door was open when Sister Dana arrived. The room was set as for a class, chairs placed at
the table, chessboard out replete with pieces, though in a rather sparse configuration,
and in whose midst there stood a piece of paper folded tent-likea note that the nun,
bending sideways, tried to read.
"Oh! Oh, Melanie, it's you."
The girl's eyes scanned the tidy room, noting both the absence of the
snapshots and their owner.
"Where is he?"
"I don't know. Not here."
"A note, I think."
"I couldn't see."
Melanie plucked it up and read:
1. Jz2 JtelephonesQ
2. JxQ or QxJ
1. Mj2 SDj2
White to move and mate in three
2. Mj2:15 SDxM
3. (MxJ rescheduled)
"What does all that mean?"
She looked back and forth from the paper to the board.
"It's chess notation. But the letters are funny."
She thought a moment longer.
"I get it now."
"Julian went to Sister Zoe's at two o'clock to make a phone
"His mother, I'll bet."
"When she heard he was missing she wanted to come. Sister advised
her not to, but I guess she's coming anyway."
"Why isn't she here then?"
"The roads have been closed, remember?"
"Hm. Well, here he calls her the Queen."
She paused, wondering at the JxQ or QxJ.
"Well, he may be back by 2:15. I'm supposed to work on this
problem until then, and if he hasn't shown up, you and I can leave. He'll reschedule my
class another time."
"You got all of that from that?"
Melanie smiled, self-satisfied, and tucked the note into a pocket of
"Want to be Black?"
"What? Oh, no thank you. You know I can't play."
Melanie sat down at the board, and soon was lost to concentration,
leaving Sister Dana free to inspect the room.
Orderliness reigned. The nun thought it phony. Julian did not live this
way, she was sure of it. The neatness was a put-on, a mask like all his other masks, which
hid, she was convinced, a cruel, conniving, sexually perverted malea wolf in sheep's
clothing. She smirked at the metaphor's aptness. If only there was a way, she very much
would like to see him leave the sanitarium. For good. But, how? And did she have the right
to plot against him? He was, after all, a patient who had come to them for aid. Sister Zoe
had taken him in (though she believed the reverse was true, that he had taken in Sister
Zoetaken in everybody except herself). Why, really, had he come?
Since her avowed reform, the nun had asked herself, repeatedly, what
the Lord intended via Julian. Was he a kind of test? He had certainly occasioned her to do
some soul-searching. And perhaps, without his base example, she never would have seen the
error of her ways. Perhaps God's plan was that she fall from grace temporarily, just so
she could recognize, in Julian, the type of wickedness that threatened. In fact, how
better forge a shield for Melanie?
There must be something here that would incriminate him, a lever she
could work (if his mother failed to come). Yet the room, done up as it was, appeared
almost unoccupied. She saw then that the bathroom door was closed. She opened it and
slipped inside unnoticedMelanie still intent on solving the chess problem.
But the bathroom, too, was immaculate. Laid out neatly on a towel were:
a toothbrush, tube of toothpaste, can of shaving cream and a disposable razor, deodorant,
tweezers, nail clippers, a brush with a nylon comb. On the rim of the tub was a bottle of
shampoo. She checked the wastebasket. It was full of broken glass. Then she saw that the
door of the medicine chest had jagged shards of mirror wedged along its frame. That
explained his hand. She clicked it open: aspirin, a prescription, powder,
eye drops, and a box
of prophylactics. She checked to see if any of the tinfoil packets were missing. Too
bad; all there.
"Just a minute."
She flushed the toilet, waited, then went out.
"Do you have a pen?"
She took one from her habit.
"No, not with me." She looked around. "Do you think
there might be some in one of his dresser drawers?" She crossed to see.
Melanie panicked. Julian's photographs! What if they were there? She
especially did not want the nun to see that nude one. She did not want anyone to see it,
ever. She remembered the note.
"Never mind! I'll just use this."
Disappointed, the nun returned. Melanie tore off an unused portion of
"You solved it?"
"Uh huh. Nothing to it."
She lettered out the problem's answer, including variations, then added
in the improvised notation:
thus expressing her idea of offering him a drawing as partial
payment for the lessons. She propped her cryptic note between a pair of pawns.
"What should we do now?"
"I think I'll go back to my room. I have some makeup work to do in
Math and English."
"Want some help?"
"No thanks. The Math is real easy. For English I have to write
another boring composition."
"That's an odd assignment, 'write another boring
Melanie smiled. The nun did, too. Closing his bedroom door, they took