The Ace of Spades

--EKB

A seedy bar, somewhere on the outskirts of Houston. Well after midnight, and well past the point of “one too many.”

The two men sat at a small, round wooden table in the furthest, darkest corner of the bar, a deck of cards between them.

To the unknowing passers-by, the pair might have been a couple of run-of-the-mill bikers passing through, otherwise unremarkable to the untrained eye. They would not have known that the man closest the wall--clad in black leather, jet-black hair falling over his shoulders--was none other than the Lord of Darkness, the Undertaker. Across from him, inconspicuous in jeans and a muscle shirt, sat his acolyte, Bradshaw.

Their game of choice that night was blackjack, and it was not until later in the game that the stakes had grown decidedly more serious--best three out of five. As of the moment, they were two and two. Leaning coolly back in his chair, the Lord of Darkness crossed his large, tattooed arms over his chest and peered expectantly at the acolyte.

“Your deal, Bradshaw.” The dark-haired man, Bradshaw, looked up, meeting the kohl-lined, soul-stealing green eyes of his master.

“Yes, m’lord.” He cut the deck and shuffled, stealing a glance at the Undertaker, watching him run a hand through his hair, sweeping it back from his face. The fact that he looked as unruffled, as undaunted as he did, Bradshaw feared, was not a good omen. At least, not for him. His shifted uneasily in his seat before questioning, “Should we name our terms before I deal?” The look on the Undertaker’s face was unnervingly predatory, the smirk of a stealthy cat closing in on the unsuspecting canary.

“If I win,” he said, “I entitle myself to ask you one question, which you must answer truthfully.” Had this statement come from anyone else, Bradshaw could not imagine he would have been as vexed as he found himself to be. He bit down on his lower lip, swallowed hard. “And you?” The Deadman’s eyes were on Bradshaw again, searching. “What are your conditions?”

“You’ll find out if I win.” The Undertaker arched one dark, pierced eyebrow in response.

“Fair enough,” he said with a nod. “Proceed.”

Bradshaw dealt--two cards down, two cards up on the table between them. Facing up, on the Undertaker’s side, was the ten of spades. He saw the Deadman peer at the card beneath, saw the smirk play at the corners of his mouth. “I’ll stay,” he announced, not without triumph. Bradshaw winced. Bastard’s probably got a damn ace hiding under there. He glanced apprehensively down at his own hand; the card he had showing was the queen of hearts. He drew in a deep breath and lifted the corner to read the one beneath--his stomach doing a flip-flop as he did.

His other card was the ace of spades.

“So will I.”

“You show first.” Bradshaw did, and the Undertaker did not so much as bat an eye. “Impressive.” With that, he turned his second card, revealing the jack of clubs. Bradshaw had won, beating him by a single point. “Very impressive, indeed.” His gaze came level with the acolyte’s. “Any other hidden talents you possess that I should know about?”

“I guess that depends on who you’re asking.”

“I see.” A little half-smile flitted across his face, and Bradshaw had to marvel. For a man who had just lost a card game to his servant, the Deadman was looking far too amused for his own good. “Well, Bradshaw, it would appear the devil gets his due. Name the terms of my surrender. What is it that you want?”

Bradshaw didn’t speak. For a long moment, he sat still in his chair, unmoving. Then, an odd thing happened that surprised even him.

Had anyone been watching that dark back corner of the room, they would have seen Bradshaw stand and lean across the table, and capture the Undertaker’s mouth in a strong, wanton kiss. More importantly, they would have seen the Undertaker place a hand on the back of Bradshaw’s neck and pull him closer as he returned the eager touch of his lips. When they parted, the Lord of Darkness smirked. Unwittingly, Bradshaw had answered his question--the one he’d intended to ask had he been the one to win. “A kiss, Bradshaw? That was what you wanted from me?”

Bradshaw felt his face flush, felt his palms begin to sweat.

“It’s not all I wanted from you, m’lord.”

Something sparked in the Dark Lord’s eyes then, white lightning racing dangerously against those volatile grey-green irises. A moment later, he rose from the table. He stopped directly next to Bradshaw’s chair, one heavy hand coming to rest upon his shoulder. His voice was suddenly right in his ear, velvet undertones intermingling with promises of pleasures Bradshaw had only imagined in his most illicit, sordid dreams.

“Why don’t you and I get the hell out of here.” He did not pose this as a question. His hand lingered a moment longer before he moved past Bradshaw, heading toward the door. Without a moment’s hesitation, Bradshaw rose and followed.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he had to wonder if he were truly the one who had won that night.

FIN