The Checker Murders is a 16,000 word novelette published in seven monthly installments. It is perhaps the most extensive work of checker fiction ever published. We hope you enjoy it, but if you wish you can skip to the end to see this week's checker problem. Be forewarned that the problems in this series are very difficult.
Mortimer went straight back to his apartment and as quickly as he could turn on a light and throw his overcoat on the none-too-tidy floor, he sat down in front of his computer screen
He studied everything he could about the cases; all the newspaper articles, all the video clips. But there was one in particular that caught his eye. It was an interview with an FBI laboratory technician, a young lady who patiently answered the reporter's sharp questions while trying to explain how she was conducting forensic analysis on the murders.
Now, if you had asked Mortimer, he would have told you that it was the scientific descriptions of DNA testing, fingerprint analysis, etc., that held his interest. But the truth was that he was instantly smitten by the young woman.
Wearing a lab coat over a black top, with short auburn hair, she was the embodiment of intelligent eloquence. To Mortimer, she was a dream come true, a woman who was both brilliant and personable. Or at least, personable in the way that you would expect Mortimer to define the word.
"I've got to call her on Monday!" he kept saying to himself. "She'll be able to tell me all that I need to know about the case. When I tell her I'm working on it, I'm sure she'll help me out. She just has to!"
Of course, Mortimer knew deep down that what he really wanted to do was ask her out. You've got to give him credit for being observant; the girl wasn't wearing an engagement ring or wedding band. (He had to play the video back several times and enlarge a few frames to be certain about this.)
Mortimer even thought about calling the crime lab over the weekend. Surely someone was working, and maybe he'd get lucky and reach the young woman. But the phone for the crime lab wasn't on the Denver FBI internet site, and when he called the general number, they wouldn't connect him. They told him he'd have to call back on Monday and go through the main switchboard.
Waiting was absolute agony. Mortimer considered trying to hack into the FBI computer network. If he did that, maybe he could get a name to go with that beautiful face. He was pretty sure he could do it, too, but if were to be caught it would probably ruin his chances with her, so it plainly wasn't worth the risk.
Of course, none of this was a conscious thought process on Mortimer's part. At least, not that he would care to admit. It was all about solving the crimes. Naturally. What else could it be?
Monday finally came around. But Mortimer had school in the morning. He seriously thought about cutting his classes, but it was something that he simply never did. It was a close call; he was that anxious. Or maybe that desperate.
At least he would be done by noon. He could call on his cell phone as soon as his last class was over.
It was 12:01 PM when he called the Denver FBI main switchboard. They connected him to the crime lab. The phone rang a few times and then went to voice mail.
Drat. He hadn't considered the possibility that the staff would be out to lunch. He'd have to wait another whole hour to call again. And what if they took a long lunch and got back really late, like 1:15?
Finally, he decided that rather than go to his little study cubicle in the grad student's office area, he'd go back home so he could be in front of the computer when they called back. He wanted to have all his data available, of course, and the way he saw it, he might make a little better impression.
The bus ride home was pure agony. It seemed like all the weirdos and time-wasters chose /his/ bus, just to slow him down and make him get home even later. After the third bum tried to dodge paying his fare and made the driver stop the bus until the would-be freeloader got off, Mortimer was ready to scream. He even thought about helping the driver by throwing the person off himself, but then thought better of it when he realized he was about half the size and probably a quarter the strength of his proposed target.
At long last the bus pulled up at the Perry Street stop. Mortimer leapt off and ran up the street to the little house he rented. The floor upon which he threw his overcoat was no cleaner than it had been the previous Friday, but Mortimer didn't care. He was instantly seated in front of his computer and was dialing the phone.
"Crime Lab, Sheila."
The voice was as sweet and melodious as anything Mortimer had ever heard. This had to be her. He was paralyzed. He couldn't speak. It was just too much for him.
"Crime Lab, hello?" There was a slight edge of annoyance in the sweet voice.
Mortimer knew that he'd better act now. He never bothered to block caller ID, so if Sheila--- what a wonderful name--- hung up, he didn't dare call back again or she'd think he was a stalker or a nut.
"Uh, Crime Lab?" he managed to croak.
"That's what I said twice already. Do I know you? I'm very busy..."
"Um ... uh ... no, you don't know me, but I saw you on television."
"Look, I told you I'm busy! Good bye."
"WAIT!" Mortimer finally found his voice. He feared he was too late, but he didn't hear the line click. "I can help with the checkers case!"
There was a brief pause, but she was still on the line. "You can help, I see. All right, you've got about ten seconds and it better be good."
"Well, not exactly help ... I mean, I want to help ... I've been reviewing the evidence ... and I have some ideas if you could just tell me a little more ... I'm a grad student and I analyze these kinds of things ..."
He heard her laugh. The edginess seemed to have softened. "Well," she said, "that's one of the best lines I've heard yet. What's your name, grad student?"
"Holmes, M. Sherlock Holmes." Mortimer couldn't believe he had said that. This wasn't the pub.
"Sherlock Holmes, oh my, another nut. I told you I'm busy---"
"Well, my name's really Mortimer, but ... look, I think I know something about the checkerboards ... you see I play checkers and ..."
"Mortimer." Sheila chuckled. "But you call yourself Sherlock Holmes. And you play checkers, so you think you can solve the case."
"Well, yes, actually, I'm a doctoral student and..."
She broke in once again. "Tell you what, doctoral student who calls himself Sherlock Holmes and plays checkers and thinks he can solve the case. I'm a grad student myself; I intern at the Crime Lab." There was a long pause. "I think I'll take a chance on you, seeing as how I've never heard quite such an... unusual... set of pick-up lines before. Send me your resume. If I think you're for real, I'll meet you at Broken Book Cafe when I get off work at six tonight. You can buy me dinner and we can talk."
Mortimer was astounded at his luck. "Uh... yeah ... uh, I mean, that would be great! My resume, sure, what's your email?"
"Oh, no, not so easy, Sherlock. You're a smart detective, you figure it out. See you tonight. Maybe."
The line disconnected, and Mortimer was left sitting in his chair, his mouth agape.
"Email, I've got to get her email address," he muttered.
He knew that shouldn't be very hard. No doubt Sheila had set him this little challenge to see if he was on the level.
I really must have come across as rather odd, Mortimer thought. She must think that maybe I'm a little ... off.
Mortimer, in fact, had often asked himself the same question, but he knew that even if he was a nut, he wasn't a dangerous one, like some of the ones that rode the bus.
But on to the email address. He was pretty sure Sheila was her real name. Trouble is, the FBI directory listed names but not occupations. How many Sheilas could there be in the Denver FBI office?
When Mortimer checked it out, he found no less than nine Sheilas. He had to narrow it down, but how?
It required some serious thinking, but then he realized she had given him another clue. She had told him she was a grad student too.
It didn't take long for Mortimer to find out what schools had internship programs with the FBI, and then find graduate students in those schools named Sheila.
Bingo! firstname.lastname@example.org matched Sheila Larkspur in the FBI directory, and her FBI email address was listed. He had it! He started an email titled "Found You" and attached his resume and quickly sent it off.
He waited anxiously. A reply came about 15 minutes later--- none too soon for the now-sweating Mortimer.
"Good work, Sherlock. See you tonight. Sheila."
Mortimer breathed a sigh of relief and began to search for a set of clean clothes. He wanted to make a good first impression. An honest to goodness first date! Or at least that's how he thought of it. He vowed to make the most of the opportunity.
Many of our readers will recognize the above position and realize that solving it is very tough indeed. But it's worth exploring on your own. We did a computer analysis with Ed Gilbert's KingsRow and the 10 piece endgame database; you can see that analysis by clicking on Read More.
Solution (Computer Analysis)
Runup and Continuation
B---Not 13-9, which draws.
C---Not 8-11, which loses quickly,
D---End of KingsRow opening book.
Many variations are possible; use your own strong computer engine to explore this very difficult and complex setting.