The Solitaire Series Reminder: Each week, a story will appear on my blog, and be free to read for one week only. The next story will take its place, and the first story will be available on Amazon and other e-retailers. But if you follow this blog, you can read the stories for free every single week! Read more about the Short Story Deal here.

Throughout the series, there will be collections of stories, and we will even be producing some really cool swag along the way. Watch for contests, prizes, and even some fun “in-person” events!

Counting cards.

To some, it seems like magic.

To others, it is a science, and a skill to be mastered.

For a select few, it is the way they make their living, a skill as valuable as carpentry or accounting, but one that falls solely into one industry: entertainment.

Sure, in part, these few keep the house honest, winning where others can’t, or in places the odds are so long customers would be better served to buy scratch lottery tickets or stand outside in a lightning storm with a kite and a key, hoping to be struck and enlightened.

Beyond those select few, there is an even more elite group, the Keepers. They hold secrets and seek others who also hold those secrets, the secrets hidden in playing cards, special decks, and even occasionally secreted in poker chips. Codes are written and decoded then discarded. These secrets unlock riches, power, and open doors many don’t even know exist.

The Keepers sit at tables higher than kings, places where the status of a world leader means nothing.

They sit, and they gamble, with the highest stakes of all. And no one is ever there, watching. They do what they will, and the rest of the world?

The rest of the world pays the price. Because in their game, the house always wins.

Always.

* * *

As Jack packed his things, the flames from the explosion subsided. Leaving through the parking lot in his own car would be nearly impossible, and that meant Burt, the man in the red hat who had been following him, was stuck too. As much as he hated leaving his Thunderbird behind, it seemed necessary. He could come back for it later, and as long as certain people saw it here, they would assume he remained as well.

He did have a problem, albeit a small one: he needed someplace to go, and couldn’t be sure where he would be safe until he got a message back from his connection regarding his trip back home to L.A.

Any Solitaire property was out, at least he assumed so since someone from their organization appeared to still be after him.

They, or someone like them, had tracked him to the most recent club he’d visited as well. So that was out. He had money, enough of a stake to work with, and he could use an opportunity to expand it anyway, but he’d have to play somewhere he wouldn’t be recognized, at least not right away.

That, given his appearance, was nearly impossible. His entire right side was much thinner than the left, the visible flesh scarred and permanently blackened. And his face? No one who saw his face ever forgot it. Hell, Jack wished he could forget it sometimes.

The glasses and the hat helped in low light, but the moment he sat down at a bar or at a game, he was marked, something that most of the time was both good and bad. In this circumstance, it was bad. Really bad.

He did have one opportunity, a card to play. He sighed.

“C’mon, Boris.” His dog, a gorgeous Doberman by any standard, moved to his side and sat.

He opened a ride-sharing app and entered a destination. The pair headed down to the lobby. With his good left hand, Jack rolled his suitcase behind him, everything of value from the room inside it. There were things missing, items left in his car in the parking lot, but he would return for those later.

He opened the messaging app he’d used not long ago to send a coded message. He didn’t expect an answer. Decoding took time. Still, he hoped for one. But there was nothing.

A small SUV pulled up, and Jack checked the area before getting in. There didn’t appear to be anyone watching him.

Boris followed him in.

“You sure this address is correct?” the driver asked, pointing to the map on the screen set into the dashboard.

“Yep,” Jack said with a glance. “That’s it.”

“Okay,” the driver shrugged, and they headed into one of the seedier parts of Vegas.

The name of the business was Aredelean Limo Service.

This story is now available on Amazon with all the rest of them. See the link below!

I hope you are enjoying reading this series as much as I am. You can the rest of this series on Amazon here! Stay tuned for another FREE story right here next week. I hope to see you then!

Troy Lambert
Troy is a freelance writer, author, and blogger who lives, works, and plays in Boise, Idaho with the love of his life and three very talented dogs.

Passionate about writing dark psychological thrillers, he is an avid cyclist, skier, hiker, all-around outdoorsman, and a terrible beginning golfer.