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The Endgame Jeffrey Archer 2022/7/22 14:06:15

‘You’ll enjoy that, and he’ll benefit from your experience. But it still doesn’t explain why you gave him all your shares in the company, despite him failing to secure the chess set for you.’

‘That’s precisely why I was willing to let him take control of the company. Timothy, unlike his mother and father, didn’t allow his heart to rule his head.’

Frank nodded his approval as Cornelius drained the last drop of wine from the one glass they allowed themselves before a game.

‘Now, I feel I ought to warn you,’ said Cornelius as he rose from his place, ‘that the only reason you have won the last three encounters in a row is simply because I have had other things on my mind. Now that those matters have been resolved, your run of luck is about to come to an end.’

‘We shall see,’ said Frank, as they marched down the long corridor together. The two men stopped for a moment to admire the portrait of Daniel.

‘How did you get that back?’ asked Frank.

‘I had to strike a mean bargain with Pauline, but we both ended up with what we wanted.’

‘But how . . . ?’ began Frank.

‘It’s a long story,’ Cornelius replied, ‘and I’ll tell you the details over a brandy after I’ve won the game.’

Cornelius opened the library door and allowed his friend to enter ahead of him, so that he could observe his reaction. When the inscrutable lawyer saw the chess set laid out before him, he made no comment, but simply walked across to the far side of the table, took his usual place and said, ‘Your move first, if I remember correctly.’

‘You’re right,’ said Cornelius, trying to hide his irritation. He pushed his queen’s pawn to Q4.

‘Back to an orthodox opening gambit. I see I shall have to concentrate tonight.’

They had been playing for about an hour, no word having passed between them, when Cornelius could bear it no longer. ‘Are you not in the least bit curious to discover how I came back into possession of the chess set?’ he asked.

‘No,’ said Frank, his eyes remaining fixed on the board. ‘Not in the least bit.’

‘But why not, you old dullard?’

‘Because I already know,’ Frank said as he moved his queen’s bishop across the board.

‘How can you possibly know?’ demanded Cornelius, who responded by moving a knight back to defend his king.

Frank smiled. ‘You forget that Hugh is also my client,’ he said, moving his king’s rook two squares to the right.

Cornelius smiled. ‘And to think he need never have sacrificed his shares, if he had only known the true value of the chess set.’ He returned his queen to its home square.

‘But he did know its true value,’ said Frank, as he considered his opponent’s last move.

‘How could he possibly have found out, when you and I were the only people who knew?’

‘Because I told him,’ said Frank matter-of-factly.

‘But why would you do that?’ asked Cornelius, staring across at his oldest friend.

‘Because it was the only way I could find out if Hugh and Elizabeth were working together.’

‘So why didn’t he bid for the set in the morning auction?’

‘Precisely because he didn’t want Elizabeth to know what he was up to. Once he discovered that Timothy was also hoping to purchase the set in order to give it back to you, he remained silent.’

‘But he could have kept bidding once Timothy had fallen out.’

‘No, he couldn’t. He had agreed to bid for the Louis XIV table, if you recall, and that was the last item to come under the hammer.’

‘But Elizabeth failed to get the long-case clock, so she could have bid for it.’

‘Elizabeth is not my client,’ said Frank, as he moved his queen across the board. ‘So she never discovered the chess set’s true value. She believed what you had told her – that at best it was worth a few hundred pounds – which is why Hugh instructed his secretary to bid for the set in the afternoon.’