- Summaries (3)
A seemingly normal day for Balagan quickly turns deadly. After logging into an internet chess game, he discovers his opponent, "Mr Black", has taken hostages and will kill one for every game Balagan loses. When the police try to intervene, Balagan's clock runs out - with disastrous results. Balagan realizes he will have to work alone. He figures out who his mysterious opponent is, where he lives, and why he is doing this. Turns out, Mr Black is not mad. He has a reason and a purpose for doing what he is doing. So, now, how to stop him?
At 200 Euros a game, Arkady offers the public the ability to buy video on-line chess matches against him. Someone calling himself Mr. Black purchases five consecutive matches. Arkady thinks nothing of it until Mr. Black outlines the terms of the matches: Arkady will have a five minute maximum play time for each match, there will be a five minute break between matches, and for every match that Arkady loses, draws or goes over the time limit, Mr. Black will kill one of the five hostages he has captured. Seeing the five people on the video monitor with hoods over their heads in the background, Arkady knows that Mr. Black is serious. What places Arkady in an even more difficult position is that Mr. Black is probably using chess playing software, some on the market now which uses smart technology in that it learns something about its opponent with every move. Mr. Black places no ransom demands or even stipulations about calling in the police, which Arkady does. The ERT arrive, led by Regina Velasco, a by the books officer and an old nemesis of Hugo's who seems more concerned about procedure and covering her butt than the lives of those she is supposed to protect. As both Arkady and the ERT try to discover who Mr. Black really is, who his hostages are and where they are located, Arkady and Regina often seem to be working at cross purposes. As they begin to work symbiotically and as they discover Mr. Black's true identity and who his hostages probably are, Arkady has to figure out why the last hostage, the one seemingly least important to Mr. Black, was left until the last game. Sam ends up playing a more important role in this procedure than either he or Arkady would have liked. Meanwhile, Pippa gets some unexpected assistance in finding a connection between the companies associated with Rosemary's murder.
Balagan is forced to match his chess skills against a computer when his anonymous online opponent reveals that he is playing for lethally high stakes - the lives of a group of innocent hostages.
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