She knelt for about 15 seconds eyeing all that she could see through the long keyhole.
No shadows moved of their own accord from those cast by a flickering light just off of her view, and she was not catching any sound that would betray anyone that was inside the room.
Let’s risk a peek she thought, rising.
Slowly she opened the door to the master’s private study a crack but stayed behind it.
No call or challenge was immediately given, so she slipped around the door and entered the room.
The flickering light came from the top of an oil lamp placed on a table in a corner by the large window. A high black couch blocked the other contents of the table from view. Long plum coloured velvet drapes were pulled closed, preventing any light to show outside from the window!
The whole far side of the room was lined with shelves of old books. Nine high bookshelves in total, three to a 12 shelve section.
The placed slightly smelled of them, damp old books, and musty pages.
She stepped into the centre of the room, studying the bookcases as she moved.
Her heartbeat was a little quicker. The middle bookcase of the section of three shelves directly behind the desk had a double center shelf slightly sticking out!
That would be where the safe could be found, she was sure of it!
She crept up to the desk, her footsteps mutely muffled by the thick expensive oriental carpet.
Reaching it she studied its top.
All the papers and journals were in neat stacks, pens in place, looking like no one had used it recently!
As she was looking, she had circled to the shelves behind it.
Reaching the shelves in question, she looked around, the room was quiet, she still was alone. She looked towards the door she had entered and left ajar...
No footsteps or flickering lights were coming down along the corridor behind her.
Satisfied that she was still all alone, she turned on her torch, then by its beam, reaching over and taking hold of the jutting shelves, pulled on it.
The section swung open easily, quietly exposing a gleaming steel safe set into the wall. It was of a style quite familiar to her. American made, the steel walls were of a thicker make, but still thin enough to let her hear the clicks its tumblers made quite clearly by employing the use of her stethoscope!
But as she studied this, a smell of a different sort wafted across her nose!
It was a fresher smell that had slowly come drifting out of the mustiness.
It took a few seconds to identify that it was the smell of a recently burning cigar!
Mildly alarmed, she killed the light from her torch, closed the section of shelves, then on one foot, pivoted her body in a semi-circle, trying to locate the source.
It wasn’t coming from the large oak desk in front of her, besides she had not seen any ashtray.
She sniffed again, nor from the spindly-legged velvet-lined plum coloured antique furniture to her left.
Venturing to her right, she followed her nose.
The smell was coming from where the table and flickering lamp were located on the opposite side of the highbacked black leather couch that was placed between it and the desk...
She followed the line of shelves over to the curtained window where it was positioned.
She now saw that laid out in the centre of the table was an antique, possibly Victorian era, chessboard!
Marbled black and white tiled board, and traditionally carved ebony and ivory chess pieces.
It was a brilliant set, the pieces tall and looming!
The tallest, the two Kings,(Useless buggers!) were at least 20 centimeters high! The next tallest was the powerful Queens at 18 centimeters, and the rest dropping by 2 centimeters each down to the 10-centimeter-tall, lowly pawns.
She took in the chess game, while her nose located the source of the stale cigar smoke.
It was coming from a half-smoked cigar laying in an ashtray on the white chessmen’s’ side of the board.
It was out, but only by a few hours. She quickly did the math and decided that it had to have been smoked by one of the servants. Possibly the butler, those blokes seemed to tend to take such liberties when the master was gone!
“Don’t be jittery girl, you saw the servants leave, you are here quite alone!” She scolded herself as she continued to look at the contents set out on the table.
A Half full snifter of an amber coloured liquid stood silent vigil next to the ashtray, with a ¾ full decanter of the same amber liquid off to one side.
The game had begun, several captured pieces from both sides were lined on the table off opposite sides of the board. Four more pieces had broken rank and were strategically placed in the area of play.
It looked like the game may have been being played out by only 1 person, probably following and studying the moves from a classic game played out long ago by some long-forgotten masters of the game.
The butler had been the only male member of the service staff she had observed staying at the house who had appeared to her to be interest ed in the game!
I guess not so unusual for a butler to follow the game so dedicatedly, someone had to play against the master, she reasoned!
It was how her father practiced before playing against his much more adept brother!
Her charming uncle, being the sort who never had to practice at anything, a natural master at everything he chose to accomplish, routinely beat both her and her father at the game!
She looked the table over as she remembered those happy times from far too long ago now…
Not being able to resist, she coolly studied the board for a few seconds, knowing she needed to see to the safe and then be on her way upstairs, but the temptation of the gameplay was proving far too great.
The white bishop held a commanding position in the centre of the board.
When she was much younger, she had thought the bishop looked like a damsel wearing a pointed Hennin hat upon her head
She smiled, for when she was older and knew better, she would tell her dad to move his damsel to get a rise from her minister father. Who would each time explain that piece symbolized a bishop and stood righteous for the church!
His brother would then snort, pulling his old black pipe from his mouth before teasing in on how it was once believed the headpiece did not symbolize a bishop’s mitre, but a jester’s pronged cap! So the piece was used to simply annoy by its’ predicated moves! obviously, it was a natural progression from annoying jester to church bishop, don’t you see?
Having “lit the fuse” ,she then would sit back, stroking the backside of Sam her golden retriever, as she smiled and watch the two men kiddingly bicker over that subject as they drank their pints, and smoked cigar and pipe, while playing their game of chess!
She was now smiling to herself at the memory, as she looked over the rather elegantly hand-carved set of chess pieces.
One of the ebony black knights was out in front of a row of black ebony pawns, symbolically waiting…
A feeling overwhelmed her as she saw quite clearly what the next move should be.
Reaching over, she carefully moved the black knight past the “righteous” white bishop, to a new position…
There! She thought, then about jumped out of her skin, as a male voice quite clearly spoke a single word, from directly from behind her, inside the room with her!