Chapter 7.9 – Checkmate

Amber stares at an old, dusty portrait she found at the warehouse, as though the subject could speak his name.
 
He is strikingly handsome, and exudes supreme confidence even through the dirt and grime his frame has accumulated over years inside the old warehouse. She spotted the small painting hanging askew on the wall, behind a stack of crates and shipping containers. There is no telling why it was hung there in the first place.
 
The man depicted in the painting smiles slyly at Amber, challenging her to learn more about him. She can almost hear him taunting; asking how she expects to find the identity of a man in a portrait, when she can’t even manage finding information about a living mystery man right in front of her. Amber sniffs defiantly and turns him around to look at the wall.
 
After a moment of sulking, Amber carefully cleans the frame and glass. Then, after several attempts, she manages to capture a good close-up of the portrait using her cell phone camera. She writes yesterday’s date on a sticky-note and a cryptic description of where she found the painting. She then attaches it to the glass, obscuring the man’s mocking eyes.
 
Amber sighs. She removes the sticky note, and looks into the portrait’s eyes. He’s right. She has been going at this with the mind of a child. She has allowed emotional tides and eddies carry her off course. Replacing the sticky note onto the back of the frame, Amber puts the portrait aside, then eagerly checks her email.
 
When she thinks about Mr. Dworkin, it has always been through sympathetic, rose-colored glasses. But since Billy’s near-death experience, Amber has shifted her way of thinking. The changed strategy has yielded her some important clues. As it turns out, her former math teacher had made a career-change into education some years ago. His previous employment as a young man, made him no stranger to the warehouse or to Mr. Jones, Billy’s father.
 
His specialty in that former profession? Con artist.
 
 
Armed with a new attitude and quite a bit of information, Amber makes her weekly visit to the embattled, old man. She has no desire to attack him with the details, so she manipulates her expert subtlety to direct the conversation toward her desired topic. Realizing the strategy too late, Mr. Dworkin becomes aware of the moves that have led him into check. He smiles weakly and comments that she would be quite skilled in his former line of work. The remark does not sit well with Amber, and the hesitation allows him to maneuver out of her well-crafted play.
 
Still very appreciative of his former student, Mr. Dworkin stands, and admits the misdeeds of his youth. The problem with that line of work, he states, is that a sim can never really quit. It hangs like a chain around a sim’s neck their entire life. It is not a question of if, but when the chain is going to be pulled; dragging them back into the thick. Then there is the troubling question of who is at the other end of the chain, doing the pulling.
 
Mr. Jones is responsible for recently bringing him back into the organization to help fight off Brand. Brand likewise recruited him to help fight off Mr. Jones. The cheating scheme was nothing more than a power-trip used by Mr. Jones to demonstrate his authority. Mr Dworkin tells Amber he knew immediately she had been the one to blow the whistle, after she began to show so much interest in him. And so did Brand. The envelope she spirited from him that day was Brand’s idea, and he had no choice but to comply. He states plainly that she has been drawn much deeper into the affair than she realizes, adding that he has already played out his role and has no real information to give her regarding either sim.
 
As though some switch had been flipped inside of him, Mr. Dworkin’s mild-mannered and victimized expression turns to that of a calculating genius. He informs Amber that she is the prize of a rather sick game being played. Any trust she has placed should immediately be regarded as misplaced, and that she should consider herself amply warned.
 
Breaking the overcast silence, he studies the portrait Amber had captured on her camera phone. It takes only one glance for his face to betray the attempt at a concealed smile. He suggests that she need not look farther than her own family album to identify the man. Then, leveling his surprisingly intense gaze at a stunned Amber, Mr. Dworkin tells her flatly that what she takes away from this conversation can trusted as gold. But he adds that she should not expect the same from any future dealings with him.
 
Then, as though the switch had again been flipped, he sits back down to their abandoned chess game, ponders the board with his nervous eyes for a short time, makes a move with perfectly feigned hesitation, and smiles as he announces checkmate.
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3 thoughts on “Chapter 7.9 – Checkmate

  1. Alexandria x3 says:

    Julian! He’s one of my all time favourites. It’d be cool for Amber to find out a bit of her family history. I was hoping he could come back into the story in one way or another.

    Like

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