Royal Flush: House of Hearts Prologue
The older gentleman with light gray fuzz covering his dark skin held the cards out before him. “It’s your turn CJ, which one will you pick?”
The six-year-old sitting on the other side of the coffee table stared intently at the cards in his grandfather’s hand. With just one card to win, his eyes shifted back and forth trying to decide. He settled for the card on the right and yanked it out with innocent enthusiasm…only to see that it was the Queen of Spades.
“Oh man!” CJ exclaimed frustrated that he had pulled the Old Maid. His grandfather laughed heartily at his grandson’s expense. “That’s not funny!”
Still smiling, CJ’s grandfather motioned to him. “Come now, it’s my turn.”
Seeing this as a chance to get back at him, CJ vigorously shuffled the cards in his hand and gave his grandfather a mischievous smile, one that made the man curious. CJ extended the two cards outward, sure of his impending victory. In response, his grandfather hovered over the pair, and purposely hesitated to pick, letting the anxiety eat away at the boy.
“Grandpa Theo just pick already!” CJ snapped at him.
Paying him no mind Theo’s hand lowered onto the card on CJ’s right: The Old Maid…
Before sliding over and pulling the Queen of Hearts instead.
CJ’s expression went from one of imminent bliss to soul-crushing despair as his grandfather matched that Queen of Hearts with the Queen of Diamonds he was holding onto.
“Guess I win,” Theo said with a wide smile.
“No fair! You cheated!” CJ plopped on the couch behind him and sulked.
“You really think so?” Theo asked him.
CJ nodded confidently.
“Well I guess we won’t find out, now will we?” The older man teased. Theo collected the cards and went across the room to put them back into a nearby drawer.
“Cheater!” CJ exclaimed from his spot.
While across the room, Theo grabbed CJ’s jacket from a nearby chair. “Come, your father should be on his way now.”
“But I don’t want to go home.” CJ protested. “Can’t I spend the night?”
“I’m afraid not, Grandpa has some important matters to attend to. But how about this? How about this Saturday we go and see Grandpa’s pals in the City? And if you behave yourself, I’ll even bring my saxophone, so we can play something for you. Sound good?”
CJ’s eyes widened with glee, flipping around to the white and gold saxophone leaning against a cabinet full of old chinaware.
“I will take that as a yes.” Theo smiled, hugging his grandchild.
CJ pulled back and the dangling pendant on his grandfather’s neck drew his attention. A gold chain held the star-shaped medal which housed a white diamond at the heart of it. CJ didn’t know why, but there was something special about it. “Grandpa Theo?”
“Are you ever gonna tell me the story about that?”
Theo looked down and covered the glistening diamond on the pendant. “Maybe when you’re older.”
“Does that mean no?”
He patted the boy on the head. “No, that means ‘when your older.’”
The pair were alerted by the sound of the doorbell ringing. Theo led CJ to the door and opened it, finding on the other side a younger man, in his late twenties. Despite the lack of facial hair, the resemblance he shared with Theo was hard to miss. He closed his umbrella and stepped inside.
“When did it start raining?” Theo closed the door behind the man while the latter wiped his shoes on the mat.
“Came out of nowhere. But you know, much rather have rain then snow.” The man sat his umbrella inside the bin near the front door.
“Ain’t that the truth,” Theo commented. “Alright my boy, go grab your jacket.”
“Can we stay a few more minutes Dad?” CJ dropped on his knees and started to beg.
“You got five minutes. Your mother wants you home before the weather gets any worse,” CJ’s father responded.
With the way CJ reacted, it was as though the man said five years. The little boy excitedly raced off in the direction of the saxophone, leaving the two men at the door.
The man turned to his father. “Talk to you in the kitchen for a sec?”
Theo nodded and led him into the kitchen, passing the boy who mindlessly pressed keys on the saxophone.
“Coffee, Lance?” Theo offered.
“Take it to go. After I drop CJ off I gotta head back out there.” Lance said, taking a seat at the table
“How is Althea taking the news?”
“Heartbroken, as is the rest of the House of Hearts. Armstrong from the House of Clubs is taking over the investigation into what happened to the King of Hearts. Has Knights from Tottenville to Yonkers and everything in between.”
“Remember, not to stick your nose too far in.” Theo told him. “We already have enough on our plate.”
“I know, I know.” Lance acknowledged. “It’s like one thing after another with us.”
Theo sighed and took a long sip of his coffee. “Danielle is heartbroken, but with Armstrong they’ll oversee the progress of the House until Kenneth’s heir is old enough to take on his position.”
Lance leaned back and crossed his arms. That’s rich. Marissa didn’t want anything to do with this and turned all her focus on keeping their fortune afloat. You really think they’re gonna pass this onto little Scarlett? Have her become the next Queen of Hearts?
“In light of recent events, Danielle will see to it. Her other grandchild Dante has already begun his training as the Jack of Diamonds. Before you know it, it’ll be time for the next generation to take on the mantle.”
Lanced sighed and looked over to CJ, the latter continued to be fascinated by the sax, unaware of the conversation in the other room. “Going to be perfectly honest here, this is a lot of weight to put on a pair of kids like them.”
“I know. But for their sake and the world’s, we don’t have much of a choice in the matter.” Theo responded. That’s what it means to be a Knight, after all.”
Lance nodded, reluctantly agreeing with him. Theo looked towards CJ’s direction and took a deep breath, as though the next few words were to be heavy.
“Lance, I’m going to need a favor from you.”
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© 2019 Nolan Johnson