“Don’t worry,” he said. “This won’t take long.”
That morning, he had walked to work as usual, passing the grey tower-blocks stained black from traffic fumes.
He’d traversed the block as usual, arriving at the grim three-floor shoebox five minutes early, striding through the garishly-lit lobby until he got to his floor.
Nobody had noticed him or paid him any mind.
He walked into the boardroom where they were having the editorial conference and locked the door from the inside.
Before anyone could speak, he’d drawn the pistol from his jacket pocket.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “This won’t take long.”
He elbowed the startled, overweight chairman out of his high-back seat and took his place at the head of the table with the locked door behind him.
He clicked the button under the desk and the window-blinds drew closed. No-one in the office would witness the dumb-show.
They were starting to wake up. He’d expected a panic and attempt to rush past him. If they had, a warning shot would have been necessary.
But no – they just sat there like the stuffed dummies they were.
“He’s got a gun,” the bitch said in her high-pitched voice. She was trying her best not to sound alarmed and failing.
“Well done, sweetheart,” he told her coolly. “You always were quick.”
He pulled an object from his pocket – a magnetic board which he placed carefully on the table before him.
“Do any of you play chess?” he asked casually, keeping the pistol carefully gripped.
“No,” he continued. “Of course you don’t.”
The board was already set up – a few pieces had been displaced but were soon back on their correct squares.
“Listen carefully children. I want you to take notes because questions will be asked at the end of this session. Okay?
“There was this guy called Bobby Fischer, who most of you will never have heard of – google him sometime. In 1956, he played a game of chess when he was a teenager which is really famous if you’re into that sort of thing.
“Now Mr Fischer, he did something unthinkable in this game, something you rarely see done – he sacrificed his queen. You with me so far? And it won him the game.”
The meaning of the words began to sink in.
The bitch squirmed in her chair, eyeing the gun in his hand. The only female in the room.
She tried to speak but the words would not come.
He noted her discomfort and moved a few pieces on his board, sweeping away the black queen and manipulating the other figures.
The white king was checkmated a few moves later in a flurry of knights, bishops and rooks.
“Yep, queen sacrifice,” he spoke the words slowly, enjoying the feel of them on his dry tongue.
It was too much for her. She began shrieking – he couldn’t do that and wouldn’t get away with it and the police would come and they’d take him away and they’d….
He let her carry on. She ran out of steam after a minute or two and her word-flow ceased. She just sat there, molten-eyed and silent.
He eyed her with amusement, as a cat might a toy mouse. He pointed the gun at her face. The hammer cocked.
“And who says it’s for you?”
He spat out the final word.
A split-second later, the barrel was against his temple and there was a deafening boom which echoed off the cold, white boardroom walls.
It was 9.30am exactly.
He had only been dead for a minute when the auto-send e-mail message arrived in the inkboxes of every rival news outfit across the country.
It began like this:
If you are reading this e-mail, it means I am dead, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
I died at 9.30am in the office of my employer, the _______ news corporation, located at _______ Street.
This document contains an attached file outlining my reasons for killing myself and is therefore my final statement.
I hold my employers directly responsible for the stress and ill-health I have experienced over the last _____ years in which I have worked for them and therefore for my death.
I had sought help for my problems on a number of occasions and been denied any meaningful assistance.
Despite this, I am of sound mind and sound body while making this decision. I believe the truth will and must, come out. If my death is required as catalyst for this, so be it.
Why are you getting this? Because my employer has a vested interest in keeping these details quiet since it clearly reflects badly on them.
So the details are all before you, a story for whichever of you decides to use it. Be my guest.
There followed the document, naming names, times, places and sparing not a single detail. It included taped phone conversations and transcripts documenting the immoral, the unethical and of course, the illegal.
At the end of it was a 2D picture of a chessboard, the move list for the Game of the Century (1956) and Bobby Fischer’s face.
The caption underneath read ‘checkmate.’