“How did you get the scars on your back?” asked Ace.
“It’s a long, unpleasant story and I don’t believe in keeping bad things alive. I’m here and that’s all that matters.”
“Why won’t you answer any of my questions?”
“I will, if you ask any questions that I want to answer.”
Someone knocked on the door. Ace threw on a pair of sweat pants and a shirt. She picked up her gun, walked to the side of the door and said, “Yeah?”
“Ace, let me in.”
She relaxed and opened the door. “Duce.”
“That’s it? Duce?” said the man in the wrinkled brown suit. His brown hair was too short, and his eyes were the same color as his suit. Everything about him was overwhelmingly dull and brown.
“What do you want from me?” she sighed.
“Oh, I don’t know, how about, there’s another dead agent and what are we going to do about it?”
“Okay, pretend I said that.”
“Who’s in your room?”
“My cousin. He’s visiting.”
“I don’t think so,” he said, looking toward the couch for evidence of a pillow, or a blanket.
“If you don’t have any news, please go away.”
“Hey,” said Tim, coming out of the bedroom, pushing his arms through his shirt. “Ace, thanks for letting me have the bed last night. I was beat, after the trip. I talked to my mom and she sends her love. I’m going out to get some food and I’ll be back soon. Do you still love blackberry jam?” he asked, messing her hair.”
“Yes, thanks,” she snapped. “You always were a brat.”
“That was you, not me. I was always the good one,” he laughed, nodding at Duce. “Be back soon.”
“That’s what I said. Now, what do you want?”
“You kind of look alike.”
“It’s all in the genes.”
“That wasn’t the Jack of Hearts on your doorstep, it was the Jack of Spades.”
“I thought he was in Italy.”
“That’s what we thought too.”
“Where’s the Jack of Hearts?”
“No idea. The Queen of Clubs is missing as well.”
“I should retire,” said Ace.
“So, what do you think’s going on?”
“Why do we call each other by the names of cards? I mean couldn’t the agency come up with anything better than that? It’s stupid when you think about it. What do they call agent fifty-three?”
“They don’t go over fifty-two. And what is wrong with you?”
“What if none of it’s real?”
“Do you have low blood sugar?”
“You’re acting weird.”
“Fine,” said Ace, putting her gun on the table. “Where was the Queen last seen?”
“At the Art Institute in Chicago.”
“You know how much she likes that place. She goes there a lot. She was seen going in but not coming out. Her dogs are missing as well and no one can pick up her scent.”
“And the Jack of Hearts?”
“Left his Paris apartment, went into the airport and never got on the plane. No trace of him. No one remembers seeing him.”
“Where’s the King of Clubs?”
“In his office. He doesn’t know anything, he was at a baseball game when the Queen disappeared,” said Duce, rubbing his chin.
“Are they still fighting?”
“They are. She wants more money and more recognition. She said she does all the work and he gets all the credit.”
“Everyone knows that,” he said.
“Anyone else missing?”
“Four of Diamonds.”
“Yes, but this time she’s actually gone.”