The sun beamed down on them as they sat outside on the outskirts of a park in New York City. It was the place that people came to find good chess competition. He emptied the pieces out of his brown paper bag as they slid onto the table and banged into one another. He set each piece up carefully, first the King and Queen, then the Bishops, the Knights, the Rooks and finally the Pawns. When he placed the clock on the side of the table, she walked up to him and took a seat. He looked at her with a haughty smirk as she glared down at the chessboard.
She wore jeans and a black, sleeveless shirt with a small bag strapped over her shoulder. Her smile was alluring and had been the downfall of many men before her. Her lips were full like moons at the winter solstice. Her eyes were barely visible behind her dark shades while her brown skin was as smooth as soft, chocolate ice cream. The man shook his head, “Are you lost, little lady?” She didn’t pay attention to his sarcasm as she nodded to the clock, “Whenever you’re ready.”
He was a shark, one of the best players that this park had seen in quite some time, but she was by no means intimidated by his reputation. She enjoyed the strategy of the game just as much as anybody else. The way everything is set up to attack the king slowly or quickly with tactical means. She went in for the kill if it was there every time. She hardly ever waited because patience wasn’t her strong suit. If she had to, she would wait for the kill but for the most part, she wanted to pounce as soon as her opponent made his mistake. This was her life but to him, it was just a game, and that is where he made the mistake.
“You first, Madame.”
He extended his hand and with that, she picked up her first piece and slapped the clock. Pawn, E4. Pawn, D4. Pawn, C3. She was playing a gambit, and he fell right into it. Moments later, his fallacious smirk slowly began to fade as she pushed him into taking pieces so that she could get into a better attacking position. A small crowd started to gather as he looked at her. She folded her arms just under her chest as her breasts sat perfectly on top of her forearms. She was built like a model, and every man knew it. Most times, they were caught off guard when she showed what she could do, and that’s what she loved the most.
“Being underestimated is a position that I’d prefer to be in. The more your victim underestimates you, the more options you have to kill them.”
Words she lived by. During each of his moves, she shifted her head slightly to the right, picking up on every sound the piece made when it came in contact with the board. She was a student of the game. When she was younger, her father blindfolded her and made her play games against him.
“Focus on the sound of the board. You have to learn how to see your opponent’s moves before they do. You have to see the whole board in your mind before you can take apart your adversary. Always remain two steps ahead of them.”
It wasn’t the same since he passed away and even thought she was responsible for it, she had good reason to do it. Things changed a lot as she grew up in her parent’s home and that was one of the things she had to deal with. She had to deal with his death on her terms and most of the times; they came in the form of nightmares.
She tapped her finger across the surface of the table as his clock ticked further and further down. He simultaneously looked between her and the board as his hands started to shake and people around began to gasp at the fact that he was on the verge of being dismantled by this attractive young woman. She wasn’t from around here. She was too quiet to be a New Yorker. Too reserved. Too calm. Her accent wasn’t gritty. He makes his move, and she smiles. She could have ended the game, but she wanted him to suffer. She enjoyed it. She moved her Bishop down and took his Queen and with that move, you could feel the torment shooting from his soul. He flipped his King over onto the board as the people around stood with their mouths open.
It wasn’t completely because he had lost because, even with his skill, he has seen defeat a few times before in that very park. What caused everyone to remain with looks of unbelief plastered onto their faces were her eyes. The coolness of the gray that covered her iris’s when she removed her glasses. The way she looked at her opponent with eyes full of nothing and winked at him as if she could see everything in front of her. It was the same look she had given the men before she ended their lives. Her beautiful smile was where they underestimated her. The perfect shape of her lips coated with black lipstick, the complexion that wrapped around her body flawlessly. The beauty mark that sat right in the middle of her cheek and made a small trail to the edge of her eyes. Two long french braids hung down from both sides of her head. Her pulchritude was uncanny, and it hid who she was. Moments later, she got up and walked away from the table, parting the crowd with each step like the red sea. She was dangerous. Much more dangerous than anything that chess table had ever seen.
“Hey Dad, how are you?”
“I’m good, sweetheart. Here, have a seat. Your mother just finished up with breakfast.”
He slid his plate of bacon, eggs, and pancakes in front of her as she sat down at the table.
“No, Dad. I don’t want to take your plate.”
“You don’t have a choice.”
He smiled and got up from the table to fix two more plates. He was that kind of guy. A loving father who was willing to sacrifice his things just to make sure his two women were ok. Jade Bowen was the only child of two well-off parents. Her Father was a defense attorney, and her mother made her living as a surgeon. There wasn’t much that the family couldn’t get if they wanted it, but they did their best not to spoil Jade, and so far, they did well. She was seventeen and just a few months away from graduating High School and had aspirations of going off to College to major in pharmaceuticals and follow the path of her mother. She was fascinated with repairing wounds and sewing up deep wounds were guilty pleasures for her. The blood didn’t make her queasy the way it did her father. She had a strong stomach, and her mother was the same way. Her parents were pleased because they wanted her to understand that she should have to work for everything she got, just as they did.
Moments later, her mother came down the stairs. She was a more mature version of her mother. Her body filled out in a way that her daughter patiently waited for. “If that is my mom,” she thought to herself, “Then I know my body will be here sooner or later.” She walked into the kitchen with her house robe on and tied it once she got to the table.
“Oh, well thank you for fixing our plates, Jade.”
Her father turned around as he pulled juice from the refrigerator, “Oh, so Jade just automatically gets my credit?” he said as he placed the juice on the table. Her mother laughed, “I knew you were going to throw a hissy fit! I was just playing; I knew that you made it. Jade’s lazy behind just got up!” She leaned over and kissed her daughter on the cheek, then walked to her husband and put her arms around him as she pushed her lips against his. They had been married for thirteen years, and most people would say that was an unlucky number. The Bowen’s didn’t believe in luck or anything like that, but that thirteenth year of marriage is when things started to become unhinged for them.
On the subway, she took a seat right next to an older white man. She folded her hands across her legs as the train glided across the tracks. The lights flashed into the car every few seconds as she took a book out of her purse and ran her fingers across the small dots on the pages. The older black man with silver hair looked down at her book, then towards her. As she turned a page, she spoke, “The Invisible Man. I love this book. Have you read it?” The older man adjusted his glasses, “I have. I have read it, indeed.” He paused for a few moments, “Have you ever wanted to become invisible?” Suddenly, she remembered that same thirteenth year of marriage, and it was at that moment that she wished she was invisible.
Her father lost his job because he lost a case that he was forced to take. His confidence was sky high at the time, and he hadn’t seen a loss in the courtroom in a few years, but even he wasn’t sure that he could get a man off for a double murder. It was the governor’s son, and the case was as highly profiled as it could get, and when the jury came back with the verdict, it was like a pillowcase of bricks collided into his chest. From that point, he was let go of the firm and blackballed in the state. He couldn’t find another job as a lawyer if he sold his first born and the thought crossed his mind more than a few times. He was unraveling before his family’s eyes, and as the time passed, he picked up a bottle more than he did a phone to search for jobs. Jade’s mother, Allison, was become weary by the day, but she did her best to hold it together even though things were becoming tight on them. They had tapped out of all of their savings and started dipping into Jade’s college fund.
She fixed dinner on her day off as Maurice stumbled into the kitchen. She sighed when he walked up to her and put his arms around her waist. “Maurice, not now. I’m tryin’ to get dinner done.” He kept trying to kiss her until she sucked her teeth and spoke with more attitude, “Maurice! I said not now!” He stumbled as he took a few steps away from her. His speech was slurred, “What… what are you talkin’ about not now? You’re… you’re MY wife and I can… I can do whatever I please to you. Now, come here and let me get a kiss.” He walked over to her again, but this time, she lifted her elbow and pushed it into his chest, “I said not now, Maurice! I need to finish cooking!”
It may have been the stress that built up over the past seven months of unemployment, but now, the look in his eyes was much different than it was before. The man that was full of love had become bitter. Angry. Resentful. He bottled it all inside of him when he should’ve released it because now, it had the propensity to come out at the wrong moment. He had an unbridled sea of emotions swirling around inside of him that was just waiting to be released. He hadn’t been able to control them and for the most part, he had become a wild card.
“What did you just say?”
“I told you, I need to-”
She couldn’t finish her sentence before she felt a hand as cold as winter cement across her face. She fell backward into the stove and burned her hand on one of the eyes as she braced herself.
“You… you don’t talk back to me.”
He said as every word left his tongue as if it weighed one hundred pounds. He lifted his hand and sent it crashing down into her face again but this time, she shoved him back into the table and knocked the dinner plates onto the ground. Just then, Jade ran into the kitchen in the midst of the commotion and saw her mother bleeding from her lip, and her father tumbled onto the ground next to the shattered glass.
She ran to her aid as her father struggled to get back to his feet.
“I’ll teac… I’ll teach you to put your hands on me again.”
When he got to his feet, he charged forward again, but they both moved out of the way. They had been through this before, though. This wasn’t the first time he had put his hands on her. It had nearly become a weekly occurrence for the past two months, and Jade was tired of it. She was tired of seeing her mom hurt, and her mother was tired of making up excuses for the cuts and bruises she had all over her body. Only one person can have so much misfortune happen to them at once, and things had become difficult to explain away. He walked over to Jada, “Mo.. move out of the way, Jada. This is between me an… me and yo’ mama.”
Jada knew what was coming. Ever since she knew she wasn’t going to be able to go to College, she wanted to go to the army instead. She felt she would be able to make the most money in the quickest way to help her mother as much as she could. She took courses on how to handle guns and enrolled herself in multiple self-defense classes to help her hone in on her hand to hand combat. She stepped in-between her mom and dad to help protect her mother as the rage built behind his glare. He took his hand and thrust it into her chest. She fell into the stove and smacked her head forcefully into the corner of it. Jada grabbed her head as she started to lose consciousness and her mother rushed over to her. Maurice grabbed Allison by the hair and threw her backward into the wall and slowly started walking to her with a staggered limp as if he was a zombie.
With the little strength she had, Jada pulled herself up and grabbed a knife from the drawer. Maurice lifted his hand and sent it crashing down into Allison over and over, “This is th… this is the last time I’ma… I’ma tell you about talkin’… talkin’ back to me!” Pow! He sent another hand down onto her cheek, and suddenly, he stopped and looked at his stomach to see the tip of a long steak knife sticking out of it. Soon after that, blood began to trickle down his mouth as Allison looked up in horror. Maurice gasped for air as more blood fell from his mouth and he dropped to his knees. The very last thing Jada saw was her father on her back, choking on his blood. Moments later, she passed out.
Back on the train, she turned slightly towards the older white man, “Once. One time. But I have no regrets.” She quickly turned towards her book and continued reading as the train came to a stop. The older man got up and got off as she closed her book and trailed him like a shadow. He didn’t suspect a thing, and that’s how she saw it in her head before it happened. She studied him. She knew he was a fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson and flashing the book in front of him would force him to speak to her so she could get the tone of his voice. She didn’t plan on needing it, but she was told to always see the whole board before she made her move. Cover every angle. She could tell you his age, height, and complexion and she hadn’t laid an eye on him. She was good at what she did, and that’s why she was on. She was a ghost.
He headed up the elevator to his office building and went into his corner room. When he took his suit jacket off and hung it on the rack, he walked to the window that overlooked downtown. He put his hands behind his back as his gray hairs reflected the sunlight that beamed down onto him. He cleared his throat, “I didn’t think you would be coming this soon.” He fixed his glasses as his reflection in the glass window shined back at him and seemingly out of nowhere, Jade emerged. “But you knew I would be coming.” He laughed, “Yes. Yes, I did. However, I did not suspect that you would have been on the train with me.” She walked closer to his desk as he continued standing with his hands behind back. He was wealthy himself, the owner of the largest grocery chain in the world. However, his desire to stay connected to the common people was astounding. He rode the train, the subway, and the city bus at least once a week so he wouldn’t become so haughty and high-minded. It worked as good as anything else could have as his workers, even starting, were paid two dollars above minimum wage and qualified for healthy benefits only after three months of employment. He was one of the good guys, but the industry saw him as a bad apple. He wasn’t falling in line with what the rest of the men in his position did and therefore, he knew the end was coming. He knew that not falling in line with the status quo and succumbing to the powers that be; there would be a stiff penalty. He was prepared, though.
She reached into her bag and placed two items on his desk; a poison that he could ingest and send him away quietly or a double-edged blade that would sever his head from his body with little to no force applied. Her escape was already planned. She walked his office many times on his lunch breaks without him noticing that she had been there. He was positioned on the fifteenth floor, but she scoped out an exit through the ventilation system that led right outside. She would grapple down the building and come down through the sunroof of a car driven by another member of the agency, and they would be gone before anybody could blink twice. They were professionals.
“Jade, is that what you want to do?”
He spoke, not once turning towards her. It was slightly jarring that he said her name. However, she wasn’t deterred. She wasn’t going to dive off into unnecessary conversations. She was there to do a job, and that was it.
“This is business, Albert. Nothing personal. I have two options for you; quick and easy or slightly painful.”
The sun beamed down on him as he squinted his eyes and remained in his position, “You know, I pride myself on the things that I do for my employees. I respect them and in turn, they are willing to work for me and help keep my business afloat. I understand that-” she interrupted him, “Albert, please.” He slowly turned towards her with a smile on his face and his stomach round and plumped like a globe was stuffed in his shirt. His dark skin enveloped his body as if he was dipped in a dark, oily river as he looked at the options in front of him. He picked up the small bottle and opened the lid, “Temazepam,” he said as he spread the pills on the table. Jade stood in front of him with the blade in her hand, a silenced 9-millimeter pistol in the other. He looked at her and smiled, “Ah, three choices now, huh?” He didn’t seem to be worried, not even in the slightest fashion. Death is something that he was prepared for ever since he took his stance. His will was prepared, and all of his businesses were in order. He picked up a few pills and walked over to his water dispenser, “Would you like a drink?” She stood there silently, her dark shades facing in his direction. “Just being hospitable,” he said as he pressed the release button for the water. It splashed into his paper cup, and he nearly filled it to the brim, then walked back to his desk and took a seat. Her head moved with each step he took until he was perched in his chair. She tightened her finger on the trigger as Albert tested her patience. He looked up to her, “I’ll be sure to tell Allison hello for you when I get there.” Suddenly, she paused, and the chances of that happening when she was in the midst of a job were unheard of, but right now, she was frozen.
“Baby, I’m alright. I just need a little more time to recover.”
The machine in the hospital beeped right next to her bed as Jade stood by her mom, stroking her hand delicately to calm her anxiety. Even though she told her she was fine, Jade knew the truth. She could feel emotions better than most people could read faces. Her senses seemed to enhance weeks after she lost her vision. “I’m here, Mama. I’m not going anywhere.” Five years after Allison’s husband was killed, she was diagnosed with malignant cancer that was rapidly eating away at her insides. The doctors said that she didn’t have many more days to live, however, the time she spent in the hospital was as pleasant as anyone’s last days could be. She was bombarded with flowers and balloons almost on a daily basis just to show that she was appreciated. Albert had grown quite fond of her in the past few years. Although she wasn’t making herself available by any means, he still pursued her and, in fact, he was seeking to make her his bride. Jade knew all of this, but business is business.
She stood in front of him as he took a deep breath and leaned his head back with the pills in the palm of his hand. Suddenly, he stopped and tilted his head forward as he put the cup of water back on the table. “You know what,” he said, “You’re going to have to-” and before he could finish, she sent a shot from her silenced pistol that went through his forehead and out of the glass behind him. She was through the ventilation system before his body hit the ground.