It all started the day I found the note in my briefcase. I had emptied it out that morning because I seemed to be missing some papers. Perhaps my wife had taken them out of spite when she left me. Stupid b***h.
The note was fairly unobtrusive, and I might not have noticed it if not for the words written on it in bright green ink.
~How about a game?~
Obviously, this freaked me out a bit, but I didn’t worry too much. Maybe one of my two kids slipped it in there on one of the weekends they were here. I hadn’t dumped my briefcase in a while. I sighed and crumpled the note, resolving to let it slide. But I was going to have a serious chat with my daughters about messing with Daddy’s work papers.
I returned home that night to find nothing amiss. No more notes. Offhand, I saw that one of my athletic trophies had been turned backwards, but I thought nothing of it. Perhaps the cleaning lady knocked it askew. I resolved to instruct her to take more care around my trophies.
When I awoke the next morning, I rolled on my side, only to hear a crackling sound… coming from my pillow. Curious, I reached in and brushed my fingers against a piece of paper. The same shade of green ink greeted my eyes.
~Are you having fun yet? I am.~
Okay, what the hell? Who was writing these notes?! It certainly couldn’t be my kids. Their handwriting had never been this good. This was the handwriting of an adult. Seeing as nothing major was missing or wrong, I decided not to involve the police just yet.
Over the next few days, the stalking (what else was I supposed to call it?) only got worse. I kept finding things missing, misplaced, put in the wrong order or moved. Food kept disappearing from my refrigerator, trash got dumped on the floor, and I found more of those notes in that same green ink.
~You seem to be enjoying yourself, Mr. Dubose.~
~It’s your move.~
~Seems as though we’ve reached a stalemate, you and I.~
But it was the last note that chilled my blood.
~Why don’t we raise the stakes a little? Win, and I let you live. Lose… game over.~
I called the police then, but they couldn’t do much. Their searches of the meager, damaged fingerprints they found on the notes and on my things, besides my own of course, indicated that the killer was a fifteen-year-old boy who had disappeared four years ago.
One night, I awoke from a deep sleep because I thought I heard something downstairs. Shrugging it off, I turned over and tried to go back to sleep, only to hear it again. It sounded like… a knife being dragged over a countertop. Annoyed, I got up and headed downstairs to the kitchen. I fancied a midnight snack anyway.
On my way to the kitchen, flashlight in hand, I stepped on something on the landing: another note.
~Mate in three moves.~
I swore and tore it up. In the living room, there was another note propped on the mantelpiece.
~Mate in two moves.~
I felt a trickle of cold sweat run down my spine. Who was doing this to me? And why?
On the door to the kitchen was taped this message: ~Mate in one move.~
I pushed open the door.
The kitchen was empty.
Soft, husky laughter floated throughout the room, and then I saw him. He was standing by the window over the sink, playing with a claw hammer between his gloved hands. As he turned to me, I caught a brief glimpse of gold in the moonlight under the hood of a dark sweatshirt. Was that… the Guy Fawkes mask? Wrong color though…
“Who are you? Why are you doing this?” More laughter, never changing volume or tone. The voice sounded young, like a late teenager. I tried to muster up enough courage to run for my gun safe in my bedroom, but he seemed to sense my intentions and rushed me, knocking me to the ground. Placing a hand over my mouth, he leaned down and whispered, “Checkmate. White wins.” Then he raised the hammer, and before I could scream, brought it down.
I awoke in the hospital, alone except for a sleepy police detective who jerked awake as soon as he heard me groan in pain. Briefly, the detective explained to me that I had been unconscious for several days. I gathered enough strength to ask where my daughters were, and he told me, to my intense relief, that they had been dropped at their mother’s house by an unknown person, whom I could only assume was the mysterious “Checkmate”. I couldn’t understand why he would spare my daughters, except for perhaps, the terrible father and husband I had been.
Upon my arrival home from the hospital, I stumbled into my dark house, wanting nothing more than to sink into my nice hot bath that the housekeeper had waiting. But alas, it was destined not to be so.
On the carpet in the entryway was a small object with a piece of paper attached. With writing in that same damned green ink. I picked it up. It was a wooden chess piece, a black knight if I remembered correctly. And on the paper was one simple word.