16.1: A Game of Chess

My fingers burned at the touch of the cold metal. I was unsure if it was welcoming my curiosity, or rejecting it entirely.

In my mind, I was contemplating how foolish my hopes were. Why the hell would my parents leave a steel case underneath a bed of an abandoned hotel? The thought slipped my mind immediately as my fingers began to pull away the shell. I had given in to the mystery inside this box.

Solana peered through the crack, tilting her head inquisitively. She was just as interested as I was, equally as eager to pry between the shell.

Even with my piqued curiosity, I mentally prepared myself for the incoming disappointment. Once again, I doubted my search and my resolve.

I quickly separated the shell, which nearly busted its hinges. The conflicting emotions within me were eating at me, so I got the anticipation over quickly before my doubt and willpower swallowed me.

Inside was several small objects, as well as a flock of dust bunnies. A small wad of money sprang up when I opened it. It was tied by a single band, marked with the amount: two hundred fifty dollars.

I tumbled it around in my hands. Maybe there was a note hidden in with the money, something. Until I made a full revolution in my hands, there were two letters written in a dark green marker, almost black. The letters read: E.O.

A set of initials instantly came to mind. And I knew exactly who they belonged to.

Solana browsed the case from over my shoulder. “Are those…?”

I nodded, “Elijah Oliveira.” Looks like we were on the same wavelength.

“No way!” Solana cheered, “So this does belong to your parents!”

For some reason, the gravity of this discovery didn’t properly resonate with me. We found something. We actually found something.

I swiftly pocketed the money and thumbed through more of the box’s contents. In one of the corners was a figure made of mahogany. A chess piece—a rook to be exact. It felt rough, certainly crafted from wood.

Solana eyed the rook, then raised an eyebrow, “What? You come from a family of chess virtuosos or something?”

“My dad always had a fascination with chess,” I chuckled as the memory unearthed itself, “He tried to teach me, but I was so terrible at it that he eventually gave up.”

“Oh come on, how bad could you have been? You were a child, after all.”

“Never let me lead anyone when I go on a job, ok?”

Solana giggled, “Let a rookie like you lead a job? Wasn’t counting on it.”

I rotated the rook in my fingers, hoping to uncover any other memories that may be lying dormant in my head. However, I found something even more bizarre.

Underneath the rook was a hole. The piece had been hollowed out. It was a crude job, with serrations on the inner rim. Something was rolled up inside of the furrowed rook. A small piece of paper, it seemed like.

I pulled the paper from the hole, then twisted it open like a scroll. It was still very small, probably the size of my pinky finger.

On the sheet was incredibly fine print, barely legible. The font was serifed, probably done on a computer. I struggled to make out the words, but I tried my best to read them to Solana:

Our rook may have been captured,
but so long as our pawn reaches behind enemy lines,
we will return to the battlefield gloriously,
where the pawn and rook will fight as one.

The End

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