Checkmate

Actor had found it in a locked cabinet, probably put there for safekeeping. The lock had done its job for almost a month, three days longer than the doors to the library where it was located. Actor had asked Casino who, proud of his talent and especially since it was Mr. La-Ti-Dah asking, had set to it and opened it with a grand flourish. Inside the cabinet Actor found a sterling silver pen and pencil set, a monogramed sterling letter opener with the family crest, assorted papers, and an inlaid mahogany box containing a set of hand carved chess pieces. He reasoned that if the pieces were here then the board must be nearby. He checked under dust cloths and found the table. It was a beautiful walnut table with inlaid chess board and two matching chairs.

Two days later the con man was sitting staring at the board, playing against himself, when the Lieutenant entered. "Do you play?" he asked before Garrison could speak.

"The door was locked for a reason." The officer stood, one hand on the knob, and a scowl on his face.

"Was it?" he asked innocently. "These old locks have been known to fail over time."

"I'll have to have it fixed. Meanwhile, we have a mission."

It was a week later when he received his answer, yes, the Lieutenant played Chess. Thus began their nightly games though the board was moved to the cons room. At first the others took an interest gathering around to watch the board being set up, asking questions. They pulled up chairs to watch. Casino had a rudimentary knowledge but not the interest or the patience. Goniff lost interest when he saw it was not played like checkers. He asked for a checker board and he and Casino began to play. They asked Chief but he shook his head. Instead the Indian sat nearby and cleaned his knife or practiced releasing it from the wrist band he wore. They fell into a routine that continued between missions.

Several months later Actor returned to their room and saw Chief looking at the board. As soon as he heard Actor he moved aside. Actor thought about where Chief sat when they played. He was always close by but did not appear to be watching. When Garrison arrived to continue the game, Actor noted the Indian's position. He sat not facing directly but turned about thirty degrees. He could still see the board. Occasionally he turned and looked directly at the table. Was he watching?

Before their next game the conman approached his leader while the later was alone and discussed what he wanted to do. Later they settled in to play. Seven moves in Actor moved his knight ahead four squares and waited.

Sure enough, Chief's head twitched and he stared at the board frowning, then at Actor and then Garrison before looking back to the table. They had their answer. "My mistake," said Actor and he corrected the move. Chief was watching and learning.

The next evening Garrison had been delayed in London so Actor carefully approached Chief. He knew if he challenged him to a game he would be rebuffed so ever the con man he said, "I am going to miss my game with the Warden. Do you play?" He suddenly looked guilty. "I apologize. I neglected to ask you." By apologizing he put himself in Chief's debt. Had it worked? He watched as Chief considered how to answer. The Italian could see he wanted to but was afraid so he made the decision for him. "Here, come. I'll show you some basics." He was pleased when he saw the Indian start to follow.

Actor soon learned just how much Chief had been paying attention when the American set his end of the board up correctly and made good opening moves. His style was very much like Garrison's but more cautious.

Now that it was out in the open Chief took to sitting and watching when the two older men played. Whenever Garrison was unavailable Chief took his place. He was still a cautious player but he was improving though he avoided playing against his leader for some time. Actor assumed that with Chief's respect for the officer that he was afraid to disappoint him by playing badly. In fact Chief was so badly flustered the first time Garrison asked him, that he missed an opportunity and was quickly defeated. He never made that mistake again.