sir."
"Come along children we've a train to catch. Good bye Sergeant."
"Goodbye the three of you." Curt swiftly put out his cigarette and did the collar up of his tunic. "Must go my commanding officer is coming."
Their departure was watched by two pairs of eyes, and one pair was that of a Gestapo man the other was far more friendly.
The train wasn't that crowded so they managed to occupy a carriage on their own as the train pulled out of the station. Ruth just sat looking blankly out of the window while Jack checked over their instruments."
Their was a tap on the window of their compartment. They looked up to see Carl Blinkerhoff looking in.
He slid the door open and called out to them loudly enough to be heard by those close by.
"Do you mind if I join you for the journey?"
"No not at all."
Carl entered and sat down by the boy.
"That was a brave thing you did back in the square boy I'm proud of you. But why take the risk?"
"The Sergeant was about to ask to see our papers and he would see that our names didn't match with last time." Jack explained.
"Well thought out. Are you sure you're a child, boy, and not a adult in disguise." Carl said with a smile. "I get off at the next station. Good Luck."
The journey was slow and tedious resulting in the children falling asleep.
They twitched in their sleep.
They were cuddled up to Peter and he ran his hands over their hair to comfort them as their nightmares threatened to engulf them.
The Sergeant passed their window and saw the children asleep and smiled a warm smile at Peter.
As he passed on the way back from the toilet he stopped and watched them for awhile. He frowned a moment before moving on with a puzzled expression on his face.
A moment later a raincoat covered form of a Gestapo officer passed by. He loitered a moment before passing further down the railway car.
Hamburg the bustling harbour of the Third Reich beckoned with all its depravity. Close to the harbour were the bars and brothels for the sailors of the many nations docked there. In the town the Swing and Jazz clubs were in full flow.
It was at one of these clubs that was the children's first port of call.
It was early evening and a raucous group of fourteen to sixteen year olds were bopping to the sound of Glen Miller.
They looked different from the youths of Berlin. They wore their hair longer and in the girls case un-braided. The girls wore lipstick and make up, their fingernails painted. They looked to England and America not Germany for their influences.
Several of the boys had homburg hats and stick pins with the Union Jack on it.
The proprietor was a thin stick of a woman called Frau Lutzig.
Paul said nothing. He crossed to the bar on which the Frau rested and from his pocket he took a playing card and laid it on the counter. It was the black Joker.
She looked at it a moment and then with a grunt passed over a package and a key.
Paul picked up the card and with a bow of thanks left the club. They made their way down the street until they came to a building that was the same number as was on the keys tag.
They entered a cold basement apartment. Paul with Jacks help soon had a fire roaring in the grate.
He then went to the parcel and undid it.
There was a small block of cheese, some cooked sausages and a small loaf of bread. With it came a set of very precise instructions.
The children ate and rested for the next two hours.
It was with some reluctance that they shut the door and left the comforting heat of the fire behind.
They reached the dock gates a little early and had to wait until the change of shift had taken place before approaching.
The guard was a grizzled old veteran with his hair tightly cropped in the old fashioned Bismarck style.
"Good evening. My family and I are booked passage on the Arowa. I'm sorry we're late but the train was delayed."
"Papers?" The old man grunted.
"Yes certainly. Here you are."
The old man studied them carefully in the light from his torch. When he reached the black Joker playing card he looked up and assessed the group in front of them.
He nodded with satisfaction and handed them all back including the card.
"That is all in order sir." He said. "The ship you want is tied up on pier seven. You can't miss it there are two British sailors guarding the gangplank. Have a good trip with orchestra."
He waved them through.
It was very dark now and it was difficult not to trip up over the rail tracks or tying up rings on the floor.
The air was full of the sea and of those that made their living of it. Tar and the odour of fish rubbed shoulders with oil and grease. All around was the noise of irritable Gulls.
They had reached the entrance of pier seven and could see the armed British sailors in their blues standing guard under the lamp light.
"Halt this is as far as you go!"
Paul and the children stopped dead.
"What seems to be the matter Sergeant. It is the Sergeant isn't it?" Paul called back. "Why are you stopping us from joining the others on board.?"
"You nearly got away with it, if I hadn't noticed the number tattoo on the boys arm when he was sleeping with you in the carriage I'd be none the wiser."
"Do you need to be any the wiser now. You have heard how they play. Like angels here on earth.
I was a guard in the ghettos when I first heard them. I couldn't allow such beauty be destroyed in the death camps. Could you look at your own face in the mirror if you allow them to go to Dachau and be tortured to death? Well could you"
"Turn round, slowly."
"You are not fit to call yourself a German if you let this happen!" Peter bellowed. "Do you think him dying will make Germany a better place."
Pauls hands were empty but Jack held a pistol aimed straight at Curt's stomach.
"I don't want to do it Sergeant but to protect my sister I will." Jack was surprised how calm he sounded and how steady his hand was.
"I told you the truth about the girl being raped, except that it was our own soldiers that did it. She carried their baby on starvation rations and nearly died delivering him only for him to die in her arms a few weeks later." Paul was desperate now to attract the British Sailors. "Is that a Germany you want."
"No it is not but I will have failed in my duty if I didn't stop you."
"Then let the children go and I will remain. Let them get on that boat I beg you as a German officer to let those children get on that ship."
"Then you have danced with the devil in the pale moonlight and must pay the consequences." Jack said his finger tightening on trigger.
There was a sound of a pistol shot and the Sergeant clutched his leg.
From further down the dock came the sound of running feet as Gestapo men charged toward them.
Paul took his chance and with the children in each hand ran down the dock toward the Arowa.
The sergeant ignored the injury to his leg and fired three shots.
Paul stumbled and landed on all fours a hundred yards from the British gangway.
He pressed the black joker playing card into Jack's hand.
"Go just go!" He ordered as Jack tried vainly to get him up.
A gun shot whined nearby.
Jack took Sophia's hand and ran for the British sailors.
The sailors reacted swiftly as soon as they saw the card. Putting their rifles at the ready as an officer shot down the gangplank to meet the children. He bustled them on board.
The guards backed up the gangway and made ready to pull it inboard when the shape of Paul crawled into view.
He was so near to freedom but so far. But at least he knew the children were safe. His struggling hand touched the gangplank.
"Mine Herr do you claim asylum?" The British Captain asked.
Paul looked up at him as he was God himself.
He had only the energy to say one word of three letters that could mean so much.
"You heard the fellow. Get him to the sawbones double quick." He turned to the officer behind him. "Cast off as soon as all is secure. I want to be in international waters before they realise what has happened. I hope these children are worth it Mr Blinkerhoff."
"Oh yes they are worth it Captain and they only represent a trickle against what is to come."
"I wonder what happened to the other German officer?"
"I shouldn't worry about him if I were you. He has been reported to the Gestapo and was found to be trying to escape in a small sailing skiff near by. It's a shame I loved that little ship."
Lying on the ground Curt tried to get comfortable from the bullet in the leg.
"Idiots!" He yelled at the men racing up to him. "They are getting away."
"Yes they are. We can't afford a diplomatic incident with the British just yet." The Gestapo Officer looked down at Carl and sneered. "Your father has led a failed attempt to kill our beloved leader. He and his accomplices have been caught and executed."
"I don't know anything about that." Curt was shocked. "I barely talked to the old fool."
"So I gather. But you must understand Sergeant it is necessary to tie up lose ends."
He grinned as pulled out his revolver and fired five shots into Curt, all to maim none to kill and then as if bored with the game put the gun against Curt's forehead and pulled the trigger. They walked away leaving Curt's body to bled away its life blood on the ground.
The Joker shook himself out of his reverie.
Paul had survived though it had left him with a bad limp.
Jack and Ruth sat with him when they could. On board the ship were about thirty families of the diplomats and Embassy staff making their way back to the relative safety of Britons shores and of course the Children Orchestra who were doing several concerts in England before returning to Germany. Jack and his sister didn't have anything to do with them or their strict Nazi chaperones.
They docked in Liverpool for a few days to disembark the families and take on a group of Jewish children that had fled Germany earlier for the journey on to the United States.
The movement of Jewish children was hard but successful resulting in 10,000 unaccompanied children arriving in England and the United States and Canada over the next nine months.
Paul became very involved with the children, going on board the Liberty ships to act as chaperone and translator.
It was during this time that he met Helga, another chaperone, and got married and had two fine sons of their own.
After leaving the ship in New Amsterdam they met with their guardian Israel, Manny, and moved in with him in an apartment above the pawn brokers.
Jack went to work for a relation for a couple of years in a shop, before being given his own one. He turned a dull grocers into the very successful Ha Ha Comic and Magic Shop.
Sophia was feted everywhere she went, playing to sold out concerts, opening children's wards of hospitals but she never really recovered from what had happened to the family and one fateful evening took her own life.
If it wasn't for the support of the Jewish community he would have fallen apart and even now he sometimes wonders if it would have been better if he had.
The Joker lent back and let out a roar of maniacal laughter.
The final hand was about to be played and he needed to get ready.
The dead mans hand had already been dealt and survived. But would anyone survive if the Jokers wild.
Chapter Twelve The Jokers Wild.
The empty theatre was bustling with energy as the Suits flooded in to stand in ranks behind their standards.
The standards were arranged in order of power. The Diamonds the weakest of the suits were forming a line on the right in front of the stage. The next were the clubs followed by the Hearts and lastly on the left the Spades.
It looked like the court of the red queen in Alice in Wonderland.
When all were in position the curtain opened up to reveal the three thrones all covered in gold and gem stones.
A hush fell on the crowd as three figures appeared out of the back stage darkness.
Perfectly rendered were the three court cards of the Diamond suit.
The thrones were arranged such that the King took the middle one with the Queen slightly back from him on the right and the Jack even further back on his left.
They stood before their thrones and the King began to speak punching the air and shaking his fists to emphasise his points.
"The Great Time has just begun. The United States is awaking from its slumber. I know , my people, that it must have been difficult at times. When you desired change that never came. So I say to you once again. To continue the struggle.
You mustn't act yourself.
You must obey,
You must not give in.
You must submit to the overwhelming need to obey."
The crowd moved like corn field.
"The Nine of Hearts thought she could act independent of the court and she paid the ultimate cost."
The King clicked his fingers and pointed at the table. The Ten of Diamonds stepped up and place a box on the table. The Jack came forward and took out the contents and arranged them on the table.
When he stepped away a communal sigh went up.
There was a plaster cast of Nines face and a clear sided box that held her hands.
"She did not obey. I call on you once again to submit to the overwhelming desire to obey. And this once great nation shall rise phoenix like from the ashes.
It will stand tall in the knowledge that it once again will be a country of the people, by the people, for the people. We must always fight, never doubt, never slacken, never tire, never lose courage, never lose faith to purify this great country of the Bolshevik, the Jew paymasters and the subhuman Negro.
The Chicago pack have sent us two new cards to balance our pack. Number 10 of Spades and the first of the new Aces."
A massive seven foot figure walk out to stand behind the King and folded his arms across his chest. Darting out from behind him came the diminutive Ten of Spades, who had killed the coffin chaser.
The PA system bleeped and whistled.
"Oh you do go on don't you." The Joker said over the system. "Talk about loving the sound of your own voice."
The figures on the stage looked everywhere to spot him.
The Joker moved forward so they could see him standing in the Royal box.
"Tsk Tsk. Don't you know that The Joker can trump any card in the pack especially if the Jokers Wild."
The King gestured to the tens to take him.
"Ah Mr J they look like they are leaving." Harlequin called from the other box opposite.
The Joker cocked a leg over the balcony wall.
"And if you think I came alone let me introduce the NAPD's finest along side that mighty keeper of the peace Detective Lieutenant Monroe." The armed policemen burst through the main door. "Along with some of Don Marconi's heavy weights."
As the door to the box opened the Clown Prince of Crime Catchers slid down the side curtain to the stage. Harlequin did the same on her side.
Up in the box a trap went of trapped two of the Tens in sticky molasses.
The Jack tried to grab the Joker but only got part of his coat which peeled off the original. The Joker pirouetted and placing a breathing gas mask over his face threw at the Jack's feet a glass ampoule. It shattered releasing a powerful sink bomb odour along with a equally powerful batch of itching powder.
Harlequin had a cheerleaders baton in her hand and was spinning it rapidly in her finger's. The Queen tried to press her attack but seemed to be blocked at every turn.
The element of surprise was over and the two hero's were fighting for their very life as the lower cards tried to take too the stage.
A small capsule plopped in front of those nearest to Harlequin spewing out yellowish gas. The three nearest to it slumped down semi conscious to the floor impeding the others.
Harlequin threw the baton high up in the air saluted the man in the green suit and gas mask before catching it once again.
From the roof the Bat and the Cat dropped on ropes as Archer pinned a card to the wall with two swift arrows.
Superwoman in her red leotard with the famous blue 'S' on her hip dropped in front of the court cards.
"You're not on your own Joker. Not any more."
The mighty Ace powered toward her but she held her ground with her arms crossed.
The Joker fearing what would happen threw a ball of plastic at the charging man, if that is what it was. It slapped onto his chest and spreading out it began popping and cracking and giving of a terrible stench.
The Joker roared with laughter as the Aces mighty frame convulsed in body wracking coughs.
Superwoman tapped it on the shoulder. It looked up and got a super powered uppercut for its pains.
It staggered back a few steps and shook its head and then with a roar of anger launched itself at The Joker. Thankfully it had only gone a few strides before Superwoman slammed into it.
The Joker spun round and just managed to avoid being cut by the Jack hand axe. He swung back and trapped the axe arm against his body. With his free hand he pulled from his utility belt a Masque mask and slammed it on to the Jacks face where it stuck. The eye holes were covered over making him blind.
With a quick twist of the wrist he was disarmed and then The Joker drove a gloved fist deep into his gut, driving the air from his body.
"Harley, restraints quickly."
His companion threw over a pair of handcuffs. Within a few scant seconds the Jack was tethered to a post.
The fighting was coming to an end as the cards held up their arms in surrender.
At that moment a voice came over the loud speakers. It was the Ten of Diamonds.
"Can you hear me!" She dropped her coat to reveal that her body was covered with explosive devices. "If you don't back off I will set the bombs off destroying everyone here. Cards collect our fallen and make for the tunnels."
The low cards didn't move, they were frozen with fear but the eight's, nine's and ten's along with the court cards dropped into the passage ways beneath the city and were away.
Monroe ordered the officers and the cards out of the building. Soon all that were left were the mystery men and women, Monroe and Mary.
Monroe walked forward his hand outstretched.
"Come on Ten do you really want to kill yourself? I don't think so." Monroe edge forward another step. "Come on Lily its over. You've nothing to prove."
The Ten pulled off her face mask to reveal Lily's white face.
"How did you know it was me?" She asked as she moved to make sure she could see everyone.
"Whoever killed Douglas didn't do a very good job of destroying the photographs. Especially this one." He held up the one showing Lily in her playing card outfit under her raincoat. "I prayed that I was wrong but I wasn't. I bugged your car and followed you here after tipping off the Sandman. You couldn't win you didn't stand a chance."
The Joker walked up and stood in front of Monroe.
"I like the jib of this woman and have a mind to enrol her into my team." He sucked the air noisily through his teeth and gave Monroe a wink.
The Joker turned an took another step forward.
"Well Lily I don't think you want to blow any of us up. This is just a game to attract attention from a certain member of the police force." The Joker cackled manically. "Well you certainly did that. There he is right in front of you. Do you really want to kill him?"
Lily looked across at Monroe.
"No. Go Monroe and take these with you." She said but naturally Monroe didn't move.
"Do you really believe all that rubbish about the Jews and the blacks?"
"Yes. We have to be pure." Though she said it she didn't sound as if she meant it.
The Joker pulled up his sleeve and showed the numbers on his forearm.
"My Father was killed buy the Nazi's as they herded them onto cattle truck like so many pigs for slaughter. I don't even know if my mother is still alive.
Are they the type of people you want to be associated with."
Lily slumped to the floor, her body wracked with great sobs.
"I only did it so I could stay with Monroe." She said between the sobs. "I love him."
The Joker knelt beside her and said softly.
"I know you do. Lets take all this stuff off shall we." He waved to Harlequin to join him.
Together with Lily they took the explosives off her body.
The Joker gave his trade mark laugh.
"Well what do you know she wasn't wired up to go."
"That rhymes Mr J." Harlequin said as she carefully put the last piece of explosive on the pile.
"And what do you expect one of little brain." The Joker gently took Lily by the hand and stood her up. "She's all yours Monroe treat her gently."
Monroe took Lily's hand from the Joker.
"We will. Come on Lily its time to go."
As Monroe and Mary led the emotionally scarred Lily away several of the masked mystery men and women came forward.
"That was well done Joker." Superwoman told him. "In fact I've been impressed in general about you two."
"Well whoopee do, the big Red is pleased with little old us." The Joker pulled out a party whizzer and blew down it making it uncoil to the accompaniment of a rude sound.
"What Superwoman is saying Joker is that we want you to join us. We've created a group working with the government to uncover crime and enemy agents. We call ourselves Justice." The Bat said.
"Well, well, well The Joker is going all legit. Harley what do you think?"
"It's down to you Mr J." Harlequin replied as she tried to show off her muscles to Superwoman.
"Well in that case we'll accept your kind offer." For once in his short life he felt at home, that he was respected for being himself regardless of creed or colour.
Epilogs Studying the Play
Monroe sat opposite Marconi enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee that had been prepared by the Don himself no less.
"Very nice." Monroe put his expensive china cup back on it's saucer carefully. "We've thirty two cards in custody ready for processing but we failed to catch the court cards though we've leads on a couple of eights.
I never thought I'd be saying this but thank you Don Marconi we could not have done it without your help."
The Don waved a dismissive hand.
"It is a shame our cooperation can not last." Marconi said with a sigh of genuine regret.
"Business as usual?" Monroe ask as he drained the last drop of coffee.
"Business as usual I'm afraid." The Don replied.
"Yes it is a shame but just for the moment let us act like civilised men and enjoy this time." Their was a pause for a second before Monroe continued. "Do you follow the football at all?"
"Yes I own a quarter share of the New Amsterdam Tomahawks. I take my grandchildren when I can. How about you Monroe."
"Yes I'm a fan of the Whalers but they aren't doing to well this season with our Quarterback out injured. His been off with a broken collar bone."
For the next fifteen minutes the men forgot their differences and talked of simple things.
Later on the two men departed to go their own way, both a little older but certainly much wiser.
The truce had come to an end.
Monroe's captain put away the detailed reports submitted by Monroe and his team. As he did so his open collar moved enough to expose the tattoo that was partially hidden by makeup. It was a stylised 'J' and a Spade pip.
A new pack was building. It would take awhile to assemble but a new pack would rise up Phoenix like from the ashes of the old.
The door chime rang in the HA HA Comic shop as Tommy and two of his pals entered with a carefree babble.
"And what can I do for you young gentlemen." said the voice from behind the counter.
"I've come in for my Adventure Comic."
The owner came round from behind the counter holding the comic out toward him.
"Have you taken out the trash like mum asked?"
"Oh Paul I did that first thing." He told his elder brother.
His face lit up as the precious comic was passed over to him.
"Isn't Mr Napier in then Paul?" The boys eyes we huge in his head. "Are you in charge then Paul?"
"No I work for Mr Napier, he and Miss Quinn are at a meeting. And don't think you'll be let off paying Tommy."
His hand instinctively went to the band aid on his neck that hid the new tattoo. A image of the Joker from a pack of card adorned him and he felt proud to wear it.
Things had changed for him and he couldn't wait to see what happened next.
In the basement headquarters of 'Justice' The Joker and Harlequin looked up at the logistics board with all the names of the members of 'Justice'.
"Superwoman, Bat and Cat rubbed shoulders with leaser known heroes such as The Guardian, Wildcat and Atom. And there at the bottom was their names.
There was a mechanical whir and clump and a metallic voice spoke to them
"Would you and Madam like a drink sir. I have been programmed with many drink combinations."
"Well if it isn't Gernsback from the Worlds Fair. I'll have a Bourbon on the rocks and my lady friend here a whisky mac." The Joker laughed to easy the tension in his body.
"Cancel that order we will both have earl grey tea." Harlequin interrupted.
"Yes Madam." The squat robot spun round and rolled away to prepare the tea.
The door to the conference room opened to show the Chairman Hawk and his partner Falcon waiting for them.
The squat form of Ma Hunkle came across to join them.
"They are ready for you now Joker, Harlequin. Don't worry they don't bite."
Ma led the two nervous hero's over. As they entered they got a standing ovation.
Their new life had just begun.
Charlotte drew the bow over the strings of the violin producing a sweet refrain as the gas began to fill the room. As they died they heard the angels music and became at peace.
She played until she was overcome by the vapours, one of the six million Jews that would died at the Nazi's hands.
We must never forget, we must never allow it to happen again.
All men and women are equal in blood and bone regardless of colour, creed, sexual orientation and nationality. We forget this at our peril.