King Hunt

| 6 | Fun & Trivia

It had been a bad night for Fred, mostly of his own making; but having an man point a gun at him really put things over the top.     

He'd spent most of the past hour playing for a win in a R+B vs. R endgame (ultimately without success) and his brain still hurt as he began to plod home from the chess club. The streets were quiet, the storefronts were dark. Fred began to wonder whether he'd missed the last bus of the night.     

After a block or so of staring at the sidewalk, he closed his eyes, took a breath, and looked up toward the sky, hoping to sort out the all-but-hopeless position that still danced through his brain. A voice behind him, a man's voice, soft but sharp, washed all the pieces away. It called, "Arkady!"    

An altogether different problem now raced through Fred's mind. He could have ignored the voice, or perhaps he could have fled, but pressing questions kept him from executing either plan. Whose was the voice? How did it know his real name?     

Fred's indecision allowed his opponent to force the next move. "Turn around," he said sternly. "Do it slowly." What choice was there?    

Fred's eyes were drawn directly to the gun, a threatening silhouette that seemed a part of a black, gloved hand. Some ten feet separated Fred's heart from the point of that pistol--too far for him to spring at his enemy with any chance of success, too close to hope for much safety in running.

The gunman, large and solidly built, took a step into the light and flashed a cool, practiced smile. "Well, Arkady," he said, "You’ve given us quite a chase, haven't you?"

There could be no mistake. "Sergei!" Fred exclaimed.

Sergei's eyes betrayed no emotion, but he stiffened his gun arm slightly. "Ivan wanted to put a price on your head, to send people scurrying all over Europe to find you. I told him it was too messy, would draw too much attention. No, I told him, 'A man can change his name, his job, his home; but you can never break old habits.' I knew you couldn't stay away from the game for long."

Fred felt the moment coming. This was not a man with whom he could reason, this was not a man he could overpower. Calling for help would only hasten the bullet. His eyes darted as he looked for cover, and his legs began to tense in anticipation of a spring.

"It's ironic, actually." Sergei's smile broadened into one of authentic amusement. "I always told you that ridiculous Bd2 against the Winawer would get you into trouble one day. All I had to do was watch the databases and be patient."

Fred darted back and to his right, arching his body toward the closest alleyway, but the sting he felt in his left side told him he was too late. His legs went limp below him, and his shoulder crashed into the sidewalk. Sergei walked calmly over and knelt down.

"Really," he said, reaching out a hand to pat his dying friend's arm, "If you can't be bothered to shake up your repertoire every now and again, you're just asking for it."

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