17. Rock Tuff, P.I.: A Mule’s Fate

“Well, them's the breaks. You know what they say: you win some and you lose some.” In my case, at least in chess, it was you win none, you lose all. But I noticed that he had heard me perfectly.

A few moments later, I saw Fisher and Wellington exchange a few words and Fisher surreptitiously slip “Duke” an envelope. I wanted a look at that hearing aid.

I bought a cup of coffee and carelessly spilled it on Wellington's jacket.

“I'm terribly sorry. I'm so clumsy. Let me clean it for you.”

In the washroom, I helped him clean the sports-coat surreptitiously stealing a quick look at the hearing aid and the envelope. The envelope contained money, the hearing aid wasn't.

I told Mr. Castle what I had discovered. He was angry and wanted to expose the cheaters publicly, but I suggested a subtler punishment. He took Fisher aside, told him that his cheating had been discovered, and barred him from the tournament for life.

Then we talked to Wellington. “Fisher knew that he might lose to Kasparov,” I said in my best P.I. Tone, “and that would be a blow to his ego, so he paid you to help him. He won his first match quickly, then helped you beat an overconfident Kasparov. He gave you the moves through your hearing aid which was really a radio. Later he paid you; the envelope with the money is in your pocket. After that, on your own, you quickly lost.”

“You'll never play in this tournament again,” Mr. Castle said, irately.

Next, he announced to the crowd that Mr. Fisher had been taken seriously ill and would be unable to compete in the final. There was a disappointed murmur. The trophy would be awarded by default to his opponent, an average player.

Then he went on: “Instead of the final, we'll have an exhibition match between Mr. Wellington, upset winner over Mr. Kasparov, and our under-sixteen champion, Ruth Leslie.”

Miss Leslie looked eager. “Duke” did not.

She defeated him handily and Mr. Castle and I agreed that his humiliation at the hands of the juggernaut was punishment enough.

And I had a modicum of satisfaction because Miss Leslie beat “Duke” in eleven moves, one fewer than it took her to embarrass me.


A Mule's Fate

Gary E. Miller spent 29 years trying to teach English at several high schools in Ontario. In 1995, he made his greatest contribution to education by retiring. He now spends his time in rural Richmond, reading voraciously and eclectically, and occasionally writing stories and poems which do nothing to elevate the level of Canadian literature.
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