Checkmate

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Cole rocked back and forth in his chair on the porch, as he did many evenings since he retired. His hair, that had once echoed his name, had turned silver, and the hands that crafted the seat had grown wrinkled and shaken. Never again could he use them to create such fine work.

His home sat on acres, where he could sit undisturbed as long as he liked. Accompanying him on the porch was a table. Atop it sat the small fuel lamp that softly illuminated the area, a pad of paper and pen, and a chess board.

He had waited many years for this evening to come. He held an unopened envelope on his lap. It had been a long time since Cole had found the reason or will to get dressed, and spent most days in a robe and pajama’s. A dull police’s badge pulled heavily on the thin fabric, pinned to his chest.

He rocked a time or two more before sighing heavily and picking up the package. Unsteadily, both from nature’s trembles and his own anticipation, he tugged on the paper, unsticking the glue and tearing it slightly.

As he expected, a chess piece fell out. He thumbed it for a moment, inspecting it. He had finally received the king. He placed the totem in its home on the chess board. He had only the black pieces that had been sent to him one by one over the years. The set was complete, and it could only mean one thing. It was checkmate.

After the king had been united with his troop, Cole took up the paper and pen and began to write.

It has been sixteen years since I committed my crime. I am reminded every year on the anniversary of it by a chess piece sent in the mail. As if I could forget. They may as well be nails in my coffin.

After an already long, and uneventful career, my life forever changed. That night started out routine enough. I was working road patrol during the graveyard shift. My partner and I were laughing, joking, and eager to see some action.

We had ridden together for nearly three years. You get to know a man on a whole other level when you spend so much time together. We may as well have been brothers. Or, at least, that’s how I had seen it.

A car sped by us as dizzying speeds. We immediately gave chase. I was hesitant and surprised at how quickly they pulled over, once we caught up.

My hand on my gun, I cautiously approached the driver’s side. Mike, my partner, hung back and covered me. He was at the ready, as well.

“Get out of the car!” I yelled to the driver.

He did not, but instead moved around inside. It was dark, and I could not see what he was doing.

“Put your hands up and get out now!” I boomed again.

The door opened slowly, and the man began to emerge. Man. It was nothing but a boy, hardly old enough to drive. But I remained on edge. Children were not children anymore. This kid could be capable of anything. He was dressed all in black and looked exhausted. I could tell that he had been up to no good.

As I approached him, ready to be relieved, he took off running. He sprinted into the open field that lined the highway. My partner and I both ran after, weapons now drawn.
He turned to look back at us as he was fleeing. I saw something in his hand. Something shiny reflected the moon, and it was aimed at my partner.

Fearing the worst, I opened fire. Mike. Oh Mike. He had run into the wrong place at the wrong time. The bullet hit him, through and through. It could not have pierced his heart more accurately if I had tried.

He fell to the ground with a hard thud and no attempt to catch himself. I knew instantly that he was dead. The boy looked stunned. Rage washed over me, and I fired again, even though he was no longer running.

My bullets lodged in his body, and he dropped as well. I went over to insure that he was no longer a threat. I timidly went towards the boy. In my whole career, I had never had to fire my weapon. And certainly had never killed.

To my horror, I discovered that the object in his hand was his cell phone. It glowed with a text message. Against procedure, I picked it up, and read it.

It was to his mom:
Sorry I’m late! Please, don’t ground me. The play practice ran super long. I’ll be home soon!

This is why he was dressed in black. Why he was speeding. He ran because he truly was a kid who just didn’t want to be in trouble. My partner was dead, this child’s future stolen, all by my hand.

I covered it up. I planted a gun, said the boy had killed Mike. His parents were mystified and disgusted and adamantly denied it possible. But it was passable, and I was free from responsibility.

But someone, somehow, knew the truth, and has been playing with me ever since. This is the final piece. He’s coming for me now. But, just as I can no longer live with this guilt anyway, I refuse to give him the satisfaction of finishing his game.

To my family, and that of the boy, and Mike, I’m sorry.

Cole placed the notepad back on the table. He went inside and retrieved the gun that had ended those two lives. Placing it to his temple, he would end one more. He rocked back and forth in the chair as he enjoyed his last sunrise.

As he swayed in place, he closed his eyes. He thought of the peace and was grateful that the game would finally end. Then, he pulled the trigger.

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