Never 'Just' a Game.
There were hundreds of people in the park but the two figures saw and acknowledged each other threw the crush of bodies.
They made their way past children and old people, lovers walking arm in arm. Everyone they passed felt either a chill or elation as they brushed past. The two figures made their way to the rough centre of the park where games tables had been set aside .
One wore a tailored black suit and moved with the litheness of a born predator, the other a white suit that seemed at one glance brand new and the next almost threadbare. They chose a table with a checker board on it and sat facing each other. A small nod of the head from each the only greeting that was needed.
The first man placed the intricate metal box he carried to his left side and reverently opened the lid. His black eyes scanning the interior with something approaching fondness.
Inside was lined with deep crimson velvet, the contents covered with a single piece of the material. He moved it with something of a flourish; a thing that he knew was foolish but allowing himself the pleasure anyway.
Deep black game pieces made of indeterminate material rested in their own indentations within the box each piece seeming to radiate an aura all their own. The sheen was the colour of the deepest pits of the earth where the light of day never shone. They seemed to swallow whatever light touched them making them appear dark and somehow sinister. He reached in with well manicured hands and started to arrange them on his side of the board, his clean shaven face cracking a slight smile as he did so.
The second figure watched with supreme patience as the last of the pieces was placed down and then placed his own box to his right. In a stark contrast to his opposites own container his was much more...simple.
The box was made of wood, a plain grain covering the surface. The only concession to individualism being the myriad tiny lettering burned into the sides. It was a writing as old as time and the only two beings that would ever be able to read it were facing each other.
He opened it and removed the thin cloth that was inside.
Twelve intricately made pieces stood upright within created from the same wood as the box. Each figure was, for want of a better word, perfect. They looked as though they had been carved with exquisite care and attention to the last detail.
The figure started to place them on the opposing squares to his opponent.
His stormy grey eyes never left the pieces as he placed them down one at a time. He didn't smile but his face showed signs of concern and maybe sadness at something only he would ever know. He placed the last piece and sat back in his chair.
The figure in black put a hand to the inside of his jacket and pulled out a silver coin. Larger and heavier than any modern coin would ever be. He deftly placed it on his thumb and flicked it into the air sparks shooting from his fingernail as it scrapped against the coins side.
He could have coerced the coin in mid spin but somehow found the notion of 'fair play' in this instant amusing. That and not cheating at the game set before them was the only time he was acquiesce to such base instincts.
'Heads', said the man in white.
The coin flashed down and landed perfectly flat on the table top in the centre of the board. It didn't roll or tremble as it landed, it just...stopped.
A silver face looked up at the two its features indistinct with time and wear. But it was clear the coin was beyond ancient.
The figure in black lifted it from the surface of the table and placed it back into his pocket. He extended a hand and gestured to the other man.
The figure reached forwards and placed his fingertips on a piece; the figure male, he lifted it and placed it two squares from where it had started.
The game had started.
Matt Park had been a policeman for twenty years, a veteran of gang wars, shootings and every conceivable thing that people could do to others.
At the present moment he found himself cutting through the park, he didn't usually take this route but suddenly had the overwhelming urge to do so.
He went with the feeling.
People walked past, most nodded friendly hellos, others throwing mock salutes his way.
He looked up into the bright sunshine of the day and felt a smile start on his face, it was going to be a beautiful morning.
He started to whistle softly to himself.
(The man in black moved from his side of the side of the board and also moved it two squares, a plan of attack starting to form in his mind.)
Marcus Cain was a loser, he had been on the wrong side of the law for most of his twenty-three years on this planet.
He walked through the park without knowing why he was here. All he knew was that he had a job to do and he needed to get it done. He reached into the front pocket of the baggy hooded sweatshirt he wore and grasped the grip of the small revolver that nestled there.
He scanned the park for what he was looking for and saw his opportunity.
He adjusted his course and moved towards his goal.
Little realizing that the path he had set himself on was not of his doing.
(His opponent moved a side figure forwards moving it to intercept the black one ahead of it.)
Damn, damn, damn.
If he didn't get to his office in a few minutes he was going to be late for the presentation. Why the hell he had thought to come through the park had been any ones guess but it had seemed like a good idea at the time.
He lifted his watch in front of him and cursed when he saw he wasn't going to make it. He started to walk faster, his plastic cup he held sloshing hot coffee over his fingers.
He didn't see the man with the long unkempt hair until he was almost on top of him.
He certainly didn't see the gun in his hand until it was lifted and pointed in his face.
(Another black piece moved forwards and sideways, the move a bold one for the start of the game, but the man in black had always played to win.)
Jill wove around the early morning traffic in a rush to get somewhere but not sure what it was exactly. She beeped her horn and sped past a parked taxi cab, its driver nearly asleep at the wheel. A stream of abuse followed her as she went by.
She wound up her window and the tirade died down almost at once.
She reached across and dialled the radio to a station that she liked.
She turned onto the next road she came to and sped alongside the park. Now, she thought, why the hell did I do that?
(The white piece moved forwards again and was placed in a defensive stance. His opponent saw his opening and took advantage, moving his own piece.)
Officer Park saw what was going to happen and started to run at the two men in the middle of the park. He drew his pistol in one smooth movement and picked up speed.
He wasn't going to make it.
Marcus thumbed back the hammer on the revolver and applied pressure to the trigger.
'I'm so sorry.'
He fired point-blank into the face of the startled man standing just in front of him.
The gun was old and had cost him ten bucks from a nearby pawn brokers, he had scavenged up some old ammunition that he had had laying about and then gone out into the day looking for someone to kill. The gun should have fired, the bullet ripping through the man's body.
What actually happened was far more … spectacular.
The gun exploded in Marcus' hand. One minute he held a gun, the next his hand was a bloody ruin of flesh and splintered bone. A smoke cloud obscured the other man for a second before he realised that he had survived being shot. He dropped the remains of his coffee and ran as fast as he could away from the now screaming lunatic in front of him.
Just after the man had fired he heard another shot and saw a policeman down on one knee.
He looked back over his shoulder once as he ran and ran straight into an oncoming car.
Jill tried to slam on the brakes but managed to hit the throttle instead.
The car jumped forwards and hit Alex White doing fifty miles an hour. His leg folded out beneath him and he was dragged under the wheels of the vehicle. The back wheel caught his head and popped it like a melon, his remains continuing to roll for a further hundred yards before they came to a stop.
Matt Park had known that he wouldn't be able to get to the altercation in time so he did the only thing that he could do; he tried to stop his target.
He had fired once, the bullet hitting the man in the throat spinning him like a top and throwing him through the air to the floor in a spray of arterial blood.
He heard screaming start from the road and looked in the direction of the sound.
So much for a quiet day he thought.
(Two black pieces and one white were removed from the board.)
'Well,' said the man in black. 'That didn't go quite the way I planned now did it.' His opponent looked back at him as he put all the spent pieces in the wooden box. 'It was a good try.'
'Oh, I haven't started yet. Shall we continue?'
The man in white looked at the board and lifted a larger piece from the second row.
The man in black lifted his eyebrows in the air.
'That was gutsy, this could be interesting. He moved his hand over the board and thought about his next move.)